I've posted this story in my regular journal because I really like it. I'm reposting here to have all my AOL Short Story Contest stories together in one place and because it belongs.
The theme, the last week in December of 2003 when I wrote this was "Sojourns". I wrote it not exactly FOR a friend but definately based on what a friend told me about a relative.It is, and will forever remain, one of my very favorites.
I'm sitting here in the window seat with the sun bright and warm on my back, gazing out with tear filled eyes on the winter scene outside my window. I'm not seeing it though. Dee Dee's photo album is in my lap but I now know that's not all she gave me for Christmas. Yes, it's full of pictures of us together, as children, as teenagers, pictures of the four of us, taken at my wedding. It brings back memories and now is doubly important to me but it was the smallest part of her present to me this year and I only now appreciate that what I thought was a terrible inconvenience was her greatest gift.
It was just after Thanksgiving when the phone rang and it turned out to be Dee Dee. After all these years we still talked regularly but had not seen each other for over ten years. Living on opposite sides of the country will do that.
In typical Dee Dee fashion she started in with what she had to say with no preamble. "Sharon, it's time we got together. It's been too long. Why don't you come back home here and see us for a while."
"Dee Dee, I can't just drop everything and come out there now. The holidays make things so crazy." I was already being defensive, wondering why I had to go there.
"Sharon, I know it's inconvenient for you but it's really important to me."
"Why don't you come here then Dee?"
"I would Sharon but I want you here with me. I want to walk through Metro Park with you like we used to, shop in all the old places, visit old friends, walk through the high school together."
"But why now Dee?" I asked impatiently. "Can't it wait until after the holidays at least?"
"Sharon, please. I know through the years you probably feel like you've always felt you ended up doing what I wanted but this is very important to me. Please do this for me, ok? Think of it as a grand sojourn back home, to your roots and your friends."
Something about the way she asked made me give in. It was not like Dee Deereally. Maybe it was the way she asked. Maybe it was just the fact that she asked me and didn't just tell me to come.
So I took that sojourn back home. I'm afraid I didn't go with a good attitude. My husband didn't help pointing out that the kids were old enough to not need me if I was gone for a week or so and that there was nothing I really had to do for the holidays that wouldn't wait or that he and the kids couldn't take care of.
So I went back home. We did all the things she wanted. We talked for hours. She never did really explain why she wanted me there so badly right then. I thought maybe she and Frank were having problems but when I saw them together I knew that wasn't it. I watched him when he didn't know I was and saw the love and caring in his eyes, along with something else that I couldn't figure out then.
Gradually she thawed the ice princess and I began to relax and just be glad I was there. By the end of the week I was wishing I had more time. She'd gotten me to relax and have fun like I'd not done for years. I remembered why we were such good friends and why I put up with her quirks all these years.
I went home then to the best Christmas I'd had in years. Everything seemed brighter and cheerier somehow. We talked on Christmas day, Dee Dee and I. She sounded very tired, I thought, but when I asked she just said she was a bit under the weather but not to worry about her.
I didn't hear any more until that February day when the doorbell rang and I answered it to find Frank standing there.
"Well hello! What are you doing here?" I looked around him to see where Dee Dee was. "Is Dee Dee with you?"
"Can I come in Sharon?" He asked without his usual carefree smile.
I knew there something was seriously wrong. "Is everything ok? You and Sharon aren't having problems are you? Is that why she wanted me there?"
Frank reached out, took my hands and looked down into my face. "Sharon, Dee's gone. She died yesterday. She was so happy to have held on past Christmas, and to have gotten her one last visit in with you. She made me promise to come to you and tell you in person right after she died and not to tell you before then. It's one of thefew things we ever fought about Sharon but she felt strongly that she wanted you to remember her just as she was, not to have your last visit be marred by you knowing it would be the last."
I just broke down and cried then. Dee had been Dee to the last it seemed. Right away though I saw she was right. I realized that there would have been nothing I could have done, that I did the best I could just doing what she wanted one last time.
So as I watch Frank walk down the drive toward the waiting taxi I sit here tears in my eyes holding that photo album, filled with memories of Dee Dee and thanking God that she talked me into what I will always truly remember as a grand sojourn back home to see my friend.