Working on a new project, which is taking up the time and energy I would normally devote to writing short stories. In the meantime, please enjoy this short story, which was originally published in February 2015.
“Hey! I didn’t know if you’d make it in today,” said Alex.
“I had to. Listen, Alex, I hate to ask this of you again, but could you possibly take my shift for me tomorrow? It’s my aunt’s funeral.”
“Of course. Have you talked to Diana?”
“Not yet. I wanted to make sure it was OK with you before I asked her.”
“No problem. You do what you gotta do.”
Megan found Diana in her office in the back of the diner. The door was open, but Megan still gave it a gentle knock as she entered. “Diana?”
“One minute.” Diana finished something she was doing on her computer. Megan entered the office and closed the door behind her while she waited. “Megan! What’s up?”
“I wanted to apologize for skipping out early yesterday.”
“Alex said you had a family emergency.”
“I did. My aunt died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Diana’s lips formed a small pout as she tilted her head slightly to one side.
“Thanks. I hate to ask this after yesterday, but could I have the day off tomorrow? It’s her funeral. After that I’m all yours. I’ll work all next week to make up for it, if you want me to.”
Diana’s brow furrowed. She put on her bifocals as she studied the schedule. “Have you found someone to cover for you.”
“Alex said she would take my shift for me. If that’s all right with you.”
“As long as there’s someone working, I don’t mind. I assume this will put an end to it?”
“All right then.” Diana changed the schedule and looked back up at Megan. “Anything else?”
“Nope. That’s all I got.”
“Back to work then and I’ll see you on Saturday.”
Megan nodded and left the office.
“You sure you’re OK? That’s the third plate you’ve broken today,” said Alex.
“I know,” Megan muttered. “At this rate I won’t get a paycheck.”
“You must have been really close to your aunt, huh?”
“Not as close as I thought.”
Megan glanced around. It was just the two of them in the back. One of the busboys was loading the dishwasher, but he barely spoke English. Megan knew she shouldn’t be talking about this, but she couldn’t stand to keep it to herself any longer. “Can you keep a secret?”
“What kind of secret?” Alex took a step closer to Megan as her eyes lit up.
“The kind that involves a lot of money.”
Alex’s eyes widened. “How much money are we talking about?”
“Enough that I could quit my job here and never have to worry about finding another one.”
Alex’s eyes widened further until Megan was afraid they would pop right out of her skull. “Damn!”
“Yeah, well, apparently my aunt was really wealthy. Like, really really wealthy. And she left me just about everything.”
Alex slapped Megan across her upper arm. “Then what the hell are you still doing here? If that happened to me, you would never see me again. I’d fly off to some beach, start drinking something that comes with one of those little umbrellas and never stop.”
“Last week I would have said the same thing, but now I don’t know. I thought my aunt and I were tight, but now it’s like a didn’t even know her. How could she keep all that from me?”
“The real question is why are you looking a gift horse in the mouth? Take your payday and run as far away from here as you possibly can.”
Megan shook her head. “Not now. I need something to make me feel normal until I figure out what I’m going to do.”
“What’s to figure out? Beach. Booze. Bikini.”
“I can’t deal with my aunt’s death and process all this at the same time. Maybe if I could figure out why she left it to me, I could get some sort of closure.”
“Look, you said you were tight with your aunt, right?”
“So maybe she thought all her huge piles of money should go to her favorite person in the world. I don’t think she meant to freak you out like this.”
“She could have given me a heads up.”
“What if she had and something had happened to the money? What if it had been stolen or she got sick and needed it to pay hospital bills? Then you would have been counting on this massive inheritance that never would have materialized.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“You’re damn right I’m right.”
Megan smiled for the first time in two days. “Know of any good beaches you can recommend?”
“Whichever one is farthest from this hell hole.”
To be continued …