Dad was a real winner.
The sheriff didn’t look me in the eyes. His gaze focused somewhere over my head, prolonging whatever news he’d come to deliver. As time passed, each of his breaths sounded more like strained snores. I grew impatient. “Maybe, you can just tell me why I’m here,” I blurted out.
“Sweetheart?” The word fell out of his mouth like he’d never used it before. “Who’s your next of kin?” The blood drained from my face. I didn’t answer him at first. I couldn’t find the words. My vision spun like I was looking at him through a kaleidoscope.
Next of kin? I thought. My only kin is Nan...
“Abby!” Miss Morgan snapped her fingers in my face. I hadn’t even seen her kneeling in front of me, but there she was. Behind her, the sheriff was sweating profusely and nervously. “Abby,” she repeated, softer now. “Nan was in an accident.” She enunciated each word as if she was teaching an English class.
“How?” I asked. “Her truck doesn’t even run. It’s been sitting in a junkyard and hasn’t been off blocks since September,” I said, as if somehow this fact would change the truth.
“Not a car accident, sweetie.” Miss Morgan looked to be in physical pain. “It was…an explosion.”
She squeezed my hand, but I flinched at her touch and immediately pulled away from her grip. “What the fuck?” I whispered. My heart pounded in my ears. I felt the blood in my veins turn to acid. My skin was about to burn off of my bones.
“That’s enough of that language, young lady.” Sheriff Fletcher had the audacity to scold me. He cleared his throat. “I do realize this is a difficult situation for you, and I’m very sorry.” Yeah, right. It sure sounded like he was. “I have to ask something: did your Nan tell you she needed money for anything, by chance? Do you know if she was having any sort of financial troubles?”
I shook my head. We didn’t live like royalty by any means, but her social security check and the money she made from selling her jams at the Sunday craft market was enough to pay the mortgage and keep me fed and clothed. “No,” I answered. “Not that I know of.”
Sheriff Fletcher groaned. “We have reason to believe your Nan was involved in some activities of a questionable nature.” He scratched at his five o’clock shadow. “She was in a mobile home in the middle of the Preserve when it exploded.”
There was no way this could be happening.
They had to be wrong.
The sheriff started to talk again as Miss. Morgan sat down next to me. She reached out in another attempt to put her hands over mine. I pulled away before she could.
“Sheriff Fletcher thinks the mobile home was involved in cooking drugs.” Her words were as awkward as she was.
“No, that has to be a mistake.” I started to rant like my words were being tossed around in a tornado. “Nan doesn’t have anything to do with drugs. I’ll call her right now... you can see for yourself”
There was no possible way, especially because of my parents’ shitty addictions, that Nan would ever be involved in something like that. She wouldn’t even take cough syrup when she had a cold.
I reached for the phone on the desk, but before I could get to it the sheriff put his sweaty bear paw on the receiver “Unfortunately, it’s no mistake. Your grandmother died this morning in an explosion at a known meth lab.” My mouth fell open as I stared at him. He offered nothing further. Instead, he asked me again, “Who’s your next of kin, Miss Ford? It’s not listed in your file. I know your parents aren’t in the picture, but is there an aunt or uncle we can call?”
“No,” I said quietly. There was no one.
“An older sibling then, or maybe a cousin?”
I shook my head, losing myself in the slow spin of the room around me.
Why the hell would Nan be at a meth lab?
There was no reason, except...
It hit me like an anvil why Nan needed the money: to pay for college. She talked about sending me all the time. I ignored her every time she brought it up. My plans for the future never reached further than the weekend. I mostly just smiled and nodded. Much of the time, I just changed the subject. I wasn’t going to college. End of story.
Apparently, Nan had thought otherwise.
But involving herself in meth just didn’t make sense.
“It’s just me…and her.” My voice cracked. Inside, I was crying, screaming, raging against whatever higher power would be so cruel that it would give me a taste of normalcy then strip it all away. Outside, I was a robot.