Are you ready for a look into my newest story Winter Love?
Kendall took a deep breath and tried to steady her shaky legs and racing pulse.
In the past two weeks, her world had been tilted on its axis like a mugger with a stolen purse shaking all of the contents loose trying to salvage anything of value.
Squaring her shoulders, she put on the bravest face she could muster and wondered why she was even trying. She was in mourning right now, as she should be. Her parents would be livid if they knew she couldn’t let herself grieve.
But grieving meant giving in to the ache she didn’t want to feel. It meant acknowledging they were never going to return.
The struggle to accept that was greater than the depths of the ocean.
That she’d never see their smiling faces again.
Never feel her father’s slim arms around her body hugging her tight when he’d gotten lucky in the casino or her mother’s beefy arms as she sampled a new dish at the restaurant where Kendall worked.
Being an only child was fun for her as a kid. Her parents were gypsies for years until they settled in Vegas. Now it was a lonely feeling knowing she was all by herself in the world.
“Kendall Hendricks to see Harold Fitzgerald,” she told the toothy receptionist behind the tall desk.
“He’ll be with you in a minute. He’s on a call right now. Just have a seat.”
“Thanks,” Kendall said, turning toward the chairs. It looked more like a posh parlor than a legal firm. How the heck had her parents been able to afford someone like this and why was she asked to appear here one week after their burials?
She took a seat, and rather than pick up a magazine that she had no interest in, she pulled out her phone and started to scroll through food blogs that she followed. How much fun would it be to just travel the world tasting and creating different cuisines and writing about it?
She turned and saw an older man standing in the doorway that probably led down the hall to offices. She remembered him now from the funeral. Or remembered his face, but hadn’t known his name.
Her father had a lot of friends he’d met in the casinos and from school where he’d been a math teacher. Her mother had worked as a bookkeeper for an insurance firm. They were well known and well liked, but every face was a blur to Kendall two weeks ago.
“Yes,” she said, standing up. “You’re Harold? I saw you at my parents’ funeral. I didn’t realize you were friends.”
He held his hand out to her and smiled sweetly. “Your father and I share a few good stories that might not be appropriate to retell.” A gambling buddy, she was realizing now. “I’m so sorry for your loss. What a sudden and tragic thing to deal with by yourself. So young too.”
“Thanks,” she said. She’d heard the same sentence in various forms for weeks and the best she could do was say thanks. She had no family locally and never had.
“Come on back to my office and we’ll get the reading of the will taken care of.”
“I didn’t know they’d even had an official will.”
Her parents were just middle class. Nothing major. She knew there were life insurance policies and she’d managed to find them in a safe and made the calls that were needed.
Talk about something she never wanted to ever do again. In that safe, she’d found all the deeds to the house and cars, anything she’d need. Her mother was meticulous that way.
“Your father set it up a few years ago when he had a big win.”
She followed Harold into his office, stunned to hear the words “big win.” As far as she knew her father lost more than he won, which was why her mother put him on a budget. He was allocated a certain amount of money he could gamble each month and if he won anything, it was his to do with what he wanted. If he lost, he was out of luck until the next month. Her father often joked about it being his allowance.
Since her father had no other vices and didn’t spend money on much of anything else, she assumed it worked for her parents. Otherwise, her mother controlled the household funds, which she suspected was so her father didn’t gamble them away.
“I’m a little confused,” she said taking a seat. “I’ve got the paperwork ready for their life insurance policies, but I’m not aware of any other money.”
Harold smiled at her kindly. If she were fanciful she’d say there was a twinkle in his eyes, but right now she was having a hard time finding anything cute, funny, or light in her life.
“Your father was a very smart man. He’d only had the one big win, but had some smaller ones in the past several years. He was wise with his money.”
She snorted. “I find that hard to believe.”
“I know all about his allowance. But you see, he wanted to make sure you and your mother were cared for if something ever happened to him.”
“I bet he didn’t expect it to happen to them both or this soon.”
“No one can control the future, Kendall. Accidents happen and this was one of them. It’s sad and you hope it’s never to anyone you know.”
“Tell me about it,” she said, not wanting to think about the phone ringing in the middle of the night telling her her parents had been involved in a pile-up on the freeway.
“I won’t keep you too long,” Harold said. “Here is a copy of the will for you to read at length on your own, but I wanted to explain some things to you.”
She looked down at the two pages in front of her but set them on her lap. “Okay.”
“Your father opened this savings account with your mother as a primary and you as a secondary beneficiary. Right now there is just over seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars in it.”
“You’re joking,” she said, knowing her face just paled and whatever food was in her stomach was threatening to make a reappearance.
“No. Johnny’s first big win was a little over three hundred thousand dollars. He invested it and then pulled it out to save it once it doubled. After that, he had some smaller wins.”
“My mother had no idea?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. He and I often joked that she’d be so proud of him when they retired and he could tell her they could go travel the world again in an RV.”
Kendall smiled for the first time. “I remember those days.”
“Your father told me how you guys ended up here.”
“‘The life of gypsies’ he’d often said when I was younger. We only stayed in a place long enough for a school year.”
“Then when you were ten,” Harold said, “you ended up in Vegas and your father fell in love here.”
“Once a gambler, always a gambler,” Kendall replied softly.
“Your father was a good man,” Harold said.
“He was. He was the best.”
“He wanted the best for you and your mother. He talked so lovingly about the two of you. But the money is yours with this letter.”
She reached for the sealed envelope. “What does it say?”
“I have no idea. He’d written one letter addressed to both of you. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call me. I’m going to miss Johnny.”
“Me too,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I miss them both so much.”