A man discovers a shocking truth when he sees his wife come to pay her respects at her own funeral and follows her to find out why she did it.
“Get yourself together, Ted. You can’t fall apart and cry. Not when your son is watching.” Ted was trying to swallow his emotions and look busy.
But as he saw the men lower his beloved wife into the grave, it hit him for the millionth time that day – he was never again going to be able to see her sweet face or hear her honey voice.
Unable to hold his emotions back, Ted let himself fall onto the ground and wept like a child.
It had been a week since Mary had lost her life in the senseless car accident. The pain was too fresh, and Ted kept hoping he would suddenly snap out of the most horrid dream.
But everything about that day was real. The people gathered the soil poured onto the coffin, and the endless stream of tears rising in the tired eyes of Rick, Ted’s and Mary’s fifteen-year-old son.
As the kind people from close-knit circles of friends and family prepared to leave, they each walked up to the man and his son and tried to say something meaningful and sympathetic before bidding them goodbye.
“Rick, you look awfully tired. Get the driver to take you home, and try to get some rest. I will see you at home in a bit,” Ted kissed his son and sent him away.
The man was still listening to the well-intentioned philosophies and advice of people who were leaving when he noticed someone peculiar standing far ahead.
It almost looked like a silhouette, and when Ted realized that it was a woman in a black dress, he had a strange impulse that made no sense.
“Is that…my Mary?” Ted knew that, in all probability, he was hallucinating. “Grief does strange things to your mind,” he had heard someone tell him minutes ago.
And yet, something in him told Ted to take a closer look. Excusing himself from the next friend in line, Ted slowly glided through the crowd, keeping his eyes fixated on the mysterious visitor dressed in black.
Ted rubbed his eyes and expected the woman in the distance to vanish. But she didn’t. The closer he went, the more he realized that it wasn’t a dream. And the surer he became that it was his wife Mary’s face looking back at him through the crowd.
Now Ted brushed through the crowd with more intent, still looking at the woman. Only this time, the woman started walking away briskly. Ted tried to run, but the woman was already close to her car. She leaped into the driver’s seat of the black vehicle, looked back once to see how far Ted had come, and drove the car off into the horizon.
Ted’s attempt at chasing the car didn’t work either. The car had sped away in a cloud of dust, which had also blocked Ted from noticing the numbers on the car’s license plate.
“Who was that? Could that have been…? No, no, that’s not possible.”
Ted turned back and suddenly became aware that he had created a bit of a scene, and people were looking at him with varying degrees of concern.
“I really need to get some rest!” Just as Ted decided to walk off, he noticed a piece of paper in the air, slowly drifting down onto the road in front of him. It had to have fallen off the car!
Ted opened it. It was a receipt for a gas station that was 80 miles away from the city.
Less than two hours later, Ted was on an empty dust-laden road, looking at the name of the gas station on the piece of paper and then over to the same name on a big signboard. He had arrived.
Taking out a photo of Mary from his wallet, Ted showed it to one of the lady attendants. “Any chance you’ve seen this woman around here recently?” he asked.
The woman at the gas station didn’t have to think a lot over the photo. “Yes, that’s Carla. She moved into the neighborhood about a week ago. What’s this about?” The woman looked at Ted with a hint of suspicion, secretly eyeing him from head to toe.
“Oh, I’m just an old friend who couldn’t meet her before she moved,” he lied to the lady.
“Thought I’d show up and surprise her. Do you know where she may be living currently?”
“Of course I do; it’s a small town, this!” the woman replied with an air of pride, adding, “She’s staying at Audrey’s motel, on the far end of this road.”
“Oh, so I’m really close. Thanks for your help, Mrs…?”
“Lily,” the woman smiled for the first time in the conversation. “Have a nice day!”
Ted walked down to the end of the road as instructed and spotted the rustic-looking motel. He used his charming ways to get the owner, Ms. Audrey, to reveal the room number he was looking for.
All that was left was for Ted to knock at the door, the woman to answer, and for the mystery to finally unravel.
Ted knocked on the door with his knuckles and waited. There was no answer, but the dot of light on the other side of the peephole went dark for a few seconds.
Whoever was inside the room had just snuck a peek at him. Ted knocked again, this time louder and with a pregnant pause between each knock.
After a few seconds, the door swung open, and a woman ran directly into Ted’s arms.”I’m truly sorry, darling,” the woman wept.
In an instant, Ted knew – the touch of her skin, the sweetness of her voice, the smell of her perfume…
“This is my Mary! My Mary is alive!”
It took a few moments for the pure joy and relief in Ted’s heart to fade and the reality to hit him hard.
“Why, Mary? Why did you fake your own death? Do you know what you’ve put me through?
Forget me, do you know what you’ve put your son through? What was so terrible about your life that–”
Mary gripped her husband’s hands and shook him into silence.
“Sit down with me. Hear me out, darling, please. I want to finally get this off my chest…”
For the rest of the afternoon, Ted listened as Mary revealed a series of events and secrets that she had never planned on telling another soul.
“The woman you buried today, in the presence of family and friends, was my twin sister, Paris.”
Ted thought it was another lie, but the more he listened, the more he realized how complicated the truth was.
“Paris was my blood, but she became the reason for some of my deepest traumas in life. She was always a troubled child, and I was an easy target. Since childhood, I’ve been the one to clean up her mess, face her fury, and still run back to her whenever she got into trouble.
“After a while, I stopped getting sucked into her world, and she went to prison for one fraud after the other. There were days when I wanted to seek her out, but then I remembered that I had a family and that I still had a lot of healing to do.
“But last month, Paris got out of jail and showed up at my office. She came with an unreasonable demand for money. For once in my life, I stood up to her and asked her to leave.
But she threatened me with something that rendered me completely powerless.”
Ted was listening and wanted to ask her what that threat was. But seeing how Mary was already struggling to speak through her tears, Ted parked the question in his mind.
“It was the one thing she could use against me, and she knew that I would keep submitting to everything she asked.
“And so I gave her the money she asked for – once, twice, but it was never enough. She kept coming back, kept using the threat, and I kept relenting.
“Until one day, she was driving my car, and I was sitting next to her, arguing about some silly event from their childhood. Paris lost her cool and lost control of the car at the same time.
“I can still remember the crashing of the metal and the flying shards of glass that covered my face. For a moment, I thought I was going to die. I thought of Rick, I thought of you. But you were in Shanghai on that business trip.
“But when my head cleared, I remembered: Paris! I found her on the other side of the debris, and by the time I could hold her hand, she had already stopped breathing,” saying this, Mary burst into tears again.
The truth was that in the heat of that fateful moment, Mary felt choked with the fear of getting blamed, getting caught for the previous payments she had made, and getting pulled into Paris’ mess once again. And so, she had decided to flee. Mary called 911, picked herself up, and didn’t stop walking until I reached the bus station.
“That’s how I landed up here. That’s why I faked my own death.”
Ted held his wife as she couldn’t stop shaking, revisiting the horror of the worst day of her life.
Ted felt a sense of relief, not knowing that his wife was about to reveal one last shocking truth that would hit him the hardest.
“Ted, I need to tell you this. I need to tell you what Paris was threatening me with.”
“Go on, darling, I’m listening.”
“Paris was the only one who knew the truth about Rick. That year when you and I had one of our biggest fights when you left home and never came back for six months, I had reconnected with an old ex-boyfriend.
“Paris knew this, and she was the only one who calculated that Rick’s biological father was that guy and not you.
“And she also knew how much Rick and you meant to me. She knew she could threaten to reveal this truth and that it would work every single time.
“I’m sorry that I cheated on you, Ted. All this seems to be punishment for that one night. I’m sorry for everything.”
That afternoon was only the beginning of Mary’s attempts to repair her relationship. When she surrendered to the cops, when she appeared in court, and even when she spoke to her son Rick, Mary only spoke the truth.
Forgiving Mary was not impossible for Ted since he knew what it was like to have strayed outside the bond of marriage, and he was guilty of it himself, too.
After a year of bringing the truth to light and living apart from each other, Mary was free from all the legal battles, and Ted had given enough thought to the future of his marriage.
When they let go of their guilts and resentments and met at Paris’ gravestone on her first death anniversary, Mary and Ted held each other’s hands for the first time in months, ready to give their love another shot.