The ham was flaccid. The scalloped potatoes were eerily yellowed by margarine, and the green beans, lukewarm and watery, were straight from the can. The bread was store-bought.

Tammie was 54, but in the coffin she looked elderly, her hair thin, her red cardigan cheap, worn, pilling. Was that really the nicest thing she owned? Tammie was angry in death, her jaw clenched and her fingers curled like the claws of a cat.

In life, Tammie had reason to be angry but rarely was. At least not until those final years. Tammie had been a teen runaway, a teen addict, a teen mom. Yet she had also been bold and optimistic and ridiculously so, in her poofy satin maid-of-honor gown, with her Colgate smile and Farrah-Fawcett hair, fresh and beautiful and full of hope.

Tammie was my cousin. She...

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