Libby chose a small booth in the corner of the coffee shop. She opened the paper before sipping her latte then flipped to the section and looked down at her own picture. It’d been a full year since she’d started her job as columnist for The Chronicle. She remembered how nervous she’d been at her interview, it was exactly one week after meeting that wonderful old man who had changed her life.
His honest words hurt so much but rang true to everything she’d been feeling. She had expected the house to make her happy but now she knew better, now she had a fuller life. Not perfect, but fuller since she’d started writing. She made some new friends and rekindled some old friendships that had floundered after losing Charles. She’d even been on a few dates; though she hadn’t met anyone worth seeing more than once.
When Libby turned the page she felt the shock as she stared into the eyes of the very old man who had changed her life. ‘Long time Harborview resident Philip Burnett born March 1, 1902, died Friday, November 13th of natural causes.’ Libby read the rest of the obituary with tears in her eyes. Her heart felt heavy as she lowered her head and said a silent prayer for him.
The next day, dressed in layers she stood grave side with more than a dozen other people as the priest talked about Philip’s life. He’d lived and died in Harborview, his parents had been early settlers to the area having built the house Philip grew up in. Libby cried as the priest talked, and wished she had visited Philip after their first meeting. She thought about him almost everyday since then and knew he was to thank for re-lighting her desire to live life.
“Excuse me ma’am?” Libby looked up quickly and wiped the tear from her cheek. She blushed a little at the tall man who had addressed her, feeling foolish for being so upset over a man she’d only met once.
“Yes? Hi—sorry.” She stammered shaking her head embarrassed.
“Are you okay?”
“Do you mind if I ask…” He hesitated. “How did you know my father?”
“Oh, you’re Philip’s son?” She asked surprised. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” He looked at her with a warm smile. “I’m Philip Junior.”
“I’m Libby. I almost bought your father’s house. He was a very nice man.”
Philip nodded and his smile faded as he looked down at their feet. “Yes, he was a great man.” He looked back up at her. “I’m sorry about the house.”
“What? Why—I don’t understand?” She said confused. “What do you mean?”
“About taking it off the market. I knew there had been some offers but I just couldn’t sell it.”
“Oh!” Libby smiled and laid her hand to her chest. “I’m so glad!” Heat rushed her face. “I love the house but I would rather you keep it in the family.” She hesitated and felt foolish again. “It would be a shame to lose all that family history. I’m sure one day your children will be happy you kept it.”
“Well, I’m not married and have no children so it seemed like a reckless thing to do, but I just couldn’t let it go.” He gave her a boyish grin and butterflies fluttered in Libby’s stomach for the first time in years. “It’s a big house for one person.” He said.
“I knew Philip had a son but I expected you to be much older.”
“Yeah,” He chuckled. “My mother was much younger than my father. She was forty-six when she had me. We got a lot of funny looks when I was a kid.”
Libby laughed then remembered where she was. Her smile faded and their eyes met. “Well…I’ll leave you in peace.” She turned to go.
“Do you—“ He stopped when their eyes met again and Libby recognized the same brightness she’d seen in his father eyes. “Would you be interested in having coffee with me?” He asked hesitantly.
“Oh, ah, sure.” She nodded, “I would enjoy that.”
Philip and Libby both turned and took one last look at the dark walnut coffin. Libby thought about the old man in the rocking chair she’d met the year before and wondered if he was to thank for this too. When they turned back Philip said, “So…tell me again how you met my father.”
© Dayner’s non-blog, 2009