Neither Jimmy nor I were in a rush to get there. We said it was because we didn't want to scare off anyone else who might have come to pay their own respects. But I had a feeling that he was just as nervous as I was. Comforting people wasn't exactly his thing. Jimmy was definitely a man who did better in theoretical comfort-- keeping things nice and safe so the villagers could sleep at night.
As for me, I didn't know what Pat would do or say. Would she ignore me? Would she cry? What would be on her mind?
By the time we arrived, most of the people were gone. I worried that we were too late, and then I saw her. Pat looked both incredibly mature and incredibly young. The stress of two such different traits on her face made her look exhausted. I wanted to swoop her up, if she'd let me, and just hold her close. I wanted to give her a moment of peace.
Rita was slowly making her way out. There was a woman who was attached to her arm, but Rita didn't seem to be enjoying her company. When she saw us, she managed to excuse herself and make her way to us. The woman took one look at Rita's destination and took off without her, not even looking back.
Rita looked older. Her hair was loose, a rare thing for her, and she wore the darkest outfit she'd probably been able to find in her closet-- a gray skirt and a light colored sweater. When she was near, she didn't stop. She stepped right into Jimmy's arms and gave him a hug as if it was natural, and he didn't stop her. In fact, he wrapped his arms around her in return.
She stepped back, the tiniest sprinkle of a tear on her lashes as she stepped over to get a hug from me. We hadn't hugged before either, but there wasn't anything else I could do but return it awkwardly.
She wiped her eyes and sniffled a bit before she said, "You should go see her. She'll want to see you, you know."
I didn't know what to say, so I stood there like a dumbass. Jimmy gave me a shove to help me get my feet moving. As I walked away from them, I looked back to see Jimmy reaching out a hand for her elbow to help lead her back to the bar just up the dirt road.
Pat wasn't looking at anyone. She had her head down, and her eyes closed with both hands over her face. Her thoughts, always a whirlwind, were now silent. It wasn't difficult to understand how she was feeling, and I hesitated, unsure that I would actually be of any use to her.
Then she saw me. I half-expected her to shove me out of the way as she ran past me. Instead, she ran right into my arms, and I held her close. She was shaking though she wasn't sobbing. We stayed together like that for a while without speaking. Eventually her breathing became more normal and her shaking stopped.
She still didn't move for a while. When she finally did manage to disengage herself, she looked up at me with a bitter smile that didn't reach her bloodshot eyes.
"Do you want a drink? I could sure go for one. Or more."
Jimmy and Rita had headed towards the bar. I didn't feel like being trapped with the two of them inside the small bar. It also didn't seem like a good idea to invade their quiet time. There had to be a lot they needed to say to one another. A drink sounded like a good idea, but in town, the best place to get it was from Pat's. If we took off in search of it, there'd be questions, and I didn't feel like talking to anyone else.
But we also couldn't stand in front of the reminder. I took her hand. "C'mon."
She didn't fight against me. She followed me, holding tightly to my fingers.