“He’s dead.” 

That was her first words to me, no Hello or How you doing. There was no need for pleasantries. I didn’t care two shits about how she was doing and she felt the same way about me. But no matter how little we cared for each other she knew how much this news meant to me. 

“How?” I asked knowing there was only one “he” she could possibly be talking about.

“9 millimeter to the forehead.” 


“Auntie Doris,” she said it with zero emotion like we were talking about the weather. 

“Guess she finally got tired of his shit,” I said. 

“Guess so.” 

“When’s the service?” 

“Saturday afternoon at Mt. Frazier Methodist. Wake’s at the house Friday before,” she said still without any emotion. “You comin’ ?” 

“Think so, say my final fuck you’s at least.” 

“You going?” 

“Thinking ‘bout it. I want to raid the liquor cabinet, get my hands on that bottle of scotch he’s been bragging about for decades.” 

“Good idea. You talk to my Mom?” 

“Figured you’d tell her.” 

“Okay. Well, thanks for the call cousin.” 

“No problemo,” she said and ended the call. 

Douglas Fairbanks III our inglorious patriarch was dead. Murdered no less, what a fitting end. I’d spent the first 12 years of my life in his house, watching him screw his maids and treat my Mom and her sisters like total shit. I won’t go into the private shit he put me through. Let’s just say because of him I am a 17-year-old with the hardened heart of war veteran. Because that’s what it was like to grow up with Douglas, a goddamn war zone.  Mom shed just one tear when I broke the news to her. 

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “Doris was the only one of us who could stand to be in his presence for more than a few hours.”  

“Think he left us anything in the Will?” I asked. 

She scoffed, “Knowing that bastard he probably left it all to his horses.” 

She was probably right. The only creatures Douglas loved on this earth were his prized racehorses

“I want to go to the service.” 

“You do? I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” 

“Please Mom, don’t take the opportunity to dance at the grave of Douglas Fairbanks away from me.” I pleaded, even dropping to my knees for effect. 

“Okay settle down,” she laughed. “I guess it’d be nice to see the family.” 

“Yeah, if by nice you mean absolute misery.” 

Fairbanks farm had not changed at all in the five years since I’d left it. The main house was your typical plantation style house, stark white with a big porch, Greek columns, and decorated with an American flag and rocking chairs. Built-in the 1820’s, it had fallen into disrepair during the Civil War or “The War of Northern Aggression” as people around here like to call it. But Douglas’ ancestor Josiah Fairbanks restored to its former glory. I’d heard the story at least 100 times at the dinner table when I lived here. Douglas was proud of his slave-owning rapist ancestors. Little had changed about the Fairbanks men over the years. I felt a chill go down my spine as we walked up to the porch steps. The memories slammed into me, too many memories. Glass breaking, tears, dark closets, and screaming.


“You alright Honey?” Mom asked me when she realized I stopped climbing. 

I shook my head trying to clear the memories from my mind. 

“Yeah I’m fine, let’s just get this over with.” 

Thank the Lord Mom had not accepted Buggie’s invitation to stay at the house and got us a hotel room instead. I don’t think either of us could have made it through a night in this house.  We’d arrived the day before the service for the wake, dressed in mourners black like we were sad. Buggie, Douglas’ longtime housekeeper, and mistress greeted us at the door. 

“Oh, Teri how you’ve been sweetness? It’s been too long.” She wrapped Mom in a hug she didn’t return. “Oh and look who it is, Honey Bear, you’ve sprouted up like a weed! And you are gorgeous! Look at all that hair!” 

She moved to hug me but I stopped her. “It’s just Honey now Buggie, not Honey Bear.” 

It was bad enough I was named after a condiment people put on their biscuits. No one had called me Honey Bear since I left this house. He’d called me Honey Bear.

“Honey, come on in. There’s plenty of food in the kitchen y’all help yourselves.” 

The house was filled with people and I knew Buggie was loving this. She’d always loved entertaining and pretending like she was Douglas’ wife. But he reminded her as often as he could that she was the housekeeper and his concubine whenever he was in the mood. 

The interior of the house was modeled after antebellum plantation decor with deep velvets, patterned wallpaper, and heavy rugs. At any moment Scarlett O'Hara could come sweeping down the grand staircase all petticoats and ribbons and look completely at home. 

Mom and I made the rounds saying hello to extended family and Douglas’ business friends. Well, she said hello, I scrolled through Twitter. Everyone here was old. The youngest person next to me was my cousin Delia, the one who’d called. She was 23 and on baby number four and like I’d mentioned before we’d never liked each other. Mom was in the middle of a rather apathetic conversation with a local congressman when Buggie began clinking her glass with a fork. 

“Everyone, can I have your attention. I’d like to thank you all for coming tonight to honor Douglas,” she held her chest as if she was getting choked up. 

“I miss him so much.”


I stifled a laugh and Mom elbowed me in the side.

“Can you believe this trash?” I whispered to Mom. “She’s just as happy to see that man dead as the rest of us.” 

Mom didn’t reply only elbowed me again.

“So if you have to glass let’s have a toast.” 

“Is this a wake or a cocktail party?” I quipped. 

“To Douglas,” said Buggie.

“To Douglas,” the crowd repeated back. 

“May he burn in the lakes the fire for all eternity,” I said to myself but Mom heard. 

“Amen,” she said. 

As the mourners began to leave, the moment Mom and I had been avoiding all night was here. When I’d imagined seeing Douglas again it wasn’t seeing him lying in a casket. I’d imagined standing over his deathbed and telling him what a sick bastard he was. Telling him that though he’d hurt me, I hadn’t let his bullshit control my life and that him throwing us out was the best thing he ever did for us. 

“You were shit for a father,” Mom said to Douglas body. “Maybe if Mama would’ve stayed alive longer or we were sons instead of daughters things would’ve been different. Either way, we deserved better. “

I half expected him to give a retort, he looked so alive in that casket. 

“I thought she shot him in the forehead?” I asked Mom. 

“I don’t know where Delia got that from, she shot him the heart actually.” 

“Good on you Doris,” I said. “Where’s Faye?” 

Faye was the oldest sister out of Mom and Doris.

“I thought she’d be here since Delia is here.” 

Mom shrugged. “She hasn’t been taking my calls. Maybe she’ll show to the service tomorrow.” 

I turned my attention to Douglas. Wanting to get the hell out of there I kept it brief. 

“Fuck you old man.” 

Buggie attempted to hug us goodbye but Mom gave her one of her legendary dirty looks. 

“How dare that woman,” Mom said as we descended the porch steps. “Acting like everything is hunky-dory. Like she didn’t stand by and watch Douglas throw our things out right on this very yard.” 

“It’s okay Mom,” I reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze.

There was a short bald man, smoking a cigarette in the corner of the yard. He walked toward our car when he spotted us.  

“Mrs. James,” he called to Mom. “Just a moment.” 

“What is it, Howard?” Mom questioned.


“We’re having the reading of the will after the service in Doug’s study.” 

“He left me something?” 

“Yes, ma’am. You and Honey.” 

Douglas was worth millions. What were the chances he had of change of heart before his death? Mom and I could be returning home rich women. 

The next day at the funeral the pastor spewed lie after lie about Douglas’ character. Called him a devoted member of the church, that one had me holding back a laugh. I’d never seen him step foot in a church. He must have bought the place a new roof or something to get them to say such nice things about him. Auntie Faye showed up. She sat next to Delia and her squirming squad of babies. Buggie carried on like a grieving widow throughout the service. She cried and howled, from the beginning to the end.

“Someone give that woman an Oscar,” Mom had whispered to me. 

After the service, all the kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and cousins crowded into Douglas’ study for the reading. Buggie was seated up front still blubbering. 

“Cut it out Buggie. It’s just us now.” Delia told her. 

“This ain’t no show Delia, I loved that man.” 

We all rolled our eyes. 

“We’re about to find out just how much,” Faye added. 

Douglas’ lawyer Howard sat down to his desk and the reading began. 

“I’d like to start off by updating y’all on the investigation into Douglas’ death. Doris has confessed to the killing, apparently, she snuck into Douglas’ room while he was asleep and shot one bullet into his chest with her revolver.” There was a collective gasp. “When asked why she did it all she said was ‘a woman can only take so much’. She’ll be in the county jail until her sentencing.” 

I shook my head, Doris was the only daughter who stuck around. Why she did I never understood, it cost her her freedom. 

“Now onto the will.” Howard pulled some papers out of a manila envelope and began reading. “I Douglas Joseph Fairbanks III being of sound mind and body do make and publish this to be my last will and testament. I leave Fairbanks Ranch and all of its property and holdings to my son Frederick Hopper.” 

“What!” Buggie screamed. “Douglas had no son.”

I looked at mom who looked just as confused as I was. She turned to Faye, “You know about a son?”


She shrugged. “No, but I am not all surprised. He got around.” 

Right then a man standing in the back near the door strode forward. We all watched intently as he made his way to stand next to Howard. He looked like what I imagined Douglas looked like 30 years ago he had the same dark brown hair and ice-blue eyes. 

“Hello all,” he addressed the room. 

“You're his son?” Faye asked. 

“You know this man Faye?” 

“Buggie, he used to come by the house when I was in college. Douglas said he was an intern.” 

Buggie looked him over, and recognition crossed her face.

“I know everyone is surprised but yes I am Douglas’ son.” 

“Who’s your mama boy?” Buggie questioned.

“Lauren Hopper but her maiden name was Blanchard.” 

Buggie gasped, then started crying again.

“Who is that?” I asked Mom. 

Her head hung in shame, “Lauren used to work here as a 

maid when she was a teenager.” 

Delia cackled, “Ain’t that just fittin’? Douglas fathers a love child with his teen maid and leaves everything to him.” 

“So Fairbanks Ranch property, that includes this house?” Buggie asked in between sniffles. 

“Yes ma’am,” Howard replied. 

Buggie let out a howl. “That bastard! He promised me! 25 years of my life I have slaved for that man. I did everything he ever asked of me and he promised me this house!”

“Oh Buggie, you didn’t really think-” 

“He promised me!” She yelled cutting off Mom. 

“That’s not the end of the will everyone, if I may continue?” He read louder so he could be heard over Buggie’s sobbing. “To my grandchildren Honey and Delia I leave $25, 000 that has been left in a trust to be released to them upon my death if they are of age. If not, the funds will be released to them on their 18th birthday and management will remain with executor until that time.” 

“Hot damn,” said Delia. “Guess he wasn’t a complete bastard.” 

I was shocked, I hadn’t expected a dime from Douglas. But the bastard did owe Delia and me for the ugly things he did to us. 

“And to my three daughters Faye, Teri, and Doris I leave the Rockwell house. Hopefully, between the three of them, they will figure out how to turn it into something profitable.” 

I looked at Faye and my mom to gauge their reactions. They both looked less than enthused. 

“Where’s Rockwell house?” I asked Mom. 

“It’s a condemned dump on the edge of town that Douglas inherited from some uncle,” she bit out.

“It’s supposedly haunted, a couple of ghost hunter groups been out there and everything. Douglas has been trying to find a buyer for it for years,” Faye added. 

“Him leaving it to us is just another fuck you,” Mom shook her head. 

“Well that’s pretty much it folks,” Howard told us. 

“That’s it?” Buggie said. “I’m not even mentioned?” 

“No Ms. Buggie, I’m sorry.” 

Buggie cried some more. Surprisingly enough I actually felt bad for her. She devoted a good chunk of her life to Douglas and didn’t have anything lasting to show for it. 

“Ms. Buggie, if I may,” said Douglas’ son. 

She looked up at him. 

“Well since I own this house now, I would like to make you a part-owner.” 

Buggie’s mouth fell open. “Really?” 

“Yes, I am not the same kind of man that Douglas was. I understand the sweat and tears you’ve put into keeping this house as beautiful as it is today.” 

“Yes,” she said. “25 years of my life.” 

“Well if you want you can spend the rest of your days here,” he told her crouching down to look her in the eye. “I have no desire to live in this house. But I will make use of the ranch and the back offices.” 

She started crying again, “Oh thank you!” 

She got up and enveloped him in a big hug, rocking him side to side. “You don’t know how much this means to me.” 

He looked uncomfortable at first but after a moment he hugged her back. Once she was settled back in her seat with a big smile on her face, Frederick turned to my Mom and Faye. 

“Sisters, I am sorry that this is the way you found out about me. But this is the way Douglas wanted it and if I would’ve said anything to you he would’ve disinherited me and I wouldn’t be able to do this. I’d like you all to be part owners of the business. It should belong to all of us. I wasn’t raised by Douglas but I came to know what kind of man he was, and you all deserve a piece of the pie.” 

Mom and Faye exchanged shocked glances. 

“Doris too?” I asked. 

“Yes niece,” he smiled. “Let’s be frank here, she only sped along what we were all waiting for.” 

“Doug is rolling in his grave,” Howard laughed. 

“Howard, you’re alright with this?” Buggie asked. 

He shrugged, “I was his lawyer for 30 years, I knew him better than most of you in this room. And let me tell you, without my counsel this Will would have looked very different.” 

He made a point to look at Delia and me in our eyes. 

“You’re saying he wasn’t gonna leave Honey and I a thing aren’t ya?” Delia asked. 

Howard shook his head, “That’s all I can say. Now I’m sure y’all agree that we’ve been in this black for too long. I’m sweating like a monkey’s uncle and that AC isn’t doing a damn thing.” 

We all nodded in agreement. 

“Y’all feel free to come to my office on Monday to sign the papers and get everything official.” He told us before making his way to the door. 

“Well then, guess we’re sticking around for a couple of days longer?” I told Mom. 

“Guess so.”

“What do you think Howard said to Douglas to make him include Delia and I in the Will?” 

“No clue,” she grabbed my hand. “I should’ve protected you.” 

“We’ve been over this Mama. You didn’t know, no one knew. Well except for Buggie probably. Nothing happened in that house without her knowing.” I shot a dirty look at the back of the old woman’s head. 

“There’s no amount of money he could’ve given you to make up for what he did,” Faye added from behind us. “I should’ve shot him myself.” 

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t Mom. The babies and I need you around,” said Delia. 

“Are we going to visit Aunt Doris?” I asked. 

“Guess we should let her know we’re here for her,” said Mom.

“And to express our thanks,” said Deila.

And we all laughed. 

August 23, 2019 01:01

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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