It was too hot to sleep. The air was so still in the bedroom that sisters Cora and Emily had shared growing up that they decided to move to the screened in back porch, praying for the slightest breeze. They hadn’t spoken in months. Their father’s funeral had drawn them both home, but only for a night. In the morning, they’d leave, continuing on opposite paths.
Hours later, they were still awake, and restless, when Cora began to recall a memory. Their father, tiptoeing out of the back door in the middle of the night, venturing to the covered bridge that bordered their property. He would emerge an hour or so later, wearing a mysterious smile.
Barefoot, the women tiptoed through the dewy grass in their nightgowns, giggling, their arms around each other. “It was really dark those nights, but I’m pretty sure this is the place,” Emily said as they looked around for their father’s secret treasure. They easily found the shallow hole he’d dug. Inside – a half-empty bottle of his favorite bourbon. Emily dusted it off and took a long swig as she sat in the dirt, passing it to her sister who followed suit.
They leaned against the dirty wall in silence, as a cool breeze began to encircle them.
Another chapter in the neverending saga of Paul and Alexandra, Katie thought as a perfectly good wine glass shattered against the far wall, red wine streaming down the stark white paint like blood. Alexandra, the glass-thrower, screamed at Paul that he’d never loved her, that no one wanted him there because he was an awful person. Paul retorted that Alexandra was over-the-hill, desperately, pathetically, trying to hold on to her youth and failing miserably. Katie stood, throwing her hands in the air.
“ENOUGH!” Katie shrieked, rattling the windows.
Alexandra and Paul immediately quieted, turning to face Katie in shock.
“Haven’t the two of you ruined enough family gatherings?” In the preceding years, Katie and her siblings had gone to ridiculous lengths to keep their bickering parents separated, and she was fed up. She turned to her mother.
“I invited dad here. I’m getting married tomorrow. He has as much right to be here as you do.” She faced them both sternly. “Both of you should be ashamed. Your children are embarrassed of you. If you behave this way tomorrow I’m having the both of you thrown out on your butts and you can argue in the back alley like a couple of hillbillies. This nonsense,” she swirled her finger between the two of them, “is over. Do you understand?”
Her parents stared back at her in stunned silence. She stepped closer. “I said – DO…YOU…UNDERSTAND?”
Paul and Alexandra looked at each other, then responded in unison. “Yes, ma’am.”
Kayla listened to the sharp, raised voices downstairs and shook her head, climbing higher and higher until she reached the attic. Her siblings had done nothing but argue about her father’s will since the funeral and it was shameful. She was moving away, far from the dysfunction of her family and the disappointing path her life had taken in this dead-end town. The stop at the old family home would be her last. Her father had left her something.
Minutes later, Kayla returned to the van, breathless, loading the large crate into the moving van with her brother’s help.