“Welcome by the Animal Funeral Services.” A sweet young woman greets us when we entered the glass doors of the building. She stands up behind her counter.
“You have an appointment?”
“Yes, nine a.m,” Dom answered for me, I didn’t think I could say anything today.
“We’re here with Bunny.” Dom pointed at the shoebox was holding. I pressed the box closer to my body.
“Oh, you lost your bunny. I had a rabbit once,” the woman behind the desks starts.
“Nope, it is a lizard. I don’t do rabbits.” I said, glaring at her. How did she dare compare Bunny with a bunny!
“O, I’m sorry. My name is Barbara, if you follow me. I’ll show you the urns we have.” She walked around the counter toward a door at her left.
The room was filled with displays full of urns, in different colors, sizes, shapes and even some made of glass.
I started to look around, holding the shoebox even closer to my body, not wanting to part with him. I walked with Dom towards the first row of urns.
“This one is nice.” Dom showed me a purple round one. Shaking my head, I walked further.
“Or this one.” Dom said, holding up a black one with spikes. “Bunny can be spiky when he wants too.” She tried to joke.
Again, I shake my head, not smiling at all. I walked around while I looked at the different urns—none of them fit Bunny’s personality. I was almost back at the door when my eye caught a wooden box. It has gold strips on the top and dark wood oiled to perfection.
“This one.” I whispered.
“What?” Dom asked from the other corner of the room.
“This one. He needs this one,” I said louder.
“Okay,” Barbara answered. She picked up the box and walked towards the door. “I’ll prepare the box, if you ladies would go towards the ceremony room. It is the other door in the hall. You can say your goodbyes there and we’ll cremate him.” She walked out of the door and we followed. I walked behind Dom, while we entered the other room.
There was a table in the center of the other room. I placed Bunny on it, pull off the lid of the box. Tears streamed down my face when I got Bunny out of the box. He was stiff and cold.
“I’m sorry.” I said and held him even closer to my body. That is all I could say to him, I’d failed him.
Dom placed her hand on my shoulder.
“It is okay, Ezri.”
We stood like this until Barbara walked in.
“Did you say your goodbyes?”
“You can place him back in the box and I’ll take him to the crematorium. We’ll e give him his last goodbye. It only take a few minutes. You can wait here for me to bring you back his ash in the urn.”
I cried even harder, my sobs sounding terrible, gross, and I knew my face looked like a pufferfish. I nod at Barbara, I hoped it is her, can’t see much with my puffed-up eyes.
“Okay, I’m sorry for your loss.” Barbara says when she walked out with Bunny.
The ceremony room was divided into two parts by a railing. Dom and I stood behind it, and right across were two little tracks that led into tiny metallic doors. A cart holding Bunny’s box was attached to the track.
“My deepest condolences to the family members,” Barbara said from a speaker at the corner of the room. “Please say your last goodbyes. We’re about to begin the procession.” A languid, dreary tune of Amazing Grace played right after she ended.
The music shook me through my core.
“It’s a bit much for a lizard,” Dom muttered.
I darted an angry gaze at her.
“I mean, it’s… wow.” She scratched the back of her head. “It’s great?”
“Whatever,” I replied, and I continued bawling into my tissues.
As the box gradually moved upward, across the tracks, the sinking sensation in my chest deepened. The metallic doors creaked open, and Bunny disappeared through them.
“Bunny…” I whimpered amidst my bawling. “Bunny… don’t leave me.”
I was a complete wreck after stepping out of the room. Barabara greeted me with a warm, syrupy smile and gave me a hug. We’d paid three hundred dollars for this service. “We’ll have the ashes ready for you in a sec. My assistant is preparing it.”
“An embellished urn is an extra fifty bucks.”
“Fifty!” Dom said. “For a damn liz—”
“Bunny’s not just any lizard,” I said to her venomously. I lifted a finger and poked it at the top of her chest, avoiding her voluptuous boobs, and narrowed my eyes.
I heard a snort, then a coughing sound behind me. Was that person laughing at me? Because it seriously sounded like he was holding back laughter.
I whipped my head around, bearing a disbelieving scowl, and immediately my eyes met a dude with ‘fuckboy’ figuratively written over his forehead. He was so good-looking, he gave me the impression of a jerk, because there was something about beautiful people and them always getting their way all the time.
Glittery golden eyes fell on me and made my blood boil even more, because he looked so damn perfect it just made me madder.
He also looked familiar.
Where had I seen him before?
“That’s…” Dom started. “Holy shit. It’s Chance Meadows.”
He sat up straighter, and the maroon cotton shirt he was wearing stretched over his broad pecs. How did he make such a simple tee look like fabric bestowed from the gods?
His eyes glinted from beneath the shadows of his tussled hair. “What? You have a problem?” Damn. Even his voice sounded good. Husky, with a hint of honeyed undertones.
“It’s… nothing,” I said, hoping my expression didn’t remind him too much of a flopping fish and turned back to Barbara. If I talked to him more I might just yell, because I was still grieving and trying to get a rein on my emotions.
“Word of advice,” he said. A shrill amount of cockiness laced his words. “Don’t get ripped off again.”
I turned back around. “Exc—”
“I’d prefer it if you don’t mislead my clients, sir,” Barbara said.
He tipped his head back. “I’m not being misleading.” He gestured a swirling motion. “This place is the one suckering people out of their money. A thousand bucks for a fucking wooden box?” A thousand? Bunny’s casket was three hundred fifty. He must have had a larger animal cremated.
“Why are you here in the first place?” I asked him as I attempted to hide my anger. I felt veins popping on my forehead. “Are you here to be a sucker yourself?”
“I’m not appreciating how this conversation is going,” Barbara said. “We run an honest operation.”
“It’s cause’ of my sister,” he said, looking almost bored. “I have money to burn, too. At least I know that this place is a rip-off. That’s what sets me apart from morons like you.”
“Has anyone told you that you’re terribly rude?”
“It’s Chance. Fucking. Meadows,” Dom whispered.
He smirked. How did he hear her from so far away?
“Chance Fucking Asshole,” I said back, not bothering to lower my voice.
He lifted a brow. “Now who’s the one being rude?”
“You’re the one who started it.”
He made a rough noise and tipped his gaze out the window. “I’m not the one crying like a baby over a stupid lizard.”
Something in my head popped. “Take that back.”
“Not sorry for saying it. It’s a stupid lizard. What else do you want me to say? That it’s a smart lizard? Show me one and I’ll throw money at you. Those tiny things are dumbasses.”
Holy shit. The figurative “fuckboy” on his head just got upgraded into a “Grade A Asshole”.
“Bunny knew how to smile on command.” His attitude wasn’t making my pain any easier.
He spun his so beautiful I hated them eyes at me which lit up with amusement. Musical laughter rang from his throat. “You called your lizard Bunny?”
“I can call him whatever the hell I want.”
“Sure thing, Sucker.”
That was when I had enough. I stomped toward him and reached to cuff him by his collar, but he caught my wrist before I had any chance of doing so.
“Listen here, you pretty bitch,” he said. His hold around my wrist was so tight it hurt. “This place is a blackhole for grieving people like you. I’m just doing you a favor for pointing it out. I’d get a hold on your anger if I were you because it’s not nice to try and hurt your…”
“What?” This guy was unbelievable.
He drew me in closer and lowered his voice into a breathy tone. Heat shot straight down my back. “I just try to do the right thing for sweet peaches like you. Now leave me alone to finish my water before Lilly—”
“Seth!” A voice so high-pitched it was almost annoying shot toward us.
Seth? A different name of his, perhaps?
A girl whose face was more puffer-fished than mine came running out of another one of those ceremonial rooms. Instead of tissues, she used handkerchiefs, and she dabbed her eyes with light, gentle taps. She was dressed in a frilly dress that looked expensive and wore dainty high heels.
I was guessing this was Chance’s sister.
“Is it done?” Chance, or whatever his name was, asked. He let my hand go.
I circled my fingers over my wrist because it ached there.
Lilly was carrying an urn in her arms.
Chance smiled at me. I almost turned into a puddle of hot boiling liquid, because I wasn’t sure whether to be mad or turned on. “I’ll see you around, Sucker. Flush your stupid lizard down the toilet next time or bury it in your backyard. It’ll save you a ton of money. Poor people like you don’t have much to waste.”
“Poor? Who the hell are you to make assumptions?”
“You’re kidding.” He glanced at my three-year-old sneakers, which had ragged edges and were stained with dirt. I had to use my money to pay rent and I didn’t want to take anything from Pops. This AFS thing was a treat from Dom.
He glanced at his water before he left, and I had half a mind to take it and toss it at his back. But doing so would just summon him back to me, and I didn’t want to see any more of his gratingly gorgeous face.
I strode back to Barbara and Dom once the automatic doors closed behind him.
Barbara cheeks had flared into a deep shade of red. “I’m not letting him back in here ever again.”
“I’m not sure he wants to come back,” Dom said, still looking dumbfounded. “That’d mean another one of his pets died.”
Look out for chapter four, it is going to be fun the next one.