This is Beatrice Lane. She lives at Umbrage Manor in Willow Creek all by her lonesome. The house had been in her family’s possession for generations. Usually it was passed down from father to son, but Simon Lane had no sons and Beatrice was his oldest. She was expected to marry to keep the family name alive, but she never did. She married her career instead. First, she took a job at the school as a teacher. Before she knew it, years went by and she found herself touting the title of head mistress. The school was very important to her, and she ran a tight ship for many years. However, she took an early retirement to focus on her health. As each year passed, her cabinets filled up with more and more pills, potions, teas, and any remedy she could get her hands on. Certain diseases ran rampant in her family. She didn’t have any of them, but she just knew they were waiting around the corner to pounce on her. True, she has her fair share of illnesses but nothing serious enough to take her out. That’s what her doctors say, but she doesn’t believe them. She knows her time is growing short, and nothing and no one can convince her otherwise. As of late, she’s taken to doing a bit of future planning. This is what happened last week…
After breakfast, she heard a knock at the door while she was washing the dishes. “Just a minute,” she yelled hoping this visitor was wasn’t anxious. She dried her hands and trudged toward the door. Brennan Bernard was standing on the porch. He was the estate manager. There were many managers before him throughout the course of the Lane’s history, but for the past five years the job was his. Beatrice smiled in delight when she saw it was him. “Oh! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!” Brennan was practically the only person she saw outside of the household staff. She didn’t venture outdoors much. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. “Come in! Come in!” He brushed past her with a confused look on his face as he walked toward the parlor. They always met there. She wasn’t far behind him and sat next to him on the couch.
“Miss Lane…you invited me. Last week?”
Her eyes grew larger as she finally recalled their previous conversation. “Oh dear.” She rubbed the back of her head as she looked away in worry. “You know what they say… The mind is the first thing to go!”
“Come now, Miss Lane. Your mind is as sharp as cow plant teeth. Everyone forgets things every now and then.”
“You might be right, but…I know it’s going. It’s getting all mushy, like…melted freezer bunny!”
Brennan belted out a hearty laugh. “You know that isn’t true. I’ve seen your latest medical records. Nothing has changed.”
“That’s what they want us to think! They want me to think I’m better so I won’t get anymore prescriptions! Don’t they know I’m a sickly old woman? Don’t they want me to get better?”
It was the same song and dance each time they met. He tried to go with it for as long as he could, but eventually he had to try and convince her that her health was not as bad as she imagined. “Miss Lane… ”
“No! I know what you’re going to say! I am sick! A few days ago, I had the bloaty head! And the week before that, llama flu! You know what comes next… Burnin belly! Then the triple threat! All us Lanes get taken by the triple threat!”
There was nothing Brennan could really do. He was only her estate manager although she had added many other unrelated roles to his job description. His latest role had become…well…see for yourself.
“Ok, Miss Lane. Ok.” He changed the subject to escape that losing battle. “I got the revisions of your will done like you asked. I’m not sure what’s left for us to discuss unless you want to conduct some business.”
“Well,” she said as she raised herself from the couch. “There is something I’d like for you to note. I’ll be right back.” She went upstairs to her closet and changed into her best formal gown. She presented herself to Brennan and said, “Do you like this dress?”
“Sure, Miss Lane. It looks mighty fine.”
“Good! I intend to wear it until my time comes. I want my ghost to look suitable.”
He thought she had gone too far this time. “But, Miss Lane… You have so many more days to live! You’re not actually going to wear this dress every day until you die, are you? And where are your shoes?”
She laughed heartily this time. “Oh, Brennan. Haven’t you ever seen a ghost before? They don’t have feet!”
“Come now, Miss Lane. With all the medicines and teas and things you have around here, you’ll probably out-live me! I wish you would stop this crazy death talk.”
“My dear boy… Death isn’t something to be afraid of. I’m just getting my affairs in order, that’s all.”
“That’s why dying people do, but you’re not dying Miss Lane. Ok, you get sick a lot, but you’re not dying!”
“You are sweet. I think you’ll be the only one there to mourn for me. I think I was a bit too hard on the teachers in my day. The Watcher knows that the students hated me. Oh well. Live and learn, right?”
“Miss Lane, I am your estate manager. I manage your estate. All these other things I help you do is out of kindness because I like you. But, I respectfully request that we keep my duties strictly to managing the estate. I’m not comfortable with all of this. So, if you have no other estate business for me to handle today, I will be leaving.”
And with that, he got up, straightened his jacket, nodded his head, and started toward the door.
“I like that suit that you wear,” she said. “Make sure you wear it at my memorial.”