Bereavement Services

It has been far too long since my last post. Unfortunately, life has a way of making our best laid plans go awry. Due to a surgery and a move, all my good intentions have been delayed. Now, I am healthy and we are in an interim home while our house is being built. Our routine has been reestablished! Here is the first chapter of my next book, due out in the Fall. Let me know what you think. Keep reading and writing, Novesta. 

 

Chapter 1

 

“Obituaries were never my cup of tea,” I admit to myself as I stare at the ceiling from the comfort of my king-size bed. There are people who check them out every day. All they do is remind me that the people I love could die at any time, under a myriad of dreadful circumstances. Yet here I am with a lucrative business writing obituaries for families that want sleek, compassionate send-offs for their loved ones.

My current career began innocently enough. When I came home from my two-year sojourn in Spain, I moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Tucson, Arizona. I needed a job and The Arizona Daly Star hired me for their only available position, the obituaries.

As time went on, I increased my involvement with customers and began helping people edit and refine their eulogies. The bereaved adored me. I received fan mail. They asked me to come to their homes to help them compose farewells for their departed. Oddly enough, many people bought the paper simply to read the obits.

I wanted another position, something meatier. My editor upped my salary but would not consider me for another position. “You’re too valuable where you are, Kat,” I was told. He threw me several fluff jobs but nothing of substance. So I quit and Bereavement Services was born.

Although my salary is excellent, Bereavement Services has become an albatross around my neck. This is not how I imagined my literary career. Composing obituaries is depressing. I want something different, something that will snatch me from the doldrums that have swallowed me like quicksand. I want an exciting career, recognition, adventure.

Sighing, I glance at the clock on the bedside table. Noon. Sitting on the side of the bed, I pull off my oversized tee and drop it on the floor. Thinking about exercising suffices for the actual routine and I head to the bathroom for a hot shower.

Drying off with a rough towel, I can feel myself coming to life. My skin is turning pink and tingly and my brain is perking up. I run fingers through toweled hair, and it quickly dries into long, fluffy blonde curls. I put on my favorite black bra and panty set, then apply my make-up, eyeliner, mascara, blush, and lipstick.

Tugging on my skinny black jeans, I complete my ensemble with a girly black and white strapless top. The last touch is a pair of large onyx and silver hoop earrings. Looking in the full-length mirror, I smile. Pretty good for twenty-nine years old.

While doing well in the looks department, I am floundering where my career is concerned. Nearing thirty, still not the writer I always dreamed of being, time is running out.

Padding bare-foot into the kitchen, I pour my first cup of coffee then check my email and texts as I saunter into the living room. I contemplate calling my younger sister, Kit, an airline attendant. With her straight red hair and big brown eyes, we may not look like sisters, but our voices are so similar people often mistake one for the other over the phone.

As I want to talk about my abysmal life and my sister is weary of the complaining and whining I fall into during each call, I opt for Skyping Sara. We have been friends since sixth grade and, being a social worker, she is more apt to commiserate and help problem solve.

“Kat! How are you? You look great!” She is smiling as usual and her blue eyes sparkle. Sara is one of the most upbeat people I know.

“I need to talk about a problem if you have a few minutes. But first, how is your family?”

“Everyone is fine. Sam is good and the farm is prospering. My therapy practice has expanded and I may need to work one more day a week.”

“Well, a four-day work week isn’t so bad,” I laugh.

“No, it isn’t. Now tell me what’s going on with you,” she said, her smile dimming.

“I’m so down all the time. Writing obits is lucrative, but I hate it. I love the people who hire me, but listening to their sadness for hours is depressing. I feel like a grief counselor. It’s overwhelming. The other day I found myself composing my own obituary. Can you believe that?”

Sara is silent for a moment. When she responds, I am surprised by her reaction.

“I’m speaking professional to professional and I have to be honest. I’m worried about you. You have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. What would you tell a client who was talking like this?”

“Get thee to a psychiatrist and have him put you on antidepressants,” I answer truthfully.

“Not funny,” Sara chides. “You’ve been ignoring this situation for far too long. You need to see someone, do something to change the situation, or both.”

“That’s why I called. I have one more obit to write this week and then I’m done for a month. I’ve already turned four requests over to my assistant, Sandi, and here’s the big news. She’s buying me out.”

“That’s wonderful!” Sara sounds happy for me. “But how will you support yourself? Will you go into clinical practice?” She seems calm, but there is a hint of concern in her voice.

“With the money from the sale and the inheritance from Grandma, I’ll be fine for quite a while. I’ll also be consulting for the next year while we train, Anna, Sandi’s assistant. I will be paid a healthy salary plus my health care will continue.

“It seems you’ve thought this through, but are you sure you want to sell the business?”

“This wasn’t a snap decision. God, I’ll turn thirty in six-months and I have no life.” I begin counting on my fingers, “I have a business I dislike, no real friends other than you, and I do nothing but write about dead people. I want to write a novel. That’s been my dream since I was a little girl. Tell me I’ll find success, friends, maybe even someone to love. I want a life. It’s time.”

“I have a great idea. You could come out here for a couple of weeks or a month. It’s humid and hot as blazes, but the Ann Arbor art fair is coming up in three weeks and, speaking of love, an old friend is going to be there. He designs fabulous jewelry and wall art.” Sara sports a mischievous grin.

“Not Lance.” I know I have a sour look on my face.

“Yes. Don’t you want to see him?”

“No. I don’t want to see him. I never want to see him again.”

“He divorced Patty. He divorced her.”

“And that means what? He married Patty after he proposed to me. He married her while I was studying in Spain.”

“It means he’s single and he’s not dating. He’d give anything to see you. If you’d just let me tell you the entire story, you might have a different point of view.” Sara looks and sounds irritated.

I interrupt her. “Even thinking about him makes me feel like I’m drowning. I do not want to see him. I mean it. How much clearer can I be?”

“Okay, okay, I get it. No Lance.” Sara’s frown tells me how much she disagrees.

“But I’d love to see you and Kit. I need to have some fun. I need some girl time.”

Sara’s reference to Lance makes me feel like having a temper tantrum. I thank her for her input, tell her I’ll call her tomorrow, and say good-bye before I can scream. Taking deep breaths to calm myself, I count to ten and call my sister.

“Hi, it’s me.”

“Hi, you. Are you going to complain about your job? Quit.”

“I did.”

“You quit? You actually quit?”

“You sound incredulous, Sis. I’m selling the business over the next year. I’ll work for that year, but not writing obits. I’ll tell you all about it later. Sara suggested I come for a visit. Could I stay at your apartment?“

“Well, yes. As long as you don’t mind if I’m in it, too. When exactly are you coming? I’ll take some time off.”

“Perfect! I can’t wait to see you. I’ll call with the details.”

“Well, don’t procrastinate,” she emphasizes. “I’ll have to make arrangements.” I hear a male voice in the background insisting it is time to leave. Kit laughs. “Gotta go. Call me soon.”

Before I can answer, she hangs up.

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