“I don’t normally attend funerals,” she said as she leaned against the wall.
I can tell, Will thought to himself as his glance skidded to a stop somewhere close to her knees, the same place where her black dress ended. It wasn’t every day that someone intruded on grieving family members to offer their condolences in a dress that looked more like it belonged in a club than in a church hall after a funeral. Will considered himself a bit of an expert on all things funereal. His uncle owned a funeral home and his first job had been to direct people to sign the guest book; it had required nothing more than a tie and a quiet voice. Along the way, he had discovered that the food they served after the services was usually decent, so eight years on he still showed up to strangers’ funerals with some regularity. His uncle thought it was a dark hobby, but he didn’t mind. He had gotten good at predicting how many people would show up at a service just by clicking through the funeral home’s obituaries, and from there guessing what the food would be like to decide which day he wanted to show up. Funerals where someone interesting showed up were rare. It looked like today’s might be interesting.
Even after his lengthy pause, she still extended her hand in greeting. “I’m Freya.”
Will didn’t shake her hand. “What do you do, then?” He was pretty sure she didn’t belong to anyone at the funeral. Today’s service was for an older woman who had outlived most of her relatives. He pushed down his recognition of the irony of his own lack of belonging. “I mean, what do you do when you’re not at funerals?”
“Well, I like to describe my life work as showing people the options they have in front of them. Sort of like a concierge. I like to help people find the right path.”
“Yes, really. I like it when people end up where they’re supposed to.”
Will looked around him, trying to see if anyone was near enough to overhear this strange conversation. He moved closer to Freya and could see with the change of light that he had missed the embroidery on her dress. It was covered with cats. He’d never me someone who worked at a hotel as a concierge who dressed like she did.
He swallowed over a sudden lump in his throat. “So, where do I belong?”
Her eyes seemed to flash. He didn’t know whether he should be frightened or aroused. Her voice sounded deeper, throatier, when she responded. “You belong with me. Clearly.”
He backed up at that. “Freya, I’ll be honest, I only came for the hors d’oeuvres. I’m not looking for more than that. I don’t come to funerals to meet people.”
“Will,” she said slowly, advancing toward him as he continued to move away. “That’s the only reason to come to funerals. To meet people. The people who remain.” She shook her long blond hair. He was sure it was a trick of the light, but it looked like the embroidered cats were stalking him. Now he knew he should be frightened. There was nothing attractive about her to him now, now that he remembered his grandmother reading to him from an old book of legends. The Freya in his grandmother’s stories took slain warriors to her hall. He wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a paradise or not, but he wasn’t willing to take chances.
“I thought you said you were a concierge!” With the sudden insight from his memories, he knew he’d been lied to. “And that you don’t go to funerals!”
“I make it a point not to, Will.”
He realized he had never told her his name.
“Usually, the warriors come to me. But my hall has grown empty lately, so I’m left to seek out warriors on my own. And when I can’t find warriors, I’ll take who’s left. Apparently, today that’s the vultures who circle for carrion in the form of hors d’oeuvres at a quiet place like this.”
He shook his head slowly, but knew there was no escape. Without much choice, he finally held out his hand and allowed her to lead him away.