Finishing up in the bathroom, Charley wiped her hands on the snowy-white towel and opened the door. Bill stood there facing the room as if he were one of the Governor-General’s Footguards on duty. She could just imagine him in the red and black uniform, the bearskin hat pulled low on his brow, the golden chin strap in place.
She and Mike had loved walking around downtown Ottawa, and had often watched the changing of the guard, their amazing precision and control astounding her time after time. The room dissolved as the recollection of their last visit flashed before her eyes.
“It takes incredible self-control to stay still like that with the kids doing everything in their power to make you laugh,” Mike said. “I’d never cut it. I’d glare at the little buggers and lose my crap all over them—especially that one.” He’d pointed to a child kicking the guard in the shin. The man hadn’t even flinched.
Charley scowled. “Well, you can’t blame just the child. Parents need to take responsibility, too. If that were our child, he most certainly wouldn’t be doing that, and neither would I. I’ve got a good mind to go over there and tell her what I think of this.”
This had been videotaping the monster child at work. Before Charley could make good on her threat, and older man did just that—and not nearly as politely as she would have. When the crowd applauded the men’s words, the woman made an ignorant comment, reached for her son’s hand and walked away, yanking the kicking, screaming child behind her.
Bill turned and smiled, pulling her back into the here and now, Mike’s image fading once more.
“All done?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, swallowing her grief. Why were her memories always so pain-filled? “But you don’t have to carry me … maybe just let me lean on you…”
He chuckled, “And risk Shirley’s wrath? Never. She’s says you’re not to walk on it tonight, and believe me, her word is law. I’ve worked for lieutenants who weren’t as scary as she is.”
He winked, scooping her up into his arms as if she were weightless, and carrying her over to the table. As he crossed the room, she noted things had changed since her last visit. The animals and the hay were gone. The room smelled fresher, and the scent of homemade soup made her mouth water. Near the main door stood a pile of objects Charley recognized.
“My things,” she exclaimed. “You found some of my things. Did you find anything else?”
“I’m sorry,” Bill said. “That’s all I’ve been able to find so far. The back was ripped off the car, so whatever you had in there is scattered. This stuff was in the front or close to the back seat.”
Charley swallowed. “Was there a small metal box?”
“There was. It’s over here. Let me set you down, and I’ll get it. Your purse was there, too.”
Charley nodded too emotionally distraught to say anything. She hadn’t kept a lot, but the things she had brought with her were special—her grandmother’s china, silver, and crystal, no doubt smashed beyond recognition, silver candlesticks that had belonged to her mother, and the small appliances she’d need to set up housekeeping. The biggest loss was her toolbox, the one Mike had bought and filled as a wedding present. An unusual gift, but one that had touched Charley deeply. She swallowed the lump in her throat.
Bill placed her on the chair at the table where Shirley had put a large bowl of soup. Beside it, gold muffins, warm from the oven, tantalized her taste buds, and her physical body’s needs took over from her emotional ones.
“Here,” Bill said, placing the shoebox-sized metal tin next to her purse on the table beside her.
Opening her purse, she noted everything was still in it—her wallet, cosmetic case, and the minutia of everyday life she carried there. She unzipped the small inside pouch and took out a tiny key which she then used to open the box. Inside were the papers that mattered most—her passport, her teaching credentials, her letter of acceptance by the school board in Saskatoon, her wedding license, and Mike’s death certificate. Most importantly, on top of everything else was the USB drive with her pictures on it—everything from when she’d been born to those of her wedding to Mike. There was nothing newer. Her life had ended that day with his. A snapshot, the last one taken of the two of them together, seemed to jump out of the box, and Shirley reached for it.
“Were you able to find my phone?” she asked, wanting desperately to take back the photograph.
“I did, but the screen is smashed. I don’t know if they can salvage anything from it.”
She nodded. “Thank you.”
Shirley scrutinized the picture she held. “I’ve seen him,” she said baldly. “He hasn’t a changed a bit.”
“What do you mean?” Charley asked. She knew for a fact Mike had never been out of Ontario before his death.
“He’s always with you, little one. He told me you were in trouble and sent us to save you. He wants you to stop mourning now and be happy.”
Bill looked over her shoulder and gasped.
“He looks enough like me to be my brother.”
Well, that’s it for now. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales