Now That She’s Gone: Chapter 4 – Part 1

FruitChapter 4 – Part 1
Joe: The Morning of the Funeral

Joe sat at the morning breakfast table with his newspaper and toast. He wasn’t looking forward to today, but he’d made his peace with it. Katherine had been sick for the past year and it had been heart-wrenching to see her in pain. As much as he missed her, he was grateful she wasn’t in pain anymore.

He bit into the burnt piece of toast and chewed what tasted like sawdust mixed with jam. He allowed himself to embrace the silence of the morning before the chaos began. He groaned inwardly when he heard a car pull up and then a door slam. So it begins.

He dusted his fingers off over his empty plate and brought his dish to the sink. Just as he was downing the last of his coffee Alison came in the back door by the kitchen.

“Morning Dad,” she said. Her arms were weighed down with Tupperware containers and grocery bags.

“Whoa, let me help you that.” He grabbed some of her load and helped her set everything on the counter.

“Thanks,” she said. “Did you get a dog?”

“No, why do you ask?

“There’s a bunch of dog poop in the yard.”

“Oh, that,” he said, taking the last few bags from her and setting them on the counter. “The neighbours got a dog and it likes to come over here to do his business.”

“Ew, that’s gross. Why doesn’t the dog just stay in its own yard?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows.”

“Didn’t you talk to them about it?”

“Nah,” he said, starting to pull the groceries out of the shopping bags.

“Why not?” she asked, staring at him with one hand on her hip and gesturing with the other. “They need to stop.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Why stir the waters. Besides the dog, they’re good neighbours.”

Alison opened her mouth to say something. Changing the subject, he quickly cut her off saying, “That’s a lot of food. Didn’t you already bring a bunch of stuff over yesterday?”

“Yeah, well we had a bunch of people RSVP at the last minute so I needed to get more food.” Her hair was pulled back into a messy bun and she look exhausted.

“Thank you for doing all this,” he said, giving her a hug. “Your mom would so appreciate it.”

Alison’s eyes welled up with tears.

“You know she was so proud of you. But you don’t need to kill yourself doing all of this,” he said softly, his hand resting on her shoulder.

She pushed away from him and wiped her tears away with the back of her hand. “Mom would have made everything perfect.”

He sighed. Katherine would have. A perfectionist quality she seemed to have passed down to their eldest daughter.

“But your mom did this because she loved planning parties and gatherings. She didn’t do it because she had to. She did it because she loved it.”

“I love it too,” she said, her shoulders sagging. He raised his eyebrow at her and she sighed. “I need to get some of this in the fridge.”

He started to help, but she quickly brushed him away. “It’s okay. There’s not a lot of room left in the fridge so I need to rearrange some things. It’s best if I do it myself.”

He set the melon he’d just pulled out the bag back down on the counter. He left her to work her Tetris on the fridge and pulled his phone out to check his emails.

He’d been receiving condolences for the past week. He was getting tired of reading them, but knew people would be asking at the funeral if he’d received them.

He quickly skimmed through a bunch when one suddenly caught his eye. It was from his brother. He hadn’t heard from Martian in over 15 years. He clicked it open and felt his pulse quicken as dread oozed down his shoulders.

Dear Joe,

I’m sorry to hear about Katherine passing. I’m sure this must be a hard time for you all.

I’m just going to get to the point. I want to see my son. In issue has come up and it’s important that I see him. I know Katherine told me to stay away, but I thought now that she is gone, you might be more reasonable. I’ll see you at the funeral.

Martian

Joe stared at the words on his phone and read them multiple times. He had no idea what to do. He’d never been able to stand up to his older brother. Not when they were kids. Not when Martin had come back the first time demanding to see Martin. It had been Katherine who reacted like a mother bear and insisted he never come back. But now she was gone and it was up to him.

He squared his shoulders. He’d failed Robbie when he was a boy, but he wouldn’t do it again. He had to get to prevent Martian from getting to Robbie.

He stood up so fast, the chair he’d been sitting on tipped backwards and landed with a giant thud.

“You okay?” Alison asked, turning around from the fridge.

“I have to get ready,” he mumbled as he hurried out of the room leaving the chair lying on the ground.

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