Family Sins – A Short Story

Family Sins - A Short Story

Family Sins – A Short Story


This story reveals the dark side of a mother’s controlling love. As much as Sarah adores her son, Michael, she detests the woman he marries. When her daughter-in-law forces Michael to choose between them, Sarah refuses to back down. As her desperate actions unfold, her family’s deadly secrets are revealed.

The complete short story is available below.






Family Sins – A Short Story

The dining room table was set for Thanksgiving: china, silver, crystal water and wine goblets, Belgian lace tablecloth and napkins. Sarah set the arrangement of crimson flowers in the center. The final touch. Everything just so.

Sarah gazed at her son. He looked every bit as perfect as her table in his navy suit and burgundy tie. As tall and handsome as his father had been. She was so proud of him: an orthopedic surgeon with a thriving practice. But right now he paced around her kitchen like a lost puppy dog.

“We can’t wait any longer, Michael. Dinner will be ruined.”

“There’s still no answer on her cell. Maybe I should drive around and try to find her. She must be lost.”

Sarah didn’t bother to hide her annoyance. “You’re not going to leave me on Thanksgiving. Not so you can drive around searching for some flighty girl. She couldn’t even bother to call and let us know why she’s late.”

“Don’t be so judgmental, Mom. For all we know, she could have had an accident.”

The doorbell trilled and Sarah saw the look of relief in her son’s face.

“That must be her.” He raced for the door.

Sarah bustled around the kitchen, pulling the butter and cranberries out of the refrigerator, pouring the water into glasses. Her son’s new girlfriend was an hour and a half late. She’d already missed the mimosas and appetizers. You’d think she would have tried a little harder to make a good first impression.

Michael burst into the kitchen, his arm around the girl’s waist. She wore a pair of low-rider, skin-tight jeans, an equally tight blue and green striped knit top, low enough to reveal a hefty dose of cleavage and high enough to show off her toned abs. A pair of sparkly gold four-inch platform sandals completed the outfit. Is this a joke? Sarah wondered. The ensemble would have been inappropriate on any occasion, but Thanksgiving?

And the girl looked every bit as trashy. Long, red hair–an obvious dye job–and an even worse perm, her hair stuck out like a Brillo pad. Sarah had to admit the girl had lovely porcelain skin and beautiful green eyes. But they were masked by horrendous make-up: clown cheek blush, blue eye shadow, and bright red lipstick. Could her son actually find this girl attractive?

“She made it, Mom. This is Andi. Andi, this is my mother.”

“I’m so sorry I’m late. I got totally lost. My cell phone died and there went my GPS and any way to call you.”

Sarah shook her head and tried to recover her wits. “It’s nice to meet you, Andi. Michael tells me that’s short for Andrea. May I call you Andrea? That’s such a pretty name.”

“You’d be the first. Outside of my birth certificate, everyone has called me Andi from day one.” The girl laughed. “Actually, I take that back. I went to Catholic grade school and the nuns called me Andrea. But that was it. My family and friends have always called me Andi.”

Catholic, too? Sarah thought. Probably comes from a family of ten. “Do you have any brothers and sisters, Andrea?”

“A whole mess of them. Four sisters and three brothers.”

“And you didn’t want to spend the holiday with them?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Luckily, it worked out perfectly that you serve your meal early. Michael and I can eat here and still make it to my mom’s for dinner.”

Sarah was stunned. She and Michael always spent the whole day together. They would eat at two, then spend the afternoon relaxing, and have turkey sandwiches while they watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” in the evening. He hadn’t said anything about leaving early. She turned to her son.

“Sorry, Mom. I meant to bring it up earlier. Andi and I wanted to share the holiday with both families.”

“I’m sure they’ll be delighted to meet you, Michael.”

“Actually, Mike’s already met my clan. Hard to avoid them. I’m always at my folk’s house, or my sisters are at my place. We’re super close.” She wrapped her arms around Michael. “And they’re all crazy about your son. I think my mom already has the wedding invitations printed up.”

Sarah felt a knot in her stomach. This little tramp could not be her future daughter-in-law. Her son could not possibly have such bad taste. But then she saw the way he gazed at the girl–like he was eight years old and she was a hot fudge sundae.

“We better get the food on the table before it gets cold.” She turned to her son. “Michael, carve the turkey, please. Andrea, you can ladle the dressing and mashed potatoes into those serving bowls.” She pointed out the dishes she’d set out already. “I’ll take care of the asparagus and get the rolls out of the oven.”

When everything was laid out, Michael sat at the head of the table with the two women on either side.

Andrea reached for the bowl of mashed potatoes before Sarah raised her hand. “We say a prayer before we eat. I would have thought if you were raised Catholic…”

Andrea laughed. “With a family my size, we all grab the food before it’s gone. Although my mom does try to get us to say grace when she thinks of it.”

“Well, I think it’s nice to give thanks.” Sarah reached for Michael’s hand. “Will you do the honors, dear?”

“Of course, Mom.” He took Andrea’s hand. “I promise you won’t have to fight me for the last spoonful of cranberries.” He said a prayer and then lifted Andrea’s hand to his lips. “Happy Thanksgiving, babe.”

“Right back at you. I’m so happy we’re spending the day together.”

As the two stared into each other’s eyes, Sarah felt invisible.

“I didn’t make a salad. Is that all right, dear?” she asked Michael.

Instead, the girl answered.“Fine with me. You’ve got a ton of food here for just the three of us.”

“I’ve always served a full traditional Thanksgiving meal, even though it’s usually just Michael and me.”

“Mike told me his dad died when he was a baby. That must have been terrible for you. And then to be alone all these years.”

“I’ve hardly been alone. I have Michael. Even when he was away at school, we always spent the holidays together.”

“Still, you must have been lonely. Didn’t you want to remarry?”

Sarah bit her lip. How dare this intruder ask such a personal question? It was none of her business and certainly not an appropriate subject for a first meeting. How could her son not see what terrible manners this girl had?

“Michael was only six months old when his father died. Between taking care of a child and a career, I hardly had time to date. And by the time Michael was grown, I didn’t see a point to it.”

“Well, you obviously have plenty of money.” Andrea waved her hand, taking in Sarah’s house and possessions.

Once again, Sarah was appalled. Was the girl going to ask how much she earned?

“But, I’m talking about companionship,” Andrea continued, her eyes wide with innocence, oblivious to the impression she was making. “Not to mention sex.” She leaned under the table and Sarah could only guess what part of her son’s anatomy she groped. As though reading Sarah’s mind, Andrea winked at her.

* * *

 When Sarah’s doorbell rang, she opened her door to find Michael, a big smile on his face. “Mom, Andi and I are getting married!”

Sarah’s knees went weak, as Michael put his arm around her and led her into the living room. They sat on the sofa, next to each other.

“Michael, this is happening so fast. You’ve only known her a few months.”

“Six months. And I knew I wanted to marry her from the day I met her.”

Sarah reached for her son’s hand. “Are you sure she’s the right woman for you? You’re so different, dear.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “How, Mom?”

“She’s just not the girl I thought you’d marry. You may think I’m a snob, but having a wife who’s your equal is important. You’re an orthopedic surgeon, she’s a sales clerk. You’re not equals in any way: your social status, your education, your family background.”

Michael pulled his hand away and gripped his thigh. “We don’t live in India.”

“I know that. But why would you want to marry a girl like her?”

“Don’t you get that I love her?”

A wave of anger washed over Sarah. Her son was like every other man, manipulated by a pretty girl. “I’m afraid you’re confusing lust for love. And when that wears off, you’ll see you deserve more.”

“I couldn’t ask for a better woman to spend my life with. Andi’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Sarah couldn’t believe her son was so naive. He sounded like a schoolboy. “You think she’s so sweet and funny now, but that Irish temper is going to come out one of these days. She’s going to turn into a little shrew.”

“Not going to happen, Mom.”

“Well, if you came here for my blessing, I can’t give it. I cannot accept her as my daughter-in-law.”

Michael jumped from the sofa and stood in front of Sarah. “You don’t get to make that decision. Don’t make me choose between you.”

Sarah grabbed his two hands. “I’m not asking you to choose between us. I love you, Michael. You’re the most important person in my life.”

“Then you need to accept that she’s going to be my wife.”

Sarah heard an edge to her son’s voice she hadn’t heard before. She wasn’t going to let this girl come between them. “I’m sorry, dear. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. You know I just want you to be happy.”

Michael sat next to her, collapsed into the cushion. “I’ve never been happier,” he said, the anger gone.

“That’s all I ask.”

When Michael left, Sarah pulled out a photograph he’d given her. Michael and Andrea stood with their arms around each other, their heads touched as they smiled into the camera. Sarah’s hand shook with rage as she tore the photo in two and then ripped the half with Andrea into tiny pieces.

 * * *

The wedding reception was everything the bride could have wished for–and everything Sarah loathed. Loud, brash, garish. The decorations as uncouth as the guests on Andrea’s side. Sarah sat at the family’s table hoping that a hole would open up in the floor and swallow her. Andrea’s favorite color was pink–not a pretty, soft pastel pink, but a horrendous bubble gum pink. Not only were the bridesmaids dressed in that hideous color, but the whole room was decorated in that hue. Pink balloons and streamers hung from the ceiling, pink linens adorned the tables, pink peonies served as centerpieces. Sarah felt like she was swimming in a bottle of Pepto Bismal.

She gazed at the wedding party table. Her son and his new bride huddled together, whispering, as though no one else existed. All of Andrea’s brothers and sisters were in the wedding party, as well as a couple of her cousins and friends. Poor Michael had only been allotted two slots by the time Andrea’s family obligations were met. He’d asked his two closest friends to be his best man and a groomsman. When Sarah talked to the two men at rehearsal dinner, they both seemed as smitten with Andrea as her son. Well, the girl certainly knows how to attract men, Sarah thought.

Even today, on her wedding day, she managed to look like a tramp. Her strapless dress kept sinking lower and lower revealing much too much skin. Every so often Andrea would yank it up, but within minutes it slipped down again. She hadn’t even covered her shoulders in church. Doesn’t the Catholic Church have rules about that sort of thing? Sarah wondered. And instead of a veil, she’d pulled her hair into a one-sided ponytail and secured a big, fat pink peony into the band.

Sarah gazed around the room and wondered whether all her friends were as horrified as she. She’d kept her invitation list small, just her closest friends, all well aware of her opinion of her new daughter-in-law. She caught the eye of one of her friends and flashed a pained smile in her direction. Her friend nodded.

Sarah heard the sound of a spoon against a glass and then the best man’s voice. “I’d like to propose a toast to the newlyweds,” Scott said.

“How about some more bubbly, Sarah?” Andrea’s father, Joe, was at her side, topping off her glass before she could respond. He circled the table and made sure all the glasses were filled.

“I’ve known Mike ever since high school,” Scott said. “And I’ve never seen him as happy as he is now. In fact, before Andi, Mike was kind of a morose guy.”

The room erupted with laughter.

“First it was studying all the time; then it was working all the time. I used to have to drag him out by his ear to get him to grab a beer with me. But then the coolest chick I ever met came along and showed the guy how to have fun. I am so thrilled to have witnessed my best buddy transformed into the happiest guy I know.” He raised his glass. “Best wishes to Mike and Andi!”

Sarah raised her glass, took a polite sip of champagne. Was Michael really morose before he met Andrea? she wondered. Hardly. Yes, he was serious and studious and hard-working. But what’s wrong with that? Before she could put her glass down, Andrea’s father grabbed the microphone from Scott and started a new toast.

“Andi’s my little firecracker. Ever since she was a little girl, she had so much energy, she lit up the whole room. She would run around the house, singing, laughing, spreading joy everywhere. I always wanted her to find a man who would make her as happy as she makes the world. And she has.” He flung his arm toward the wedding table. “You’d think with all my kids, I wouldn’t have room for another son. But I’m so jazzed to add Mike to the family. Cheers!”

The toasts continued–four more–all three of Andrea’s brothers and one of her uncles. Total overkill. The same words: what a wonderful couple, so in love, Andi the best thing that ever happened to Michael. Hardly the case, Sarah thought. That girl is like a black widow. She’ll spin her web around Michael and it will only be a matter of time before she devours him.

When dinner ended, the dancing began. Sarah watched as Michael and Andrea danced to the first song. The way Andrea moved her hands over Michael’s body verged on obscene. At the end of the number, she cupped his buttocks and gave him a squeeze. Sarah cringed while the rest of the guests hooted and hollered, yelling out for the couple to kiss, which they did, their faces mashed together, their tongues delved into each other’s mouths like they were digging for gold.

The next song began and Andrea grabbed her father. Michael walked to his mother and held out his hand.

“That was quite a show you two put on,” Sarah said as the two danced.

“Mom, don’t ruin my wedding day. Can’t you just be happy for me?”

“You can be happy and still show some decorum. Just because Andrea is …”

Sarah felt Michael’s hand tighten around hers. “Andi is what, Mom? Not up to your standards? We’ve had this talk before.”

He pulled back slightly and gazed down, his eyes bored into hers as he stopped dancing. “Andi is my wife now. I’m not going to take any more of your bullshit.”

Sarah felt a chill through her bones. As much as she hated his wife, she loved her son. She wouldn’t lose him. Not to that tramp. “I’m sorry, dear. I’m sure once I get to know Andrea better, I’ll love her as my own daughter.”

The song ended and Michael kissed his mother on the cheek. “I know you will.”

Sarah watched her son walk over to Andrea’s mother and ask her to dance. She waited to see if Andrea’s father would approach her, but he started dancing with one of his other daughters. She stood for a moment while the dancers floated around her. She saw their smiles, heard their laughter. She’d never felt so alone.

* * *

 Sarah’s phone rang just as her alarm went off. She picked up the handset. “Hello.”

“Mom, we had the baby! The ultrasound was right: it’s a girl. And she’s just as beautiful as her mom.”

Sarah heard Andrea in the background. “Not right now, I’m not. I’m a mess.”

“You’re more beautiful than I’ve ever seen you,” Michael said.

Once again, Sarah felt like an intruder. The girl couldn’t even let her husband call his mother without horning into the conversation. She waited for Michael to refocus his attention.

“Mom, are you there? Did you hear me?”

“That’s wonderful news, dear. I’m so happy for you.”

“Andi was amazing. She toughed it out for nine hours.”

“When was the baby born?”

“Four twelve this morning. Seven pounds, three ounces.”

“Have you picked out a name?” Sarah knew they had, but they’d wanted to wait to reveal it.

“Lindsey Rose.”

She had no idea where Lindsey came from, but Rose was Andrea’s mother’s name. Of course, they’d name the baby after the tramp’s mother, not her. “That’s lovely. When can I see her?”

“Why don’t you stop by the hospital on your way to work?”

“I’ll do better than that. I think the birth of my first grandchild entitles me to a day off. I can spend the day with you, and then you know I’d be happy to stay at your house for a few days to help you out.”

“Thanks, but Andi’s mom is going to stay with us.”

That figures, Sarah thought. They were already pushing her aside. “Of course. But if Rose needs a break, you know you can call me.”

“Sure. But for now, let’s just plan on a hospital visit. Maybe in a few days, after we’re settled in, you could come by the house.”

No way was she going to sit on the sidelines while Andrea’s mother had all the fun, but she’d wait to fight that battle. “Whatever works best for you, dear. I’ll see you soon.”

Sarah hung up the phone. Andrea was going to lock that baby away in her house like it was a fortress. The bitch would do everything in her power to keep Sarah away. But she wouldn’t push it. She’d follow all their rules, be the perfect grandmother. Things had been strained the last couple of years, but Sarah was sure the new baby would bring them all closer. She’d just have to make sure she wasn’t shut out.

She made it to the hospital in record time, and the minute she laid eyes on her new granddaughter, Sarah fell in love. The baby was absolutely perfect. She had Andrea’s green eyes, but the rest of her was all Michael. She was beautiful.

“Can I hold her?” Sarah asked her daughter-in-law.

Andrea held the baby out. “Just don’t drop her on her head. I worked hard to get the little bugger out. Don’t want to start all over from square one.” She and Michael laughed.

Sarah smiled. She’d never get used to Andrea’s odd sense of humor. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was this adorable bundle of joy. She sat in the visitor’s chair and cradled Lindsey in her arms.

“She’s so sweet, Michael.” But her words went unanswered. Her son sat on his wife’s bed, their arms locked around each other, oblivious to the world.

Sarah turned back to her granddaughter and whispered, “They’re so wrapped up in each other, they’ll ignore you, too. But we’ll have each other, Lindsey. We’re going to be best of friends.”

Sarah rocked the baby, thought back to Michael as an infant. Her husband had told her she was obsessed with their son. He just didn’t understand a mother’s love. She and Michael were so much better off after he was dead.

* * *

 Sarah rang the doorbell at Michael and Andrea’s house, then let herself in through the unlocked door. It didn’t matter how many times she’d told them to lock their door, it was always open. Every time she brought it up, they’d tell her that Lincoln Park was a very safe Chicago neighborhood.

She stepped into the living room and gazed at the party decorations for Lindsey’s fifth birthday. Deja vu. The same ugly bubble gum pink that had adorned their wedding reception now permeated their house. Happy birthday streamers, pink balloons, and a pile of presents wrapped in the offensive color.

“Hello,” she called out. “Anyone home?”

“We’re in the kitchen, Mom,” Michael said.

Sarah threaded her way down the hall, past Big Wheels–who would allow their child to ride one in the house?–a Barbie mansion, and a host of other discarded toys. The house was like a war zone. The kitchen no better: a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, junk mail littered the countertops. She made a beeline to the kitchen table where Lindsey sat eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese.

“Grammy!” The little girl dropped her spoon and waved her hands.

“Happy birthday, darling girl!” Sarah leaned down and gave her granddaughter a kiss on her forehead to avoid the smear of cheese on her lips.

“I’m five today, Grammy!” Lindsey held up five fingers.

“I know you are. You’re a big girl, aren’t you?”

Lindsey nodded. “Did you bring me a present?”

“That’s not polite. You shouldn’t ask a guest if she’s brought you a gift.”

Andrea turned from the counter where she’d been decorating a cake. “Can’t you cut her some slack? She’s excited about her birthday.”

Sarah dug her fingers into her palms. Andrea was always criticizing everything she said. “It’s never the wrong time to teach children good manners.”

“When it comes to my kid, that’s for me to decide, not you.” Andrea turned back to the cake.

Michael crossed the room and kissed his mother on her cheek. “Hi, Mom. We’re glad you could make it.”

At least her son had some manners. “I wouldn’t miss this day for the world. I can’t believe our little angel is five.”

Andrea turned around, holding the cake platter. “Look at this beautiful cake Mommy made you!”

Lindsey clapped her hands. “All mine!”

“Don’t you want to share your cake with us?” Sarah asked.

“No, Mommy said it was my cake.”

The way Andrea spoiled her daughter was shameful. “Well, it’s your birthday cake, but you have to share it with your party guests. You couldn’t eat a whole cake by yourself anyway. You’d get fat.”

Andrea put the cake on the table. “Sarah, we don’t talk about getting fat in this house. Do you know how much pressure is on girls to be thin?”

“And do you know how many fat kids are out there? They sit at their computers all day, eat junk food, and get diabetes before they’re ten.”

Andrea clenched her hands into fists. “Once again, Sarah, my child, my rules. Five years old is a little young to be lectured about good nutrition.”

“Well, five is a little old to still have her baby fat. You’re not doing her any favors.”

Andi threw up her hands, her eyes blazed. “That’s it, Sarah. You can leave right now. I will not have you poisoning my little girl with your criticism. It’s bad enough you’ve made it clear that I’m not good enough for your son. You’re not going to tear apart my daughter.”

“Hey guys, let’s just calm down,” Michael said. “Let’s not ruin Lindsey’s birthday with a big scene.”

“Too late, Mike. Your mother’s ruined it already. Look at her.” Andrea pointed to her daughter, her face crinkled as tears streamed down her cheeks.

Sarah was horrified. She dropped to her knees in front of her granddaughter. “Darling, don’t cry. Your mommy and Grammy were just talking. We’re not mad at you.”

The girl began to sob.

Sarah grabbed the little girl’s arms and shook them. “Stop it right now, Lindsey! Big girls do not cry.”

Andrea dug her fingers into Sarah’s arms and yanked her onto her feet. “Let go of her! How dare you?”

Sarah spun around and pulled her arms free. “If you would discipline her once in a while, she wouldn’t throw these little tantrums.”

Andrea leaned forward into Sarah’s face. “You come into our house. You criticize her manners, you criticize her weight. It was one thing when she was too little to understand. But now she knows what you’re saying. Don’t you see how hurtful you are?”

Sarah took a step back. “I hardly think what I’m doing is hurtful. I do know how to raise a child. You fell in love with my son, didn’t you?”

“Your son was a wreck before he met me. He had no self-confidence. He just marched along the path you pushed for him. He had to get good grades, had to be a doctor.” Andrea turned to her husband. “Tell her, Mike. Tell her how miserable you were.”

Sarah reached for her son, but he pulled away, crossed his arms. “Mom, I know you tried your best.”

“I gave you everything, Michael. Look where you are because of me.”

“Are you kidding?” Andrea said. “Happiness is not about having an MD after your name and a big paycheck. It’s about love and family. Everything he’s found with me, not you.”

“Michael, just listen—”

“No, Sarah,” Andrea said. “We’re done listening. I’ve put up with your crap for years, but it ends today. If you and Mike want to continue your dysfunctional relationship, that’s between you two. But you are not dragging my daughter into your freak show. You will never see Lindsey again.”

Sarah felt a wave of panic overtake her. “What? You can’t keep me from my granddaughter.”

“Oh, yes I can.” Andrea yanked Mike’s arm and pushed him in front of Sarah. “Get her out of my house right now.”

“Honey, can we just take a deep breath?”

Andrea’s face flamed red. “No, Mike. It’s her or me.”

Sarah saw the hesitation on her son’s face, then he shook his head in resignation. “I’m sorry, Mom. We can’t keep going through this crap.”

Sarah was stunned. How could Michael take Andrea’s side? “Going through what? What have I done?”

Michael put his arm around her and steered her out of the kitchen. When they reached the front door, Sarah placed her hand on his cheek. “I didn’t mean anything, dear. You know that. Andrea’s just upset now. I’m sure after she’s calmed down—”

“No, Mom. This has been coming for a long time. I’m sorry, but Andi means it. I’ll call you. The two of us can have lunch sometime.” He pushed her gently out of the house, and closed the door.

Months went by with no promised phone call. Her son didn’t return any of her calls or emails. When he didn’t acknowledge Mother’s Day, Sarah had enough. She was not going to let them treat her this way. She showed up at their house, unannounced. When she rang the bell, Andrea answered. She took one look, and without a word, slammed the door in Sarah’s face.

Sarah stood on the doorstep, shaking with anger. That bitch! she thought. First she stole my only son and now my granddaughter. Well, she doesn’t know who she’s dealing with.

* * *

 Sarah pulled her Lexus into a parking spot a few doors down from her son’s house. As she’d driven up, she passed both his car and Andrea’s parked on the opposite side of the street. She knew they’d be headed out in a few minutes. Michael would drive to the hospital where he had his orthopedic practice; Andrea would drive Lindsey to kindergarten before returning to the house to do who knows what she spent her days doing. She’d quit her sales job after she had the baby and showed no signs of returning to it even though Lindsey had started school. Apparently she was content to live off Michael’s salary.

Sarah pulled out her cell phone and whenever someone walked by, she held it to her ear. Talk on a cell and you were invisible to the world. No one would pay her any attention. She watched in her rear view mirror until she saw Michael leave. Then a few minutes later, Andrea, holding Lindsey’s hand, did the same.

Sarah knew the kindergarten was about a ten-minute drive from their home, so she wasn’t surprised when Andrea returned twenty-two minutes later. Sarah watched her enter the house and waited another eight minutes before she left her car and walked up the front steps. With no hesitation, she opened the door without ringing the bell. Closing it quietly behind her, she stood for a moment in the darkened living room. She heard a TV playing in the kitchen.

Her rubber-soled shoes made no sound on the hardwood floor as she walked down the hallway, holding a pillow from the living room sofa. When she got to the kitchen doorway, she peered into the room. A perfect set-up. Andrea at the kitchen table faced away from her, her hands around a mug of coffee, her focus on the Today show.

Sarah pulled a gun out of her coat pocket and tiptoed to where Andrea sat. In one quick motion, she crammed the pillow against Andrea’s head and fired the gun. In that split second, she heard a gasp and felt Andrea try to turn around. Too late. The momentum from the gunshot pushed her body forward. Her shoulder hit the coffee cup and sent it skittering. Her head hit the table with a thud, then rolled slightly to the side and came to rest on a pink floral placemat.

Sarah gazed at her daughter-in-law’s profile and the blood pooling onto the placemat. She shuddered, glad it was over, proud of herself for killing this tramp. Andrea had gotten what she deserved. How dare she keep Michael and Lindsey away from her.

The muffled gunshot had been no louder than a dish dropping to the floor. The sound wouldn’t escape the house. Still, she wasted no time. She pulled Andrea’s wedding ring and watch off her left hand. The arm swung slightly after she finished, then dangled at the side of the chair.

Sarah rifled through Andrea’s purse, yanked out her wallet, and took the cash. The gloves she wore were tight enough that they didn’t impede her progress. With a final glance at the body, she left the kitchen. She moved quickly down the hall and up the stairs to the master bedroom. Pulled out the two nightstand drawers and spilled the contents onto the bed. Pulled a few more dresser drawers open and threw some items onto the floor, found nothing that a thief would be interested in.

Sarah went into the bathroom and opened the cabinet above the sink. The only prescription was birth control pills, the rest over-the-counter medications. She swept the bottles into the sink before turning away. She scrambled down the stairs to the front door, opened it slowly, and glanced down the street. A couple of people walked on the sidewalk, away from her. Sarah left the house and strode to her car, her head down, her black swing coat masking her body, her hat pulled down low with her hair tucked under. Just another anonymous stranger, dressed to ward off the winter chill, moving quickly to get somewhere warm.

When she got to her car, Sarah took a final glance around, relieved to find no one paying attention to her. She drove away, kept to the speed limit, and came to a full stop at each stop sign. A few miles from her home, she stopped at a park with a large pond. She was alone. Early winter was a dead zone. Too cold to play on the brown, brittle grass, not cold enough to play in snow or skate on the still unfrozen pond.

Sarah pulled Andrea’s watch and ring out of her pocket and heaved them into the pond. She watched as they kicked up a splash before they sunk into their watery grave. She stood for a moment and gazed across the water, then mentally ticked through a checklist before she nodded with satisfaction. She’d done it, gotten rid of her horrid daughter-in-law. All she had to do now was to go home and wait for Michael’s phone call. She knew it would come. With Andrea out of his life, he’d come running back to his mother.

Sarah busied herself at home all afternoon. She’d taken a day off from work, nothing unusual. She had six weeks of vacation and often took a Friday off. After she’d straightened her living room and kitchen, she walked upstairs and into Michael’s old room. It would be his again. When he moved out, she’d left everything the way he had it. His baseball bat and glove rested against the wall. His Little League and swimming trophies aligned on the dresser. She had even left those hideous Kiss posters on the walls. But she would replace those with some nice framed art. Nothing from his house, no memories from his time with Andrea.

She went into the next bedroom, already decorated for her granddaughter. Painted a lovely buttercup yellow; the poor girl would never be subjected to that awful bubble gum pink again. Sarah sat in the rocking chair, her eyes closed as she envisioned her new life. The three of them living together. Happy, so very happy.

The doorbell interrupted her reverie. She jumped from the rocker. Michael and Lindsey were here! Her heart raced as she flew down the stairs and yanked the door open.

A burly man in a gray trench coat stood on her porch. “Sarah Edwards?”


The man held out a police badge. “Detective Simmons. You’re under arrest for the murder of Andrea Edwards.”

Sarah was stunned. How did they know? “What are you talking about? My daughter-in-law is dead?”

“Ma’am, your son saw your car at his house this morning. Poor guy. He thought you were there to reconcile with his wife.”

Sarah’s brain flew through possibilities, excuses. If Michael had seen her… “I did go to talk to her. To try to work things out. She was alive when I left.”

The detective dug a plastic bag from his pocket, held it up. “We found your bracelet in the victim’s bedroom. Your son ID’d it. Must have come off when you were trashing the place. Thought you’d try to make it look like a robbery, right? Like that’s never been done.”

Sarah stared at the bracelet, puzzled. She hadn’t worn it today, hadn’t seen it for months. The last time she remembered wearing it was to Lindsey’s birthday party.

* * *

 Michael tucked Lindsey into her bed and kissed her good night. He sat in the rocker, his eyes closed as he envisioned his new life. He couldn’t believe he was finally free of his crazy mother. Living with that nutcase all those years, knowing she’d gotten away with killing his father. Although she’d been right about one thing. Andi had turned into a Class A bitch. He and Lindsey were so much better off now that she was dead.

# # #

Copyright 2013 Linda Johnson

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Family Sins is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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