Laura hated funerals. Loathed donning the black outfit of mourning and sitting in the pews with weeping family and friends while the pastor spoke of the afterlife. She believed in god, but listening to this was more than she could handle.
She didn’t want to stare at a still body that wasn’t the person she loved any longer and reminisce about the good times. Laura hated funerals, but she was there because her grandfather would have wanted her there.
The last funeral she’d been to was her father’s. He’d been her rock, the opposite of her flighty mother who couldn’t stay in one place to save her life. Losing him put a big hole in her unstable life. Her granddaddy’s death was another big loss.
The sound of her mother wailing grated on her nerves. That woman had treated granddaddy like a senile old man for the longest time. She barely acknowledged him unless he was willing to financially help her with some project. Of course she would play the sad and dutiful daughter today but Laura wanted to shout at her. But instead clenched her jaw so tight her head ached. Her mother leaned in over the casket and cried crocodile tears.
What she wouldn’t give for a drink right about now.
That seemed to be her go to any more; a stiff drink. It was that or sex lately and she didn’t want the emotional upheaval that even the most casual of sex caused. Plus Vodka didn’t abandon you when things got tough.
Maybe it wasn’t the best time to have quit drinking. Another promise she’d made her grandfather before he’d died. She should’ve been smart and promised to quit after the funereal. At least she’d be drunk and not listening to her dramatic mother.
She sighed and bit back her angry words crowding in her throat. Laura wanted to hurl them at her mother. Be civil, she coached herself, for granddaddy.
It wasn’t much longer until she could leave. They’d battled through the eulogy and the pastor’s attempts at soul saving. She just had to make it through putting the casket into the ground and she’d be away from everything that screamed death. Including her fucking mother.
The church was dismissed with expectations of a procession to the cemetery. Maybe she’d skip the burial…
“Come along, Laura Beth. You’re riding with me.”
As if on cue, along comes her mother to ruin her life. She pinched the bridge of her nose, praying for patience. They were standing in the church foyer and Laura really could not cuss her mother out. It was frowned upon at least.
“I’m quite capable driving myself, Grace.”
Was it obvious she was clenching her teeth? She’d need an appointment with her dentist to check for cracks if this continued any longer.
Her mother was a viper. A tall, skinny, opportunistic woman who didn’t know what she wanted. A kid and a husband definitely weren’t it. Laura had learned that fact early.
She stared Laura down with narrowed eyes, the crying woman replaced with the awful person she was used to seeing.
“Your Granddaddy said you had to ride to the cemetery with me so I could give something.”
The thought of being in close quarters with her mother made Laura irritated, but curiosity was a strong. She didn’t see her mother often, but it had been over a week since the death and Laura had seen her twice.
“Why the fuck,” was she supposed to cross herself for swearing? “would he want me to ride with you just to give me something?”
She simply shrugged, pretending she didn’t know how much Laura loathed her. “I don’t know. I’m just following the old man’s orders.”
Which mean there was money involved if she did what he told her. Even after death, granddaddy knew how to make my mother jump.
“Fine, but don’t talk to me. The day is hard enough without your bullshit on top of it.”
Her mother looked hurt by her words. Laura was beyond feeling sorry for wounding her mother’s delicate feelings. That woman didn’t give a fuck about anyone besides herself. It was far too late to act like their relationship was anything other than broken. Laura had certainly stopped trying to fix things long ago.
“Let’s get this over with then. I have things to do.”
Her fucking mother.
It was always some trick or sleight of hand with that woman. Laura was convinced she didn’t have an honest bone in her body.
That could explain why she was sitting at an Italian restaurant, her granddaddy’s favorite, having an extended dinner with her family. Her mother had lured her there after the burial with promises to give her whatever possessions of her grandfather’s if she promised to stay.
“Your grandfather would’ve wanted us all together. You know that, Laura Beth.”
Fucking hell. This day would be the end of her.
Laura was trying to smile at her uncle as he regaled her with some untrue story. The man took fishermen’s tales to new places. She’d just convinced herself not to have a glass of wine, but the longer she sat there the more tempting it became.
She just wanted whatever was in her mother’s clutches so she could go home and wallow in misery.
Her mother stood at the head of the table. Her makeup was marred just slightly by tear tracks and she had the appearance of a woman in mourning. Time for the production.
“I wanted to thank everyone for coming and honoring our father. He wanted to make sure we all gathered together to speak kindly of him.”
She offered her standard dramatic pause before taking a deep breath.
“He gave me some things to give to family gathered here before the reading of the will in a week.”
Laura saw the way her eyes lit up. There it was in black and white. She’d taken on this role hoping granddaddy had left her something substantial in his will. He’d had quite a bit, but Laura never asked for money so she never really cared as long as he was comfortable and safe.
Her mother pulled out a large bag. One of those old bags that looked like it was covered in carpet or tapestry. Laura recognized it as one of the bags her grandmother liked to cart around before she died twenty years ago.
It was like Christmas, or her mother’s version of it. She handed out a select few things to people with notes from her grandfather.
The smile she offered Laura as she sat the small bundle in front of her was one of benevolence.
“He loved you so much, Laura Beth.” Her mother’s smile grew strained. “More than he ever loved me my whole life.”
She moved on before Laura could say anything in reply. That little glimpse was strange and for the first time in a long time Laura wondered at some of her mother’s behaviors.
Turning her attention back to the bundle in front of her, Laura examined the package in front of her. It was rectangular, wrapped in thick brown paper, and a bow tied with coarse beige twine.
Laura pulled at the knot and parted the brown paper. Inside was a book. Well, a journal more accurately. It was leather with black staining and flowery etchings on the outer border. The pages were that torn edge style. Frankly, the whole book looked old.
Opening the first page, she saw the strong scrawl of her grandfather’s hand on the inside cover. For the first time since his decline, she felt tears sting her eyes. Laura had to blink rapidly before the stinging stopped.
It took a moment before he eyes could focus on the words in front of her.
“I’ve never been who I’ve wanted to be. My life has been filled with poor choices that I’ve tried to fix, but I knew would always catch up with me.”
Laura didn’t understand what that could possibly mean. Her grandfather had always been a good man. He’d been a deacon of his church, a missionary before that to some African countries. He’d been married to her grandmother for thirty years until her death and had never remarried. He’d served in the last world war and had been active in helping others. Until his sickness, he’d been a spry man of ninety.
What could he possibly have done?
She read on.
“I’m giving this to you because I want you to help me to right some wrongs I’ve caused. You’ve got a good heart, Laura, and I trust you to do what needs to be done. I hope what you read here, and what you discover, doesn’t change what you think of me. I’ll always be your granddaddy.”
“Fuck.” She leaned back in the chair, too afraid of what could be hidden in the pages.
“You think he’d care if I pawned these rings? I’ve been needing to buy new tires for the Jeep.”
Her uncle was leaning over, glancing at what she got.
“A journal, huh? Old man was always wordy.”
The lot of them. It’s amazing they were even related the way they all acted.
Laura excused herself from the table, needing to be away from everyone. She gathered her coat, glad everything was taking care of so she didn’t have to linger.
“Not going to say goodbye, Laura Beth?”
She blew out a breath, caught by her mother at the door. Turning, she tried to keep her snark low. It was still a somber day.
“Just need to get home, mother.”
Her mother’s lips were pinched as she eyed her. This was how things were for them. They had been for a long time and Laura didn’t see things ever changing.
“I tried, Laura. I’ve always tried.”
There were so many things she could have said. Kindness wasn’t her strong point, never had been if she was honest. She could blame a lot of things for that, her mother’s coldness the biggest issue.
“Not hard enough.” She turned away before she could see the hurt in her mother’s eyes, pushing open the door as she went. “See you in a week.”