Spending time alone in the funeral home with her mother’s corpse was horrendous, But somehow Hailey made it through and got some closure.
Nan drove her back to her townhouse and was careful not to pry into her private feelings.
She parked the Mini Cooper in front of the garage doors.
“Would you like me to come in?”
“No. It’s been another long night and tomorrow’s the funeral. After all this is over we’ll have to go out for dinner and drinks and try to put this behind us.”
“Don’t forget—there’s still the reading of the will—I’m sure that’ll stir up some strife.”
“I hope not,” Hailey yawned, “If my aunts are that obsessed about blots on the family escutcheon and God knows what, I’ll just sign it all over to them and let them go at it tooth and nail.”
Nan laughed. “That’d be tempting, but not exactly honoring your mom’s wishes. I know you don’t care that much about material things, but face it—if your mom went to all this bother of drafting a will to ensure her last wishes are carried out, then she must have had a good reason.”
“I was thinking much the same thing. When Aunt Alicia was strong-arming me, it crossed my mind to wonder about her agenda—not that I give a damn about family name or reputation.”
“Why would you? You told me you always felt like an outsider—kind of like the Victorian orphan child.”
“True,” she grimaced. “But let’s face it—my aunts never really liked my mother and they like me even less. Still, it is curious as to why—Oh well, I’ll probably never know the answer to that riddle and maybe I’m better off being in the dark. I will take your advice though, about honoring my mom’s last wishes—I suppose that’s the only thing that I can do for her now.”
“Good. It’s never a bad idea to reserve judgment until you learn what’s really going on.”
Hailey managed a faint smile. “Why don’t you come by about nine thirty in the morning and we’ll have coffee before we go?”
Nan smiled back reassuringly. “I’ll see you then.”
As Hailey unlocked the front door, she heard the phone ringing. She hurried to the kitchen and picked up, but the line went dead.
Not again. She looked at the caller ID. Private Caller. Mustn’t let my imagination run wild.
All she’d need would be a crank call tonight. She took a deep breath, and resolved not to obsess.
The grandfather clock in the hallway chimed the half hour—ten-thirty.
It’s early yet. I’ll make tea.
She put on the kettle and began puttering about the kitchen.
Outside the wind had picked up and black masses of Maples were stirring—shadows of branches danced along the wall. The phone rang.
She picked up. Again the line went dead.
Private Caller stared back at her from the illumined display. Again, she felt her heart race.
This is crazy. Maybe I should change my number.
Then, she remembered—she had a private number.
Great! What now?
The phone rang again and a ball of pent-up fury rolled through her like an explosion in a tunnel. She grabbed the receiver and shouted, “Hello?”
“Hailey? It’s me. Please don’t hang up.”
Hearing Sean’s voice on the other end instantly infuriated her. It wasn’t hard to draw a connecting line between him and Private Caller.
“Sean? How dare you continue to harass me after I warned you. What do I have to do—Call the Police?”
“Hey, since when is phoning to apologize tantamount to harassment?”
“So, you just didn’t phone twice before?”
“Nope. What’s the prob—you getting crank called?”
His matter of fact response deflated her anger. “Yeah. Looks that way. It’s getting annoying.”
“You know Hailey, I might be pissed off, but I’m not that big a jerk—I mean, would I deliberately annoy you when I know you just lost your mom?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Maybe it’s a disgruntled student—that kind of stunt kind of goes with the territory, doesn’t it?”
She conjured up an image of a nerdy, pimply-faced youth. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Anyway, I acted like an idiot tonight. You know me—I’ve got a short fuse. When you accused me of stalking you—it kind of lost it.”
Suddenly, Hailey felt she was being too harsh.
“Look Sean, I admit I leapt to conclusions, but this crank caller has me unnerved and maybe I was a little paranoid—but then again, you had to throw words at me—what did you call me again—deranged?”
He colored and was glad Hailey couldn’t see his face at that moment. “You’re right. I was way off base with that remark, but then, so were you.”
“All right. We’ll declare it a spit decision. How’s that?”
“Okay, and I’m sorry too. I should have backed off and given you space instead of pushing you.”
“Isn’t there something else you need to apologize for?”
He took a deep breath. “Yes. I’m sorry for that frivolous breech of promise lawsuit.”
“Seems you have a lot to apologize for, don’t you?”
“Yes, I should have been more understanding and patient. As a matter of fact, I take the complete blame for what happened and feel like a fool. Look, I was wondering if we couldn’t put this behind us and start over again—move slower this time?”
“You’re asking me to start dating you again—after you verbally abused me and slapped me with a lawsuit?”
“I know it sounds crazy, but I love you Hailey and I’ve come to realize how out of line I was acting. Can’t we try again?”
There was a long pause. “I’ll have to think about this, Sean. At any rate, now is not the time. Maybe try phoning back in a month or so. I can’t make a decision right now.”
“I’ve got an opportunity to go to London until the middle of November— been invited to play with the London symphony as guest cellist. Maybe this would give us some time to think things over. How about if I contact you when I get back?”
“Sounds good. I’m happy for you, Sean. Give me a call when you get back into town.”
“I will—and Hailey, take care.”
She hung up and stared out the window. A few stray drops left rain trails on the pane.
There was always strife in her life—with Mother, her aunts, and now, Sean. It seemed she was always being abused.
Why couldn’t she lay these ghosts to rest?
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.