Arranged

By: Sara Wolf



“Yeah, a dress.”

“Great.” Mom turns to Riley. “And you, bucko – don’t try to talk Rose into giving you rides anywhere. You still have school next week.”

Riley heaves a sigh and dramatically stabs a pea.

After dinner, Riley goes to his room to text his girlfriend. Dad settles in front of the TV with Mom and I head downstairs to the office, sneakily. I have to know if they’re really filing for bankruptcy – there should be papers in the office. The door is unlocked. I check under the glass unicorn statue, where the important documents are usually kept. One name catches my eye as I flip through them - United Shores Bank. I read the fine print. Bankruptcy filing. Just seeing those words is enough to make my stomach plummet. I put the papers back and slip into my old room. The stuffed bunnies still litter my bed, the comforter fluffy as ever. I curl under it and try to push out the thought of Mom and Dad losing the house, the company, and Riley ending up like me – getting good grades for scholarships and focusing on only that until he’s utterly and completely alone.

~~~

Dad drives us to the funeral. Everything is gray. Gray-faced people, gray skies threatening gray rain, gray roads. The church is warm, golden relief. The priest goes on and on and I know if Grandpa were alive he’d be complaining loudly how bored he was. Mom’s sobbing and Dad’s stone-faced, eyes wet. Even Riley’s somber. Aunts and uncles and cousins have flown in from as far as London. It’s an open casket. Mom grips my hand tightly and we go up together. Grandpa’s wild white hair sticks out of the casket. His face is too still, too plastic with makeup and the greasy shine of candles. Dad links his arms around Mom and helps her to her seat when her crying gets so hard she has problems standing. I watch them go with a tiny seed of pride – they really do love each other. Riley and I are so lucky that they’re still together and in love.

“Bye, Grandpa.” I look into the casket. “We’ll take care of your farmhouse and garden, so, you know.” I sniff and bury my face in my sleeves as the tears overwhelm me. “Sleep well? Is that what people say at these things?” I rub my eyes hard. “I’ll miss you. Thank you. S-Sleep well.”

The wake is easier than the hordes of crying people in the church. In the stuffy, potpourri-smelling funeral home there’s punch and cookies and I can put a room, a wall, between myself and Grandpa’s body. Relatives hug me and tell me I look beautiful (a lie, I’ve got permanent dark circles from late night studying and I’ve gotten even flabbier), and ask me about school. I spout the stock-phrases they want to hear (going well, difficult but fun, lots of planning for the future).

A tall, older man walks up to me. He looks comfortable in his well-tailored suit. Salt-and-pepper streaked hair only make his handsome, dignified features stand out.

“Rose Jensen, I presume?” His voice is rich and has a slight accent. We shake hands.

“Yeah. Hi. Thanks for coming.”

“I’m Farlon. My father was a good friend of your grandfather’s. My sincerest condolences.”

“Thanks. Is…your father here, too?”

“No, he passed away last month, I’m afraid.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Thank you. I was wondering – are you available after this?”

I nod. “But why -?”

“My sincerest apologies.” Farlon snaps his fingers over the heads of the crowd. A short, pudgy man in a suit carrying a briefcase oozes out from the mass of people. “This is my lawyer, Guillermo. He was my father’s lawyer as well. Your grandfather and my father had a joint will agreement.”

“Oh.” I frown.

“I know it’s too soon to talk of such things,” Farlon’s eyes soften. “But your grandfather’s lawyer has agreed to meet us after the wake for a discussion. You are also required there.”

“I don’t understand. Why me?”

“Everything will become clear if you join us at the meeting. Here’s the address.” He fishes a business card out and scribbles on the back with a pen – Gerard’s, a fancy restaurant in town. “We will be waiting for your arrival eagerly.”

“If this is legal will stuff, you should talk to my parents.”

“Ah, senorita.” Farlon’s smile widens. “You are nineteen – the will and the legal system consider you an adult, and all your actions in this sphere are your own. If you feel uncomfortable, however, feel free to bring your parents. My most heartfelt condolences for your loss, again.”

And with a brush of spicy cologne, he and his lawyer are gone.

I turn over Farlon’s words in my head when we get home. Mom rests in her room, and Dad works in the office. Riley meets his girlfriend on the curb and they go for ice cream at the corner store. She’s a cute brunette – short, with big cheeks and an angelic smile. They look good together. My pocket’s stiff with Farlon’s business card. I turn it over in my hands. A will means money. It’s a joint will. I don’t know what that means, but if there’s a possibility I could get a chunk of money, I could use it to help Mom and Dad out of their jam. But they’d never let me do that. They’d insist I save it for myself. I can’t go to the meeting with them – it has to be alone.

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