Sugar Free Page 27

Easy for him to say, especially after Sela and I got back to the condo and compared notes on the questions we were asked. And the immediate and most noticeable fuckup was that I lied and said Sela had been at JT’s house for dinner and Sela didn’t mention that to DeLatemer when he asked all the times they’d been together.

Sela started crying when she realized, not because she was afraid for herself, but because she was beyond wigged out that I was in the crosshairs now. It took me forever to calm her down, and when no amount of talking, sweet words, or stroking of her back would work, I ended up stripping her down and making her come with my mouth. That stopped the tears, but it didn’t stop her worries. She tossed and turned all night, and neither one of us slept a wink.

The day after was no better, with both of us having too much time on our hands and nothing to do but wait for something bad to happen. Luckily, nothing did happen yesterday, and I feel marginally better that once we can get through this funeral, we can start leaving some worries behind.

Caroline, Sela, and I sit several rows back from the front and JT’s casket, which is closed, and a large portrait of his smiling face beside it. I have no clue why it’s closed. Not sure if that was his preference, his parents’, or perhaps the gaping holes in the side of his neck couldn’t be hidden. Regardless, I’m thankful, because I sure as fuck don’t want to see him. Not that I’d mind taking some sort of satisfaction in said gaping holes, but I want to hurry up and forget the son of a bitch. The last time I saw him he was beaten to a pulp, and that’s not a bad way to remember him.

Candace Townsend cries during the entire service. Her husband sits stoically to her left. My father sits to the right of Candace and I notice their shoulders touch the entire time. My mother sits to my father’s right and quietly dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief.

My eulogy goes as expected. I keep it short and sweet. So fucking sweet. I talk about my childhood friend with genuine emotion. I tell a few funny stories about JT. I commend his amazing business sense and his confidence in me, for which I would not have had the opportunity to help create The Sugar Bowl. I talk about a life snuffed out far too early, and that the world is a little darker without him in it. I get through all of this without a single hitch in my well-rehearsed speech, because I want people to believe I’m devastated over the loss of my friend.

“I know we’re all grieving,” I tell the crowd as I look out over the sad faces. I didn’t prepare any type of formal speech but just had some index cards with jotted notes. “But we should all take some measure of happiness in knowing that JT is in a better place. Rest well, buddy.”

And by that, I truly mean “burn in hell,” but the mourners don’t need to know that.

The graveside service is short, with only a few words spoken by the pastor before JT’s casket is lowered into the ground accompanied by Candace’s wailing. I expect Colin will medicate her with Xanax and whiskey later.

Sela, Caroline, and I stood at the perimeter of the crowd, quietly watching this last ode to JT’s life. I expected it to feel bittersweet to me, that my friend had fallen so low. But there’s no bitterness at all. Only sweet relief he’s dead and out of our lives. I expect that makes me one cold bastard, but knowing what he did to my sister…to my Sela…I can’t seem to find any shame in my thoughts.

As the mourners start to disperse, I watch as my father touches his hand to my mother’s elbow and nods my way. She spares me the briefest of glances, says something back to him with flattened lips, and he leans in to kiss her on the cheek.

To calm her down maybe?

I watch as he clasps Colin on the shoulder, murmurs a few words, and then bends to give Candace a hug. It’s so clear to me, their familiarity with each other. It’s almost embarrassing the way Candace’s fingers clutch desperately to my father’s shoulders, and I nearly smile when I see my mother watching every bit of it like a hawk. Sela told me at Christmas she thought my mother knew about my father and Candace, and I’ve often wondered.

Didn’t really care, but I wondered.

Now I’m pretty sure Sela was right.

My father turns and starts making his way through the crowd to us. I turn to Sela and Caroline. “Okay, ladies…that’s your cue. Better get gone while the gettin’s good.”

Caroline smirks and goes on tiptoes to give me a kiss on my cheek. After the funeral, we decided that Caroline would take Sela back to the condo so I could talk to my father alone. I bend down and give Sela a swift kiss, and then watch them walk out to the roadway that curves through the cemetery where our cars are parallel parked.

When I feel my dad’s presence behind me, I turn around to face him.

“That was a good eulogy,” he says, but there’s no genuine praise in his voice. It’s filler…an icebreaker…nothing more.

“I wanted to talk to you about your mother’s visit the other night,” my dad says uncomfortably. I know he’s being made to have this “talk” with me at my mother’s behest.

“Save your breath,” I tell him as I hold a hand up. “I told her I was done and I meant it. I’m done.”

“Just like Caroline then,” my dad observes bitterly.

“That’s no one’s fault but yours and Mother’s,” I tell him. “And if I’m being honest with myself, I should have cut ties with both of you when you so callously tossed aside your daughter who had been raped.”

I can’t gauge the look on my father’s face. I can’t tell if it’s anger or sadness. It’s this weird mixture maybe of the two, and he mutters, “Now all my children are gone.”

Still your fault, Dad.

Well, JT’s not your fault. That’s strictly on himself, but whatever.

Now that the unimportant shit is out of the way, turns out this talk was opportune because I’ve got some shit on my mind too. “You told me at the Christmas party that JT didn’t know he was your son.”

My dad jerks in surprise and his jaw drops.

“He knew,” I say confidently.

“How do you know that?” my dad asks.

I provide the easiest lie. “Because he told me a few days before he died.”

My dad’s gaze cuts over to where Candace stands with Colin, accepting handshakes and air kisses from friends. “Candace felt he had the right to know, and I couldn’t argue with that.”

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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