Life After Perfect(4)

By: Nancy Naigle



Katherine looked down at her hands, trying to will away the lightheaded feeling she had. If she never had children, she would be alone like this one day. There was no guarantee that your children would take care of you, she knew that, but they’d be there in some form or fashion—even if out of obligation.

She glanced over at Ron. He knew how she longed for a family. Said he did too . . . someday. But for now, her husband was dead set on keeping up with the Joneses . . . no wait . . . make that the Kardashians. Ron was so hell-bent on making as much money as possible that he’d refused to entertain having a child until they were ready. Ready? What the heck did that even mean? She wondered if that’s why they’d had fewer moments of intimacy these days. His way of throttling the possibility. Why did he get to decide?

Shaleigh walked by, dry-eyed, leading her row. Tucker followed a tearful Peggy. Her pale complexion was blotched and pink. She’d cried more than her share for someone she wasn’t that close to.

Finally their row filed out, and Ron placed his hand on the small of Katherine’s back, guiding her to the door. Always making her feel safe. Loved.

“I love you,” she said with tears still in her eyes.

He pulled his arm around her and gave her a squeeze.

By the time they got outside, cars were lined up behind the hearse and limo, a processional so long that one car might be at the grave site while the end of the line was still here in the church parking lot.

Would people even realize it was a processional as they drove across town? With daytime running lights, didn’t every row of cars kind of look like one? Lately it seemed like things moved so fast that nothing was clear anymore. Like pausing to reflect might somehow take too much time. She glanced at the people shifting with impatience as they waited for the line of cars to begin to move.

Ron held the door as Katherine slipped into the passenger seat. He eased out, nosing his way between two other cars without even a thank-you nod. They weren’t any different than the rest of the people rushing through the sad day today. Ron pressed the accelerator and fell in line behind the others as they made their way across town. When they got to the cemetery, cars filled several of the dirt lanes, parking wherever they could.

Ron pulled up as close to the canopy as he could get and then leaned over and laid a kiss on Katherine’s neck.

“I’m going to dash,” Ron whispered into her hair.

“What?”

“I’ve got a meeting. I made my appearance. You can catch a ride home with Peggy or Shaleigh, can’t you?”

She replayed his words, taking in what he’d just said. Made my appearance. No sorrow. A duty to be here. Why come, then?

“Yeah. I can.”

Had things really gotten to this point? That nothing was worthy enough to be more important than his commitment to his job? Somehow that seemed so wrong.

Her eyes burned, but she wasn’t going to let him upset her further. Refused to. That service had left her wanting to cling closer to the one she loved, and yet here he was skipping off in a hurry to get to work.

She picked up her purse, got out of the car, and stood there, a little disoriented.

He rolled down the window and stage-whispered, “Love you, babe. I’ll see you tonight.” Then he pulled off.

She turned around and walked along the dirt lane at Westlawn Gardens Memorial Park, falling in step with the others heading toward the burgundy funeral-home tent.

From where she stood, she couldn’t even hear what was being said, and in an eerie way, it seemed overly quiet.

Like even the birds had bowed their heads.

Her chest clenched.

She stepped back, taking in the rows and rows of headstones that surrounded them. Some with flowers, some bare and tired-looking. From here she could see the lovely casket spray she’d ordered for Bertie. Since Donald wasn’t a flower guy, Bertie chose to do something more personal. She was very specific, and Katherine had taken a legal pad with all the details, as well as a huge tackle box per Bertie’s request, to the florist. Katherine had thought the arrangement might turn out to be hideous, but it was actually quite beautiful, yet masculine, in a whimsical way.

The blanket of white daisies lay atop bright green leaves that peeked out of the edges like the satin border on a blanket. Among the white flowers, hundreds of fluorescent fly-fishing lures sparkled in a rainbow of bright colors, the tiny feathers moving in the breeze and the shiny metal reflecting the light like a thousand tiny brave stars doing a forbidden dance in the daylight: a loving tribute to her outdoorsman husband.

Her mind wandered. She couldn’t bear to listen to the preacher, thankful the graveside service was short and people were already starting to peel away.

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