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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 6

 

Things had changed a lot. It was sort of a blur for Lark. After her parents died, her life became a mixture of sadness and numbness. At first, things were made to seem almost normal. Celeste kept telling Lark to pretend that her parents were always just in the other room. Unfortunately, that didn’t work so well for Lark. Yet, she didn’t want to let on to Celeste that it wasn’t working; she didn’t want to disappoint Celeste and give her more stress. Celeste was the only family Lark had left. Because this new pretend life didn’t seem real to Lark, it was almost a relief when things changed again a couple of month later … almost.

The hardest part was losing the house. Lark and her parents had lived in an apartment before her parents’ deaths. She expected to lose that place when she moved in with Celeste. This was different — this was sudden. The house was also the last remaining place that she shared precious, tangible memories with her parents while they were alive. But apparently it couldn’t be helped. Lark was told there just wasn’t enough money to keep the house. There was nothing that could be done to change things.

Lark carefully packed up the items she kept from her parents into a small shoebox. She hoped that the items would allow Lark to feel that she was taking her parents with her in some small way rather than just leaving them with the house.

The house Lark and Celeste moved into was closer to Lark’s school but farther away from Celeste’s. It was a rental house — very small and in disrepair. Celeste didn’t let anyone come over, and she told Lark that she couldn’t let anyone come over either.

It was a little difficult in the evening. Celeste had a job in the kitchen of a restaurant at night. There wasn’t money for a babysitter, so Lark had to spend these hours alone. It could be scary at times. There was a lot of noise coming in from beyond the walls, but Lark told herself that nothing actually came of it. Besides, spending this time alone without complaint was the least Lark could do. Celeste had to work, so they could eat. Therefore, if Lark had to be a little scared from time to time when a storm moved through or angry voices called out, so be it. At least they were together — her and her cousin — some of the time.

The best part of the day for Lark was the after-school program at the church. It was nice to have people to talk to for those few hours after school. It also cut down on the number of hours Lark had to spend alone.

School was pretty good, too. However, Lark sometimes worried that her friends would ask to come over, and she’d have to admit that she moved. Celeste had made it clear that no one could know that they moved. It sounded as though Lark might be taken away somewhere if they found out. So, Lark withdrew and was alone a lot at school.

At the church, no one thought to ask about the move since they didn’t know much about Lark’s past life. Plus, some of the students were from the same neighborhood. Therefore, Lark figured if they weren’t taken away from their families then neither would she be. Lark learned a lot at the program. Plus, she did crafts, had snacks and played games. It also comforted her to hear about heaven and visualize her parents there.

Overall though, life was difficult. Still, Lark made the best of it. After all, as Lark would often remind herself, at least this way Lark’s surroundings matched the reality she felt inside. Lark wasn’t great at acting as though everything was okay.

It would be about a month after Lark and Celeste moved into the hovel that things would change once more. Lark had just returned to the house from the Bible school. It was darker than it usually was, for the sky was overcast. It had been drizzling steadily all day, and the air was damp and cool. The weather had caused the streets to be more deserted than usual, casting an additional gloom.

When Lark entered the shack, she left the door open, so that the dim light could flow in. Still, as she stood in the foyer of the one-bedroom abode, she shivered slightly. She walked a few steps into the house. She reached out a shaky hand and turned on the light of a nearby lamp. Celeste didn’t like to have the lights on most of the time, especially when she wasn’t in the house. Lark’s homework was supposed to be done during the day or at the after-school program. Yet, Lark couldn’t help, especially today, making sure that the darkness hadn’t entered the house while she was away. After checking around the sparsely furnished rooms, she was satisfied she was alone. She quickly headed to the front door then locked it behind her.

Lark then set out to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She took the sandwich over to the old chair next to the lamp and sat down. Finally, Lark shut the light off and ate in the darkness.

It was about an hour later when Lark heard a persistent knocking at the front door. It actually woke Lark from an uneasy sleep. At first, she didn’t know what to make of the noise and froze.

Then, she heard Celeste’s voice.

“Lark! Hurry! Open the door!”

Lark reached over and turned on the light. She then jumped up and out of the chair; she quickly went to unlock the door. It was an odd experience. Celeste had a key. Something must be wrong, Lark thought. Upon Lark’s opening of the door, Celeste rushed inside.

“Quick! Lock the door!” Celeste exclaimed.

“What — what’s wrong?” Lark managed.

“They’re after me.”

“Who?”

“I messed up. I shouldn’t have trusted him. He left with it. Now, they’re after me. But I did it for us. For you.”

Lark just stared at her. A strange numbness had fallen upon Lark. Suddenly, she was listening like a stranger would. Lark pondered the meaning of the sudden detachment. She waited for Celeste to draw to a point, knowing the words would eventually come.

“He stole his aunt’s diamond broach. Well, actually he had me do it. It was going to be bequeathed to him someday for his future wife. Anyway, he was supposed to split the money with me, but he didn’t. He took it.” Celeste sobbed. “And what’s worse, I think they saw me.”

“Who is he?” Lark queried.

Celeste hesitated.

“Does it matter? He’s gone now.” Celeste returned.

“Then, should we leave?”

Again hesitation.

Suddenly, there was another knock at the door.

“Open up!” a male voice demanded.

“Oh no! They’ve come for me!” Celeste screamed. “They’ll send me to one of the prison colonies. I’ll die!” she wailed. “If our parents only hadn’t died! I’m just not cut out to take care of you. But I tried! I’m sorry!!”

All of a sudden, the door was kicked in, and two men entered the house.

One man said to the other, “Search for the diamond.” He turned toward the girls. “We got a tip the thief came this way, yet the description of the thief was vague somehow. Which one of you took it? It’ll be easier on you if you fess up now. Otherwise, we’ll take both of you in as collaborators.”

Lark looked over at Celeste. Celeste’s eyes were downcast for a moment. When she eventually did look at Lark, her eyes were evasive yet pleading.

“All right. I’ll take you both in.”

“I did it.” Lark said. “It’s my fault.”

The man seemed surprised by this turn of events. He had been expecting a confession — but from the other one.

“You?”

“Yes.”

“Then, where is it?”

“I don’t know.”

Lark looked to Celeste for help, for Lark didn’t know the name of the man who took the stone. But Lark would get no help there. Perhaps it was best that Celeste not implicate herself, Lark concluded. Otherwise, Lark’s efforts to save Celeste would be in vain. Celeste, for her part, seemed grateful, but it was still too soon to know whether Lark could pull it off.

“Nothing.” the other man, who had been searching and just returned, said, “Then, take her.”

“Which one?”

“The smaller one confessed.”

Suddenly, Lark’s eyes fell upon her shoebox, which she kept on an end table. Lark rushed forward and grabbed the box of mementos before the two men could grab her. The man who’d done the most talking took the box from her and rifled through it. Then fortunately, he shoved it back into her hands.

“Nothing but junk.” he said. “Let’s get this over with.”

They each grabbed Lark from underneath her arms and dragged her from the house. Lark managed to keep a hold of her box of memories by clutching it to her chest with her bent hands.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 5

It was just after Celeste’s eighteenth birthday when Mr. Davis’s office called. He hadn’t been kidding when he told Celeste that the Tampy estate had become less of a priority once the money from the safe had been found. Still, Celeste was grateful that the call finally came through. With the food, the mortgage, the utilities, the housekeeper’s salary, and of course the tuition, it became clear that the money from the safe wouldn’t last forever.

When Celeste came into the waiting room that day, she was surprised to see that boy Frederick standing next to Ms. Springfield’s desk. He turned as though waiting for someone. When he caught sight of Celeste, he smiled. Celeste gave him a half-smile then sat in one of the chairs. There didn’t seem to be a reason to check in at the desk this time. Certainly, Celeste figured, Ms. Springfield had enough information to figure out who she was, and why she was there. Why wait around just to be told to sit down moments later?

As Ms. Springfield picked up her phone and began talking into it, Frederick came and sat next to Celeste. He exhaled as he plopped down into the chair next to her.

“So, you have another meeting with Davis, huh? Lucky you.”

“You, too, it would seem.” Celeste replied coolly.

Frederick noted that the pretty girl seemed more down than she had before. It intrigued him as to why. Certainly, she was no ordinary girl this Celeste. Most girls were giddy to have his attention. And why did she always come alone? She couldn’t be much older than he was, if at all. Perhaps she figured out that Frederick had been hoping to run into her — had been running errands for his father, so that he’d be at the lawyer’s office in the afternoons. Maybe Celeste really wasn’t interested, and, in fact, was annoyed by his efforts. Frederick rubbed the top of his legs with his hands nervously.

“I’m going to get something to drink. Do you want anything?” he asked her.

Celeste looked over at him quizzically.

“Miss Tampy, Mr. Davis will see you now.” Ms. Springfield announced.

Celeste managed a weak smile at Frederick. He smiled back. Then, Celeste stood and headed into Mr. Davis’s office. Darn, Frederick thought. Well, he’d wait for her return. At least he got a smile out of her.

“Miss Tampy, I have that information for you. First off, I have filed the paperwork necessary to have you declared your cousin’s guardian. I have also processed your parents’ remaining assets. Here, I’ve made an inventory. The monetary amount is listed at the bottom. Please have a seat.”

Celeste took the paper and read it.

“Are you kidding?” Celeste stammered. “Where’s the rest of it?!”

Mr. Davis was taken aback.

“Most of it was in the safe.” he responded.

Celeste reddened.

“Is there a problem?” Mr. Davis pursued.

“I just got the impression there was a lot more.” Celeste managed.

“I’m not exactly sure how you got that impression.”

Celeste glared at him.

“You said the guardianship papers had been filed. Is that really necessary anymore?” Celeste proposed.

“I don’t understand.” Mr. Davis returned.

“I don’t have a job yet. You said I needed one. Maybe she’d be better off elsewhere.”

“I could pull the petition. It is possible Lark could end up in foster care …”

No reaction.

Mr. Davis leaned back into his chair. He was really regretting taking Celeste Tampy on as a client. “And I would have to re-evaluate the assets.” Mr. Davis added.

“Why?” Celeste asked immediately.

“Lark is entitled to her parents’ assets.”

“What assets? Obviously my uncle squandered his money.”

“No, Celeste. The fact is most of the money in the safe belongs to Lark. Your father prepared a ledger with the division of assets. Your father and your uncle just decided to store the money in the same safe. Given that you expressed a desire to become Lark’s caregiver … maybe I shouldn’t have assumed. Anyway, the executor, which would have been you as Lark’s guardian, will manage that money now.”

“Well, there’s very little money left.”

“How so? You spent it all?”

“I paid my school tuition.”

Mr. Davis was flustered.

“I’m sure under the circumstances they may be willing to refund the unused portion.” he suggested.

“Then I’d be kicked out …” Celeste started softly. Mr. Davis just stared at her blankly. “Well, I’m not asking for the tuition back.” she concluded.

“You don’t think they’d give it back to you? I can write a letter of explanation …”

“I don’t know. I don’t think you understand me. I’m not even going to try. I intend to go to that school. I may not be getting that scholarship, but I’m going to graduate all the same.”

“You’re the one who doesn’t seem to understand. Most of that money doesn’t belong to you. Now that you aren’t going to take care of Lark …”

“Fine. I’ll take her.” Celeste returned.

Mr. Davis raised an eyebrow. His look was one of disdain.

“Then, I suggest you get that job we discussed. It sounds like you’re going to need it.”

 

***

 

Frederick was getting antsy. The meeting between Celeste and that lawyer was taking awhile. The longer it took for Celeste to emerge from Mr. Davis’s office, the more obvious it would be that Frederick was waiting around for her. In fact, Ms. Springfield was already giving him strange looks. Finally, the door opened. Frederick looked up with anticipation. Unfortunately, instead of a smile Frederick was greeted with a frenzied look. The girl Frederick had been waiting for was storming out of the office — never to return.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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May 7, 2017

Hello,

I have finished up my typing/ first round editing of Intermezzo. Now I’ve begun typing Grave — or I should say my mom is doing most of the typing while I dictate and edit with some typing. At this point, I am alternating between editing Intermezzo and typing/editing Grave. Grave is a bit more of a challenge since it wasn’t written in chronological order, and I have to put it in order. Plus, I put notes for future books in the margins, which have to be typed up.

I began writing Grave in earnest in August of 2014 — the August after my stroke. That is sort of interesting, at least to me. My mom mentioned my style is different than previously. She seems to like it better. My handwriting was certainly shaky back then, but all things considered it was remarkably legible. I was still getting used to using my right hand to write again. After my stroke, I couldn’t use either hand to do much of anything. Not to mention, in no time in my life was my handwriting ever going to win an award for beauty! A thank you goes to God and His Son Jesus for His mercy.

I’ve started writing five books at a time. I started Book 5 of Nocturne’s Reaping®, Etude, when I finished writing Grave. Plus, I recently started a whole new book. Initially, I wrote a page in two books one day then a page in the other three on a subsequent day. But writing in three books in one day proved to be difficult. So instead, I am doing two in a given day. I am repeating days for Labyrinth — a book that’s the first of a three-part dystopian series and is the one of the five that is the closest to being finished. Making slower progress on the others allows me to be open to new avenues and extend the pacing and length of the books. But once I get close to the end of a particular book, such as with Labyrinth, I think it is better to be more focused and revisit it more often in order to keep up the pace and momentum.

Lastly, I will be posting Prelude two chapters a month starting today. God willing, I plan to post two chapters on the seventh of each month. Chapters 1 and 2 were already posted. I’ll be posting these on Word Press and my website: http://www.jenniferalicechandler.com  or http://www.nocturnesreaping.com

My books will continue to be in e-book format on Amazon (Kindle) and in paperback format on Amazon/ CreateSpace. I won’t be enrolled in the Kindle Select or Kindle Unlimited programs any longer though.

Thanks for reading this!

Jennifer Chandler

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 4

The funeral was held the day after Celeste returned to the lawyer’s office. It took place at Prince of Peace Christian Church. It was well attended, despite the fact that it was held early in the morning. Celeste had insisted that it be early. After all, the club meeting had been rescheduled for that afternoon. And while she was at school, she planned to take care of another matter as well.

Mr. Davis had found documentation that pointed to the existence of a wall safe in her parents’ house. The documentation also listed the combination for that safe. The money was put there, so that her parents’ assets wouldn’t be tied up in litigation. Celeste was ecstatic there was more than enough money to pay for the rest of her yearly school tuition. In addition, there would be enough left for her and Lark to live off of for a while. In the meantime, Mr. Davis would be working on liquefying other assets and checking into any life insurance policies. Though, he advised, it may take awhile because of his busy schedule. Celeste was a bit dismayed to hear that her struggles weren’t a priority for her father’s supposed friend. Perhaps, she should take Lark with her next time; Lark was sure to evoke some sympathy. Yet, at the end of the day, Celeste concluded that it was more important for Mr. Davis to do a thorough job. She, therefore, couldn’t afford to call him out on his lack of enthusiasm. Instead, she decided to focus on the fact there would be plenty of money once everything was settled. After all, if her parents had that much in a safe imagine the size of both estates! And there was more good news; it seemed there was no stipulation about age or trust funds in the will. That meant that Celeste could control the entirety of both estates! At last, control seemed to be returning to Celeste. So much for Mrs. Baker’s proclamation of doom!

“Celeste … Celeste.”

Celeste turned towards Mrs. Baker.

“Would you like to say a few words?” Mrs. Baker offered in a solemn tone.

Celeste’s eyes flashed as the people around her turned and stared. Celeste’s face flushed.

“No.” Celeste snapped.

Celeste could tell by the reaction of the people around her that they thought less of her. Celeste turned to her left and looked at Lark. Lark was silent. Her head was bowed down; tears streamed continuously down her face.

Celeste remarked to herself that no one asked Lark to speak. No one ever expected anything from her. Why was that? Why didn’t anyone cut Celeste slack? Her parents died, too. Celeste turned from her cousin and stared straight ahead. Suddenly, tears began to form in Celeste’s eyes as well. Lark looked up at Celeste then placed her hand on Celeste’s. Celeste looked down at the hand for a moment. The weight and heat of it became almost unbearable somehow. But Celeste couldn’t exactly move her hand away. What would everyone else think?

After the funeral, there was a delay. Mrs. Baker was going to drive Celeste and Lark to the cemetery, but she was taking her time leaving the church. In order to avoid having to talk to too many people, Celeste placed herself away from the door and next to a bulletin board. One after another, the other mourners filed outside slowly. Celeste began watching them leave out of the corner of her eye; that is until she realized that one of them was coming towards her. To avoid having to deal with the person — whoever it was — Celeste turned completely away and stared at the bulletin board. As it turned out, this incident was fortunate, for one notice quickly caught her eye. Without hesitation, Celeste grabbed an information pamphlet from the board. Celeste then turned to Lark, who had come up silently to stand next to her.

“Look.” Celeste directed. “This may work for you. There’s an after-school church program for kids. Since this church isn’t far from your school, you could walk here. I wonder how much it costs. Remind me to call and ask later.”

***

There was a lot of food at the luncheon after the funeral. The good news was Celeste wouldn’t need to cook for a while; though, she did wonder whether there was enough freezer space for all of it. Still, the problem with having all these people come over to the house was how to get them to leave promptly. They seemed almost dazed and unsure of what to do with themselves. Celeste tried dropping hints about how she had somewhere else to be soon, but the guests just looked at her as though she wasn’t speaking their language.

Fortunately, they eventually started to say their good-byes and excuse themselves. Then, it was just she and Lark left.

“All right. It’s time to get ready for school.”

Lark was perplexed.

“School?”

“Yes. I have to go, so you have to go.”

Lark looked off to the side for a moment and considered. Then, she headed for her room to change. Celeste got ready in record time. It wasn’t that hard, for her hair and makeup were already perfect. Then again, that wouldn’t do. Celeste swiftly grabbed a handkerchief from her father’s desk drawer and began taking off some of the makeup — that way no one could accuse her of not grieving enough. Too bad she hadn’t thought of that during the funeral. Perhaps, she might have been treated better if she had looked less pretty — like Lark. Suddenly, Celeste sighed. All that was left for her to do was wait for Lark to show up. Once Lark finally did appear, Celeste promptly ushered her out the front door. Lark’s school was a little out of Celeste’s way, but it couldn’t be helped. It would be just like Mrs. Baker to show up to check on them later and find Lark home alone. That could potentially ruin Celeste’s chances of becoming Lark’s guardian. Fortunately, it didn’t matter. If Celeste hurried, she could still make it to her own school early enough to complete a half-day. And that would make her eligible to attend the after-school meeting. Thankfully, Celeste now had access to her mother’s car. Celeste knew she couldn’t make it on time if she had to walk.

“Remember to go to the church after school.” Celeste mentioned when they arrived in front of Lark’s school. “I talked to them. They’ll be expecting you. It turns out it’s free.”

Lark nodded; then, she stepped out of the car and onto the sidewalk. Seconds later, Lark could hear the car retreat behind her.

Of course, people looked at Celeste funny when she arrived at school. Something about death seemed to bring on this reaction, Celeste thought. Oh well. There was one thing she could do to cheer herself up. Celeste headed directly to the main office of the school. There, she proudly took out most of the money from the safe and presented it to the bursar.

“I’d like to pay my tuition for the rest of the year.” Celeste announced.

The bursar didn’t seem to react. Of course, they were used to this kind of thing, and Celeste’s account had always been kept current. Why should anything change now? Feeling confident in having secured part of her future, Celeste now just needed to secure the presidency and the scholarship. Since it was almost time for the lunchtime passing period, Celeste decided to wait around in the hall for Deidre. Celeste had become friends with Deidre over the course of the last few months. She was a perfect friend to have at the club. Deidre’s parents were rich, so Deidre certainly didn’t need the scholarship. Deidre was also very busy in the show horse circuit and had no desire to take on more responsibilities. If Deidre had wanted the presidency, she would have had it with ease. She was very influential and well liked. Fortunately, instead of being a rival she became Celeste’s asset.

Of course, there was one problem: Deidre’s best friend, Melissa. Deidre had thrown her support behind Melissa up until about a month ago. But now, Deidre’s support was firmly behind Celeste. Well, as firm as these things could be. The bell rang.

By the time Celeste caught sight of Deidre in the milling crowd, Deidre already seemed to have caught sight of Celeste. Celeste was a bit surprised that Deidre appeared to be dragging her heels heading over to her. What was even stranger was the fact that Celeste was standing in front of Deidre’s locker. Could Deidre be avoiding Celeste because of her personal tragedy?

“Celeste. I didn’t think you’d be here.” Deidre stated when she eventually found herself standing in front of Celeste.

“What do you mean? Certainly, you’re not saying you purposefully scheduled the meeting for a time when you thought I couldn’t be here?”

“No, of course not.” Deidre replied. “But once I heard about the funeral, I just assumed. I mean, as it turns out, you really don’t have to be here.”

“What? Of course I do.” Celeste was incredulous.

Deidre raised an eyebrow then looked off to the side.

“What?” Celeste demanded.

“I talked it over with the other girls. Seeing that you now have a little cousin to take care of — how can you expect to fulfill the club responsibilities?”

“She’s old enough to stay at home by herself a little while. Plus, I’m getting her into an after-school program.”

“Then, there’s the little matter of the scholarship.”

“What about it?”

“You can’t use it.”

“How so?”

Deidre rolled her eyes.

“They’re not going to let you take your little cousin to Highland. You won’t be able to attend there until she’s grown. So really, why waste this opportunity for the rest of us? It doesn’t make any sense. Plus, it was close anyway. The fact is any one of us … well, any one of the rest of us could do just as good of a job as you could.”

Celeste glared at Deidre with intensity.

“Listen, the thing with Lark hasn’t even been settled yet …” Celeste pointed out.

Deidre sighed.

“Before you go on, you should know that I know.”

“Know what?”

“Well, it seems you were mistaken about Melissa.” Deidre added. “She never went out with my ex-boyfriend. It’s a good thing we got to talking. Now I can vote for her instead without reservation. It’ll be enough to change the outcome.”

Deidre turned — a satisfied grin on her face. Celeste just stared; hers was a look of shock mixed with impotent rage.

“Please, Deidre, can’t the vote wait?!” Celeste suddenly cried out. “I just buried my parents today!”

Deidre turned and looked at Celeste with disbelief and disgust etched on her face.

“I really don’t see how that would be fair to Melissa, do you?” she countered.

Deidre turned around again; this time she kept walking.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 3

It was going to be a busy day, but Celeste felt ready for it. First thing was first — get Lark ready and out the door. It wasn’t part of the plan for Lark to stay home again; Celeste couldn’t deal with that. The possibility of having to call Mrs. Baker was not something Celeste even wanted to consider. Fortunately, Lark seemed more cooperative than she did the day before, and Celeste managed to get her onto the bus on time.

Next, was school. After what happened yesterday, Celeste had to make it clear to the other members of the club that she was up for the responsibility of being the club president. Celeste had to admit there was a risk to her showing up at school at all the day after the news of her parents’ deaths broke; people might think she was cold. But let them even suggest she wasn’t grieving enough, and they’d regret it. Celeste would just burst into tears in front of everyone. Not to mention, if Celeste didn’t show up at school who would excuse her absence? The last thing Celeste needed was people thinking she couldn’t handle herself.

As it turned out, the day was uneventful — if not a bit awkward. Most people didn’t even talk to Celeste; they just looked at her blankly. The ones who did talk to her gushed sympathy; this got to be annoying quickly. Yet, because most of these were the ones who supported Celeste’s bid for the club presidency she had to play along. But what made the situation truly intolerable was the fact there was no news about the club presidency or when the meeting was to be rescheduled. In fact, when Celeste tried to press the members for details there was a distinct feeling that the topic should not be breached. Celeste decided there was always tomorrow. Celeste would figure out what was going on and fix it. In the meantime, there were other matters to attend to.

Celeste was grateful that her father’s lawyer fit her into his schedule that day. Celeste figured that if anyone could help her return her life to normal it would be he. Just the idea of that was a relief. People like Mrs. Baker just wanted to change everything, to ruin the good things in Celeste’s life. Celeste was determined that Mrs. Baker’s vision of the future would not come to pass.

Right after school, Celeste headed to the lawyer’s office. Regrettably, there wasn’t even time to go home and change out of her school uniform. As Celeste approached the large, marble steps of the lawyer’s building, she reflected on the fact that Lark was getting out of school right then. Celeste had given Lark instructions on how to get off the bus, let herself into the house, then lock up behind her. Celeste hoped that Lark could handle this one thing. Celeste didn’t need any more complications.

After tracking down the lawyer’s office number from a registry on the wall, Celeste headed for his office. The waiting room was large. It had well-groomed plants and a waterfall sliding down the opposing wall. Right in front of Celeste was a huge cherry-wood desk with a well-dressed woman sitting behind it. Celeste went straight toward her.

“Hello. My name is Celeste Tampy. I have an appointment with Mr. Robert Davis.”

The receptionist lifted her eyes slowly. Then, she began to rifle through a day planner.

“Ah, yes.” she started. “I see he’s going to squeeze you in.” The receptionist made a directive gesture with her hand. “Please, have a seat.”

Celeste turned around. This was unexpected. Celeste needed to get this done and return home before anyone realized Lark was home alone. Maybe if Celeste mentioned her cousin … Celeste turned back toward the receptionist. Only this time, Nancy Springfield was turned away from Celeste and had her phone to her ear.

Celeste looked back toward the chairs; she grudgingly headed toward them. She remarked to herself that the chairs’ cushions were made with expensive-looking blue velvet. Celeste daintily sat on a chair with a direct view of the receptionist. Several times, Celeste lifted her eyes in irritation toward the woman, but the woman didn’t return her gaze. As time passed, Celeste began knocking her Mary Janes against the wooden legs of her chair. If the receptionist noticed Celeste’s actions, she never showed it. Then, all of a sudden, the entrance door to the office swung open powerfully.

A tall, well-dressed blonde teenage boy walked briskly into the room. He went directly toward the receptionist. Nancy Springfield turned, a surprised look in her eyes. She said good-bye slowly then hung up the phone. The teen looked about the room briefly, his eyes scanning above Celeste’s head. He then turned his attention back to Ms. Springfield.

“Where’s my father?”

“In with Mr. Davis.”

“Why was I summoned here if my father doesn’t have the decency to wait for me?”

Ms. Springfield just stared at him. Finally, after a few moments of the two of them staring at each other, the teen turned on his heels and headed over to a chair. He sat next to Celeste without actually looking at her. Eventually, he did look over and at Celeste directly. He noted how pretty she was with her long blonde hair and delicate features. He thought she looked a lot like a female version of him.

“So, have you been waiting long?” the boy then asked Celeste.

Celeste turned her head fully toward him and looked him in the eye.

“Do I know you?” she returned.

The boy laughed.

“Ha! Most girls want to be nice to me.” the boy responded.

“I’m sure.” Celeste replied. “But you see, most boys want to be nice to me as well. There are so many who talk to me; I lose track.”

“Wow, really?”

Celeste smiled.

“Yes and no.” she said. “I don’t remember you.”

“Frederick Applegate.”

Frederick offered his hand. Celeste waited a moment then decided to shake his hand.

“Celeste Tampy.”

“That’s a pretty name.” Frederick admitted.

“And yours is impressive.”

Frederick’s face fell.

“What?” Celeste wondered.

“You recognize my name?”

Celeste looked at him doubtfully.

“No, should I?”

Frederick analyzed her for a moment. Suddenly, the door from the inner office opened. Two men emerged, both meticulously dressed. They shook hands. At that moment, Frederick stood, his attention directed solely at the men.

“Frederick.” the older of the two men stated. “It’s good of you to show up.”

“I got here when I could.” Frederick mumbled.

“I’m sure. I’ll fill you in on what was discussed when we get home.”

Frederick looked on his father with irritation.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Davis.” Mr. Applegate concluded.

“Sure. Thank you for your patronage.”

Mr. Applegate came up to his son and placed his hands on Frederick’s shoulders. As Frederick turned back around, he looked at Celeste. He maintained eye contact with her as he left. She returned a look of sympathy. After all, she now knew how it felt when adults tried to run your life. Celeste then turned her attention back to the receptionist. Mr. Davis and Ms. Springfield were discussing something.

Ms. Springfield looked up.

“Miss Tampy, Mr. Davis is ready for you now.”

Celeste stood up then followed Mr. Davis into his inner office. Mr. Davis pointed to a chair in front of his desk. Celeste sat down.

“So, what can I do for you?” Mr. Davis asked as he walked behind his desk.

Celeste’s forehead crinkled.

“Well, don’t you know that my parents are dead?”

Mr. Davis was briefly taken aback by Celeste’s affect.

“Yes, I was informed.”

“Well, I don’t know what to do.” Celeste admitted. “I’ve never buried anyone. I’ve never paid bills in my life. I was hoping you could help me.”

Mr. Davis sat down.

“Your father wasn’t just my client; I considered him a friend. I would be glad to help you in any way I can. I can make Ms. Springfield available to help you with the funeral arrangements.”

“And the estate? What about that?”

“From what I understood from talking with your father, there should be enough money in your father’s and your uncle’s estates to take care of both you and your cousin until the two of you reach your majority.”

Celeste beamed.

“As long as the two of you can adhere to a budget …” Mr. Davis quickly added.

“Budget?” Celeste repeated.

“Yes, there should be plenty of money for all of your living expenses. As I’ve said, you can live quite comfortably until Lark reaches her majority.”

Celeste bowed her head in thought.

“Of course, there’s the matter of guardianship. I’ll have to review your aunt and uncle’s will to see whether they recommended anyone for Lark.”

“I’m almost eighteen.” Celeste said.

“Yes, that is something to consider. But I realize you must be busy …”

“Part of the estate would go to Lark or at least to her guardian, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“What if I became her guardian?”

Mr. Davis looked perplexed.

“You’d have to prove you were mature enough for that.” Mr. Davis informed her.

“How?”

“For one thing, you should find some employment.”

“Employment? Why should I have to do that? You said we’d have enough money.”

“It doesn’t need to be a full-time job, but it would help to show you can be responsible with money.”

“I see.” Celeste uttered.

“When is your birthday?”

“Next month.”

“Assuming that is what you both really want, we could delay filing for guardianship until then. But in the meantime …”

“What if I hired a nanny until then?”

“That could be a possibility.”

“Well, how long before the estate is dealt with?”

“I can’t give you that information just now. I will have to see whether there’s an executor named.”

“And if there is, he or she will be in control of the money?” Celeste continued.

“As you know, I’ll have to review your parents’ paperwork. There may be stipulations about age, trust funds, and other such things. I’ll try to free up some liquid assets for you and your cousin right away. In the meantime, talk to my assistant about arranging for the funeral. Once again, I considered your father a friend, so I will pay for the funeral expenses.”

“Thank you!” Celeste was quick to say.

The thought occurred to Mr. Davis that he couldn’t tell whether Celeste was happy for her relatives’ sakes or because she wouldn’t have to pay the expenses. Perhaps it was both.

“Why don’t you make an appointment for tomorrow afternoon? That should give me the time to look over at least some of your parents’ documentation. Will you and your cousin be all right overnight?”

“Yes. We have enough food.”

“Good. Then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Mr. Davis picked up his phone.

“Ms. Springfield, I’m going to send Miss Tampy out to you. I want you to make her an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. I also need you to please help Miss Tampy make arrangements for a funeral for four individuals.”

“All right, sir. By the way, your 4:30 appointment is here.”

“Okay. Thank you.” Mr. Davis hung up the phone. “Thank you for coming in, Celeste.” Mr. Davis stood and offered his hand to Celeste. “Ms. Springfield will take care of you outside.”

“Thank … you.”

Celeste headed out the door. As she stepped into the waiting room, a man rushed past her and into the room. The door was shut soon after.

“Miss Tampy. If you’d take a seat in the chair by my desk, we’ll get started.” Ms. Springfield offered.

Celeste sat down. Things were happening quickly now.

“That’s good,” Celeste thought.

The only problem was it felt as though she had just lost control of her life.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015

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