A Grieving Family fights over their dead mother's estate.
|}Darla Gayle hunter was in a place she never thought shewould be. She shivered against the raw, biting, November wind.
She wished she were closer, emotionally and physically to her brothers. She could use their solid body heat this day.
"I could use their emotional warmth, too," she added, though she would never say the words aloud.She stood, rigid, between the brothers, David and Darryl Sykes.
From the corner of her eyes she saw that her brothers, too, were rigid, as if they didn't want her between them.
Darla wondered if their eyes, like hers, were irresistibly drawn to the yawning hole waiting ro swallow the coffin on the silver elevator resting above the hideous hole.
inside that uncaring coffin lay the body of their mother.
"Mommy!: The single word escaped her tight lips like the helpless cry of a wounded three-year-old
"Hush!" Darryl hissed, scolding Darla as if she were, indeed, three years old.
Darla vigorously rubbed her hands along her arms, praying, not gor her mother's soul, but for the minister to finish his long-winded prayer. It was too cold in this ancient, half-forgotten cemetery to be waiting for a newly minted preacher to prove that he could handle a funeral.
At the final amen, Carla slumped, fully expecting to hit the ground then tumble into the open grave.
instead she feltErick's solid chest against her back
and his steadying hands on her arms.
her husband had shouldered his way through the throng of mourners to stand silently behind her.
She heard the whisk of wool against silk and felt t he nubby fibers of Eric's heavy suit coat against her arms.
She turned to smile at her husband and her eyes fell on the orange and yellow sprays the brothers and their wives had picked out, over Darla's objections.
Still rebelling against being overruled, Darla mourned that her brothers hadn't card tht their mother's favorite colors were rose pink and sage green.
"Don't look," Eric whispered as he grabbed her shoulders to guide her towards the casket.
once there, standing before this awful thing that hid Mama's sweet face, Darla tenderly placed a single pink rose in the center of the blazing fall flowers.
Twin tears tolled down her cheeks as she placed her hand against the cold metal coffin. She tried to smile a "goodbye", but her courage failed.
"Mama, what am I going to do now?" Darla whispered as she followed Eric to the car.She looked back at the coffin, surrounded by friends ad the pitiful few of the Sykes family.
"Mama!" she cried, knowing she was sayign a private farewell to her mother and, most likely, to her brothers.
She, alone of the three Sykes children clung to the diminutive "Mama" to address her mother. The boys had long ago adopted, "Mom"and belittled her for clinging to the infantile and old-fashioned "Mama", but Darla didn't care what they thought.
"Mama" was the name Dellie Sykes preferred to either "Mom" or "Mother". She had never told ehr sons that, but Dellie corrected Darla the one ans only time Darla had called her "Mother".
Mama had drawn herself to her full five foot, nine inch height and looking down at her shorter daughter, said, "My name is Mama." She caressed Darla's cheek to soften the blow.
once the graveside services where finished the family made its way, in separate cars to Aunt Lucy's house.
Darla was grateful that Lucy had offered her spacious home for the traditional post funeral meal.
Darryl rounded on her the minute she climbed out of the car.
"Once again, sister, he said, making the word "sister" sound like a curse. "You've embarrassed and dishonored the family.
"I cried at my mother funeral!"Darla defended herself. "Is that so terribly disrespectful?"
"You know good and well Dad never approved of emotional displays," Darryl shot back.
"UYou acted jut like your father, whoever he might be," he said as he entered Aunt Lucy's house.
A collective gasp rippled around the room.
Aunt Juanita, Mama's baby sister, stepped forward, "How dare you bring up that old rumor at a time like this!" she scolded, crowding Darryl's personal space.Darryl, wisely, kept his mouth shut.
Darla Gayle had been born during the divorce years. Her parents divorced during the middle of their fifty-yer marriage.
Donald Sykes moved back into the house when it was evident that his wife was pregnant.
Dellie, though, refused to re-marry him until she knew that she could trust him again.
During their time apart a nasty rumor circulated that this new baby was the result of an adulterous affair on Dellie's part, though most of the town knew that Donald had been the one who tore the marriage apart.
The only public comment either of the Sykes parents made was that the new baby had been conceived in a reconciliation attempt.
That comment quashed most of the vicious rumors.
The brothers, though, used the unfounded rumors to create and maintain a chasm between themselves and Darla.
The problem was made worse by the gap in the sibling's ages.
Darryl was fifteen years older than Darla and highly embarrassed at the thought of having a visibly pregnant mother shadowing his popular high school years.
David, three years younger, at Twelve, didn't seem to mind having a new baby around.
David, though, was slow witted and easily manipulated. naturally, he followed Darryl's lead and shunned little Darla.
The boys , especially Darryl, blamed their bother for the divorce because she, being at home most, was an easy target.
He refused to see that his father was equally at fault.
Donald Sykes's death, five years earlier raised him to sainthood in his sons eyes.
Darla remembered him only as her Daddy who loved her unconditionally.
Darla couldn't help wonder, if, in time, her brothers would ppromote mama from sinner to saint.
Aunt Juanita pulled Darla into the warm room.
Aunt Juanita gave Darla a quick hug and an air kiss.
"I'll work on that stubborn brother of yours, she promised.
Darla nodded and followed her aunt into the kitchen.
The dining table groaned under a load of food, generously prepare by family and friends.
Aunt Lucy hurried over to fold Darla in a bear hug
"You'll be all right, darling Darla." she softly crooned, using the nickname from Darla's childhood.
"Losing a mother is the most difficult thing we ever have to do, but you only have to do this once."
Darla tried to smile her gratitude for the brief allusion to her grandmother. The smile trembled into a sob.
Before Aunt Lucy could react, uncle Tim gave Darla a one arm hug and kissed her cheek.
"Tears are allowed," he bellowed.
Darla nodded and tried on another smile. This one held firm.
David and Darryl joined the family with a one word acknowledgement.
Uncle Tim shook their hands and clapped each man on the shoulder.
Darryl got right doen to business.
"Tim, whn can we get the will probated and the property divided?"
Again, a gasp rippled through the room at this callous display of greed.
Tim, uncle and family lawyer, smoothly said, moderating his voice to a courtroom hush, "The probate papers will b typed up and filed with the court this week, but I warn you, Darryl, there isn't much in the way of property,"
"Doesn't matter," Darryl snapped. then pointing a finger at Darla, said, "she gets nothing, She's not even a Sykes."
"I've known Dellie most of her lif," uncle Tim said, and i don't believe she would ever cheat on Donald. She held her marriage too dear. Your father, on the other hand, bedded every woman that would let him.
The only ones who believed that old rumor were you two boys which makes me think you were so embarrassed by her after-clap pregnancy during your oh-so-cool teen years that you sated the rumor to punish your mother for throwing your father out.
The older man tooka breath and continued.
"Darla's paternity isn't the issue here, because we're probating your mother's will and Delores, sweet, Delie,is Darla's mother.
"in any event, he continued, leaving no room for argument, the will states that Dellie's property will be divided per stirpes, evenly,
among the three of you.
Confusion crossed David's heavy features. Even Darryl looked unsure of his footing.
Uncle Tim explained . Each of you will get a one-third of the assets, after all expenses and paid.
"I should get more," Darryl sputtered, "I[m the executor.
Undle Tim shook his head.
Dellie may have implied that you would be the executor, as you were for Donald's estate, but her will names Ron Matthews, pastor for First Baptist Church, as the executor.
"She told me she wanted an impartial executor because she knew the three of you would fight over every little thing," uncle Tim finished.
David, a bet behind his brother, understood this news. The confusion left his face and a beatific smile bloomed there.
"You gotta stop him, Uncle Tim," Darryl ordered. "Mom's stuff belongs ot me and David. That preacher will give it all to his church.
Darla wondered if her uncle knew that Darryl only referred to him as "Uncle Tim" when they were trying to manipulate him.
She caught the mischievous twinkle in the old lawyer's eyes and knew that he understood Darryl very well.
Forty years of practicing paw had hones Tim McMasters' skill at reading and dealing with difficult people.
"The church gets$500.00, you three kids get the rest, "Tim patiently explained.
Five hundred dollars!" Darryl exploded. "i didn't know Mom had that much. but five hundred dollars divided three was is only two hundred apiece."
"Yeah right," Darla couldn't help herself. The words were out of her mouth before her brain could censure them.
"There you go, little sis," Darryl snapped, "Rubbing that fancy lesbo degree in my face."
Darla had attended an all women's university in Massachusetts, compliments of rants and scholarships.
The brothers had never forgiven her choice of school or her decision to attned. Nor did they approve her major, creative writing with a minor in political science.
Darryl thought Darla should have stayed home, married the football captain and produces 2.3 children.
Darla, instead, had landed a job at a political magazine in Boston and married a fellow writer. She choose not to have children, preferring pomeranians, instead.
David, as usual, had no opinion in the matter.
Darlalet Darryl's remark roll off her back.
"I can solve this mess right now, she said.
The room went silent as all eyes focused on her.
"The only thing that means anything to me is Mama's old treadle sewing machine."
"Thqt old thing" Darryl said, his face reddening with the shame he had felt as a teenager when his mother supported her two sons and herself, during her husband's absence by sewing for the public.
Darla stood he. "I have lots of good and happy memories of Mama making my clothes on that hing.
A bubble of laughter escaped her mouth as she remembered trying to ride on the treadle. Mama rewarded that stunt with a rap to the back of her head.
'"Give me the sewing machine, all of Mama's patterns and the box she kept her sewing supplies in and I'll give up all claim to the rest of the estate.
"Think twice about that," Uncle Tim warned.
Darla only shook her head.
"You won't back out and try to snatch a third share?" David slowly offered a challenge.
Darla held up her hand as i he were giving a solemn oath. "Give me the sewing machine and all the sewing stuff and Ill be out of your hair forever. you'll never have to think of me as your sister again."
Aunt juanita rushed forward, Aunt Lucy hard on her heels.
"Why," the aunts cried in unison.
"Yeah, why?" Darryl asked, in an almost kindly way.
Darla looked her brothers in the eyes and took a fortifying breath.
"I've always thought of myself as an only child and I regret the time I've wasted on you two. it's time to end the pain."
The brothers nodded their agreement, each clearly satisfied that they now each owned a half share in their mother's few belongings.
A week later, at home in Boston, Darla unpacked the huge crates uncle Tim had shipped to her.
in the largest crate she uncovered her Mama's sewing machine, a 1909 Singer treadle machine that hat been passed down from Grndma June too Mam, and now to Darla.
She wnted to laugh at her brothers' ignorance in letting to of such a valuable and emotionally packed antique.