The wheels of the rental car ate the miles between the airport and what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. Collin sighed as his hometown of Cottonwood came into view.
He was talking to his boss, Frank Phillips, on the phone, explaining who covering his cases while he was absent.
“I understand that someone else will need to be sent to Tokyo in my place, but all of the work is done, it’s just a matter of getting signatures, Frank,” Collin stated. He was tired.
“I don’t understand why you needed to be in, where did you say you’re going?” The 55 year old man complained.
“Cottonwood. It’s a small ranching community. My family has owned a ranch there for three generations, and I need to make sure everything is handled properly for my mother’s services, as well as the ranch,” Collin fired back.
Frank grunted. “You don’t have a sibling or someone else who can handle this for you?”
Collin took a deep breath. He was already on edge and this conversation was not helping his nerves.
“No, Frank, I don’t. My mother died last night, and I need to handle the arrangements, as well as the ranch. So, I’m taking time off,” Collin announced.
He continued, “All of my big contract projects are wrapped up, it’s mostly reviewing contracts and making sure it’s in the best interest of the client. My associates can handle it. Veronica can handle it.”
“I know Veronica can handle things until your return, but suddenly leaving before closing the Tokyo deal isn’t like you. This could cost you your partnership!”
Collin didn’t answer right away. He pulled the car off the interstate onto the off ramp for Cottonwood.
“I don’t care about that right now. I’m almost to the funeral home, so I need to get off here,” Collin responded.
“Fine! How long are you planning on being gone?” Frank barked.
“I’m not sure at this point. Probably a week, two at the most.”
“What?! A weekend sure, I get it. And I even understand needing an additional weekend for the service and whatever, but a week or two?”
Collin’s cheeks flushed. His anger kicked in. He was going to end this conversation one way or another.
“How much money did I make you and the firm last year? And I’m on target to beat that even if I’m gone for three months. If somethings happens, and you need me to come back for a day or two, or do some work from here, that’s fine. But I need to tie up the loose ends.”
Collin pulled into the funeral home and cut off the engine.
“Two weeks at the most! And if I need you and don’t hear back from you in a reasonable amount of time, you’re fired. I don’t care how much money you made me last year or even this year,” Frank announced fuming.
“I’m sorry about the loss of your mother. Take care and keep in touch.”
“Will do.” Collin hung up. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair before getting out of the car and walking into the funeral home.
“Collin Knight? I haven’t seen you in years. I’m real sorry about your mother. She was a real fine woman. Couldn’t have been prouder or loved you more,” Mr. Redford, the funeral director, said.
“Yes, Mom was an amazing woman. I just wanted to check on the preparations to see if there was anything that needed to be done, or even paid for,” Collin explained.
Mr. Redford looked at him in surprise.
“No, everything has been paid for and taken care of. Your mother didn’t want you to have to deal with the details of her death while you were grieving, so she took care of everything about three years ago.”
“Three years ago?” Collin echoed. He felt hollow inside. How did everyone know more about his mother than he did?
“Yep. That was when they told her that the cancer was back, and was spreading. She wasn’t sure how long she had left, but she wanted to make sure everything was planned out. She said she didn’t want her little boy to have to worry about anything in the end.”
What the hell? He had been around off and on for the past three years and she had never told him about the cancer. Had he really been that inaccessible?
“Apparently, she didn’t want me to worry about anything,” Collin whispered under his breath.
“What was that?”
Shaking his head, Collin replied, “Nothing. Just that she was always taking it upon herself to make sure I never had to worry about anything.”
“Very true. That was Margaret . She was a kind soul and couldn’t stand anyone making a fuss over her. To be honest, we were all surprised that you weren’t here for her in the end,” Mr. Redford stated.
“You know her, she made sure I wasn’t. I didn’t even know she was sick.”
“Well, I’m sure when the time came, Margaret made sure you two were able to say goodbye until you meet again,” Mr. Redford acknowledged.
Guilt shot through Collin as a wave of grief hit him anew. He took a moment to collect himself.
“Yeah, she did. Well, if there isn’t anything I need to do, I should get going.”
Mr. Redford’s sympathetic expression would be his undoing.
“I’ll call you if I need to,” the older man said gently.
Collin nodded and walked out the door. Once he was in the safety of his rental car, he collected himself before heading home.
A place he hadn’t been in over a decade.