Dean ate the last potato chip from the plastic packet as he lounged on the couch. He lifted his head and turned the packet upside down, shaking the last of the crumbs in his mouth. Some of the crumbs fell in his unkempt thick beard and he pulled a large piece and put it in his mouth. He knew he was pathetic but he was too tired to care. He unsubscribed from Netflix to save money so he was watching awful quality youtube videos on his large television. Perhaps if he cut his internet and sold the TV he could manage to pay another month’s rent. But if he cut the internet, how would he apply to jobs.
Dean’s phone flashed and he received an email. He opened the email app as his heart raced, expecting a job interview request. His shoulders fell in defeat when he saw the subject line ‘Last words from your favourite aunt’. He would have thrown his phone away but he did not have money to spare for a replacement.
He sighed and opened the email. He could at least entertain himself by reading spam instead of Netflix. The first line said ‘Dear nephew Dean,’ which gave him pause. This scam was more personalized than he thought.
‘You might be wondering who this strange lady claiming to be your aunt might be. I was married to your father’s brother, Richard. He and I were estranged from the family for years. There is no way you remember me nor do I think your family would bring me up. I was supposed to be your favourite aunt Tysha. Even though you were a toddler I knew we would get along. Alas, my (hopefully soon to be ex) husband had a falling out with your father and I decided to support his decision.
I would be lying if I said I thought about you often. Honestly, your family was an afterthought for years. I hope you don’t take it as an insult. I had my own life, a job, my family, friends. But like we both are aware, everyone in that family is toxic. I heard you were recently disowned by the family. So I realized you might probably agree to help me. Call me on the number in my signature; I have a job for you.
I know it will be hard for you to trust a stranger like me. I attached some pictures to this email so perhaps you can trust me some more. I’m hoping to hear from you soon.
Lots of love,
Dean read the email once, then again. He checked the pictures she sent him and realized that these were pictures of his family. The first was of his parents on their wedding day with his uncle and aunt by their side. He stared between the image of his father and his uncle. He looked so similar to them both it ached his heart. His aunt was the aged down version of the profile picture in the email. There was one of a toddler Dean recognized as himself with his aunt carrying him. The third was a family picture of them all with his grandparents. Dean read the email once more and decided to call the number.
Dean sat in the coffee shop, nervous about the meeting. He had a large frappuccino in hand and savoured every sip. Between unemployment and rigid savings, he forgot how good it felt to spend money on frivolous but delicious delights. He needed to thank his aunt for it. When he called and asked to meet in person, she forwarded him some money with no strings attached. Not that she knew, but it saved him from being homeless for at least two more months. So he decided to meet her at least once even if he declined the job. She assured him that he could keep the money she sent him even if he declined the offer.
A woman walked through the door and Dean recognized her as his aunt. Although she barely looked like the picture on her profile. She was the same woman though, only frailer, with sunken cheeks and ashy skin. Dean stood up and put on his best smile.
“Come here,” his aunt said as she extended her arms to hug him. He hugged her back and felt the familiar warmth and joy which came from hugging his own mother. Before she abandoned him, obviously. When she let go of him, Tysha grabbed his face and kissed him on both of his cheeks.
“You’re such a fine young man,” she said. “I wish I could see you grow up.”
Dean smiled, unsure of how to respond. “Should I get you something?” he asked, gesturing at the coffee counter.
“Oh no dear,” Tysha replied. “They mess with my treatment.”
Dean nodded and sat on his chair as Tysha took a seat. She placed her purse on the table and held it protectively.
“What is this job you want to offer me?” Dean asked.
“It’s a onetime thing but don’t worry, it will be completely worth it,” Tysha replied. “I have to tell you about my back-story first.”
“Your uncle and I were content with our marriage,” Tysha continued. “We weren’t happy or fulfilled but we were there for each other. The one thing we fought about was children. I never wanted them and he knew before he married me. He told me he changed his mind after the wedding. I’m glad I never fell for his tricks because I’m sure I would be dumped with kids I never wanted and be forced to sacrifice my career while nothing would change for him.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Dean replied, unsure how to respond. “It looks like all the family does is push their opinions on you.”
“I’m sorry about how you were treated,” Tysha said gently squeezing his hand with her own. “I don’t know the whole story but we heard your parents kicked you out after you came out to them.”
Dean clenched his jaw tightly and nodded his head, doing his best to not cry.
Tysha said, her face twisted in disgust. “Richard went on and on about how your father deserves this punishment. Homophobic pricks, all of them. My thoughts never aligned with him, let me assure you. But times were different when we married and I never thought this would be an issue until it was too late. I have been attracted to women all my life but never did anything about it. My true regret, honestly. I only let myself fall in love with men because life would be easier that way.”
“Yeah, life would be easier if I could fall in love with women as well,” Dean replied. He did not intend to be angry but bitterness spilt out his voice.
“Your family must have given you a hard time, sweety, and I’m sorry for that,” Tysha replied. “But we will be free from them soon, I promise. I just need your help.”
“What do you want?” Dean asked blankly.
“I haven’t finished my story yet,” Tysha replied. “About a year ago, I was diagnosed with cancer.”
Dean gasped, “I’m so sorry.” He blushed as he realized she did not warrant the rudeness at all.
“It’s alright, dear,” Tysha replied with a sad smile on her face. “I had the time to make peace with it. But I did not call you here to offer your sympathies. A few months after the diagnoses, I found out your uncle was cheating on me.”
“That’s so terrible,” Dean said, his jaw dropped. “The prick cheated on you while you had cancer? There is a special place in hell for people like him.”
“Indeed. I’m not sure when the cheating started, but I know he was planning to leave me at my lowest. Fate had other plans for me; while my health did not improve, at least I did not die. I applied for a divorce but he is prolonging the process for as long as possible. I know he’s doing this because if we divorce he will barely receive anything in the settlement, especially if I can prove cheating. So he’s wasting time hoping I die first and he gets to keep all my money.”
“When I thought he couldn’t get any worse,” Dean said. His family’s awfulness showed at the most vulnerable of times. The reason he came out to his parents was because he believed he had a happy family life. They weren’t religious so it did not occur to him that they would be malicious and homophobic enough to kick him out. And while Tysha said she was content with her marriage, her husband betrayed her at her weakest. At the moment, he did not mind being estranged from them. Dean was better off without their toxicity in his life.
“Exactly,” Tysha said. “I will probably die regardless. But the thought of Richard getting my hard-earned money will not let me rest peacefully after I pass. I’d rather burn it all down than have him touch a cent of what is mine.”
“I’m so sorry you have to suffer through that,” Dean replied. “You don’t deserve any of this and he does not deserve any of your money. Is there anything you can do to help?”
Tysha nodded, “here’s where you come in, dear nephew.” Her smile felt unwarranted, almost sinister. “I will pay you some money in advance. And some more after the job is completed. And when I die, you will inherit everything I own.”
Dean was nervous but he had to do this to secure his own future. The amount in his aunt’s bank account was huge and he could live the rest of his life comfortably without having to work. He had nothing else to lose although there was a slight chance he could be in legal trouble if recognized. He barely left his house in months and his hair was uneven and thick. His beard was wild and overgrown. He knew no one would recognize him, let alone his uncle he has not seen in twenty years. Just to be safe he wore contacts, a thick pair of glasses, straightened the hair on his head and beard. He bleached his beard a little to make it lighter and pressed a fake tattoo on his arm. His heart was racing as he entered the restaurant.
“I am here to see Richard Williams,” Dean said in a voice deeper than his own. He practised it all week so now it seemed natural.
“This way, sir,” the hostess said. Dean followed her and in a distance, he noticed his uncle, laughing next to a much younger woman who looked completely out of his league. Dean balled his fist; it was too late to back out now.
“Sorry sir, let me bring you a chair,” the hostess said and left.
“How dare you!” Dean screamed at his uncle. He knew this intimate dinner party was to celebrate his uncle’s recent engagement. The entire party stopped and looked at Dean, confusion clear on their face. “You blocked my number, completely ignore me, and don’t think I would find you. How stupid do you think I am?”
“I’m sorry sir, who are you?” His fiancé asked.
“Who am I?” Dean asked. “I’m your sugar daddy’s boyfriend.”
The gasps around the table were like music to his ears.
“What?” Richard stood up instantly, the chair he was sitting on tipped over and fell on the floor. His fiancé was slow to stand up but she clung to him a moment later.
“What’s going on, Richard?” she asked, her voice sweet and melodic.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” Dean said, doing his best to sound slurry as if he was drunk. He pointed at Richard. “I have been in a relationship with this man for two years. He made me all sorts of promises and excuses. I can’t meet his family because they are estranged. I can’t meet his friends because they won’t understand our love. I knew he was married but I was blind.”
Dean could not hold back laughter so he covered his face with his large hands and pretended to cry.
“Enough of this,” Richard said, his face red and scrunched up. He screamed at a waiter close to him. “Get this man out of here.”
Dean had to do this quickly, “You said you would leave your wife for me, but then she got cancer and you decided to stay with her. It broke my heart but I understood. But then I find out from Jason that you left your wife and are shacking it up with another woman. Does your ex-wife even have cancer or did you make that up?”
“Sir,” a deep voice behind him said, grabbing his arm tightly. “You need to leave.”
“Give me one second,” Dean hiccupped before he replied, without looking at the restaurant staff who grabbed him. Dean could not turn around yet because he had to avoid his face being captured by the camera recording them.
The guests on Richard’s table were staring between Richard and Dean in disbelief while Richard was whispering to his mistress who looked like she wanted to kill him on the spot.
“You can keep him,” Dean told Richard’s mistress. “He left his sick wife, I’m sure he will drop you without hesitation for someone younger.”
Dean turned around and walked out of the restaurant. He quickly entered the car rented by his friend and drove away. As he left, he saw his friend leave the restaurant as well, hopefully with the recording of the conversation with her.
‘With a heavy heart, I have to announce that my beloved Aunt Tysha passed away last week.
I will be honest; we reconnected only recently. Our families had been estranged since I was a baby so I never grew up around her. Although after meeting with her I wish I did. Sometime after she was diagnosed with cancer and about a month before her divorce, she reached out to me for support. I did not remember her at all but I decided to meet her because I desperately needed acceptance after my family rejected me when I came out to them. We offered each other the much-needed support and I am happy I was able to spend some time with her before she passed. She was a kind-hearted and brave woman and she did not deserve the hardships life put her through.
Aunt Tysha, I pray for you to finally rest in peace,
With lots of love from your favourite nephew.’
The post had been up for about an hour and already gathered about a hundred messages offering condolences.
The sound of notifications was interrupted by a call. As expected, his father did not give up on calling him even after he ignored calls from his family for the past week. They found out that Dean inherited everything from Tysha. Predictably, they started to swarm around him like flies. The neighbours at his old apartment told him they saw his mother around, harassing the new tenets. He assumed they must have also gone to look for him at Tysha’s old home. Luckily, his aunt was a smart woman and predicted the outcome so she sold the house. Dean inherited that money along with everything else so he could now purchase a home of his own anywhere. In the new apartment, Dean recollected the events after the fateful night of his performance.
The first thing Dean did after returning home was to wash and trim his hair and shave his beard. His friend posted snippets of the fight on various anonymous social media accounts as if it was some random fight she witnessed. Over the next few weeks, Tysha and Dean spoke to their friends about each other and posted pictures of their meetings on their social accounts. Dean did not understand why, but Tysha explained this was to ensure he could prove an established relationship in case Richard tried to claim the will was fake. Tysha also made sure to tell her friends she was leaving almost everything to Dean so they could back him up. Within a month of the incident, Dean ‘stumbled’ upon the videos his friend posted and forwarded them to Tysha. Over text, they discussed as if this was not premeditated and Tysha forwarded the video to her lawyer.
While Tysha could not prove the affair began before the separation, video proof of him being confronted by a third party was enough to get Richard shaking. Tysha sent him new terms of divorce to ensure it would not go to court. Richard knew no one would believe him if he denied being gay. Richard hired a private investigator to find the man who accused him of the affair and sue him for the lie but he found nothing. The social media accounts took down the videos upon his request. But he knew if the proceedings went to court, the video would be presented as evidence and it would resurface socially. And the homophobic prick would rather be divorced for being a cheater than have people assume he was gay. So he signed the papers quickly and left the marriage unable to claim any of Tysha’s assets.
Dean also remembered the day Tysha told him the plan. He was nervous and terrified but she was kind to him. As much as he initially did not want to do it, he was glad he went through with the plan. While he did it because he was desperate and the fat bank account was tempting, he ended up meeting a wonderful woman. Aunt Tysha was family to him when he was abandoned by his own blood, and even after her death, she was the only family he would ever need.