The Inheritance (Volume Three)

BOOK: The Inheritance (Volume Three)
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The Inheritance

Vol. 3

 

 

 

 

Zelda Reed

 

 

 

 

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Copyright
      

 

First Original Edition, November 2014

 

Copyright © 2014 by Zelda Reed

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written consent from the author.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

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The Inheritance

Vol. 3

 

One

 

Gina lives off the blue line in the not-yet gentrified section of Logan Square, where starving artists cram six to a one bedroom apartment and stroll drunk past liquor and beauty supply stores in the afternoon. Candy wrappers, restaurant flyers and crushed beer cans litter the surrounding yards, brown and yellow grass half-dead in the start of summer.

I almost feel bad for her, having to live like this after my father, but then I think of my mother’s house in Baltimore – the drunks on the corner, the vials of pills emptied on the sidewalk – and all sympathy dissipates. This is where divorcing my father leaves you.

Alanis, Neal and I shuffle up the steps of her shared porch, her tiny home squished between two others and linked by a common wall.

Gina opens the door in a powder blue robe and silk pink slippers, pale yellow rollers trapped in her hair. She spots Neal, standing over my shoulder, and pulls her robe tighter.

“Yes?” she says, wetting her dry, cracked lips.

“Can we come in?” I ask, flashing a smile. “It’s an emergency.”

The last time I saw Gina we were standing on my father’s lawyer’s porch, her mouth set in a serious line as she berated me for not caring about my father’s death. She was silent as she walked away, refusing to cast one last glance over her shoulder, shutting the door on this chapter of our lives. Here I am, prying it open again.

Gina maneuvers to her living room. The three of us squeeze between the arms of her mid-century loveseat, Neal in the middle, his thighs pressing into mine and Alanis’s.

Gina sits across from us in a pricy wingback I recognize from what used to be my father’s guest room. She bought it from an Italian catalog. It arrived with the wrong color legs, white to match the fabric stretched over the chair’s body with a gold trim. I remember she spent a day on her stomach painting them black, her tongue pressed in her cheek, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth.

“Sorry about the mess,” she says, patting her curled hair, staring at Neal.

He leans forward. “You look beautiful,” he says, flashing her a winning grin.

A soft blush crawls up Gina’s neck. “I don’t mean
me
,” she says, a light giggle in her throat.

She means the wealth of shopping bags thrown about the living room floor, stuffed in the corners, hung from the rusted fireplace gate, pushed against the television stand, full of clothes and shoes and carefully wrapped jewelry.

“I hardly noticed,” Neal says.

Alanis rolls her eyes. Her back’s pin straight as she surveys every corner of Gina’s small home: the window to the left of us, covered in thick grey curtains, the wide television atop a vintage trunk in the corner, the gated fireplace behind Gina’s chair, the threshold behind us that leads to the rest of her home.

“I’m sorry,” Gina says to Alanis. She sticks out her hand. “I don’t think we’ve met.”

Alanis keeps her hands in her lap. “We haven’t.”

Gina’s hand hangs in the air, erect fingers pointing towards Alanis. Gina’s eyes narrow in her direction.
Shake my fucking hand
.

Alanis tightens her hands in her lap. “Caitlin said we can trust you.”

Gina’s fingers curl into her palm.

Trust was never something shared between us. Malice and resentment we have in spades but our trust in one another is flimsy. She trusted me not to tell my father about the afternoons she spent smoking on the porch. I trusted her to keep quiet about the nights I snuck out with Justin. We betrayed one another in broad daylight, spilling large cans of beans at my father’s feet. But if my father loved me the way she believes, I can trust her to keep this secret.

“Trust me with what?” she says.

“Something’s happened,” I say.

Gina’s face closes down, a marquee flickering off. Then she’s back, eyes wide and bright. “Can I get anyone a drink?” she says, shooting to her feet.

“I’m alright,” Neal says.

“No,” says Alanis.

“Caitlin?” Gina says, hopeful.

Alanis glares at my profile, my fingers twist in my lap. “I’ll have a bottle of water.”

Gina nods. “Of course.”

Her slippered feet slap against the floor as she rounds the corner towards the kitchen, tucked in the back of the house.

Alanis stands the second she’s out of earshot. “We’re leaving.”

“We can trust her,” I say. Neal looks at me. “You can trust me
.”

Alanis shakes her head. “She could be on the phone, right now, with Geon’s people.”

The three of us listen out for Gina’s hushed voice. We hear nothing but the sound of a fridge popping open.

“Let me talk to her,” I say.

Alanis pats her thigh, the outline of her gun showing through her dress. “You’ve got five minutes.”

Gina leans against the kitchen counter, her gaze fixed on the cracked tiled floor. She barely looks at me before she crosses her arms and sucks in a breath, trapping it in her chest, air thumping against her heart and her ribcage, thick in her throat, before she deflates.

“Do you know, when your father told me he wanted a divorce, the first thing I felt was relief.” She shakes her head. “He told me on the ride home, after we dropped you off at the airport. He’d been silent for days, he wouldn’t look at me, he wouldn’t…
touch
me.

He was upset because he was into something I didn’t approve of and I spoke my mind about it. I told him, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t deal with the late nights of not knowing what could happen to him. I couldn’t deal with walking around with a target on my back. And whether you believe this or not, I was afraid for you.”

“Why?”

“He was…” She throws a hand over her mouth. “He was pissing the wrong people off. I told myself that it was for the best. That without him, I wouldn’t have to deal with that world again.”

Gina drops her head, one ankle crossed over the other as her arms loosen around her chest.

“We can go somewhere else.”

A small laugh passes through her. “Where would you go?”

“Neal has to know someone.”

Gina releases another laugh. “Lesson one,” she says. “Men like Neal don’t have friends. They have associates they can lean on, when the other party can get something out of it. But at times like these? They’re almost always alone.”

Gina wraps her hand around my upper arm and my breath hitches in my throat. She rarely touched me growing up. Neither of us were fan of hugs or pats on the shoulders or head. When we brushed against one another in the kitchen or hall, we were always careful to slide an apology through our teeth. Our relationship had clear boundaries and physical affection was going one step too far.

Her touch was warm, her fingers squeezing my arm reassuringly. “But you don’t have to worry,” she says, grabbing my bottle of water from the counter. “Because you’ve got me.”

Gina has one foot out of the kitchen when I call her name. She turns to me, eyebrows raised.

“This is probably the wrong time to ask but did you happen to get my voicemail?”

“I did,” she says. “But I’m not quite ready to talk about that just yet. Give me a day or two.”

At the end of the hall Alanis and Neal are standing near the door, Alanis’s hand wrapped around the shimmering glass knob.

“So?” she says.

“She’s in,” I say.

Alanis glances between the pair of us before she drops her hand. “Good,” she says. Then to Gina, “I’ll take a cup of coffee, black, with a pinch of honey.”

______

 

We close and lock the windows, draw the curtains and turn the blinds.

Alanis locks the basement door and tells us, “When you leave a room, close the door. The only good thing about this shit hole,” she casts a glance towards Gina, “is everything creaks. But if someone breaks in, I want to make sure they have obstacles.”

Gina paces the living room floor, her thumb stuck between her teeth, as we tell her about the men who broke into Neal’s house.

“Can they break into here?” she asks, eyes flickering towards the window.

“They can break into anywhere,” Alanis says. “The key is to make sure they don’t have a reason to.”

Gina glances at Neal.

The two of us are sitting next to each other on the couch, our shoulders pressed together, my hand in his. He’s wearing a brave face – chin up, a small smile playing at his mouth – but I’m close enough to hear the grinding of his teeth, the tightening of his jaw. Against our palms we share a film of nervous sweat.

“It’ll be easy,” he says, grinning wider. “You’ll go to work, come home, do everything normally and I won’t leave the house or do anything to cause a disruption.”

“What about the neighbors?” Gina says, glancing at the wall housing the fireplace. “The walls are thin.”

Alanis says, “No TV, no music without headphones, no talking on the phone. No nothing until you get back from work.”

“Sounds like prison,” I say.

Neal tightens his hand around mine.

Alanis glances down at our entangled fingers. “You’ve never been to prison. This is a walk in the park.”

______

 

Gina’s house has two bedrooms – a master and a guest. They’re both on the second floor, separated by a bathroom with a pedestal sink and shower encased in murky glass.

Alanis opts to sleep in the living room, her feet hanging off the arm of the couch. Gina worries her bottom lip between her teeth before she agrees, watching her brown hair splay across the clean cushion.

That was one thing she and my father agreed upon. No food or sleeping in the living room. My father would whack my ankles whenever I fell asleep in front of the TV, his mouth set in a straight line as I opened my eyes and he pointed towards my bedroom.

Neal and I take the guest room, though there’s barely enough room for two people to move around. The queen sized bed is wedged between opposite walls, shoeboxes are lined in front of the closet, full shopping bags slump beneath the single window, leaving a square of space for Neal and I to undress.

We do so silently, glancing at each other’s bodies, my eyes grazing across the bare skin of his torso, his drinking in the curve of my shoulder, until we’re down to our underwear. We climb under the covers and listen to the sounds of the bathroom – the flush of the toilet, the running of the sink, the door opening as the light flickers off and Gina closes the door behind her.

“The walls
are
thin,” Neal says, whispering in the dark.

The closed blinds block out most of the light, but bright streams of the moon peek through the slits. I can make out the outline of Neal’s profile, pointing to the ceiling, one hand thrown on his chest, the other reaching for mine beneath the sheet.

“I grew up in a house like this,” I say.

He turns towards me. “You did?”

“Yeah. My mother bought a house like this in Baltimore. It’s bigger, three floors like yours and the neighborhood’s a little nicer but, I know what it’s like to have to whisper so the person two doors down doesn’t know you’re awake.”

A grin tugs at the corner of Neal’s mouth. “Did you ever sneak anyone home?”

A light laugh builds in my throat. “Once.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes. I was in college and a friend came to visit. He didn’t have any money for a hotel room so I told him he could stay with me. My mother isn’t the type to let that happen, so I snuck him through the back door.”

BOOK: The Inheritance (Volume Three)
9.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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