The Army has never been that great with paperwork. So it didn't particularly surprise Russ that the final word came so late. It took three week for them to get word to the next of kin. And the next of kin didn't think to inform her "family" for another two weeks.
St. Alban's Church was packed to the rafters—standing room only. They brought in extra seats and set them up with care in front of the very first pew and down the aisles, making sure to leave enough space to satisfy the Fire Chief. He was in the sixth pew on the right side.
Russ sat up front, crisp and pressed in his best suit. A black suit. He hated it. There was only ever one reason to put it on. Right now he'd like to take it out to the woods and watch it burn. But instead he sat stoically, his mother at his side weeping softly.
He had made her promise to come home. And home she came. Just not the way any of them would have liked. The service was the longest he had ever been to in his life. Everybody had something to say. Everyone except Russ. They had asked him before hand if he wanted to say a few words. There were a lot of words Russ wanted to say, none of them appropriate for church. Reality was he knew if he got up there he wouldn't be able to hold it together. He'd be bawling like a baby in a moment and he wasn't sure he could stop if he started now.
Nothing in his life would ever be right again. And glancing around he was pretty sure that went for the lives of every person in the room... of the town even. No one would ever forget Clare Fergusson or what she had done for Millers Kill. Russ may have lost a piece of his heart but the town lost a part of it's soul.