Three Movements by Chloe Nedved

She could feel it. A slow, dull pain that started in her stomach and began to make its way up into her chest.

No. Not here. Not now.

She bit her lip and clenched her fists. The pain subsided for a minute.

Yes, that’s it. Keep it down. No one needs to see you like this.

She took a deep breath and exhaled, although her breath was shakier than she would have liked.

Almost there. Almost done. You’re doing fine. Just keep it together.

She took another step forward.

Almost there, and then it’ll be over.

She took one last step forward and stopped. She was here. She squeezed her eyes shut tight.

Keep it together. Just open your eyes. Ten seconds and you’re done.

She tilted her head down and opened her eyes.

Oh, God. I can’t do this.

But you have to.

His hair was combed and tidy as usual. His nose stuck out a little too far as usual. His eyes were closed, and his skin was a little pale, but his smile stopped her breath.

What did they do to his smile?

The pain returned, rising from her chest into her throat.

No. Stop it. Go away.

She dug her fingernails into her palms until they drew blood. Her lip split open from the pressure of her teeth. The pain continued to climb.

Not here. Not now. Please, God, get me out of here.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she tensed.

“It’s okay, Nikki.”

No, it’s definitely not okay. Let me go.

Her feet remained planted. She was frozen, stuck staring at his cold, lifeless face with its imposter of a smile.

You have to move. You have to leave.

The pain had reached her face, flushing it. Tears gathered at the brim of her eyes, threatening to spill over.

No. Don’t you dare. Just hang on.

She blinked and a few tears escaped, falling and staining his orange button-up shirt.

Look what you did. You ruined him.

Her head snapped up and she turned, pulling her shoulder away from her mother’s hand.


She walked away, leaving her mother standing over her father’s corpse.

That can never happen again.

Her bottom lip throbbed from where she had split it open. She passed her tongue over the spot and invited the metallic tang of blood inside her mouth.

It’s just blood.

People filed past her one by one, and one by one they stopped to lay a hand on her shoulder or give her a hug.

Stop fidgeting. It’ll be over soon.

“Your father was an excellent man. He’d be so proud of how brave you are right now.”

I don’t even know who you are.

“I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how you must feel right now.”

No, you can’t. So shut up and move on.

Finally, after two hours of hugs and sympathies, the visitation ended. She climbed into her mother’s sedan, and they drove home. She stared out the window the entire ride, focusing on the vibrant leaves that fell from their trees and lay scattered across the ground.

Almost home.

“You did great this evening, Nikki. I know it wasn’t easy, but tomorrow’s the graveside service, and then it’ll all be over.”

Easier said than done.

Her mother pulled into the driveway, and she bolted from the car. Fumbling with her own keys, she unlocked the front door and raced to her room, closing the door in a swift motion behind her.

Finally. I’m alone.

She sat on the edge of her bed and stared at the wall, waiting for the tears to flow down her face.

Any minute now.

She waited. Her hands fiddled with the hem of her black dress, scrunching up the fabric.

Come on. There’s no one else around. Cry, you idiot.

She hopped up from the bed and began to pace around her room, kicking off her heels in the process. Her bare feet made little tracks in the soft carpet.

You’ve waited all day for this. You’re finally alone. Why won’t you just cry?!

Frustrated, she grabbed a pillow from her bed and flung it across the room. It sailed through the air and knocked a bunch of items off her dresser before landing on the floor by her door.


She walked over to her dresser and knelt down. As she began to clean up the mess, she picked up a miniature, glass cat. Its tail had snapped off upon impact, along with one of the paws.


Everything else in her arms fell back to the carpet. She cradled the cat in the palm of her hand, and with the other, she searched the floor for its tail and paw.

Come on, come on…

She managed to find the tail, but the paw remained lost. She rose to her feet and placed the pieces back on top of her dresser. A single tear brimmed at her eyelid, and as she blinked, it fell, landing on the dismembered creature.

You ruined him. Again.

“Shut up!” she screamed.

“Nicole? Are you ok?” her mother called from downstairs.

No. Dad died, and you broke his cat, and you can’t cry. You’re definitely not okay.

“I’m fine.”


She looked up from the broken cat and stared into the mirror above her dresser. A dull, lifeless husk of herself stared back at her.

What have you become?

Nicole stepped out of the sedan and into the blinding sunlight. She looked up. Not a single cloud interrupted the brilliant, deep blue sky.

You used to love days like this.

She slammed the door shut and followed her mother along the gravel path through the cemetery, passing headstone after headstone.

Please let this be over soon.

They reached the tent and took a seat side by side up front, right next to the casket. More people began to file in, standing behind them.

Who knew Dad was this popular?

The pastor took his position at the head of the casket and began the service. His words echoed in her ears, but her brain processed nothing.

Just a little bit longer, and you can go home.

“And now, Nathan’s daughter, Nicole, will say a few words.”

Wait, what? You didn’t agree to this.

She inhaled sharply as her mother gave her hand a squeeze.

No. This isn’t happening.

“It’s okay, Nikki. Just speak from the heart.”

Get me out of here!

She rose, legs shaking, and approached the head of the casket. The preacher stepped to the side. Her fingernails drew more blood from the fresh wounds in her palms and the crack in her lip dripped red.

Whatever happens, do not cry.

She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak. Nothing came out.

Do. Not. Cry.

She tried to clear her throat, but a lump had formed. The dull ache from yesterday returned full force, choking her.

Hold it together or so help me I will end you.

She took another deep breath, but the pain overwhelmed her.

You will not break down like a pathetic little child in front of all these people, you hear me?!

The emotional dam gave way and the grief flooded her body. She sank to her knees without a sounds as the tears streamed down her face.

Damn it.