Chloe's life is done...or is it?
|Author's note: This is a prologue to a novel. Please do not review it as a stand alone piece. For more information and a list of future chapters, please visit "Chloe"
"Geez, Chloe, all you ever do is study, study, study."
"Well, what else am I supposed to do, Emma? I have my scholarship on the line here."
"Still, you've still got As across the board. You'll pass those exams in no time. Come. There's a bunch of us going to Fifth Avenue . Colin's taking us."
"Who else is going?"
"Hugh, Thomas, Cate, and Mary."
"Okay. I'm in."
Such is the discussion, perhaps Chloe's final words while on Earth.
It was a cool but pleasant evening in Manchester. However, Chloe Severson, a 20 year old at the local university (and an unassuming beauty), had planned on spending her time studying for an upcoming exam in one of her classes. Emma Ulan, her somewhat more capricious roommate, felt this would be a complete waste of Chloe's time. Thus, she talked the studious American into a night on the town with some of her friends. Surprisingly, Chloe agreed with little protest. It must have been hearing Hugh and Mary's names that prompted her to go.
As she rode along in Colin's minibus, Chloe contemplated her impending adventures. There was more than likely going to be some stops at various pubs in Manchester followed by a visit to any of the dance clubs in town. She tried to figure out subtle ways she could get Hugh and Mary to dance, flirt, or anything like that. Ever since she arrived in England, she had been hoping to set those two up. They'd look great together, she thought. Mary was a little bit of a wallflower, and Hugh was both chivalrous and gifted with a great sense of humor. In Chloe's mind, they complemented each other wonderfully. All they needed, it seemed, was a little hinting and nudging.
They arrived in around 6:30 that evening. All the girls except for Chloe scurried to check their makeup in the various mirrors around the microbus. Chloe, meanwhile, sat back, still lost in thought. To her, makeup was a waste of precious time and money. With her shoulder length deep brown hair, almond shaped green eyes, and mauveish lips, she really didn't need to add any makeup. Of course, Chloe was oblivious to that fact. Life was mostly about books and dreaming for her. She wanted to be a professional Yenta by day and write all through the night. This partying bruhaha was exactly that: bruhaha. However, her Yenta instincts told her to roll with it, and she tentatively stepped out of the minibus.
The group of youngsters walked around until finding a suitable pub at which to have a few mugs of ale, stout, or whatever appealed to them at the time. Supposedly, Colin's father was friends with the pub's owner, so Colin and his friends could get all the booze they desired. Drinking, though, never appealed to Chloe all that much. To her, it was more of an annoyance than anything. She didn't like the idea of losing control over her thought processes, something she very much needed whenever she tried to set up people. The possibility of a hangover wasn't all that appealing, either. So, she sat back and watched her friends consume what seemed like liters of ale. Hugh and Mary, though, were shying away from overindulgence and sharing a stout. The sight of them sharing the stout made Chloe smile. If nothing else, it was a sweet picture, one she would've snapped had it not been so dark in the pub.
Chloe then surveyed the pub itself. Despite the darkness of the pub, it was alive, a carnival of sounds and smells. Nothing like cacophonic music and the stale scent of cigarette smoke on a Saturday night, she thought sardonically. Truth was, the music seemed jerky, discordant, and out of place, yet people still made clumsy attempts to dance to it. The air was choked by smoke, as the pub's denizens freely lit up their tobacco products of choice. At this Chloe sighed. In spite of her medical history, she had tried smoking cigarillos once and ended up liking it. Once she came to England, though, she had to stop, as it ate away at her spending money. She missed it, though.
Chloe snapped out of her contemplative state. Hugh had called out to her from the bar not far from where Chloe had opted to sit. Taking a good look, she noticed the stout was gone, and Mary was slightly more lively than usual. This almost made Chloe lapse back into her thoughts, but she opted not to follow that familiar path of speculation.
"Hugh and I were going to wander around," Mary piped up. "We're a little tired of the pub. Care to join us?"
"Yeah," Chloe said. "I'll go."
* * *
The mood was not pleasant on that sunny day in Florida, as a closed casket funeral droned on, hiding a mangled form from those still living. Gathered in the church were Chloe's family, many of her American friends, and a few of her friends from England. Many were in tears as the minister read an eulogy written by Chloe's mother. Cate sat next to Hugh and Mary, who were crying into each others' shoulders most of the ceremony. As the ceremony went on, Cate reviewed in her mind Chloe's death.
That fateful night back in Manchester, Hugh had told her that he, Mary, and Chloe were going to wander around Fifth Avenue. At the time, Cate simply nodded and promised to tell the others. She had gone back to her drink when she heard a dull THWACK! accompanied by Mary's shrill scream. Several people, Cate included, had run out of the pub to see what had caused the commotion. Once she was outside, she saw Chloe's slight form lying eerily still on the street by the pub. Mary was sobbing uncontrollably, and Hugh was holding her. Cate fought to get her nerves under control before retrieving her cell phone to call for an ambulance. It was for naught, though, as the head trauma rendered Chloe a vegetable. Once the doctors had been able to reach Chloe's parents in the States, they were given permission to remove her from life support.
The church ceremony ended rather quietly, and everyone rose as Chloe's father and her brothers carried the casket down the aisle. As the casket and its bearers exited the church, numerous mourners followed as well to proceed with the burial. All the while, string music played. Cate listened and determined it to be the chorale from a Holst piece. Jupiter, she thought, and she wiped tears from her murky gray eyes. Leave it to Chloe to choose something that could be both joyous and utterly elegiac in the same phrase. Leave it to Chloe to plan her own funeral.
After the funeral, Cate introduced herself to Chloe's family and ended up having a conversation about the deceased with her only older brother, Tim.
"What was Chloe like before she came to England?" Cate asked Tim.
"She was brilliant, destined to be a writer of some sort," Tim replied. "However, she was almost consumed by her obsession with matchmaking."
"Yeah, that matchmaking obsession. How'd that get started?"
"When she was ten, the family went to see Fiddler on the Roof, and Chloe adored the character of Yenta the Matchmaker. I'm not sure, but I think that's how it got started. Did she try to set up anyone while in England?"
"Do you see that couple by the creek?" Cate asked pointing to Hugh and Mary.
"Yeah, Tim said.
"They aren't together, well, at least to my knowledge, despite what you might see. Chloe had been working on getting those two together since she arrived in England two years ago."
"I guess old habits are hard to break."
"She tried to break that habit?"
"Mom tried to persuade her to give it up because she never had any success."
The crowd dwindled as Chloe's casket was lowered into the ground. No one was aware of what was about to happen above. Chloe's life on Earth may have been over, but she was about to start over in the afterlife.