Becca’s heart raced as she thought about staying in that house for a month. Her last memory of the place came back to mind. Something she had blocked or avoided. There were a lot of people and Aunt Jo was yelling and running around. She thought is was a bit much for them to have tackled her on the floor. The giant rug that she used to rub her fingers across became the holding place for her Aunt Jo. “You don’t understand,” she heard Aunt Jo screaming. “I figured it out.” She wriggled herself free and dashed over to the bookshelf in the library, pulling books from the shelf. The books were heavy and tattered, papers flew out of them and scattered across the room sending dust into the light coming from the windows. At that point, the police came in and her mother backed out, grabbing and dragging her by the hand.
She wasn’t allowed to go to Aunt Jo’s after that . Her mother simply said Aunt Jo had a mental illness and she didn’t trust her around her baby. No matter that Becca was 12 by then and by her own mind, able to fully take care of herself.
Today, Becca thought of what it might be like to go back. She was almost saddened that she hadn’t reached out to Aunt Jo since that day. She wondered why she would choose her to leave the house and all of her belongings to, considering she had had her own children. Sure, they had moved away and quit speaking to her, but hadn’t she done the same?
She realized she was still sitting in her car in the driveway when she was pulled from her trance by the phone buzzing in the seat next to her. Case in her lap, she picked up the phone. It was her sister’s number.
“So what was it about? You haven’t called and I’m starting to freak out,” Jenny blurted out.
Becca had let Jenny listen to the strange message when it was left on her voicemail. She was the one who convinced Becca to go and check it out. Becca would never had walked into an attorney’s office after having been told she was left a gift by someone who had loved her deeply in her past. She assumed it was an ex who was trying to get back at her.
“It’s from Aunt Jo,” she said.
“Aunt Jo?” Jenny repeated. “Why would she leave you something?”
“Not something, everything.”
“Everything,” Becca said. “If I agree to stay at her home for one month.”
“Well, shit. That’s easy enough,” Jenny said and then added,” Wait. What the fuck? How is it that you get everything?”
“Stay with me and I’ll split it with you,” Becca laughed. She could not believe what was happening in her life right now. It seemed so surreal.
“Hell yeah, I will,” Jenny didn’t miss a beat.
“I really don’t want to do this,” Becca admitted. “This is so weird.” She ran her hand across the case the attorney had given her.
“It is a little fucked up,” Jenny said. “Like, who does that? But Aunt Jo was crazy so I guess it’s whatever.”
Becca didn’t speak. She had a strange feeling. She had always admired Aunt Jo, her fun spirit and after all she had been through, she didn’t think it was right to call her crazy. I mean, how would anyone react if they lost their daughter and grandchild in an accident right in front of their face.
“Listen,” Jenny said. “If it’s one month, anyone can do that. It’s not like the house is even that far away. You wouldn’t even have to take off work. We can think of it like vacation.”
Becca heard a beeping in her ear and pulled the phone away. It was a call coming in from Andrew. Her stomach dropped. Just like it did every time she saw his name. She couldn’t help it. She wanted so badly for that to stop but it just wouldn’t.
“Becca,” she heard. “Are you still there? I can’t hear you.”
“Yeah,” Becca answered. She couldn’t tell her sister who it was. With all of the things that had happened, Andrew was one of her biggest secrets.
Becca barely listened as Jenny droned on about the plan. She was already figuring out how they could stay together and ride together to work. She knew Jenny wanted an excuse to get away from her husband. They had been married for years and were miserable together. She literally heard it all the time.
“Okay,” Becca said. “I’ll do it.” She hung up the phone without even saying goodbye and lifted the latch to the case. Inside was a small envelope with her name scribbled on it in her Aunt Jo’s wobbly handwriting. She traced the letters with her finger, imagining Aunt Jo at her giant desk, with her shaky hands caused, no doubt, by the copious amounts of coffees and teas she enjoyed throughout the day. Underneath, there were several candles, a lighter, and some satchels of what appeared to be herbs.
One decision was made. She was doing it. Going to stay in the country for one month. She would stay and use that time to assess the house so she could list it afterward. She had no intention to live there or do anything with the property. She was quite content with her little apartment in the city above the restaurant she worked at. Waiting tables wasn’t so bad.
Andrew’s name stared at her from her phone. Of course he didn’t leave a message. On the one hand, she wanted to hear his voice and see what he needed. He only called when he needed something, even if it was something made up. On the other hand, her heart couldn’t handle any more today.