The Will
Author:Kristen Ashley

The only serious she let leak in was me. How I was raised. What it did to me. What it made me become.

 

And Gran let me be me. The only one to do that, except Henry.

 

By the time I’d started the car, got it in gear and checked my mirrors, the big burgundy truck was driving by. I didn’t get the chance to look into the cab. I also didn’t think much of the fact that the man, nor his kids, approached me to tell me they were sorry for my loss.

 

That was probably good, seeing as I knew the kind of man he was and if his and his daughter’s behavior was anything to go by, I never wanted to meet them.

 

And with them gone, I found myself strangely relieved that I knew I likely never would.

 

*

 

“I should have come with you,” Henry muttered in my ear through the phone and I drew in a deep breath as I stared out the window at the sea.

 

“I’m all right, Henry,” I assured him.

 

“There’s no way you should be there alone.”

 

“I’m all right, Henry,” I repeated. “You have to be there. You do this shoot for Tisimo every year.”

 

“Yeah, which means I need a fucking break from it.”

 

I sighed, sat in the window seat and kept my eyes out to sea.

 

The sun setting had washed the sky in peachy pink with slashes of butter yellow and tufts of lavender.

 

I missed those sunsets over the sea.

 

I just wished Gran was right there, sitting with me.

 

“I get done with this, I’ll fly out there,” Henry said into my silence.

 

“You get done with that shoot, Henry, you need to be in Rome.”

 

“I need to be with you.”

 

I closed my eyes, blocking out the sunset, having wished so many times in my twenty-three years as personal assistant to Henry Gagnon, renowned fashion photographer, video director and handsome, dashing, reckless, adventurous, audacious, daring international lady’s man, that he meant it in a different way when he said words like those to me.

 

Not that he valued me as his personal assistant.

 

Not that he liked me just because he did.

 

Not because we had over two decades of history and no one knew him better than me and the same was true for him with me (though, he didn’t know me quite as much but that was part of me being me).

 

No.

 

For other reasons.

 

Now it was too late.

 

Not that there even was a time when that would be a possibility. He had models and actresses on his arm (and in his bed). And I’d lost count how many times I’d seen him smile his lazy smile at unbelievably gorgeous waitresses, tourists or the like and fifteen minutes later, I’d be finishing my coffee alone or heading to a park with a free few hours because Henry was away to our hotel to enjoy those hours a different way.

 

There was no way Henry Gagnon would turn his beautiful eyes to me.

 

Not then.

 

Definitely not now, with me forty-five, way past my prime. Even if Henry was forty-nine.

 

Then again, Henry’s last two lovers had been thirty-nine and forty-two respectively.

 

In fact, thinking on this, it occurred to me his lovers had aged as he had. He hadn’t had a twenty-something since, well…he was twenty-something (or, at latest, he was early thirty-something).

 

“Josephine?”

 

I blinked myself out of my reverie and came back to the conversation.

 

“I’ll meet you in Rome. Or in Paris,” I told him. “I just have to go to the reading of the will tomorrow and see to things here once I know what’s what. It shouldn’t take long.”

 

Why I said this, I had no idea except it was my job to make Henry’s life aggravation-free and I’d lived and breathed that for so long, I didn’t know how to do anything else.

 

The truth of the matter was Gran had a home and it was packed to the gills. I had no idea what I was going to do with it all.

 

However, I could easily hire an estate agency to deal with an auction and I didn’t need to be present for that. Nor did I need to be present for a sale of the property.

 

I felt acute pain in my midsection at these thoughts so I put them aside and returned to Henry.

 

“A week, at most two,” I said.

 

“If it’s over a week, I’m there,” he replied.

 

“Henry—”

 

“Josephine, no. Not sure you could miss the fact that you’ve been taking care of me for twenty-three years. I figure this once, once in twenty-three years, I can do whatever I need to do to look after you.”

 

“That’s very kind,” I said softly.

 

There was a brief pause before he returned, just as softly, “That’s me looking after my Josephine.”

 

This was one of the reasons I stood by Henry all these years.

 

And it was one of many.

 

First, it wasn’t that difficult to do my job. Henry was not a male diva, even if his talent meant he could be. He was pretty no-nonsense. I wasn’t rushing around picking up dry cleaning (well, not all the time) and trying to find a coffee shop that made lattes with unpasteurized milk.