Marci thumbed through the pile of manuscripts. Bad text choice, that title is terrible, and the surname alone cries DORK, Oh, this one sounds promising. She proceeded to spend the best part of the three hours after her two-hour, three-cocktail lunch deciphering the story arc of a dystopian, science fiction novel, occasionally peering over the top of her leopard print Warby Parker progressive lenses at the bland modern architecture of the Goldman Sachs building across from the glass on her floor.
A smile crawled across her burgundy lips. Knowing the ways of men, she was sure if she bedded that disgusting pile of humanity that controlled her floor she would be in line for a corner office, or at least an office with a view over central park. Laying down the chunk of bleached white paper, Marci sighed and smiled, sipping her gourmet white chocolate latte, delivered to her cubicle just as she sat down at her desk. She glanced at the photo propped up next to her flat screen. Pepper stared back in perpetual delight, lips in a slight curl. The blue eyes of the purebred Siamese were a shade lighter than her Caribbean Ocean irises.
"Hey, Marci!" A familiar voice rose over the din of office banter.
"Hi, Julian." His stiff suit stood out like his pathetic resume. Why they hired depressed, mid-major near dropouts like him perplexed her. He had been trying to get in her pants for the last six months. She honestly didn't even want to take off her Jimmy Choos in the filthy broom closet he called an apartment.
“I'm going to Chan's after work, you wanna grab something to eat?” His dark pupils dangled over an upturned nose that belied his feral Midwest upbringing.
Marci tried to hide her huff as she took him down again, “My Mom is not doing well. She is in the hospital again with heart issues. I really need to go see her after work.”
“Maybe next time?” His wink as he turned away made her want to stick a spoon down her throat like a bulimic teenager.
The afternoon chugged away as Marci devoured the manuscript. It glimmered with sparks of promise. Striking all the right cultural notes, it didn't feature tired nuclear family archetypes and straight folks more numerous than those in the U.S.A. Republican fundraiser.
She stamped it with her junior editor's red mark of approval. Throwing the others in the slush basket she placed the one with some shine in the top basket on the shelf. Her manager would scoop it up in the morning with the others and deliver it to the Chief, as he liked to be called. This was no tribe, but one had to respect the hierarchy.
Marci dug a finger into the back of her comfy flats and slid them into their spot under her desk. How many people get to take off their pumps at work? The thought of her last ten years settled in. Ivy League, yet she was the last true blood in her family. Her brother dying as an unwed young man put pressure on her. Dad was gone as well. Only her deathly sick Mother stood in the way of a family fortune that was amassed for four generations in the Big Apple. She wasn't ready to lose Mother, yet the thought of buying an entire floor tantalized her. An editor's salary in New York City wouldn't even cover the cost of a studio apartment. Thankfully, she had her Grandma's promise. If she could stay employed and not end up preggers by some blue-collar loser, the family trust would pass to her.
The subway cars raced through the bowels of a corrupt yet comfortable city. Marci had the number of the hospital room burned in her mind. Thoughts of power of attorney and other end-of-life decisions bounced in her consciousness. Her Mom's last words on the phone lingered, “Don't worry Marci, everything will be as it should.”
Striding up to the receptionist at the front desk and adjusting the Gucci handbag on her shoulder, Marci heaved a breath and spit out the room number.
“I'm sorry, Ma'am, your Mother passed a few hours ago. The Coroner has her body, we just need you to sign a release.” The words thudded into her, and she felt the warmth drain from her face.
“What happened? I thought... I thought she had a mild heart attack.”
“You will receive a report from the attending physician in the mail, just sign the release.” The receptionist's brown angled eyebrows arched over her glasses as she slid the paper across the desk and handed Marci an ink pen.
Marci signed with a flourish, practicing in case she should ever have the luxury of autographing her own books.
“Thank you. Look for correspondence in the mail. Your Mother made a note, she suggested you contact Mister Finkelstein. Does that ring a bell?” The woman wrinkled her nose, brushing it with a knuckle.
A family attorney, Ari Finkelstein, held the legal papers for a couple generations of her family. She remembered the promise from her Grandma, they would schedule a private meeting and read the Legal Will after the funeral.
Any funeral was a sad affair, friends and family members metered out hugs and condolences. The catered event smelled of lavender and brisket. The showing of her Mother's body cascaded into an endless embrace and fake love fest with innuendos of 'We are owed something!' In her mind these vultures weren't owed any more than a thank you card or a free snack and drink.
Graveside was handled by the funeral home, it was all over except for the reading of the Will. Tripping to the attorney's office the following day felt surreal like some unfinished business was bulging in the atmosphere, waiting to birth itself onto the planet. Ari adjusted his spectacles watching as Marci brushed past the secretary, sitting on the edge of an overpriced office chair.
“Your Mother wanted you to be here at this moment. Are you ready to break the seal on the Will?”
“Yes.” Marci let it slip in an almost orgasmic tone. The culmination of her heritage was here.
Ari twisted his eyeglasses as he sliced the seal and began reading, “To my only daughter Marci, I leave the wealth of our family's experience, the accumulation of our generational knowledge, the weight of our preponderance. I leave her the tidy sum of $1000.00 dollars. The rest of my wealth is to be evenly divided between The Humane Society of the United States and The Metropolitan Museum Of Art in the beloved city of our heritage.” Ari folded the paper up as his lips curled in a final smirk.
Marci caught her breath, shuddering, “There must be a mistake. The family trust was to go to me! Is there, not an addendum? You must be mistaken, Ari. You know as well as I how this was supposed to end.”
“It is my duty to execute the Will. Your Mother was adamant, we met over the past months. You know how she admired her pet and the Met.”
“I want to contest. This is unfair!”
“You can take me to court, unfortunately, the fact that she left you SOMETHING, undermines your case. You will lose and be out the legal fees atop the lack of inheritance. I'm sorry Marci, the law is the law.”
Marci wandered down the hall of the law office, dumbstruck and numb. The weekly checks from Mom would end, and the soft pillow of the family trust evaporated. The immediate reality of an $8,000 dollar per month rent charge hung like an albatross on her neck. With a sub-100 K salary, she would be fortunate to make it a few months on her savings. Suddenly the subway fare seemed steep, and the thought of a latte on the way home disappeared.
“Her iPhone lit up, a text message from Julian. 'My lease runs out this week. Wanna meet somewhere? I'm looking for a new neighborhood.'
Settle, for god's sake it was an option. At the moment, settling sounded much better than being homeless. Her finger hovered over the send button, in what seemed to be giant letters the word 'O.K.' hovered on the screen.