“Thank you for coming.” Roy shook another man’s hand while she tried to hold focus and nod and listen to the kind words of Melinda and Shane’s friends and neighbors. The church steps were filled with people dressed in somber clothing, each introducing him or herself and offering anything they might need during their stay in Corbin’s Bend.
“And if you need someone to watch Ben while you put things in order….” The middle aged woman smiled down at the little boy holding Roy’s hand. “He and I are old friends, right Benny?”
He kept his gaze fixed on the ground and didn’t answer. In fact, hadn’t spoken a word since their arrival. Shock, the pediatrician in Denver said. To be expected when a child lost both parents so suddenly. Nothing to worry about. Just try to keep things as normal as possible for him.
Like…. Don’t move him to the city right away. Give him a little time to adjust.
And Roy, helpful as always, informed the doctor that they would stay until Ben spoke, however long that took.
She shifted from one foot to another. What was the purpose of standing here talking to complete strangers who she would never see again? Sure, she’d accepted her sister and brother-in law’s funeral arrangements. Not that there’s been a choice. By the time they arrived, the very efficient attorney had everything in place and the service scheduled. Everything as laid out in their will. All she had to do for her only living relative….
She swallowed the tears that threatened. Melinda was no longer a living relative, but the little redheaded boy who stood in silence was. And her every instinct insisted she get him out of the backwater town and home to the city where he could get therapy. And preschool. The child was nearly four and had never been enrolled in anything.
She’d need to get started right away if he stood a chance of getting into a good school. Most of her co-workers had their kids started much younger than Ben was. And a nanny. Interviewing for a nanny would take time. They had only taken a one week leave and they’d already been in Corbin’s Bend for a day. Surely a small child couldn’t stay silent much longer. She’d get her PA on the phone and have her line up some interviews with nannies and preschools. After she determined which were the best agencies and institutions.
“Ben, we’re going out to lunch now. Would you like that?” Come on, nephew, talk to me. Auntie needs to get back to the city.
He stared up at her with her sister’s sea-green eyes. Her own eyes, but wide and without a trace of guile or the shadows underneath that greeted her in the mirror each morning. A young woman paused in front of them and dropped to her knees. Freiya, the kindergarten teacher who’d stayed with Ben until their arrival the night before.
“Hi, Benny, you doing okay?” She offered him a soft smile and patted his cheek. “Of course you are. You’re a big boy.” Standing again, she brushed at her skirt and nodded. “He’ll be okay. He just needs a little time to adjust.”
Roy released Ben’s hand and shook the teacher’s. “Yes, that’s what he needs. And we’ll give him as much as necessary. Family comes first, after all.”
Teri cringed inside. Yes, she’d agreed to give the child time, but how much would it require? And how long would it take the local authorities to find the culprit who’d left her sister and Shane to die at the side of the road?
“I’m new here, too, you know, but it already feels like home.” Freiya rested her other hand on top of their joined ones then released him. “You’re good people and we’re all so glad you’re here. Just be sure to approach the Board for temporary residency if you’re here longer than a week.”
What? “We need permission to stay in the home my sister and her husband owned?”
“They didn’t own the unit, per se. None of us do…it’s a co-op. Melinda never explained that to you?”
“No, she certainly did not.” Teri’s blood pressure rose, and her voice. What more complications could arise that would take up their precious time. “So some board of strangers has to decide if we are allowed to stay long enough for my nephew to recover his voice after being orphaned? I cannot believe what I am hearing.” She listened to herself as if from a distance, wishing, but unable to stop herself. What kind of an ass shrieked at near-strangers at her only sister’s funeral. But somehow it kept the sobs at bay, the sense of loss under control.
“Now, now, what’s going on here?” The priest, Father…Father Henry, who had conducted the archaic ritual over the combined ashes joined them. “Is everything all right? Mrs. Sims, Teri, you are not yourself.” He cast her a glance and then spoke to Roy. “Perhaps you should take your wife home and let her rest. She’s undergone a huge loss.”
The condescension sent her temper the rest of the way out of control. “Speak to me if you would. I do not need to rest. What I need is to go to my home in the city and get back to work. Every day I am away could cost me clients. They depend on me for their financial well-being.” To her shame her shrillness wouldn’t stop until she clamped a hand over her mouth. God, would this horrible day never end?