The burial was worse than the service, somehow. Paul’s sister, Helen, glared daggers at Andrea and her mother while Pastor Marlow made his (blessedly short) final statements. Even when Andrea glanced down at the fresh grave, she could still feel her looking. Helen had been very vocal in her dislike of Kathrine throughout the years, but her ire for Andrea was decidedly more recent. The truth about Andrea’s paternity had been floating around for less than a month, Helen still considered it a major mark on her family’s name. She and Paul were cut from the same cloth.
Watching the first shovel full of dirt be tossed onto the casket felt like ripping out stitches before the wound had completely healed, but Andrea did not cry.
Katherine wrapped her arm around her daughter’s shoulders, pulling her close.
“Are you alright?” Katherine asked, her voice was steady but she was shaking.
Andrea was the first to leave, as soon as she thought no one—excluding maybe Helen—was looking.
Andrea wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of returning to her new apartment. It was still too unfamiliar to be comforting, but her only other viable option was spending the night in the house she used to share with Paul and her mother.
She didn’t understand why her mother had told the truth, nobody wanted to know it.
She drove slowly without really meaning to, stopping at a gas station to wander the aisles for what felt like an hour. Every moment felt stretched out and heavy. Guilt ate at the back of her throat when she smiled genuinely at the cashier for complementing her dress.
Didn’t he know it was a funeral dress? (Didn’t she?)
When she pulled into her building’s parking lot, she noticed Helen standing a few spaces down. She leaned against her grey Buick with a cigarette in her hand. She stalked toward Andrea’s car as soon as she’d climbed out.
“What are you doing here?” Andrea asks, “How’d you get my address?”
“It’s all your mama’s fault, you know that?” Hellen was a few inches shorter than Andrea, but her presence still managed to loom, “My brother’s blood is on her hands.”
“Da- Paul wasn’t murdered.” Andrea told her, trying to back away. Helen followed. “He drank himself to death. We all know that. He was sick. He’d been sick for days…”
“That woman drove him to it!” Helen was close enough that Andrea could smell the whiskey on her breath.
“Why are you here, Helen? What do you want?” she asked, though she already knew the answer. She wanted a fight. If her mother didn’t have a cast on one arm, she likely would have taken this aimless aggression to her.
“Making my brother raise another man’s child! All these years!”
“Yeah. Sorry he spent all those years beating someone else’s kid.” Andrea spat, it hardly mattered what she said. Helen wasn’t really listening.
“I mean, of course he drank. What man wouldn’t drink if their wife was sleeping around!”
“He was a drunk way before he knew I wasn’t his.”
“He always knew! We all knew!” Helen jabbed a bony finger into Andrea’s collarbone, “The whole town knew your mother was a wh-“
Helen hit the ground before Andrea even realized she had shoved her. She looked like the impact had drained all of her spitting rage. Without it, she just looked like grieving old woman who needed something to blame.
“You know, I thought you might have a little more loyalty to the man who raised you. I heard you were taking care of him those last few days. Guess you ended up just like your mother.” Helen said, like a calm statement of a fact.
Andrea ran inside before she could say anything else. Her dog greeted her as soon as she was inside the apartment, blissfully unaware of what had just transpired. The huge mutt had been the first thing she’d gotten for her new apartment. She always wanted a dog, despite Paul’s deep distain for them. She’d picked up the dog—Trevor, she’d called him— from the local pound a few weeks before. The same day her mother had told her the truth about Paul. The same day her mother had told Paul that same truth. The same day she’d called Andrea from the emergency room with a broken arm and finger shaped bruises on her neck, claiming that she had fallen down the steps.
That had been a hell of a day.
She wandered aimlessly into her bed, just as she heard what was probably Helen’s Buick peel out of the lot. Trevor climbed into bed beside her, pressing his wet nose into the junction between her neck and shoulder.
“God, I never wanted any of this to happen…” she whispered, to no one in particular.
(To be continued.)
Photo from Cesar’s Way