Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table ….
~ W.H. Auden
After the encounter with Aunt Alicia, Hailey was a mess, but managed to pull herself together in time for Nan’s arrival.
Nan drove her back to the funeral home for the evening visitation and Hailey know without her support she wouldn’t have been able to face her aunts again.
And, no doubt, that was probably Aunt Alicia’s devious plan all along.
As they drove into the parking lot they saw an older distinguished looking woman making her way to the front doors.
“That’s my Aunt Ev,” Hailey declared, as Nan struggled to back the Mini Cooper into a vacant parking space.
She stopped wrestling with the steering wheel long enough to give the woman a long, hard stare. “I guess she’s the good-looking one.”
“No, that would be my Aunt Clare—she looked like a movie star.”
“Looked—Is she dead?”
“Yeah. Died almost twenty years ago—just after she turned fifty.”
“Bummer. That’s young.”
“Yeah, it was sad.”
They got out and headed toward the entrance.
Nan craned her neck to check out the large number of cars. “The parking lot’s jammed. I guess everyone decided to come tonight.”
“Wonderful. It’ll be like running the gauntlet. I’m sure I won’t know anyone who’s here.”
“Nameless relatives,” Nan smirked. “Look on the plus side—you may be able to attach names to those faces in the family album.”
Surprisingly though, the evening viewing went better than anticipated. The lighting was subdued and classical music played softly in the background.
Visitors mingled casually, sometimes even sharing a quiet joke. The Spartan feel of the afternoon vigil was gone and in its place, a more relaxed, yet dignified tone.
“It’s weird,” Nan whispered. “A totally different feel.”
“That’s Aunt Ev’s doing. She’s not as austere as my other two aunts.”
“That’s a relief.”
As if on cue, Ev approached with another woman following demurely a few steps behind.
“Birdie!” Hailey exclaimed, ignoring her aunt as she threw her arms around the other woman. “I was hoping you’d come.”
“Of course, I’d come Miss Hailey—we’re practically family.”
“Hrmp,” Her aunt hemmed loudly, “Have we forgotten our manners, Hailey?”
Hailey looked back to where Ev and Nan were left standing together uncomfortably. “Oh, I’m so sorry auntie—please excuse my enthusiasm—I haven’t seen Birdie in over a month.”
A shocked look crossed her aunt’s face. “Is that how long it’s been since you’ve last been to visit your mother?”
“Oh no, I was there last week—it’s just that Birdie’s been on vacation in B.C. ”
“Oh yes, it was so beautiful Miss Evangeline! I never saw mountains before.”
Nan studied Birdie closely—she must have been in her fifties, but still sparkled and had a youthful smile that was quite infectious—to all except Ev, of course.
“I am forgetting my manners,” laughed Hailey. “Nan, may I present my Aunt Evangeline and Birdie, my mom’s housekeeper—for as long as I can remember.”
“Pleased to make both your acquaintances,” Nan giggled. Birdie flashed her a warm grin. Ev remained slightly aloof, offering only a polite, “how do you do.”
Strange, thought Nan. All the aunts seem to have this precise, clipped way of speaking. It was reminiscent of a British accent and yet, distinctively Canadian.
They all talked like female versions of Christopher Plummer.
“So, Birdie, what’s to become of you now that Beatrice is gone?”
Ev’s expression appeared innocent enough, but there was something else hidden beneath her seeming nonchalance.
“I’m not really sure what lies ahead, Miss Evangeline. All I know is that Mr. Gunn asked me to stay on until after the reading of the will and assured me I’d be fine.
“You’ll be provided for, Birdie. Those were his exact words.”
“I see.” Whether Ev did or not was debatable, but Birdie’s answer did nothing to waylay her concern.
In contrast, Hailey was ecstatic. “Why that’s wonderful news, Birdie. I’m sure mother’s provided for you.”
“I’m not expecting any kind of provision, Miss Hailey. Your mother always was very generous with me and I’ve been able to lay enough aside over the years to retire comfortably, whenever the time comes.”
“Yes, well, it appears the time has come,” Ev philosophized, “As I’m sure it will for all of us.”
What a positive lady, Nan snickered inside.
Ev sighed and shook her head. “Anyway, I must make the rounds and meet the relatives. Oh, by the way, what was your surname, Nan?”
Before she could answer, Hailey interrupted. “I’m so sorry, auntie, I forgot to mention that Nan’s last name is Franklin—Nanette Franklin.”
“Franklin—that has a solid populist ring to it.”
She paused and studied Nan’s face as if considering whether to say more, but then changed her mind. “At any rate, we must be going—the room is beginning to fill. Come along Birdie.”
As the two women left, Nan shot Hailey a glance, arching her eyebrows, as if to say, what was all that about? Hailey just shrugged.
“Why do I get the feeling that my blood isn’t blue enough?”
“Hey, don’t sweat it—Ev’s not as uptight as my other aunts—I don’t think your name or ancestry is the issue.”
“Then why do I feel like I’ve been judged and dismissed?”
“Well, Ev is a McAdam—some traits are inbred.”
“Strange, I don’t see them in you.”
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.