Prompt from Kaiya Mikel: “It’s Friday, and everyone here is bored, wishing they were in the casket instead of Ingrid”
It’s Friday afternoon, and everyone here is bored, wishing they were in the casket instead of Ingrid. The preacher’s voice is filling the room with a quality not unlike the cicadas that buzz incessantly outside the church walls and can be heard through the open windows that are doing nothing to quell the sweltering heat that has settled over the room like an uncomfortable fleece blanket. You honestly can’t blame a soul in the sanctuary for considering the pros of switching places with Ingrid, least of all because not one of them actually gave a care for her when she was still alive.
I lean back further in my seat and kick my legs up on the pew in front of me. From my seat in the back, I can easily survey everyone else, and my wandering eyes land on one of Ingrid’s daughters across the room, latching on to her makeup-caked face pressed into her arms that lie folded over the back of the pew in front of her, no doubt hoping to drown out the monotonous recitation of a Bible passage. A few rows down from me, one of Ingrid’s ex-husbands is pressing his fingers into his temples in slow circles, probably fruitlessly fending off a headache.
I can’t bite back the small smile that creeps onto my face as I recall Ingrid’s sharp cleverness, evidenced here in this last testament to her life. She knew her family; she knew they couldn’t give a moment of thought to any aspect of her but her money and assets. That was why the ornately designed invitation that I had found on my doorstep only three days ago had announced not only her funeral but a will-reading that would follow immediately after.
An echo of that moment’s panic wraps it’s fingers around me, but a loud thud jolts me out of my thoughts; the pastor has slammed the Bible shut and is now staring down his audience, not unaware of their twisted priorities.
It’s almost with disgust that he announces, “Ms. Ingrid Furim’s lawyer will now be reading her will.”
A young man in a pressed suit rises and nearly skips to the front of the room, far too eager to instigate the drama that will almost surely arise after his announcements.
I don’t shift position, but I’m one of the only people in the room who doesn’t. There’s a noticeable change in atmosphere, everyone in the room attentively listening to the bated silence. The lawyer takes an eager breath, clearly enjoying the attention focused on him. He begins listing off Ingrid’s possessions: her savings to be evenly divided between her children and grandchildren, her car to be given to her son, and so on.
I tune out the proceedings, but my own name calls me back into the moment.
“To my best friend, Aspen Tenor, I leave my house and property to do with as they please.” My breath catches and my heart begins to thud against my chest, but I pass off a small smile that’s gotten me through the more difficult moments of my life and wait for the reading to be over.
The keys rest uncomfortably in my hand, foreign objects that shouldn’t be mine in any version of this story. Ingrid’s front door stands imposingly before me, the barrier between me and a memory I won’t acknowledge.
Ingrid’s daughter’s words ring in my head. “We’ve asked to forego an investigation. Pressing charges just seems like it would create a scene, and no one wants that.”
I unlock the door and push past it, hoping to confront my demons as quickly as possible and accept what is now mine.
The first step onto the plush carpet of the entryway sparks the memory of the last time my feet were here. I close my eyes against the thought, and when I open them again, I continue towards the stairs. I just need to get the worst of it over.
Up the stairs and down the hallway, every step is the ghost of a memory, and by the time I reach the door to her library, my frantic breaths and racing heart can’t be placated. I twist the handle and gently open the door, fighting back a flood of images.
I think if I can just get past this part, the rest will be bearable.
But the bloodstains are still on the carpet.
I drop to my knees as Ingrid’s eyes flash across the screen of my mind. Not showing fear or anger but rather simply disbelief. Her lips move, and I hear her voice. “Aspen, you can’t let it come to this.”
My hand shakes now, remembering the shape of the knife, the way I held it towards her. A sob erupts from me, but I clench my teeth against it. My head goes to my hands, as her last words play on a loop.
“We were everything, Aspen. How could you do this?”
Another sob racks my body. This house could never be mine.