Burying A Legend (154)

The time had come to say goodbye to Josephine Falcone once and for all. A crowd of mourners, all dressed in black, made for a stark contrast against the welcoming daylight. Their faces were fixed in what appeared to be permanent scowls, hidden beneath black veils and hats that shut out any comfort or compassion.

Louise and Michael sat beside the grave as the priest began his service. Behind them stood the Bains and Gardners, offering what little consolation they could. The scene horrified Peter Falcone as he watched from across the grave, restrained by two seemingly robotic guards. Not only had he lost his wife, but his son was slipping further and further away from him with each passing day.

“Our Father, who art in heaven…” began the priest. Michael could not listen. His eyes remained fixed on the ornately dressed casket before him, bouquets of his mother’s favorite red roses were in abundance. She was never one for simplicity. He began to break out in a sweat as he reflected back on the past few weeks and what his mother had meant to him. Had she betrayed him? Or had she done the best thing she could for him? Either way, the lies and the deceit racked his tired brain.

“Now, I believe Josephine’s cousin Philomena has a few words to say,” said the priest.

Louise and Michael looked up in surprise at the mention of the name. They had not seen cousin Philomena in over seven months, and her last visit had not necessarily been a happy occasion. It was a strange feeling to see Josephine’s rival appear to speak well of her.

A short little woman with wrinkling skin and gray hair, Philomena approached the casket. Clad entirely in black, she lifted her veil and dried her tears with a handkerchief. “I’ll be brief with what I have to say…God knows Josephine would’ve wanted it that way…” she began, “Josephine and I rarely ever saw eye to eye. Come to think of it, I don’t know that we ever agreed on much of anything. She was a strong-willed, opinionated, mule of a woman who would do whatever it took to get her way.”

Gasps erupted from the crowd. “Of course, I never would’ve admitted it, but…well, that’s what I loved about her. She did what she thought was best, and never questioned whether her means were right or wrong. Her moral compass might’ve had its flaws, but it was always in the best interests of herself and those she loved. I respected her for it, and I don’t know that I’ll ever meet another woman like her,” said Philomena. She glanced to the casket and laid another rose on top, “God bless you Josephine, and thanks for being a worthy opponent.”

Michael squirmed in his seat as Philomena spoke. He had never considered his mother to be a reasonable woman, or at least one who knew what she was doing and why. Perhaps she had been there for Michael and done what was right for him. Michael began to rub his temples. Covering his face with his hands, he began a quiet, controlled cry.

Louise put her arm around her husband as she stared back at the coffin. It was true, Josephine had made her life a living hell, yet, for as extreme as her situation was with her mother-in-law, she had done it all for her son. The insults, the judgments, they were all to make sure that Michael had the best girl for him. She was a mother.

She was one of a kind, and no one could replace her. Peter Falcone knew that, but someone would need to guide his son now that she was gone and he was behind bars. Her life had been taken in the blink of an eye, but her influence would be needed far beyond that day of sadness.

END

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The Other Feelings (150)

The organ shook the walls of Blessed Sacrament as Laura Gardner knelt in prayer. Her eyes were closed, and she rested her head on her hands, asking God for strength. Crossing herself, she slowly opened her eyes, only to see Betty Abernathy staring back at her.

She rose, genuflecting as she exited the pew, and walked over to her old friend. Betty’s face had lines of worry written across it as Laura approached.

Betty kissed Laura on the cheek. “How ya doing honey?”

“Fine Betty, all things considered, I guess…I’m sorry I haven’t been to the meetings lately. It’s been a bit hectic for us.”

“Oh no, don’t worry about that! Don’t worry about that at all! The gals got it all under control…” Betty’s voice trailed off as she looked nervously around the church.

“Betty, what’s wrong? You seem a little distracted,” said Laura.

“It’s nothing…well, it’s something…but you don’t need to worry about it…”

“If you’re my friend, Betty Abernathy, then you’ll tell me what’s going on.”

The nervous woman inhaled deeply, wiping sweat from her brow. “It’s about Elaine…I overheard Marion talking to June, and it seems like Marion’s got the idea in her head that Elaine’s got a…a drug problem.”

Heat fell over Laura. “Oh, is that so? What sort of drug problem does Marion think my daughter has?”

“I heard her throw around the word cocaine…” Betty wrung her purse, wholly uncomfortable.

“So she wants to go around telling people my business, does she? Well the least she can do is get the facts straight! I appreciate you telling me, Betty, really,” said Laura, “I won’t mention your name.”

“Mention my name? What do you mean?” asked Betty.

Betty did not receive a response. Instead, she witnessed Laura Gardner march across the church towards Marion Weathers, head down in determination. Laura Gardner did not take kindly to lies, especially ones about her own family.

***

“Have you called anyone yet? Or have you just been sitting around admiring your work?” sneered Michael Falcone, holding the hand of his dead mother. His wife looked back at him in fury.

“How can you even say that! It just happened! Oh my God!” Louise rushed to the phone in the parlor, tears streaming down her face.

“Hello? 911? I’d like to report an accident! Yes, my mother-in-law she…she fell down the stairs. I think she’s dead!” shouted Louise into the receiver. She slammed it down, pacing frantically around the room.

“You think she’s dead? What more do you need? She’s not breathing for Christ’s sake!” shouted Michael.

“Michael, what the hell do you want me to do? I made the friggin’ call, but I– I don’t even know what the hell happened! I can’t even believe what’s happening right now!”

Michael lunged towards her, taking her in his arms, shaking her. “You’re going to look me in the eyes and tell me you didn’t kill her. Look me in the eyes right now, Louise, and tell me you didn’t push my mother down the stairs. Tell me!”

Louise’s eyes moved towards her husband’s. Her makeup began to run. She spoke slowly and deliberately. “I didn’t kill your mother, Michael.”

He held her for a moment longer, somehow disappointed that it was truly an accident. It was not fitting that his mother simply fall. She was a strong-willed woman who was always ready for a fight. He released Louise, turning towards the window, letting out a gasp.

Louise ran to his side, “Michael, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” She put her arms around him. His body shook with his suppressed sobs. He could not be comforted.

Sirens pierced the air as the Falcones stared out the window, embracing each other. Someone would come along to take away the body of Josephine Falcone and prove she died accidentally. With Peter in jail and Josephine gone, Michael had no one except for his wife.  They were alone.

END

Stuck In A Rut (140)

Elaine Gardner removed her coat and placed it over the back of a metal folding chair. As she sat down, she surveyed the group of people before her. There was an elderly woman across from her who didn’t look like the type to abuse her husband’s pain medications. To her right, there was a soccer mom, harried and stressed, and endlessly addicted to marijuana. Sitting next to her was the person that broke her heart most of all. A young college student, around 19 years old, sat with his head down, slouching in his chair. One too many late nights had given him cause to seek help.

The man Elaine had bumped into stood before the group. “Evenin’ folks, for our newest members, my name is Rhys. Would any of you like to introduce yourselves?”

Elaine’s old fire darted from her mouth, “Introduce ourselves? I thought this whole thing was anonymous.

Rhys gave her a wry smile. “Did you hear a last name? As I said, my name is Rhys…why don’t you introduce yourself? First name only, remember,” he said with a wink.

Elaine’s body was hot with embarrassment.  “I’m…I’m so sorry…my name’s Elaine.”

The group before her welcomed her with nods and niceties, disregarding her awkward outburst. Rhys continued, “So tonight we’re here to hear Leila’s story. Leila, come on up.”

The soccer mom that Elaine noticed before rose from her seat. Her eyes were wide and blue, and could not look directly at anyone. She began to twist nervously at the brown strands of hair that hung over her shoulder.

“Leila, remember, we’re all here to learn from each other. Your story means something to all of us,” said Rhys.

The woman smiled and stood a little taller. Before she even began speaking, Elaine admired her. It took guts to even make an appearance there, and even more to speak.

***

Michael and Louise Falcone were laying in bed, hoping to finally get some rest. In the darkness, Louise stared at the ceiling, tangled in the bedsheets from all the tossing and turning she had been doing. Michael lay on his side, staring blankly at the wall.

The Falcone family had placed quite a few heavy burdens on Louise’s shoulders in the past few days. Josephine had decided to blackmail Louise, threatening to expose her arsenic scheme against her unless she divorced Michael. On top of that, she had also revealed to only Louise that she had lymphoma, another secret she was required to keep. In the midst of all this, she was supposed to leave her husband, alone with no one to comfort him. Louise rustled the sheets again, angry at the whole situation.

Michael had not been himself the past few weeks. It was an odd feeling to be pleased that his “father” would be imprisoned for life, knowing that the crime had been done for his own sake. He had only his “mother” now, and he was unsure of whether or not he wanted to continue with her as a part of his life. Lies upon lies, Michael Falcone shut his eyes, hoping for peace.

In the dark of the room, Louise rolled over in the bed and placed an arm around her husband. “I love you, Michael,” she whispered. He pretended to sleep, but he had been dying to hear those words from someone who meant it.

Louise began to think to herself. I can’t leave him, not like this. Josephine will have to deal…even she can’t deny he’s not the same anymore. If I leave, it’ll kill him. She has to go, not me. We’ll have to have a talk…

Her eyelids grew heavy, drifting off into sleep. The secrets and hidden agendas had to come to an end.

END