Working on a new project, which is taking up the time and energy I would normally devote to writing short stories. While I’m busy, please enjoy this short story, which was originally published in February 2015
“I’d ask if it was good news,” said Alex as she approached Megan in the alley behind the diner. “But I can tell by your face it wasn’t.”
“My aunt died,” Megan said as she wiped tears from her face. “I’m sorry. I’ll get back to work.”
“No, don’t even think of it. You go home. I’ll cover for you.”
“I’m sorry. This isn’t like me to just duck out like that.”
“Of course not. You’ve got shit to deal with, I get that. So go deal with it, and I’ll take care of Diana.”
“I’ve said it twice already. The third time will not be the charm here.”
“Thanks, Alex. I owe you one.”
“Yeah you do.”
Megan gathered her things, and left.
When she got home, her mom was already there with a man Megan didn’t know. He was dressed in a suit and tie, his dark hair brushed neatly away from his face. Megan stopped when she saw the two of them sitting at the kitchen table, papers and folders strewn before them.
“Megan, this is Mr. Willow. He’s here to go over the details of Libby’s will.”
“Already? She just died. Can’t we have any time to grieve before we start digging through her stuff?”
“I’m afraid Ms. Garner died some days ago. I understand this is hard for you, having been informed somewhat belatedly, but matters of this delicate nature should really be dealt with sooner, rather than later.”
“I don’t give a fuck about ‘matters of this nature’! My aunt-”
Her mom cut her off. “Your aunt left you a lot of money, Megan.”
Megan paused. “What?”
“This is why Mr. Willow came all this way. To tell you you’re rich.” Her face broke into a wide smile, but Megan was still having trouble processing this revelation.
“Aunt Libby didn’t have any money.”
“Her bank account begs to differ,” said Mr. Willow. “Not to mention her considerable investments.”
“Investments? What did Aunt Libby know about investing?”
“That, I can’t tell you. She may have handled the money herself, or she may have had someone else manage it for her. Whoever took care of her finances certainly did it well.”
“Then why did she live in that shithole downtown?”
“I don’t know how she chose to spend or save her money. I can only tell you what the numbers say.”
Megan dumped her bag on the floor and stomped around the table so she could look at whatever this man and her mom were looking at. She scrutinized the papers, but they meant nothing to her. They were just a bunch of numbers and graphs.
Mr. Willow carefully extracted a sheet of paper from the pile, laid it before Megan, and pointed to the number at the bottom. “This is the number remaining in your aunt’s savings account. All yours.”
Megan gaped and had to grab onto the table with both hands in order to keep from falling over.
Mr. Willow calmly selected another piece of paper, laid it before Megan, and pointed to another number. This is the sum of her investments as they currently stand. Also yours now.”
Megan felt dizzy. Her mom got up and shoved her chair under Megan so she could sit down. Megan sat, arms splayed out in front of her, until the room stopped spinning. “I still don’t understand. My aunt was poor as shit. She didn’t have this kind of money.”
Mr. Willow shrugged as he held his hands out with the palms facing upward. “Like I said, I can’t account for your aunt’s decisions, but there is no mistaking the fact that she was a very wealthy woman. And she left almost everything to you.”
Megan put her head between her knees and focused on breathing. Her mom rubbed her back and said, “Thanks for telling us this, Mr. Willow, but I think Megan has had enough for now. Maybe you can come back later and we can talk about what we should do about all this?”
“Absolutely.” Mr. Willow gathered his things and left. He did it so quietly, Megan wasn’t sure he had really left. The only thing that told her he had gone was the sound of her mom walking to the front door and back. Mr. Willow may have been as light as a cat, but Megan and her mom both walked as heavily as giants.
Her mom came back to the kitchen and sat down in the chair Mr. Willow had been occupying. Megan waited until she was pretty sure she wasn’t going to be sick. She sat back up slowly and faced her mom.
“There has to be some sort of mistake.”
“I know this is a lot to take in right now, but there’s no doubt this is legit.”
Megan shook her head. “It can’t be.”
“Why don’t you go lie down? You’ll be able to think more clearly in the morning.”
“I can’t sleep after that!”
“Then go watch TV for a while. As long as you want, until you feel better.”
Megan nodded, got to her feet, and went into the living room.