I check the arrivals board impatiently. Our flight to Atlanta is showing up but it’s not boarding yet. I just want to be on our way. I am dreading this so much. Nick is sat by me, trying to read a paper but failing. I know this because I keep catching him looking at me. I really don’t know what to say to him. I really need him to comfort me and hold me. He’s the guy I’m in love with. But he was also involved in Jay’s death. It doesn’t feel right somehow to grieve for Jay in Nick’s arms. But I guess Jay would’ve wanted me to. He always knew how much I love Nick and he had never tried to separate us. And Nick feels so guilty and I know he blames himself even though the police and other witnesses have said that the guy wouldn’t have pulled the trigger if the police hadn’t come bursting in. I don’t blame him so much anymore. Jade and Brian have gone to get some food. Jade hadn’t wanted to but Brian had insisted. I can’t eat. I feel like I will throw up if I even so much as smell anything.
“I guess I look like some movie star,” I joke weakly as I check my reflection in the elevator mirror. I’m wearing the darkest shades I possess to cover up my red puffy eyes.
“Try to eat somethin’ Jade,” Brian says as we step out into a cafe. “You have a long day ahead.”
“I know. But I think coffee’s my limit.”
“I’ll go get a croissant anyway… Just in case,” he heads off to the buffet and I sit at a table.
A few minutes later, I’m joined by three familiar faces.
“Guys,” I stare at Kevin, AJ and Howie. “What are you doin’ here?”
“Jade, we’ve been talking and…” Kevin says. “Do you think we could come to the funeral?”
“The funeral?” I stare at them.
“I know we didn’t exactly know Jay but…” Howie says.
“We’d like to be there for you,” AJ finishes.
I stare at them, genuinely touched by their love and tears fill my eyes. I’m glad for the shades.
“You’re part of my family Jade,” Kevin says.
It’s the first time he’s said that and it means a lot to me. I bow my head and the tears leak out from under my dark glasses. In a second, Kevin is round by my chair with his arms around me.
“I’m sorry Jade. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“You didn’t,” I look up with a smile. “I’m just realising just how lucky I am to have you guys. And if you want to come say goodbye to Jay, I would be honoured. And I know he would be too.”
“You want anything from the store?” Nick asks and I shake my head. “I’m just gonna get some candy or somethin’…” he says.
“Oh,” I look at him.
“You ok? I know, dumb question but I don’t know what else to ask.”
“It’s ok. Yeah, I’m doin’ ok,” I smile slightly. “I can’t believe how much I miss him already.”
“I know you do,” he reaches out to stroke my hand and I grab hold of his. He looks a little surprised and then pulls me into his arms and holds me tight. I close me eyes and start to cry as he gently strokes my hair. “It will be ok baby,” he murmurs. “You’ll get through this.”
“I really can’t believe Jay is dead,” I tell AJ quietly so that Jade doesn’t hear. She’s sat right by the window and Brian is next to her. The seven of us are halfway to Atlanta.
“I know,” he agrees. “It’s a pretty big shock. Jade seems to be dealing with it better now though.”
“I guess,” I shrug. “At least she’s not denying he’s dead anymore. And Brian is bein’ so amazing with her.”
“Yeah,” AJ agrees. “It’s hit him pretty hard too.”
“Uh huh,” I sigh. “I’m dreading this.”
“Everything. My life without Jay,” I admit, tears in my eyes. “I mean, for the past four years he’s always been there for me. He understood everything and he just let me be. What the fuck am I gonna do without him?” I cry silently and AJ covers my hand with his.
“You’ll survive and you’ll make him proud. And I’ll be there for you.”
“Thank you,” I look at him.
“It’s ok,” he tells me quietly.
I smile slightly and look out of the window. AJ has been amazing through this whole thing. He had taken Jade’s reappearance with barely a blink. He had gone to see her and hugged her tightly and told her things were fine between them. I don’t know where he gets his strength from but I wish he’d tell me how.