The song this month is “Family” by Noah Gunderson. If you’re interested here’s the video.
Noah stood with his hands in his pockets staring at his older brother. How did things get so fucked up? Noah thought Dan had it all figured out. He’d gone to college, graduated top of his class and was working as an accountant for a big company. The last time they’d spoken, Dan had talked about how great his life was and how he was so glad, he’d gotten out. He wanted Noah to do the same, but sitting around in a business suit just wasn’t what he wanted to do. And now it didn’t matter.
Tilly staggered up to stand next to Noah. “Look at him. He was so desperate to get away and he didn’t end up any better than the rest of us.”
Shit, he could smell the liquor on her.
“What are you doing here?” He didn’t look at her. He knew if he did, he’d say stuff he couldn’t take back.
“He’s my son and I have a right—”
“Right,” he whispered, “you have a right? Great, so what, you decided to show up to his funeral drunk? You couldn’t even manage to stay sober long enough to come and pay your respects.”
“The only thing you’re grieving is your lost pay check.” He spun on her and forced her back. “I know Dan sent you money every month so you could take care of your children. Instead, what do you do? You drink it and drug it away. So don’t come here and start talking about rights and grieving. You don’t know what that means.”
“I’m your mother—”
“You’re nothing to me.”
A large hand landed on Noah’s shoulder and he took a deep shuddering breath. Callan Monroe, Dan’s best friend, leaned in. “Is everything okay?”
“Fine,” Noah said, stiffly, “she was just leaving.”
Tilly smiled at Callan. “Well hello, who are you?”
Noah looked away in embarrassment. Shit, the bitch was going to flirt with someone at her own son’s funeral. Adopted, he told himself, they all had to be adopted. There was no way this woman gave birth to them. He almost started laughing since it was something he’d told Dan all the time when he was a kid. Tilly had kidnapped them from their real parents and one day they’d find them and take them home. Dan had always laughed, but Noah hadn’t been joking. Not really. Deep down, he always hoped someone would come and rescue them.
“Stay here,” Callan murmured, as he escorted Tilly away.
Noah closed his eyes and leaned against the wall. He didn’t know what he would have done without Callan. When the police had come to notify Noah of his brother’s death, he’d fallen apart. He was barely twenty-two and struggled to take care of himself and his younger half-siblings. The only positive in the world had been Dan. Dan, the big brother who’d sent him money, so he could take care of himself and his younger brothers. Because he’d known their egg donor wouldn’t use it to take care of them.
Callan had shown up to offer his condolences and let Noah know he was Dan’s sole beneficiary. Thankfully, the man had ended up helping Noah make the million decisions a sudden death demanded. Tomorrow was the funeral, then they were going to Dan’s house to go through his things. After that, Noah would be alone. Callan would go back to his life. And the last link to Dan and normal life would disappear.
Callan stepped up to him. “She’s gone.”
The older man put his arm around Callan’s shoulder. “Don’t apologize for something that’s beyond your control.”
Noah nodded. “Right. Okay.”
Callan studied him. “Let’s get out of here. Before you say anything, Dan would be the first one to tell you to take care of yourself. Staying here isn’t doing that. Besides, he’d not here.”
Noah looked toward his brother’s casket and blinked away tears. He was right. That wasn’t Dan. No matter how long Noah stayed, it wouldn’t become Dan again. Fuck, he just never imagined it would turn out this way. Dan was the one who should have lived. He had so much promise and so many plans.
“Noah,” Callan spoke softly, “let’s go. We’ll go back to my place and you can crash.”
He nodded and let Callan steer him out of the room.