“I was going to tell you, sweetheart,” Grandma finally said.
“When?” I pressed. “You could’ve said something when you were talking about Kennedy and how all the daughters in our family look like their aunts. Better yet, you could’ve mentioned it when Drake first came over here calling me Jenny!” I was fuming; I was blowing hot air through my nostrils like an enraged bull.
“And, how exactly was I supposed to do that without telling you about Lindell first?” Grandma raised her chest, and in a mocking tone said, “Oh, by the way, this white man’s white wife, Jenny, was your black Pawpaw’s sister.”
I dropped my arms and slumped in my chair. “I guess I would’ve been a little confused.” Hell, this whole day had been confusing. All the mysteries of Grandma’s life unveiled—her twenty-six husbands, Uncle Richard, my grandfather, and now my great aunt. I was afraid to ask if there was more she hadn’t yet shared.
“And I’m gonna ignore how you stormed over hear huffing and puffing like I ain’t your Grandma and I won’t still give you a whopping.”
I threw my head back and laughed. “You’re right, Grandma, I’m sorry.”
“My husband Theo threw a temper tantrum with me just before he died, you know.”
“Damn, Millie, did you beat the man to death?” Thomas said.
“I didn’t lay a finger on him,” Grandma said. “God took care of everything.” She fluffed her curly gray hair behind her ear. “Theo was always accusing me of stepping out on him. I think we got married too fast.”
Jerry tilted his head to the side. “All the men you been with, and he was the only one you think you married too fast.” He pursed his lips.
“Yes,” Grandma said calmly. “We didn’t know each other very well—“
“You didn’t know Andrew either.”
“That’s different. We were soulmates.” Grandma fluttered her long eyelashes as if she were still a teenager. “Theo was immature. He was a little younger than me, and—“
“Shut up, Frank!” Grandma said without looking at him. She continued to stare ahead as she delved back into her past and recounted her short-lived marriage with Theo.
“Theo was immature,” she repeated. “He was always accusing me of stepping out on him. Now, usually, when a man is constantly accusing you of wrong doing, it’s because he’s doing wrong himself.”
Right then, I reevaluated my entire last relationship, which, depressingly, was over four years ago when I was living with my hedonist boyfriend. I recalled the constant bickering, the baseless accusations, how he left me stranded in the middle of nowhere more than once—the last time at a diner in Kansas when he’d sworn I was flirting with our waiter. All that time, had he been sleeping around with other women? I hadn’t seen or heard from him in four years, but the thought reawaken my hatred of him.
“Theo couldn’t let go of the ladies, so naturally, he thought I couldn’t let go of the men—I’ve had so many. But I was never unfaithful in any of my marriages.
“He burst in the house during a thunderstorm one night. I didn’t even hear him. I had already put Linda and Rick to bed, and I was trying to get some sleep myself when he dragged me outside, talking ’bout some ‘Fess up! Fess up!’ I told him I ain’t have nothing to confess, but maybe he did. That made him real mad. He picked me up by my hair, drew his hand back to slap me. Then, what we thought was a loud crack of thunder rattled us both and he let me go. Turned out lightening had struck the tree behind. I rolled out of the way just before it fell over and crushed him underneath.”
Thomas recoiled in the rocking chair with a jolt. “Damn! That’s gotta hurt!”
“My foot got tangled in the outer branches. The kids heard all the noise and came out to help. I twisted my ankle pretty bad, but Theo got the worst of it.”
“Obviously!” I said.
Drake’s soft laugh floated over our heads and intruded into our conversation. “Hee-hee. Jenny. You look like Jenny.”
Jerry flung his arms in the air. “Finally, he gets it! We’ve been trying to tell you that all damn day!”
Drake turned his bobbling head to Jerry. He reminded me of the reflex test doctors gave their patients during checkups. They’d tap the knee with a knocker, and the leg was supposed to immediately kick, but some people reacted slower than others. They had to think about it, give the brain enough time to remember the expected action and send the command back down to the leg.
“We already changed the subject. Come on, catch up,” Thomas said.
“And she’s your niece, so no more touchy-feely business.” Jerry wagged his finger in Drake’s face.
Drake smiled at him absently, a slight twinkle in his eyes. He had no idea what Jerry was talking about.
© 2016 Nortina Simmons
A to Z Challenge theme: 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths
Read next: “U” is for Urgent Uriah.