A flash fiction by MC Houle
One step inside the church and the bittersweet memories of the crisp smell of lavender woke Jared from his state of apathy. He found his stepmother on the front row, holding her immaculate white handkerchief to her mouth in a vain attempt to silence the cries. Uncle James held onto her, his tear-reddened eyes the only sign of emotion in his features. When he averted his eyes, Jared swallowed the sting of it and took seat at the back of the church. Jared hadn’t meant to come back to town before a longer time had passed. Hadn’t meant to come back at all.
Jared listened as the priest spoke words he would never have associated with his father. Later, the guests paid their respect to the man in his casket. They said their prayers, offered condolences to his wife and brother, but only a few even glanced at Jared.
God, I need a drink.
He wished the rejection didn’t hurt.
He kept his head high until the guests were gone, and it was only Jared, his family, and the priest in the church. He made a step toward the casket. His stepmother put herself in the way.
“I can’t believe you had the audacity to come here.”
James didn’t come to his nephew’s rescue. He stepped behind his sister-in-law, and put a hand on her lower back.
“Let’s not make a scene.” His eyes pointed right into Jared’s.
Jared huffed and move around them. He stopped in front of his father’s casket, reached for the little wooden box tucked into his pocket, and put it among the other pictures and dried lavender in the casket. He swallowed. The right corner of his mouth rose.
I’m going to miss you, Dad.
When he turned, James and his stepmother were whispering to each other, and Jared diverted them on his way out of the church. Later that week, the three of them would meet with the estate lawyer, but until then, he was not going to let them see the pain.
Jared’s memories of his father’s attorney were one of a cold old man who pinched his lips every time Jared was in his presence. Nothing like the attractive young man in front of him.
He welcomed Jared with a vigorous handshake. “You must be Jared. I’m Elijah Moore. Your father spoke highly of you.”
Yeah, right. Jared resisted a sneer, and judged it best to be polite. “Thanks.”
Jared was only getting seated at the round table when his stepmother and uncle arrived together. They were well dressed and overly polite, but Jared could see behind his stepmother’s façade. The lie put upfront by the pure joy in her features as she reached for a hug. Jared noticed Elijah’s amused smile when he moved farther from her.
“Now that everyone is here, let’s proceed.”
Jared couldn’t help but notice how his uncle’s hand rested on his stepmother’s knee, and he sneered at the sight. He’d rather look at the lawyer; wasn’t he a sight for sore eyes?
“Mr. Shrub left a letter for each one of you, explaining his choices.”
Jared reached for the purple envelope Elijah gave him. Unsurprisingly, he could smell lavender emanating from it. Distracted by the address on the envelope, he missed what the lawyer said after. What he didn’t miss however, was the cry of outrage from his stepmother.
“This cannot be valid. We will fight this.” James punched the table. “Let’s go, honey. We’ll get our own lawyer to look at this.”
Jared watched them leave, still confused. “What just happened?”
Elijah smiled at him. “I have some documents for you to sign, and then we can go over your father’s estate. You can read the letter first, too.”
Did it mean what he thought it did?
Jared lifted the letter with trembling hands.
My little Shrubbery,I know nothing I say can erase the mistakes I did with you or mend our relationship, but if you read these words, it means that I have passed away. I’m sorry I don’t have the bravery to get this letter to you in person, or the bravery to write the words I’m dying to tell you. I hope you live a full life with a good man, maybe even children of your own. I know you’ll be a better father that I ever was, and I’m prou your mother would be proud of you.Your father.
When he emerged from the letter, tears poured down his cheek and Elijah had left the room. The document stating Jared inherited everything from the house to the lavender fields and adjacent businesses lay on the table with a pen and Elijah’s card.
When Jared left the office, after drying the tears, Elijah was waiting for him in the hallway. “I know it’s a lot to process.”
“I didn’t think I would get anything. I thought he hated me.”
“Your father cared, and he talked about you alot. I wasn’t just your father’s personal attorney. In the year since he switched lawyers, I’ve learn to consider your father a friend.”
“Is Brock still my father’s corporate attorney?”
“I believe so, yes.”
“He’s not tied to the business. When you take over, you don’t have to keep him. I believe his firm has some good lawyer that could take over, if Brock doesn’t initiate the change himself. It’s my understanding he doesn’t approve of our way of living.”
“Would it be inappropriate for me to ask you out?”
“Very much so.” Elijah smiled at him. “Find a lawyer to check over the documents. I’llsee you around town, I hope.”
“You will, Mr. Moore, you will.”
Jared bit his lips as he watched Elijah return to his office. One step in his father’s beloved field, and the crisp odour of lavender brought sweet memories of childhood summer with his mom and dad. This time, he was here to stay.
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