We had dinner with Aunt Guinevere again. Jules had brought Sylvia and Jack with him. If I had known it would be our last evening with Aunt Guinevere, I would have requested family only. But I knew Auntie would insist Sylvia and Jack come, too. Especially Sylvia. Dr. Ryan arrived just in time for dessert.
We sat in the parlor in various places. Dr. Ryan, Aunt Guinevere, and Mom sat near the window facing the porch around the coffee table, each with a cup of tea in hand and a plate of crumbs from Aunt Guinevere’s apple pie sitting on the table. Jules and Sylvia stood near the door next to a fern on a cherry wood table. Both balanced a plate while talking about the fair I had missed. Jack and I sat facing the other window on the opposite side of the room from the other window. Our plates sat on the squat table between us.
“Is something bothering you, Miriam?” Jack asked after a long period of silence.
I shrugged. “Not much. Why?”
“Lately you’ve been very quiet.”
Jack and I dated a lot the summer before and occasionally after, but nothing really serious came out of it.
“Don’t worry about me, Jack,” I said quietly.
Jack took my hand. Honestly, I’ve never met a man quite like him. He has warm, dark eyes that clearly show he cares and dark hair that never seems to receive a trim. He’s tall and can make anyone feel protected, but never threatened. Everyone at the hospital loves him, especially the children. He’s such a loving man that I keep thinking he should find someone else. But he’s determined to stay by my side.
I looked up at him and smiled. “It’s really nothing, Jack.”
He smiled in return and gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “Is it that door again? You told me about it last year.”
“You guessed it,” I said with a sigh. “I just can’t figure out this obsession I have with it. It’s driving me crazy.”
“It’ll pass, Miriam. I’m sure it will.”
Just then, Jules and Sylvia joined us.
“Miriam, could I talk to you for a minute?” Jules asked.
I left Jack with Sylvia and followed my brother out into the hallway.
“Is something wrong?” I asked immediately, sensing his uneasiness.
“It’s Aunt Guinevere,” he said quietly. “I’m worried about her, Miriam. I’m afraid something’s going to happen to her and she’ll be gone. It’s a terrible feeling I have and I can’t shake it.” He lowered his voice after glancing into the room to make sure Aunt Guinevere was still deep in conversation with the doctor and Mom and Jack and Sylvia weren’t trying to eavesdrop. “I’m afraid she’s going to die, Miriam, and I’m really scared.”
I took his hands and gripped them tightly. “I’ve had the same feeling, too, Jules. I’m scared, too.”
“What should we do?”
“There’s nothing that can be done, Jules. We can’t do anything. I just have this feeling that we should let all this run its course. In the end, we’ll get our answers.”
“Like the one about that locked door?” he asked with a wry smile.
I scowled at him. “I know you want to know about it as much as I do,” I whispered fiercely.
He sighed and nodded. “I can’t deny it’s been heavy on my mind for a while.”
“There’s nothing we can do, Jules. But I wish there was. I really do.”
We went back into the room and resumed our places. Jules and Sylvia returned to their corner and I took up my seat again. I glanced back at Aunt Guinevere and saw her fiddling with the key on the pale rose ribbon around her neck. She was making slight twisting motions with it, as though she was opening a locked door. Jack watched her with me. Then we turned to each other simultaneously.
“Does she do that often?” Jack whispered to me.
I shook my head. “I’ve never seen her do that before.”
We turned back and saw Mom glancing nervously at the slightly twisting key. I think she knew something was going to happen, something no one wanted to think about it. And it was going to happen soon. If only I had known she was going to die the next night, I would have dropped by before then…