Hey Everyone! Just a random short story I had written a while ago. Hope you like it. I did it just for fun.
Helen Goes Home
Helen Borowitz sat in the fellowship hall nursing a cup of coffee. She admired the newly painted walls. They were far more colorful than when the fellowship hall was new. Back then they were painted an industrial white. She remembered spending a weekend in this room painting. She was thirty years younger back then. Now, the walls were the color of autumn leaves. Helen liked it better this way. It reminded her less of a nursing home.
Today she was waiting for the arrival of her closest and dearest friend, Edith. Her second cousin, born on almost the same day, Helen and Edith were almost inseparable. They went to school together, lived one block away, and lived through WWII together as teenage girls. It was a hard life back in those days, made more bearable by being able to depend on each other.
The door connecting the fellowship hall with the sanctuary opened and two young women walked in. Behind them, a hunched, elderly woman snuck in. Helen smiled at her cousin. Edith seemed to be moving better than she had in years. Although close to ninety, she still looked good for her age. Helen knew of the cancer inside of her, but Edith didn’t let it slow her down.
“Hi Cousin,” Helen smiled at Edith, who took a chair on the other side of the table.
Edith smiled back. “Hi Sweetie, how are you feeling?”
Helen winced a little, “Oh, you know; It’s hell getting old. Do you want a coffee or anything?”
Edith smiled what she called her best million-dollar smile. “No thank you, sweetie. I don’t need anything. Have you given any more thought to what we talked about before?”
Although Edith was the closest thing Helen had to a sister, she could be a downright pest sometimes. Recently she had been hounding Helen about making sure her affairs were in order. Edith insisted that Helen really never knew the time or the date, but the end would come soon enough, and it would be better if her affairs were in order.
Helen let out an exasperated sigh. “I did. I talked to Karen about final arrangements and where things were in the house when the time comes. I made sure my will is up to date. But you know, it always makes me worried … thinking about that. Am I ready? I mean, am I really ready for the end of my life?”
Edith grabbed her cousin’s hand. “How’d she take it?”
“Oh, as well as can be expected I suppose. No one is ever comfortable talking about death. Look at us. At the end of our lives, having this conversation. Someday soon we’ll be in the afterlife together.”
Edith wore her best Sunday dress. It was off white and speckled with sequins. She had worn it every Sunday since Helen could remember. It was beautiful on her. It was dignified and appropriate for just about any occasion. “Helen, I’ve known you for all your life. Literally, we started out as friends before either one of us could even hold a baby bottle. I know all of your secrets. I know every dream, every disappointment. But most importantly, I know what’s in your heart. You’re ready.”
In the distance, people were talking and pointing at Helen. She ignored them. “Look at those people, they have no idea. I tried to tell them, but they don’t get it. They just tell me that I’m in good shape and I’ll live forever. They don’t understand. Kids today have no idea how hard it is to get old and they won’t until it sneaks up on them.”
Just then a hand grasped Helen’s shoulder, startling her a bit. She turned to face the man belonging to the hand. It was Juan Sanchez. “Helen, honey, do you need anything?”
“No, we’re just sitting here talking.” Helen gestured to Edith.
“I see.” He knelt down on the floor next to her so he could be at eye level. He looked concerned and stared out at the table for a moment. “Do you need anyone to take you home?”
“No, thank you. I’m just going to finish this coffee and we’ll be on our way. I have a visitor for lunch today. She has agreed to escort me home.” Helen smiled at Edith.
He chuckled. “Oh … okay. Helen, I have a question for you. Do you know what day it is?”
Helen shook her head at the man for a moment. She thought to herself that it was odd a man who was supposed to be a medical doctor would be so forgetful as to not remember the day. “Dr. Sanchez, you need to pay better attention. It is Sunday the 18th of September, 2016. It was printed in the bulletin. Maybe it’s you who needs help getting home today.”
He laughed at her reaction to the question. “Alright dear. Maybe I’ll give you a call later. You take care of yourself. I’ll see you next week. And, my offer stands, when you decide you no longer want to live by yourself you can come over to the retirement home. I’ll keep a spot open for you.”
“That’s sweet of you, but as long as I can clean my own home, I’ll stay there. My Stanley, gone fifteen years now, helped build that home after he helped build this church. My home is where I’d like to die, if possible.”
Edith looked at Helen and gave her a supportive nod.
“Well okay then. I guess I’ll get my family home.” He stood up and returned to the crowd of onlookers.
Edith put her hands on the table. “He’s such a nice man. And, he’s a good doctor. Remember when I stayed at the retirement home for a little while? He took good care of me. It was a huge relief when I finally went home though. Like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.”
Helen took a final drink of her coffee. “You look so much better these days. You got so gaunt for a while. Now, you positively radiate health.”
“I like to think of it as wholeness.” Edith stood up from the table. “Shall we go? It looks like your coffee is gone.”
Helen looked down at the cup. “So it is. Yes, let’s get going. It’s so nice of you to join me today. The walk home is lonely. Sometimes I think about Stanley. We probably made that walk a million times since it was so close. We even walked in the rain. Do you remember that? He loved the rain.”
Edith followed Helen through the doors of the fellowship hall and out into the sunlight of the warm summer day. “I do. Stanley is a good man.”
“Was,” Helen corrected her, “was a good man.”
“Still is. You don’t really think that people stop being good people because they are dead, do you? The soul lives on and they are still the people they were in life. Perhaps they are wiser.”
Helen put her hand to her chin. “You know; I never really gave it much thought. I suppose if you are good in life you would be good in death too.”
“You have a gorgeous house,” Edith said, as they turned up the driveway.
“I really do, don’t I? Stanley did a great job. He was such a great man. I get tired of missing him, though. He’s been gone for so long now that I would have thought the pain of losing him would’ve gone away. But it hasn’t.”
Helen fished her keys out of her handbag and opened the door. The house had essentially remained the same since Stanley died. It was maybe a little cleaner, he was not known for his house cleaning skills. The only thing Helen had added was a display of additional family members.
“How are the grandkids?” Edith asked, looking at the images on the wall.
“They are good, growing like weeds. Little Katie is now getting ready for her wedding. No longer little Katie, I guess. Bobby and his boyfriend are moving to upstate New York. They both love the outdoors and want to open an outdoor adventures company. He’s a good kid.”
Helen yawned against the day’s activities. “I hope you don’t think I’m being a rude cousin, but I have to take a little nap.”
“No, that’s not rude. You take a nap. I’ll just occupy myself with watching some television.”
Helen retired to her room. Sleep came easier than normal. Perhaps it was the wonder of having her cousin with her. She dreamed of Edith in her church dress. Such a beauty in her old age. She secretly admired her cousin for her ability to age so gracefully. She could see her lying there in that dress. She was so lovely, she carried a small bouquet of roses, her favorite flowers, mixed in with babies breath. Surrounded by a wonderful lining of white silk, she looked almost serene in her mahogany casket.
Helen woke with a start. How could it be? Her cousin had been dead and buried these two years. She remembered the day that beautiful casket was lowered into the ground. Deep down, into the forbidding earth.
Edith sat at the edge of her bed. She smiled at her cousin.
Helen grabbed Edith’s hand and looked at her wide eyed. “I remember your funeral. I laid that bouquet of flowers on you as you rested there. They lowered your body into the ground. I’m not crazy am I?”
Edith smiled at Helen and brushed a piece of wild hair out from her face. Still holding her hand, she helped her out of bed and they walked into the center of the room. She grabbed her other hand and looked into Helen’s eyes. “No cousin, you’re not crazy at all. It was a beautiful day. You wore a blue dress that looked smashing on you. You always were a smart dresser. I loved the flowers, by the way.”
Helen stammered, “But how … how can you be here?”
“I promised to take you home. I promised to help you arrive safely, didn’t I? I kept that promise. Now it’s time to go.” Edith pointed back towards the bed.
Helen turned towards what her cousin was pointing at. Lying there, perfectly still, was her own body. It looked far more fragile than she had ever remembered herself being. Floods of emotions converged on her all at once. She was scared and at the same time relieved. She thought about Stanley, her own mother and father, and all of those people she was scared she’d never see again.
“I told you,” Edith said, “I’m here to take you home.”
-Your Humble Servant,