The moment Alicia heard the terms of the will she began to strenuously object. She was especially skeptical about Hailey spending a year in a house she dreaded.
But Thomas Gunn immediately defended Beatrice’s wishes.
“Regardless of your observations, Alicia, it was Beatrice’s express desire that Hailey live in the house. We talked this over on several occasions and she was firmly committed to that plan of action.”
“But why the insistence on living in the house, Mr. Gunn?” Hailey frowned, “My aunt is right—Mother knew I was uncomfortable there.”
Alicia nodded sagely.
“I can only tell you what your mother told me, Hailey. She said she had her reasons and provided a way out for you, in case you did not wish to comply. You are free to refuse the condition, but be advised, the property would then have to be listed with a real estate firm and when sold, the funds, minus expenses, would go directly to you.”
“What? —Have McAdam Manor sold to strangers?” Ev was suddenly indignant, and her two sisters mirrored her ire.
“Preposterous!” hissed Lil. Alicia’s black feral eyes turned to coal. “This house must stay in the family.”
“Please, aunties,” Hailey cried, “No one’s going to sell the house.”
Alicia was caught with her mouth open, as she was about to speak, but was immediately silenced by Hailey’s outburst.
Ev gazed in shock at Hailey. “Surely, you’re not intending to live in the house, Dear, all by yourself?”
“She won’t be there all by herself,” Thomas Gunn interrupted, “Dorin will be there as well.”
“Hrmph!” She snorted, “Two women alone in such a huge manse.”
“Beatrice and Dorin have lived there for years,” Gunn said matter-of-factly, “I don’t see any problem with Hailey doing the same.”
“Really?” Lil smirked. “Are we talking about the same Hailey who slept for years on Dorin’s floor, paralyzed with fear every time the house creaked?”
Hailey flushed. “That was a long time ago, Aunt Lil—I’ve grown up since then.”
“That remains to be seen,” she sniffed, casting a meaningful glance at her sisters.
Alicia had held herself aloof from the discussion, but she now leaned in across the table to address Hailey, “Whether or not you stay in the house, Child, is your decision, but your aunts and I would like access to the family heirlooms and papers, as we requested before. I see nothing in the will that would prevent that.”
“I think discussing the disposal of personal effects is a bit premature at this point, Alicia.” Thomas Gunn seemed annoyed by her request.
“I fail to see what is ‘premature’ as you term it, Mr. Gunn, seeing as Beatrice bequeathed the house, furnishings and personal effects to Hailey and it now appears that she’s willing to live in the house and acquiesce to her mother’s wishes.”
The attorney glared at her sternly. “That’s precisely my point, Alicia—Beatrice bequeathed the personal effects to Hailey and there is an implicit intent here, in my opinion, seeing that Beatrice stated that the personal effects would only become available to you, should Hailey refuse to live in the house.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Alicia rasped. “The house and contents are passed to Hailey—she alone can decide.” She looked directly at Hailey, waiting for a reply.
“I think Mr. Gunn is right, auntie. It does seem to be Mother’s intent that I live in the home and take charge of the contents, including the papers. Mother specified the term of one full year—I think I have a moral obligation to honor her wishes. In a year’s time, we can revisit the matter, and perhaps then, I’ll be better able to make a decision.”
“Nonsense,” huffed Alicia “Waiting a year will only postpone pressing family matters that need to be dealt with now.”
“Perhaps, if you could enlighten me as to what these ‘pressing’ matters are auntie, I might be better able to help you.”
Alicia’s eyes went black and hard.
“This is a very sensitive and private area, Hailey. Why can’t you just trust me in this matter?”
“Trust you?” Hailey’s anger flared. “Has it ever occurred to you to trust me, or at the very least to treat me as a member of this family rather than an outsider to my own flesh and blood?”
“There’s no need to get upset, Dear,” Ev soothed in an oily voice that seemed hideously false compared to her usual tone.
Lil smiled patronizingly. “I’m sure we can work this out among ourselves without interference from outsiders.” She gave the attorney a withering look.
Hailey stood firm. “Unless all of you are willing to be more forthcoming with me, I see no way to work this out other than the route I’ve suggested.”
Alicia fairly bristled. “Hailey McAdam—I can’t believe the disrespect you are showing your elders. Your mother would be grievously displeased.”
“Would she, Aunt Alicia? If that were the case, why didn’t she name the three of you as depositories of her personal effects? No, I suspect that Mother has a good reason for doing what she has and time will show what that is.”
“Is this your final answer?” Alicia wheezed shrilly.
Alicia rose to her feet. “No need to see us out, Mr. Gunn,” she seethed, and stormed out the door, her sister trailing in her wake.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.