The morning light began to shine through the curtains, and Mallory no longer fought the urge to sleep. As she had expected; she had tossed and turned all night; every time she started to get comfortable and doze off she would be snapped back to the look on Chris’ face at the funeral home; the look of shock when he realized she was standing so close to Josh. Mallory crawled out of bed and descended the stairs to join everyone for breakfast. She was not quite sure how it always seemed that everyone, including Henry, was out of bed and ready to go with her each day. She grabbed her coffee and took a seat at the table and joined in the mundane conversation. She asked Henry all about the trip to downtown Boston and if he learned anything new. The infectious laugh and smile when he recounted the trip almost made her forget what would be taking place in just an hour or so.
Once breakfast was over, everyone went upstairs to get ready to leave for the service. Before they walked out the door, Mallory fixed Henry’s collar and tie and made sure his suit looked perfect, and he held her hand as they walked to the car. The decision had been made to have the funeral at the graveside to avoid the long procession of cars going through town from the church to the cemetery.
The cemetery did not have many trees in the area where her parents would be laid to rest. It meant that they would feel the autumn wind as they stood for the service. Due to the snow and the uneven ground, they would not have chairs or a tent as shelter. It was almost a metaphor for her relationship with her parents – trying and cold. The one positive was that the graves were near the road that ran through the tranquil hills of the cemetery. This meant that she did not have to walk very far into the snowy field for the service. She did realize it was an odd thing to consider, but her mind was racing in a thousand different directions.
Before the service started she took a quick look around; there were quite a few people there; more than she had anticipated. She didn’t see Chris, and she didn’t see Josh and felt a pang of disappointment that she would be alone for this service. While she had Darby and John with her, she had hoped that there would have at least been someone else on her side versus the mourners that were there because of her parents.
Just as the service was about to begin, Josh arrived; she looked up at him and mouthed the word, ‘thank you.’ He nodded and pulled her close to him so she could lean into him slightly for support. He placed his arm around her waist to help make sure she did not fall; it was a tender gesture that did not go unnoticed by the people around her.
The pastor talked at length about her parents and what wonderful people they were. She noticed he never mentioned that they were wonderful parents. Her guess was that even he knew the truth and could not lie at their funeral. She could hear a few sniffles and could tell the funeral was emotional for several people in attendance; it just wasn’t for her. She didn’t shed a tear and actually felt bad about it; just add it to the growing list of items she was struggling with.
The chasm that had formed between her and her parents had never allowed for a reconciliation to take place. She had regrets; she should have stood up to her parents and should have come back with Henry and introduced them to their grandson. Through the years, there were times where she had wished she had just picked up the phone to hear their voices. There would be no opportunity for that now, and regrets would haunt her. She also knew that there would be a special place in hell for a child who did not cry or mourn the loss of their parents.
The pastor did not do the traditional act of placing flowers on the casket. He did allow for everyone to take a final pass to pay respects and a line began to form. Mallory watched the crowd and even scanned to see if she noticed any familiar faces. She acknowledged Mrs. Morgan and made her way over to her to thank her for all of her help in the last few days. Mallory knew that Mrs. Morgan would most likely miss her parents the most. As she was walking back towards Josh she noticed his parents; they were standing by their car with a few people, all of whom had their backs to her. She smiled in their direction but not approach them. She was not sure what they knew and since they had been close friends with her parents she didn’t want to risk speaking with them.
She got back to Josh just as Darby and John announced they were going to head back to the car and wait for her. Since the air had chilled, even more, they wanted to get their little girl in the car and warmed up. As they walked off, Mallory grabbed Josh’s hand, “I really want to thank you for being here. I didn’t realize how much I needed someone to lean on until you arrived.”
“You are welcome; look I realize we haven’t seen each other in years but you know I am here for you, right?” He squeezed her hand, “I will call you in a day or so to see how you are and maybe we can get coffee or something.”
“That would be really nice. Darby and John think I need to talk to Chris and tell him the truth you know. I figure you should be kept up to speed on what happens since it will impact you and your relationship with him.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, I agree with them. I think it is time to get it out there and with your parents gone and you both in town, it only makes sense. If you need me to help you with talking to him, I can. By the way, do you want me to go with you for the reading of the will?”
“No, John is going to be my lawyer. I am hoping he will catch all of the legal mumbo-jumbo I am going to tune out.” She tried to force a smile, “That will not be easy to get through either but once that is done, I can begin to move forward and go back to my life.”
“Well, just know that my offer stands. If you need me, call me.” He stepped forward and pulled her into an embrace. After a minute, he stepped back and turned to talk to Henry, who had been standing next to his mother. “Henry, my man, you make sure you take care of your mom. She is pretty special you know.”
“Yes sir, I know she is,” he said as he flashed her a brilliant smile, “She is pretty tough, too.”
Josh put his arm around Henry and walked him a few steps away from his mother. They appeared to be having a deep conversation, but she could not hear what was being said. He gave Henry a hug and ruffled the boy’s hair. He looked back at Mallory and waved goodbye and walked towards the car where his parents were waiting for him.
~ * ~
Josh got to the car and jumped in, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hold you up.”
As the car pulled away from the curb, Josh’s mother turned to look in the backseat, “It’s okay; how is she holding up?”
“You know I think she is doing amazingly well. I am pretty sure she will end up breaking down, though; I think before heading home this will all hit her and she will have to deal with it. I told her to call me if she needs anything. She has the reading of the will tomorrow.”
“I feel sorry that she had had to go through this and she never made up with them before they died. I cannot imagine what it must be like for her to bury two people she hasn’t talked to in twelve years. Is she concerned with the will? Does she think they left her anything?”
“I think she buried them in her mind years ago and that might be how she has been able to get through this. I think she has resigned herself to thinking everything is going to charity. I can only imagine though how she will react if that is in fact what they did; I am going to guess it would be painful. I just hope she is ready when the pain finally hits.”
“So how is Henry doing through all of this?”
“I think most of this is lost on him. He never knew them so I don’t think he understands that this would be upsetting to most families. He said he feels sorry that he isn’t crying and he hates to see him mom sad.”
“Oh, she really does have a sweet boy.”
“Yeah, he is a great kid that is for sure.”
“Well, she is definitely lucky to have him,” she commented as she turned back around.
~ * ~
Chris completed the magazine interview and had just sat down in the living room to begin reading a stack of scripts. The house was quiet, and he wanted to make the most of this opportunity. He had not been at it for very long when he heard the front door open. He looked up to see his mom walk into the house. He noticed she appeared quite somber and somewhat distracted as she entered the living room and discarded her coat across the back of the chair. “Hey, are you okay? I know you went to a funeral, but you like you are rattled. What’s going on?”
She looked up, at first almost surprised that he was sitting there. Her pulse began to quicken, and her heart started to hurt just a little more, “I really need to talk to you, I’m just not sure how to start.”
He sat the script he was reading off to the side and leaned forward; he was ready to listen but a little nervous as he had not seen his mom like this in a long time, “Okay, what’s going on. Just say it, we can work on whatever it is.”
She slowly walked over to the couch and lowered herself onto the opposite end from where her son sat. “So you know that I went to the funeral for the Turners this morning, right? Well, we were running behind and got there just as the service was getting ready to start. As soon as Josh got out of the car he made a beeline for Mallory while we stayed near the back. He stood next to her and put his arm around her.”
“Mom, I know they are friends, and they have talked over the years. That doesn’t really seem of any concern to me so it shouldn’t be to you.”
“I’m telling you, they were cozy. He had his arm around her, and she was leaning into him as if he was holding her up. When the service was over, they embraced, he kissed her cheek, and they looked like lovers.”
“I don’t think they are lovers; I think that they are close friends and as much as it should bother me, it doesn’t. I am not quite sure that should upset you as it is.”
“There is more to it than that. On the other side of where Mallory was standing was another couple. Josh’s mom said they were friends of hers that came up to help her with the funeral. They had two kids with them, and when they walked off the boy, he looked to be eleven or twelve, well he stayed behind.”
“So a little boy was holding her hand? Where is this going, mom? I have to admit I am not following.”
“Mallory has a son; he has sandy blonde hair and is a very handsome little boy. Josh had an intense conversation with him and hugged him. There was a connection that I could see even though I wasn’t standing right next to them,” She turned and looked at her son, “I think the little boy is Josh’s and I think Mallory left you because she was pregnant with his child.”
Chris was beginning to feel sick; there is no way his best friend would have a son and would not have told him. More importantly, there was no way his best friend slept with his girlfriend and kept it secret this long. “I think you have misread something mom…there is no way…no, I don’t buy it.”
“When Josh got back to the car and we drove off his mom asked all sorts of questions about Mallory and the boy. They wanted to know how she was and how he was holding up. It was evident they knew things about them and had a vested interest in them both; I think they said the little boy’s name is Henry.”
Chris just stared straight ahead, this couldn’t be happening, and he hoped his mother was misunderstanding the situation. He couldn’t form words or say anything, but his blood was beginning to boil just a little. After all, Josh had lied to him about talking to Mallory, so maybe he had been lying about other things as well.
“Chris, I am sorry, but I really believe that Josh and Mallory have a little boy. The way he talked to him and interacted with him, there is no way he has never met him before. I think that is why she left you and got out of town – she was pregnant with his baby.” Chris got off the couch like he had been shot out of a cannon and disappeared up the stairs returning in a matter of a few seconds. In his hand, he had his cell phone, wallet, and keys.
“Where are you going?” His mother asked; desperation heavy in her voice.
“I’m going to talk to Josh, and then I’m going to fire his ass.”
“You can’t drive if you are this upset, it isn’t safe. Please come back in here and calm down first.”
“I will just calm down and get upset again; I wouldn’t have thought my best friend would stab me in the back. I’m going to handle it, though – right now!”
He slammed the front door behind him and drove directly to Josh’s apartment complex. He drove way too fast and didn’t care. All he could focus on was confronting Josh and getting the truth out of him. He pulled into the parking lot and saw Josh’s car so he knew he would be home. He took a deep breath to give him a minute to steel his nerves. He then got out of the car and marched to the apartment and began banging on the door.
“Josh…I know you are in there, open the door!”