I get back to my car and get in. I hear a beep, and it’s my phone. I take a look and have one missed call and two text messages.
The phone call is from a number I don’t recognize; then I read both texts. It’s my best friends, Zoey and Lynn, telling me to meet them at the local coffee shop. They will be sitting in the back.
I leave the parking garage and head toward the coffee shop. My mind is all over the place, trying to figure out why my mother never talked about her aunt. Why would they say she was crazy?
I have so many questions, and I know I won’t get any answers. Because my mother is in Europe with her boyfriend. She won’t be back until the wedding.
My wedding that she’s not going to help me with. Help me with a dress or a venue. God, it really sucks her boyfriend is five years older than me.
He’s rich, I think? Made his money on the stock exchange in New York. That, and I think my mother is only with him for his money. Who knows and who cares?
I pull into the coffee shop parking and get out. I bring my briefcase with me to show my friends what I inherited.
I walk in and see them sitting in the back, in a booth. I wave as I walk up and slide my butt next to them.
“What’s up, bitches?” I say with a big smile on my face.
“Something’s different about you,” Zoey says with raised eyebrows.
“She looks like she just won the lottery or something,” Lynn says.
“Something like that,” I say as I pull out the papers. “But first, aren’t you going to ask how my meeting went?”
“Oh yeah,” they both say at the same time. “How did it go?”
“Well, for starters, I’m now officially a full-time author with Fesser Publishing. My first book hit the New York Times Best Sellers list.
“I handed them my second book, and now they want my third in four months,” I say, staring at them. “Oh, and I just inherited a hundred-and-twenty-year-old house from my great-aunt.”
“Wait, what?” they both say.
“Yeah. I had a great-aunt who was a famous author who just passed a couple of weeks ago and left me her house.”
“Are you kidding me?” Zoey asks.
I just shake my head.
“Have you seen the house yet? What are you and Brian going to do with the house you’re building?” Lynn asks.
“One. No, I haven’t seen it yet, and two, I haven’t told Brian about it yet. I just found out about it less than an hour ago,” I say.
Zoey takes the papers and starts to look through them. Her father is a property lawyer, and he’s taught her how to read the documents and break them down.
“No shit!” she says, flipping the pages. “Your great-aunt’s house is worth over $750,000. The property tax is paid up for thirty years. She spent over $400,000 just on remodeling. Hell, she updated everything in the house.”
“Was there any money left from her will?” Lynn asks.
“I don’t know. I didn’t get a chance to look through everything yet,” I say.
Zoey flips more pages.
“It says here she donated the rest of her fortune to charity.”
“That’s not right!” Lynn says.
“Hey, I never knew her and I don’t need her money. My mother said she was crazy. My publisher said she was a good-hearted woman,” I say back.
“Are you going to tell Brian?” Lynn asks.
“Maybe. He was being a dick this morning. I’ll tell him about it later,” I say.
“Let’s go look at the house,” Zoey says as she takes a drink of her coffee.
“I don’t know.” I start to put all the papers back in the envelope. “I might want to wait on Brian.”
“Fuck him. I want to see it. No, we want to see it,” Zoey says as they both look at me, nodding their heads.
“Fine, let’s go.”
We clean up our mess and leave the coffee shop. I get in my car and pull up the address in my GPS on my phone and away we go.
I make it to the location as Lynn and Zoey pull up behind me. I see an old mailbox with the number seven hundred and seventeen written on it.
Next to the mailbox is a gravel driveway. There is a gate that is open, and it says, Strange Estates.
I pull onto the gravel driveway and stop; it is dark. There are a lot of trees on both sides—sunlight isn’t able to come through. The driveway is long, and all I can see is a little light showing at the end.
“What are you waiting for?” Zoey screams from the passenger window of Lynn’s car.
I snap out of my trance, looking through the trees, and start to drive up. The driveway is about a mile and a half long before we come out of the other side.
Once we clear the trees, there is an archway to drive through. It has some kind of ivy growing on it with flowers.
There it is, the house. ~Somebody’s been keeping this place in good shape.~
The grass is mowed. I can smell the fresh-cut clippings. The shrubs are all trimmed. There are flowers planted all over the property.
I drive as far as the driveway takes me and stop in front of the house. I get out as Lynn pulls up next to me. They both get out of her car.
“This place is yours?” Lynn says, pointing to the house.
“I guess. It’s nothing like I thought it was going to be.”
It is a beautiful two-story Victorian-style house that has been painted. It is white with black trim. The shutters are also black. It looks like it’s had a brand-new roof that looks shotgun-gray.
It has two chimneys, which tells me this place has a fireplace or two.
We walk up to the porch when the door opens from the inside, and a man stands there.
“Ms. Payton, I presume?” the man says.
All three of us step back off the porch.
“Yes,” I say.
“I’ve been expecting you. Mrs. Fesser called to let me know you were on your way,” he says as he holds the door open. “My name is Detrick. I’m the groundskeeper and caretaker of the property.”
“I’m Chelsea, and these are my best friends, Lynn and Zoey.”
“Ladies, welcome,” he says, still holding the door. “Will you be moving in today?”
“Oh no. I just want to look around and see what this place has,” I tell him.
“Very well, ma’am. Would you like a tour or would you prefer to look around yourself?”
“Can I look with my friends?”
“This is your house, ma’am,” he says.
I look at Zoey and Lynn.
“I forgot to tell you. He comes with the house. He has a small cottage at the back of the property,” Zoey says.
The first thing I notice is that the high ceilings in this place are huge. At least ten or twelve feet tall with doors that have windows above them.
We walk around and look at everything in the house. All the paperwork on the house is current and up to date. Everything inside is brand new. New kitchen with brand-new appliances. New furniture throughout.
We walk up the stairs and find the master bedroom. It is huge. It has four large windows that open out to a small balcony. Inside is a new king-size bed with four large posts and a canopy at the top that hangs over the sides.
The bathroom has a giant walk-in shower with all new updates. It also has a nineteenth-century clawfoot tub that is refinished with polished faucets.
Zoey jumps in the tub. “I want this so bad,” she says as she sinks all the way in. “First sleepover, I call dibs.”
“Whatever,” Lynn says as she walks into the giant shower. “I would rather have it rain on me while my new boyfriend fucks me from behind in here.”
“Ew,” I say to her. “When did you get a new boyfriend?” I ask Lynn.
“Like you and Brian don’t fuck in the shower,” Zoey says, laughing.
“We don’t. Our bathroom at the apartment is too small for that. It’s either someone gets all the hot water and the other gets all the cold. So shower sex is not on my bucket list.”
I walk out and leave those two in there and find another door next to the bathroom. I open it up; it is my great-aunt’s office slash library.
There are books on three of the walls that stand ten feet tall. It has a ladder to reach the top shelf. Every shelf is full of books, old hardcovers with a lot of paperbacks.
If I have to guess, I would say at least a thousand books in here.
In the center of the room is a desk. Mahogany—thick and heavy with drawers on both sides. The legs on the desk look like big elephant feet holding it up.
It has one of those new chairs that hug you when you sit in it. It is perfect to write in. On top of the desk are two brand-new state-of-the-art laptops and two desk lamps that look like something out of a black-and-white movie.
I click one of the lights, and it turns on. Why I did that, I’ll never know.
I get up and walk toward the window that looks out to the backyard. The hill in the back goes down. I can’t see what’s down there from up here.
There’s a small bench by the window that you could sit on and read, looking out the window. I take a seat and bounce a little to check the softness of the bench.
Zoey and Lynn find me sitting in the window seat, looking out.
“Wow, would you look at this room! It looks like the Library of Congress in here. Hell, I think Chelsea has more books than you now,” Zoey says, pointing to Lynn.
Lynn walks up to a shelf of books and pulls one out.
“Hey, this is your book,” she says.
I get off the bench and walk toward Lynn. She hands me the book, and it’s my first book, Finding the One by Chelsea Payton.
It looks like she read it a bunch of times. The spine is all cracked, and some of the pages are dog-eared. This puts a smile on my face.
“Did you know there are like five more bedrooms in this house? So now all of us have a place to sleep,” Lynn says.
“Better take this house or we will,” Zoey says as they high-five each other.
“Hold up. I don’t know if I want to keep it. I need to talk to Brian first,” I say, and I see sad faces from both of them. “Don’t give me that look,” I tell them, pointing my finger at them both.
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