Jade sipped her coffee. As she talked to Carole about her fortune—over millions of dollars inherited from some unknown relative—Jade couldn’t help but keep repeating that she felt like it came out of nowhere. Carole just shrugged and shook his head, laughing.
“Well, it would’ve been if I hadn’t known it was from a relative. Maybe I can find him on Ancestory.com. A rich guy in Europe or something!”
Carole took another sip of his hot chocolate, and then looked at her closely. “Can you explain to me again why this is important?”
“So I put the phone down pretty slowly, staring in shock, my jaw on the wooden floorboards of Connie’s and my living room. I just have inherited so much money, I don’t know what to do with it.”
She took a deep breath, and Carole leaned in. “I’m in the middle of Christmas break before finally graduating college and landing my dream job.” She shrugged. “Now that money’s in my life, I can’t just throw my future away. I have to graduate and then get my dream job.” She shifted on the booth and turned to the waiter as he asked her whether she wanted more coffee. Carole looked outside at the Christmas red and green lights decorating the stick-skinny trees.
“No, thank you!”
“Okay!” He walked away, muttering that no one wanted the Supreme Cream Coffee they offered—
“Well, no one wants the government’s so-called gifts!”
After whizzing around and lowering her cupped hands, a grinning Jade rested against her booth’s headboard and flicked her red eyebrows at Carole’s aghast face. “Well, just saying how things are going around here. Don’t want even a liquid interfering in my life.” She crossed her orange freckled arms and rested them on the table. “Right?”
Carole shrugged. “Sure.” He ground it out like he heard it a million times—Jade and her hatred of the government.
“Ooooh. You’re really against this whole new future life, aren’t you?”
“No. I just don’t want to keep talking about it!” He glared at her and continued eating his eggs and ham sandwich. “You’re so funny—”
“It’s not about being funny. It’s about being right. I’m not going to waste my time giving every cent to that stupid organization called the government if I don’t have to. I—”
“Don’t have a choice.” The other redhead spread his long, bare arms. “Look at this place. We don’t have to eat here. Yeah, I sure feel like we do. It’s the only nice place in town. It’s the only sane place in town. The town of Govno. That’s right—Govno. Stands for Government No. Or something like that!” He cracked up, hitting the table. “No government!”
Jade raised her eyebrows and leaned forward.
“…Never gonna be true.” Carole laughed some more, shaking his head.
“Let’s go, Carole. Not hungry anymore.” Jade clambered out of her booth, leaving the coffee for the waiter to dump. If only ruining the government was as easy as trashing some drink at a mediocre diner. She stayed quiet while they walked down the sidewalk back to Jade’s apartment. She shivered as the wind played with her long wispy hair. As cars’ headlights lit them up and then zoomed past on the street beside them, Carole made some small talk. But Jade made a smart comment about the government, and Carole’s sneakers screeched to a halt.
Jade only looked around her.
We’re going to enter a whole new year. The government’s only going to get worse. She bit her lip and looked at the townhouses lined up on the opposite side of the street like those colorful houses glued together in children’s books. And the other diners and a school not much farther away. They—all plastered with metal and revolving doors. You entered with the sound of your voice and you exited by just walking outside. Everything was done for you. You just had to breathe.
She jumped and stopped. “Yeah.” She looked up at him. “Sorry.”
“That’s fine...” His thin voice trailed away.
They continued walking beside each other, shifting closer to the lines of trees segregated every couple blocks of concrete so other people could get by them. Finally, Carole tried whipping up a conversation. “Millions. Multi-millions. You’d think you’d be safe.”
Her voice shook. “Safe? Who’s safe? Government is sagacious. We’ll all roast in the oven by tonight.”
“Don’t be so negative.” He slapped one arm around her as he used the other to hail down a taxi. “Here in Olympia, I think—”
“I’m not negative.” Jade sighed, long and heavy. Carole scrunched his face at her.
“How are you going to get that money you inherited from your…who?”
They stopped in front of a set of stairs going up to her townhouse door. She turned around after climbing the first one. She jerked her sweatshirt shoulders up and down. “I don’t even know where it came from. But I know I got it!” She spread a wide smile.
“Yeah.” A puff of cold air exhaled from his lips. “Anyway, I think we should just trust the system. You know? So much to think about. It becomes a burden!”
Her voice was tight. “But I’ll have to get that money—”
“You need to figure it out.”
Then he jammed his hands in his jean pockets and sulked off towards the waiting taxi, whipping the bang that was in his eyes all the time away. Jade watched the darkness silhouette his tall figure. She shivered when a cold wind sliced her neck, and pounded up the steps. Yanking out her house keys, she jammed one in the door and let herself into the very dark place.
Jade flicked on a light and kicked off her shoes, sauntering into the kitchen. While the onions, Bell peppers and leftover turkey pork loin sautéed in the deep skillet over the glowing red burner, she thought about all that money. What would she do with a multi-million dollar inheritance—give it to the animal shelter down the road?
“I’m just a college senior.” She lifted and shook the pan and then set it down again. “But since it’s an inheritance, I’ll have to do something.”
She sat down with her dinner at her computer to look up ways rich people—especially Hollywood celebrities—give their money away. Clicking the back arrow every time she saw a picture of a beautiful but overpriced mansion or depressed animal desperate for help as it lay behind its prison of a cage, Jade closed her laptop. Can’t I think about that stuff later?
She went to ravage the pantry and cupboards. Plucking something off the high shelf, Jade tore it open, headed for the big leather couch and cordless, remote control less TV that—at the literal blink of an eye—turned on or off as well as to the desired channel. The front door’s knob shook some, and then the door’s creaking was followed by heavy footsteps. Jade turned and saw her pink fluffy scarf draped over her maroon jacket and extending almost to her cowboy boots.
“Hey!” She waved and then removed her boots, dropping them next to Jade’s sneakers and then took over the food on the stove.
Don’t need a wave, just the hello. Jade asked her whether she has any suggestions as to what she should do about her inheritance.
She looked in the cupboards. “We have any Lucky Charms? Not in the mood to eat leftovers.”
“I made something. Eat it.”
Turning to the finishing advertisement, Jade fell against her seat. She changed the channel and ignored her roommate’s whine that that commercial was funny. Then sat up straight as someone blabbed about alien-like drones monitoring some parts of southern Olympia. People asked these strange metallic disks what they wanted, and the drones would scan their hands with a green light and then the desired object would appear in their hands. It was electronic magic.
Feet pounded the floor and a double chin dropped as her roommate glued her attention to the interactions between the people below the drones and the drones themselves. “Jade. We gotta get ourselves one of those.”
Jade only narrowed her eyes in disgust. Do I need to spend my money on something (albeit magical) that might just deceive me? She spat that she didn’t need one. “But you can, if you like the government’s stupid merchandise tricking you. Side with it for all I care.”
“I just thought our lives would be easier.”
Jade shrugged. “Not mine.”
Her roommate squinted her blue eyes. “Why do you have to act like that whenever the government pops up? Sure it’s controlling, but it’s not invading this place!”
Jade leaned back against the couch, wiggling into it. “It will. Next year.”
The roommate crinkled her face, but she stopped before Jade could snicker. “You’re just…” She walked away, mumbling under her breath about her inability to voice her opinion whenever Jade got in a mood. She up the stairs. And then closed her door.
Downstairs, Jade burst into hysterics.
A few minutes later, her roommate told her she can stop thinking so hard about something she can just use as a donation gift.
“I’m going to have to travel to this strange county to collect the money! I can’t fly. I—I’m afraid of heights, and what if I crash and never wake up…?” Jade whipped her head over to Connie. She showed her palms to the ceiling and shrugged.
“Don’t know. It’s your money.”
“His house holds the check.”
The roommate smirked. “Then go get it.”
Jade moaned. “I’ll give up my last months of college.”
“You can go back.”
“Easy for you to say!”
“Go get it, Jade.”
“I don’t want to copy others’ monetary goodness.”
The roommate plopped down on the couch, taking up the rest of the leather square on which Jade sat. “You can just donate a small amount to, let’s say, an animal shelter to help them organize it so it’ll break people’s hearts for those poor animals.” She leaned over and wiggled her thick eyebrows. “And it’ll cheer them up for the holidays!”
“Anything will.” Jade shut the TV off with a single word. It’s my money. She sighed heavily. I just want it. “Graduating with my dream job in the future should be happening, not this mess!”
“Well,” the roommate rocked forwards and told her she was going to make some butter popcorn. “You could always pay for my weight loss program.”
“Yeah, by telling you to stop eating fattening foods?” Jade laughed and told her to change her mind about the snack. “That’s okay. Just go to the gym.”
A minute later, Jade leaned over and saw the shaking shoulders of the roommate.
“Geez—I didn’t mean it. You okay?”
“I’ve been the fatso. The heavy one.” She showed a tear-streaked face. “All my life I’ve struggled with my weight. You can encourage me, you know?”
She stormed away, yelling about jerks who never understood her pain. “Especially Jade!”
Jade hopped up and apologized again. She said she didn’t mean it like that.
The roommate whirled around, and Jade stepped back. “No one means for their comments to slice my heart. But they do. Because they’re directed at my physical appearance!”
She jerked around and whipped open the door, Jade calling her to stop. She kept going, out into the cold. Where she said she’d get some peace with the wind kissing her face. Maybe she’d feel some kindness then. Before Jade could lunge at the door handle, the roommate slammed the door, the window banging and about to fall to a thousand shards. But it reformed itself. Jade blinked and stood there. Maybe the window’s breaking is like her feelings. She’s oversensitive. If only she was able to instantly reform herself like the window. Then maybe she’d do something about that struggle of hers.
She then pursed her lips together. Am I that ugly to her? Am I really that focused on myself?
Jade headed for the front door and opened it. The hallway’s light bathed her roommate, and, more importantly, her tear-soaked face.
“Connie, I’m sorry.” She pulled the door shut and ran down the stairs, halting in front of her. “If I go, I’ll have to forfeit my college graduation and maybe never land my dream job! If I don’t, the money will go to one of his or her living descendants. I have to get the money because it’s mine—but I don’t want to give up my future.”
“Everyone’s sorry.” She sniffed, wiping a mitten against her round cheeks. “No one sees the true me.”
“I really do. I’m your roommate.”
Connie scrunched her face. “Anyone can live with me!”
Jade thought more carefully about her next answer. “Connie, I’m not living with you because you’re heavy. I’m not here to insult you. I just…” She blinked at the sidewalk.
“Your money’s your friend, not me.” She huffed and told Jade she was going for a walk. “Don’t know when I’ll be back.” She started off, shoving Jade’s hand away and walking briskly down the partially snowy sidewalk, some people looking at her and then down at their glowing iPhones while wrapping their scarfs tighter and pulling their coat collars closer to their necks. Jade shivered while watching her and then headed back inside.
Jade squeezed her hands on the plane so hard her seatmate asked her to calm down. She tried calling her roommate pretty frequently once she landed…
The buzzing woke Jade the next morning. She leaned on an elbow as she took her iPhone from the bedside table and answered it.
“Um…Connie’s ran away. I don’t know where she is.”
Jade’s eyes shot open and jerked upright. “Ran away?” She whipped out of bed and got dressed. “It must be below freezing! Where’d she go?”
“I don’t know.” The sigh hurried Jade. “I don’t know. I need to find her.”
Discussing Connie and Jade’s attempted conversation the past night, Carole drove throughout Olympia with Jade on the phone, calling her name and asking complete strangers whether they’d seen a heavyset girl with a long pink scarf and some cobalt mittens. Nearly everyone said no. Some said they didn’t know a Connie lived here in this city.
Jade kept throwing out areas where Connie might’ve gone until her mouth became dry. Then she slammed herself against the back seat of her taxi.
“What? We’re looking for—”
“Someone who shouldn’t have taken off like that!”
“Oh, sorry to help!”
Jade wanted to scream at him but then climbed out after giving the driver his due money and hurried into the place. In her best way, she apologized and then talked about finding Connie together on her way up the stone steps and towards the huge wooden door.
“Do you mean it?”
“Best friends never lie.”
Carole hung up. Jade glowered at her phone and threw it against the stone porch and then crumpled into a heap, closing her mouth and breathing evenly to resist the scream erupting from her mouth. A second later, she went inside and claimed the inheritance. Then she returned to her hotel with the cracked screen.
Later that night, he told her he actually made some Missing flyers that night and tacked them to every telephone pole with or without lights decorating them. He also sent emails to her boss and co-workers as well as her professors, asking them to please look for her.
The next day, she was bombarded by tourists and residents, asking for her to share a little of her money with the poor. She hesitated at first, and then obliged. But only because they necessitated. She spent the rest of the time reluctantly giving pieces of it away to undesirable people, and grew angry with them so much so that she fought and they told her to get out of their towns. She fled, her nostrils flaring and her feet unable from stomping towards the hotel room after throwing her taxi driver’s money towards him. He told her he’d never driver her again. She had snapped at him and then slammed the door.
“Is she this jaded about others’ rudeness?” She banged her head against her bed’s headboard and closed her eyes. Suddenly, she shot up and grabbed her phone. “Carole, I know where to go. She’ll meet you there.”
He told her he was pulling up to an animal shelter, nearby the McDonald’s where Connie worked. Then he burst into the doors and exclaimed his happiness that Connie was there. She was beaming, holding a puppy.
“Let’s name him Coffee!”
Her pudgy smile spread a smile on Carole’s face, at least, he told her. She just smiled stiffly and jerked a nod. Then in bed, she pushed a genuine smile up on her face and then called her roommate. She apologized, and Connie believed her.
Jade gave her roommate a year’s supply of money, and Connie thanked her again and again, hugging her and even wishing her a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s with recently bought low fat ice cream. But Carole sent her a card of gratitude.
You’re the best friend I could ever wish for and have!
That night before Jade’s big first day at the office, Jade, Connie and Carole all clinked hot cocoa mugs at the diner. And ordered the menu’s special—Supreme Cream Coffee.
In honor of Coffee, Connie’s terrier. As well as Jade’s new career. And Carole and she as officemates.