Ex-Next of Kin

Juliette Walker sat at her kitchen table tapping her fingers against the table top. She was feeling uncommonly numb and unusually sad as she sipped from her coffee mug. She was in the habit of feeling this melancholy this early in the morning and it was easy to get lost in the memories of the past sitting in the small house Milo had purchased for her when they divorced.

The sun filtered through the window over the sink and that caused her to squint which was good because it allowed her to be distracted from her musings of loss and grief. She wondered how long her current blahs might last despite the second cup of coffee.

She let out a sigh as she stood from her chair and she caught sight of herself in the reflection of the stainless steel refrigerator. Was she really old enough to be a widow - had she not become a divorcee first? She glanced at her hand and wondered if that was an age spot beginning to form on the skin of her knuckles.

Her gloomy mood was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. Who could be visiting this early on a Saturday morning? She had received several phone calls since the news of Milo's death became public but nobody had stopped by.

She placed the coffee mug on the counter and headed for the front door, swishing it open in one movement. She really shouldn't have been surprised to see Warren Morris standing on her stoop and Juliette immediately fell into him for a needed hug.

"You always show up when somebody dies," Juliette realized. "My dog Buster. My Dad. And now Milo."

Warren gave her a squeeze. "You shouldn't be alone," Warren said.

"I'm not," she smiled as she broke from the embrace. "Now."

"Ironically, it's a beautiful morning," Warren noted as Juliette motioned him inside, closing the door behind him.

She realized that she was wearing a rather skimpy short robe over her shorter nightie, not that it really mattered.

"Are you okay?" Warren asked.

"I don't know," Juliette admitted with a sigh. "Would you like some coffee?"

"That sounds nice," Warren replied and Juliette led him into the kitchen of the handsomely quaint house complete with a pond in the backyard which could be seen from the glass sliding kitchen door.

Warren took a seat at the table and he watched as Juliette reached up to get a mug from the cupboard, her night clothes hiking up just enough for him to see a hint of the top of her thighs.

She filled the mug with coffee from the pot on the counter maker and she handed it to him before sitting across from him at the table.

"I was driving from one meeting to another the other day when I heard the news on the radio," Warren told her.

"That's how I found out too," Juliette reported. "On the television news. Nobody thought to call me ahead of time. I guess I'm no longer considered next of kin."

"What was he doing flying to Burlington?" Warren asked.

"He wanted to have lunch with some old college friend, I'm told," Juliette said. "He could do that. Just hop on a charter or a private flight and go see somebody for a couple of hours."

"Do they know why the plane went down?"

"Witnesses say it just fell out the sky, so I'm guessing it was something catastrophic," Juliette shrugged.

"I'm really sorry," Warren said sympathetically.

"I thought I was at a point in my life where I'd moved on," Juliette said. "But I have to admit that this has come as a shell shock."

"Even after almost ten years?" Warren asked.

Juliette glanced out the window. "I know I was no longer a part of his life but we shared a bed for a good amount of time to establish experiences that meant something."

"I know," Warren said with understanding.

"We hadn't spoken in a while," Juliette revealed. "I don't suppose I ever told him goodbye."

"I saw him at the golf tournament a couple of years ago," Warren recalled.

"He certainly loved golf," Juliette smiled, turning her attention back to Warren.

"He was good at it."

"I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made but I'm trying not to feel guilty about them now," Juliette said.

"You shouldn't," Warren assured her.

"I never resented him for finding a new love," Juliette insisted.

"Good," Warren said.

"The suddenness of it is what is so hard to fathom," Juliette admitted. "I had to watch my father deteriorate from his damn cancer but Milo was gone in the blink of an eye. Just like our marriage."

"He probably would have rather been struck by lightning on the 18th green," Warren remarked.

"You never really liked him, did you?" Juliette asked with raised eyebrows.

"He was cocky, self-confident, self-absorbed, and an elitist," Warren shrugged.

"Tell me what you really think," she deadpanned.

"He swept you away," Warren sighed.

"I let him."

"Now I feel guilty about how I felt about him," Warren sighed.

"Because he's gone?"

"It's weird when somebody you didn't like all that much dies," Warren admitted, taking a sip from his coffee.

"I'll miss him," Juliette said sadly.

"You've done well on your own," Warren offered.

"Only because he bought me this house," she shrugged. "I would have ended up back with my mother with no other place to go."

"That's not true," Warren said. "You're working."

"Part time, when I feel like it," she muttered.

"Because Milo gave you the security to be able to do what you want," Warren reminded her.

"Do you think he and I were doomed from the start?" Juliette asked. "That's what my mother says."

"He ran his marriage the same way he ran his business," Warren complained. "He treated you more like an employee than an equal."

"Sometimes," Juliette admitted.

"Now you have a future completely free from all that" Warren said. "You can have a better relationship with someone else while remembering what you liked best about him."

"And who exactly will I be having a relationship with?" Juliette wanted to know, giving him a questioning stare.