It’s a sticky New Orleans afternoon around 3:00 pm. The clouds loom overhead waiting for their cue to dirge the recently deceased, Penelope Jane Bordeaux, through a symphony of tiny water droplets. They remain quiet and respectful throughout the service allowing Jake to stay dry while saying farewell to his beloved Penelope.
The preacher speaks firmly closing the service as he beckons all of the lost souls in attendance to take heed, and repent their sins before their time is over. And he assures everyone that Penny is now in a better place.
“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all who have come today. Please see them home safely, and help them to understand that you have a greater purpose for our dear Penelope. Amen,” says the preacher.
The jazz band plays “Amazing Grace” lightly in the background as everyone makes their way to console Jake in person.
One lady with a very deep cajun accent says to Jake, “Oh, honey. I’m so sorry about this,” as she embraces him tightly, “We all know it wasn’t your fault.”
Jake nods and politely says, “thank you,” with a numb expression on his face. Inside his heart explodes, and tears slide down his face as his inner voice screams, “That’s my wife. What am I doing here? That should be me.”
He stands up, barely able to put one foot in front of the other, as if fifty-pound weights are clinging to him, but somehow he stumbles the five feet to Penny’s casket, and kneels down beside her. Angry and remorseful tears cover Jake’s face. “Oh, God. I’m so sorry, baby. I should’ve never let you go by yourself. What was I thinking? Please forgive me.”
Jake’s brother, Adam, makes a consoling gesture as he kneels beside him. “Man, you know this isn’t your fault. She’s walked out plenty of times after an argument. That’s what she does. There’s no way you could’ve known.”
He looks at Adam, and raises his voice, “We were in a strange place. I should’ve known better. And I’m not leaving her right now.”
“Dude, you can’t stay here all day. It’s about to rain,” Adam says as he points to the dark sky. “Look.”
Jake clenches his jaw, and says in a lower tone, “Please just leave me alone.”
Adam realizes that Jake needs a little more space, so he backs away and quietly warns the others that his brother needs to be alone.
Suddenly, he feels vibrations from the hot pink cell phone in his pocket; it was Penny’s. “She had a hair appointment today.” He smiles, and then yells, “She’s not going to be there,” to the cell phone. “Don’t you know? It’s my fault, she’s dead.”
He stops the annoying vibrations and looks at the photos taken two weeks ago on the phone in Dominica, which was sort of their honeymoon, but really it was their second anniversary. He paused on each image of Penny as it transformed him back to their trip.
He remembers, it started out as a great vacation. On the third night, they had a late dinner with a few bottles of wine. As they sat in the restaurant, they started playing their favorite bar game.
The game ended badly with Penny becoming angry at Jake’s comments about other women, and ultimately walking away leaving him alone in the restaurant.
Jake waited a few minutes before going after Penny, because she had a history of walking away during an argument. He figured she’d show up at their room soon.
While she was walking back to the room, she dropped her purse on the sidewalk revealing several postcards she purchased for Jake. She realized that she had overreacted, and quickly scribbled, “I love you. I was wrong. Please forgive me. Love, your wife!”
A streetlight illuminated a mailbox across the street, so she crossed the cobblestones to mail the postcards. On the way back from the box, she turned quickly toward the hotel as she heard Jake call her name. At that same moment, a large banana truck came barreling around the corner. The brakes squealed, but were not strong enough to stop the collision. Penny died on impact.
Finally, he remembers that he’s really at his wife’s funeral, as he hears the rain drops splatter on the vinyl funeral home tarp above.
Adam returns with umbrellas, and urges Jake to leave. They return home to a house full of relatives. On the counter, was a stack of mail from their mail box. Jake was unsure where it came from.
He reaches for the mail as a distraction, and flips through it…. “Direct mail, more direct mail crap, bill, and….” Jake pauses and begins to cry, “Penny! Oh, my God!”
Penny’s postcard’s finally made it home.