And so, I scurried through a morning’s worth of chores: work orders, scrawled complaints about Christmas litter, etc., until 10:30, when I dashed out with a hurried goodbye to Judith.
I wore my herringbone gauchos with a black Danskin turtleneck and the bright yellow, Marks and Spencer sweater my sister, Caroline had sent for Christmas. Black boots and the Gucci shoulder bag that had been my birthday present , also from Caroline. She keeps me in brand names. Gunning the Fleetwood’s engine up Biscayne, I paused long enough to check out Stephen and Nan’s TH in case Stephen wanted to join me, but there was no sign of activity there. Tim, however, was working on the front door lock at Abigail’s. Tsk, tsk. Didn’t he know I had a master key?
Patterson’s is wide old mansion, white clapboards and gabled roofs with a porte-cochere that linked the main driveway with a circular parking lot around back. The gardens, front and back, bloomed with camellias. In summer, the magnolias would bloom. I saw traces of a rose garden and was pretty sure there would be daffodils in spring and all sorts of other growth whenever it was needed. It reeked of solidity and mold.
I walked in on a cloud of Shalimar-scented flight attendants in Eastern and Delta uniforms, feeling conspicuous but probably was invisible. A sober Kevin, looking trim in a three-piece suit, stood close enough to the open casket to make up a sort of receiving line. Abigail’s family, represented by Susan and her husband (presumably) stood next to him. An older couple with the same pale skin as Abigail’s sat nearby quietly greeting friends their own age. In fact, everyone seemed to be grouping themselves by age and/or relationship. I headed to the casket, greeting Kevin and Susan and was introduced to the husband.
“Thank you for helping Susan with Abigail’s things,” he said, his voice well-oiled with cliches. “It’s been a great relief knowing we didn’t have to rush through such a sad time.”
“My pleasure,” I stuttered. “Whatever I can do.”
“I’ll call you soon,” said Susan.
“So will I,” said Kevin. “And please come by after the service. We’re having a small reception at the house.”
“Your house?” I asked.
“Kevin’s been a dear,” said Susan. Then she thanked me for the flowers from Arborgate. I took credit for what must have been Judith’s gesture and stepped beyond them for a last look at my former tenant.
Abigail, dressed in her stewardess uniform after all, looked as I’d never seen her: elegant and professional. There was no sign of the contusion on her forehead. She was at peace.