Eventually, the only people remaining at the Harrison house were immediate family. Sherri and Sanderson cleaned up while Tim and Jenny kept their mother entertained and distracted with their spouses and children.
But the time came for the others to return to their own homes and lives so Sherri and Sanderson stood watch with Sherri's mom well into the evening. The woman was still adjusting to an empty bed and an absent husband and Sherri kept her company, along with Sanderson, reliving old times and looking through old photo albums.
Mrs. Harrison eventually tired from her long and emotional day and Sherri helped her to bed, insisting that Sanderson stay and wait for her. Sanderson was more than happy to remain in the familiar surroundings of his youth instead of returning to his lonely, empty, depressing apartment. He sat in the kitchen remembering all the those wonderful times of his youth spent in this house with these people. It would be sad for all of them when the house was sold but time had a way of marching forward whether people were ready for it or not.
Sherri returned, finally, relieved and relaxed now that all of her chores and responsibilities were done. "What a day," she said, taking a seat at the kitchen table next to Sanderson with the Scotch bottle she had brought from the liquor cabinet. She poured two short drinks into small glasses and slid one across the table top to him. "And so here we are," she said.
"To absent fathers," Sanderson said, lifting his glass in a toast.
"Amen to them both," Sherri sighed as she clicked his glass with hers and then took a sip.
He told her about Abby and her exit from their marriage and the end of the camera shop. He bragged about his kids and how proud he was of the both of them. He tried to put a positive spin on his present life as miserable as he was and as pathetic as his employment was – "Freelance photojournalist" sounded nice but it didn't mean much when he didn't get assignments and he poked fun at himself for working at Walgreen's.
Sherri wasn't going to criticize her friend Abby although she remarked that Abby had stopped initiating contact long ago. She reminded Sanderson that he kept the camera shop open for years when it could have easily died with his father and that he shouldn't beat himself up about its end now. She said she was envious of his kids and while she enjoyed her career, independence and freedom as an unmarried childless woman, every so often she felt those motherly instincts yearn inside of her and she thought about those children she never bore.
"But this is the life I chose," she said. "This is the life I have been given. This is the life that is. No what if or if only. Can't change the past, don't know the future. Here is now."
"I'm glad I'm here now, with you," Sanderson remarked.
"I am too," Sherri smiled.
The Scotch left them relaxed and reflective and neither could deny their awareness of the moment, knowing they were right back where they were forty years earlier, both still in their funeral clothes too.
"I have men in my life," Sherri said again. "But I've only had one man."
"Your Dad," Sanderson said knowingly.
"Besides him," Sherri clarified.
"Oh," Sanderson said, not quite sure what she meant. Was she going to tell him about her true love waiting for her back in North Carolina?
"You've always been my man, Sand," Sherri revealed. "The man."
"Me?" He asked with surprise.
"It's true," she verified. "I sacrificed you for college and my career and later I wasn't going to come between you and Abby."
"I knew you weren't coming back," Sanderson said with defeat.
"I'm back now," Sherri said softly.
"Not for long," he sighed.
She smiled and reached her hand out to take a hold of his on top of the table. "Come with me."
Sherri stood from the table and gently pulled him to his feet, leading him up the back stairs to her former third floor bedroom. It no longer looked like the room of her childhood - the posters and other personal items long gone but the bed was still there. The other furniture had been moved around by the grandkids and there was a large train track in one corner of the room, along with toys, games and other clutter.
"You can't go home again," Sherri joked as she closed the door behind them.
Sanderson stepped to the window and looked at his old house next door. "Yeah," he agreed.
He was surprised when he turned and saw that Sherri was stepping out of her black funeral dress which really wasn't all that different from the one she wore on the day of his father's funeral. He glanced down and saw that he was in a suit just like that day.
"Why don't you stay here tonight?" Sherri suggested as she stood next to the bed in her slip and what looked to be some sort of sports bra or tank top. "I don't want to be alone."
Sanderson didn't want to be alone either. He was tired of being alone. Of being lonely. He wanted to be seventeen again - with Sherri. He took off his suit coat and folded it across the back of a chair. He kicked off his shoes, undid his tie, took off his dress shirt and removed his pants so that he was also standing in his undergarments - his checkered boxers and a tee shirt. Did he always belong here? .
Sanderson stepped close to Sherri and she fell into him, giving him a kiss. He slid his hand down the back of her slip to feel her amble bare rump underneath her panties. Sherri pressed herself against him while his hand continued to explore her backside as they continued to kiss.
"Hopefully, I'm a better lover now than when I was that day," he said through their kisses.
"That was your first time," Sherri reminded him as she tongued him. "It was special for both of us."
He embraced her in his arms and hugged her. "I feel like it's my first time again," he said.
Sherri reached down and tugged his boxers down his legs until they fell to the floor. Sanderson's exposed erection poked her in her stomach. Sex was infrequent with Abby, especially in those last miserable years so he appreciated the feel, the smell, and the willingness of Sherri who was clearly demonstrating that she wanted him.
"Sherri." He rubbed his hand along her cheek. "I wish I had left with you."
"I'm sorry I abandoned you," she said, her eyes tearing up. "I should have come back after Wellesley. Done my graduate work at Green. Stayed here and taught."
"You didn't belong here," Sanderson told her. "Hillsboro is too small for you. You needed to go."
"But I lost you," she said, kissing him desperately.
Sanderson clung to her tightly. "You found me now," burying his face in her neck.
Sherri dropped her hand and took his penis into her palm as they stood hugging and kissing. He traced the side of her face with his hand.
"Forty years," he sighed.
"I remember it like it was yesterday."
Sanderson pulled her tank top-thingie up over her head to expose her breasts. He dropped his hand from her face and cupped her left breast with admiration and sensitivity while kissing her once more.
Sherri moaned and kissed him in return, sticking her tongue into his mouth. Sanderson explored her breasts with his hand and played with her nipples while she gently stroked his member in a calm, deliberate, affectionate manner. Sanderson slipped her slip down her hips and soon her panties joined the garment on the floor and she was naked.
"You're as beautiful as that day," he told her, kissing her softly before dropping his mouth to her breasts and now cupping her ass with his hands.
Sherri let go of his penis and took his hand, pulling him to the bed. Sanderson fell onto the bed on his back and Sherri lay atop him, wasting little time finding his member with her hand and guiding it between her legs. Sanderson moaned when he felt himself slip inside her and he was transported back in time to that day forty years ago in this very room although this time Sherri was definitely in the lead as she took the superior top position.
They made slow, methodical love, Sherri's hair falling in Sanderson's face and he felt a few tear drops splash against his cheeks too.
"Don't be sad," he whispered, raising his hands up and brushing the hair from her face.
"I'm not," she said as she slowly rocked her hips. "Not really," she added. "I just feel sometimes like I wasted my life."
"You didn't," he assured her, lifting his head up and kissing her on the mouth and her eyes sparkled with contented happiness.
"It was always you," she whispered. "Strange how liberal progressive independent hell-bent career minded single women like me are willing to sacrifice love for everything else."
Sanderson's hands pressed against her ass cheeks to help her rock atop him. "The past doesn't matter now," he reminded her.
Sherri moaned as she moved closer to climax. "You should come to Chapel Hill with me," she said.
"And do what?" Sanderson asked, feeling himself tighten inside of her.
"Anything you want," she groaned as her excitement built.
Sanderson reached up and pulled her face down to his and he kissed her. "I want to be with you."
Now she burst out in real flowing tears, crying for her father, and his father, and their messed up past, and their missed opportunities and their reunited second chance.
"Sherri…" Sanderson couldn't finish what he was going to say because he exploded just as she screamed out in satisfied contentment.