Guestbook

Winston Viceroy stopped by his sister Carol's house for a visit and to get a free lunch out of the deal as he timed his arrival perfectly. He enjoyed a nice conversation with his brother in law Stew and received updates from his teenaged niece Maggie and nephew Marty during the meal.

The kids went off to do their own thing after eating but Carol and Stew stepped into the living room with Winston following lunch for some more conversation.

Winston noticed a funeral guestbook sitting on the coffee table once he took a seat on the couch.

"What's this?" He asked, picking up the guest book.

"Oh, the guestbook from Daddy's funeral," Carol said from one of the easy chairs. "I dug it out because I'm doing some family genealogy research and I couldn't remember if Great Uncles Emerson and Everett showed up for the service. They were still alive then."

"It's all a blur," Winston sighed as he flipped through the pages, scanning the names of family relatives, friends of his father and the family, and other mourners who had made an appearance that day.

"Plenty of people attended though," Carol said with appreciation. "Daddy was well liked."

"And died way too young," Stew added from his matching easy chair.

"They're both dead now," Carol said, speaking of Uncles Emerson and Everett.

"I don't remember meeting them," Winston said.

"They were there though," Carol said. "They signed in which was strange because they had been estranged from the family for years."

"I guess they must have liked Dad," Winston remarked.

"Daddy's the only one who didn't treat them like scum," Carol explained.

"There were a lot of scandals with that side of the family back in the day," Winston recalled.

"I'll say!" Carol laughed. "Mom told me some of the stories. Infidelity. Affairs. Illegitimate children born out of wedlock. Mental institutions. A wife who died from a botched abortion. Cousins marrying. Women listed as domestics and housekeepers on the census forms when there was only one man living in the home."

"I doubt they were housekeepers," Stew remarked.

"They say that Emerson and Everett threw the guy who impregnated their unmarried sister out a window," Carol said.

"That would be our maternal grandmother," Winston clarified.

"Daddy was lucky he married into Mom's much more normal family," Carol said.

"They're all alcoholics," Winston frowned.

"Successful alcoholics," Stew clarified.

"Upper class alcoholics," Carol laughed.

Winston had flipped to the last page of the guestbook and he did a double take when he saw the next to last name written on the last page: McKenna Torrent.

"McKenna came to Dad's service?" He asked with surprise.

"I guess," Carol said with a shrug. "I don't remember seeing her but she signed in so she must have been there."

"Who's McKenna Torrent?" Stew asked.

"Winston's great long lost love," Carol smiled affectionately.

"We broke up before Dad died," Winston explained. "Freshman year. She was with Marbles Dempsey when Dad died a few years later. I had no idea she came."

"She must have really liked him if she showed up at the funeral for the Dad of her ex-boyfriend," Stew said.

Winston sat back on the couch with amazement. "Wow," he said aloud.

"It doesn't mean anything, Win," Carol warned. "Don't go reading anything into it. Daddy was nice to her when you two were together. Showing up was the least she could have done."

"Why didn't she express her condolences to me?" Winston wanted to know.

"I'm sure it was awkward for her," Carol guessed. "Having a new boyfriend and all that. She probably wanted to keep it on the down-low."

"Paying her respects to your Dad without creating any drama," Stew offered.

"Turns out her life became pretty dramatic," Carol said.

"Never mind about that," Winston said.

"Did something happen to her?" Stew wondered.

"Let's just say she makes our Dad's family storyline we were just talking about pretty tame in comparison," Carol remarked.

"It wasn't that bad," Winston defended. "McKenna's just one person, not a whole family of misfits."

"What'd she do?" Stew wanted to know.

"Let's not drag her through the mud," Winston pleaded.

"She's back, you know," Carol revealed. "Living with her mother."

"I know," Winston replied, staring at her name written in the guestbook.

"This doesn't change anything," Carol warned, seeming to read Winston's mind. "Just because she showed up at Daddy's service doesn't mean she gets a pass for all her sins and mistakes. She doesn't get a second chance with you either. She dumped you, remember?"

"That was a long time ago," Winston argued. "A lot of time has passed."

"And a lot of people have changed," Carol insisted. "Don't even think about looking her up just because she showed up at Daddy's service.

"It proved she cared."

"About Daddy, not you," Carol said strongly.

"Don't let your Divorce Blues and pandemic hangover get the best of you," Stew cautioned. "Your middle school crush isn't going to be the answer now."

"It wouldn't hurt to thank her for her gesture of showing up at Dad's funeral," Winston shrugged.

"You're nuts," Carol groaned. "It's the dumbest thing you could do. Besides, she's probably not in any mood to face you after what she's been through."

"What's she been through?" Stew wanted to know.

"It was in all the papers," Carol said. "The scandal about the school teacher making porno tapes."

"They weren't porno tapes," Winston corrected for the record. "It was an on-line sex service."

"What's the difference?" Carol frowned.

"Wait a minute, that teacher who got busted in New York is your former middle school crush?" Stew asked with disbelief.

"Madam Mayer, she called herself," Carol said with disgust. "I can't believe she had the audacity to come back to Hillsboro."

"Where was she supposed to go?" Winston asked. "She can't teach."

"Whose fault is that?" Carol wanted to know.

"Well, if Dad was willing to forgive Emmett and Everett why shouldn't I be willing to cut McKenna some slack?" Winston asked as he stood from the couch.

"Don't do it," Carol forewarned. "Nothing good can come of it."

"Maybe you should leave her in middle school," Stew agreed. "Present day realities seldom match long ago memories."

"She's probably isolated and lonely," Winston worried. "I doubt she goes out much because of all the rumor and gossip."

"She could have gone anywhere but here," Carol said.

"In the middle of a pandemic?" Winston frowned. "I'm sure her mother wanted her to come home. She's a widower now. Probably lonely too."

Carol rose from her easy chair. "Look, I know the divorce was hard on you," she told her brother. "But this isn't how you get yourself back in the game."

"I'm just going to thank her for coming to Dad's service, that's all," Winston insisted. "Show her the same kindness she showed Dad."

"Fine," Carol said unhappily as she held both arms up in a surrender motion. "I wash my hands of it."

Stew stood too. "Think about this for a few days before you do anything rash," he advised, picking up the guestbook Winston had placed on the coffee table. "It's just a name in a book from a long time ago, a different era, a different reality."

"I appreciate your concern, guys," Winston said with sincerity. "Don't worry. I'm not going to do anything stupid."

Carol followed her brother with doubtful eyes as he left the house.