My Mom inherited a fortune when my father died, some two million dollars along with a large estate out in West Texas. She lived there on her own for the remaining years of her life, caring for my younger sister.
You see, she’d fallen from a tree when she was eight and was rendered comatose. For her entire life, she was hooked up to machines and kept in the mansion, where she was looked after by my mother. Maria was the baby of the family and looked after with the love and devotion that I never received. I guess I still held it against her a little.
This is all conjecture and random information that doesn’t matter, except for the fact that Mom died last week. Now, here I am, sitting in a cramped office waiting for her lawyer to come in to tell me that my mother had donated all of the money to charity just to spite me.
We didn’t get along.
So when the lawyer came in and smiled, telling me that I was the sole beneficiary of the estate, you could say I was a little surprised. Did she just not write a will? I mean, I know her death had been sudden, her heart stopping in an awful attack, where she was found by the nurses that took care of my sister the next morning. I didn’t think she’d made a will, and I’d doubted I would have received anything.
“So I get the fortune? And the estate?” I asked, raising my eyebrows as I looked at the reed-thin man in his two-piece business suit.
“On the proviso that you move in and take care of your sister,” the lawyer said, shrugging as he pulled a few sheaf’s of paper to show me what he meant. “See here, she stated that you are to be the beneficiary so long as you care for your sister.”
“She gets handled by nurses still correct?” I asked, knowing this man would know full well, as my mother used him for setting up all of her bills.
He nodded. “Yes, twice a day. For about five years, there were live-in nurses, but they never stayed.”
“So all I have to do is be there in case of an emergency then,” I asked.
“Basically,” the lawyer agreed, sitting down behind his desk. “If you agree to any of this just sit down and sign here, and here. You’ll have three days to move in, or the estate will be forfeited.”
“I brought most of what I belong with me, so I’ll just let the stuff in Boston run its course,” I said with a smile, kicking my backpack at my feet.
“Well then let me drive you out to the property,” the lawyer said.
I fell in love with the estate as soon as I saw it, the three-story gothic home set against a hill that I remembered from when I’d grown up. My mother hadn’t let me outside much, because of what had happened to my sister Maria. I walked up the wide stairs and opened the door, walking into the parlor where a full bar was built into the rustic stylings. The lawyer laughed and, after fixing us both a drink, I looked over the paperwork of what I would have to do to live here for the rest of my days.
The lawyer would take out the necessary taxes once April rolled around and with my sister I now had a dependent, her Power of Attorney paperwork being turned over to me. I met the day nurse and the night nurse, both lovely young women who had keys to the house. Finally, I bid the lawyer adieu and wandered up the stairs to look in on my little sister.
Time had not been kind, with the body of a grown woman but none of the curves. Her skin was sallow and wrinkled, with jutting bones and one arm longer than the other, curled into a feral claw up to her chest. She had hair, stringy blonde strands that came from the top of her head in grayish clumps. Jackie, the night nurse, explained the machines to me and what I should expect if anything were to go wrong.
“If you hear an alarm, come in here right away and see if you can help her. Sometimes her body rejects the feeding tube and begins to involuntarily throw it up.” Jackie explained, shaking her head. “If it’s anything else just call the emergency line and you’ll get someone out here right away.”
“Alright, well,” I said as I turned and looked down at Maria’s rigid form. “It’s been great seeing you after all these years Maria, I’ll be in the room next door, so say anything if you need me.”
Jackie let out a mirthless laugh as I brushed past her and back to the parlor, where I made myself another Long Island Iced Tea and settled into the couch. About thirty minutes later Jackie came downstairs and informed me that she was going.
“So wait, you just come and change her diaper and fluids then go?” I asked, somewhat surprised.
“We do a few more things than that, but yes, we’re not paid to stay here all night,” Jackie explained.
“Oh, well I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night,” I said with an easy smile.
Jackie nodded and headed out through the front door, locking it herself. I finished off my drink and made myself another, turning up the volume on the John Wayne movie I was watching. I hadn’t seen this one in years (mostly because I’d been flat broke and never could afford cable) so I was enjoying myself when I thought I heard something. Muting the TV, I listened and waited until I heard it again.
The tinkling of broken glass, coming from the back of the house. Rushing behind the bar to grab a knife, I began checking the rooms for signs of intrusion, but to no avail. When I finally checked on Mar in her room, I found her in the exact same position, her pelvis turned wrong with one leg withered and one arm longer than possible. But as I shut the door, I stopped when I noticed the framed photo sitting on the floor across from her, the glass broken out from the picture frame.
Turning on the light, I knelt down and picked it up, to see a picture of me and Maria standing together by an old oak tree, possibly the one she fell out of. It was old, back from when we were kids. We looked so happy than before Dad left and Mom started boozing it up. She was hugging me around the waist while I held her upper body, both of us smiling semi-toothless grins.
A sudden choking noise caught my attention, over as soon as it began really, making me look up at Maria’s prone form. Looking at the picture frame and Maria, I put two and two together… Nah! She couldn’t have knocked this down! She was crippled, confined to a bed for Christ’s sake. I went and fetched a broom and cleaned up the mess and set the photo back on the shelves across from her, before turning out the light and leaving the room alone save for the beeping of machinery.