“Seems a shame you can’t keep it after all the work you’ve put in. You don’t appear to care much for your own house. This place suits you more.”
That was probably true, but he didn’t need this place. “I can always buy another house. I’d like to see Lily and Frankie raise their family here.”
“What is left for us to do?” Natalie asked as she looked around.
“I have to clean out my parents’ office. I left that for last because there’s so much paperwork to go through. I need to figure out what should be kept. I’m hoping we can shred most of it, but I really have no idea what they had stored away in all those drawers.”
They walked up the stairs together and Colin opened the door to the small, dusty room he’d avoided the longest. Turning on the overhead light illuminated the big old oak desk on the far wall. It had two large file drawers, one on each side, housing any number of documents and files they’d thought were important to keep. It took up most of the space like a large man in a small dressing room.
Colin had lots of memories of his dad going over invoices at this desk long before Russell Landscaping could afford their own offices, much less their own office building in the city. This was where his mother wrote checks to pay the bills and managed correspondence. She hadn’t been a big fan of email, always penning handwritten letters to friends and family.
There was also a large bookshelf on one wall with all his father’s books. His dad had always been a big reader. He loved to curl up in his chair by the fireplace and read in the evenings. Volumes of books lined the shelves, and Colin dreaded going through them. As much as he felt the urge, he didn’t need to keep them all, just a couple of his father’s favorites.
“I’ll take the shelves if you want to start on the drawers,” Colin suggested. “We can throw out all the office supplies.”
They each started their tasks. Natalie filled a wastebin with dried-up pens, markers and old, brittle rubber bands. After that, she started sorting through the file drawers.
Colin easily found his father’s favorite book—Treasure Island. His father had read, and reread, that book twenty times. It was his favorite, as evidenced by the worn binding and fraying edges. He set that book aside. It would go on Colin’s shelf until he passed it on to his children. Other volumes weren’t quite as important.
Colin quickly built up a stack of books to keep, then another to donate. He scooped up a handful for charity and turned, noticing Natalie sitting stone still in the office chair. The expression on her face was one of utter devastation.
“Natalie?” he asked. “What is it?”
Colin’s breath caught in his lungs. He set the books down on the desk before he dropped them. “What? You must be reading it wrong.”
Natalie handed over the folder. “I don’t think so. It looks like your mother filed two years before their accident.”
“It looks like she started the process, but they didn’t go through with it.” Somehow that still didn’t make him feel much better.
“I’m sorry to hear they were in a bad place,” Natalie said. “I never noticed anything wrong as a kid, but in my experience, there’s no perfect marriage. Everyone has problems, despite how they might look from the outside.”
Colin set down the pages and frowned. “Of course there’s no perfect marriage. Just because I want to marry and have a family someday doesn’t mean I think it’s going to be a walk in the park. You have to work at it every day because love is a choice. But it’s a choice worth making. And judging by this paperwork, it’s worth fighting to keep it.”