The encounter with her aunts upset Hailey. She could feel evil emanating from them like invisible radio waves.
It would be impossible to convey that sense to someone else though since her aunts seemed to project a staid, conservative demeanor.
But what she felt was real and unnerving.
She began walking back to the main reception room of the funeral home and ran into Nan.
“Your aunts returned, so I thought I’d go looking for you. How are you doing? You look relatively unscathed.”
“Let’s get out of here,” she hissed.
Out in the parking lot Nan could see Hailey was agitated and in no mood for talking.
She slid behind the wheel of the Mini Cooper, then leaned across and unlocked the passenger door.
Whatever upset Hailey was causing her to sink fast. Best to get away quickly and put the funeral home behind them.
She exited the lot and headed out into the traffic. As they drove, Halley began to calm down. Nan waited for her to recover before opting for a light-hearted approach:
“That wasn’t too bad was it?” She was staring ahead into the slanting rays of the afternoon sun.
“Are you kidding? I bet you’d say the same thing if I escaped a torture chamber.”
She chuckled. “The way you described your aunts I thought I’d be encountering some horrible monsters. They look like harmless little elves—hardly the type I was expecting.”
“What were you expecting?”
“Not them. Probably something more along the lines of cruel-faced crones.”
Hailey had to laugh. “I’m not a great believer in physiognomy, but I’ve seen enough of evil to know it comes in various guises.”
She stared at her friend in disbelief. “Wow! You really believe your aunts are evil. That’s quite a statement.”
“You don’t know them, because if you did, you wouldn’t be put off by their harmless appearance.”
Nan frowned. “It’s funny, but now that I think about it, I can’t recall anything you’ve ever told me that would cause me to label them as evil.”
“I know,” Hailey conceded. “I don’t expect you to understand.”
“Oh, more of your vibes, eh?”
Hailey grew silent for a moment and then whispered, “I’m serious Nan. There’s something about my aunts that’s very sinister.”
“I know,” Nan replied. “You’ve always said that…but still—”
“I just mean that you’ve been through a really rough patch the last few years and maybe your perceptions have been influenced by that.”
“You mean being hospitalized for depression? —You still think I’m mentally ill, don’t you?”
“No! Quite the contrary. I think you’ve made great strides and have everything going for you.”
Hailey was not to be deterred. “Yeah, but I have a history—right?”
“Everyone has a history, Hailey—maybe yours is a little more colorful than mine, but I don’t doubt your sanity—hell, you’re the sanest person I know.”
“If you’re judging by our colleagues at work, that’s not a great compliment.”
She laughed. “Yeah. Three of them are shrinks who spend their weekends either at an ashram or at their cottage sitting around a bonfire smoking up or snorting cocaine—All on their second or third divorces.”
“Yeah and making a bundle counseling people like me.”
Nan pulled up to a red light and turned to face her. “So, are you still up to going back tonight?”
“I suppose. I guess I’ve gotten through the hardest part.”
“What do you mean?”
The light turned green and Nan waited until she cleared the intersection before replying. “I watched you. I noticed you didn’t go into the viewing room to see your mother.”
“I didn’t want to with all those people standing around. I hate that kind of thing—everybody at a loss for what to say and what they do say is so mindless—I just couldn’t go through that.” She turned and stared out the window at the passing houses.
“But you are intending to…”
“—To see her? Yeah eventually. I guess I’ll have to.”
She stole a quick glance at Hailey, noting the rigid posture and quivering bottom lip.
“You’re not alone, you know. I’ll be there with you.”
Hailey turned toward her, eyes moist with tears. “Don’t you think I know that? I appreciate what you’re doing Nan—all the encouragement and support—but there’s part of me where no one goes.”
She stopped and dabbed at her eyes with a balled up Kleenex. “I’m sorry—I know that sounds hard and cold—but, that part of me—even I’m afraid to go there. It’s not a nice place.”
Nan reached over and squeezed her hand. “Okay, I’ll back off—for a while, at least—but if you ever want to open up about this, you know where I am.”
They pulled into the townhouse driveway and parked. “Do you want me to come in?”
“No. You must be tired and we’ve got to go back tonight. Go home and unwind and drop by around six thirty.”
Nan reached across and hugged her. “I’ll see you then.”
She got out and stood in the driveway, waiting while Nan pulled away. She wanted to tell her all about her aunts, but something stopped her.
She gazed upwards at the silvery reflection of the windows. She wasn’t sure if the house looked deserted or if it were the effect of her feelings being projected onto it—in either case, the result was the same—a feeling of profound sadness and emptiness, akin to being stranded on the backside of the moon.
She could tell Nan, or she could tell Trish. Or, then again, she could hold it all inside and slowly drown.
The decision was hers. It always was.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.