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Along Came Polly – Part 3
“What is that awful noise? ‘There birds in here?” Raising her bird’s nest bedhead, Grace unglued a puffy eye. “Wha…?“
Frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr frrrrrr.
Blinding light suffused the room. She rolled over, face pushed into the pillow.
“Never known you to sleep this late. Everything okay, baby sister? Here. Brought you coffee.” She plunked a mug on the night table and dropped into the tub chair alongside, already fully dressed in Khaki pants and white blouse. “Polly, talk to me.” She sipped her coffee.
Her sister rolled over; grabbed her glasses. Squinting at Grace, her fingers fumbled for the coffee. “Why’s it so darn bright?” Grasping the pillows, she swooshed them against the headboard, and scooted back, leaned in and sighed. “Thanks for the coffee.”
“It’s past nine—you didn’t answer my question.” Grace lifted her mug. “You look like something the cat threw up.”
“Says you. Truth is I didn’t sleep well, at-all, at-all, at-all.” She slapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. I fell as if into a chasm at the first hint of day.
“Oh? Do tell.” Grace’s eyes wandered to the window as if she could care less, ever watchful from the corner of an eye.
“Tommy called last night. I didn’t pick up.” Polly turned her cup round and round studying its contents as if reading tea leaves. “Terrific coffee, sis. You’re looking perky. You had me worried last night.”
“Uh-huh. This is news? Boohoo for Tommy. What’s really eating you? Don’t bother fibbing ‘cause you can’t fool me, like you think you’re doing.”
“Duh.” Polly made a face. “Better get up if I want more coffee.”
“Cut the crap already, what did you get into when I went to bed?”
“Nothing.” Hazel eyes innocent and enormous, she bowed to her coffee.
“We’re sisters, but you are trying my patience.”
“You heard any rumours about family secrets—being the older first child—you know?”
Grace’s mouth dropped. “What are you talking about?” Forehead furrowed, she swung her head around like a puppet, blinking, scanning the files in her head. “This isn’t like you. What’s going on? Is Tommy blackmailing you into marrying him?”
Polly snorted, coffee splattered over the lily-white bedcoverings. “Sorry-sorry-sorry.” She bounced out of bed hauling off the stained candlewick bedspread and top sheet. “Forget Tommy. He’s not news.”
Grace grabbed the bottom of the heavy spread. “Laundry tub, downstairs, I think. I’ll start the soap and water. Bring the vinegar?”
“Here. What do you know about granddad and Uncle John?” Polly swished the soapy water while her sister added the vinegar.
“What an odd question. I have no idea what you mean.”
“Uncle John was not to be trusted. Dad worked his fingers to the bone in Grandpa’s business.”
“Oh yeah? What if you’re wrong? How about breakfast. I’m starving. ”
Polly watched her sister through lowered lashes. “Wrong? I don’t understand. Dad was the good son. Worked and slaved—he saved Granddad’s grocery store from ruin. Uncle John was the black sheep. Everyone said so.”
“Or scapegoat. Help me lift this in the tub.”
“Let’s play what if. Coming?”
“What if what?”
“Both Dad and Uncle John worked for Grandad, right? What if Dad had a gambling problem?”
“What? No way.”
“What if he had sticky fingers and helped himself to the till and the store check book.”
“I don’t believe you. Is that why—?”
“Why, what? You want eggs or oatmeal? Why, what?”
“Nothing. Eggs. You too? Great. I’ll do the eggs.” Polly opened the fridge.
“Back in a shake. Have to rinse the bedspread.”
“I’ll do it. It was my fault.”
“Thought you’re doing the eggs? Get cracking. When I return, I’ll expect answers. Tut tut.”
* * *
“Grandma’s spread is good as new. It’s in the washing machine now. You still look like last week’s leftovers. Why couldn’t you sleep and why all the questions? Good. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”
“Coffee?” Polly grabbed the pot and poured two cups. “Going to the attic today?”
“Tut tut. Come on. Clean slate. What’s on your mind?”
Her mouth full, the younger woman chewed and chewed. And chewed. Eyes growing by the minute, she swallowed hard. “I found something in one of the boxes last night.”
Eyes narrowed, Grace clutched the mug to her chest, still as a statue. “What?” Her voice gruff, she cleared her throat.
“It’s better I show you. Be right back.”
Lost in thought, Grace jumped at her sister’s reappearance. Polly thrust the paper under her nose. Studying her sister’s impassive face, she dropped into her chair. Arms around her torso, she rocked in place. The air sizzled with tension. Grace fanned herself with the birth certificate. The women stared at each other.
“Anything else in the box you found this?”
Polly blew out a breath. Her body sagged. The words spilled out in a tumble. “Know anything about this?” She gripped her fingers till the knuckles turned white.
Grandpa handed over the business banking to Uncle John when dad’s bad habits surfaced. The checks to cash were for his gambling debts. He paid them off in person, in cash. Uncle John didn’t want a paper trail.
“And the birth certificate? Why was brother Frank a secret?” Her voice, though a whisper, cracked.
Grace exhaled loud and long. “Mom couldn’t kick dad out, but she’d had it with him. He up and disappeared one day. Frankie was born a year before you, but he wasn’t right…died. You came seven years later.
“Before dad left—“
“No. Grandpa lived to see Frankie. Not grandma. It would have broken her heart. Everybody’s gone now. I’m glad I’m moving into a gated retirement community. Too many ghosts here. You should come.”
Polly shook her head, hand up open-palmed. “I don’t understand, then who…? Not Uncle John, of course, because he was…
“I guess he wasn’t.”
“He’s my fa…?”
© 2015 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles