Pretty

January 2, 1993


The phone rang loudly throughout the main house. I haven't answered any phones since that night, but I guess it's time to now. I peeled myself off of the couch and went over to the blaring telephone, "hello?"


"Michael, it's Rebecca," she sniffled. Zora's mother. I froze.


"Mrs. Avery, how are you?" I tried to sound as unsuspecting as possible.


"Not okay. Zora, um... I hate to tell you this," she sniffled again. I knew what was coming. "Zora was murdered two nights ago."


I gasped, "no!"


She sniffled again, "yes. They haven't found who did it yet. Unfortunately, ... I hate to tell you this. They um," she took a deep breath. "They found her and a man naked in her bedroom." Well, if Brett didn't tell me she cheated and I didn't kill them, I would have certainly found out that she was cheating now. "Maybe his lover found out about it and went mad. I don't know. I just... My daughter is gone, Michael. I know how much she meant to you. I just want you to know despite the situation, she truly, truly loved you," she cried. I felt so bad hearing her say that. My body was tense because of the overall guilt I felt. I didn't think about this being the outcome of my action. But then again, I'm sure Zora didn't think so either.


"I can't believe it," I mustered up the most sympathetic voice I possibly could. "Not Zora..." the lump in my throat wasn't as fake as my statement though. I've been crying since it happened. I still can't get over the betrayal and the murder. "Zora was my everything, Mrs. Avery," I cried. My tears were real. That statement was real. I couldn't fake that no matter how much I tried. I really loved Zora.


"I know, baby. I know," Mrs. Avery cried with me. "She's in a better place now."


I wiped my tears, "Mrs. Avery, I'll pay for the funeral if you need me to."


"No, Michael. You don't have to..."


"Oh, no, ma'am. I have to. I loved Zora with all my heart. The least I can do is pay for the funeral. I don't want you guys to have to worry about a thing."


At that, she cried again, "thank you, Michael. You are truly a godsend. Zora was always right about you. She always had good taste in men." My heart dropped at that statement. The memory of Zora having sex with that man flashing before my eyes. Good taste in men. She kissed his calves the way she kissed mine. She kissed his thighs the way she kissed mine. She kissed his lips the way she kissed mine. She probably loved that man. What was he doing for her that I couldn't? Besides be there, what did he have to offer? All that time, I thought Zora understood my life and my career. But no. She understood it because it gave her an opportunity to fuck around. "Michael, are you there, baby?"


I blinked out of the trance I had put myself into, "sorry. I'm speechless, Mrs. Avery. My baby is gone."


"I know," she sighed. "I'm so sorry, Michael. Let me give you some time. Call me if you need anything." She hung up leaving me in my depression. I put the phone back on the hook and stood by the phone. Zora is gone.


***


January 7, 1993


Brett opened the back door of the car for me. I put on my sunglasses and got out of the car, straightening out my jacket before I walked into the building. Half of me feels like I should be here. The other half of me says I don't deserve to be here. The church said, "this is God's house, and everyone is welcome here."


Brett stood beside me, "ready?"


I shook my head, staring down at the asphalt, "no."


He sighed, "well, let's go."


"No," I shook my head. "I have to be here. This will be my last time seeing her." Brett looked at me. I stood in front of the church for what seemed like forever. I just couldn't bring myself to walk through those doors knowing that Zora was in there dead. I took a deep breath, straightened my jacket again and took the first step forward toward the door of the church. Brett opened the door for me and followed me in. My heart raced. I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I can do this...


"Come on, Mike. You've made it this far. We don't have to stay. Just view the body and go. You've done your part. You helped the family with the funeral," Brett whispered to me after noticing me step back from the second door. I gained my composure, straightening my jacket once again and walked through the second set of double doors. The sanctuary was moderately quiet aside from the murmurs and tears. The only people I knew in this room were Mr. and Mrs. Avery and maybe a couple of Zora's friends. Zora didn't have any siblings. Which was probably why it was so easy to spoil her so much and do everything she said. The girl expected it. And I was under her spell. Brett and I walked up to the first pew where Mr. and Mrs. Avery sat.


I knelt on one knee before Mrs. Avery and kissed her hand, "Zora meant the world to me. If there is ever anything you need me to do for you, I'll do it no questions asked." She managed a smile through her grief, made me stand up and pulled me in for a hug. I hugged her tightly. Just seeing Mrs. Avery in tears was bound to bring me to tears in a little bit.


Mr. Avery stood up, "despite the situation, Michael, Zora loved you. I need you to always know that," he tried to hold his composure.


I nodded, "I know, sir. I loved her more," my voice shook. He pulled me in for a hug. It was so true. I honestly loved Zora more. So much more that I didn't cheat on her. I let go of Mr. Avery and turned back around to the casket. I didn't want to see Zora in that casket, but I'm the one who put her there... I took a deep breath and slowly walked up to the casket. My eyes welled up with tears. My heart was racing. The memories of her fucking that other man flashed before my eyes again. That's what got us here in the first place. I didn't go there with the intention of killing her. I went there with the intention of confronting her. But watching her fuck that nigga brought us here. I'm responsible for her death and it's eating me up inside.


I finally made it to the casket. Her hair was straight and pushed behind her ears. Why wasn't it curly? She loved it in its natural 4C state. Mrs. Avery... She was dressed in a purple dress. Her favorite color. The color of royalty. Because in her life, she was truly royal. Her hands were placed delicately over one another across her stomach. Lips painted a dark purple. Diamond studs for earrings. She was dressed fiercely in death just as she was in life. I collapsed beside the casket in tears. Struck with the pain of the initial betrayal and the murder. Had she not betrayed me. Had I not witnessed her betray me, we wouldn't be here. She'd still be alive. We would have had that conversation. I would have confronted her. She would have apologized. I would have walked away. This didn't have to be the outcome. But I couldn't contain myself. I couldn't control myself at that moment. Vengeance was mine. Brett and Mr. Avery came over to help me up.


"Come on, Michael," Brett said.


"It's okay," Mr. Avery offered. But it wasn't okay. I and Brett knew that it wasn't okay. I stood up, straightening my jacket and wiping my tears.


"Let's go," I told Brett. He nodded. "I'm sorry, Mr. Avery. I can't... I can't see her like this any longer." He nodded and pulled me in for a hug. I couldn't hug him for too long without more guilt setting in. I let go and followed Brett out the sanctuary. Before going out the double doors I looked back at her lying in that casket. And even in that casket, despite all that was done, she was still pretty.

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