“That’s it? That’s all I get?”

“I’m afraid so, Mrs Daniels.”

Ian Wilkes of Wilkes Atkinson Johnson Solicitors twisted the piece of paper on his desk so it faced his distraught client. He tapped the offending paragraph with his pen. He folded his hands on his ample stomach (of which he was rather proud; many expensive meals had gone towards building that mound). He leaned back slightly, as though that would afford his ears some protection from the howling peroxide spectacle in front of him.

“But…but that’s not fair!”

The woman Ian had initially presumed to be the widow when his 1pm appointment entered his office reached out and patted Mrs Daniels’ arm.

“I tried to warn you about him, Elise.” She began a dramatic sigh which was interrupted with a fresh wail from her daughter.

“Mother, you always think you know best.” She sniffed and commenced fishing around in her Fendi purse. The solicitor could tell it barely had room for keys and money and so pushed the box of tissues on his desk towards her. Mrs Daniels snatched it with blood red nails that had been sharpened to claws by an immigrant who could have worked fifty hours per week for a year and still wouldn’t have been able to afford the shoes her customer had strutted into the salon in.

Mrs Daniels’ mother rolled her eyes at the solicitor, whose poker face did not break.

The tears had pooled in a mustache above Mrs Daniels’ surgically enhanced upper lip. Her likewise enhanced breasts heaved while she gulped for air between sobs. At least the 26-year-old had managed to wrangle some free gifts out of the octogenarian before he dropped dead, the solicitor surmised, thankful as ever he didn’t have to worry about censoring his thoughts (which were now questioning the validity of this so-called ‘heart attack’). He pretended to be interested in his paperweight while Mrs Daniels’ gathered herself. Gradually the flood of tears carving paths of inky mascara down her pale cheeks slowed to a trickle.

“C’mon mother. Let’s get out of here.”

Mrs Daniels and her mother rose to their feet and Ian stood to be ready to get the door for them.

The widow stared at the small white cardboard box containing her sole prize for her months of hard work. Networking, to get an introduction to the recently bereaved Marlon Daniels. The grooming that had gone into their first public appearances as a couple. Arranging to jet all of their friends and family out for a wedding to be held on the white sands of the Caribbean. Arranging for a track to be built especially for Marlon’s wheelchair so he could cross those sands. All the times she’d fought back her disgust in order to kiss the wrinkled mouth when it turned up expectantly to her. Forcing a smile back at his toothless grin when the task was completed to Mr Daniels’ satisfaction. The wretchedness she felt when her girlfriends boasted over mimosas of their boyfriends’ bedroom acrobatics, thinking of the often soiled bed sheets that awaited her return. The meals she had cut up and fed him, while she starved herself to maintain the figure that had first caught the one eye he had still had sight in.

All for a small, white, cardboard box.

The widow shoved it unceremoniously into her purse, although the dramatic effect was blighted by her having to remove her car keys first.

Ian Wilkes of Wilkes Atkinson Johnson Solicitors offered his condolences again, before closing his door and returning to his diary to prepare himself for his 2pm arrivals.

* * *

Elise poured prosecco into the two glasses she pulled out of what was soon to be her cupboard no longer.

Nancy would normally have reprimanded her daughter for using alcohol as a solution, but she merely accepted her glass without comment while Elise’s heels click clacked across the white marbled kitchen floor, intermittently muttering things like “a necklace” and “a stupid poxy box.”

With a snarl Elise suddenly wrenched her shoes off and flung them on to the sofa. Balzac, Mr Daniels’ pet sphynx cat, who had been curled up out of sight on one of the cushions jumped up as if shot, before scarpering to a place not raining daggers.

“Even the damn cat is set up for life. And I get a shitty necklace.”

“Oh, honey,” her mother offered. And then offered no more, knowing it wasn’t words her daughter wanted.

“Let’s have a look at this thing,” her daughter huffed. “Maybe there will be a sapphire or diamond or ruby or something I can pawn to help pay for a month’s rent somewhere. UGH.”

Elise prised open the box, not caring her fingers were damp with condensation from the wine glass. Then had the botox allowed it, would have furrowed her brow.

“What the…?”

Nancy tentatively approached, from where she had been leaning against a fridge the size of a small car, to get a better look.

Elise pulled out a chain and held it at arm’s length between her fingertips, as though she had just uncoiled a length of intestine.

Nancy retrieved her glasses case from her coat pocket. She despised wearing them as they reminded her she was no longer Elise’s age, despite her boyfriend once claiming when he first saw her and her daughter from a distance he had mistaken them for twins. Flattery will get you anywhere, even if it occasionally gave Nancy anxiety about leaving Elise alone with Adam before this Marlon Daniels had wheeled onto the scene.

“It’s…a coin?” Elise stammered. “Is this some sorta joke? With something written on it…I can’t make it out.” She dropped it onto the counter and raised her glass again, with both hands, wishing she could dive right into the yellow bubbles and resurface somewhere with underfloor heating and a walk-in wardrobe and a private cinema. With her name on the deeds.

Nancy picked up the necklace and squinted at the pendant. She twisted the coin in the frame it dangled in.

“Yep, ‘fraid I can’t make it out either, dear. It is Chinese? Arabic? You know how hopeless I am with all that. Maybe one of your friends might know?”

Elise clicked her tongue. She didn’t feel like being reminded of her friends with their successful careers and highly achieving little squirts and trophy husbands. But eventually, she conceded.

“Yeah, you’re right, mother. I’ll try them. But for now, I’m going to finish this bottle, if you don’t mind,” (Elise topped up her glass to the brim without waiting for an answer) “And go to bed.”

Nancy glanced at the clock on the microwave, which indicated 14:55. But she began collecting her things, putting her nasty reading glasses back into hiding, whilst holding her tongue still. She’d experienced her fair share of grief in her lifetime – had in fact almost made a career out of it – and acknowledged everybody had their own ways of coping. Elise still had a lot to learn before she could step into her mother’s Louboutins.

“Okay sweetie, you get some rest. Phone me if you need me.”

Elise blearily nodded, the alcohol already beginning to cross her eyes, and was already tucked in under the covers of the guestroom bed (she couldn’t face sleeping next to his indentation) while she heard the sound of her mother’s car starting up.

* * *

Elise woke the next day to a marching band in her head and the contents of her stomach knocking at her teeth. After dashing into the en suite to spew highly priced bile into the toilet bowl, and filling a glass with water while trying to avoid looking at herself in the mirror, she groggily returned to bed.

She looked out the window up at the grey skies and wondered whether she might be sleeping under them in a few weeks’ time.

She checked her phone for messages. There were a few friends asking how she got on at the will reading – she’d deal with those later. And one from her mother with a few harebrained theories about the meaning of the necklace with its coin pendant that only served to increase the pounding in Elise’s head.

She glared at the necklace, which lay slumped on a saucer on the bedside table. She picked it up and examined the markings again.

“Probably some dead language only known to dinosaurs like him,” she hissed.

She noted, as her mother before her, that the circle of the coin was mounted in such a way that either face could be turned to suit the wearer’s pleasing. She thumbed it over and over again, thinking at least it had the benefit of being a stress reliever fidget toy. Elise continued fiddling with it while she tried to mentally calculate how many designer pieces in her wardrobe she could bear to part with, and which of her friends might give her good prices.

Her headache reminded her it was still there, and not in the mood for calculations. Elise flicked at the coin in frustration, sending it spinning inside the little frame, and that’s when the markings either side merged before her eyes to form the words:


July 24, 2020 07:32

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D. Jaymz
18:19 Jul 29, 2020

I enjoyed the story. Great visual descriptions, many quite creative. The characters were believable with distinctive personalities. A logical plot that twisted, but not as much as it could have since you painted a great picture of a cliche gold digger. Your detailed strengths foreshadowed the end of the married young-old relationship, but these also reinforced your characterization of the main character as 'goin' for the gold' kinda' gal. From your past writing, I know you can twist it in a more creative shape 😉 I found the mothe...


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Keerththan 😀
08:01 Jul 30, 2020

Enjoyable story. Well written. Loved it. Keep writing more.. Would you mind reading my story "The secret of power?"


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Sejal -
00:15 Jul 30, 2020

Your way with words and how your bring the reader in is incredible. I'll admit it was a bit confusing at times. But in all, it was a wonderful read!


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