);

“If any of the family would like to make remarks, now is the time,” the pastor said.

Joel, Tati’s brother, taps her knee.

“Go up there,” he whispers.

“Hell no,” she hisses.

Joel groans, as he grabs Tati’s arm and raises it.

The pastor smiles.

“Sister Tati, the floor is yours.”

“Your ass is mine,” Tati whispers in Joel’s ear.

She makes her way to the podium, each step getting heavier. She knows Joel wants what’s best for her, but this…this ain’t it. Arriving at the podium, she taps the mic and exhales.

“I didn’t prepare for this,” she says, staring at her brother. “But I don’t want to regret not doing this so here we go.”

She brushes her bangs out of her eyes.

“Growing up, Mommy, Grandma, Michael Jackson, and you were my heroes. As a kid, you look up to your heroes. They could never do you wrong.”

She pauses to allow the tears to run down her face.

“I wanted to be like you. I wore your clothes. Followed you everywhere you went. Asked you so many questions. I adored you.”

The sound of sniffling accents the hum of the air conditioning.

“As I got older, you became secretive and didn’t want to spend time with me. I left for college and you acted like I didn’t exist anymore. Then…”

She gasps for air. Ricky walks up the steps to comfort her. Grabbing her hand, he nudges her to continue.

“Then…you separated from us. Not just Mommy, but all of us. You decided that your wife and kids, and brothers and sisters weren’t worthy enough. You drew the line in the sand.”

She pauses.

“Heroes will disappoint you and when they do, I hope they have the decency to explain their actions and won’t wait until death is near to try to mend bridges. Because this…because this bridge is forever gone.”

Taking  Ricky’s extended hand, the two walk down the steps. Ricky pauses to look at the casket. Tati stares ahead.

“They’re getting ready to close the casket Tati. Wanna have one last look?”

Tati turns to him.

“I had my last look at him 15 years ago. There’s nothing for me to see.”

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