Friday, August 07, 2015

Fiction Friday - Contemporaries - Chapter Two

            On a Saturday morning, only a few days after her official appointment as personal representative, Karen sat down with a thick accordion file. Scott had offered to take care of some of the paperwork for her, but Karen felt like this was something Miles had wanted her to do on her own. She still wasn’t sure why, but there must be something more than their casual acquaintance connecting her to Miles. Although finding a link to Miles in this dry, dusty legal file seemed a little far-fetched, she knew she had to start somewhere. She definitely did not want to go into his bloodstained house. Scott had told her that the crime scene team had changed the locks when they completed their job and she now had the only key. With everything secured, she could put off the house for another day.
            She settled back into her cozy recliner. Not one to splurge much, she was glad she had purchased this chair. Karen was an avid reader, and this chair was perfect for curling up on a rainy day.
            As she glanced out the window to the small park across the street, she saw that today was far from rainy despite her mental state. Her thoughts traveled back, however, to the stormy day when she first met Miles. It was hard to believe that six years had passed. Yet, she didn’t know Miles any better now than she had that day. Maybe she didn’t even know him as well, she thought as she reread the will.
            After a few small gifts to distant aunts, uncles and cousins, and any debts or expenses were paid, all of the rest of Miles estate was to be given to Karen Audersfelt. She was shocked that he even remembered her last name. Yet, he even spelled it correctly. She flipped to the last page, his signature and the date. He had signed this will only a year ago. She was surprised that he had thought to update his estate plan. At his age, with no family to care for, most men felt invincible and didn’t bother with wills or estate plans. As a matter of fact, she thought, It’s not just men, I don’t even have an estate plan or a will.

            She rustled a few more pages and then got up to get a glass of chocolate milk and a soft fleece blanket. She needed some comfort before going through a dead man’s papers. Especially a dead man she barely knew. She almost thought it would be easier if she had known Miles better. She would have known where his important papers were, and how to go about contacting his relatives, and what she would need to do at his house, and what to do about a funeral service.
            The coroner had not released the body yet, and Karen was hoping for an extended autopsy. She simply could not coordinate the funeral of a man she didn’t know, and no one else seemed to want to take this particular duty. Karen knew she wasn’t obligated to take care of the funeral, but Miles had quite obviously trusted her with much more than that. She just had to find out why he trusted her, or at least earn the trust and affection his decision seemed to imply.
            Karen was grateful for Scott’s help, but wasn’t quite sure why he was interested in helping with the case. He had told her he didn’t want any fees and wouldn’t charge the estate for any services he provided. Although he was a decent boss, they rarely spoke outside of the office. Even at work Scott spent a majority of his time at seminars and meetings and other “management” duties and paid little attention to the administrative duties Karen provided.
            She thought back to her brief meetings with Miles. He was an attractive man, but not quite the life of the party type. He always seemed just a bit distant, despite the obvious and necessary “salesperson” characteristics. She had mentioned to Scott that she and Miles were contemporaries, but was even that much true?
            As she leaned back in the chair, a yellow page torn from a legal pad caught her attention. The tight, cursive handwriting looked somehow familiar as she picked it up and smoothed out the edges.
           
Dear Karen,

I hope you don’t find this letter presumptuous. I’ve thought about you often ever since that first moment we met. The way you react to even the most ordinary situations gives me a peace deep in my soul. I know that right now you must be feeling caught in the middle of a maelstrom, but there was no one else I could turn to.

I want you to visit my home in Kentucky; it might help you understand why I chose you for this task. The address is 1001 US Highway 62 in Highbaugh, Kentucky. The deed is included with my important documents.

If you are reading this, you may wonder whether I thought I might die. It is true that I suspected something might happen. By now, you know what has happened to me. I hope that I have not put you in any danger.

Good luck and Godspeed,                                      

Your friend,

Miles
           
            Karen set the rest of the file on the ground. She must be in trouble now. She never even knew he was from out of state, although most Charlotteans seemed to be. Now she had to travel to Kentucky to visit the childhood home of a dead man?
            Her chair faced the door, in order to obtain better light from the window. As she gazed into space, the door handle jiggled and then the lock slowly turned.
            “Guess who is home early!” Christine shouted as she opened the door. It seemed she never arrived without creating a production of some kind. “You won’t believe what happened to me today.”
            “I never believe what happens to you Christine.” Karen smiled up at her roommate. Christine had been Karen’s roommate for over five years. She was about the same age, but had previously suffered through a brief marriage and quick divorce. She currently worked in a high-end clothing store as an assistant manager.
            “You’ve got to guess why I’m home early at least.” She gestured down at her sopping wet clothes as a hint.
            “You burned the store down and the firemen had to come hose you down?” Karen hid a smile as she noted the almost see-through condition of Christine’s blouse and pictured a dozen drooling firefighters surrounding the small shop.
            “Not quite, although that might have been more fun in the short term. One of the tenants of the upstairs apartments passed out drunk at 0-dark-thirty this morning and it took until opening time for his running faucet to completely destroy the ceiling and flood our stock room. We rescued what we could, but the store is officially closed until further notice. The insurance people finally said I could leave, so here I am!”
            With Christine working a lot of evenings and weekends and Karen’s early mornings, they usually didn’t see very much of each other. Christine noticed the stack of papers on the floor. “Working on a weekend?”
            “Not quite, I’ll tell you about it later.” Karen figured she needed a break from the world of death and wills. “Since you’re home early, do you want to go shopping? I heard there’s a new shoe store in the mall.”
            “Hey girl, you know shoes always get me out the door. I can be ready in five minutes.”
            Karen laughed at Christine, knowing it would be at least 30 minutes to perfect “the look”. Sure enough about 40 minutes later, Christine stepped out of the apartment’s sole bathroom completely recovered from the morning ordeal. Her naturally curly chin length black hair was dried and straightened, her eyebrows freshly smoothed, and a black and white skirt and red blouse completed “the look”. Not to mention to 3-inch red spike heels. Karen shuddered to think of the pain her feet would be in if she wore those shoes. Christine, however, with a 5’1” frame, never left home without at least an extra two inches.
            The sun hit its zenith by the time the duo left their second floor apartment. Karen wasn’t planning on making any purchases, but some new sandals for summer seemed appropriate with the hot, dry weather recently. Karen wore her casual “uniform” of jeans and a T-shirt. Christine could persuade her to dress up occasionally for a night on the town, but Karen thought it was easier not to have to decide what to wear. Her work outfits were consistent, as well: a pantsuit Monday through Thursday and a collared blouse with black pants on casual Fridays or during the summer. Her co-workers generally teased her on the one or two days a year where she did get the urge to vary from her self-imposed dress code.
            The air-conditioned mall was packed with eager customers on a Saturday. The shoe store had a buy-one-get-one sale, and Karen went in with Christine to take full advantage. Christine bought 3 pairs of shoes and Karen found the perfect summer sandals after a long, difficult search. As they continued to walk through the mall carrying their purchases, Christine filled Karen in on everything from the latest man she’d been dating to the newest drama on their favorite TV shows.
            “Oh, I almost forgot to ask. What were you working on when I came home? I know you have an office job, but you’ve never brought it home with you before.” Christine’s conversations might wander, but she truly did have a mind like a steel trap.
            “It’s really complicated actually. Let’s stop over here and I’ll tell you over an iced coffee. My shoulders are killing me already. I can’t believe one box of sandals is so awkward to carry.”
            “It wouldn’t be so bad if you came with me to the gym on Wednesday nights.” Christine countered and paused to show off her bicep.
            “I’ve told you a thousand times that I can’t gain weight and I can’t lose it. I wouldn’t be able to build muscle if I tried!”
            “You can do anything if you work up to it. You’ve just got to take the first step. Speaking of which, what are you planning to do with that huge stack of papers in the middle of our living room floor?”

            Karen grabbed an empty table and set her bag carefully underneath. “I’ll try to start as close to the beginning as I can, but I don’t even know the whole story yet.”



*** If you aren't happy with my choice of titles to publish a second chapter for, then you need to vote! I'm going with the only vote received so far, but if one of the other titles seemed more interesting to you, then you should be voting! Go back here if you're not sure what I'm talking about. ***
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