For the reading pleasure of all of our friends and fans here is the first installment of my latest short story:
by Joan Ramirez
Mark Thayer signed the guest book and took a seat in the last row of the funeral parlor.
Twenty minutes into his wait, the widow appeared, dressed in black. Mark watched as Jeanie walked up to her deceased husband’s spiritless body, took several deep breaths, and kissed Russ’s cold lips.
Mark thought about all the times Jeanie Colt said things would be different between them, but like a leopard, she was incapable of changing her spots. Even now with her husband in the coffin, Mark knew it would be difficult for her to start over.
When only the two of them remained in the chapel, Mark whispered in her ear. “Russ’s memory will haunt us until you open up your heart to love again.”
Jeanie withdrew into the past. When she’d taken Russ to the airport a few days ago, she never thought she’d be attending his funeral. Life was so fleeting. His snuffed out by a bullet to the head.
She loved Russ but didn’t know him as well as she’d thought. When the police called her to come down to the morgue to identify his body, she was stunned to learn he’d been having an affair.
Russ used to tell Jeanie he specialized in misery, reporting on perps who preyed on young girls. Then, he switched to boxing matches. Neither spot satisfied him. A year before his death, he’d asked Joe Manna, his boss at the Daily Mill, for a transfer to the government desk. Russ was relieved about the change.
Jeanie stared at the plain wooden box, wondering what she was doing here. An event planner was supposed to celebrate life at weddings and bridal showers, not bury her husband. People’s happiness had brought her joy. Now, she was shrouded in sorrow. She felt a firm hand grip her shoulder.
“The police told me what happened,” Joe Manna said. “I’m so sorry. You guys never had a chance. Too bad you were only married a year.”
Jeanie wept into a Kleenex. “I still can’t believe it.”
He leaned in closer. “I’m here for you, honey.”
Mark, Russ, and Jeanie had known each other since high school. All three graduated with journalism majors. Mark and Russ were sweet on her. When a torn ligament in his right leg ended Russ’s football career, he became a reporter. Back in the day, women vied for his attention. He built up his career and bank account with a number of lucrative betting tips on fights. He gave Jeanie the good life, with a summer home in the Hamptons, which now displayed a For Sale sign.
Russ wasn’t a giving guy. He’d fought too hard for his own break to be charitable. Mark, an orphan and Afghanistan veteran, believed in random acts of kindness.
Jeanie was fond of both men, but after college graduation accepted Russ’s proposal. Things were great in the beginning. Then late night meetings at work took him away from her. She was so naïve. She thought he was covering a story. He was getting late night action of a different kind.
Mark reached for her hand. “I’m so sorry you have to go through this. Russ was my friend too but those mood swings.”
“Apparently I wasn’t good enough because the police told me he had an affair.”
Mark raised his eyebrows. “What?’
Tears rolled down Jeanie’s cheek. “I was so happy when Russ switched desks at the paper. No more undercover work. No more calls in the middle of the night from crazy people. When I turned over at three in the morning, he was there beside me. We were planning a family. My life has turned into a nightmare. My happy ending is gone.”
Check back for PART TWO.