But a mere three hours later and the warm, weightless curtains of fog had lifted once again and Angelika’s eyes presently shot open. On waking, her feelings now seemed to follow a pattern; first, there would be no memory of what had happened, just a pleasantly fuzzy hangover but then within seconds, the shock would hit her all over again, and then the twisting agony in her aching stomach and her speeding brain would return and with it would come the feeling of utter disbelief. And at the very last, before the pattern began to endlessly repeat itself, would come the thudding sensation of physical loss, as if part of her body and soul had been removed – rather like an amputee who can still feel his disembodied limbs intact, long after they had been surgically removed by the sharp metal implements, and the jagged scarring had finally healed. Angelika doubted that she would ever recover from this pain; it just didn’t seem possible to survive such a loss. She rapidly tapped another little blue pill into the palm of her hand and swallowed it down fast.
It was cold in London and dismally grey and the sky hung heavy and colourless, idly threatening to rain and to finally clear the fouled late autumn air. Angelika traveled from Heathrow Airport to the train station and from there, the smelly and depressing train journey west to the small town where it had been decided – by whom was anybody’s guess, as no one had asked Angelika and Athena had left no will - but it had been decided that Athena would be buried next to her mother and her grandparents in the small churchyard where they had once, just once gone to Christmas Mass with Daddy, many years ago.
Angelika went to stay at her aunt’s house where she bemusedly attempted to put forth her opinions on what flowers Athena would have wanted and what wood should be used for her casket and what hymns should be sung and it morphed into a surreal and jarring circus of chiming-in from the endless stream of well-wishers who kept arriving and phoning and bringing food and drinking alcohol and there was no peace, no peace at all. Plus, Angelika simply could not sleep. The adrenaline overdrive that was taking place inside of her wouldn’t allow her a moment’s rest and so the Valium kept her on the semblance of an even keel. That, combined with the endless bottles of wine that she and her aunt managed to down without either of them ever actually getting drunk. They held each other up somehow as they pragmatically attempted to organize a funeral that neither wanted to acknowledge nor felt was in any way a fair or just ending to her sister’s tragically short life.
Angelika’s father arrived the following night from Paris where he was producing a massively budgeted film. He seemed calm, way too calm and he refused to talk about what had happened, but Angelika noticed that after he had had to identify his child’s body earlier that day in London, his hands had started shaking and they hadn’t stopped since.
Athena’s body had traveled from London with their father and had been laid into a Chapel of Rest until the day of the funeral. Angelika refused to go and look at it. She couldn’t imagine that she would get anything out of seeing the waxen, lifeless corpse, devoid of spirit and laughter. Athena was no longer there. She might be somewhere around, but she was certainly not in there. Angelika could tell that her father had been profoundly affected by seeing his dead child’s body and his face now bore the same empty, haunted look as Angelika’s and neither of them could find any words that would make any kind of difference to their mutual sense of fathomless loss.
Ian arrived at her aunt’s house the day before the funeral and that night, attempted to have sex with Angelika – insisting, while humping her leg, that it would help “take her mind of things.” All it managed to do was to make her feel physically sick and to result in her pushing him violently away from her. She reflexively reached onto the bedside table for the rapidly depleting bottle of Valium and noticed the immediate twitch of disapproval at the corner of Ian’s infantile, pouting moue. She couldn’t believe that he was actually going to lecture her now. Ian sniffily suggested that maybe she should try and do a ‘cleanse’ and also that she should start going back to the gym as soon as possible, as she was definitely losing muscle mass and tone. No shit! thought Angelika, who had this point hadn’t eaten solid food in days.
She shot Ian a venomous look of disgusted disbelief and then she swallowed the Valium with a glass of her aunt’s cheap but potable red wine and pointedly turned her back on him. Angelika really didn’t know who this person was anymore; and what’s more she really didn’t care, either. All Angelika wanted to do was to sleep dreamlessly and not to think at all, about anything.
Angelika stared in numb incomprehension after the flower-laden coffin as it was slowly conveyed by the six solemnly handsome pallbearers towards the lavishly decorated and fecund altar where the vicar was standing, preposterously illuminated by a shaft of stained-glass sunlight, resplendent in his purple and gold, visibly glowing from either religious fervour or the heaviness of his robes. She couldn’t believe that her lovely sister’s body was now lying frigid in that burnished yet crude box with it’s cheap-looking silvery handles which appeared to have been hurriedly polished as a bit of an afterthought. It made Angelika feel like throwing up and then running far away from this cold and uncomfortable wooden pew and from all these jostling, and judging by their expensive designer clothing, rather fabulous and self-important people, whom she would soon have to talk to and smile at and feign interest in and offer smoked salmon fucking sandwiches to at the reception which was to be held at the graspingly upward-mobile hotel soon afterward.
Who were they all? Angelika knew that her sister had been extremely popular, but this mob just seemed ridiculous to Angelika; but she also realized with a sudden, jagged wrench to her lower abdomen that she and Athena had rarely discussed their careers beyond the cursory and that their relationship, apart from the most obvious sibling grounding had always been based upon true mutual support, genuine heartfelt love and on a strict edict of no judgements, ever. With whom else had she or Athena enjoyed that kind of relationship? Sadly, Angelika knew the answer to that - no one.
The church was infested with fashionably black-clad and subtly distraught-acting people, many of whom were now spilling outside into the church’s barren and wintry gardens. There was a palpable frisson of subdued excitement amongst those present which this particular church had never previously experienced and it had to be said that the vicar had donned his grandest and most stylish vestments in honour of the tragic occasion and in order to deliver the performance of a lifetime. He seriously resembled The Pope in his deep purple alb with its florid golden embroidery, but his costume seemed flamboyantly gaudy for a funeral, thought Angelika and he had probably only previously liberated the robes from their mothball-fetid storage for Christmas, Easter and for high Holy Days.
The whole thing seemed unusually Catholic to Angelika and she wondered to herself when her family had suddenly caught religion as they’d never previously suffered from it. This absurd thought suddenly made her giggle and as if by clockwork, Ian glanced sharply sideways at her in clucking disapproval and Angelika subtly shook her head in response at his utter predictability.
Yet none of this had anything to do with Athena. Angelika simply couldn't get her head around all of this ridiculously bombastic pomp and circumstance. Athena never would have wanted any of this. Why hadn’t they listened to Angelika? They should have all been at the beach, at sunset, drinking fine claret, while listening to Massive Attack and then they should have shaken her sister’s shivery ashes from out of an intricately carved Moroccan Thuya wood box, thus allowing them to flit freely upon the sea breezes and thence to travel onward to whichever magical places they desired to go.
But no, she was to be trapped in a box and then burnt, her ashes would then be collected in a dust pan and then re-trapped in a smaller box, no doubt with yet more shiny cheap handles, and then buried underground for eternity. Well at least she’d be trapped next to their mother, thought Angelika, the reality of her absolute aloneness suddenly hitting her again, just as it always did now, about thirty-five million times a day.
The vicar’s pinched mouth was opening and closing while he spouted inane and endless platitudes about God and Jesus and eternal love and Angelika felt a sudden and overwhelming urge to run wildly up and down the aisle and then to roughly push the vicar aside and to scream from the pulpit that they didn't know Athena; that she would've hated all of this. But most of all, Angelika wanted to call her sister to tell her how ridiculous it all was, and then they would have had a bloody good belly laugh.
But, Angelika realized with a wrenching pang, Athena was the one person in her life that she couldn't call; and never would be able to call ever again. And finally, at that bitter realization, the painfully suppressed tears began to course down Angelika’s drawn and pallid cheeks, mercifully blurring her view of the entire obscene and nonsensical charade.