Someone Lost, Something Gained



Veda blinks slowly in the glow of the street-lamp pouring in through the window. The hours have dragged on since she got home, but time means nothing any more. Her stomach growls for the first time since she got home. She knows she should eat. Moving without Granddad… it’s impossible.

Eventually, though, she pushes herself to her feet and sways as blood rushes through her body. She drops back down onto the couch, tucking her head between her knees, until the world steadies around her once more. There is no need to turn on the lights while she makes her way to the kitchen; Veda has walked through this house hundreds of times over the years, can pinpoint the position of the furniture, even in the dark.

She throws together a quick sandwich then eats it standing at the counter. The freezer is full of casseroles and lasagnas, the fridge just as stocked with meals she can reheat easily, but any extra effort is too much right now. She loves her neighbours and truly appreciates their generosity. The food simply reminds her that this generosity is only coming because of Granddad’s death.

It isn’t until she reaches the foyer that she remembers she never unpacked. A piece of paper flutters from the side pocket of her carry-on when she picks it up, and Veda stares down at the white rectangle on dark wood. Setting the bag aside, she crouches down. Black ink against white, the phone number stares back at her.

She had forgotten about Niall giving this to her before everything went to Hell. The paper crinkles as she lifts it from the floor, and she sucks her bottom lip between her teeth as she stands again.

He’d said he’s a good listener, gave her his number so she could reach out if she needed to. Should she? God, it would be great to not be alone, but they don’t know each other. He may have told her practically his entire life story. A friendship, though, it doesn’t make.

With a sigh, Veda decides to save the number - just in case - though she doesn’t send a message. She can’t latch onto him simply because he showed her a kindness. She tucks the receipt back into the pocket of her luggage then carries the bag up the three flights of stairs to her bedroom.

Veda settles into the armchair in Granddad’s room, curls into herself with the sleeves of her sweater pulled down over her hands. Everything is as it always has been - overstuffed bookcase with dozens of books spread around once the shelves ran out of room. The closet is lined with clothes, hanging neatly on their hangers in no discernible order except for “tops” on the left and “bottoms” on the right. Photographs hang on the walls, the frames coated with a thin layer of dust but the glass wiped clear. Papers and manuals clutter up the desk in the corner, an organisation system only he knows.

Knew, she corrects herself mentally, and finally, the dam breaks.


Monday morning comes too quickly. Somehow, the hours have melted away with Veda spending almost all of them in the chair. She’d only moved to use the toilet. Patrice had come by early on Saturday, forcing Veda to eat a small meal, but then she left. Veda was grateful for the silence. Conversations are too hard.

All she wants to do today is sleep. Maybe then she can wake up to this all being an awful dream. Maybe she can dream the last four months out of existence. Maybe she won’t be left alone with so much responsibility on her shoulders.

Veda draws in a steadying breath, tightens her grip on the file folder in her hand, and pulls open the door. The receptionist tells her to have a seat, that Mister Hunt will be ready for her in just a minute. Veda nods, but she remains standing.

“Miss Mitchell? Hi, Duncan Hunt. Come on in.”

Veda follows the white-haired lawyer into his office, sits when he gestures for her to do so. He settles into the wingback chair behind his desk, sighing softly as he gets more comfortable; once done, he links his fingers together and leans forward across his desk.

“I assume you’ve been left in charge of an estate?”

“Uh, yeah,” Veda croaks. She clears her throat and holds out the folder. “My grandfather. He passed on Friday, and I just wanted to make sure the will he left behind was valid and can’t be contested.”

Mister Hunt chuckles, reaching for the folder. “Your relatives not gonna like it?”

“They get nothing.”

The estate lawyer pauses, gaze darting from the papers to Veda’s face, then he slowly sets the file on his desk. Shifting again, he scratches at his forehead, and Veda wants to scream for him to get on with it.

“Miss Mitchell, I can tell you now that if this will is indeed valid and your relatives do indeed inherit nothing from his passing, it is going to be very ugly for you. I’ve been doing this for over thirty years, and I have yet to see a situation like this be resolved peacefully. Are you prepared for that?”

Veda dips her chin - of course, she’s prepared for this. She’s had her entire life to be prepared for the ugliness that is her family. She clenches her hands into fists on her lap, steeling her spine. Mister Hunt seems to understand that she’s not willing to discuss it further. Instead of saying anything else, he picks up the will and reads over it.

“I can’t see any reason why this would be found invalid, Miss Mitchell,” he announces after thirty minutes. He blinks rapidly before meeting her gaze, though there’s a slight unfocused daze to his hazel eyes.

“Good. That’s good. Uh, can I keep the original here with you?”

He nods, a slow movement to match his pace of speech, and presses a button on his telephone. “Of course, Miss Mitchell. I’ll have Gail make a few copies for you to take with you.”

“Thank you. Uh, how much is your fee?”

“I’m going to waive the fee until after the life insurance is paid out. You’re already going through an incredibly difficult time. As I’ve said, I’ve been on this career path for quite some time and have learnt well enough that this situation doesn’t need to be made more difficult by me hounding you for money.”

“Thanks. Again.”

As soon as Gail hands over the last copy of the will, Veda turns toward the exit. Knowing that her family doesn’t have a leg to stand on is reassuring, but she has no doubts that they will try. All of them, with the exception of Hattie, will do their damnedest to make this even more difficult on Veda.

The only time any of her closest relatives came around was to leech more from Granddad. Money has always been the biggest motivator for their presence, and Veda is damn sure that the prospect of money will have them immediately circling like vultures over roadkill. At least Granddad won’t be able to witness the final destruction of their family.

Hattie is the only one that Veda can never push away. Sweet, dear Hattie who’s beginning to stretch her wings and find out who she really is. Veda has put her trust in the hope that Hattie can keep information to herself, not cave into the demands of their family. So far, Hattie hasn’t let her down. Veda just hates that she can’t tell her cousin the truth right now.

Hattie deserves to know, but Veda can’t bring herself to make that call. Not yet.