The funeral home was old. About as old as Lucille. The founders were still the owners and operators. At one point or another, they’d buried most of their siblings, classmates and neighbors. Including the man who was Lucille’s one time infidelity. Herbert Lane.
Everyone had come to that funeral. Edgar had been a pall-bearer. Lucille sat in the back, round with child and guilt. But no grief sunk her heart. More of a relief.
As Lucille walked into the funeral home she wondered at the relief she’d felt so many years before. And she remembered thinking that this man, this father of her oldest, was not so heroic.
“Mom,” Trudy said, “do you want to look at Daddy?”
Her daughter’s voice snapped her back to the day. It was her husband’s funeral. That was today.
“Yes, I do,” she answered. “Alone.”
There’d been no visitation. No extras. Edgar didn’t want that.
“Just throw my body in the hole and call it a day,” he’d said. “And I don’t want anyone saying how good I look.”
Lucille walked into the small room. Chairs were lined up. Enough for 100 people. She expected far more. People would have to stand or pull up a chair.
The coffin was black. Silver handles ran down the sides. She saw his nose before anything else.
“You always had a big schnoz,” she said out loud.
As she got closer she realized that his make-up made him look three shades darker. Clown red cheeks, salmon colored lips, a little blue on his eyelids. His hair was slicked back.
“No one’s going to say you look natural, babe.” She took a tissue from her sleeve and wiped his face.
It was cold, clammy, hard. Not the warmth of living flesh. And yet she still felt a closeness with that body. She moved her fingers through his hair, parting it to the left. It made her feel better.
“Well, Eddie, we’ve had a good run,” she said. “You were always so good to me.”
A wail burst through her. Uncontrolled. Unstoppable. She groaned from her loss. Eventually, that wave of pain passed. A calm soothed her.
“Eddie, I have to tell you. This is something I never told a soul before. And I’m sorry I never told you when it mattered,” she leaned in close to his face. She told him about her affair.
In the telling, something occurred to her. She’d told Herbert no. She’d fought him. Clawed. Kicked. Bit. Begged. Cried. But he wouldn’t stop.
But why had her brain let her think it was her fault for so long?
“You’d better not tell no one,” Herbert had hissed in her ear. “Eddie’d never believe you.”
She remembered his voice, his smell, his weight pressing down on her.
She suddenly found it impossible to breathe.