It was a hot July morning in a church with no air condition and standing room only. We were all dressed in our finest black clothing, fanning ourselves, and staring at the closed casket at the front of the altar. Most in the room were numb. The exception being that one aunt who felt the need to wail at every word the priest uttered. I assume she was trying to prove that she was in more pain than the rest of us. In my family everything is a competition.
Julie was older than me by two years. She was the official family favorite. Not the first grandchild but the first to be born to the only male heir; they named her after my grandfather, Julian. My grandmother gave extra brownie points for that. Julie was the one in the casket.
The call came about a week earlier and my mother broke down in tears. I felt nothing when it was explained. Her murder was just another way for Julie to get more attention. She could not have just lived long enough to screw something up. Now, she was perfect forever. At least there was finally a reason to wear that black lace dress I purchased for junior year transition from band nerd to Goth. I was angry at the world then and Julie was an easy target in my head.
Sweat rolled down my back. The heat was making the Madonna Lilies wilt and my head a little fuzzy. My Uncle Angel sat with his head hanging down, mourning the loss of his eldest child. He held the hand of his new, younger wife, Turkan, who was tight-lipped and straight-backed. Their infant son, Ali, was fussing; the heat must have gotten to him, too. I offered to hold him and take him outside for air. She came with me in case he needed a change. She really just wanted to get out of there. Not that I could blame her. She was a Muslim from Turkey and a Spanish Roman Catholic funeral was a culture shock. Later, I would find out that she had never been in a church before.
I told Turkan to ignore the stares that came our way from the pews. Some of the family chose not to like her for the fact she was not Catholic. They charged that she took my uncle away from his family and damned him with his conversion to a religion they did not want to understand. But, they accepted her because Julie liked her. They were an uneducated bunch.
On the way out a man in a mustard coloured suit held the door for us. He said hello. I did not know him. I was pretty sure I had never seen him before. He whispered he was a friend of my cousin’s. I did not like him, but I asked how he knew my name and he explained that Julie had shown him a picture of me once. Apparently, she spoke about me all the time.
Some days later I found out that this was the man who strangled her. He was older than I thought and married. He was having an affair with Julie and she had threatened to go to his wife. He skipped town, but was caught in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He pled innocent and got 15 years. He died year five after being shivved in the back. He got off too easy.