Martha grabbed her keys and hit the button to raise the garage door. She couldn’t believe she had overslept and moreover that John, her husband hadn’t bothered to wake her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have had that third glass of Merlot with her chocolate cake last night. But despite her heavy drinking, the night before, Martha wasn’t nursing her typical hangover headache even though she couldn’t recall taking any aspirin.  Still, it was so unlike her to oversleep and as Martha backed down the driveway, she prayed she hadn’t missed the beginning of this Sunday’s church service.

On the drive over Martha took notice of the beautiful spring morning; birds were chirping, Mr. David’s tulips were in full bloom and the temperature was a perfect 72 degrees. “The last time a spring day was this beautiful”, Martha thought, “was the day of my wedding”. To top it all off, she had gotten every green light and made it to the church in record time.

Martha rolled into the parking lot and was grateful to see other patrons still arriving and upon entering the church, Martha noticed a line remained at the coffee and doughnut shop she and Charlotte had helped get going the previous year.

Martha remembered thinking at the time she and Charlotte made for a strange duo. Martha thought Charlotte was a little too quiet and agreeable and always had a penchant for lulling around Martha’s husband John and sheepishly laughing at his jokes.

Martha had told John on more than one occasion Charlotte had a thing for him. John would always laugh dismissively and say Charlotte was as harmless as a church mouse and he felt quite sorry for Charlotte ever since her husband Harold passed away.

“I’m a great judge of character you know!” Martha would exclaim to John over dinner.

“It’s good to know you’re jealous. A little competition will keep you on your toes!”, John would say smiling before kissing Martha on the cheek.

Of course, John’s nonchalance only infuriated Martha more and she began keeping a closer eye on ol’ innocent Charlotte. Martha knew two things for certain: 1. She wasn’t buying Charlotte’s coy act. 2. Plenty of widowed women had been known to steal a husband or two.

Well, not on her watch Martha thought. So, when the pastor asked for volunteers to set up a coffee and doughnut shop in the room once used for storage, Charlotte had quickly raised her hand and without thinking Martha had done the same. “Keep your friends close and enemies closer”, Martha had mumbled to herself at the time.

Just as suspected, working with Charlotte was a complete snore fest. Compared to Martha’s loud, outspoken personality, dear ol’ Charlotte was the complete opposite. She remembers on one occasion telling Charlotte a joke.

A trooper pulls over a priest and immediately smells alcohol on his breath. The next thing he notices is an empty wine bottle lying on the passenger seat.

“Have you been drinking?” the officer asks.

“Just water,” says the priest.

“Then why do I smell wine?”

The priest looks at the bottle and shouts, “Good Lord! He’s done it again!”

Martha received the slightest of smirks from dear old Charlotte.

“Uh huh”, Martha thought to herself at the time. “If my John had told you that same joke you’d be blushing and giggling.”

Well that had been ages ago, Martha thought, and the past few months had been wonderfully Charlotte free.

As Martha made her way down the aisles of the church, she couldn’t believe how packed the church was becoming. These types of numbers were normally saved for Christmas or Easter. Finally, through the crowd she spotted John. Sitting to his right were their two adult children and 5 grandchildren.

Well this was a pleasant surprise! Was this why John had left for church without her? Was he secretly meeting with the children to ambush her at church?

 Both of their children had moved to California years ago leaving John and her to the cold of Connecticut. Martha immediately began thinking of what she could throw together from the kitchen to feed her hungry crew after the service. She wasn’t concerned with her children, but some of her grandchildren were picky eaters and would probably turn their noses up at the homemade lasagna Martha had made and put in the freezer the previous week.

Martha picked up her pace, smiling and waving at her family and that’s when she noticed it. Out of the corner of her eye; a bright Pepto-Bismol pink casket surrounded by flowers of every kind and right smack dab in the middle of all the arrangements was a picture of Martha!

Martha’s mind raced, her eyes blurred, and she stumbled slightly backwards. When she finally refocused, she frantically looked back to where her family was seated. Why hadn’t she noticed them all sullen faced, red eyed and dressed in black?

What was happening? Was she dead? It was at this moment Martha became aware of the whole congregation. Row after row of people dressed in black in various stages of mourning. Just then the choir began singing one of Martha’s favorite hymns.

The song soothed Martha and as she looked back at her family, she noticed good ol’ innocent Charlotte sitting to John’s left with her hand gently touching his shoulder and a look of utter concern plastered on her face.

It was at this moment Martha accepted the fact that she was indeed dead. Otherwise she would have run over and punched dear ol’ Charlotte right in the face!

Martha enjoyed the rest of her service and as the congregation slowly spilled out of the church, Martha saw Charlotte grab John’s hand.

“I told you Charlotte had a thing for you!” Martha yelled despite the fact no one could hear her. “Never underestimate my judge of character!”

October 09, 2019 00:49

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