John took an awkward sip of his drink. Technically he knew everyone here, but none of them well enough to actually have a conversation with. At least not without the short, painful dance of finding out who they are and what they were doing with their life. For some of the more distant relatives it was fine, after all who could keep track of everyone, but it became a bit more iffy with cousins. He knew that Sandra was in college recently, something arty perhaps? And Jacob had been fired from his last job for drinking about three years back. Though Jacob was hitting the free booze fairly hard, so perhaps what ever he had managed to learn from the event hadn’t stuck. Unless it was Jack that was fired? John shook his head and took another sip. No one had approached him to chat yet, so that was something at least. His sister, Angela, had abandoned him about twenty minutes earlier, disappearing off with another cousin they hadn’t seen in years.
it wasn’t just not really knowing anyone that was making him feel uncomfortable. Everyone seemed much to happy. Laughing and drinking, telling stories and catching up, if everyone weren’t wearing black, and there were not large photos of Grammy with wreathes underneath anyone would think it was just a family reunion. He knew Grammy wasn’t particularly liked by anyone, hell, he had been avoiding her for the past five years, but it felt disrespectful. She was a difficult woman to deal with, and John suspected she never really cared for any of them, but surely someone must be upset. She was always a source of drama, of broken promises and gifts being held over heads, but she had never done anything too heinous. When she was alive most of the people here did what she said, catering to her whims. John knew that it was all down to the fortune she had stashed away in the bank and her three large houses. Grammy had been a rich woman and everyone wanted something from her. Maybe that was how she turned so mean in the first place, the constant begging and pleading that some of the relatives did. Now that she was dead they all came out of the woodwork in the hope of getting something. John himself was only there because his mother had asked. John jumped, startled out of his thoughts by Uncle Scott’s booming laugh. John finished off his drink and stood from the table, hoping Scott hadn’t spotted him. John started moving through the crowd, weaving his way between groups. A large hand clamped down on his shoulder, “John! It’s good to see you!”
John stopped, force a smile and turned, “Uncle Scott, it’s good to see you too.”
Scott pulled John in for a hug, not noticing how John’s body remained tense. When he was released John took a slow breath. He was still wearing the same cologne, the smell of which always made John feel sick.
“Terrible day isn’t?” Scott’s cheeks were red and his eyes were shiny.
John nodded, “Yes, it really is. Still, at least she had a long life.”
“True, though I hear you wouldn’t know much about that. How long has it been since you’d seen her?”
“It was a while. I tried to get down when I heard that she was ill, but I couldn’t’ make it.”
Scott smiled sympathetically and nodded, “Yeah, I almost didn’t make it myself. I’m glad I did though, If I hadn’t I know I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.”
“So what have you been up to? I hear you’ve got a new job?”
“Yeah, it’s nice, fairly easy. I’ve less hours now, so I’ve more free time.”
John took a sip from his glass then feigned surprise that it was empty, “Oh, I better get another one. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Scott smiled and downed the rest of his drink, “So do I, c’mon we’ll brave the bar together.” As John turned he desperately scanned the crowd for someone to come help him.
The wait at the bar was two people deep when they arrived, it seemed everyone had decided to top up. John tried to slip in between two people he didn’t recognise, hoping he’d lose Scott in the crowd. Scott shouldered his way between the two, “Now Nessa, Jeremy, make way for your elders!”
John nodded as Scott talked, adding in an occasional “Oh really?” Or “Yeah” when there was a brief lull. Finally, John made it to the bar and ordered his drink, he was served first and while Scott was distracted with the barman he slipped away.
Uncle Scott wasn’t really a bad person, but something about him put John on edge. The way he was always touching people, patting them on the head or shoulder, the way he smiled, like they were sharing a secret. And of course, that damn cologne. He wasn’t the only one Uncle Scott put on edge, his father never let him or his sister be alone with him. It was never anything obvious, most people wouldn’t notice and John only suspected he did because of his own dislike of Scott. Behind him he heard another booming laugh and smiled, Scott had latched onto someone else. He glanced at his watch, what was the appropriate amount of time to stay at one of these things? He would ask Angela, but god only knew how long it would take to find her. He paused for a second then shook his head, he knew exactly where he’d find her. She’d be out back with one or two of the cousins, having a smoke. Part of him was tempted to go out and join them. It would certainly help him relax, make things a bit more bearable. He pushed the thought away, it seemed disrespectful to be getting high at a wake. He knew Grammy wouldn’t approve, but then she wouldn’t approve of the entire event. She wouldn’t want people laughing or sharing stories, she’d want them all crying, wailing, cursing god for taking her too soon. That was definitely more her style. He scanned the crowd again, spotting no one he really recognised he finished his drink then left. No one would notice his absence, after all no one really noticed his presence anyway. Besides, the tough part was over.
Outside he saw Angela and went over, he had been right, her and two others were huddled together, passing a joint around. He took a quick puff when it was passed to him, more out of politeness than any real desire to smoke. “I’m going to head back to the hotel, I’m feeing a bit drained.”
“Ok, do you want me to let mum and dad know?”
“No, they’ll only worry. I don’t think they’ll really notice I’m gone. I’ll pop around to her tomorrow and see how she’s doing.”
Angela gave him a quick hug, “we should go out for a drink while you’re here. We haven’t had a proper catch up in ages.”
“Yeah, definitely. I might have a nap then come back across later.”
“Cool, let me know. I’ll warn you away if its gotten messy. Though I don’t think I’ll be staying much longer myself.”
At his hotel room John stripped out of his suit and put on a pair of pyjama bottoms. He threw a movie onto the TV and tried to relax. It was finally over. Sure he’d have to go to a few meals over the next few days, but the worst of it was done.