As Sarah turned left into the highway, she fought the urge not to lose control over herself. Andrew was dead, and that was that. What was she worried about? He had been a big part of her life, but then the key word was had. She had moved on years ago, and she had found herself again. Or had she?
For even now as she drove, his ashes sat in a box opposite her on the passenger seat, waiting to be emptied into the waters at the old pier.
"His last wishes", the surprisingly young lawyer had said. And she had obliged without question. It was annoyingly all too familiar. Andrew would call, and she would come running. Always. And even in his death, he still somehow found a way to impose his will on her.
She gripped the steering wheel tightly, and focused on the road. She would not think. She would simply dispose of his remains, and then she would be off. Maybe this was the final task, the lid to completely shut out Andrew Sloan from her life. And for good this time. Damn, she was still thinking!
She took her eyes off the road for a second, and pushed a button on the car stereo. Dido's I'm Coming Home floated through the car speakers. She took a long deep breath and exhaled. She wanted to close her eyes, but she was driving. So she simply nodded her head to the tune.
Then all of a sudden, without warning she hit the breaks abruptly. Her car screeched loudly and threatened to skid off the highway. The vehicle behind her actually did, but she didn't even notice. She was totally still, her face white with a mixture of shock and fear.
She was certain that she had heard him. The radio had stopped and she had heard him. Clearly. Andrew had cried out from her car speakers. He had said "Help me..."
As if to confirm her thoughts a bird flew over the car, dropping its dung on her windscreen in the process. She looked at the shape it formed as it splattered and closed her eyes. There was no doubt, it was Andrew...
The car stereo came back on. Dido's voice was a markedly calm background to the tension that filled the car.
"I'm coming home, I'm coming home. Tell the world I'm coming home..."
Frank spread the hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill with admirable dexterity. He loved summers, especially the cookouts. This was his thing, his time, the one part of the year when he always went all out to enjoy himself.
But his mood wasn't so good today. He still cooked skillfully, but he wasn't particularly enjoying it. And it was all his because of the letter he had received last night. Why did his dad have to die now? Why? Not that he cared for his father that deeply, but he had managed to shut out all thoughts of Dr. Andrew Sloan in the past seven years. And now, in summer of all seasons, he had died. Perhaps just to ruin Frank's happiness one more time.
The letter had said to come home as soon as possible. His dad had left specific instructions that his son was to carry out some important duties. What they were the letter had strangely not said. It had piqued his interest he admitted mentally. Certainly the work of his dad. He knew him too well.
But he wouldn't go. He would defy Dr. Andrew this one time, even if he was dead. He didn't care for whatever it was that needed his attention. He had built a life for himself, a life away from that heavy past which had threatened to keep him in it's circle. And he wasn't going to go back.
"Sweetie, aren't the hamburgers ready yet? We're starving."
Frank turned to look at the table were his wife was seated with three other couples. They all had smiling faces as they gisted about one thing or the other. This was the life he loved, the place where he belonged. Not beside his dead father.
"I'll be there honey, just a minute."
But as Frank turned back and stared at the grill he knew. He knew where he soon would be.
For before his very eyes, the hamburgers and hot dogs moved. He didn't say a word, he couldn't. He simply watched as they moved into shape. And when they finally stopped, Frank was convinced.
He was going home...
They both sat and stared silently away from each other. Their eyes constantly returning to an old grandfather clock on the wall. Each had more than enough questions to ask the other, but still each kept silent.
Frank was thinking about coming back to the old lonely house. Everything felt familiar, and strange at the same time. He felt like part of himself was one with the house, and the other was at odds with it. He wanted to get up and leave. And at the same time he wanted to see this matter through to the end. He stole a glance at his dad's wife. She was still as he remembered her; too young to be a mother figure to him, and too old to be a friend. One of the reasons he had left, but not the primary one. He had later learnt that she also left a few years later. Dr. Andrew didn't cook his meals halfway...
Sarah had only one emotion coursing through her, anger. She was angry at Andrew for dying, she was angry that he had brought her into this, and she was angry that despite herself, she still obliged to his wishes. But then did she really have a choice? The situation was far gone to think of stepping back now. It would only bring disastrous consequences. But then so would going forward. It was a conundrum...
"We have to do it"
Frank's voice broke the silence.
"When would you be ready?"
"I'm ready now."
They looked at each other directly for the first time since they both arrived the Andrew residence. In each others eyes a thousand unspoken fears were conveyed. Then they got up, and both walked towards the old grandfather clock.
Andrew pulled one of its strings, and the wall behind it slid open. Behind it was a door. On it was an inscription...
But then what is pleasure without pain, love without hate, peace without war? Indeed what is life without death, or light without darkness? He who knows one, must someday know the other.
And just above the inscription was a symbol. That which was formed by the hot dogs, hamburgers, and the bird's dung.
Frank opened the door, and they both walked in...
THE END... OR NOT
Written for mctiller's Twenty Four Hour Short Story Contest