Chapter 32

So far: Elsie offers advice on weathering grief.


Gary fussed in the kitchen, drinking more coffee and washing dishes. I didn’t mind him helping with cleaning up. He was hardly a guest. As I stood in the doorway I heard him humming, “Over the river and through the woods.”

Lucinda and Dewey sank lower into the couch. I couldn’t imagine what the two of them had found to talk about — chainsaw art? Susan played with Cloud at the table, dangling pieces of turkey above the little kitten’s head.

I watched them all with love. But I wanted them to leave. The sooner the better. If I didn’t think it would be too rude, I would have put my pajamas on. I was full and exhausted from too much turkey, worry, and warmth.

I went in to stop Gary from washing any more dishes.

“Hey, I’ll put all those plates in the dishwasher. The wine glasses are all I worry about.”

Gary rinsed off his soapy hands. “Yeah, I should get going. Mint might start to worry.”

“Are you sure you’ll be okay driving home?”

“Yeah, I started out drinking with a bang, but I tapered off, and that coffee helped. I’ll be careful.”

When the two of us stepped out into the living room so Gary could say good-bye, I noticed that Lucinda was not sitting on the couch anymore. Dewey was still there, staring at the fire.

I looked quickly to see if the bathroom door was closed, but it wasn’t. Not a good sign. I was afraid I knew what she was up to.

Damn her to hell.

A dining-room chair was in my way, but I leapt over it to stop her.

Lucinda was halfway down the hallway to Richard’s studio when I caught up with her. I grabbed the back of her sweater and pulled. She almost walked out of her sweater trying to get away from me.

I opened my mouth and let a yell come out from deep in my gut. I screamed as loud as I have ever screamed, “Stop!”

Lucinda dropped to the floor. I jumped past her and rushed to the door of Richard’s studio and stood in front of it, guarding it.

“Wendy,” she started.

“Don’t say anything, bitch. Just leave.”

“Wendy, please. Listen to me.”

“No, you listen to me.”

Dewey, Gary and Susan were standing at the other end of the hallway watching as I created a scene. I didn’t care. I was tired of them all.

I took a deep breath. “You come sneaking up here to the cabin on some false pretext like it’s Thanksgiving, like I should be happy to see you and welcome you into my house, which I do. But you’re only here for one reason — getting the last bit of Richard that’s left. Well, it’s not yours to get. It’s mine. I’m his wife. I own his house and his paintings.”

Lucinda was sitting on the floor, watching me through slitted eyes. I walked a step closer to her. I wasn’t done.

“My husband is dead. And I’m not over it yet. I want to keep everything the way it was for a while longer. I don’t know how long. Do you understand? There isn’t a time limit on this. I’ll know when I’m ready and I’ll tell you. But until then, stay away from me. Don’t call me. Don’t come to see me. Don’t ask me any questions. Let me be. Let me be with Richard for a while longer.”

Lucinda didn’t try to stand but scooted backward down the hallway. Her fear made me feel better. When she finally stood up, Dewey put an arm around her as if to protect her.

Lucinda pulled away from him and took a step toward me, waving her arm at the door to the studio. “I’ll go. Leave you here all alone with your endless grieving. But Richard’s gone. And you’re not the only one who misses him. He’s not yours alone. We all had part of him. You want to stay here and have him to yourself, but he’s gone. Yes, he’s dead. I know that. And I’m sadder than you give me credit for. You think I’m just money-grabbing and want to do this show to make money off of Richard’s death. Well, that’s bull.”

She took another step toward me. “No, I’m not his wife, but I’ve known him longer and loved him nearly as much as you. I was with him when no one else wanted him. I always believed in him. And I want to keep him too. I want to do what I can do for him. What no one else can do. I want to show his work to the world and make them remember him. So let me know when you’re ready to get off the pot.”

She backed up toward Dewey and I thought she was done, but she wasn’t.

She stopped and pointed her finger at me. “You’re a bitch too, Wendy. You’re a bitch for thinking that only you are capable of truly mourning Richard’s death. You’re so wrong.”

She got her coat out of the closet, grabbed Dewey’s arm, and they left together.


Tomorrow: Chapter 32 continues.