In a hospital room, his mother's sobs penetrate the silence. "Carl is dead." Her daughter-in-law, Renee, has a desire to smile. Doctor and nurses consoles them, although Carl's death was not a shock since the cancer took some time to ravage his vital organs.
"How long were you married?" A nurse asks.
"Seven years," Renee says.
"They were high school sweethearts," his mother says.
"How sweet," another nurse says.
"That's what you think," Renee whispers. She recollects the reason she and Carl got together. She wanted to do the last year of high school tradition of a girl with a boyfriend for the prom and other activities. Their dating would end after graduation unless they thought otherwise, like some couples do; it was never otherwise for her because she had planned to study journalism at the university's school, to prepare for her life career. She told Carl this so that there would be no ill will between them when they separated. However, a week before graduation he gave her a newspaper clipping to read. 'In another city, a teenaged boy was so infatuated with his high school sweetheart that after she told him that they should stop dating, he shot her to death.'
"That is me and you," Carl told her.
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"That is what I'll do if you leave me."
"No, I'm not.
Her parents were disappointed with her decision to marry Carl not long after graduation.
"He was a good family man, even if he had no kids to make a true family." an uncle says.
Renee does not tell him that his nephew wanted it that way so to keep all her affections to himself. Anyway, she would've done anything to avoid a tighter connection to him.
"He always wanted to be cremated so he wouldn't have to go in the ground; he always hated that thought," his mother says then points out, "how much he loved you Renee."
"What do you plan to do with the rest of you life without Carl?" Carl's cousin, Roger asks.
"I'm going to move back with my parents, get a job," Renee says. Although she was not a locked in housewife she knew that Carl paid Roger to keep tags on her, she remembers.
Before she moves, she puts the urn with Carl's ashes in a plastic bag already half filled with garbage, then ties it tight; she takes it to the curb trash receptacle, tosses the bag into it.
"What are your plans?" Her father asks.
"The community college has journalism classes so I'll start there," Renee says.
"That's good," her father says.
"You have all the help that you'll need from us to get your degree," her mother says.
"Thanks mom because I had made plans for the state to do that," Renee says.
Renee attends morning classes; in the evenings, she has a job at a store in the shopping plaza. One evening, she walks to the employee's parking level with an upcoming test on her mind until Roger stops her thoughts, standing next to her car.
"Roger, is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me," he says then point a pistol at her.
"What are you doing?"
"Carl came to me to remind me of my promise that I am to make sure you follow him."
"Came to you?"
"One night when I was asleep."
He takes a pistol from his pants pocket. Renee runs at him in a rage that startles him and causes him to fire a bullet aimlessly that alerts two security officers; when they arrive, Renee refuses their demands to stop choking the man. With an effort, they pull Renee off an unresponsive Roger.
"I always thought the worse of Carl but I didn't think it was that bad, keeping you under a pendulum like that," her father says.
"You should have told us," her mother says.
"I was afraid in the beginning then I started getting ideas and then he got sick," Renee says.
"I hope the rest of his family didn't promise him to do such a thing," her mother says.
"Roger was a muttonhead who followed Carl like a hungry mutt," Renee says.
"Are you sure there are no more muttonheads in his family?" Her father asks.
"Well, I sure hope not, because, if not, I have plans for whomsoever," Renee says.