Chapter 13 - Funeral Drama
James has become a ghost ever since everyone left the house. He’s been on a nonstop drinking binge. He feels guilty over not able to help his friends out more. Stumbling around his house, James trips over anything in his way and laughs at times.
“Now, I know how to stop it all. I stay numb, and I don’t feel a goddamn thing.” He slurs, kicking his ottoman repeatedly.
A couple of days after the tragedies are spent mostly in silence, pain, and anger towards one another. Lucas has packed up, waiting on the release of his father’s body from the hospital morgue to transport back home to Europe.
Gweny and Delilah have become the outsiders to the family, having Josh’s body cremated after a private viewing. Audrey hasn’t said a single word to her, and Sara’s nearly been transformed into the enemy being there to support Gwen’s decision.
Sara convinces Audrey and Gwen to lunch after they make funeral arrangements
“Hey, I need you both to be civilized for just a little while, please.” She begins as she wipes her eyes with a napkin
“I can do that. After all, I’m not some ice princess that burnt my husband’s body.” Audrey insults, looking away from Gwen.
“Hey, I get it okay, it goes against your religious code to cremate a body, but Josh doesn’t want to be buried back home. We agreed to this years ago, and if you think I don’t want to be buried with my husband, you’re crazier than you let on.” Gwen retorts directly across from Audrey.
“Stop it, right now, both of you! This is not what they died for. They did not give up their lives for us to act this way!” Sara scolds her mother and Gwen.
Both combatants bow their heads before they apologize.
“I’m sorry, girl…” Gwen states.
“Yeah, it won’t happen again. I’m sorry too.” Audrey says with her hands in her lap.
“I know tensions are high between everyone, but if we fight amongst ourselves now, it doesn’t honor any of them.” Sara continues to scold, smacking her hands on the table.
The onslaught of the scolding doesn’t end there.
“They were family, and we are family, something we all lost when grandma died, and it all went to shit. You and Josh vanished. James became a dickhead, and mom became a bigger religious nutcase. Which I can understand being since Sean is huge in your church.”
“Yeah, but I mean, if I can say, why would Josh want to be ashes?” Audrey asks, looking into Gwen’s eyes.
“Because he’s been to so many places that he loved to visit that he wants to remain in his favorite place, the Blue Ridge Mountains. As much as I love that man and I miss him when we go there, I know I’ll be able to be at peace with him scattered at places he loves.” She says, keeping eye contact with Audrey.
Together the three of them sit and stare at each other until the server approaches their table.
“Hello ladies, welcome to Applebee’s. I’m Michael, and I will be serving you today. Can I start you out with anything to drink?” The friendly, kind overweight young man with light blue eyes greets the three beautiful women with a smile.
“Oh yeah, I’ll take a Bud Light and water with lemon, please.” Sara orders.
“I’ll take an unsweet tea,” Audrey says second, and Gwen goes last.
“I’d like a Long Island Iced Tea, please, and a water with lemon too, please.”
Before he walks away, he engages them in a short conversation.
“Ladies, would you like an appetizer? Maybe some mozzarella sticks or maybe some sliders or wings?”
“Chips and salsa sound nice, thank you, sweetness,” Gwen tells him.
Michael signals his head that he understands with a warm smile and walks away.
“Anyway, girls, tomorrow was the fastest I could get Josh’s viewing done. I’ll stick around for Justin’s funeral. After that, I’m heading back to deal with things at the house.” Gwen informs her friends, with a part of her soul gone.
“I understand. Just don’t shut us out or James. He is, after all, hurting like all of us.” Audrey speaks up for her little brother, who’s forgotten about the rest of the world.
Audrey is the odd woman out of the triangle of wives burying a husband, but an unexpected guest finds her way to the party.
“Hey, gals have room for one more?” Scarlett asks when she stops at the table.
“Absolutely, pop a squat and relax. We thought you had gone back to California already.” Gwen admits when Scarlett takes a seat beside her.
“Not yet. I’ve known the boys a very long time, and I couldn’t leave without my final goodbyes.”
When Michael returns to get Scarlett’s drink, they all place their orders and discuss memories about the boys.
“I remember when we visited Owen in England. Oh, it’s so beautiful there, and I loved the English accent. Lilly was dumbfounded. It was so funny to see her eyes get wide when she first listened to them chat in a pub.” Gwen describes as the other three cracks up, easing the tension in the air.
“I remember when you and Josh came in when mom was first diagnosed with lung cancer. I remember those last precious memories, and how mom picked on you calling Lilly, Muncie Mouse because she took such small bites of her food.” The quartet of ladies loses it as they laugh at the sweet and embarrassing memory.
Scarlett lets out a great memory next.
“Oh! I remember when James and I got married at the courthouse. Josh and Andy bumped into us right after, and we went and ate wings. Oh, gosh, I almost forgot, my first meal as a married woman was wings and fries, but you know what, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
“To our boys, they may not be here to share the memories with us, but may they live on through those memories and laughs they’ve shared with us over the years.” Audrey salutes in a toast.
They clink their glasses together. They cheer to those times forever burned in their minds.
“To Josh, Owen, and Justin, who now watch over us from Heaven. We love you, boys. We’ll see you again!” Scarlett finishes up as the waterworks are held back.
Once the meals are devoured and the bill is settled, they part ways again. Instead of head back to her hotel, Scarlett takes it upon herself to check on her ex-husband.
She listened to the others mention how he’s not picked up for anyone. After she parks in the driveway, she goes up and jiggles the doorknob. When she opens the door, she pokes her head inside, calling out to James.
“James, are you home?” No response comes her way, so against her better judgment, she takes a few steps into the house.
“James…James Cline, it’s me holler if you can hear me.” She cries out with an echo in the air.
Scarlett tip-toes into the family room, where she finds James passed out wearing only his boxers on the couch. A bottle of tequila inches from his open hand spilled onto the floor. She exhales a deep breath of pure regret seeing the man she still loves in such rough shape.
Stealthily she begins to clean up the mess James has created. Quietly as possible, she gets a hand towel to wipe up the liquor on the hardwood floor and picks up the trash scattered about the house.
“You really overdid it this time.” She whispers to herself, but she pauses when she looks in the bedroom, and she’s a female passed out naked across the bed.
“WHAT THE FUCK!” She screams in her mind, furious at the sight of a young lady asleep where she used to rest at night.
Infuriated by what she sees, along with the smell from the bedroom, Scarlett stomps back to the couch. She lands a flurry of kicks to James’ stomach that brings him back from a dead sleep.
“What the hell?” He yells, holding his gut, trying not to vomit.
“Who is that in the bedroom? Is it another damn hooker?” You trying to kill yourself with booze and sluts?” She screams, inches from his face.
“Go fuck yourself. You twisted ho bag.” He replies and rolls onto his side away from his ex-wife.
“You son of a bitch, I come here to check on you since no one else gives two shits about you, and this is how you treat me? I gave you the best years of my life. My family disowned me over you!” She preaches then flips him onto the floor.
“Oh, go fuck yourself, alright. You could’ve gone home after giving up our mistake.”
That’s all Scarlett needs to hear before she begins blindsiding James with every bit of sorrow she’s kept pent up for years.
“You sorry piece of shit, she’s OUR daughter! She’s the best part of us both put together! You worthless dickhead, how could you…”
She collapses to the floor as that gives James time to get away to the bathroom to lock himself from another beatdown.
Scarlett can’t stay and help any longer. She regains control of her emotions and paces back for the door, leaving the house. She fell in love the moment they found it. She returns to Audrey’s, where she gets herself straightened up since Josh and Justin’s viewing is only a couple of hours away.
People begin to arrive for the viewing. Gwen is there to greet people for both viewings.
“Hey Kenny, great to see you. How’re the grandbabies?” She asks one of Josh’s most loyal co-workers from his DEA days.
Sara’s busy ensuring people don’t try to mess with Justin’s turtle neck since many of the people who arrive seen it happen live on TV. She’s worried over people will want to take pictures to continue the onslaught of web paparazzi spreading false speculation and news.
Things go smoothly until the third wheel that consists of the Troublesome Trio, arrive. James’ speech is still slurred when he arrives at the viewings.
“Hey you, yeah, you in the suit, move. I gotta say so long to two fuck ups who ruined my life.”
He’s feet away from Justin’s coffin when Sara steps in to intervene.
“Uncle James, you’re drunk. You need to go home.” She pleads, watching him sway from side to side.
“Don’t tell me what to do, little girl. Especially when your father is a low-down lying cheater; he cheated on your mom with a stripper. He’s a little dick weed bitch that fell in love with a stripper.” He throws out the insult with his index finger right in her face.
“You need to go now!” Sara says again in a stern tone of voice.
“I’ll knock you out before you can even say dick licking sleazeball. You know who I mean. Your husband, who you had shot and killed in MY building. That’s, now that’s, that’s just cold, you ice hearted bitch.” He continues the verbal abuse pushing on her shoulder.
Audrey and Gwen come to Sara’s defense when they overhear the commotion from the other room.
“Hey, lay off my daughter before you get my bad side,” Audrey shouts between Sara and James.
“Or what…” He staggers to say, giggling when he says it.
James isn’t aware of is that Sean didn’t stay behind at the hotel this time. He blindsides his brother-in-law with a shoulder tackle.
“That’s what!” He answers, fists clenched, ready to throw down.
James looks around and sees his next victim. He rolls away from Sean and scoots over to Gwen, reaching out for her.
“You know he loves Nikki still, right. You were the jealous chick he used to make her super jealous, but oops, you got pregnant, and that’s why he stuck it out with you.”
The insult directed at Gwen without a physical reaction goes without retaliation. She’s prepared herself for his drunken rampage.
“Listen here, you two-faced pile of horse shit. I knew he still had feelings for her, but he was mine. He always had been, and he always will be. We may have made a wrong decision at a young age, but he’s a thousand times the man you’ll ever be in life. You’re nothing more than a cheap carbon copy forever stuck in my husband’s shadow.”
His eyes say it all when he pushes back, nearly tripping her. Sean again steps in to take control by gripping James’ collar to his wrinkled, stained up dress shirt to yank him outside.
“I think you should leave now before I call the cops.” He threatens him, prepared for a fight.
“Fine, I’ll sober up, and then I’m gonna be back tomorrow to kick your asses. I can handle the three of you when I’m…sober.” He spouts from his mouth, trying not to lose what liquor he’s ingested.
Things settle down inside the funeral home. Gwen returns to Josh’s viewing, where she sits in silence the rest of the evening. Audrey, Sean, and Sara remain with Justin and are the final ones to leave when the curator locks up for the night.
The next morning, the birds chirp loudly while the sun shines bright. The breeze is gentle, and people begin to come in to say goodbye to Justin. Josh has been transported down to the basement, where he’s cremated before the funeral begins. Much to everyone’s surprise, James has returned with a massive hangover, unapologetic over his actions.
“Well, let’s say goodbye and get his ass out of my city.” James welcomes everyone as he waits by the doors.
“Behave or else…” Audrey threatens him with Sean and Kyle behind her.
Whatever,” He snarls at his sister, following them into the chapel.
The guests arrive and take their seats, but no one is willing to sit along the very back row where James sits.
He has a smile stretched from ear to ear with a plan in mind to ruin his best friend’s legacy. He waits for the pastor to finish his prayer before he delivers the eulogy.
“Dear friends and family of Justin Adamson, I am sorry for your loss, but let us begin that even though he isn’t here with us in body, he is here in spirit with the Lord guiding his…”
“Hey Preach, hang on a moment. I have somethings to say about the good brother.” James calls out, rising to his feet, going upfront.
“Walking with God, huh, even after everything we did as kids, you think that’s possible? He, Justin, that is, was a nasty teenager. Fights, broads, he took advantage of women with weak wills to sleep with ’em at mom’s house. He was a fucking wreck of a person. Although, he wasn’t as horrible as ole boy Josh as he was a complete screw-up.”
Nathan stands up. He’s only there to pay his respects at his mother’s request.
“Hey, buddy, why don’t you take a seat and shut up. Show some respect, why don’t you.”
“You look familiar, wait ain’t you Nikki’s little bastard. Hell, kid, take a seat and shut up. A real grown-up is talking. Speaking of which I know how you were conceived, find me later we’ll talk.” James boasts as he gives Nathan the middle finger and continues to rant.
“So yeah, Josh and Justin, two idiots who weren’t worth a fuck. They were fun to have around. Josh’s life of drama of always poor him, and his life being so hard. Boo-hoo, his mommy didn’t want him. Still, my mom…Oh, I mean our mom, sorry sis, took him in as her own when really, he should’ve been in prison being the one who got Justin and me here, all dead and shit, into his games, risking our safety and lives. Justin, we were dumb, weren’t we dawg.”
James laughs then gives a revolting drawn-out belch, which causes Nathan and Sean to react. In pure James fashion, he takes off leaping over the pew. He is amused at his speech that ruins everyone’s chance to say goodbye in peace.
Somehow James manages to get away to his Corvette, where he speeds away to a local dive bar. Nathan gets a good look at the plate on the back of the car and burns it to memory before returning to the funeral as the Pall Bearers are in place to carry Justin.
Sara waits to get home to forget about the last few days. She doesn’t hesitate to leave. She doesn’t follow the Hurst from Columbus back to the family cemetery located just outside of Knox County, where Justin is laid to rest.
“Goodbye, Uncle Justin, go with God, and I’ll see you again one day. You did great to keep everyone safe.” She says after the Hurst disappears and kisses her hand and touches it to her steering wheel. He’s driven away as she begins her life in isolation, away from the rest of the family already packed to skip town with guilt fueling her actions.