Read One to Tell the Grandkids Online

Authors: Kristina M. Sanchez

One to Tell the Grandkids

 

 

 

ONE TO TELL THE GRANDKIDS

 

Kristina M. Sanchez

 

This book is a work of fiction. All of the names, characters, places, and events in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

 

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Kristina M. Sanchez

 

All rights reserved.

 

Cover art by AngstyG.com

 

 

 

For my patchwork family—my mother, my brother, and all the trees in my family forest.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

T
aryn Sato did makeup for dead people.

It seemed wrong to say she loved her job. Death wasn’t an easy thing to deal with. Then again, death was as inevitable as life, and why shouldn’t she enjoy what she did? Maybe it was, for her, a way to normalize the most abnormal event in her life. Everybody died, and not everyone had lived a long, full life when they did it. Those were the breaks. Dead people didn’t bother her. Dead bodies didn’t make her squeamish or sad.

Usually.

Today was different. The bay of the mortuary smelled like rotting fruit—cloyingly sweet. The smell stuck in her throat like a moldy plum swallowed whole. Typically it only took a few minutes shallow breathing before she was accustomed to the scent. Today she gagged on it. Whatever breakfast she’d managed get down came right back
.
Today the idea of working on a dead body, this dead body in particular, was trying.

Taryn leaned on the bathroom sink for a few more minutes after she’d washed the sheen of sweat off her clammy skin. She was trembling badly, and she needed a steady hand for her work.

“It’s not you,” she said to the corpse a few minutes later when she was finally setting out her array of makeup. “I have no problem with you being dead and all. I don’t discriminate that way.” She flashed the unmoving body a grin as she took out the bottles and brushes she needed.

Typically, Taryn had no problem with nudity either. Many of the corpses she worked on hadn’t been dressed for their funerals yet. It made the same sense it made in real life—she didn’t want to get makeup on their beautiful clothes. The corpse on her slab was female, and unlike the hundreds of previously alive humans she had worked on, she
looked
at this one. More specifically, her gaze lingered on the body’s belly.

The woman had died shortly after giving birth to a healthy son. Her stomach still held a semblance of that bulbous pregnancy shape, but the skin was wilted and wrinkled instead of proud and firm.

Taryn cleared her throat and got to business. She didn’t have to put makeup anywhere but the woman’s face, after all. “Sorry. It’s really not you, but what are the odds? Dying in childbirth is something that only happens in history books and third world countries, not here in the modern world. But here you are, dead in childbirth, and I just found out yesterday I’m pregnant.”

The last two words knocked the breath out of Taryn. It was the first time she’d said the words out loud, and it was crazy how they choked her. It didn’t help that her heart had leapt to her throat and was pounding hard. She had to swallow several times and breathe in through her nose until she calmed again.

“It’s only human that the idea shakes me up, right?” Taryn asked the corpse as she went back to spreading on foundation. “It happened to you, so it could happen to me, and then what? This is a mess.” She offered the dead woman a smile. “Not you. You’ve got great skin. You’re going to look beautiful.”

Taryn picked up a few shades of blush, considering carefully before she decided. “I’m not going to presume to know you. Maybe you wanted this.” She gestured at the woman’s belly. “Maybe you didn’t. We all have our stories, and I’m not the kind of person who believes every pregnancy is wonderful. Obviously this one didn’t end too well for you. Still, word around the office is your son is safe with his father. I can’t help but put myself in your shoes. If this were to happen to me . . .

“Well, I guess I should start at the beginning.” She took a deep breath. Admitting her idiocy even to a dead woman wasn’t going to be easy. “See, about six weeks ago, I went clubbing with a friend in LA. I was having a rough time. I had a huge blowout with my then roommates. Long story short, I’m renting my apartment on my own now. Anyway, my friend took me out. Melanie, she’s never really understood why I don’t drink. I’m not an alcoholic, after all. But I’m a stupid drunk. I know this about myself.”

Taryn checked the photo that the family had provided, looking to see if the woman had worn eye shadow in life. “I got cocky. Last time I was irresponsible with alcohol, I was still a teenager. I got to figuring it was the teenage part that made all the bad choices. I’m twenty-six now. It would be different, right?”

She nodded at the woman, because even a corpse could see what was coming next. “Yeah. Wrong, obviously. I woke up in a stranger’s bed. And of course, because I was on a roll, I got the heck out of there without getting his name. Ugh.” Taryn sat back and wiped away a sheen of perspiration from her brow. She shook her head, looking to the corpse for sympathy. “So now I’m pregnant, and if I have this baby, there’s going to be nothing I can tell him about his father other than he went to a bar once on a Saturday night.”

The corpse had no comment on the situation, and Taryn laughed at herself. “You’re taking this so well. You shouldn’t give me false hope like that. I know better. My parents are going to give me that look. I hate that look. You know the one.

“That’s a definite pro in the not keeping it category. They never have to know if there’s nothing to tell them about. There are a lot of pros in that category right now.

“I’m sorry.” Taryn reached for a pale peach lipstick and painted it on the woman with even strokes. “It’s probably a disrespectful thing for me to talk about with you. You probably wanted your baby, planned and hoped for your pregnancy, and look how that turned out for you. I haven’t even thought about kids. Not really. Looks like I better start thinking.”

She sighed and straightened up, her hands on her hips as she inspected her work so far. “But you know what? Today isn’t about me. Why don’t you tell me about your baby’s daddy?”

 

 

“Maybe it’s a false positive. It could be stress.”

Taryn had finally told Melanie and her other best friend Robin. They were doing their best to comfort her with little success.

“You think I’m that lucky?” Hanging her head, Taryn groaned. “How did this happen?”

Mel snickered. “I’ll tell you how. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

Despite herself, Taryn grinned.

“Is it really such a bad thing to happen?” Robin asked, his tone gentle. “I think you could do it, Tare. You’ve got a decent job. You have us.” He paused. “And your family.”

“My family. They’re going to freak out. Or not. Sure it’s a decade later than they expected, but my brother always said I was going to be a fuckup.”

“You haven’t—”

“Don’t sugarcoat this, Rob.” She hadn’t been smart enough to cut herself off at pleasantly tipsy. She’d made almost every irresponsible move she could make under the circumstances, and there were consequences bigger than a killer hangover.

Despite her embarrassment at waking up next to a naked stranger, the empty condom wrappers littered about the room had given her some relief. The situation she found herself in now begged the question, if he’d managed to put a baby in her, what else could he have left behind?

She got up again and began to pace. “You realize I don’t even know the guy’s name? Hell, I don’t even remember what he looked like. How am I supposed to find him?”

Mel made a face. “You have absolutely nothing on him? Not a first name? A first letter even?”

“You were there, too. You said you saw me with him. Do
you
remember him?”

“I was surrounded by my own pretty, and I wasn’t all that sober myself.”

Taryn flopped back on the couch and folded her hands over her stomach. She stared up at the ceiling and tried to call back the memories she’d pushed away with vehemence a month before. “I remember long brown hair. It was soft. Like rose petal soft. Almost too soft to be a man’s.”

“Well, great. We can go around Los Angeles feeling guys’ hair. Count me in.” Rob chuckled when Taryn stuck her tongue out at him. “No birthmarks or hairy moles you can recall? We need something distinguishing.”

Taryn snapped her fingers. “Oh, that’s right. He had a tattoo. Maybe more than one.” There was something important about tattoos, something that was right on the edge of her memory.

Rob raised an eyebrow. “Tattoos? For you? I thought you didn’t like guys with tats.”

“Right, because as we’ve established, I was thinking very clearly that night.”

“Tattoos are good, and not just because they’re sexy. Now we have a little more to work with. Do you remember any details about the tat? Anything that stands out to you at all?”

“Yeah. He had a tattoo of a road. It was along his left hip with the word
wander
down the middle.” Her cheeks heated when she remembered licking along that trail . . . and then farther down.

“Well, he gets points for originality,” Rob said. “At least it wasn’t anything cliché. So now we have soft brown hair and a distinguishing tattoo. And really? No hint of a name?”

Taryn began to list masculine names in her head. None of them fit. It was an uncommon name. “I think his name was like a stone.”

“Rocky?” Mel threw mock punches in the air as if she were the boxer once played by Sylvester Stallone.

Taryn laughed. “Definitely not.”

“You remember the tattoo. Think about that. Try to hear what he was saying to you when you saw it. What you said to him,” Rob said.

Taryn closed her eyes.

“Oh! He works at a tattoo parlor.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” She blushed, remembering his hands on her body and his whispered offer to do her ink if she ever wanted it.

“That we can work with,” Mel said. “Any idea where?”

“Um,” Taryn said as another whispered memory came back to her. “He said he worked close to the bar we were at—within walking distance. That’s got to narrow it down some, right?”

Melanie pulled out her cell phone and began tapping. “It looks like there are five tattoo shops within a couple miles of the bar. We can go to each one until we find this stone guy with the lame hip tattoo.”

Taryn brightened until she remembered why she’d been doing her damnedest to forget this guy for the last month. “And then what do I say? ’Hi, remember me? Congratulations, you’re going to be a father.’ Yeah, I can see that going over really well. He’s going to hate me. Oh God. I can’t do this.”

“Who cares what this guy thinks, we—”

“I can’t have a baby with a complete stranger. My genetics already suck, but I went and mixed them up with some random guy? What if we can’t find him? Then I spend this kid’s life wondering if it’s a time bomb? I can’t raise this kid alone. I can’t do it. There are too many variables, and I don’t want to go through all that alone.”

“Breathe.” Rob rubbed her back.

“We’re putting the cart before the horse here.” Mel took her hand and squeezed. “Taryn, this is a surprise. This isn’t something you wanted. If you don’t want to keep it, it ends here. Rob and I will never tell anyone.”

“You have us any way you slice this cake. You’re not alone.” Rob hesitated a beat before he went on. “I know your family can be tough, but they’d be there for you, wouldn’t they?”

Taryn wrung her hands. “They would be there. They would love the baby, but I’d be a disappointment forever.” She frowned. “I guess I’m already a disappointment anyway, right? Mike will be pleased. You know there’s nothing he likes better than saying I told you so.”

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