“Father, please be with Linda as she makes her journey back home.” The priest was droning on and on, and it was obvious that he hadn’t known Lydia as he spoke about her in the most generic terms possible. Besides, she wasn’t a Christian, so I doubted that God would be guiding her anywhere. Even if God were, perchance, to waive the Christian-only requirement, it was way too late to accompany her. Her soul was wherever it had been going by now as she’d been dead for over a week.
The day was gloomy, which I felt appropriate for a funeral. The sky was drizzly, and there were clouds covering the sun. FunLand had been closed for the day out of respect for Lydia, and several of the employees were present at the funeral. Phillip, of course, with Antoinette at his side. It hadn’t taken her very long to switch her allegiances. By the way she was clutching his hand, I’d say that she had found herself another sugar daddy. Delia was there, too, which was sweet of her considering that Lydia hadn’t been very nice to her. Stephen was there as well, but Tommy, of course, was not. I didn’t know why I said of course as he was out on bail. Turned out that he had important connections who had expedited his release. He wasn’t allowed to return to FunLand, obviously, and I would have been exceedingly surprised if he’d shown up to the funeral. There were also others whom I didn’t know. I spotted the detectives trying to blend into the background, but they weren’t doing a very good job of it.
“You ok, Bet?” Rafe asked under his breath as the preacher kept preaching. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I scanned the crowd again, spotting Brian and Mrs. Rodriguez in the front row. While he was comporting himself beautifully, Mrs. Rodriguez was sobbing into a dainty hankie while clutching Brian’s arm. I couldn’t help but notice how lovely she looked in her mourning dress—black, demure, but fitted—even in her state of extreme distress. She was a beautiful woman, no two ways about it. She made me feel positively dowdy in my own mourning black. Even though I was wearing my best non-cocktail dress which was similar to Mrs. Rodriguez’s, I simply didn’t have the elegance she did in order to carry it off. At least I wasn’t wearing the stupid sling any more. I had one and a half functioning arms now, which was fifty percent better than what I had before. Being free of the sling made me feel better about not being as attractive as Mrs. Rodriguez, though I still felt frumpy.
Rafe, on the other hand, looked dapper in his gray suit and silver tie. I could see other women covertly—and some, overtly—glancing at him, sizing him up. Most of them discreetly looked away when they realized that he was with someone, but a few continued to boldly stare at him as if he were a piece of candy on display. One in particular, a buxom blond with pouty red lips couldn’t keep her eyes off him. To Rafe’s credit, he didn’t even appear to notice all the attention he was garnering, but he was used to it by now. I smoothed down my skirt self-consciously as I was aware not for the first time that Rafe was a hard act to follow. It took patience to be his girlfriend, and I wasn’t sure I was up to it.
“So, as we say good-bye to Linda, let us remember that all life is a gift for which we should be thankful.” I was damn thankful that he was wrapping up the service. If I had to listen to him talk for two more minutes, I couldn’t be responsible for what I would have done. My head whipped back to look at the group of FunLand employees. What the hell was Phillip doing here? He hadn’t known Lydia before she died, so why would he show up to her funeral? Perhaps he was doing the ‘good boss’ thing, but I had a weird feeling about him being at the funeral. Perhaps I would ask him about it tomorrow when I went to work. I was planning on avoiding all FunLand employees today, so I couldn’t talk to him until morning.
After the service, Rafe and I decided not to go to the graveyard. The thought of it made me squeamish, and Rafe felt we had shown enough respect. I had said my goodbyes during the interminable service and didn’t feel the need to do anything further in public. Any more mourning I would do on my own—which was my way of handling things. Rafe was allowed to come in as long as he realized that I had to spend some time on my own. I was starting to get itchy at the twenty-four seven treatment, but I figured it would be good to see if we could be around each other a lengthy amount of time without killing each other before moving in together. I knew it wasn’t a substitute for the real thing, but it was a start. I made Rafe promise to spend the first hour with my mother so I would have some down time.
The minute I stepped through the door, I realized that down time wasn’t meant to be. All my siblings were there as were their girlfriends. They were in the living room playing Charades with Beth looking at the others in bemusement. She looked as if she had stopped in a foreign land with no possible reprieve. Hank kept patting her on the arm as if to reassure her that everything was fine, but her discomfort wasn’t impeding his enjoyment. Our family had had game nights once a month or so ever since I could remember. I used to think it was the coolest thing in the world until I hit my teens and was mortified at the gyrations my family insisted I do. From the time I was thirteen until well after my seventeenth birthday, I flatly refused to participate, and no punishment my parents—read, my mother—meted out had changed my mind.
“Dodo! Come be on our team! Mom can have Rafe.” Mona shrieked, her face flushed with pleasure. Mona was the competitive one of the bunch and nothing pleased her more than to whomp her entire family in a game of whatever. Since I was the best Charades player in the family—performance artist—naturally she wanted me on her side. What she didn’t know, however, was the Rafe was even better than I. I was tempted to play just to see the look on her face when she realized that she had picked the wrong person. However, I would rather poke my eyeballs out than play charades ever again, so I gracefully declined. Well, I would have if Rafe hadn’t preempted me by saying that he would love to play. There was little I could do but grudgingly give in and join Mona’s team which consisted of Mona, Dad, Hank, and Sidney. Mom’s team had Beth, Michele, Owen, and now, Rafe. One rule was that partners couldn’t be on the same team.
“I love this game,” Rafe said enthusiastically. “Can I be up next?” He pulled a slip of paper from the hat and immediately began.
“How was the funeral, Trish,” my father asked me, his eyes concerned.
“It was ok,” I shrugged. “Pretty generic, if you know what I mean.” I watched Rafe go through the machinations of his title with ease.
“How are you feeling?” My father persisted, slinging an arm around my shoulders.
“Not so great,” I admitted quietly. I didn’t want anyone else to hear, but I didn’t mind talking to my father about it. “I jump any time anyone comes up behind me or I hear an unexpected noise. I just want this to end.” Not an original statement, perhaps, but a heartfelt one. “I also want to go home. Not that I don’t love spending time with you and Mom,” I said hastily lest he be offended.
“You need your own space,” my father replied, nodding wisely. “You’re an adult now who doesn’t like feeling restricted in her own home.” I smiled, relieved that he understood what I was trying to say. Then again, he always had.
“The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” my mother called out. “Wow, Raphael, you’re really good.”
“Thanks, Van,” Rafe beamed as he plopped down next to me. “I try.”
“Mona, you always use that one,” I said crossly. “And it’s a zillion years old. You should just retire it.”
“No fair,” Mona pouted, thrusting out her lower lip. “I want Rafe. You can have Dodo.”
“No way,” Mom said, shaking her head. “We’re keeping Raphael.”
“Thanks for making me feel so welcomed,” I said to my mother and to Mona. “You know, I’m pretty good at this game, too.” Just as I was about to prove how good I was, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered it, anyway. I’d rather talk to whomever was on the line than take my turn in Charades. “Hello?”
“Bitch! Did you think you could get away with it?” The words were slurred, but there was no mistaking the venom. “He was mine, damn it. Mine! You had your own boy. What did you need mine for, you fucking cunt?”
“Shannon?” I got up from the couch and exited from the room. I didn’t want anyone else to overhear the conversation, and I was hoping that I could talk reason into Shannon. “I’m glad you called. I just wanted to apologize again for sleeping with Aaron. It was unconscionable of me. I’m really sorry.”
“Sorry? The man of my dreams dumps me for a Chink slut like you, and you’re sorry? Then to top it off, you don’t even want him. Fucking bitch.” It’s abundantly clear that Shannon was three sheets to the wind and becoming increasingly belligerent. “Well, I have to go,” I said. I didn’t think there was anything else I could do to calm her down, but I wasn’t going to listen to her abuse any longer.
“That’s a nice family you have,” Shannon said abruptly. “What are they doing? Playing Charades? And where did you go, by the way? Maybe I’ll have to shoot one of them instead.” I froze at the words. The bitch was outside the house! Shit, what was I going to do?
“Your team is floundering, hon,” my mother said as she walked by me. “I’m getting us some drinks.” I grabbed her by the arm and motioned for her to get me pen and paper.
“Which one should I kill, bitch? Maybe the Chink lezzie who has to be your sister. How would you feel if I killed your sister?” My mother caught the urgency in my motions and hurried to get me pen and paper as I listened to Shannon’s demented ramblings. “Or perhaps the old man. That’s your daddy, isn’t it? I wonder where Mommy went? Probably to piss. Wouldn’t Mommy be sad if Daddy were to die?” My mom thrust paper and pen at me. I held the phone—painfully—with my left shoulder as I scribbled on the little table in the hallway.
Call the cops. Shannon is on the phone. I’ll stall her as long as possible. She’s outside the house watching us. After you call, go into the living room and get everyone out of there as fast as possible. My mother’s eyes widened as she watched me write. I hesitated, but I had to add the final part.
She’s threatening to shoot someone.
My mother pressed her fist to her mouth to stop herself from screaming. She went down the hallway, picked up the phone and dialed.
“Or maybe I should shoot your boyfriend. The spic. That is your boyfriend, isn’t it? That would be poetic justice, don’t you think, bitch?”
“Shannon, I know I did a bad thing, and I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have cheated with Aaron. That was wrong of me.” I spoke as slowly as possible without making it suspicious. I watched my mother race through an explanation complete with frantic hand gesturing. “However, violence isn’t going to solve anything. How do you think Aaron would feel if he heard that you killed someone? He’s not going to want you back then.” It was risky to talk about Aaron because I wasn’t sure if it would set her off, but I had to take the chance.
Why had I slept with Aaron? I mean, I was attracted to him and we had chemistry, but he wasn’t the be-all end-all. He didn’t hold a candle to Rafe, whose life was now in danger. Shit. Once again, I had acted before I thought, and my deep-seated fear of commitment had spurred me to do something that now had my entire family in peril. I vowed that if my family escaped unscathed from this, I would do my best not to harm another human being again as long as I lived. I knew that it sounded hollow; I knew it was what everyone said in moments like this, but I meant it. I hated the thought that I had brought trouble to my family as much as they irritated me on a daily basis.
“Aaron isn’t coming back to me,” Shannon said with a harsh laugh. “Violence may not solve anything, but it would sure make me feel better to see you suffer the way I’ve suffered.”
“Don’t you think I’ve already suffered?” I asked, my voice steady. “What you’ve done to me—”
“Is nothing compared to what you’ve done to me!” Shannon interrupted, her voice shrill. “There isn’t anything you can do to make me forgive you, you fucking bitch.” By this time, my mother had hung up the phone. She nodded at me and held up five fingers before walking back towards the living room. My heart plummeted as I watched her disappear. I took a minute to gather myself before returning to the phone. If I had read my mother’s signals right, the cops were coming in five minutes. Five long, interminable minutes during which I had to make sure this crazy woman didn’t kill anyone I loved.
“Where the fuck are they going? They can’t just leave!” I heard the breaking of glass as my family started emerging into the hallway.
“What the hell?” I raced towards them, the phone still glued to my ear.
“Damn it, stop!” Shannon screeched. I heard another breaking of glass and a yelp from someone—I wasn’t sure whom.
“Shit!” I cursed pushing past the people in the hallway to see whom she had hit. “Stop it you crazy bitch!”
“You bitch! You told them I was out here! Well at least I hit one. Let’s try for another.”