Home > The Dachshund Wears Prada

The Dachshund Wears Prada
Author: Stefanie London

 

1


   Theo Garrison had never felt so uncomfortable in a suit in all his life, which was saying something, given an ex-girlfriend had once asked him if he exited the womb wearing a three-piece. But today it felt like his signature outfit was suffocating him, despite being tailored to his exact measurements. He reached up to his shirt collar and hooked his finger over the edge, tugging in a desperate attempt to find relief. But none came.

   Maybe it wasn’t the suit at all.

   Maybe it was being surrounded by two hundred people. Too many people, for such an event. Theo avoided large gatherings where possible. But not today. Today, he was here to honor his grandmother, and she never did anything without a crowd.

   Not even dying.

   He tugged at his collar again. The sun beat down relentlessly and agitation prickled along his skin as the priest talked about his grandmother’s life. The weight of curious eyes made him antsy. He hated being watched. Hated that people looked at him as they might a reptile in an enclosure, tapping on the glass to see how he’d react. Thankfully, Etna Francois-Garrison had been commanding most of the attention today, which Theo was sure had been her goal.

   Otherwise why choose to be buried in a Valentino ball gown?

   The casket—now closed after a viewing period earlier that morning—was pure white, lined with pale pink silk and studded with glinting stones that Theo was pretty sure were real diamonds. Frankly, as executor of his grandmother’s estate, he’d barely even looked at the list of requests when it had come time to sign off. Whatever his grandmother wanted, she would have. No request too outrageous. It was the last time he’d ever get to say yes to her. The last time he’d ever get to show her how important she was to him.

   After all, when his parents had died, leaving him orphaned at the tender age of ten, she’d taken him in. She’d been his mother, father, grandparent, confidant. His whole family. Only she could have filled so many roles, with personality left over for more.

   Theo swallowed. A lump was firmly lodged in the back of his throat and a yawning sense of loss roared like an open cavity in his chest. But he stood tall, with shoulders back and squared, and eyes drilling a line straight ahead.

   “If the family could please come forward to pay a final tribute,” the priest said, gesturing to Theo.

   The family. It was a word that belonged to a group. But he was the only person who stepped forward. This was it, the entire Garrison family reduced to a single person. A Manhattan legacy hanging by a thread.

   Theo walked toward the priest, who stood next to a small portable table. It was piled with roses. Not red, because his grandmother hated a cliché. Not white or yellow, because those seemed too sad. But a hot pink so bright they seemed artificial. Theo took one, noting how the thorns had been carefully removed. His thumb skated over a spot of raw green where the sharp edge had been sliced off.

   “Goodbye, Gram,” he said as he tossed it into the open space where the casket had been lowered into the ground. The rose landed softly on the shuttered white lid. “Say hi to everyone for me.”

   He reached for another rose, and then another, tossing one in for each of the people who should have been by his side—his mother, father and grandfather, all taken too soon. All gone before they’d lived a full life.

   Theo stepped back, thankful he’d remembered to wear a pair of sunglasses. He liked having a shield between him and the world at the best of times, but he needed it now more than ever.

   When the service concluded, people came to pay their respects. His hand was pumped over and over, cheeks kissed in sweeping, perfumed grazes. Theo had spotted plenty of familiar faces today. The funeral was a who’s-who of New York society—fashion designers, politicians, blue bloods—which was exactly how his extroverted, attention-loving grandmother would have wanted it.

   It didn’t matter that he would rather be alone to say his goodbyes. Today was about her. Letting out a long breath, he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his suit pants as he waited for the gravesite to empty.

   “She was a magnificent woman,” Father Ahern said, walking over and laying a comforting hand on Theo’s shoulder. “Incomparable. Truly one of a kind.”

   “I know.” He nodded.

   “She used to come to my service every Sunday and sit in the front row. Nobody dared to take her spot, even if she was late.” The older man chuckled and folded his hands in front of his robes. “The one time a few kids did sit there, she shooed them away with her purse. It was like watching someone scatter a flock of seagulls. Nobody tried again after that.”

   Theo smiled. He could easily picture it. She was like that—a woman who commanded others. A powerhouse, even back when women were rarely in charge. And recently, a Goliath as she battled illness until her last breath.

   “You never attended with her,” Father Ahern commented.

   “I don’t like crowds.”

   “Think of it as more of a community.”

   Theo watched the last few people trickle down to the town cars lining the road that wound through the cemetery. He caught a glimpse of the media further back, only stopped from getting closer because of the burly security guards he’d hired for the day. The vultures waited with cameras poised, cementing Theo’s belief that there was one thing in the world that sold better than sex.

   Grief.

   “I don’t really like communities, either,” Theo replied.

   That was putting it mildly. Barring today, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been in a room with more than three people—outside work. And it wasn’t by accident.

   The priest frowned. “I know losing your parents the way you did must have been hard.”

   “It was a long time ago.” And he still woke with night terrors about it, even now, a quarter of a century later. He’d never get the image out of his head—the mangled car, blood splattered against the windows. Every news outlet had plastered it with bold headlines and people reacted with shocked faces like nobody had seen it coming.

   Hollywood sweetheart and New York royalty pronounced dead at the scene.

   His heart clenched. His mother and father had seen it coming. They’d taken preventive measures to avoid the paparazzi and their increasingly intrusive, aggressive behavior. Decoy cars, unfamiliar routes, evasive driving...right into the side of a bridge.

   So yeah, Theo had a bit of a problem with the media. He also had a problem with people poking their noses into his private life. He discouraged that by keeping to himself. It wasn’t personal, though. It was protection.

   “It’s okay to grieve,” the priest said. “God gave us emotions for a reason and sadness is natural.”

   Before he had a chance to say anything further, Frank Ferretti appeared beside them. He was dressed in all black, which was appropriate for a funeral but also completely on-brand for the older Italian man. He’d been a longtime family friend, initially a bodyguard to Theo’s mother and then a right-hand man and confidant to his grandmother.

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