“The Royal Doyle Treatment,” Mom declared when it was done.
“Who’s hungry?” I asked, hopping inside.
“We just cleaned, and you’re going to mess it up?” Maria screeched.
“No. I just need a couple of my spices. Let’s close her up and put her back in the garage.”
“You always call it her?” Chica asked.
“Yeah. Like a ship. Not only that, she’s temperamental, expensive to keep up, and demands a great deal of my time.”
“That’s a woman for you,” Randy said, earning Chica’s elbow to his ribs.
“Also, for the longest time, when I was getting established, she was not only my constant companion, all the money I would have put into dates, went into her.”
“As long as you didn’t try to f**k her,” Antoinette said.
Everyone stared at her, somewhat aghast.
“What? We were all thinking it.”
“Scout’s honor, I did not.” I held up my hand as if swearing an oath.
“Someone mentioned food,” Randy said, rubbing his hands together. “How can I help?”
We all pitched in and prepared another meal together. Even with one of us missing, it was a good time. Family time. Being with the others, made losing Dionne a little easier. There was still a deep ache in my chest, but I felt it ease a fraction with every laugh we shared.
After lunch, my parents got ready to go visit Steve in the hospital. I decided to go along, in case Mom took issue with him. Also, he’d never met my dad. That might prove difficult.
“I’ll stay here,” Rowena said. “Call if you need me.”
“Thank you. I wonder if they’re all planning to stay for the funeral.”
Some of my family live in the city. The rest are scattered, living an hour or two away. I hoped that the locals would go home, but they certainly looked like they intended to hang around.
“We’ll fall off that bridge when we get to it,” she said, giving me a kiss. “See you in a while. We’ll have dinner squared by the time you get back. Don’t worry.”
“Have I told you just how fantastic you are?”
“Not lately. Bum.”
“Well, you are. And I’m falling head over heels in love with you. I hope that’s okay.”
“I find that acceptable. I’m right there with you.”
We exchanged another kiss and I got in Dad’s Impala to drive my folks to the hospital. My father had done well for himself. He had some kind of business in the city, on the opposite side from where I live, closer to the posh neighborhood where Dionne and Steve made their home. I have no idea what he does, or how much money he makes. I could feel resentful that he’d never shared it with us. However, as chummy as he and Mom were, I rather got the impression, maybe he had. She wasn’t acting like an angry ex, and he wasn’t acting like a deadbeat dad. They chatted quietly in the back seat while I drove.
When we got to the hospital, they took the golf cart shuttle and I walked. I wanted some time to myself. I love my family, but I was about out of goodwill, and happy joy-joy feelings. I needed to grieve, but I didn’t want to cry anymore. I hoped this meeting with Dionne’s husband would go well.
I showed Mom and Dad to Steve’s room, not surprised to find his parents there. They knew Mom, of course, and me. We introduced my father, and their welcome wasn’t any warmer than mine had been. I’m sure they wondered why, after almost thirty years, he was back in our lives. I gave each of them a hug, and they offered condolences.
“How did Stevie take it?” I asked Steve’s mother, Elaine.
“I’m not sure he’s been told yet.” She sniffed her disapproval.
I had no words for that. I didn’t know what they were waiting for. I certainly wasn’t going to take that on. It’s not my job, as Uncle Keir, to break that kind of news.
“It should be soon,” I said quietly.
They nodded in silent agreement.
Mom and I went in first, leaving Dad to fend for himself with Steve’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Richards are good people, staid, sturdy, reliable. I liked them both, and always had. I knew they shared our grief, but they were happy their son wasn’t dead, as well. I couldn’t blame them there. Not one lick.
Steve was blurry, but knew us. He burst into tears when he saw my mother. “I swear, Deirdre…it wasn’t my fault.”
“I know, darling. I know.” She smoothed his hair, cooing at him as he wept. “Tell me what happened.”
“Mom, I already told you. Don’t make him go through that again.”
“I need to know,” she snapped. “I have to understand.”
“Maybe so, but I’m not making that man relive something so terrible. If that’s your only reason for being here, maybe you should just go.”
I pointed at the door. Reluctantly, she left. Steve held out his hand to me. I sat by the bed, in his line of vision.
“What’s being done—arrangements?”
©2021 Dellani Oakes