From behind the mask, Molly says, “There’s one more thing you could help me with, Jackie, if you don’t mind.” She coughs.
“Whatever you like, Claire,” Jackie replies. She’s having trouble finding the line for her signature.
“(Ahem.) Rhinehart is going to put our copy of that in my safe, but I’d appreciate it if you would hold onto the other one.”
“Hold onto it?”
“You still have your safe deposit box at the bank, don’t you? Can you do that as a personal favor?”
“Of course,” says Jackie. She’s stamping the second copy now.
“Can’t be too careful,” Molly says.
Rhinehart hands Jackie a large envelope, and she slips the will into it.
“Thank you, Jackie,” says Molly from the pillows. She wheezes again. “Rhinehart?”
Molly produces two sealed envelopes from under the covers, and motions with them toward Jackie. “Give her one and you keep the other.”
“What’s this?” Rhinehart asks. He makes a warning face at Molly. “We didn’t talk about no surprise envelopes.”
“Never you mind.” She returns a scowl at him. “Just give one to Jackie, (ahem) and put the other one in the folder with the will.”
Obediently, Rhinehart hands one envelope to Jackie, and stands studying the label on the second one. He looks at Molly suspiciously. She tugs at the oxygen mask.
“Put it away,” she says. “You’re not to open it till I’m gone—Jackie is my witness.” Molly sounds so much like Claire that Rhinehart has to smile. He closes the folder on the will and the envelope.
Jackie peers first at Molly and then at Rhinehart through her muddy glasses. “You know,” she says. “Lot of people can’t figure why you two never tied the knot. Made it official.”
Molly cocks her head. Rhinehart cocks his head.
“Small town folks do worry about the strangest things,” he observes.
Molly looks at Rhinehart, her eyes wide, like Grandma Claire used to do. “I guess we just never thought we needed a license to love each other.”
~ ~ ~
Jackie Taylor is no sooner out to her car than the aunts and uncles are celebrating.
“How about a scotch, Sonia?” offers Uncle Hal. “How about a tumbler of rum?”
“Make it a mai tai!” says Aunt Sonia. “I’m on vacation as of this minute.”
Aunt Grace is counting the silver. “Okay, there used to be twelve salad forks. Where’s the Urchin?”
“She’s up there with Rhinehart,” says Aunt Georgia. “Did you know that little tramp got into my make-up? I could just throttle her.”
“Except she just saved your bank account, little sister,” notes Uncle Paul.
Aunt Georgia waves an airy hand. “Whatever. We don’t really know what she said up there. You may not even be executor now.”
“She better have said exactly what we told her to say,” says Aunt Sonia, lighting a smoke. “She’s got me to reckon with, now. You know, I think I’m going to love being a mother.” Aunt Sonia’s chuckle is like an iron gate creaking on its hinges.
“Paul,” says Uncle Hal. “You better call the pastor right now. Don’t want Claire getting any colder. Or no: first the hospital. Wait. Who do you call first for a dead body? Hospital? Morgue? Or just 911?”
“Call 911,” says Aunt Georgia. “They’ll tell you who to call.”
Aunt Grace interrupts. “Paul, you decide. You’re the executor.”
“Sonia,” says Hal. “Who should we call?”
Paul grabs the phone. “I’ll decide who to call!” he shouts.
Molly and Rhinehart are upstairs. Lovingly, they lay Grandma Claire into her own bed again. They work her arms into her favorite housecoat and button it up the front. Molly begins to comb the gray curls, while Rhinehart sits alongside, silently holding Grandma Claire’s hand and staring out the window.