It was a perfect day for a funeral.
As if to make up for the lack of tears being shed, the rain had started at six am that morning, drowning the day before it began.
On this Day of our Lord, November Eleven, Clarice Duncan Deveraux, wayward wife of Michel, was being laid to rest in the family mausoleum in the churchyard of Holy Savior Catholic Church in Bayou Chaveau, Louisiana, and with one exception there wasn't a wet eye in the congregation.
Not that the Deveraux clan, as well as a good portion of the towns of Metairie and Bayou Chaveau, wasn't well represented. After all, they had reputations to uphold, and snubbing the burial of one of their own, even if that kinship was only by marriage, just wouldn't do. Besides, most of them had known the deceased, in both the biblical and non-biblical sense of the word, all her life.
Clarice's body had lain in state at San Souci plantation, where she had lived with Michel for the length of their marriage. There had been no wake, but all were invited to view the body. The mahogany and bronze casket was placed in the foyer in front of the stairs leading to the bedrooms--those same stairs which had caused Clarice's demise--where one and all might view the corpse before the priest arrived to convey it to the church. It was said Michel had never entered by the front door since the coffin was placed there; he reached the room where he slept by the back verandah, exiting the same way, even going to the dining room through the kitchen. It had been his elder brother who had made all the arrangements, which was ironic since Luc hadn't been inside the little church since his commencement.
When the body was taken to the church, Michel had followed in the family limo but he hadn't spoken to anyone. To look at him, one would think he neither saw nor heard anything that went on.
The church ceremony had been lengthy--the Circle of Prayers, the Funeral Mass, Absolution--as if Michel was asking for anything and everything the Church could do to assure his wife's soul wouldn't suffer even a brief sojourn in purgatory for the sin she had committed. Briefly, as the coffin was lifted and carried from the church to the cemetery, he looked as if he might burst into tears. Then, he passed a hand across his eyes, his face became stony, and he recovered, walking stolidly with his brother and sister-in-law behind the other family members who acted as pallbearers.
As they stood at the damp and dismal graveside, many of the women were trying to be charitable, thinking how ironic it was that after a childless five years of marriage, Clarice should at last become pregnant only to die in a fall down a flight of stairs, leaving her prematurely-born son motherless. Quelle domage! But it was said with a rolling of eyes and a smirk. A great percentage of the men were truly mourning, especially those who had sampled Clarice's charms before her marriage or been tempted by her during it, reflecting that it was a damned shame such a fine piece of tail was being placed in a tomb where no man would ever get at it again.
Of course, they kept those thoughts unspoken, as well as many others surrounding Clarice and her short but controversial marriage with Michel Deveraux. They weren't so quiet about her equally scandal-ridden death, however, and more than one woman was heard to whisper to the one next to her, Is it true she was trying to push Luc down the stairs and that's why she fell? Have they decided which brother's the father of her bebe? What does Luc's wife say about all this?
The rain had slowed to an irritating drizzle and the immediate family sat protected by a thick canvas canopy with its discrete advertisement "Brent's Funeral Home, New Orleans, Louisiana, Caring in Bereavement". Blond, hazel-eyed Michel was as stony-faced as he'd been since the moment Young Dr. Mark had told him his wife was dead. In his black suit with the mourning armband encircling his left sleeve, he looked like a stricken angel.
Next to him sat his brother, Luc, in contrast, an angry demon.
Lucifer Deveraux closely resembled his younger brother, but if Michel was an angel, Luc was truly devil-born, and Bayou Chaveau was still reeling from the many episodes of his hellacious young adulthood. Un diable was Luc, especially with the women.
With salacious avidity, the gossips blamed him for turning Clarice into a Little Miss Roundheels, forgetting how her depredations among the male populace had started three years before his appearance in her life. They couldn't keep quiet, the whispers rising to such a point that the priest paused in the middle of the De Profundis to glance pointedly around.
That made the murmurs cease.
Luc saw Father Alain's gesture, had to have heard the whispers, but gave no indication, staring straight ahead, jaw set tightly. His wife wasn't so stoic. She reached out, placing a hand over his--either in comfort or to keep that tightly-held anger from erupting.
Eyes followed the movement. Most approved it. Surprisingly, no one had anything bad to say about Julie Deveraux. Many wondered what she had thought as the priest offered the Absolution. Had she thought it unfair that Clarice should suffer for what she'd tried to do to Luc? Or was she as forgiving as she appeared? And if Julie forgave, how could Michel not, for all the whispered infidelities Clarice was said to have committed against him?
Most of them were surprised that Father Alain hadn't choked on the eulogy. Surely the good priest had felt some guilt as he enumerated the deceased's redeeming qualities.
The only family member missing was patriarch Jean-Luc. He was still in New Orleans Medical Center's Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, recovering from the heart attack he had suffered six weeks before as a direct result of Clarice's machinations.
"I am the Resurrection and Life..." Father Alain began to intone the Antiphone. Everyone was silent as he continued with the Canticle Benedictus.