“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Grampa used to tease us that we’d have to jump through hoops to get his money when he croaked.”
I know that’s true. He made jokes about it in the hospital. He actually said, “Marry this one,” about four times before Rick and I started dating, when I would pop in for a visit at the hospital during my shift. He once said it, in fact. He said, “I’m changing my will. The only way you get my money is if you marry this one.” I laughed it off. Rick laughed it off. Was that not a joke?
Rick was in a mood after the reading of the will. In fact, he disappeared for two days, not returning calls or texts afterwards, and I was curious about what’d happened, but he told me things were going to be held up for a little while with his inheritance and acted like it wasn’t a big deal.
Gloria continues, “If we don’t meet the terms of his will, we’ll just get all the money when Grandma passes away instead and that’s probably not far off, sadly. She’s in her eighties and her health has declined since he died. I’ll try to get my hands on more details. I’ll let you know what I find out?”
“Oh,” I say.
My being engaged was a joke? A joke? Did he ever even love me?
He proposed a week and a half after the funeral. And it seemed out-of-the-blue, but I never made the connection to his grandfather’s will reading.
“I’m sorry. I was looking forward to having someone in the family I can tolerate. I hope we can still be friends.”
“Yeah,” I whisper.
Her face falls. “I’m sorry. I’ve just rambled off stuff that probably has you shook.”
I hear Mom’s voice. She and Mason are back inside. They’ll probably come upstairs any minute.
“I’ve been keeping my phone off. But I’ll check it tomorrow or the next day,” I say.
I need time to wrap my head around all of this. The grand gesture engagement. The declarations of love. They were all fake? I’ve been wearing a ring I hate. A ring with a curse on it? A ring some other woman wore? A woman he cheated on. He cheated on me with that same woman?
“Gotta go,” I say, and my voice comes out hoarse.
“Talk soon,” she says. “I’m really sorry to just drop all this word vomit on you. This… bombshell. It’s not your fault. He’s the jerk. Him, not you. You’re awesome. Gorgeous. You’re lovely. And you didn’t deserve this treatment.”
“Okay. Yeah, thanks,” I whisper absently, and end the call.
I stare into space. Shocked, I think. I don’t even know what to think.
Mom’s voice echoes up the stairs and I straighten up while trying to clear my expression.
“She’s always been spirited, my girl. But she’s loyal and protective, though she overthinks things – almost to a fault,” Mom says, now at the top of the stairs and Mason is directly behind her, holding the two empty mugs.
Chivalrous. Gorgeous. Being nice to my mom. Rick wasn’t terrible to her, but he was very self-absorbed. Not just with Mom. With everybody.
Mom is talking about me like I’m not right here. Though, maybe that’s something good. People who talk about you like you’re not there when you are probably aren’t talking shit about you behind your back.
Talking shit about you while fucking your wedding planner at four in the morning on a weeknight. Probably laughing about how mean she’s being to you on purpose. Probably hoping the cursed engagement ring kills you off right after the wedding. I wonder if he put out a big life insurance policy on me.
I stare, sinuses burning and my vision blurs temporarily as I bite back tears. No. No! No emotion. I need to process that phone call later. Without an audience.
Mason comes right to me, leaning over and kissing my forehead. “If you don’t mind, we’re thinkin’ Roxy’s for dinner to keep it simple.” He’s got a strange look on his face as he talks to me. He’s searching my face.
“That VIP suite downstairs is mine whenever I visit,” Mom declares.
I say nothing, I’m just reminding myself to hold it together.
“The one with the Jacuzzi tub?” she beams. “I’ve always wanted a tub with jets in my ensuite. When I buy my own house, one I choose instead of one I’m stuck with because my overbearing husband picks it for me, I’ll have that. Maybe I’ll hire Mason to build it for me.”
“I’d be happy to. Family discount,” he says to her, but he’s still searching my face.
“How much of a discount is that?” she asks.
My eyes ping pong between them.
Mason turns to look at her. “A hundred percent off, you just buy the building materials, and I get a great discount on those for the business, so I’ll order ‘em for you.” He wins, then turns back to me. “You okay?”