Jasper arrived, taking Harkness from Fred’s less than tender mercies. Wrenching the principal’s arms behind him, he didn’t listen to the screaming, but hustled him to a nearby cruiser.
“Keep an eye on him. His hand is broken,” he ordered.
“You got it, Boss,” Aaron said from a few feet away.
“Hang in there, kids, the ambulance is on the way. Deirdre, nice work, babe.” Jasper kissed her surprised mouth. “Nay will be very proud.”
Fred helped his eldest son to his feet and out of the pond. Deirdre and Corin tore up Corin’s shirt to wrap around Burl’s bleeding leg. Not long after, the ambulance arrived. Then another. The family loaded into them and were taken to the hospital.
“I can’t believe you did all that,” Deirdre said, giving each son a hug and kiss, followed by more, until they protested.
“I told you, Mom. No one messes with the Partridge Boys,” Aiden said, and passed out.
Hours later, the family was home. Deirdre was in a cast because she’d managed to tear a ligament when she ran after Harkness. Aiden was overnight in the hospital, but Eoin had asked to be the one to stay. Burl’s leg had taken thirty stitches to put back together, and Corin’s ribs and knuckles were torn and bruised.
“No school tomorrow,” Deirdre said. “Maybe not ever again.”
“You can’t keep us home forever, Mom,” Burl said. “We make you crazy in five minutes.”
“True. But the rest of the week and maybe the next….”
She got no argument.
They were trying to decide what to do for dinner, when the doorbell rang. Fred, who was the only mobile one, answered. Their cop friends were there with a ham dinner, complete with yams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and fresh bread.
“We’ll keep it short, we know you’re in pain,” Vanessa said. “But we needed a celebration, now that this is over.”
“And tomorrow, we plan a funeral,” Deirdre said sadly.
“That’s all taken care of,” Teague assured her. “My mother and aunts took care of the details. She’s going to have a beautiful send off. We didn’t know if she was Catholic or Protestant, but I don’t imagine God minds one way or the other. It happened that our parish priest had an opening in his schedule and agreed.”
“How much did you have to persuade him, McTeague?” Jasper teased.
“Lil bit,” Teague said, holding his fingers less than an inch apart. “Actually, Father Barry is very cool. He went to school with some of my cousins.”
“Everyone went to school with some of your cousins,” Jasper reminded him. “Cause half the school was your cousins.”
“So did you,” Teague said, sounding petulant.
“Not denying it, and loved every minute of not being related to the most beautiful women in the county.”
“All that aside,” Nadeya picked up the conversation thread. “The service is set for two o’clock tomorrow. It was Barry’s only window.”
“Good. Does Eoin know?”
“Yes,” Nadeya replied. “He’s a pall bearer. We were going to have Aiden be one, but since he’s not in any shape for it, would you?” she asked Fred.
“I would be honored. She’s the mother of my granddaughter.” He blinked hard, pressing his lips together.
Deirdre knew he was very moved by the request. He might not shed his tears publicly, but she knew he grieved for the girl he barely knew.
Their friends left as soon as they’d cleaned up after dinner. The family spent a quiet night, sleeping deeply, knowing they were safe.
Despite the solemnity of the day, it was bright and sunny, too beautiful for the sorrowful occasion.
“Funerals should always be in the rain,” Deirdre mused as she dressed. “It feels like God is crying.”
“Maybe sunshine is better,” Fred said, holding her from behind. “Because it’s like God is welcoming his daughter home.”
They drove over to the church in Deirdre’s car with Fred driving. They had picked up Aiden earlier in the day, and he rode in the backseat, stony faced and somber. For once, the boys didn’t squirm or argue and they reached their destination in silence.
Walking into the church, Aiden paused on the threshold, his heart tightening in his chest. A sob caught in his throat. He didn’t want to break down so soon, but he couldn’t stop it. Eoin wasn’t far away. He took Aiden in his arms and they cried quietly together. Since they were sitting in for Wendy’s family, they sat in a reserved spot near the front. Their cop friends filled in the rows behind them. The members of the golf team who had graduated with Wendy, sat together, not far away. All the girls were crying softly. The boys looked red eyed, fighting the tears.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes