She stood outside the door, the cold wind cutting straight to the bone. She could hear the soft, dulcet tones of chatter and she wondered just how many people were gathered together in that room today. Surely everyone would have something to say about her presence. She took a breath, smoothing down the front of the tasteful, black dress.
This isn’t where she wanted to be. She dreamed of being in his arms in front of the fire, by his side in the bed they shared, staring into his eyes from across the table after sharing a meal with him. There were so many things she’d dreamed of doing with him–never this.
Her mind rushed back to earlier, to the moment she looked in the mirror, stunned by the reflection staring back at her. How could this be happening? How could someone do incredibly full of life be gone?
She pushed open the heavy door, the old hinges announcing her arrival. She heard the gasps and whispers move through the room like a spreading wildfire as she walked slowly up the aisle. Her eyes never left the picture. It was a large one, a promo he’d shot for Brash and Sassy–suited up and glossed over–nothing like the person he truly was. None of this was right. She could feel her composure slipping and she fought for control of her emotions.
Phyllis gripped the edge of the pew, slowly lowering herself into an empty space. She saw Ashley stand, sliding down and sitting next to her.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she hissed. “This is hard enough on our family without you showing up to remind everybody of why this happened.”
She had made herself a promise before she left the house. She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t make waves, that she wouldn’t cause a scene, that this wouldn’t be about the Abbotts, or their opinion of her, or anything else. This would be about Billy…about honoring him, about her love for him, about saying a proper goodbye to him.
But she never had been very good at keeping promises.
The rage was overwhelming. He was gone and yet she still sat beside her with that self-righteous, hypocritical stare. There was nothing fair about any of this. She couldn’t stop herself and, truth be told, she wasn’t sure she wanted to.
“How dare you…” Phyllis stood slowly, her voice low and trembling. “How dare you tell me I shouldn’t be here.”
Ashley opened her mouth to speak.
“No,” Phyllis continued, her voice louder now, more insistent, the rage morphing into righteous indignation. “I’m talking now. You’re going to shut up and listen for a change.” She took a deep breath, staring into her eyes and then looking around the room, scanning the faces of the people who had abandoned Billy, the people who’d judged him, criticized him, and berated him. It was a room full of people that continually assured him of what a screwup he was–all the while declaring their love for him.
“You,” she said, looking at Ashley first and then moving her hand across the span of the room, “all of you–you deserted Billy. You judged him and turned your back on him because he made a choice you didn’t agree with. Thus family all of you hold in such high regard told him that he was no longer an Abbott. They cut ties with him, refused to speak with him, fired him from the family business his father built…”
Tears streamed down her face now. She saw Jack and locked eyes with him. “You–he looked up to you and he knew how hurt you were. He knew how angry you were, but he had no idea what to do to make this better and you refused to even give an inch.”
She turned, her eyes staring at the picture and the small box that sat beside it. “And now…now, this is what we have left. Because it’s too late now.” She jerked her body back around facing them with anger in her eyes.
The words were less calm now. “It’s too late now, Jack, it’s too late because he’s gone. You wanted to punish him..you wanted to punish me, well I guess you did, huh? You took him from me. You made sure we’ll never be together. You robbed your niece and nephew of a father. You…”
Her legs went weak beneath her and she felt arms around her easing her to a seat. She blinked a few times, her head bobbing back and forth until her vision cleared and she could recognize a Jack. They sat quietly for a moment and she watched him stand and go speak to the minister. People started filing out through a side entrance.
Phyllis looked at him, confused.
“Graveside service,” he said softly.
Her face crumbled, the reality of the words tearing at her heart.
Jack closed his eyes and slowly shook his head, placing a hand on her shoulder before speaking. “I’ll walk out with you if you want.”
She looked up at him. “I can’t…I can’t go out there. I can’t watch them take that box and put it in the ground and….” A stifled sob escaped… “I can’t…especially when
I know he wouldn’t be there if I had just been honest with him about what I felt..if I hadn’t made him think I was moving on.”
“That’s not true.” Jack’s voice was serious but kind. “This isn’t your fault..if anyone can be blamed here, it’s me. You were right…telling him he wasn’t an Abbott. I said it because I knew it would hurt him and, at the time, that’s exactly what I wanted. I just thought I’d have more time to…..”
She looked up as she heard the creak of the door again.
Phyllis sat up straight, her gown sticking to her sweat drenched form. She ran her hand over her face. “Summer,” she said softly.
Summer walked over to the bed. “I’m sorry to wake you,” she said quietly, “but I could hear you mumbling in my room. I think I must have been dreaming or something.”
“You’re right. You’re absolutely right. I was dreaming…having a bit of a nightmare actually, but lucky for me I have my wonderful daughter to remind me everything is ok,” she smiled.
Summer nodded, her expression turning quizzical as she watched her Mom swing her legs over the side of the bed and begin to pull on clothes. “Mom..where are you going? It’s the middle of the night?”
“I know honey, but sometimes you realize that there are something’s that just can’t wait–not one more second.”
Billy stumbled down the stairs, rubbing his hands through his hair. “This better be damn good,” he grumbled as he approached the door and flipped on the porch light. His lips curved into a slight smile as he saw her standing there.
He pulled open the door. “Phyllis,” he whispered, “what are you….”
She wasted no time as she stepped into the foyer and wrapped her arms around his neck. She pulled him close to her and pressed her lips on his. For a split second, she thought she sensed slight hesitation, but it was almost instantly gone and within minutes they were tangled in each other’s arms on the couch.
It was Billy who finally broke the embrace and leaned back, “I’m going o kick myself for this,” he began still breathing heavily, “but what brought this on…not that I’m complaining or anything mind you..”
Sh smiled and gave him a quick peck before recounting the events of the evening. He listened quietly as he explained about the dream, the fights, what she’d said, what she’d felt when she realized it was all just a horrible dream.
“So that’s it,” she said simply, “I had to come here.,to see you, to tell you how much .I love you, how much I want you, how much I want us and this…how much I don’t want to waste any more time.”
Billy smiled at her, his arms already wrapping around her again. He stood, lifting her up off her feet and cradling her in his arms. “What do you say we spend the first night of the rest of our lives in our bed?”
Phyllis smiled, resting her head against his chest. “I think that sounds like the kind of dream I’d like to make a reality.”