This story may be disturbing to some. It's very sad and more than a little creepy. If you are prone to nightmares, it would probably be a good idea to read some of my more cheerful fiction.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust..."
Although she had never seen any point in a funeral, Norman had insisted it was important. "You're perfectly right, Miss Dorothy. The deceased person doesn't care. Funerals are to comfort the living." It was clear that he wasn't going to yield, so she had dropped the subject.
The minister's voice droned on, oddly soothing to her. There was a dull thud as the first handful of dirt was dropped on top of the coffin, then another, then another.
She thought back to the day Roger had died. With all the risks he had taken, one would have predicted that he would have gone down fighting, piloting his beloved Big O.
He had been denied a clean death in battle, though. Instead, he had been laid low by pneumonia. She had been too late after all--despite the air she had brought to him, the water in his lungs had done its evil work. Within a few days, he was bedridden, delirious with fever and drowning on dry land.
She remembered her anger when she realized that he was going to leave her. He had finally admitted in his inimitable louse-like manner that he cared for her, and now he was going to go away for good.
She had taken to lying beside him when he slept, turning off her internal power supply and running on battery backup so that her cool skin would relieve his fever. It had at least bought him a few lucid hours.
One night he had awakened from an apparent nightmare. "I'm going to die, aren't I?" he had asked between coughing fits.
"I believe so," she had replied honestly, stroking his hair in a way he never would have permitted when he was well. She felt powerless to comfort him.
"Thank you." He had smiled at her bluntness. "They keep telling me not to talk, to save my strength, that everything will be fine." That must have been the nurse that Norman had hired when there was still hope that Roger was going to recover. When it had become clear that he was getting worse, the butler had yielded to her insistence that the nurse be dismissed.
"I'm sorry," she had told him. "I didn't bring you the air in time."
There had been a flash of anger in his eyes, and for a moment, he was the vital, energetic man she loved. "It isn't your fault," he had said firmly. "I could have accepted the cables from Big O and I chose not to. It was my decision and mine alone."
He had gone into a fit of coughing then, and fallen asleep with his head against her chest, completely exhausted. Shortly before dawn, he had awakened again and told her his last wishes.
One of them had surprised her a little, but she was not averse.
Afterwards, he had seemed content. "I love you, R. Dorothy Wayneright." Even with her acute hearing, his voice had been barely audible. "Please don't leave me."
She had given him her promise and he had curled into her arms as trustingly as a child, comforted and at peace.
It was the last thing he ever said. Late that night, he had lapsed into unconsciousness and the next day he died in her arms.
She had helped Norman to prepare his body and relayed his wishes concerning the disposition of his property. They held the wake the following day. It was amazing how many people had come to pay their respects--as big as the mansion was, it could barely hold everyone.
That night, she had dressed in her red party dress, carefully applied makeup and written a letter to Norman.
The thudding of dirt on the lid of the coffin muted as the grave began to fill with earth. The ceremony concluded and the mourners slowly dispersed.
Dan Dastun put a comforting arm around Norman's shoulders. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "To lose him is bad enough, but to lose her, too..."
The older man shook his head. "She was completely devoted to him," he said. "I can't say I was surprised to find her there with him this morning."
"What are you going to do now?" Dan asked.
"I'm doing to do what she asked me to do," he answered. "Her instructions were quite clear."
"Well, you'll have your work cut out for you then," Dan said. "Let's get some lunch, I'll buy you a drink."
Dorothy strained to catch the last bit of their conversation as their footsteps and voices faded away, replaced by the sounds of the gravediggers completing the burial. She ran her fingers lovingly through Roger's hair one last time and settled herself in for a long wait. He had asked her not to leave him and she had given him her promise.
When his bones were finally turned to dust, she would be free to go.