Mallory opened her eyes and realized she had never moved from the position she was in when she had first gone to bed; sleep had overtaken her quickly. She checked her cellphone for the time and noticed it was 6:00 am – the earliest she had awakened in the last week. She showered and dressed quickly then headed downstairs to put on a pot of coffee. She sat at the kitchen table while waiting for the coffee to brew and stared out the window. So much happened yesterday and her mind was replaying it all like a movie. The coffee pot beeped to indicate the brew cycle was complete; as she walked to the cabinet, she heard footsteps on the stairs. It was Darby coming downstairs to join her for coffee and girl talk while John and the kids were still sleeping.
Darby waited a few moments before finally speaking up, “So, did you two come to some sort of agreement last night?”
Mallory took a long sip of her coffee, “No, no deal but he told me he wants to meet Henry and wants us to move to Boston. He thinks it would be good for Henry to meet the entire family and to be in town where he can spend time with them. Says it would give me a break or whatever.”
“And you don’t like that idea?”
“I don’t need a break from raising my son; so hell no I don’t like the idea. I don’t need to pawn him off, and I have a job, and Henry has friends and loves school. Why would I want to move away from all of that?”
“Well I wasn’t in the room, and I can’t speak for Chris but I am going to guess he wasn’t trying to imply that you want to pawn Henry off. I would venture to guess that after parenting for twelve years on your own that you might want some help. You can’t deny that from time to time you wish you had some free time. I know you love that boy, but he does consume all of your time.”
“Well, yeah, he does, but I knew that was a sacrifice I would be making when I had him. Sure, there are probably some instances where I have missed out on something because of Henry and not having anyone to help but I wouldn’t trade any of it. I don’t want Chris, or his family, thinking I am looking for an opportunity to hand my kid off and go party.”
“I don’t think he thinks that; I guess he wants to spend time with him and if you benefit, so be it,” Darby took a drink of her coffee and played with the handle of the cup. “You know you need to let Henry decide what to do. He needs to meet Chris, and he needs to determine if he wants to spend time with him and how he will do it. I know you always make decisions with him in mind, but this is one time where you have to listen to what he wants. Don’t run the risk of losing him because you push in the wrong direction.”
“Damn you, why do you have to constantly whip out the therapy shtick on me?” Mallory smiled, knowing that her best friend was right even if she didn’t want to admit it.
“Ok, let me change the subject so that we don’t end up fighting. How did you sleep last night? I know the last few days you have tossed and turned but you are up early today and seem like your shoulders might be lighter.”
“Yeah, I think getting it off my chest and not hiding it from him helped. I think the fact that the funeral is over is part of it too. This has been harder than I think I wanted to admit.”
A moment later Henry came down the stairs and joined them in the kitchen. The conversation about last night stops and Mallory takes the opportunity to hang out with Henry. She knew that after Chris was introduced as his father that her life with Henry would never be the same. She was scared of what might happen and began to worry that Henry would be angry with her for keeping this secret. She was so lost in thought that she did not hear John calling her name and indicating it was time to go.
As they drove to the lawyer’s office, Mallory was uncharacteristically quiet. Normally she was chatty and cheerful, but it was quite evident that the events of the last week had taken a toll. As she parked the car, John reached over and took her hand.
“Look, no matter what happens in here and with Chris, it is important that you know that Darby and I are there for you. We have your back, and we love you; no judgment on our part you know that.”
“Thank you, John that means the world to me. I am afraid that my life will never be the same and I am terrified of what will happen next.”
The two of them walked into the office and were seated in a conference room. Her parent’s attorney, Charles Conner entered a few moment later. Introductions were made, and he sat down and opened a binder in front of him. “Ms. Turner I am going to provide you a copy of the document, but unless you have any objections, I will give you the highlights versus going through all of the legal jargon. Is there any objection to this?” Mallory and John both shook their heads; this would allow for the reading to go much faster. “Great, as you may or may not be aware, your parents were still working full time at the time of their deaths. Your parents had a substantial retirement savings plan in addition to their life insurance policies and the monies within their checking and savings accounts. There is also the matter of the property – both their home and office locations were paid in full and are part of their estate. As their attorney, I was aware of the estrangement between you and your parents and I am with the understanding that they had not spoken to you for twelve years. Is this correct?”
There was a lump in her throat, and she quietly answered, “Yes that is correct.”
“Two years ago your parents made some significant changes to their will and their policies. This is the information that I will be presenting to you today.” He took a deep breath and began turning the pages of the binder. “The insurance policies, there were two for each parent, had the provision to double if the deaths were an accident. I have been informed that the police no longer have concerns over criminal involvement in the crash. The accident was, in fact, an accident and the total payout for the four policies will be $400,000. The two policies for your father, Jackson Turner, in the full amount of $200,000 is bequeathed to a scholarship fund established in the name of Christopher Henry Turner. This scholarship fund remains in a trust that can only be accessed by the executor of the estate at the time Mr. Turner is ready to begin college or turns eighteen years of age – whichever comes first.”
Mallory started to shake; money had been provided for Henry? Why had they changed their mind and, more importantly, why had they not reached out to her? John noticed that she was shaking and reached for her hand.
“I have been named as the executor so I will work with you on the payout of the trust at the time Henry begins college. I am correct, he goes by the name Henry and not Christopher right?” She nodded her head in agreement, unable to form words. “The two policies for your mother, Madeline Turner, in the total amount of $200,000 is bequeathed to their daughter, Ms. Mallory Elizabeth Turner. These funds are to be made available immediately and comes with no restrictions.” Charles reached inside the binder and pulled out a check and slid it across the table to Mallory.
She did not reach for it, she was still not sure what was happening and was confident that she imagined this; John squeezed her hand.
Charles went back to the binder to continue, “The house, which is paid for, is bequeathed to you Ms. Turner as is the property for their law office. The provision is that their clients be transferred to their law partner, Mr. Thomas Masters, and he is to be given an opportunity to purchase the office location. If he elects to move to another location, the building is to be sold, and the earnings from the sale will be yours entirely. The monies in their checking and savings accounts are to be used to cover funeral expenses while the majority of the costs for the gravesite had been purchased during their pre-planning. Any proceeds that are remaining will be provided to the American Cancer Society as that was their charity of choice.”
Charles took a moment to stop and assess how Mallory was holding up. He noticed that her shaking had subsided and she was holding up remarkably well. He took a sip from his water bottle and continued. “The retirement account is being transferred into your name Ms. Turner. There is a payment to be made to my office of $1500 for the work done in the execution of the will. This includes the paperwork filed for their policies and the legal work required for the property deeds, etc. That payment can be made out of the retirement funds without a penalty. Provisions can be made to set up an account to cover any legal costs down the road due to the execution of the will. I would highly recommend that the bulk of the money be rolled over into a retirement plan for tax purposes. At this time do you have any questions?”
She could not speak, this was all overwhelming. She was confident she was coming to this meeting to find that nothing was left to her and everything went to charity. She kept shaking her head in disbelief. Finally, the words came to her, “Why did they change their mind? Please fill me in because I don’t understand.”
Charles smiled, he knew she would ask. “Your father, it was all him. He had talked to your aunt before her death, and she shared how strong you were. That you were a good mother to Henry and that your parents had not given you enough credit. You had finished school, had a good job, and loved that boy with everything you had. Your father began to feel remorse, and although he wanted to mend fences, he was not sure he could go through with it. When his sister died; he figured that he needed to take steps to reconcile even if he couldn’t reach out to you just yet. So, before it was too late, he wanted to change the will.”
Charles turned to the back of the binder and pulled out a sealed envelope. He pushed it across the table, and Mallory recognized her father’s writing. “He wrote this letter to you when the will was changed. He figured if he couldn’t say the words to you, he should, at least, put them in writing. I hope you will find that this brings a little peace,” He stood, closed the binder and pushed it across the table to John. “This is her copy as I have a copy on file. Take your time here and let me know if I can do anything for you.”
John stood and extended his hand, “Thank you, Mr. Conner, we appreciate your help.”
Mallory finally found the strength to stand and extended her hand as well, “Thank you for everything.” When he left the room, she collapsed back into the chair and stared at the check and the envelope on the table. After giving it some thought, she picked up the envelope, folded it in half, and placed it in her purse. She put the check in her wallet and continued to stare ahead.
“Mallory, are you going to be alright?” John asked cautiously.
“I don’t know, I mean I never would have anticipated that they would have changed their will. I was prepared for this to be over and that I would get nothing. Is this their final act so that I can go through the rest of my life with guilt?”