by Abbie Johnson Taylor
“I love you so much,” said Anna, as she knelt over her father’s casket one rainy morning.
“Now you’re being dramatic,” said Ginger, glaring at her stepdaughter. “People might think you were having, well, um, a sinful relationship with your father.”
The teen-ager stood and looked around at the deserted tent where the graveside service had taken place and the closed coffin, waiting to be lowered into the ground. “Nobody’s here. Besides, what would you know about relationships? You killed Dad because he didn’t like your stupid cats.”
Ginger gasped. “I don’t believe this. I know you never liked me, but why would you make such an accusation?”
“Dad told you it was either him or the cats. You couldn’t have them both.”
“Now that was a dumb thing for him to say. Who would take care of him? He couldn’t walk after his stroke.”
“I could have taken care of him. He was all I had after Mom died.”
“You couldn’t have given him the care he needed, not with school, your other obligations, and, not to mention, your social life.”
“Dad could have gone to the adult day care program at the senior center while I was in school.”
“You’re not even an adult. What do you know about such things?”
“I looked it up on the Internet last year after Dad had the stroke,” said Anna, her voice breaking. She wiped an eye with her sleeve. “I didn’t think you were going to stick around. I should have known better. You married him for his money, and you were hoping he would take out a life insurance policy. That’s the only reason why you didn’t hit the road when you found out Dad couldn’t use his left arm or leg.”
“How did you know about that?”
“How could I not know what you two were fighting about? You were so loud I could hear you clear upstairs in my room. You thought I was doing my homework. Well, I was until I heard you and Dad start yelling. Then I had to know what was going on. I heard everything from the second floor landing, and you didn’t even know I was there. This was before Dad’s stroke. He should have picked you up and thrown you out the front door, then tossed your cats out after you.”
Ginger grasped Anna’s shoulders and turned the girl to face her. “I’m your guardian now. So, don’t you dare talk ill of me or my kitties.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s another fight I overheard. You wanted Dad to fix his will so you would get custody of me if something happened to him before I became an adult and that money in the trust fund he set up for me would go to you until I’m twenty-one. That’s the only reason you’re my guardian.”
“I swear to God, Anna, if you say one more word, I’ll smack you.”
“With what? That hammer you knocked yourself out with after you shot Dad.” Ginger released her hold on Anna and stepped back. “Don’t think I didn’t know about that, too. Who do you think emptied the litter box the next day?”
“Now you decide to help with housework.”
“The next afternoon when I came home from Lauren’s slumber party, the smell from that litter box in the kitchen was enough to make me gag. When I picked it up and emptied it into the wastebasket, the gun and hammer fell out along with the jewels you told the police the thief stole.”
“I was planning to empty the litter box in the dumpster.”
“I’ve watched enough of those cop shows to know not to touch evidence with my bare hands. I went in the bathroom and found the gloves you used to clean Dad up after he pooped. I put them on and picked up the gun, hammer, and jewels and put them in a plastic bag. When I walked into the living room, I wasn’t surprised not to see Dad in his recliner. I went to your room. Dad’s side of the bed was empty, and there you were, with all ten of those cats you got at the shelter after you married him. You opened your eyes and started crying and told me this sad story about a robber breaking into the house, knocking you out, and shooting Dad. I got you a cold compress for your head and told you I was meeting Lauren downtown.”
“I thought you were a typical teenager. Your father dies, and you go shopping.”
“I went straight to the police station. That detective who came to the house when you called didn’t know I existed. You told him you had a daughter who was going to school at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, and when he called up there to find her, he was told there was no such student there.”
“He told me the whole story once he pieced it together. He was really nice and said he was sorry I lost my dad. He also said he didn’t think you were a flight risk since you were expecting to inherit Dad’s estate. So, he’ll wait to arrest you until after the funeral.”
“We don’t have to wait any longer,” said a voice behind Ginger. She turned to see the two officers who responded to the 911 call. Next to them stood two gentlemen in suits and ties.
One of them extended his hand. “Mrs. Lloyd, I’m Jake Jones with Teggler & Associates. I’m afraid I have more bad news. I’m sorry you weren’t home when I came by to see your husband after his stroke. His life insurance policy only covers accidental death.”
“But a burglar…”
“Now Mrs. Lloyd, we all know that’s not the case,” said one of the officers, placing a hand on Ginger’s shoulder.
The other man in a suit and tie took Ginger’s hand. “I met you a while back, Mrs. Lloyd. I’m Ken Sherman. I was your husband’s lawyer. Before Anna’s mother died, she and my wife were really good friends. We had an appointment this afternoon to go over your husband’s will, but it looks like you won’t be able to make that, so I’ll just tell you this. You weren’t home when everything was finalized after your husband’s stroke. So, here’s the deal. Everything your husband owned will go to Anna when she’s twenty-one. In the meantime, I’ve been named executor of your husband’s estate. The will also stipulates that in the event that anything should happen to him before Anna turns twenty-one, my wife and I will become her legal guardians.”
“No!” screamed Ginger, as she turned and tried to flee. But the two policemen grabbed her. As she was handcuffed and led away, Anna knelt by her father’s casket and let her tears flow while the lawyer who would now be her guardian tried to console her.
Note: The above story appears in the spring issue of The Writer’s Grapevine, which can be read here.
Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.
Independently published with the help of DLD Books.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.
After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.
Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.
Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?