Lamplight Woods: Family Business


“I guess that I’m just not getting why we’re even going,” Sarah stated stubbornly, not bothering to look up from her cellphone.

Michael Dyer wrapped his hands around his glass of water and silently regarded his daughter for a moment.  She had said the same thing at least three times during their long drive from California, and each time he hadn’t had much of an answer to give her.  He found himself in the same situation now.

“The guy is my father,” he said, realizing just how lame of a reason that was.

“Was,” she corrected.

“Whatever.  Was.  The guy was my father.”

“That doesn’t mean that you have to be the one to take care of things.  You said that you hadn’t spoken to him in a really long time.”

Michael nodded.  “Not since we moved out to the coast.  You were only six months old at the time, so that’s been, what, a little over sixteen years.”

“So why do you even care?”

He opened his mouth to respond, but the waitress picked that moment to bring their food.  He sat back slightly as she set his sandwich down in front of him.  The waitress seemed extremely disinterested in the entire process, and after presenting Sarah with her waffles the woman turned on her heel and went back into the kitchen.  She did it without a word or even an acknowledgement of their existence.

“I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you,” Michael said as he watched grease drip off of the chicken peeking out from the two pieces of bread that formed his sandwich.  “Honestly, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, either.  I just feel like I have an obligation to take care of his funeral arrangements.  There isn’t anyone else to do it.”

Sarah set down her cell phone with a shake of her head.  “Well, if you decide someday to become a major asshole like he seems to have been, don’t expect me to pick up the tab for your casket.”

He smiled slightly.  “I’ll keep that in mind.”

The chicken sandwich was hardly what could be classified as good, but it was still a better option than the fast food they had been living on the past few days.  Michael quickly ate it and turned his attention to the window next to them as Sarah picked at her own food.  The diner was located next to a particularly lonely stretch of highway in southern Ohio.  The view through the window displayed the parking lot, the road, and a few scraggly trees.  There wasn’t very much more to see.

The sky was beginning to fill with storm clouds.  There was a quiet rumble of thunder in the distance, and he knew that it wouldn’t be long before the rain arrived.  The sight of the thick gray clouds gave him a brief sense of nostalgia.  It had been a long time since he had seen a sky like this.  Sure, San Diego had its share of storms, but they were different somehow.  The weather had more of an oppressive feel here, a sense that it was not just gathering but actually surrounding you.

They were only a couple of hours from their destination.  Most of the trip had involved him paying close attention to his phone’s GPS to make sure that they were on the right track, but now they were on highways that he knew well.  He wondered if this was supposed to feel like a homecoming.  Whether or not it was supposed to, it definitely didn’t.  There were few things in life that he would have preferred to do less than to return to Lamplight Woods.

To distract himself more than out of some need to, he mentally ran through what needed to be done.  He had a meeting with the funeral home director the next day.  He had already determined that there wouldn’t be a funeral service.  It wasn’t due to his negative feelings towards his father.  He could have gotten past those for a few hours.  It was because he knew that his father detested funerals.  The thought of having one for him anyway as a final act of spite had briefly appealed to Michael, but he couldn’t justify the additional cost just to throw one last barb.

After the preparations for the burial were made, he would need to figure out what to do with the family business.  That was going to be the most difficult part.  He still wasn’t sure how he was going to handle that particular issue.

“Um, Dad?” Sarah asked, pulling him out of his thoughts.

Michael turned back towards her and found a very different expression on her face.  Normally she carried an air of confidence even when she wasn’t truly feeling that way, but now she looked nervous.  Almost timid.

“What’s wrong?” he asked sharply.

“Nothing’s wrong,” she quickly assured him with a small smile that didn’t reach her eyes.  “I’m okay.  I was just wondering if, well, since we’re going to be in town anyway…”

She paused and gulped in a deep breath.  He had never seen her act like this.

“I was just wondering,” she continued quietly, “if we could visit Mom while we’re here.”

Michael felt like he had been punched in the gut.  He hadn’t been expecting that request.  A flood of emotions both old and new flooded into him, but he forced them down.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice cracking slightly.  “Yeah, of course we can.”

“Okay,” she said simply.  “Thanks.”

Sarah had never known her mother.  Not really, anyway.  She had only been three months old when Evelyn had died.  They hadn’t talked about her much over the years, and when they had the conversations had been short.  He got the feeling that his daughter knew how painful it was for him to talk about her mother even after all these years, and she had purposely steered clear of the topic.

He felt a pang of guilt.  That was something that needed correcting.  Evelyn had been an amazing woman, and her daughter deserved to know all about her.  It wouldn’t be an easy conversation to have, but any pain that it caused him was irrelevant.  Sarah had the right to know everything there was to know about her mother.

He looked back out the window.  Maybe this trip would end up being a good thing after all.  He could take Sarah around to all the places that he and Evelyn had frequented while they were growing up.  A few random memories of them as children popped into his head and he couldn’t help but smile.

The smile slipped from his lips.  There would be time for a trip down memory lane after the business matters were sorted out.  Until then, he needed to stay focused on the matter at hand.

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