Mrs. Garrith, a woman with white blonde hair and bright pink nails, was getting ready to jump into the fray as I approached the steps. “And when he lost his sweet Marlena I made sure to bring him a casserole every day for a month. I could tell he really appreciated my gesture of kindness... told me so himself. Those casseroles were a lifesaver to that man.” She adjusted the fingers of her short black laced gloves.
“Well, bless your heart, Mary,” Mrs. Morrison added. Everyone knew it was Southern slang for Go fuck yourself. “Did you know that Franklin asked me to go steady with him in high school? Practically begged me, really, before he and Marlena became an item of course. That boy was sweet on me, I tell ya.” She fanned herself with one of the funeral programs handed out by choir boys.
I took a program from one of the boys and pushed passed the crowd into the church. Loud whispering had always followed me wherever I went, and today was no different.
Mrs. Morrison might as well have been speaking into a microphone. After she spotted me, the comments about my inappropriate funeral attire began. She leaned in close to her cohorts and whispered, “I think that Abigail Ford and Franklin had a ‘special’ relationship.” She had the balls to quote the air when she said the word special. “It turns out the girl helped plan this entire service. Don’t you think that’s odd?”
That statement was met with gasps and exaggerated sighs from the clones that surrounded her. The group added their own speculations, fueling the rumor. It was like listening to creation itself in the beginning, where it all started, with these dumb bitches poisoning the water.
I don’t know how Nan ever got along with those ladies. It never seemed to me that she ever really fit in with them. Nan was someone who would show up to a funeral wearing her brightest floral colored sundress instead of a black funeral gown. I don’t know how she did it all without drawing all the negative attention I seemed to attract, or maybe she did draw negative attention and I just never really noticed. Maybe, I was too wrapped up in my own self-pity and bullshit to notice that these ladies hurt her, too.
I’d thought about her a lot when I got dressed that morning. Her funeral was the last one I attended, over four years earlier. It was in her honor that I wore a bright coral colored spaghetti-strapped sundress that crossed in the back with a long-sleeved white cardigan over it and wedge sandals instead of the black mourning uniform of the gossip mafia.
Not because I was ashamed or afraid anymore.
I just thought it was more appropriate for church.
It was those people, those nasty two-faced women who preached their impossible morals about town to whoever would listen, that pissed me off the most. Those women didn’t live the lives they preached about any more than the people they shunned for it. They just knew how to hide it better. The more I heard them talk, the more I realized they weren’t speaking about Frank’s life. All their stories or revelations were about their attempts to associate themselves with him. They wanted to paint themselves into the picture of his life for the attention only.
The truth was that, even with all his problems, Frank Dunn was someone who would be missed, even if it was only by me. The know-it-all church ladies on the steps were just selfish bitches.
Those were always the worst kind of bitches.
So, I was going to have a little fun with the ladies.
I squared my shoulders and walked back out of the church and right to the center, where the coffee klatch from hell was taking place. Before they could pick their jaws up off the floor or squawk out a fake greeting, I spoke first, laying on my Georgia accent much thicker than usual.
“Why, hey y’all,” I started. I smiled at the two ladies who seemed to be the leaders of the group. My voice dripped so much false sugary sweetness, I probably made their teeth ache. “Thank you so much for comin’, I know that Mr. Dunn would have appreciated his dearest friend—” I gestured toward Mrs. Garrith. “—and his high school sweetheart—” and I gestured toward Mrs. Morrison. “—goin’ out their way to pay their last respects.”
Mrs. Garrith looked me up and down like I was wearing fishnets and nipple tassels instead of a simple sundress and sweater. She opened her mouth to speak, but I cut her off.
“Honestly, toward the end there, he didn’t know if y’all would show up. Especially since the three of you have such history together.”
The smiles from both their faces melted into frowns. One of the other ladies from the crowd questioned this new found piece of information out loud. “History?”
“Oh sure. You know that these ladies and Mr. Dunn go waaaaay back.” I winked.