Karen sat on the front porch, discussing the news with Justin. “Do you think his father is still alive?” She asked.
“Something else to ask the old man, I guess. Hopefully you didn’t kill him off yet.”
Karen elbowed him in the arm. “Whatever. You are such a child. How are those college applications coming along?”
“Whatever.” He muttered back. “I’m no dummy, I just haven’t figured out what to do with my life yet.”
“Me either.” Karen shrugged. “Sometimes it’s not what you do with your job, but what you do with everything else that matters. Of course, I haven’t done much of that either. I’m officially in my late twenties now, and I wanted to be married and have kids, or be out saving the world in some poverty stricken area.”
“Really? I never would have guessed you were the do-gooder type. I thought you were just a know-it-all.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I care about a lot of people, especially kids.”
“Yeah, but you never do anything about it. You’re always too busy. Christine says she hardly sees you, but it’s not because you’re off doing anything important, you’re just filling up the space.”
“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying life, Justin. Isn’t that what you always say?”
“Maybe so, but at least I do some important things with my free time.”
“Hey, I got that high score when I was teaching my little brother the game.”
“What little brother?” Karen asked, “I thought it was just you and Christine?”
“Like, the Big Brother program, you know?” Justin shrugged. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, every kid needs a friend, somebody they can trust.”
Karen went silent for a few minutes. She thought about what she had truly done with her life until now. Here was someone that she had written off as a net negative on society, and yet she was the person who hadn’t done a thing for the kids she claimed to care about. “Maybe I’ll look into that tutoring program Christine mentioned that her friend started last year.” She finally said.
“Whatever,” Justin grinned. “School is for losers.”
Apparently the conversation had gotten too serious for him.
The screen door behind them squeaked open.
“He’s fine and resting. He forgot to take his blood pressure medicine. I can answer any other questions you have.” Marybelle spoke clearly and firmly and seemed lucid, so Karen waved at Justin and followed the older woman inside to the kitchen.
Marybelle put two cups of steaming hot water on the table and motioned to the box of assorted tea bags. “Help yourself, dear. I’m sorry for the experience with my husband. I’m sure you understand that he and I are both dealing with the unexpected news that you brought. I’m not sure how far Eli got in the story, but did you have any questions about anything he told you?”
“He said that Miles hadn’t seen his father in awhile, do you know if his father may still be alive?”
“No dear. We didn’t see the body ourselves, but we were sent a copy of the death certificate, and the property deed was changed to Miles’ name. I’m sure it’s in the file cabinets in that corner of the kitchen over there. It’s probably filed under H for house.”
After thinking for a moment of the next best question to ask, Karen said, “What do you think was different the last time Miles was here? That’s probably something a woman’s intuition can answer better anyway.” Karen smiled as Marybelle’s eyes sparkled.
“Sure, now just let me think a moment.” Marybelle gazed up at the barnyard chicken wallpaper border for a worrying amount of time before answering.
“I think the biggest difference was his smile was off. He smiled and hugged us like he usually did, but it didn’t reach his eyes, if you know what I mean. I thought it was girl trouble at the time. He had mentioned he was going out with someone new, someone he’d met at a bar, which I thought was very unusual. He rarely drinks, you see, it was a drunk-driving accident that killed his mother.”
“Oh my goodness, I hadn’t heard that part. All I heard was that she disappeared when he was 3.”
“Well, we don’t like to talk about it too much to strangers, but it was a one-car accident, if you know what I mean. Happened when he was about 10 or so, though I’m not sure we told him until he was older. It was enough that he knew she was gone. When we did tell him, he vowed never to drink and drive. Of course, we’d never seen her drink, but that’s the story we heard of how she died.”
“Wow, I’m so sorry about that. Do you know how his father died?” Karen thought it would be a bit strange if every member of the family died a violent death at a relatively young age.
“I think it was his heart.” Marybelle’s eyes went suddenly vacant for a moment, “So sorry to interrupt our conversation dear, but I do need to check on my husband. When I return I hope you can tell me a little something in exchange. Like how you happen to fit into the whole story. Are you the girl he met at the bar?” She bustled off quickly, and Karen sat sipping her tea for a few moments, thinking of how best to answer the question.
When Marybelle returned, she sat and waited for Karen to start talking.
“I guess the best you could say is that we were only acquaintances. We worked for the same company, but so did a lot of other people. I don’t remember him specifically talking to me at parties or events, we walked in different circles for the most part. There was a moment, at least I thought so, a few years back, but nothing romantic every happened between us. I had thought about him off and on over the years, but I can’t remember having much conversation with him. I certainly would have liked to, but honestly, I know little to nothing about him, other than a pretty decent idea of what he looks like. I mean, looked like.”
“I had a lot of plans and I stayed busy, but we never crossed paths outside of work. I certainly didn’t meet him in a bar. I guess I wasn’t much into that scene either. I went out with a few friends once or twice in college, but after watching them stumbling around drunk and acting stupid, I decided I didn’t want people looking at me the way I looked at my friends. I mean, I loved my friends, but I didn’t love them when they were peeing in the bushes. Sorry to be crude.” Karen blushed a bit talking about public urination with the older woman.
“No worries dear, I may seem like a sweet old woman, but I had my fun back in my day too. There is certainly a wisdom that comes with age, however.” Marybelle paused, “Were you the one to identify the body then? Or who did they call for that?”
“You know, I honestly have no idea, and the coroner hasn’t even released the official cause of death. Or at least the police haven’t, I’m not sure which.” Karen made a mental note to compile a list of questions for the detectives in charge of the case, once she figured out who they were.
“Well, I’m not sure that we can help you anymore than we already have.” Marybelle gave a stern look of dismissal, seemingly out of nowhere.
“Well,” Karen felt a bit uncomfortable with the sudden end of help, but she had already decided to let the older couple keep managing the farm, it wasn’t like she had much choice, she had to get back to North Carolina to deal with the funeral and house. “I suppose I’ll just head back a few days earlier than I had planned. What’s the best phone number to reach you all at, while I’m gone?”
Karen put the number in her phone, and went to notify Justin. As they were packing, she did take a moment to test out the number on Justin’s phone, just to make sure they hadn’t given her a phony number. While they had seemed like a sweet old couple, who loved the man she barely knew, she was upset with the abrupt ending to their conversation. She still didn’t feel that she knew much about Miles, other than to confirm that his parents were, in fact, deceased. She hung up quickly, when she heard the home phone ring. Whether they would answer it when she was back in
Charlotte or not was another
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