LAST CHANCE

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Chapter 19

As Emily was walking from the parking lot of Polonia’s heading in for her regular Tuesday lunch, one of those brand new, flashy silver-black Lincolns with the tinted windows careened into the lot, splashing through the recent rain, spraying filthy water up onto the hem of Emily’s just-cleaned khaki-colored wrap-around raincoat, which just happened to be her favorite. Madder than a cat that had been summarily swept from a sunny windowsill, Emily stood and waited for the driver to exit the Lincoln so she could give whoever a large piece of her mind. She was stunned to see Marie exit the vehicle wearing a brand new Pendleton raincoat, a big smile, and carrying a large Vera Bradley handbag.

“Hey, Emily! How are you this lovely Tuesday? Ready for a hearty lunch? I know I am!”

“How am I? I’m soaked, that’s how I am. You just ran through that puddle and splashed filth all over my favorite raincoat.”

“I did? Well, I’m sorry. I didn’t even see you there. My new car has so many little computers and directional thingies, I’m finding it hard to pay attention to anything else. Isn’t she gorgeous? I just picked her up last night. I wanted a red one, but this is the one they had on the lot, and I just wasn’t willing to order one and wait six weeks. Do you want to go for a spin?”

“No, Marie. I don’t want to go for a spin. I’m wet and I’m hungry and I want to go inside and get some lunch. Are you coming?”

“Boy, you’re a real stick-in-the-mud, aren’t you? I guess your mood matches your coat. Oops, I’m sorry. I didn’t really mean that. I’m in such a good mood I guess I can’t help being clever.”

“That was just plain rude, Marie, not clever. There’s Pattie. Why isn’t Alex with you?”

“Oh, he’s in a snit over something or other. Who knows? I never could understand men, and I’m not going to start worrying about it now. Life’s too short to be concerned about something you can’t control.”

Anna was already filling their coffee cups as they reached Pattie’s table and sat down. “Where’s Alex?” was Pattie’s first question.

“He’s home sulking, don’t ask.”

“Ask her about her new car, Pattie.” Emily had a feeling that something was terribly wrong, and she thought maybe the new car would be the key to that feeling.

“You got a new car? What did you get?”

“It’s in the parking lot. It’s a brand new 2020 Lincoln Concept XL, with all the extras, and I mean everything-rear camera, automatic parking, it actually sees things for you. Like if you’re too close to another car, an alarm goes off, and if you get way too close, the brakes come on. It almost drives itself, seriously. She has heated seats, individual climate control, Bose stereo surround sound; just everything. Ask me how much it costs. Go on, ask me.”

Pattie’s face turned pink. “I couldn’t do that, Marie. Really, you keep that bit to yourself. I’ve no need to know what you paid for your car. So Emily, did you notice that the AMC channel is running a Humphrey Bogart festival this week? Casablanca was on the other night. I made a big bowl of popcorn, poured myself an O’Douls, turned out the lights, and pretended I was at the movies. It was grand, it really was.”

“Emily, ask me how much the Lincoln cost. I don’t mind telling you.”

“Marie, I have no intention of asking you about the Lincoln. But I do have a couple of questions for you if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Why would I mind? Go ahead, I have nothing to hide.”

The expression on Emily’s face resembled that of the Sphinx in Egypt. One did not have a clue about what she was thinking. “Good, that’s good. First of all, I see you have a few other new items besides the Lincoln. That’s a really lovely Vera Bradley bag you’re carrying. Is it new?”

“Oh, I’m so glad you noticed. I was hoping you would. I went all the way to Somerset Mall to get it. Isn’t it great? You wouldn’t believe what they charge for these things. And some of those young girls use them for diaper bags, can you imagine? Honestly they have no idea of the value of a dollar.”

“It’s very pretty, but who’s Vera Bradley?”

“I’ll tell you later, Pattie. I also noticed your raincoat. I haven’t seen you wear that before today. Is it new also?”

“You’ve got a sharp eye, Emily Scanlon, you really do. Boy nothing gets by you, does it? While I was at Somerset, I popped into Nordstrom’s and I saw this little number on a mannequin and I just had to have it. It really suits me, don’t you think?”

“It’s stunning. Just one more question. Where did you get the money for the car, the raincoat, and the bag, Marie? I know that you and Alex both lost your parents years ago, and I’m not aware of any other relatives who might be loaded that could possibly have died and left you a fortune. Also as far as I know, the last big Powerball winner was from Tennessee, so it couldn’t have been that. So, it makes me wonder. Have you and Alex thrown caution to the wind and cashed in his 401K so you could go shopping? I’m sure that would throw Alex into a snit. Or could it be something more sinister, something that perhaps has nothing to do with you and everything to do with someone who has been nothing but kind to you and your friends and family-something that could literally tear his world apart and cause him serious mayhem and pain. But certainly, Marie, you would never do something so heartless for a few measly dollars, or would you? Did you, Marie?”

Marie’s face flushed a deep red and she could feel her heart beat throughout her entire body. It beat loudly in her chest and her head. She swore she could even feel her pulse in her eyes. But she refused to be bullied by anyone, including Emily Scanlon. She had faced down Alex, and she could face down Emily. She was her own person, and she made up her own mind and made her own decisions, good or bad.

“I don’t have to answer to you or anybody else, Emily. Where I get my money is none of your damn business, so stop being so nosy. You think you’re so fine and better than everyone else and you always have, haven’t you? Well I don’t think being a nosy parker is a very Christian attitude, and I don’t think you’re a bit better than me, so there. What do you think of that?”

“I never said I was better than you, Marie, nor do I believe it. You know very well what I’m asking you, but if you need me to spell it out for you in a simple ABC fashion, I will.”

Pattie could see trouble brewing and wanted nothing more than to head it off. She hated when things weren’t good between her friends. “Girls, do we have to argue?”

“Pattie, I’m sorry, but you’ll understand in a minute. Marie, straight answer-did you or did you not sell the story of mine or Alex’s or Amanda’s healing by Father Cass to any type of newspaper or news outlet? That includes print, online, radio, or television. Don’t lie and make it worse, Marie.”

“Oh my God! Emily, Marie would never do something like that! We all agreed to keep it quiet. She would never say anything. We all agreed. You didn’t, did you? You wouldn’t have done that…all those reporters…they wouldn’t even let me get into the rectory. I had to sneak into the back door, and Emily and I had to stay in a hotel downtown. Tell me you wouldn’t have done something like that, Marie. You couldn’t possibly be…”

The look on Marie’s face told more than her words ever could and caught Pattie completely by surprise, stopping her in midsentence.

It did not however stop Emily. “How could you? Now I understand why Alex didn’t come with you for lunch. Is he even at home, or has he finally come to his senses and left you?”

“He’s gone. But he’ll come back when he understands that this was the right thing to do.”

“The right thing to do?”

“Yes. It was. I paid off the second mortgage and bought this car and I sent money to the kids. When he finds out about all that, he’ll come back for sure.”

“And when he sees Father Cass plastered all over the tabloids in the supermarket and every TV station, when he sees that there’s no place the dear man can go without being accosted, filmed, photographed, and molested, when every other person on the face of the earth wants a piece of him, do you think he’ll come back then?”

Marie’s head dropped. When she raised it there were tears in her eyes. “I guess I didn’t think about that part.”

Pattie reached out her hand and without realizing what she was doing, she slapped Marie across the face. “No. Your thoughts were about nothing but yourself. You’re greedy and base and you should be ashamed of yourself. Find a priest and take yourself to confession. I’ll have nothing to do with you. Emily, I’ve got to get back to the rectory. I’ll call you later.” With that she got up and left.

Marie held out a hand to Emily, but it was met with empty air. “Consider yourself lucky that a slap was all Pattie gave you, Marie. Personally, I’m aching to knock you to the ground and kick you until you’re dead. However, my conscience won’t allow me to do that, so instead I’ll ask God to grant me forgiveness for my wicked thoughts and say a prayer for you. Also, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it if you wouldn’t have your lunch at Polonia’s on Tuesdays anymore. If you do speak to Alex again, please tell him that he will always be welcome.” She stood, gathered her purse and coat, and exited the restaurant.

Marie sat alone and rubbed her cheek where Pattie had slapped her and thought about what she had done. She really didn’t get it. How big of a deal could it be? No one was going to follow Father Cass around or grab at him or want a piece of him, whatever the heck that meant. As usual Emily was being dramatic. She was making a big deal out of nothing. She was just jealous that Marie had done something smart and gotten paid for it. Yeah, that was it. Well it wasn’t her fault that they were too stupid to think of it and she had gone for the gold. Well, screw them and screw Alex! When he found out about all the great stuff they had now and how she’d sent the kids money, he’d be back in a flash. From now on it was going to be the gravy train for the Khirshons all the way.

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