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By Crystal Brinkerhoff

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Jane Hart’s heels clicked sharply on the marble floor, the only sound heard echoing along the gray hallway.

A mahogany door with Attorney at Law Reed Jamison stamped on a gold plate announced that she’d found her destination. The door was heavier than she’d expected, but she quickly adjusted to the weight and pushed. That had been the way of life for her. Evaluate, readjust, conquer.

The attorney’s suite had three offices, one for each of the firm’s senior lawyers. Each room was windowless to the reception area, as if the lawyers preferred to work in secret.

A blonde receptionist raised her eyes expectantly at Jane’s entrance. “Ms. Hart. The others are in the conference room. Mr. Jamison will be in shortly.”

The blinds to the conference room were drawn closed. Protecting more secrets.

Jane glanced at the slender gold watch on her wrist. 2:55. She pursed her lips. Five minutes was definitely too early.

Squaring her shoulders, Jane set her sight on the conference room door and took a deep breath. She gripped the brass doorknob and turned.

Windows overlooked a courtyard three floors below and flooded the room with natural light. An oversized table surrounded with chairs filled the room. And in those chairs sat her mother, two brothers, and her sister.

Her mother adjusted the pearls at her neck. “Ah, Jane’s here. Charging in, ready for battle.”

“Mother.” Jane gave her a polite kiss on the cheek, choosing to ignore the comment. She would save her ammunition.

Jane appraised the room. She chose the seat nearest her mother, not because she enjoyed the woman’s presence, but because that seat was nearest the window and would leave her brothers squinting against the afternoon light when they looked at her. She sat ramrod straight in her seat and left her hands folded neatly on the table in front of her. This was her power move. She was ready for war.

Blake addressed her. “I’m surprised you didn’t bring your own lawyer, Janey.” Her oldest brother wore designer jeans and a t-shirt and leaned back in his chair as if he couldn’t care less what was about to take place in the room. But Jane knew him better than that. He wore a suit to the office, which meant he’d changed specifically for this meeting. Proof that he cared as much as she did.

“It’s a will reading, stupid.” Jane’s little sister, Bethany adjusted her glasses. Bethany sat between the two brothers, but she hurled the insult at Blake without looking at him, as if she couldn’t be bothered. “We just need Gram’s lawyer.”

Bethany was a biology major with a full ride scholarship to Berkeley. She was easily the smartest person sitting at the table and that included the lawyer. She could call her brother stupid and prove it in the same breath.

Collin sat on the other side of Bethany with his arms crossed, not saying a word. He actually did look like he didn’t care what happened here today. But then that was Collin. His jeans had holes, not strategically placed holes like Blake’s designer jeans, but genuine holes where he’d worn out the fabric from years of use and hadn’t bothered to replace them.

Don’t get sloppy
Jane chided herself. Collin’s knee had a little bounce to it and Jane smiled inwardly. So, he did care.

The door opened, drawing their attention, and Mr. Jamison entered, carrying a stack of papers in his hand.

“Good afternoon.” He looked the Hart family over and smiled politely, placing the papers carefully on the table before claiming a seat near Jane.

“Thank you for coming this afternoon. As you know, Willa May had a substantial estate that she left behind. But before her untimely death--"

Blake leaned towards Bethany, but didn’t bother to muffle his voice, “How much you wanna bet, if the storm hadn’t gotten Gram, Janey would have.”

Jane focused on keeping her fingers relaxed, though she wanted dive across the table and strangle Blake.

Mr. Jamison cleared his throat, looking reproachfully at Blake. “As I was saying, before her untimely death, Willa May put together a very specific will. I’ve asked each of you here this afternoon because she has named you as recipients in that will.”

The room was so silent that Jane could hear the tiny tick of the second hand on her watch.

“Now, let’s see.” Mr. Jamison rifled through his papers and organized them into sections that seemed to mean something to him. He pulled the first sheet. “This just says that I’m to gather each of the named parties.” He read through the page in a dry voice. Collin sighed.

Jane managed to feign patience during the legal mumbo jumbo. Then Mr. Jamison cleared his throat and read, “I, Willa May Merkley, of San Jose, California, do declare that this is my last will and testament.”

Jane straightened in her seat. This was about to get interesting.

He listed a few of Gram’s favorite charities that would be receiving chunks of money.

Fine, Jane thought. No big deal. That’s all very nice. Let’s get to the good stuff.

Mr. Jamison went through the list. Her mother got the jewelry. Collin got the golf clubs that Gram had stored after Papa’s death. Bethany got some first editions of classics from Gram’s library. Blake got Papa’s knife and pistol collection. Jane was named to receive the gold leafed china set.

The list went on through Gram’s valuables, her life reduced to things to be scattered among the five remaining Harts.

“There is one item left. And it’s--,” Mr. Jamison sounded confused, “--a little unusual.”

Jane’s knuckles were white, and Blake leaned forward in his seat.

Mr. Jamison pushed the intercom button. “Sarah, bring them in.”

The blonde receptionist pushed a cart in loaded with an oversized black trash bag. Mr. Jamison had to help her move the bag. It landed in the center of the table with a thump. The bag fell open and a doll’s arm made of thick, blue yarn peeked through the opening.

Jane’s breath caught, and the others were silent with anticipation.

Mr. Jamison read from the will. “The Harts will need to split up my crocheted doll collection. There are thirty-five dolls and five of my descendants. Each person will receive seven dolls of their choosing.” He pulled on the bottom of the enormous bag and a mess of dolls with colorful yarn bodies spilled onto the table, their plastic faces smiling vacantly at the ceiling.

Jane spared a glance for her family, sizing them up. She licked her lips. Then, as one, the Harts leaped for the center of the table to claim their prize.

Nicole Boal

Haha!! I love it! This is real life!

Cori Hatch

This was too great! I loved the surprise ending and am still chuckling about it :)
Well done!

Donna Campbell

Wow! I didn't see that coming. I'm dying to know your thinking behind this story!

Love it!

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