The Ladies' Room Page 1

Author: Carolyn Brown

Genres: Fiction , Romance

If I wiggled again, Great-aunt Gert was going to sit straight up in that pale pink coffin and give me an evil glare the way she used to do when I was a child and couldn't sit still in church. Not even in death would Gertrude Martin abide wiggling at a funeral, especially when it was hers. She'd been an outspoken, caustic old girl the whole time she was alive, and I had no doubt she could resurrect herself at the faintest whisper of queen-sized panty hose rubbing together as I crossed and uncrossed my legs.

I should have gone to the ladies' room before the service began. But my four cups of coffee that morning and the thirtytwo-ounce Coke I'd drunk on the way to the church hadn't made it to my bladder until the preacher cleared his throat and began a eulogy that sounded as if it would go on until six days past eternity. If the poor man was trying to preach Aunt Gert through the pearly gates, we'd all starve to death before he finished. Thank goodness I had a Snickers candy bar and a bag of barbecued chips in my purse and twenty extra pounds of pure cellulite on my thighs. At least I wouldn't be the next one knocking on heaven's door.

I crossed my legs yet again and tried to concentrate on what the preacher was saying to take my mind off the pressing matter. After two minutes nothing worked. The space between the far end of the pew and the wall was just barely passable for an anorexic teenager, so I had to walk sideways. It was unforgivable enough that I was leaving in the middle of the funeral sermon, but to trouble ten members of the congregation to get to the center aisle would have had Aunt Gert doing more than sitting up. The tirade she'd have produced would've withered my poor bladder into a dried-out raisin.

I trotted all the way to the ladies' room. By the time I was inside one of the two stalls, I already had my tight black skirt jerked up. I grabbed the top of the ultracontrol panty hose and tugged hard, only to push a thumbnail through the fabric. I'd thought that they were made of the same stuff that was used to construct space shuttles and that neither excess weight nor blistering fire could destroy the material.

I was carefully pulling up my ruined hose when the door opened, and Marty and Betsy, my cousins, rushed into the small room. I recognized them the minute they began to talk. They've smoked since they had to hide behind the barn to do it, and their voices proved it-plus they smelled as if they'd just walked through the sulfurous fires of Hades.

"We'll just blend in when the service is over, like we got there late and sat in the back pew," Marty said.

How stupid was that? Everyone would know they hadn't been at the service. Of course, everyone would also know I'd left in the middle of the sermon, but at least I'd been there through part of it. I wished I had the nerve to really fuss at them for being late and hiding out in the bathroom, but I didn't. Not at a funeral. Not even in the ladies' room. It wasn't the place or the time. I had my hand on the stall lock when I heard my name mentioned. I quietly put the lid down on the toilet and sat down.

"Did Trudy come to this thing?" Betsy asked.

"Of course Trudy is here. God knows she'll do what's right. Good old dependable Trudy. She's never rebelled and never will. She'll be the good child to her dying day. Only reason I'm here is to hear the will," Marty said.

"What if Aunt Gert leaves that house to you? What are you going to do with it?" Betsy asked.

"I'll hire a bulldozer to raze the thing and sell the lot to pay the bill. I wouldn't go through all the old junk in that house for a one-night stand with Brad Pitt."

Betsy giggled. "If she leaves it to me, I'm callin' an auction company. They take a healthy cut of the money, but they do all the work. I'm going to auction everything off in one day. Then when I get my share, I'm going on a cruise."

I heard the flick of a cigarette lighter before Marty commented. Thank goodness there were no windows in the bathroom, or lightning would have zigzagged in and zapped her dead for smoking in the church house.

"That place won't bring enough for a cruise anywhere, unless you want to hire a fishing boat on Lake Texoma. But it'll either be me or you or Trudy. We're the only living heirs, except for Trudy's mother. And she's got Alzheimer's, so Gert wouldn't leave it to her."

"Poor Trudy. Bless her heart," Betsy said.

I leaned forward and strained my ears until my head hurt. It would be too awkward to open the door now. There would definitely be a confrontation, and I've always hated that kind of thing. Besides, I wanted to know just what I'd done to be poor and blessed.

"It's sad, isn't it? But she's always been that way. Even when we were kids, we could convince her of anything. She's so blind. She's like an ostrich with her head in the sand and that big bubble butt in the air," Marty said.

A lump caught in my throat. I swallowed a dozen times before it went down. If they hadn't been so intent on talking about me, they'd have heard the gulps.

Betsy giggled. "Maybe not blind. Just naive. Hasn't got a clue as to what really goes on around her. She actually liked Gert"

"Anyone who liked that salty old witch deserves to be running around in the dark. Let her live in ignorance. They say it's bliss. Besides, Trudy's always had it all, and I've been jealous. She deserves to have to get her hands dirty. If she gets the place, she'll work her chubby little rear end off getting it all organized. There won't be a doily or an ugly knickknack that she doesn't categorize," Marty said.

My face burned, because that was exactly what I'd been thinking since I'd heard Aunt Gert was dead. Her prized stuff might not bring much, but it could be given to a good charity.

"That's Trudy-her head so far into good deeds, she doesn't see what's right before her eyes" Betsy chuckled. "Give me a drag off that. Does God strike people dead for smoking in a church? We'll have to go out and blend in with the crowd in a minute, and it'll be an hour before we can smoke again."

My skin prickled with hives. Was I that predictable?

"God won't strike us dead for smoking, but Gert would have. Maybe Drew will talk sense to Trudy and make her bulldoze the place," Marty said. "He's a smart lawyer. Guess Trudy don't care what she has to put up with for that fancy house and all that money."

Cigarette smoke drifted under the toilet-stall door. I clamped a hand tightly over my mouth to keep from coughing. Talk about a disaster. It would be the beginning of a family war for sure if I got caught now. And Aunt Gert would rise up out of that coffin if we got into it in the bathroom while her funeral was going on.

"Do you think she knows about either her husband or her daughter's shenanigans, or has her head been in the sand so long that she's never coming up for air?" Betsy asked.

"If she doesn't know, she's dumb, not blind. Everyone knows about Drew," Marty answered. "How could Trudy not? It's been goin' on ever since the week after he married her."

My eyebrows furrowed so tightly, I felt the birthing of a dozen new wrinkles on my forehead. What was it that everyone except poor Trudy, bless her heart knew about Drew? And what did they know about my grown daughter, Crystal, that I didn't know?

Marty lowered her voice slightly. "Remember when Trudy did that overnight sleepover in Dallas with Crystal and her little friends on-what was it?-Crystal's seventh birthday so the kids could go to see Disney On Ice? Lori Lou came over to my house and borrowed my casserole recipe for hot chicken salad. I caught her coming out of Drew's house the next morning when I delivered the newspaper."

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