Laura struggled not to slip into a depression. Sleep was difficult that night after the funeral. It wasn’t like she had an easy time with sleep anyway, but she’d been incredibly unsettled.
Tossing and turning in fits, she thought about her family between nightmares centering around her grandfather rising up and slaughtering people.
After hours of that, Laura climbed out of bed and went in search of the journal.
Pulling it from her bag, she sat back down on her bed. She flipped to the middle of the journal to read.
March 30th, 1943
I met that beautiful lady and took her on another date. This gorgeous, brunette nurse that works over in the big medical hospital. Brigid Westland is her name. Oh man, the way she smiled and pressed her breasts into my arm. I couldn’t help thinking about what she’d look like beneath me.
It’s so easy to see us together and having children. We’ve both seen things through this war and it would be nice to have someone who understood some of what I’ve been through.
I wish I could tell her everything. About the girls, the opium, the money… the other things. Maybe I’ll never be able to tell her these things, but I can totally get lost in her eyes for now. That’ll have to do.
Laura shut the book. Brigid Westland was her grandmother. She knew they’d met during the war. The rest was news to her.
Granddaddy had been deep into something that had consumed his life and no one had known. Laura wasn’t sure she wanted to know now. There she was again, at a cross road where she was certain her life would be altered if she continued down this path.
Why would granddaddy want her to be the one to fix things? She was more than happy to continue believing he was the hero she’d always thought he’d been. The one in the black and white photos with his uniform that said he’d fought valiantly and survived. He’d come back and led a good life that directly impacted her.
Laura wasn’t ready to see that image tarnished.
Shutting the journal, she returned it to her bag. She’d rather her poor sleep and her nightmares than destroying the ideas she’d had about the man she’d just buried.
Shutting the bedside lamp back off, Laura turned over and tried to sleep.
Sleeping didn’t get any better, but she had a week of intense classes to keep her mind off the journal.
It wasn’t until the following Friday that she remembered the will reading that afternoon. Laura debated skipping it, but knew her mother would hunt her down if she didn’t turn up. They wouldn’t read it unless all possible recipients were present. For once, she didn’t want to deal with her mother’s sharp tongue.
Laura pulled up at the lawyers office two minutes before the scheduled time for the will reading. She hadn’t bothered to change out of her school scrubs because she was going to be late.
“Finally, she’s decided to grace us with her presence.”
Her mother’s snarkiness greeted her the moment she walked into the room.
“Good afternoon to you as well, Grace.” She gave her a tight smile and took a seat on the other side of the room.
She wanted to be a bitch? Laura could be a bitch right back as she’d learned from the best on that front.
The amount of people crammed into the office was absurd. Her two uncles, her mother, a couple of cousins her age and their kids, and at least five people Laura didn’t recognize. They milled around, chatting loudly to each other while the proprietor shuffled papers on his desk.
The balding man looked nervous as he scanned the crowd. Laura half expected the man to bolt if anyone stared at him too hard. She wished she could tell him no one in this lot would bite, but she wasn’t entirely sure that was true. At least one of her uncles was bipolar and had bitten someone in the past. Her mother definitely had sharp enough teeth.
He stood, clearing his throat to get everyone’s attention. It was like watching vultures circling and then landing near pray.
“Thank you for coming. My name is Mr. Perrine.” He cleared the squeak from his voice and tugged at his collar. “Mr. Garrett had a very large estate and specific rules for each person. Please, allow me to read the whole thing before you ask any questions.”
He glanced around the room, making eye contact with each person as though to confirm they understood. Taking a deep breath, he carried on.
“These are the words and wishes of Mr. Derrick Garrett. My delightful family, I do hope you managed to get through my funeral without killing each other. I hope you aren’t grieving too much and that in the division of my earthly things you get all that you need and deserve.”
He turned the page and began to read off the individual inheritance.
To her uncles, he left each one of his vintage classic cars. Laura knew those cars were in mint condition and that her granddaddy had had them for a long time. She also knew that as soon as they got possession of them, they’d either sell them or crash them.
The proprietor read on, outlining in specific detail what each person got. Some people were happier than others. A few things seemed like codes that Laura couldn’t work out, but that the recipient seemed to understand quite easily. He left one person a music box that Laura knew her grandfather had acquired when he’d been overseas during the war.
“To my inventive and clever daughter, Grace Laurel. I debated what to leave that you would devote the focus and attention necessary. Considering our shared history with it, I felt it only right to leave you The Butterfly so you can keep it going as you have helped me do so for years.”
The Butterfly? Laura’s eyes bounced to her mother, confused by what her grandfather was referring to.
Her mother was tense, her hands gripping the arms of the chair so hard Laura wondered if she’d rip them off in a fit of anger.
“Son of a bitch. I’ll never get away from that place now.”
What the fuck? The anger radiating off her mother was more disconcerting than she expected. There was something under it all. A rage that Laura couldn’t understand.
“To my wonderful granddaughter. I leave you the house and all of my financial estate worth one point two million dollars. You’re required to finish school and do the thing that you love; helping people. I hope your mother did as I instructed and gave you the journal. I know you two have had your differences, but I hope what you discover brings you closer together.”
The lawyer said a few things in closing, but no one was listening. They were all stunned to learn that he’d given Laura everything. No one was more stunned than Laura. He’d left her over a million dollars in assets. That was mind boggling because she had no idea he was even worth that much.
The man had lived in the same brown brick, single detached home since nineteen six five when her mother was born. She’d practically had to beg him to move into an assisted living home when maneuvering and self care had become impossible. He’d had the model cars, but as far as Laura knew had driven the old lime green Chevette for almost as long as he’d lived in that house. Where had he had a million dollars laying around at?
“That bastard.” Her mother surged to her feet, her face red with anger. “How could he do this to me? He promised me he’d give me money. He fucking promised me. Read it again. Read. It. Again.”
The poor man seemed to shrink down in the face of her mother’s anger. “Ms… Ms. Laurel. I’m sorry, these were he last wishes for his estate. There isn’t anything else in the will.”
“Fuck.” She was in a full blown tantrum.
Laura had seen her share of her mother’s more violent moods. She’d been on the receiving end of them as well. It was best to get away from her instead of confronting her because she could not be reasoned with when she was like this.
Before she could get up, her mother rounded on her.
“How could he leave you everything? I’m the one who’s done everything. I’m the one.”
Laura wasn’t going to be party to her mother’s crazy behavior. She brushed by her to get to the door. A hand grabbed her wrist in a bruising grip. She glanced down at her wrist and then up at her mother. The way her eyes bore into hers was unsettling.
“Taking that money comes with a lot of responsibly. I’d make sure I knew what I was getting into before I did so if I were you. I’d hate for something to happen to my sweet baby girl.”
“Are you threatening me, mother?”
Her mother’s smile was cold. Laura had seen a lot of things from her mother, but this look was something new. This person standing in front of her was foreign.
“Never would I threaten, Laura Beth. That’s beneath me.”
Laura tugged at her arm until her mother released her. Her wrist throbbed where she’d gripped her hard. She rubbed at it as she turned in left. If her grandfather’s aim was to bring them closer together, this most definitely wasn’t a good start.