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By Judy Cooper
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Judy Cooper
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Chapter OneShe noticed it as she got out of the car. It lay close to the trees near some tire tracks. It lay on its side with the top slightly askew. A veritable Pandora's box, she thought, not really knowing the contents. She sighed, maybe it had fallen off when one of the loads left for the second hand store. Maybe also she should have come back more often, but with a family and working as an R.N. her life was more than busy in Toronto. Still that was not really any excuse for not visiting her sister and keeping in closer touch.
Now that Sylvia had died it would be too late for those special times together. The news that she had pancreatic cancer was hard, and when she returned her sister was almost wasted away. Cassie was only there for 2 weeks and she was gone. Sylvia had married only once to Alec Stern, but it was never a very happy union. When it fell through and they divorced Sylvia never married again although there were several eligible men in her life. So there were no children to take care of her when she was struggling with her illness and chemotherapy. Fortunately Cassie managed to be there at the critical time towards the end, and nursed her at home. Sylvia would often ask to be carried out to the garden to watch the ocean. She loved it there. She was no weight so it was easy for Cassie to do. Cassie had seen relatives with loved ones dying from cancer but had never realized how painful it was to watch someone you loved suffer and fade away before your eyes. She was filled with a deep sadness.
She wished Grant were around to hold her so that she could cry some good hard tears.
Tears of regret came to her eyes, and she turned before going into the cottage and walked down to the rocky coastline, she sighed, this was a beautiful spot, the rocky shores of the Vancouver coast. The bay was crescent shaped and on the route of the B.C. Ferries crossing to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. Suddenly the ferries horn sounded as it rounded the corner and woke her out of her reverie. She realized with a start that she should get busy with the contents of the house, or she would never get back to her family in Toronto.
She was not quite sure of what she should do with all Sylvia's possessions. Some older stuff had already gone to the Salvation Army and Thrift Stores for the use of others, but there was still a lot of stuff to sort through and sometimes that brought back painful memories. Fortunately her brother Cory was about two hours away and would come on the weekend to help and make some much needed decisions.
Chapter TwoShe unlocked the door and went into the kitchen. She hadn't wanted to sleep at the house up until now, too many memories. She was deep in thought when suddenly the phone rang. As she looked at the number, she realized that it was from home.
"Hi Mom," engaged Larry. He was her oldest, due to graduate from High School in a couple of months and by far the most thoughtful of her four children. "How are you doing."
"Oh alright," she exclaimed "but it's hard, so many memories."
"How was the memorial service," asked Larry.
"Actually, very special. Cory and his family made it and Jim and family from Seattle and many of her nursing and church friends attended. We just had white lilies at the church, they were her favorite. We just had flowers from family and asked others to give to the cancer society. The Baptist church allowed us to have the supper in the basement. I think Sylvia would have been pleased. How are you guys and Dad? I miss you all."
"Dad's real busy with weddings right now and he just learned that Justine is pregnant. So that means that he will have to train another assistant. We are getting by, doing a lot on the barbecue but we miss your cooking. Becky and Bonnie have done some baking and Luke and I are keeping up with the laundry. Never realized girls changed clothes so often. Hey! Becky has a guy friend and he just asked Dad if he could take out."
Panic! "What did Dad say," Alarm sounded in her voice. Her sixteen year old daughter dating!!
"He said Ok just too social functions like school or church young peoples. No personal dates yet." Thank goodness for her sensible husband. Cassie wondered how long it would be before her fourteen year old daughter Bonnie would be asking the same question.
"Mom," said Larry "l better be going and head for school. I just wanted to say hi and find out how you were doing."
"Thanks Larry it was thoughtful of you. Sounds like the sooner I get home the better. You've given me lots to think about."
The phone went dead and she realized indeed that Larry had given her much to think and worry about. It always seemed as if girls were more of a concern than boys in the dating department. How fast a family matured. Luke, her youngest was 13, a year behind Bonnie. So she had a houseful of teenagers.
Well she thought, I cannot put this off any longer, l have to start somewhere. With the memorial service only three days away, she found it difficult to move herself into action, but these jobs had to be done She was needed back at work and spring and summer were always Grant's busy time with wedding bookings. He was good at his job, making a nice composition in his pictures so was in fair demand.
She decided to start in the study with papers and filing, Sylvia's clothes had already been sorted through. Those that family and friends had not taken went to the Salvation Army. She could not make many decisions re-furniture till Cory came and they discussed things. Thankfully there was a will and everything was left to the three of them jointly, with a request that $50.000.00 from the sale of the house be put into a trust account for later. They were not quite sure why she had done this, but they would honor her request. Cassie wondered what this could possibly be for.
As she opened the closet and desk to commence work she remembered the box outside. She slipped out and picked it up. She did not bother to look inside, thinking she had wasted enough time already. It was placed on the window sill in the office and then she commenced working through the filing cabinet and contents of the closet. She was part way through shredding old bills for previous years, when she noticed several boxes on the upper shelves of the closet. I must attack those next she thought, but then she realized that it was lunch time and she was hungry. She made herself a sandwich and ate it outside overlooking the bay. She assumed they would sell the house and divide the profits, but it would sure be nice to keep it as a summer cottage. To come up with that sort of cash to buy two people out would not be easy for any of them, so that idea seemed out of the question. Still it was a part of Sylvia and she wished she could afford it. She would talk to Cory about it tomorrow and maybe they could connect with Jim and ask their decision about putting it on the market.
The house was large enough for two, with Sylvia's large bedroom and a spare double bedroom. The kitchen, living room and study faced the ocean, with the bedrooms at the back. She thought she would sleep in the spare room tonight. Cory would be here on Saturday morning and it would be easier for her to be around. She did not look forward to being there after Sylvia had gone but she had to get used to it. Just as she was contemplating rousing herself, she had a sense that she was not alone and that someone was watching her. She searched the surroundings, but saw no-one and shrugged her shoulders. Déjà vu she thought and headed back to the house.
After finishing the bills, she hauled the boxes down from the closet. As she opened them she realized they were full of photos of every description, ones of, family, parents and friends. They were all in individual boxes. She could tell the ones of her family, Grant was always very professional. One box hidden at the back, had pictures of Sylvia's life, her wedding to Alec, animals, flowers and landscapes etc. Sylvia always was a bit of an amateur photographer. Cassie remembered the times Grant and her had discussions on photographic techniques. She came across several photos of a baby in a separate envelope that she did not recognize. It was right at the bottom of the box. It was a girl about 6 months old. Cassie was sure that it was not from Jim or Cory's family. The child had black curly hair and brown eyes similar to Sylvia's. There were a few of Sylvia holding the baby and some of a blonde heavy set woman doing the same. Cassie did not recognize her. Maybe it was the baby of a friend she thought. Cassie was not familiar with everyone Sylvia was connected with because she lived to far away. In fact it struck her she did not know much about Sylvia's life other than e-mails and phone calls. She thought she would like to keep the photos for herself but would see what her brothers thought. She put the photos back in the envelope, but for some reason put it in her purse instead of the box. She looked through a few more photos and saw several of Sylvia with other men. One of a good looking man with black curly hair caught her eye. On the back was written the name Dwayne Logan.
She started to look through the family photos of their childhood. Memories came flooding back of summer camps especially the one when Sylvia made a personal commitment to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Cassie remembered that it was not long after that, that she had asked Jesus to come into her heart at their local church. What a difference that had made to her life knowing that Jesus was her closest friend and companion. It gave her such peace.
Going to the window Cassie was just going to pick up 'Pandora's Box' when she noticed a green truck parked on the opposite side of the street. She looked at it for a while and then realized that Shona Williams was walking up the front path. She opened the door and greeted her warmly.
"Hello Shona how are you? I'm glad you came, I wanted to thank you for all your work towards Sylvia's memorial service."
"You are most welcome," Shona answered "Sylvia was a good friend. Actually there were several squares left after the lunch and I froze them wondering if you could use them for people who drop in."
"That might be a good idea, thank you. Did you bring them in your truck."
"No," said Shona "I walked and they are still at home, but I will bring them."
"Strange," said Cassie "I wonder who that green truck belongs to."
As they both stood looking at the vehicle, it pulled away down the road and disappeared. They dismissed it from their minds, thinking that maybe it was company of the neighbors.
Cassie made Shona some tea and they talked about Sylvia and her involvement in the church.
"She was gone for a while," volunteered Shona.
"Gone," repeated Cassie.
"Yes for about two or three years she stopped coming to church and was gone from this house for a while. Her job entailed quite a lot of travel, but this time it seemed to be for an extended period. Then all of a sudden she was back and enjoying her friends again and her church."
Cassie was quiet, puzzled by the announcement. There was a quiet pause and Shona added "It must be hard for you right now, I'm sorry for your loss. She was a pleasant person to have around."
"I'm sorry," said Cassie "that was not very polite of me. I was just thinking."
"Well l should be going, my children will be home from school soon. I will drop those deserts off on Monday, would early afternoon workout for you? There are one or two casseroles that some of the ladies have put together that I will bring too. We thought it might help you a little. See you Monday then." With that she got up to leave and Cassie walked her to the door.
"Thank you again for your kindness," she added as she left.
As she closed the door she thought she could just see the green truck hidden behind the trees, but realized that maybe she was being paranoid. She knew that Sylvia was gone on assignments but not usually for that long. Who would want to be away from this spot for an extended period? Her sister never mentioned it, but then maybe Cassie had never asked her where she was. Her contacts were spasmodic anyway, depending on what she was working on and e-mails were not so intimate as phone calls.
After Shona had left she decided to work through the kitchen next. She had the study mostly under control and had just kept the current years bills. She worked through the cupboard and removed the contents arranging them mostly on the kitchen island and the counter tops. She picked up one or two items to replace her own worn ones and thought of one or two other items she would like and left the rest for Cory to check in the morning. Although he also had a home and family so was probably as well set up as she was. As she cleared she washed out cupboards so that everything was in good order. Thinking about the kitchen, she glanced at the china cabinet and shuddered to think of the contents going to charity. Sylvia's wedding china was Royal Albert Moonlight Rose and Cassie realized how expensive it was, maybe some of the nieces or nephews would be interested in it, then again she would not mind it herself. She looked around and was pleased with her progress that day. It was getting on for 7.00 pm and she was hungry. There was some leftover lasagna in the fridge so she threw together a salad, nuked the lasagna and ate quickly thinking what she needed to do that evening.
Chapter ThreeGrant walked into the front door and kicked it briskly closed behind him. He had all his camera equipment with him and he never liked to leave it in the vehicle overnight in the garage, it was too valuable to lose. He had a hectic schedule the next day. Why did most people have to get married on a Saturday, it made life very difficult for him. Sometimes he needed to be in two places at once. He thought how difficult it would be when Justine left him. They had worked together for ten years and understood the moves and needs for a good photographic team. He was thankful for Larry and that he had some experience. He may need him more in the future and he seemed interested.
Grant looked at his watch and realized that he should find out what each of the family members were doing and if they had eaten. He heard loud music coming from Luke's bedroom, saw Larry outside at the barbecue, and Bonnie in the kitchen making what looked like a salad. He was so grateful that they had teenagers and not little children, he would never have survived while Cassie was gone if that were the case. It was worse because spring and summer he was so committed with bookings, he often came home exhausted.
He went outside to find Larry and check on things.
"Hi Dad," Larry said "How was your day."
"Actually today was pretty good, its tomorrow I am worried about. One of the bookings, the bride has changed her mind more times than l care to remember and she just called Justine today to change her mind about the location. I'm not sure that anyone knows what is happening at present. Will you come with us tomorrow, we sure could do with your help if you have time? Still enough of my problems, how was your day. Did you go over your review for you English exam and how is catch up going in your math?"
"The problem with playing catch up is that things go so fast, that if you don't understand you don't have much time to work things out." said a concerned Larry.
"I'll try and help you after supper," answered Grant "but it is your mother who is the math genius. Is there enough supper for me or should l get some more meat."
"No Dad," said Larry "l thought you would be home soon so I put an extra steak and potato on for you. Think they are ready, we just need cutlery and the salad."
Grant went inside to tell Bonnie that supper was ready and pick up the knives and forks. He yelled to Luke and Becky hoping they heard him above the din. Was he like that as a teenager he thought. As they sat down for supper Grant realized Becky was not present. He searched his mind for an explanation. Maybe she had told him she was going to a friend's house, but he did not think so. He saw the food was getting cold so he gave thanks for the food asking a special prayer for Cassie and then everyone started digging in.
"It's a good job that you guys are so organized, it makes my life so much easier. Thank you so much for your support. By the way where is Becky? I don't remember her telling me she was going anywhere and she does not work this evening?"
Excerpted from Pandora's Box by Judy Cooper Copyright © 2011 by Judy Cooper. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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