Thomas and Jerry were still laughing when Grandma, almost trance-like, started to speak. “I know what you’re thinking.” Her eyes stared past us, watching the area where Tammy had gone. “How could I live with myself after that? There are bad people in this world, but does doing the wrong thing for the right reason make us any better?”
I shook my head. “Nobody’s perfect, Grandma.”
“Don’t beat yourself up, Millie,” Thomas said. “No one’s blaming you.”
“You married ten more times after Pete. They saw the good in you,” Jerry said.
Our words fell on deaf ears. Grandma sat still. She took on the same distant gaze that Drake had when he wandered around nurses station. My ears began to pop. Muffled sound waves vibrated against my eardrums like I was submerged underwater. I stretched my jaw, pulled on my earlobes to relieve the pressure, but the fuzziness only worsened. A cool draft blew down across my shoulders, but when I looked up at the air vent above me, the ribbons remained motionless.
There was a sudden shift in the atmosphere, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Jerry zipped his sweater up to his chin. Thomas pulled his sleeves down over his hands. Frank folded the newspaper around his torso. Drake sank further between the couch cushions, hiding. Marcos shivered so hard, his wheelchair moved forward an inch.
I asked, “Grandma, do you think Marcos could borrow your blanket?” It was folded neatly in her lab. Grandma didn’t even look at me. She was rapt in the presence of something none of us could see, but we all felt it in the midst of us. I half-expected her to be looking into the face of Pete’s angry spirit, but her jaw dropped into a smile and her moist eyes shimmered, greeting an old friend.
.”I couldn’t always move on,” she said. “I carried a piece of each dead husband with me into the next marriage. Whether it was my fault or not, I still felt guilty. Then when I actually was guilty, the weight was unbearable. I didn’t get away with killing Pete. I was dragging a ball and chain on both legs the whole time.”
“It’s not your fault, Grandma,” I said, but she didn’t hear me. Her attention was focused entirely on whatever stood in the center of our circle.
“I always went to church before, but I don’t think I ever really knew God until I met Quinton.”
“Her next husband,” Thomas mouthed to us. Saying it aloud would interrupt the conversation Grandma was having with our invisible visitor.
“He taught me about forgiveness and salvation. That’s when I realized it didn’t matter how many husbands I had or how many of them died. As long as I had the love of God with me, I would be alright.” She kissed her finger tips and flung her arms out in front of her, embracing us once again. “I like to think Quinton was my guardian angel. He still is. He was there for me for only as long as I needed him, and he disappeared just as suddenly as he came.” Her wrinkled cheeks blushed a deep violet.
The dense air around us dissipated, and my ears finally cleared. Grandma stretched her arms over her head and spread her fingers, fluttering them freely and waving goodbye to her guardian angel as he ascended back into heaven.
Thomas leaned forward and slapped his thighs. “Crazy weather we’re having, huh?” he said. A sarcastic smirk spread across his face.
“Yeeeeeaaaah!” Marcos said.
We sat quietly, waiting for someone to speak first, not sure what to say next. A blast of music from my purse rattled us out of our awkward silence. I scooped my phone into my palm, covering the speaker to squelch the noise. When I looked down, Mama’s face flashed on the screen.
© 2016 Nortina Simmons
A to Z Challenge theme: 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths
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