Start your story with this line: Her laugh broke the silence.
Her laugh broke the silence out of nothing – she hadn’t known it was coming or been able to stifle it.
Everything froze, and from the lowered kneeler levels behind sixty pews, every eye in the room sought her out.
The back of her neck burned with the effort of stillness, and she leaned into herself as if in earnest prayer while the tissues in her hand suddenly grew moist. Inches away, her sister’s stifled laughter at her discomfort shook through the wooden seat of the bench.
After a few cleansing breaths she dared to peek.
Everyone was still staring.
What the hell? Did everyone get a memo? Normal people pretend stuff like that never happened. What’s wrong with these people?
She closed her eyes again and waited. Surely music had to start, ashes and incense, wine and wafers…right?
Surely they couldn’t be waiting for her to acknowledge her misstep. And why had she laughed anyway? It was a sad occasion, stiflingly so. The woman up there would soon be reduced to the contents of an urn. She had loved her so. Even thinking about it now, her breath caught and she felt the tears return.
And with the tears, another laugh. Echoing off the walls and windows and caught in her throat all at once. The eyes, already watching her, grew wider.
Stop it, stop it, stop it, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
It was like the clock of awkward had reset itself and now something had to be done or they’d all be sitting in accusatory silence for hours. These people must have knees of steel.
Somewhere, mercifully, an organ began to play softly.
She took advantage of the distraction by banging her ankles in the escape from the kneeler, keeping her eyes down and moving quickly.
Looking back before ducking out the door, she thought of how amusing her laughter would have been to the one they were all there to honor. Maybe it was a message. A wink from the beyond.
What had they done? Why was it all about them?
She made her way into the sunshine, laughing until she cried.