The Only Chapter
Dark clouds were on the horizon, hovering over the far trees of the park. The rest of the sky burned a bright orange as the sun was setting on a late August day. Sitting on my favorite bench, I watched a squirrel scurry up a nearby tree, as if he too anticipated the storm.
A warm breeze brushed across my face, pulling me out of my thoughts. Tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear, I checked my watch. Abigail was never late, and today was no exception.
“Big cousin!” a voice chirped out, just as the hands reached two o’clock. I smiled at the nickname. Two-year-old Abigail had trouble pronouncing her four-year-old cousin’s name, so Big Cousin it was. It still stuck eighteen years later.
“Hi Abs,” I said, standing up to hug her – a fairly awkward task as she was holding two cups of coffee from our favorite cafe.
“Two shots of espresso, just the way you like,” she said, handing me my cup. “Careful though, it’s pipin’ hot.” Sitting back down, I removed the lid to let the coffee cool a bit, and savored the warm scent of the steam.
“How was your summer?” I asked. “Excited for school?”
“Ugh,” she said, plopping down next to me. “I still have a week left of freedom, let’s not ruin it with talk of college. Seriously, I have no idea how you survived four years of this without pulling all your hair out.” I almost did. Several times.
“It’s only two more years,” I said instead, trying to feign excitement. “Someone like you can do that standing on your head.” It was true. Abigail was always smiling, happy to talk to anyone about anything. She was probably the kindest, open minded soul there was.
Abigail waved a dismissive hand as she sipped her coffee. “How have you been since, well, everything?” she asked, wiping foam from the corners of her mouth. The last time I saw Abs was June, at our Gram’s funeral – just three days after my graduation ceremony. My parents and I got back to the house, my mom teary-eyed and smiling. She was placing my tassel on the mantle when we got the call.
“It’s been tough,” I answered, sipping my coffee. Surprisingly, it was still pretty hot. The tip of my tongue burned slightly. “Mom’s been pretty distant,” I continued, ignoring the pain and watching the storm clouds roll closer. “My dad is trying his best to be supportive for my mom and happy for me, but to quote the great Hermione Granger, he has the emotional range of a teaspoon.” Abigail let loose a fluttery laugh. “It’s been the same at my house,” she said, fiddling with the watch on her wrist that was identical to mine. A Christmas gift to us from Gram herself. “But I guess we can’t really blame our moms. I couldn’t imagine losing a parent so out-of-the-blue like that.” I nodded, trying another sip of my coffee. I winced as it not only burned my tongue, but the roof of my mouth.
“Speaking of,” she started, eyes wide. “I still can’t believe she was sitting on nearly a million dollars. I guess I have to get better at understanding stocks,” she chuckled, shaking her head.
“What I can’t believe,” I said, “is that she named us her primary beneficiaries. Four hundred and ninety thousand dollars? I can pay back my student loans right away and still have enough to travel. That’s every college grad’s dream.” We watched a family walk past us, parents hand in hand with their toddler running as fast as he could in front of them. “Although, nothing would compare to having Gram back,” I sighed. Abigail nodded solemnly with a sad smile on her lips. She was probably the closest to Gram out of all of us, including our mothers. Almost every Sunday, she would sit in a chair next to Gram’s bed, and they would talk for hours about everything from school to extraterrestrial life. I joined in a few times, but the way they spoke together – it was their own little world, and I didn’t want to disturb them.
“What are you going to do with your share?” I asked, sipping on my coffee, wincing yet again. The clouds were above us now.
“Oh, I’ll probably buy a motorcycle to **** off my dad. Aren’t girls my age supposed to do that?” I laughed, knowing full well Abigail wouldn’t do a thing to make her Dad worry. I gave my coffee one last try. It burned all the way down my esophagus and into my belly.
“Jesus,” I said, rubbing the column of my throat in attempt to soothe the pain. I was about to ask Abigail if she was experiencing similar troubles when she said, “There’s something I should probably tell you, Big.” She was messing with her watch again. Her tone shifted slightly, from the usual carefree flow to a slightly clipped sharpness.“My mom got off the phone with Gram’s lawyer last night. There was a change in her will.” I was listening as best I could, but black spots started clouding my vision, and what felt like bubbles of fire started eating away at my stomach.
“Abs -” I started.
“Turns out,” she continued, ignoring me. “Gram had a change of heart. All of the money, all nine hundred and eighty thousand dollars, are going to you. It seems she felt like you deserved every penny for all of your hard work at school. I’m not getting anything.”
Everything was on fire now. “Abs, I’ll… I…” I thought I felt rain.
“You’re rich, Big. At least for the next minute or so.”
“Abs…” I was disintegrating from the inside out. “Abigail…” I tried to find her kind eyes through the spots, but all that was looking back at me was ice and stone.
“Help!” she wailed, her hateful expression unchanging. “My cousin! She -”
Everything went black.