Discover more from vibe with me
[Short Story; Fiction]
In June, Acorn Street blossoms with life — the window boxes erupt in green, with flashes of color from geraniums and ivy crawls along the brick façades throughout the summer. By October, the leaves are burnt orange and fiery red, falling upon the cobblestones. December, holly adorns the pine wreaths hanging on the doors to greet carolers and tourists while the snow falls softly, coating the paths up and down the street.
The street lamps, glowing bright against the reds and blacks of the townhouses, only enhance the vibe. Even throughout the overcast winter months into an equally overcast spring, this street is beyond gorgeous.
I don’t belong here.
This small cafe on Beacon Street has been a second home to me for several years now, always a place I can rely on. The manager, Ella, has been more than accommodating of my schedule — rather, the drama that follows me — and basically allows me to come and go as I need extra cash. For the last year… I’ve definitely needed the extra cash. So I find myself, again, spending my mornings serving breakfast to the early crowd, because that’s where the money is. I have some regulars, mostly those stopping in for a quick bite before work, but a few come in a few times a week seeking company. Refuge. To avoid loneliness. Like Joan.
I only became acquainted with Joan after I spilled a cup of tea at her feet — the impeccable plum heels, ruined, but she assured me it was nothing to be upset over. After my cheeks downgraded to a subtle shade of pink from the fiery red sparked by my embarrassment, she places her hand on my forearm as I sop up the mess and says dear, these are replaceable, you mustn’t worry yourself over spilled tea. While I prepare her a fresh cup in the back, I let myself have a small cry. Carefully, I arrange lemons, sugar cubes, and a small carafe of cream on a tray.
Deep breath. Time to get back to it.
Every day for the last six months, Joan comes in for her morning English breakfast tea and blueberry scone. Sometimes, she switches it up and gets something seasonal, like our famous fresh baked pumpkin muffins only available in October.
I learn about her life — twice a widow and a former librarian, life-long resident of Boston. Like me. We don’t have much in common, but a couple of those things are a little too spot on. I sometimes share bits and pieces of my own life, careful to not mention the toxic environment I escaped a couple of years ago. After all this time, I’m still looking over my shoulder. I try not to complain about my struggles to pay rent on time, but near the end of the month she always asks if there’s anything I need. I politely decline, saying I’ll figure it out, I always do, and after she finishes her tea, she tips me well. Every so often she extends the invite to join her book club, which meets at the bookstore down the street. If I had the time, I always say with regret. She understands and says if I change my mind, I know where to find her.
Except I don’t, really — I just know she comes in here daily and goes to the bookstore after. I suppose I could find her if I was able to leave earlier than noon, but I’m usually here until at least two.
And one day, she stopped coming in.
I don’t even realize it she until it was three days, four… two weeks… three… since I last saw her. I ask Ella if I can leave early a few times to head to the bookstore, but I don’t see her there either. Maybe she finally took the trip to South Carolina to visit an old friend. What if she’s sick? She doesn’t have family here. Then I begin to realize I don’t know much more about her outside these little things. I can only hope she’s alright, that she will visit again, and hopefully soon.
But she never does.
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A few weeks later, I find out Joan died only because I receive a letter at the cafè, from an attorney’s office. Ella is sure I am in some kind of trouble, but I assure her I’m clean and haven’t done anything more than jaywalk in the last year. I rip the letter open and read they want me to schedule a visit with them to discuss a matter in person. Ella hands me the phone to dial the number and closes the office door behind her.
“Hello, thank you for calling Miller Jamison Levitt, how can I help you?”
“Um,” I stammer. “I… I received a letter from Mr. Jamison requesting I schedule a meeting?”
“Sure, and what’s your name, miss?”
I give her my name and say “the sooner the better, I guess?”
“Mr. Jamison can see you this afternoon at three, will that work?”
At two, I’m walking out of the cafe and at two forty-five, I’m in an elevator bound for the eleventh floor. A blonde woman greets me as I enter the office and invites me to sit in the waiting area.
“Mr. Jamison will see you now,” she says, holding open the door to a long hallway.
She escorts me to a conference room and offers me a bottle of water, instructs me to have a seat, and says the attorney will be in shortly.
The clock ticks, loudly, and I try to keep calm. I hope with all my might it’s not about my past life.
He enters and shakes my hand, asks me if I’m doing well. I laugh nervously and say it depends. He sits down in the chair across from me and asks to see my identification. I hesitate but ultimately relent, digging it out of my wallet and sliding it across the table.
He appears satisfied, slides it back, and opens the folder in front of him, and hands me a sheet of paper.
I stare at it, confused. “Is… is this real?” I ask, unable to swallow the information that lies before me.
“Yes, miss, Joan was clear with her wishes. She told me how much she enjoyed your conversations.”
“There must be some mistake,” I say, trying to control my trembling hand. I should have had a drink before I came in.
“This is real, and there is no mistake, she left you the townhouse on Acorn Street. All you need to do is sign here.”
Taking the pen from him, I sign my name. Then, he hands me a set of keys. “I can’t speak to the condition of the home, but everything there is now yours, including the blue Volvo which can be unlocked with these,” he says, handing me a key fob. He says he is sure it’s parked on Chestnut or Cedar. He shuffles through a few sheets of paper before continuing. “Ah, here we go. You’ll find the title to the car in the top drawer of the desk in the study. Anything else you need to know and what Joan left is in this,” he says as he hands me a sealed envelope, “and with that, you’re all set.”
He senses my hesitation.
“I know this might be a lot, and I am very sorry for your loss. I can assure you, Joan was of sound mind when she made this decision.”
I know better than to ask the questions that were begging to escape my lips, so I simply nod, take the keys and paperwork from his extended hand, and thank him for his time. He escorts me to the lobby and I exit the office, still in disbelief.
Back in the heart of Beacon Hill, I turn on to Cedar and press the button on the key fob to find the Volvo. There she is, parked near the end of the block. The interior is spotless. I wonder how long it has been sitting, just waiting for Joan? I take a peek in the glovebox and find another sealed envelope, which I take before locking the car again.
I slowly walk up the cobblestone street to the — my — house. It doesn’t feel real. I don’t belong here. I worry I’m being watched, so I try to enter as quickly as possible. The key slides into the lock effortlessly and I walk inside, gently closing the door behind me. Before I look around, I open the envelope from the car to find the registration and a short note.
Hello dear, if you are reading this, then Steve Jamison gave you the keys. I hope you’re reading this while standing your new home. I could never thank you enough for simply being a bright spot of my day, lending an ear to listen, and for your company. You made this lonely old woman’s last days quite lovely. Please, make yourself at home, and should you ever need anything, contact Steve. He’ll know how to help.
A tear rolls down my cheek as I walk through the first floor of house, looking at the photos on the walls. There are boxes in the living room, packed and sealed tight with names scrawled across the cardboard. I pass framed accolades and wilted flowers, dust-laden credenzas with intricate antiques, and heavily packed bookshelves (with an impressive collection, might I add). I make my way to what I think is the study, where I find a mahogany desk. I open the top drawer that Mr. Jamison mentioned and find the title, as he indicated I would, and a folder of paperwork that outlines contacts for utilities and other house-related items… and a reminder that this is my home now, and I can do whatever I want with it so long as I feel safe here. She really thought of everything, I think.
When I enter the kitchen, there is another envelope waiting for me. I tear into it to find a check… and I crumble to the floor. The tears begin to fall and I clutch the thin piece of paper, made out to me with an amount I cannot believe, between my hands. I think, now is a good time as any to press that reset button I’ve been chasing and never look back.
I guess do belong here, after all.
Photo credit: Getty/Sean Pavone