Falling backward onto the bed in my hotel room, I turn the debit card over and read my name again. My heartbeat squeezes my feet, each thump feeling like hot needles. Why did I wear a new pair of shoes when I knew I’d be walking around all day? I pick up my phone and hold it above me, looking at the calendar, and the pit in my stomach deepens as the deadline stares me in the face. How am I supposed to spend ten million dollars with only a month and a half left? I can’t even make myself rent an apartment for a thousand a month!
My phone vibrates, making me jump and drop it. Rubbing my now sore nose, I slide my finger over the screen and answer it.
“Hello, again, Mr. Caligney.”
“April, I just checked on the bank balances.”
Gulping, I sit up.
“You haven’t even spent a tenth of what you need to, don’t you want what your father wanted you to have?”
“Yes!” Closing my eyes, I groan. “But I don’t really have any idea what to do with it. Give me a cause to start a charity for, and no problem—”
“Your father left behind lots of charities, all of which you’re involved in, and knew they would be well cared for. You and your sister are the concern here. You really don’t have any ideas as to how to spend it?”
I huff. “I was thinking, maybe, real estate? But the houses are either too big or need too much work…”
“What were you going to do with them?”
Rubbing the back of my neck, I take a deep breath. “I wanted to rent them out, to families in need.”
“Really, and how much would you charge them?”
My throat goes dry. “I was thinking each tenant could pay the same percentage of what they make each month. For instance, ten percent. Something that would be affordable, no matter the situation.”
He sighs. “Would you turn a single mother of six away if she only earned, say, a hundred a month?”
“No! Of course not. Only a monster would—”
“Yes, true. You’d have to be heartless, but sometimes those who are business minded must be.”
“True? Sadly, it is. This is why your father worried. I know you, and the house you’d want to charge that mother ten dollars a month for would easily cost you numerous times more than that every day.”
“I’m not stupid—”
“No, but you are naïve.”
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Caligney.” My phone’s case creaks as I think about throwing my phone across the room. “I bet Meredith has blown her money on all sorts of stupid crap, so why don’t you call and congratulate her? I’m sure it’ll make you feel better.”
After a second, I check my phone to make sure the call is still connected. It is. “Mr. Caligney?”
“When was the last time you spoke to your sister?”
I open my mouth, and realize, I don’t remember. Have I talked to her since our fight?
“You know, April, for someone who gives so much to others, you certainly are stingy when it comes to the people you’re supposed to love the most. Your father didn’t set this test up so you and your sister could go your separate ways. He designed it so you two would have to lean on each other. So you would learn from each other.”
My jaw hits the floor and the line goes dead. It really stinks when someone has to tell you what you already knew, but were fighting to not have to admit.
Sucking in a deep breath, I grab my purse and coat.
I ring the doorbell at Dad’s house and the maid answers. With a smile, she asks me to come in and I tell her I’m happy to wait for Meredith here.
The maid tilts her head at me but goes to get my sister anyway.
“To what do I owe this visit?” Meredith says.
My mind blanks. “I’m guessing Mr. Caligney called you today?” I blurt.
“I spoke with him.” She shrugs and crosses her arms.
I glance around, shoving my hands into the pockets of my coat and rock from my heels up onto my toes. “How are you doing with your money?”
“Fine, no thanks to you. Now, are we through with this small talk? I have other things to do.”
She goes to close the door and slams it on my foot as I try to stop her. I wince, and she yelps.
Jerking the door back open, she glares at me. “Why did you do that?”
“I need your help.”
She scoffs. “How on earth can I, a mere mortal, help my saintly baby sister?”
Over her shoulder, I see the hospital bed in the library where dad had spent his last days. All the equipment still perfectly arranged with tubes and wires everywhere and for the first time, I realize what it must have been like for her when everyone had gone home for the night. When Dad refused the nurse’s help. When she was completely alone. Suddenly, the only thing I want to do is run and hide, again.
She follows my eyes, looking back, and swallows.
“You were right,” I say. “I didn’t have to leave when Dad got sick. I chose to.” And I’ll never get that time back. A tear slips down my cheek and I blink to keep control.
She looks at me, her eyes spitting fire, but doesn’t say anything. We stand staring at each other, both daring the other one to speak, just like we always did when we were kids, and for the first time I want to be the one to say something, but I can’t. How do I say how sorry I am?
“I don’t regret what I had to do,” she says.
“I know you don’t, it was the choice you made, and it’s one I’m really grateful for.” Reaching out, I wrap my arms around her and I feel her stiffen. I hug her tighter and the tears pour down my cheeks. “I’m sorry.”
Slowly, I feel her arms close around me.
Thank you all so much for reading! Have a question you’d like to ask April (Or Meredith)? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll be sure to include it in my next character interview.