Rose jerked awake from where she had been dozing. The knock on the door had sounded like thunder in her dreams. She rushed to the window and peered through the dusty nets.
Ellen joined her at the window. They both looked out at the slim young man. “Is this it?” Ellen asked. “Have they found Mary?”
Ruby stood at the entrance to the room, too nervous to join them at the window. “Does it look like good news or bad news?”
The door knocker sounded again. “We should answer the door.” Rose said, sounding braver than she felt.
“What if it’s bad news?” Ellen asked. “What if they haven’t found Mary? What if she can never come home with us?”
“Is it a man or a woman at the door?” Ruby asked, edging a little closer to the window.
“It’s a man.” Rose said, peering a little further then darting back against the cobwebs as their visitor looked up at the window. “He’s wearing a suit.”
“Does he have anyone with him?” Ruby clenched her hands into fists.
Rose shook her head. “He’s got a box, though, all draped with a silk cloth.”
“Is that good news or bad news?” Ruby asked.
“It has to be news about Mary.” Ellen said. “We should answer the door.”
“What if it is another ‘favour’.” Ruby said flatly. “We’ve worn ourselves to shreds doing ‘favours’ for those who should have helped us. Perhaps they think we need to do more.”
The knocker thundered again. “We have to answer the door.” Rose said. “We should all go.” The man was looking around curiously. An expensive car stood at the end of the weed covered drive. “He may leave and then we will never know.”
The sisters tiptoed into the hall. “We can’t ignore this.” Rose said. “We have to take courage and think of Mary.”
It was Ellen who finally slid open the chain and turned the stiff lock. The neglected door creaked a little as she dragged it open. It was a cold, late autumn day with damp in the air, but the man did not rush. He nodded politely and stepped in. He looked around, and, without saying a word, pulled the dusty hall table to the centre of the hall. Then he placed the box reverentially on the table. The sisters didn’t speak as he carefully pulled off the black cloth and folded it neatly, tucking it inside his heavy, expensive overcoat. The sisters could barely move, transfixed by black, lacquered box. The man deftly removed the lid and removed an urn. He checked that it was safe and centred. Then he looked around the hall. The sisters did not make a sound. The man bowed politely again and left, closing the door behind him.
The sisters finally relaxed as they listened for the old gate creaking shut and the car purring away. Then they crowded around the urn. The three ghosts, finally reunited with the ashes of their beloved sister, faded away.