Private Lies Part 16

All happy families are alike; each
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

– Leo Tolstoy

“I think you’re making a mistake,” said Nan, between bites of toast and marmalade.

“No doubt,” Hailey answered curtly, then softened. “Look, I know Sean’s high maintenance, but he’s also gifted and creative. He deserves a second chance.”

Nan folded her arms. “What about you, Hailey—do you deserve a second chance, or do you even matter? He’s not just a ‘sensitive artist’—the guy’s a control freak. I don’t want to see you stifled.”

“I’m hardly stifled. Sean will be in the UK for the next three weeks.”

“Sure, but when he gets back it’ll be business as usual—hell, he’s even jealous of your relationship with me.”

“I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree.”


Nan’s eyes flashed. “Oh no, don’t try to bury this beneath some mundane cliché.”

“Okay. If things get crazy again between Sean and me, I promise you I’ll walk away.”

“Yeah, well when most people walk away, they don’t try to walk off the end of the earth.”


Hailey’s face fell and Nan regretted the words as soon as they were off her lips.

“Hey, you know I didn’t mean to hurt you—I just don’t want a repeat of what happened last time.”

“I know. You only want what’s best for me and I appreciate that, Nan. I really do. But you can’t keep playing mother hen. You have to let me make my own decisions and learn by my mistakes.”

“But that’s just it—your learning curve is kind of skewed, Girl.”


“Nevertheless, mind my own business—Right?”

She giggled. “Something like that—maybe not that harsh.”


Nan’s face was stern, but inside she had already caved to Hailey’s wishes.

“Okay, but do me a favor, will you? Adjust your radar this time and don’t wait until things get really out of hand.”

“I will.”

“I still think he’s the crank caller.”

“Oh puhlease, enough. I’m going to be stressed to the max by my aunts today. I need you to have my back.”

Nan hugged her. “You can count on me and don’t forget, Trish will be there too.”


Nan scooped up the dishes and carried them to the sink while Hailey fluffed her hair and checked her makeup in the hall mirror.

“All set?”

Hailey nodded absently but made no attempt to move. She was staring intently into the mirror.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” She laughed nervously. “It was just one of those moments, you know, where you see your reflection and wonder who you are.”

“Sounds too deep for ten in the morning.”

“You’re right,” she grabbed her cell phone and then hesitated. “Do you think I’ll be able to hold it together?”

“You’ve come through harder patches—you’ll be fine.”

“I hope so.”


Nan quickly changed the subject.

“By the way, where is this church anyway?”

“On the Lakeshore—Saint Justin By the Lake.”

“Hmm. Typical Anglican-sounding name.”

“Aunt Alicia hates to be called Anglican—prefers Church of England—the higher the better. My father was vicar there.”

“Saint Justin, eh—wasn’t he a martyr?”

“Justin yes—Father no. Apparently, dad was quite the terror—he died when I was two. I don’t even remember him. Over the years, Mother would drop hints. From what I gathered, he was ultra traditional—almost Roman Catholic in his views. Even based on the little she said, I could infer he was quite extreme. I remember she once called him a tartar in clerical gowns.”


Nan brushed a stray strand of hair from Hailey’s forehead and good-naturedly pushed her toward the door. “Enough of family history—you’ll probably have your fill of that today. Let’s just get the show on the road.”

As soon as they stepped out onto the stoop, the loveliness of the autumn morning enveloped them. It was going to be a beautiful day. Already, the sun was melting the frost from the roofs and the air smelled of apples.

Hardly a day for a funeral—the thought just drifted into her mind like a stray cloud in a clear blue sky.

She decided then and there to stop trying to anticipate things—just them run their course.


The drive to the church with the car windows rolled down, was the start of her new laissez faire approach and in her view, it was already working.

They arrived a half hour early just as the building was beginning to fill. There was an air of quiet determination among the workers behind the scenes.

In the choir loft, the organist was warming up by playing some obscure hymn while the funeral director was up front on the altar fussing over the placement of flowers.


They waited while a white-haired usher solemnly checked their names from a list and led them to the familial pews, where all the McAdams were already seated.

Alicia nodded as they approached. She slid her purse and prayer book further along the oak bench to make more room beside her.

The stench of incense permeated the air, filling Hailey’s nostrils. Everything about the building nauseated her. She wished she hadn’t eaten—too late now, but she felt like she was going to throw up.


The walls reeked of smoky offerings of frankincense and the polished pews reminded her of coffin wood. The sight of the dark paneling and ornate woodcarving transported her back to times spent enduring the interminable liturgies that punctuated her childhood.

Meanwhile, Alicia, sitting beside her resplendent in black gown and veils seemed oblivious to her discomfort and in fact, seemed caught up in her surroundings, delighting in inhaling deep draughts of the pungent air.

The experience reminded Hailey of how her aunts reveled in their high church status.


“Your mother will be interred in Saint Hilda’s cemetery,” Alicia whispered.

“But I thought…”

“She can’t be buried here—no room.”

“There’s a family plot.”

“Filled,” Alicia declared, pursing her lips, indicating an end to the matter.

“This is outrageous,” Hailey hissed. “Why didn’t you discuss this with me before?”

“When—at the viewing? You weren’t exactly being cooperative and Mr. Shorney, the director, needed a decision. I hardly see what difference it makes. Saint Hilda’s only a fifteen minute drive from here—not that you’ll make the trip that often, I imagine.”


Hailey was flabbergasted. “Incredible. Simply incredible.”

“Oh, don’t be difficult, Child. Your mother could care less where she was buried. Besides, she didn’t anticipate anyone visiting her grave.”

“Why would she think that?”

“Perhaps because so few visited her while she was alive?”

Alicia stared at her with cold black eyes.

“I loved Mother, Aunt Alicia, despite what you may think to the contrary.”

“I think nothing, Child. I’m merely trying to be practical.”


The organ music swelled and the doors at the rear of the church opened. The discussion hung suspended in mid-air.

Alicia reached for her prayer book leaving Hailey to swallow the acid taste in her mouth along with her rage.


© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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