This is a continuation of this piece. It just fit so nicely, and I got to write words for Aunty, so win-win for me. (It came pretty easily; Aunty has a lot to say.)
They said nothing for a while and listened to an osprey call for a mate. The light was fading, the landscape dissolving into oranges and reds. Aunty poked a long finger into her glass, the ice remnants glowing with the remains of the day. A look of disappointment came over her face as she saw there was no more beverage—even a diluted one. She abandoned the glass on the rusty metal side table next to her.
“You want another drink?” Albert asked, pointing to her glass.
“Why? You want to get me drunk?” she said.
“Maybe,” Albert said. “If it would mellow you out a bit.” Aunty eased her whole body toward Albert, leaning against the right armrest and raising an eyebrow. She sighed as if with her last breath.
“Go on,” she said.
“What?” he said, lifting his palms to the darkening sky and opening his eyes wide, but she didn’t miss he wasn’t looking into her own eyes.
“You’ve got more to tell me,” she said. “Best get it over with.”
Albert absent-mindedly scratched the back of his head, then brushed away an imaginary mosquito. “She’s moving back in,” he said. “In the next couple of weeks or so. We’ve talked about it, and we think we can make it work. We’ve been seeing a counselor, and it’s been a really positive experience. We’ve been open and honest; we’ve told each other things we never had before. I think we have an opportunity to make this relationship stronger than it ever was before.” He paused, glancing at his aunt. He couldn’t read her expression. But then she did something he wasn’t expecting: she threw back her head and laughed. It was a real, full-throated laugh that came from deep inside her belly. He could see the pink of her tongue and the gold of her fillings.
“Listen to you,” she said, wiping her eyes. “You’re full of the Dr. Oz shit they’ve been force-feeding us from the television.” She lowered her voice in an exaggerated baritone and furrowed her brow. “We have the opportunity to make this relationship stronger dee doo deedee duh duhhhh,” she mocked.
“Aunty.” Albert wasn’t laughing.
“Lord, what a pile of horseshit. When did you start talking like you had a broom handle stuck up your ass? Are you finding your ‘inner child’ too? Exploring your feminine side?”
“Aunty, Lucy’s pregnant.”
Her humor evaporated in time with the daylight. Aunty’s face sagged into sobriety, shadows carving her face. There was an exhale.
“Oh,” she said, “of course she is.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Albert said. “We—“
“You poor, poor boy,” Aunty said, almost inaudibly. “She’s got you and good. And you don’t even know it.” She leaned back in her chair, sinking into the sunbleached cushions. She seemed to shrink; her neck collapsing into her shoulders. “You don’t even know it,” she repeated.
“We’ll make it work,” Albert said, resting a hand on hers. She didn’t react to his touch. “For the baby.”
“The baby,” she said, drawing the word out as if it were a wonderous new concept. “Do you even know it’s yours?”
“Of course it’s mine,” he pressed her hand. She remained still.
“You don’t know that. Not for sure. And if I know you, you won’t get any kind of tests done after the child is born. You’ll dote on it and be a good father, and never really know if it’s your blood.”
“No,” he said. “You’re right. I wouldn’t do that.”
“And with her carrying on like she has been—“
“It was a kiss,” he said. “One kiss.”
“That’s what she told you? That’s her story?” He could see her eyes snapping even in the dim light. “I don’t believe that. Not for a second. That’s what she told you because that’s what you saw. I want you to use that big brain of yours. What are the odds of you catching your girlfriend the one and only time she was kissing on another man?” She looked ruefully at her empty glass and wished she’d made it last longer.
“And I bet when you caught her, she looked you full in the face—cool as cotton—and told you what you needed to hear. You would have believed anything that woman told you. Because you’re a fool, Albert. And I want you to remember tonight. I want you to remember this old face on this old body sitting on this broken-down porch. I want you to remember what the light looked like as I said these words. I want you to remember what day of the week it was and what the weather was like and what I was wearing.”
Aunty heaved up from her chair and slid her feet into a pair of ratty slippers. She shuffled a step past Albert, then turned and put her hand lightly, kindly, on his shoulder.
“Because today is important, doll. Today is the day you fuck up your life.”