Dirty Scoundrel

By: Jessica Clare

Guess that should be past tense now.

My gut churns again.

I glance over and Ivy’s rubbing the widow’s back while Boone talks. I know what he’s telling her. PBO is gonna cover the funeral expenses and make sure she has a pension. The good thing about being rich is you can throw money at people and it makes it seem like everything’s gonna be okay. Except it doesn’t feel like it’s okay. It just feels shitty and this knot in my stomach won’t go away.

Someone sits down next to me. Even though most of the family and friends are getting up to go to the wake, I can’t quite pull myself out of my seat. I’m staring up at the altar, at the front of the church where the coffin was a short time ago. Eddie’s gone, six feet under. Shit, that’s a mindfuck.

I rub my mouth and look over at the person next to me—it’s Knox, my younger brother. “What do you want?”

“You look like you’re gonna puke,” Knox comments, picking up a Bible from the back of one of the pews and flipping through it.

I snatch it out of his hand and put it back. Funny how Knox can read me—most of the time no one can tell what I’m thinkin’. Must not be that good at my poker face today.

“I wasn’t gonna take it,” he says, but it’s clear he’s amused by my actions. “And you still look like you’re about to upchuck. What gives?”

He’s a jerk, my little bro, but he’s a jerk with good instincts. I cross my arms and shrug, sliding down in my seat like I’m a little kid instead of a grown-ass man. “Just . . . fuck. Reminds me of Dad’s funeral from back in the day. Don’t it to you?”

Knox considers, then shakes his head slowly. “Nah.” He gestures at the front. “Lots of flowers. Dad didn’t have none.” He indicates the widow and her kids with another sweep of his hand. “Got family here that grieve him. Dad just had us. All his lady-friends didn’t show up.” He glances over at me. “And the company men are paying the expenses. So no, it ain’t much like Dad’s funeral.”

I hate that he’s right. I hate that our dad got buried in a cheap-ass coffin at an empty funeral. I hate that he didn’t matter to no one but us. Even after all this time, it still burns in my belly.

“Dad was a piece of shit, though,” Knox says. “I know what you’re thinking. That when you pass, you should be surrounded by loved ones, but Dad was a user. I mean, look at me and Gage.” He smiles thinly.

Yeah, I know what he means. Knox and Gage were born two months apart, two completely different moms. Dad was married to my mom at the time. He wasn’t a good guy, but damn. We all deserve someone that’s gonna love us until the end, don’t we? “I guess I’m just thinkin’ life is short, you know? Eddie was in his forties. Should have had a lot of good years ahead of him.” I nod at the three boys at the front. “See them graduate from college and all.”

“Mmm. So this isn’t about Dad. This is about regrets, huh?” Knox leans back and puts an arm on the back of the pew, and for a moment he looks wise beyond his years.

Is this about regrets, then? Is that burning fireball in my stomach because I’m picturing what my own funeral would be like? That I’m not imagining anything but a few employees and my brothers? I try to picture Natalie here, but yeah right. Her ass wouldn’t be here if wild horses dragged her.

The thought’s fucking depressing—both in that Natalie is disgusted by me, and that I’m still hung up on her after all these years. I must be an idiot. “You’re wrong,” I tell Knox. “I’m good.”

He ignores me, tilting his head. “So what is it you want out of life? Money? Success? You already have both.” He nods over to Ivy and Boone. Our brother has his hand on the small of Ivy’s back, and he’s gazing down at her as she speaks like pearls are dropping out of her damn mouth. Boone’s totally fucking besotted. It’d be funny if I wasn’t so fucking jealous. Not of him and Ivy—they’re perfect together. I just . . .

I rub my jaw again, feeling the bristles of my beard. I haven’t looked at anyone like that since . . .

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