A look at Karma and it's effects on three people.
Barnes & Noble.com
Copyright © 2011 by Frances Dyanne Davis
Published by WD Publishing
All rights reserved. This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, locations, events and incidents (in either a contemporary and/or historical setting) are products of the author’s imagination and are being used in an imaginative manner as a part of this work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, settings, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Manufactured in the United States of America
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE
Dyanne Davis TITLES:
Another Man’s Baby
Many Shades of Gray
Two Sides to Every Story
Forever And A Day
Let’s Get It On
The Wedding Gown
The Color of Trouble
Continental Divide (Lotus Blossoms Chronicles 11) Anthology
On My Knees (Destination Romance) Anthology
Titles under F.D. Davis:
In The Beginning
In Blood We Trust
The Good Side of Evil (Carnivale Diabolique) Anthology
Lest Ye Be Judged
Marriage counseling, the thought came to Mona and she knew in a way it was what she and Fred needed.
Now if only she could find a counselor that specialized in counseling the dead she would be all set. The way she and Fred fought they could definitely use a referee. When she thought about it they’d never fought like this when he was alive. She’d yelled at him and he’d pleaded, he’d asked that they go to see someone. What in the world was wrong with him? She’d wondered at the time. Did he dare think she’d tell anyone what was going on in her life? No way, no frigging way.
You were a fantastic acquisition editor. I owe so many things in my career to you. Your calls to me saying, “Hey, Dyanne, I need a book about… The fact that you believed I could deliver made me believe it also. I thank you for allowing me to stretch my wings and move outside of the romance box. I thank you for still seeing the romance in my stories.
As for Hitting The Right Note, this is definitely outside the box. Thank you for asking me several years ago to write a different kind of story. I'll bet when you asked me to write about music you had no idea what I was going to do with it. LOL. Neither did I. Love you.
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE
If she’d known that guilt would keep the stench of death in her nostrils for almost a year, maybe she would have done as he’d asked. Maybe she would have buried Fred instead of having him cremated. But it was too late for that thought now. The deed was done and she couldn’t very well go back and dig him up, could she? In fact there would be nothing to dig. She’d tossed the ashes into the trash along with the greasy chicken bones, orange peels and coffee grounds. And she’s not shed a tear in doing so. He deserved it, she thought and wiped away the first tear that had spilled since he’d been pronounced dead.
There was just one little problem. Karma. And karma was kicking Mona Richard’s behind, big time. She had to find a way to let it go.
“Mama, why won’t you answer me?”
The angry voice of her daughter Nikki would have been easier to take if the icy hand that Mona often prayed wasn’t real, hadn’t chosen that moment to trail down her body. Insanity, Mona wondered. It had to be.
A movement to the right of her caught Mona’s eye. She stared deciding not to mention what she was witnessing. What good would it do? No one but her had ever heard Fred’s voice, or panicked when he touched her, or ran out of the door when he moved things in her home.
Letting out her breath in little puffs she stood transfixed as the edge of the heavy drapes lifted higher and higher, nearly three inches into the air. Bracing herself Mona waited as the chill crept over her spine, and the voice of her deceased husband whispered in her ear.
“What’s with the drapes? Did you open a window?” Nikki asked moving toward the window to check on what had made the heavy drapes move.
“You saw that?”
Mona was unable to keep the surprise from coloring her voice. Her daughter turned to stare at her. At that exact moment a loud gasp fell from her lips before Mona could stop it. The sound of the doorbell pealing through the chimes was the only thing that saved her from having to say more.
She watched as Nikki made her way to the door, flung it wide open and stood back as Mona’s mother Adele accompanied by her sisters, Deanna and Sela entered. The requisite angry glare from her daughter before she turned pouting lips and tear filled eyes toward her grandmother had become the norm. Mona waited for the accusations to begin.
“Grandma, Mama’s acting really weird. She’s been acting weird since Daddy died.”
“Your mother is grieving, Nikki. You lost your daddy, but your mother lost her husband, her best friend, her soul mate. Isn’t that right, Mona?”
With a desperate sigh Mona lifted her eyes to face the questioning look from her mother. How was she supposed to answer that question?
“Mona,” her mother chided, wanting her to offer some words of comfort to Nikki. But at the moment Mona was out of comfort. She was trying as hard as she knew how to hold on to her sanity.
“I just don’t see the purpose in all of this,” Mona attempted to explain. “I had a memorial service for Fred a year ago.”
Four sets of eyes were staring at her, all with a hint of a glare. But the glare from Nikki was lethal. The ever present chill traversed Mona’s spine, then the whispered words.
“Did you really think it would be uncomplicated? Did you think all the people who loved me would forget me so easily?”
The need to scream out at Fred to get out of her head was so powerful Mona snapped at her family before she had a chance to monitor her words.
“I did this once. I shouldn’t have to do it again,” Mona repeated.
“I hate you, Mom...you…you—”
“Stop it, Nikki,” Adele interrupted. “Don’t disrespect your mother like that. You weren’t raised that way. Let Grandma handle this one.”
Adele’s right hand reached out and grabbed her daughter. Her eyes narrowed in determination. “Let’s go to your bedroom, Mona. We need to talk in private.”
The impulse to tell her mother to stop pulling her as though she were a naughty three year old was strong. But she had never disrespected her mother, and she wasn’t about to start now, so she followed along obediently.
Closing the door firmly behind them Adele did what she did best, demand respect. A wide legged stance, hands placed on her hips she began in a do-not-play-with-me voice.
“What’s wrong with you, Mona?”
“Why does anything have to be wrong with me, Mama? I don’t want to have another memorial. I already buried Fred. Why is Nikki thinking I want to have a church memorial service a year after her father’s death, when I didn’t have one when he died?”
A smile broke out on Adele’s face. “That’s precisely the reason. You didn’t have a proper memorial for your husband. You didn’t give your daughter a chance to say goodbye to her daddy. The girl was in Paris where you and Fred sent her for her Christmas present. You didn’t tell her while she was gone and you didn’t have the decency to wait until she returned home. That child worshiped her daddy. And you know good and well, she was a daddy’s girl.”
“You had a party. Let’s be for real. A party does not a memorial make.”
“Fred and I talked about it, Mama. It was what he wanted. I was his wife, I should know.”
“I believe Fred told you to have a party when he died and not have his child there about as much as I believe you can fly.” Adele tilted her head to the side, her hands on her hips and grinned at Mona. “You can’t fly, can you, Mona?”
“No buts. You shouldn’t have told Nikki she could do this if you hadn’t meant it. Now about that so called memorial, what you did was nice. I’ll admit to that, but it was a party, a really nice cocktail party with drinks, appetizers and music.”
“Fred requested it.”
“For real, Mama. We had a pact. For our daughter’s sake if one of us died we each promised we wouldn’t be sad, but celebrate. We wouldn’t cry.” That should do it, Mona thought. It made the perfect cover for the reason she wasn’t crying.
“Still, that hasn’t stopped your daughter from crying a river.”
“Well, she can cry if she wants. It was her father who died, and she has a right. That doesn’t mean I have to cry.”
Tears filled Mona’s eyes as she tried hard to think of a good excuse her mother would buy. Nothing came to mind. Her mother smiled before wrapping her arms around her.
“It’s going to be okay, baby. Your family will see you through this. But you wronged Nikki. You’re going to have to make things right with her.”
For the past eleven months Mona had been trying her damnedest to make things right with her daughter. She didn’t exactly blame Nikki for being angry with her for having Fred cremated before she’d had time to come home and say goodbye. But she’d been on vacation out of the country. There was no need to wait. Besides, it was something Mona wanted done, and done quickly, no time for anyone to question her, or to come snooping around.
“Nikki hates me.”
“She has reason to.”
“Mama,” Mona wailed. “You’re not helping me.”
“Did you expect me to lie? You had to know how that child was going to take what you’d done, coming home to find her father was not only dead, but gone. No grave, no urn, nothing. To her it must have felt as if he’d vanished from the face of the earth.
Mona felt sorrow deep in the marrow of her bones. Another chill passed over her body at the unwanted memory of Nikki returning home to find her daddy dead and gone. She’d screamed out in agony. The sound cut through Mona like a dull knife. Then the look of accusation, the pure hatred that filled that child’s eyes was enough to send Mona to her own grave.
“She’s been so nasty to me this past year,” Mona said softly. Her mother’s raised brow and look of reprimand stopped her short. Of course the nasty spiteful words from Nikki were to be expected.
“She accused me of not loving her father, of not loving her. She was wrong on both counts. I was madly in love with Fred.”
That much was true. At one time Fred had been her world. She’d met him when she was eighteen. She could see it all so clearly, her walking into Triple Digits, the best restaurant in Hyde Park. Taking a seat inside she couldn’t help but notice the few diners that sat on the outside patio watching the pigeons flying and landing on the nearby cobblestones. The weather was a bit breezy, yet the sky spilled its sunshine on all.
It reminded Mona of a picture postcard. While it was beautiful to look at she much preferred to do it from inside the air conditioned restaurant. And while it might look romantic to have birds landing so close, Mona wasn’t into pigeons and even less into their droppings.
Halfway through her lunch she’d taken a sip of her lemonade then looked out the window and almost passed out. A man was looking in on her. Chocolate brown and finer than any man she’d ever seen. He grinned at her while her skin heated. For the first time in her young life she was aware of desire. She was still a virgin, but she’d gladly give it up right at that moment. She wanted this man with every fiber of her being. Damn, he was fine.
“You might as well stop your daydreaming, baby. I’m not letting go of this until you agree to do the right thing.”
Mona shook her head surprised that she’d taken that little side trip down memory lane, but why shouldn’t she? Fred had been her first everything—her first love, her friend, her husband, the father of her child.
The sound of Adele’s voice filled with so much sadness it stole over Mona as much as the chill from Fred’s touch. When her eyes lifted to meet her mother’s she reared back from the immense pain she saw in the depths of her mother’s eyes.
“Baby, I know how much you loved Fred. I know this is hard. Mothers are always required to do things for their children that they don’t want, or don’t think they have the strength to do. You be there for Nikki and I’ll be there for you. In time your heart may heal. I’m hoping that it does. Sometimes it never happens, but I want it to happen for you. It’ll be hard though, especially since Fred was your first and only. Right?”
Licking her lips Mona didn’t answer her mother, just stared at her wanting this little heart to heart to be over. Yes, Fred had been her first. But he was also the first to make her go to such drastic measures. Until he’d hurt her, she’d never once considered that she might possibly have a heart with murderous intent. Now she knew she did. Fred had taken everything she had to give and demanded more. It had been like that for twenty years. Now at thirty-nine it was time for a change. And she would change, if she could get through the next month and this damn service her daughter had planned.
“Mama, do you think as long as I plan this all out for Nikki and let her go through with this…do you think maybe you, Deanna and Sela could be with her? I think that would be okay. I think maybe then I wouldn’t have to attend.”
Laughter was her mother’s answer. Her mother was shaking her head, the sadness gone. There was no way she believed a daughter she’d raised could even think such a thing let alone do it.
How would it look if the so called grieving widow didn’t go? Not so good right? Damn that child. Why couldn’t she let it go?
“Fine, Mama. You win. Go on out and tell everyone I’ll be out in a few minutes. Just let me splash some cold water on my face.”
“I knew you’d do the right thing, baby. Come here.”
Once again Mona retreated into the safe haven of her mother’s embrace. It felt good to be the daughter for a moment. With a resigned sigh, she pushed way. She had another role to play. She was Nikki’s mother. She had to give to her daughter what her mother had given her. Unfailing support.
Watching as her mother gave her one last smile before turning and walking from her bedroom Mona shook her head in much the same manner as her mother had done. Then she quickly turned the lock on the bedroom door before making her way to the bathroom.
The glare from the lights mocked her, showing the beginning of fine lines around her eyes and mouth, something that had not been there a year before. There was a very good reason for her to feel the way she did. Only thing was, she couldn’t share her pain with anyone. Staring into the mirror she replayed in her mind the words that ripped her world apart.
Your husband is here in my bed, come and get him. The remembered words hurt like crazy. After all this time it still felt like her body had been sliced into by a blade. For one horrible moment she allowed herself to relive the full brunt of the pain. Mona leaned over the special made to order rose patterned, porcelain sink. The voice that still rattled at her made the past eleven months worth it. And because of that voice she knew she’d forever put up with the stench of death. Fred deserved to die. He’d deserved to have his ashes thrown in the trash, the dirty, lying, cheating dog. He’d had no right to hurt her.
And you had no right to do what you did.
A small note sounded a note that stuck in her gut and played along her spine making her bend with it, sway with the sound.
Maybe she hadn’t had a right, but so what, so damn what? She’d done it anyway and she’d do it again if she had to. Besides, no one could prove a thing. Even she didn’t know for sure. Maybe she had and maybe she hadn’t. The doctor said it had been a massive heart attack. Said there was nothing that could have been done to save poor Fred. She’d have to disagree with the doctor on that one though. There was something that could have saved his ass alright. And that would have been if he’d kept his cock to himself, kept it in his pants where it belonged. If he wasn’t going to use it on her, he had no damn right using it on anyone.
Yeah, she thought drawing air into her lungs, much needed air. “I guess I showed your ass.” Come get my husband outta your bed. “What’cha gon do now? Your ass didn’t get a chance to come here and embarrass me, did you?”
She shook at the memory, wanting to have something heavy to throw, wanting Fred alive so she could kill him. Her spirit felt heavy and that damn crazy music kept filling her head, drowning her soul in sadness, in sorrow. She’d wasted too many years of her life, years she’d spent loving Fred, forgiving him, going along with his crcrazy ass schemes. And she’d wasted too much time worrying about protecting her daughter from knowing her parents weren’t perfect. That they weren’t the happy family they portrayed to the world to be.
“Lord, make it stop!” Mona moaned hugging her arms around her body. “Make it stop. I don’t need to hear it. Please, no more music. I don’t want to hear it.” She shuddered. It brought back memories, too many sweet memories, before their lives had taken a turn. Her heart filled with pain and once again bent her with the agony of it. She found herself sliding to the floor unable to stop. A silver ball spun around, colored lights lit the Italian marble tiles changing them to a dark hardwood floor. Just like that she’d been pulled into another time and place.
Damn it, a tear was sliding down her cheek, an unwanted tear after everything she’d been through. “Come on,” Fred urged pulling Mona along after him on the skates. She couldn’t believe it, she’d always been afraid to skate, or more accurately, she’d been afraid of falling. But Fred was the magic she needed. She was carried along by him and by the music, skating fast when the music called for it and slow when it didn’t.
There were voices coming from far away, pounding, she was sure she heard pounding. More than likely, Mama, Nikki, Deanna and Sela trying to coax her from her bedroom. Not yet, it wasn’t time. Taking a look around her, she stared in confusion. Nothing of her bathroom remained. It had been changed into the skating rink. She pressed her head into her hand remembering the feel of Fred’s chest beneath her cheek as they’d listed to Sade. The Cascade rink was the best. It featured soul, jazz, rap and rock. She’d lusted after Fred as each note of each song wrapped around her body and filled her womb with warmth. The plaintiff riffs of the sax reminded her of the easy way Fred’s fingers played over her skin.
Lord, have mercy? She could swear later as she moved her lips up and down his steel like erection, they really were making the sweetest kind of music. Love filled her soul and every fiber of her being.
Come and get your husband out of my bed.
Damn. What the hell was she crying over? It was the memory of skating, them twirling around and around on the oiled floor, Fred grinning at her when she became too tired to skate. God, he’d only had eyes for her. Never once had he paid attention to the slutty girls in the skimpy skating skirts. Lord make it stop. Take the pain away.
Sounds swirled in Mona’s head all but drowning out the noise of her family calling to her. She could almost touch the sky as she remembered being lifted up. Fred had made love to her as they’d listened to Ella Fitzgerald, his tongue trailing fire through her system, putting her on overload. “Baby we’ve just about got it right,” he’d whispered into her ear. “Listen to the sound of my body calling out to yours. As he slid into her wetness he’d laughed. “Mona, listen to the sweetness. You’re so wet baby, your body will only sing for me. I’m the tuner and you’re my instrument.”
“Why can’t I be the tuner?” she’d whispered as his mouth found her breast, full, supple and hungry. She was so greedy for him. Oh God! It had been good. And it had all been a lie. There had never been any music playing, yet she’d heard every note. Heard it still in the quiet. It flowed through her, picking at her body like a guitar pick. Her hand found that place on Fred that throbbed against her leg. Curling her fingers around his length she marveled that he could be so massively hard, yet velvety soft at the same time. And hot, he was so hot. She wanted his heat inside of her in the place that was pulsating. Not once had she worried about the consequences. All she’d wanted was Fred. A sob tore from her throat as she felt the heaviness of Fred’s body easing gently into hers.
Lord, have mercy. Somebody please! This wasn’t real. She was going crazy and she knew it. But then again, guilt would do that do you.
Her eyes opened and she glanced around the bathroom, her gaze moving from one object to another. The rose patterned sink had returned. The marble tiles were once again gleaming. If only that child had not insisted on honoring her daddy properly. The memories would not be piling up on Mona now like so many rocks forming a rock garden. She would not have to keep picking at the weeds knowing her notes had all been sour, that her flower garden had never bloomed. Lord, she thought once again and forced her body from the floor. This damn service was going to drive her mad. Guilt played its own little tune.
“Mama, where are you?”
The frantic tone of Nikki’s voice finally broke through the fog of memories. She didn’t hear the rest of her family. She wondered about that. Mona thanked God for giving her a reprieve from her misery. “I’m in here, Nikki. Stop all that screaming. I’m not deaf.” She rubbed her hand down the side of her face then splashed cold water on it before patting it dry with a towel. She ran one hand along her dark slacks, balling it into a fist and walked from the bathroom. Opening the locked door and moving in a robotic fashion toward Nikki’s voice coming from the living room. Mona took a deep cleansing breath then another one knowing she was about to capitulate. She stood for a moment observing her daughter as Nikki stared coldly at her, her eyes never leaving her face.
The child had wise eyes, old eyes, too old for her own good. Thank God she’d had those eyes closed when all of Fred’s mess was going on. Thank God Mona had closed them. She’d never wanted her daughter to know the heartache she’d endured as a child in a fatherless home. Neither had Fred. That was the one good thing she could say, the only good thing she was willing to say about Fred. Yet— yet her body tingled and her hips swayed of their own accord.
“Mama, what’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
“You been drinking?”
Mona had to laugh at that. “No, I haven’t been drinking. Just thinking.”
“Looks like you’ve been crying, and you were moving like you were…I don’t know… it was kind of nasty.”
Nasty? Mona paused now truly puzzled. Nasty? What had her body done that had been nasty? She frowned. “What?”
“You were moving like you were… I can’t say it, Mama.”
“Go ahead, I can’t read your mind. I want to know what I was doing that was so nasty.”
“Just now, you were moving your body like you were doing it.”
Doing it? Doing it? A laugh flew from Mona, the first one she’d had since her daughter had begun planning this memorial service. “Doing it? Child, get your mind out of the gutter. I was just hearing some music and I must have gotten carried away.”
Turning from her child she was feeling flushed. She’d not known her body was still reacting to the heat of Fred’s remembered touch. It was as though he’d been right there touching her, licking at her and making her body sing with wanting. God, how could he have done all of that?
Mona turned back around. The absence of her sisters and mother gave her pause. They were supposed to be her buffers. Her mother had promised.
“Where did Grandma and your aunties go? Are they coming back?” she asked absently knowing the answer to her question was ‘no.’
“Grandma said this needed to be worked out between the two of us, no outside influence.”
The sound of laughter filled Mona’s ears. “Okay, Fred, I got it. We’re having a memorial service for you,” she said under her breath. A nanosecond before looking up to face Nikki she forced her lips into a semblance of a smile, determined to at least pretend to behave in a sane manner.
“Grandma’s right. The two of us can handle this. I’m ready to listen. Let me hear what you’ve planned so far.”
“I asked Pastor Pete to give the eulogy.”
“This isn’t a funeral. It’s a memorial service. A funeral home would do just as well.”
“This is mine. You told me when you just had my daddy burned up like you did, that in a year I could do this if I still wanted to. I still want to. I want it done in church like Daddy would have wanted if he’d had a choice. I’ll never believe he didn’t want me here, or that he wanted you to have a party.”
Clenching her teeth in annoyance there wasn’t much Mona could do but suck it up. This was one of those times her mother had spoken of, about parents doing things for their children when they really didn’t want to. She ought to know, she’d stayed with Fred five years longer than she should have because of Nikki.
She wanted to turn from the fire in her daughter’s eyes, the condemnation that she’d robbed her of the chance to hold her father’s cold dead hand. If truth be told Mona hadn’t much thought of her child at the moment Fred had been pronounced dead. What she’d thought of was that she needed him cremated. And the sooner the better. Luckily she’d talked to the funeral director some time back about final arrangements. She’d made them for both herself and Fred. No use leaving things like that to chance. That part had been as easy as pie.
Come get your husband outta my bed.
Almost six years. Had it really been that long since she’d first heard those words? It had to be. She knew for sure it had been five years since she’d planned ways to kill Fred. And it sure as hell had been five years since she’d talked to the funeral home. Who knew that fate would step in and give her a helping hand? Who knew that the tune Fred would be singing would be, ‘I’m Pushing Up Daises.’ She almost laughed and caught herself. She was going nuts.
Then again, guilt could do that to a soul.
“Okay, Nikki, like you said, I promised. We’ll do this in the church. We’ll do whatever you want.” Those were dangerous words spoken to an angry teenager. “Within reason,” Mona amended.
Stepping one foot over the entrance into the sanctuary Mona paused waiting for God to mete out justice for what she’d done. A not so gentle shove sent her completely into the room, stumbling to regain her balance, looking behind her to see who’d put their hands on her.
Just like she’d known, no one was there. Hissing angrily for Fred to stop it, she snatched a program from an usher.
“Mona, what in the world is wrong with you? Are you self- medicating?”
The sound of her mother’s angry voice trying to whisper amused Mona. Her mother thought she was taking drugs. “I’m not taking drugs, Mama.”
“I didn’t mean illegal ones.”
“Not any kind, but come to think of it, I think that might be just what I need.” Reversing her steps she walked back to where the usher she’d taken the program from stood. “I’m sorry for my rudeness,” she said.
“No problem, Sister Richards. I understand,” the usher answered.
Well that made one of them. Mona gave the man a smile before turning back to her mother. “Is that better?’
“I think the problem might be it’s been so long since you set foot inside the church that you don’t know how to behave. Now let’s take our seats. People are looking at us.”
Of course people were looking at them. But this time the fault was her mother’s for stopping Mona in the middle of an aisle to scold her. Still that was better than being bothered by a dead man. With a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach she slid into the pew deciding to stare at the stain glass windows, anywhere but near the pulpit which was covered with photographs of Fred.
Ants. There had to be a million of them and fire ants to boot. They were crawling over every inch of Mona’s flesh. She wanted to scream for Pastor Pete to shut the hell up. She’d known it would be like this, morbid, dark and pissing her off.
“Fred was a faithful husband, loved his wife and child.”
Mona’s head snapped up at the pastor’s words. She scratched at her skin seeing nothing but the redness from her long fingernails. Where the hell did the ants go? she wondered. They’d been attacking her all morning and with a vengeance from the moment this farce of a memorial service started. Her eyes felt gritty, burned liked the dickens. She wanted to bawl and never stop. God, what had she done? She wasn’t worried about killing Fred; she was bemoaning her lost youth. Her nails made another pass over her reddened skin. This time her journey was stopped by her daughter. Their eyes connected.
“Mama, are you gonna be okay?”
She tried to smile, tried to tell her child that she’d told her so; no good would come from the memorial service. It was too much, too much for her daughter and too much for Mona.
“Sister Richards, you’ve been brave, you’ve been holding your grief in like a real trouper.”
Mona’s body twisted in the seat. She kept crossing her legs like she had to pee and was holding it in. She’d twisted the handful of tissues in her hand until it was almost in shreds. Now she was using it to shove into her mouth, to keep the sounds from coming out. Lord, don’t let her get up and tell the whole world just what kind of husband Fred had been to her. Pastor Pete better stop that nonsense, before she decided to stop behaving like a civilized Christian and kick his behind. She’d heard that when a person killed once it was easier the second time. Nope, Pastor Pete didn’t want to go messing around with her if he knew what was good for him.
Get a hold of yourself Mona. If the man said what you think he said he didn’t mean nothing by it.
Her gaze dropped to the watch on her wrist. Even a Baptist minister couldn’t go on forever. Well, they could…but she was praying to God that he wouldn’t.
“Sister, it’s been a year. You need to cry and let it out, let it go so you can join the living again. You still have a daughter here who needs you.”
Well, he was right about one thing. It had been a year. Why was everyone hooping and hollering like it had just happened yesterday? Let it go already. Mona sighed. “Lord, please let Pastor Pete end this so I can go home and forget this mess. Amen.”
The moment the pastor’s voice continued she knew her prayer hadn’t been answered. She glanced away her gaze falling on the Christmas tree no one had bothered to take down. Why? she wondered. It was way past time. They were already a week into the New Year. Her head snapped back toward the minister and she frowned as she listened.
“But I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to let go. It’s okay to grieve. It ain’t natural not to.”
What the hell? She couldn’t believe that fool was standing behind that pulpit preaching to her, directly to her. Who the hell did he think he was?
“Did you hear him; did you hear what he said?” Mona said beginning to rise. She was going to whup his ass right here and right now, right in his own damn church. She took a step, her fist raised, her temper rising.
“Mama, where are you going?”
“Didn’t you hear Pastor talking about me? I’m going to smack the taste outta his mouth, that’s where I’m going.”
“Mona, sit down and act like you got some sense.”
Her mother’s angry voice caused Mona to blink rapidly. As she stared into her mother’s eyes she wondered why her mother wasn’t coming to her defense. “Mama, didn’t you hear what he said to me?”
“Mama, come on, sit back down. The pastor only asked if you wanted to say a few words,” Nikki said. “Do you? Do you want to say something about daddy?”
Mona turned toward her daughter. Yeah, she wanted to say something about her daughter’s daddy. But she doubted it was anything her daughter wanted to hear.
“What about the rest of what he said…about…about my not crying being unnatural?”
“Mama, he didn’t say that. If you don’t want to speak come on and sit back down.”
Her daughter was whispering, embarrassed, but somehow Mona could sense the child was happy. What in the world was going on here? Was everyone around her suddenly going crazy, or was it just her? Her daughter, happy to see her losing it. What kind of nonsense was that?
In spite of her thoughts she allowed herself to be led back to her seat by her daughter. She sat down but stared hard at the pastor defying him with her eyes to say another word she didn’t like. She’d smack the taste outta his mouth if she had to. Yeah, she’d seen him staring at her in church and on the street thinking the moment her period of mourning was over he was gonna hit on her. She wouldn’t take his sorry ass on a bet. Go get a real job; she fumed silently.
Yep, karma was kicking Mona’s tail big time.
Back in her home things should have been easier. At least they were no longer at the church, on holy ground. However people were avoiding her, whispering behind their hands when they thought she wasn’t looking. She wished her family would avoid her. She was flanked on both sides by her sisters. Her mother’s doing no doubt.
“You two can leave me alone now. I’m fine.”
“”If you call fine, clowning in church, going off, wanting to beat up the pastor, then I’d sure like to see you when you think you have a problem,” Sela laughed
Deanna was a bit more subtle. “Listen, Mona, Fred’s been dead for a year. We all know how much you loved him, but you need to take it down a notch. This isn’t normal, you need some help. As soon as Nikki goes back to school Mama said we’re taking you to the doctor by force.”
“You all think I’m crazy?”
“I thought you all wanted me to grieve. When I wasn’t acting a bit irrational you thought that wasn’t normal. Maybe you should tell me how you want me to act.”
“Why don’t we all get something to eat,” Sela interrupted. “That should probably make you feel better, more than likely you’ve got low blood sugar. Come on, there’s a lot of food in here”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Mona asked. “I’m the one paying for it.” She glanced at the dining room table laden with every food imaginable, knowing the kitchen held even more for seconds and enough for people to fill up the to-go containers Nikki had insisted on them having.
“The girl couldn’t have just sent the folks home on an empty stomach,” Deanna and Sela scolded her playfully. “Stop being an old grouch.”
She was being a grouch, which Mona would acknowledge. But a full catered meal? Why? She’d fed these people once already in Fred’s honor. With a glare in her sisters’ direction she decided to stand her ground and face her sisters down.
“But, Sela, a full meal? There was no need for so much food. What was wrong with the appetizers I gave them?” Mona paused trying to remember all the things the restaurant had served. She’d really gone all out, egg rolls, buffalo wings, shrimp, crabmeat on toast, bruschetta.
“It was nice, Mona, we’re not saying it wasn’t.”
She knew it had been nice, a big party, music had flooded the place, every piece of music she could find.
“But it wasn’t the way a funeral is supposed to be,” both Deanna and Sela said in unison.
“Don’t you think I know that? That was the point.”
“We missed your point baby sister, break it down.”
“Sela, you weren’t even here. You were in Paris with Nikki. So how come you’re acting like you saw what I did and don’t approve?”
“Mama and Deanna told me, a million times,” Sela laughed. I also got the pictures.”
“You didn’t tell Nikki?”
“I didn’t know how.”
“See what I mean?” It was obvious that her sisters didn’t get what she meant about not ruining her daughter’s vacation.
In a soothing voice Sela attempted to get Mona back to what she’d been going to say before. “Mona, you were going to explain why you didn’t give Fred a real funeral.”
“The music died with Fred. I was trying to come back, trying hard to find just the right note that would return me to the land of the living. I haven’t found it yet. And now this dark mess, this sadness that’s prevailed for weeks, ever since Nikki began planning this thing, people crying, wiping their eyes, hugging me. I’m sick to death of the touch of people, them patting my hand, forcing me to embrace them. It’s been a year. Let Fred rest. Let me rest.”
The look of pity her sisters gave her was almost enough to make Mona join in the crying. They both put their arms around her the same instant she attempted to escape.
“Where’s Fred’s urn, Mona?”
She’d known sooner or later someone was going to ask about Fred’s remains. She’d heard the whispers now for a year. Apparently since Ms. Alvena was standing in front of her, she’d been designated to get the answer out of her.
See that’s what she was talking about, people wanting to get all up in her business. Mona turned, just barely, pushing herself away from her sisters. She needed to look at Alvena to be able to give her a, none-of-your- business stare. “I don’t have an urn,” she finally answered making her voice as frosty as she possibly could.
“No urn? What did you do with Fred?”
Threw him out with the garbage, and if I’d thought about it, I woulda flushed his ass down the toilet.
Mona smiled. She wouldn’t have really flushed Fred down the toilet. She didn’t want to stop the thing up. Who would fix it? Fred was gone and she wouldn’t have been able to call a plumber. What would she have said when he fished out all the little piece of bones? ‘That used to be Fred.’
“Mona, what did you do with Fred, put him out back in your garden?”
“Alvena, you sure are mighty interested in where I put my husband’s remains. What were you doing, sleeping with him behind my back?” Mona smiled softly and chuckled under her breath as Alvena blanched. That was mean and she damn well knew it. Alvena was old enough to be her mother and Fred’s. But she’d wanted the woman to stop butting into her business before she screamed out to the entire room that Fred’s remains were where they belonged. In the garbage dump.
“Mama, what are you doing? You hurt Miss Alvena’s feelings,” Nikki protested rushing up behind her mother.
“Well, she was hurting mine,” Mona retorted.
“If you didn’t want people questioning you about what you’d done with Daddy’s ashes you shoulda thought of that. What did you do with Daddy’s ashes, Mama?”
Okay, breathe, Mona. You birthed this child; she can only stay angry at you for so long. She needs a mother. She can’t be a daddy’s girl any longer. She no longer has a daddy. That’s your fault Mona, be gentle with her. Make her love you again.
Mona batted her lashes rapidly, cry damn it, she ordered herself, cry. Then she racked her nails down the side of her arms and the tears came, hot and streaming, one after the other down her face. She was proud of herself, so proud in fact that she almost stopped crying and started laughing. Thank God Nikki hugged her.
“It’s okay, Mama. I’m sorry. I know you loved Daddy. I just want to know where you put his ashes. It just wasn’t fair that I didn’t get to see him, Mama. I miss my Daddy.”
Oh God, Mona moaned. This wasn’t a joke anymore, was it? “I’m sorry, baby,” she crooned to her only child. “I’m so sorry I took your daddy from you. I wish I hadn’t done it. I wish I hadn’t taken him from you.”
Mona rocked her daughter in her arms. This time her tears were for real. She did wish she hadn’t taken Fred from Nikki. If she could have killed him without it hurting her baby she would have. But then again she’d never really thought of that, had she? She’d only thought of the voice, the voice that had remained in her mind for years.
“Come get your husband outta my bed.”
“Mama, I just want to be able to go and talk to Daddy and I can’t. I can’t tell him how much I love him, how much I miss him. If you’d buried him under the apple tree I could go out there and sit and talk to him. Did you bury him out there, Mama?”
There was so much hope in Nikki’s voice. For a millisecond Mona thought to give her daughter that comfort. Then she frowned slightly at the picture that formed in her mind. She saw it clear as day. Her daughter sitting on the bench beside the apple tree, Mona looking out the kitchen window her arms elbow deep in hot, sudsy dishwater and having to look out on her daughter talking to what she thought was Fred. She couldn’t do it. She just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t stand the thought of Nikki making a shrine to Fred right in her own back yard where she’d have to look out on it.
“Don’t you trust that I did the right thing by your father?” Mona asked allowing genuine hurt to seep out and coat her words. She knew what to do to make her daughter take the medicine she needed to take, same as when she was a child. A little sugar and the medicine went down just fine. Now what the child needed was a taste of bitter, not much, just a taste
“He was my husband, Nikki. He may have been your father, but he was my husband. I made sure your daddy was where he belonged. His ashes are in a good place, scattered. I can’t tell you where because frankly I don’t know. I just know they’re scattered.”
For once Mona’s words weren’t a lie. The ashes were scattered. The garbage truck had slung the bags into the top of the truck and taken it to the dump. Who knew what happened to garbage after that? But she was telling the truth. Fred was where he belonged.
“Hush, child,” she comforted her daughter. A lot of this hurt was because of Nikki. But Mona wouldn’t lay the brunt of her pain on her daughter’s doorsteps. No, she had enough blame to portion out to a lot of people, her own vanity at not wanting anyone to know, her deadbeat daddy that took off before she was born, and Fred’s daddy who beat the shit out of him for years before finally taking off.
And then of course there was Fred. He’d sweet-talked her into not letting Nikki know. What good would it serve? Of course initially she’d wanted to wipe that look of adoration off her daughter’s face but that was just plain meanness on her part. Her daughter hadn’t deserved that.
“Come get your husband outta my bed.”
Mona hugged her child closer to her. Then again, she thought as the words echoed like a broken record through her spirit, she hadn’t deserved to hear those words. No wife deserved that.