I knew it would not go as planned the moment I entered the sitting room.
We were the last two to arrive. Everyone was already sitting around the coffee table. There was a man, an unfamiliar one with an angular face, making himself comfortable in a chair next to the fireplace.
And Mother had control of the floor.
She didn’t acknowledge us in any way but it was obvious that she had been waiting for us. As soon as the others let us get settled, she began. “This is Mr Melvin,” she said, as the stranger stood up and bowed. “He is the executor for this estate.”
“Since when?” said Aunt Vega, sharply.
“Since the papers were drawn up a day ago.”
“What about Mr Tiverton?”
“I have dismissed him.”
“And what right do you have-”
“Vega, please,” said Uncle Altair. “Let’s listen to what she has to say first.”
“Thank you,” said Mother. “As I was saying, Mr Melvin is the executor for this estate. And I have asked him to draw up my last will and testament.”
“Already planning your descent into hell?”
“It is simple, really, but I thought it best that everyone was here for me to reveal it,” continued Mother, completely ignoring all interruptions. “Of course, we could wait until I am dead, but then I wouldn’t be able to see all your faces.” Her eyes glinted dangerously as she smiled.
“Spit it out then,” said Aunt Vega, her voice tight. Her fingertips drummed an irritated beat on the side of the couch.
For a split second, Mother’s eyes met mine. Those cold, glittering eyes. It was then when I knew exactly what she was going to say, mere heartbeats before she said them- heartbeats that felt like an eternity- so really, I wasn’t too surprised by her words that followed.
“In the case of my death, or other circumstances in which I cannot take care of the estate… all of it will be inherited by my son, Gemini Winter, under the condition that it can only be inherited to his children after him.”
Not even a second later, Aunt Vega was on her feet. I heard her voice, impossibly high above me. “What?” she shouted. “We have never seen eye-to-eye, Iris, but surely you recognise Deneb as the heir. The land, at least, should be hers!”
“She is NOT my heir,” snarled Mother, also on her feet. “It is not proper for her to be the heir, not when I have a son. He will continue the family name.”
Most people were on their feet now. Crowding me out. Their movements made me dizzy. The world was filled up with long, invisible shards of glass and if I moved my thoughts, the edges would cut my mind. I had to get out of here. No one would notice.
“You may give your worldly possessions to whomever you please, but the alchemy does not work that way! The study-”
“So YOU gave her the key!” Mother screeched. “She was walking around, in HIS ROOM, when she is the one who KILLED HIM!”
“SHUT YOUR MOUTH,” thundered Aunt Vega, and that was the last coherent thing I heard before the heavy doors slammed shut behind me.
I was out. Where to go? Any old direction would do. I never seemed to end up where I wanted to anyway.
For once, no tears. I only felt a detached, calm numbness as Mother’s last words rang in my head. “What did she mean by that?” I murmured, but I couldn’t bring myself to be fully invested in the question.
Instead, I let myself grieve. Not for the estate, no. It was too good of a thing to ever belong to me anyway.
It was the legacy for which I grieved. That was what Father’s study had meant to me. I was the heir. Part of something greater than just myself. I let that thought become my rock, the foundation on which I built my identity. It was all I had. Now it was being ripped away from me.
After a while, I found a chair. After another while, there were footsteps.
“There you are,” said Alistair. “There will be a loophole. There’s no way Gem will go for this.”
Quietly, I looked up into his eyes. I had been wrong. The legacy was not all I had. It was, perhaps, the only thing I had inherited, but there were still things I had made for myself.
The legacy was my rock, and I had been cut free.
“Deneb?” Alistair said, his brow furrowed in worry.
“I’m done,” I said. “Let’s move far away together and start over.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I’m sure. As long as you’re okay with it.”
He hesitated, then nodded. “I’d go anywhere with you.”
And I would have gone anywhere with you. If only it were that simple.
2 thoughts on “4.11 And All the Others In Between”
This is such a cool chapter. I love the depth of emotion and complexity!
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Thank you! I like to think the best (uh, worst??) is yet to come 🙂
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