The March rain continued to paint the airport windows in sheets of waterfalls. Emily walked down the ramp to the exit to retrieve her rental car and looked at the deluge beyond with disdain. “I didn’t even think about an umbrella” she muttered to herself and made a U-turn to go back to a kiosk that had them for sale, “most likely marked up to the hilt” she thought as she grabbed a pretty paisley one and searched for the price tag. Twenty one dollars for an umbrella, but a necessary evil, besides, I can use it again back home perhaps, she thought as she dived into her bag to produce the money and handing it over to the sales lady, gave a short nod and walked away. The line was non-existent at the rental car booth and she signed where asked, took the keys and walked towards the exit. The rain outside had lessened a bit but she opened the umbrella and stepped off the curb towards where the car would be found. She skirted the puddles that she could but still ended up ankle-deep with one foot in a pothole that was hidden below the shimmering water. A quick growl erupted in her throat as she shook off what she could and continued stalking to where the white Chevy Malibu sat forlornly at the end of the lot. “Of course you’d have to be at the end, stupid car” she said as she unlocked it with the fob, throwing the wet umbrella in the hatch and dug through her bag for her running shoes. She peeled off her dripping stockings in the car and dried her foot off on the car mat, put on her sneakers and fired the car up. She hadn’t been back to Buffalo in years, had always hated it but tomorrow was the funeral and then the reading of the will, which she hoped wouldn’t take long. She wasn’t due to fly out for a few more days, figuring she’d take in a little sight-seeing downtown. There had been a lot of development since she’d been there last and she was surprised to find herself almost eager to see the new waterfront. After all, nothing good ever happened there, but the papers that she’d look at every now and then was heralding it as the “new Buffalo”. “Lets see if it lives up to the hype”, she thought as she reached the border of West Seneca. She didn’t even remember getting on the thruway but before she even knew it, the hotel parking lot was just ahead of her. I’ve really got to pay more attention and get my head out of the clouds before I kill myself or someone else, she thought as a horn sounded behind her, startling her back into the here and now. She turned into the lot as the impatient driver behind her careened off and moved from her view. “Welcome home Emily” she said to the eyes that greeted her in the rearview mirror. She was surprised to see the dark bags beneath her normally bright sparkling eyes. Perhaps a nap before dinner was in order and she grabbed her wet shoes off of the mat, got the umbrella and her bag out of the hatch and headed into the foyer of the hotel.
Emily saw the pretty blonde behind the desk who greeted her with a wide smile. She thought she looked familiar and with a start, realized it was the little girl who had lived next door to where she had grown up. Her name tag said Cynthia, but Emily remembered her as Cindy. Her pigtails had been replaced by highlights and waves but the smile was the same perky one she had known. “Oh my goodness, I saw an Emily Williams listed as an incoming customer and Oh my, I am so sorry about your mother, I should have put two and two together when I saw that, but Oh my, it’s so good to see you. What’s it been, around five years now?” Cindy said with a cross between embarrassment and joy tinged with a bit of remorse and Emily returning the smile replied “More like ten years now, and thank you. Yes I’m here for the funeral and will be in town for a few days before I fly back out. Look how much you’ve grown up, my friend.”
“We should get together when my shift ends and have a drink, I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to all this time” she said with a wide infectious smile.
“I need to lay down for a bit and take a nap, what time do you get off?”
“Five o’clock, three hours from now. But if you’re too tired, I understand completely. It must be hard being back here again and I know your mother wasn’t the easiest person to get along with but in the last year, she kind of mellowed out a bit, if that’s even a possibility. You know Liz, she was a cantankerous old coot, up until the end but it’s still sad to know I won’t be able to look at her window and see those mean old raised eyebrows glaring at me through the shades when I get home late. You’d think she thought I was out carousing like a slut or something the way she looked at me, but you know me. That was never my style. Still, she had her ways. I know you know all about that. But if you’re up to it, would love to chat for a bit when I’m done” Emily nodded at her tirade, Cindy hadn’t changed, always talking eighty miles an hour but she was a sweet soul, still was after all these years and she was kind of eager to hear the news of her old hometown and friend.
“I’ll meet you down here at five, yeah, that sounds good to me. It’ll give me a chance to freshen up and catch a quick nap. I look forward to it, Cin,” she said, and she took the plastic key and headed towards the elevator.
“Hey Emily, wait a moment” Cindy said as she bent down below the desk and seemed to be rummaging around before her head popped back up and she held out a brown paper package. “This was left back here for you from some dude in a suit, I almost forgot about it” and Emily walked back to take the small box. She shook it but it made no sound, she turned it around and saw it was marked with her name on it and Esquires in the top corner. It felt like a book or something and she tossed it into her bag, gave a wave to Cindy and walked into the open elevator. “See you at five” she said as the doors closed.
The little door light turned green and she turned the knob to room 313 that led into her home for the next few nights. She hit the light switch and was pleasantly surprised to see a nice setup. A modern and clean hotel, she thought, what a novel concept and she tossed her bag onto the second bed, kicked off her shoes and stretched out with a yawn. Grabbing the remote she flicked it to the local news channel and wasn’t surprised to see yet another drive by shooting. She turned the tv off and grabbed her bag for the package. It was wrapped in what looked like a paper bag but lifting the corners, the contents slid out easily. It was a photograph, a note card and a small leather-bound book. She looked at the image but wasn’t quite sure who it was, seeing similarities between her mother and Aunt but set it aside as she opened the note card.
Emily, as part of the will, this package was to be delivered to you prior to the service. The instructions were for you to read this, that more things will make sense after you do this. I hope you get in early enough that you can complete this. I will see you tomorrow at the service. Looking forward to meeting you. Sincerely, Robert F. Johnson Esq.
She sat the note card down with the photo. The woman eyes stared at her with an almost sultry and knowing look and reminded her more of Emma than Elizabeth. Perhaps a relation to the family, she thought and opened the strange leather volume up to the yellowed first page. To be read only upon my death were the only words on the faded page and it was signed Emily Williams Knoll.
to be continued…..