"Earth to Henry." Marion cut into my thoughts.
She waved her hand in front of my face.
I clearly was someplace else.
I blinked a few times and returned to the moment. I caught the look she was giving me.
"What? So I had to think, you never just do that?"
She smiled at me. I smiled right back.
"Sure I guess sometimes, there's never a dull moment with you.
More coffee?" She inquired.
"Yes, please. I think I'm going to need it today. Did you cancel my ten thirty?" Marion was already at the door, she faced me.
"I took care of it already. Try and relax Henry. You seem stressed."
She shut the door to my office and I immediately thought back to the morning. I heard my alarm but refused to get out of bed. The dream I was having was just too good.
"Henry its me. Henry, look at me. You will see me."
She was a stranger that much was true. She was beautiful. I would never forget a face like that. Long dark hair, pale skin, thin lips and dark eyes. No maybe they were blue. Try as hard as I can to remember but I was losing her face. In a few hours she would be gone. Who was she?
I let out the breath I was holding. Get back to work. You have way too much work to be staring off into space. Marion returned with my coffee. She set it down on the corner of my desk.
"Marion, if I described someone to you do you think you might remember them?" I asked her.
"I guess I could try. A client?" I shook my head.
"No, I mean I don't think so. A woman. She was pretty with dark hair, dark brown it might've even been black. I know she was slender she had thin lips and I think she had brown eyes. Any ideas who she might be?"
A gigantic smile spread across her face. I took this as an acknowledgement from her.
"She could be the woman you've been waiting for. Is that why your acting so strange?"
"No. Think please. Does she sound familiar to you?"
"I'm sorry but no. I have no idea who she is. Have you opened your mail yet? The top one is from a lawyers office. You being sued?"
" I sure hope not. But the way my luck has been who knows? Marion thanks."
She nods and leaves me alone again. I reach for my cup have a mouthful of coffee and then face my computer monitor. I need to get back to work.
I begin to read what's on the screen but I just cant seem to concrete.
I glance over at the pile of mail. Lawyers office huh?
I reach for the top envelope and read the return address.
"Might as well get it over with." I take my letter opener and glide it through the seam that holds the envelope together. Then I pull the paper out and begin to read the lawyers words.
Dear Mr. Walsh,
I have been retained by the Mills family in regards to the estate of the late Mrs. Winifred J. Mills. The family wished for me to contact you. It appears you are the sole beneficiary to your Great Aunt Winnie. I would like to speak with you in person and discuss Mrs. Mills' final wishes. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. I look forward to meeting with you.
Mr. William Culpepper
I burst out laughing. Its just so ludicrous how can I stop myself. I'm still laughing when Marion returns to my office. She stands before me with a puzzled look on her face. She waits for me to finish before she asks.
"Ok I like a good joke too. What gives?"
I hand her the folded up sheet of legal paper.
She grins and unfolds it.
"Here go on, I don't mind. Actually I could use your opinion."
Marion reads it quickly. Then she stares at me.
"I don't think its funny. Maybe its true. Besides Henry you could use some financial assistance."
I roll my eyes as she hands it back to me.
"Come on Marion your an intelligent woman, you don't actually believe this." I wave the paper in my fist. She shrugs her shoulders.
"I just think its possible. You always tell your clients anything is possible. Take your own advice for once. I'm heading to the bank."
A few hours pass and I'm now fully engaged in my work. I haven't given the letter a second thought. I notice its after six and I stand to stretch my back. The intercom buzzes and I push the button.
"Yeah?" Marion clears her throat.
"That lawyer is on line one. Do you want me to get rid of him?"
"No, its ok. I would like to know what this is all about."
I pick up the phone, wait then press line one.
"Hello, my name is William Culpepper. I'm an attorney and I recently mailed you a letter detailing the estate of your Aunt Winnie..."
"Let me save you some time. Obviously this is someone's idea of a joke. And I think its my cousin Philip this has him written all over it. Tell him a said Ha Ha and he got me good."
"I hate to disappoint you Mr. Walsh but this is no joke and I don't know anyone named Philip. I do wish to speak with you in person its quite along story and a rather delicate matter. I was hoping you could make the time this evening."
I arrived at Mr. Culpepper's office forty five minutes after we spoke on the phone. The waiting room was spacious and it smelled of lemon furniture polish. I noticed a gray haired woman with a orange gym bag over her left shoulder.
"I'm here to see Mr. Culpepper."
She looked pleased.
"Oh you must be Henry, he has been expecting you. He should be done any minute. He had to make a phone call. Can I get you anything? Water, coffee perhaps something stronger?"
I shake my head.
"No I'm fine." I answer her.
"OK then. Have a seat he shouldn't be much longer. As you can see I'm on my way out."
She brushes passed me on her way to the door.
"Don't let me stop you. Have a good evening."
"Same to you Henry."
I wait for her exit and get comfortable on a brown leather sofa. I glance at several oil paintings hung around the room. I continue to wonder what it was he couldn't share over the phone. The large double doors open and a tall red headed gentleman appeared before me. I stand and walk over to greet him. We shake hands.
"Its nice to finally meet you Henry. Please come in. And I can get started."
I follow him into a room twice the size of the outer office. He strides over to a large wall unit that is filled almost entirely with books. I watch him reach for one with its dark brown cover. He pulls the spine towards him and the entire shelf disappears into the back of the wall. Then a large glass decanter appears in the books place.
I'm speechless. He reaches for two short glasses and then faces me.
"Would you care to join me Henry? It has been along day."
"Yes it has. But just one I'm driving."
William pours just a mouthful in each glass and then drinks his right away. I step forward and he hands me the glass.
"Go ahead Henry." I take a mouthful. Its rich and very smooth.
"Its very good." I finish the rest and he smiles.
"Yes it is. I like to unwind at the end of the day. It helps.
You have a seat and I will get those papers I mentioned earlier."
I relax in a leather armchair and wait for him to gather his paperwork. He returns to stand in front of me. He reaches in a large yellow folder and retrieves a newspaper article, that he hands to me.
The article shows a picture of Winnie Mills from many years ago. She's wearing a long dark cocktail gown, large dangling diamond earrings and she is smiling at someone out of focus. The heading says Winnie is from a very wealthy family and she enjoys the finer things in life. I can see she was quite beautiful. Winnie is the woman from my dream.
"Henry have you ever heard of Winifred Mills or her family?"
"No, before today I never even heard her name. And to tell the truth I thought the whole thing was a made up story. That was why I spoke to you that way on the phone. Why exactly am I here?"
"Well except for an ex husband your her only living relative. I understand she left him the home in which they shared for ten years. Henry your mother was very important to Winifred. She spoke of her fondly and wanted to help her in some way. I understand you are an only child and..."
I quickly cut him off.
"No I have two sisters. I think you've made a mistake."
William hands me something else to read. Its a detailed letter explaining that I was put up for adoption at one month old. My real mother was fifteen years old and had no way to support me. Her name was Marie and she applied for a cleaning position in Winnies home. Over the years the two women became extremely close.
Winnie walked in her sleep and Marie always made sure she never got hurt. After Winnies' marriage ended, she confided in Marie about many things.
When Winnie learned that Marie was poor as a child it affected how she treated her. She often gave her a large bonus at Christmas and many lovely gifts over the years. But it was when Winnie learned about Marie giving up a child and her family turning against her, that she vowed to take care of her dear friends son.
"And Henry you are that child." Again I am speechless.
"I know its a lot to take in but I hope you can accept her final wishes and agree to the conditions in her will."
"Um, when you say conditions does that mean I'm required to do something?' He nods his head.
"Yes that is exactly what it means. Winifred was a firm believer in people earning their keep. She thinks everyone should work hard for what they want. You were researched thoroughly by her online.
When she learned you were a hard working business man, she was proud of you. But in order for you to receive the full inheritance you will have to step out of your comfort zone."
"And what does that mean? I have to go help at a soup kitchen or donate money?" William starts to grin.
"Oh no nothing like that. What makes you anxious? What is one thing you would never do?"
I sit and think about how I will answer him.
Finally I know what to say.
"I'm terrified of heights. I will never take the elevator and I wont fly. So I imagine you'll want me to face this head on. Do I have to take a flight. Does she say that?"
"No Henry. She wants you to come up with one challenge, concur it and her entire estate is yours." Mr. Culpepper smiles.
I leave his office and try to figure out what to do.
A month later and I still haven't decided how to concur my fear.
I am having trouble sleeping, I have lost weight and I hardly go to my office anymore. Then on a Thursday afternoon, I am on a park bench watching young children play on the jungle gym. They don't allow anything to stop them from living. They run, they laugh, they shout, they sing and they climb. Oh how they climb.
I want to feel like that. I want to be able to face my fear and reach the very top. I don't walk I run to my car.
Two days later I am met at the Hudson Bridge by two of my dear friends and William Culpepper. I have asked them here to watch me bungee jump off this magnificent structure. I know I will be just fine. I slept a solid eight hours last night. Yes I want that inheritance but more than anything I want to live.