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Her dad stood when she arrived, greeting her with a hug. Not a warm, hold you tight kind of hug, but the little pat, pat, that is so close to a bro hug you wonder what’s the point? Becca had learned that a good hug makes all the difference in the land of comfort, but missing out on that all her life, she was glad there were some things she could count on. Her dad and his attitude, or rather, his approach to life, was definitely one of those times where his lack of comfort actually provided more. Her life had been so upturned, she was grateful to have that as a normalcy.
“Becca,” he said, “we were just finishing up here.”
Becca turned and saw Andrew pushing his notebook into his messenger bag. He looked up at her with his small crooked smile and she saw him quickly grab hold and straighten his expression. You have to be strictly professional when you are in the presence of your boss.
“I will see you at the office,” Becca’s dad said to Andrew.
Andrew nodded. “I’ll have everything ready by noon.”
Andrew gave Becca one last glance as he wrapped the strap of his bag over his shoulder. She caught her breath and looked away before she was completely annihilated by him. She hated that she felt that every time she saw him. Every time his eyes met hers. Every time she was close enough to smell his sweetness that melted her into incoherency.
“I didn’t know you had a meeting,” she said to John, pulling herself together. “We could’ve met another day.”
“No, no,” he replied. “It’s been too long already.”
It had been nearly a month since they last had breakfast together. John was a creature of habit, something, she thought, he most likely learned while in the military. He liked things the way he liked them and seeing his daughter once a month was one of those things.
“Jenny says you got some instructional will,” John said waving his hand around.
“Yeah,” she said. “Aunt Jo left me her house, but I have to stay there for a month in order for the deed to be signed over to me.” Short, sweet, and to the point. Just like John liked it.
“Crazy Aunt Jo?”
Becca nodded and ordered a waffle with strawberries from the waitress by pointing to the picture on the menu. It was completely unnecessary considering she ordered the same thing a the same place every month and had for the past ten years or so.
John held his cup out for a refill of coffee. “That’s ridiculous. Why don’t you give me the papers and I’ll find a loophole.”
It was just like her dad. He might not know how to hug properly or bring comfort in a crisis, but he did know how to manipulate the law in his favor and solve what he viewed as problems.
“It’s okay, dad,” she said. “I don’t mind. It’ll be like a vacation out in the country. Jenny said she’d stay too.”
“Well, when you get sick of it, let me know and I’ll check it out for you.” He paused and added, “Man, that house is probably worth a good couple million now.” He sipped from his cup and she could see his mind turning with possibility. “That could cover your college tuition.”
There it was. Becca had taken some time off of school. She didn’t want to follow in his footsteps and he had been greatly disappointed when she decided becoming a lawyer was not the path she would be traversing. In fact, she had no clue where she was headed and that only caused more tension between the relationship she had with her dad.
She didn’t want to fight so she simply replied, “Yeah.”
As she left the restaurant, she looked down to see the text that had come in.
“Everything okay?” it said.
“Of course,” she replied and watched the three little dots dance across the screen.
“Dinner later?” Andrew typed in.
“I have to leave town,” she pushed back. Her body betrayed her and sent shivers at the thought of disregarding his invitation. She paused on the sidewalk to take a breath.
“How long will you be gone?”
She both loved and hated the fact that he never questioned what she was doing and why. She wondered if it was because he didn’t worry she would do something stupid or if he just didn’t care.
“A month,” she replied. The bubbles danced and then stopped. Danced and then stopped again. She wanted so badly to know what he was thinking. Maybe he was actually putting something into his response for once. She walked passed the restaurant to the alley where her car was parked and where the open stairs led up to her second floor apartment.
“Oh geez,” appeared.
Of course. She always wanted to go deeper, to understand him more, but he never had anything to give. She wasn’t about to pry. She hated girls that got all mushy and needy. So, she left it at that. Unsure how she should approach it but knowing anything she responded with at this point would not be appropriate. She just wanted him to care.
They had only been seeing each other for a short time. And it seemed as if it was hard to find the time for them to actually meet up. Him being a lawyer, he was always busy working on something or meeting with someone. She, with random hours working at the restaurant that were also typically in the evening.
It was only a couple of dates before it had turned to every time they spent any amount of time together, they ended up in bed. It was frustrating, but easy. If only they could find time more than every couple of weeks, maybe they wouldn’t be only focused on that. And if only he didn’t have impeccable abs and arms that could lift her onto counter tops. She was making herself crazy just thinking about it. It had been a couple of weeks and she could use a little fix.
She put her phone down on the table by the door and walked away from it, pushing the thoughts out of her head. She made her way to her bedroom and pulled a bag from the closet. Staring at the clothes that drooped off the hangers, she determined that comfortable and easy was what one would wear in the country. On that note, she grabbed a few tees and a couple pair of jeans, but mostly pajamas. She smashed them into the bag but took more care with her work uniforms. Black dress shirts with black slacks and a black tie. Those she kept hung. Then she dialed up her sister.
“I’m going to head over there after my shift,” she said when Jenny answered the phone. “It might be late, so if you want, you can come tomorrow.”
“Sure,” she said. “Bo is being a dick about it all anyway.”
“Oh shit,” Becca said, but had expected that outcome. “You don’t have to come, you know. I can handle it,” she added, shocking even herself with that statement.
“No,” Jenny said, “I’ll be there. I just gotta take care of him first. He needs to not be a dick. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong.”
“Exactly,” Becca agreed. She leaned her head into the phone as it rested on her shoulder and she pulled out a bag for makeup and other essentials she wasn’t sure would be at the house. “We’ll be out in the middle of nowhere. What could you possibly do?”
“I know. I am beginning to think he doesn’t know how to handle life without me,” she said, but then added, “but that’s good too.” Becca could almost hear the smugness in Jenny’s voice.
Becca was exhausted. It had been a busy day for a Tuesday and she was glad she didn’t have to work again until Friday night. She loved Friday nights. Busy, but great tips.
The sun was just beginning its descent. Summer nights meant sunlight until at least 10 pm and she loved it. She pulled into the long drive, trees lining each side. The house was one you might see on a southern plantation, which was slightly out of place in Albion, but still a beauty. The long deck had pillars and hand carved wood railings intermixed with the iron. Becca ran her hands across them, bumping along, as she climbed the steps. She remembered her days of swinging on the porch. The porch swing was still there, hanging by black links of chain.
She sat on it and pushed back. What were you thinking, Aunt Jo? The wood creaked as it moved. She looked out across the yard. It was recently mowed and the flowers were all blooming in reds, purples, and pinks.
She heard a meowing and looked to see a white, puffball in the window. “Cora,” Becca said as if the cat could understand. She stood, found the mailbox and opened it to find another envelope with her name on it.
I am so glad you decided to come. We missed you so much. I am sure you are eager to get inside. The instructions are in the box next to the swing.
Becca walked back to the swing and opened the lid on the chest that sat next to it. Inside were piles of papers. What the hell, Aunt Jo. How am I going to find it? I don’t even know what I’m looking for. It was the strangest thing to be on an adult treasure hunt. But then she noticed the symbols on the top of the papers. She thought she had seen it before.
She went to the car and grabbed the box with the map and flowers. Setting it on the swing, she pulled out the small wooden box. There was a symbol. It looked almost like a geometric flower or a mandala. Of course. She began shuffling through the papers until she found the one that matched.
She whispered from the words on the page, box in hand.
There is a love within me, full and strong. I tell you I have worth. My entry comes with a promise of hope and the means to bring it forth. Open.
That doesn’t even really rhyme. But her thought was interrupted as the box in her hand opened. And as if that wasn’t strange enough, the birds all decided to take to the air at the same time, filling her ears with a loud fluttering.