“Welcome all of you, I am Louis Burton, I am sorry for your loss, Rebecca was an amazing woman, I am sure you will all miss her greatly.” I looked around the room at the five people my long-time and dear friend Rebecca, had included in her will. She had told me the stories behind each and every one of them, and I was pretty sure I already knew which of them would not be happy about todays meeting, who really would not care she had passed, and which of them would win the game.
“I have here Rebecca’s Last Will and Testament, all five of you are mentioned in it but” I paused for a sip of water and for the dramatic effect Rebecca wanted me to do; monitoring each persons reaction, I put the glass down and continued “But it is just as unique as she was.” I watched as the group stirred in their seats, expressions ranged from sadness, confusion and annoyance. “Let me start” I opened the envelope and withdrew the top three pages and began to read.
“Hi everyone, if you are all here with Louis then I guess I bought the farm, kicked the bucket, went to a better place – I hope- hahaha, I’m on the flipside. Anyway You all know that I never did anything in my life the conventional way, I was always looking for a way to add excitement, adventure or challenge to what ever situation I was in, so why should my death be any different right? Stop rolling your eyes Edward, “ I paused and looked up at Edward, Rebecca’s stiff older brother who was indeed rolling his eyes, laughing to myself I continued “Okay let me introduce all of you to each other, because I know you haven’t done it yourselves” as I read, It was as if Rebecca was saying it herself, which was fitting since I was reading the letter exactly as she had written it, her words continued from my mouth. “Edward, say hi to everyone, Edward is my older brother, he isn’t as much fun as I am, ha-ha.”
“Because unlike you, I’m sane” Edward replied curtly and slightly under his breath as if he were speaking to Rebecca herself.
I continued reading “My sister Annie, Cousin Laurie, business partner James and my long-time friend and loyal helper Tina.” I paused as the group looked at each other exchanging pleasantries. “I have a lot and I mean A LOT of money and possession to leave you all, but there is a catch.” Another scheduled pause, the group was looking around at each other confused, I continued “I have divided my estate into seven portions, each one more valuable than the last, Louis already has his, as well as the Wildlife Rescue and rehabilitation charities, the rest are for the game.” I paused again, Edward rolling his eyes, Annie looked angry, Laurie excited, James worried and Tina was dabbing her eyes, still upset over the loss of her friend and boss.
“Here is how the game works, Rule number one: if anyone is disqualified, the fifth prize is added to the first prize. Then the fourth to the first and so on. Should all of you be disqualified, which I am sure wont happen, then the entire estate will go to Wild life rescue and rehabilitation.” The small group began muttering, ‘this is crazy, I have never seen anything like this, what the hell’ I cleared my throat to settle them and continued. “You are not obligated to play, feel free to walk out right now with nothing, the portions will be divided evenly into the remaining ones.” I stopped and looked at them “Does anyone wish to leave?” the group was silent and remained in their seats, then James spoke up “I have a question?”
“Is Rebecca’s’ half of our company part of this game? I mean technically if it is, I would think it should go to me.”
“Good question, Yes, it is. I believe Rebecca left you a personal letter on this subject explaining her rational.” I replied watching his face grow nervous after realising his expectations of full ownership in the company may not happen.
“Any other questions before I move on?” all nodding no, I continued “The game is easy, only questions to answer, point system is, 1 point for each correct answer on the first four questions, 3 points for the best answer on the final question. The final question must be as detailed and closely matched to my answers in the sealed envelope that Louis has.”
Annie jumped up “That’s not fair, how do we know you didn’t change the answers in the envelope so that none of us win?”
I pulled the small envelope out of the larger one containing the entire will and showed it to them, it was purple, the sealed part had Rebecca’s ink fingerprint across it and hand writing which said ‘Annie this is tamper proof.’ Annie sat down in a huff, all I could think, as I laughed to myself, was how well Rebecca knew her siblings, so far, she nailed the eyerolling and protest. “Anything else or can I go on?” Annie just waved her hand and I continued “Will you all follow me please.” I said directing to the adjoining room, handing each of the five, a pen and full sheet of paper as they entered and directing them each to separate tables and chairs, spaced far enough they could not see each others answers. Standing at the head of the room was a man.
“I would like to introduce you all to Andrew Lawrence, He is Rebecca’s attorney and should there be a tie amongst any of the answers, he will decide the winner.” Andrew nodded at the group and sat down, as I continued. “There can be nothing on the table except your paper and pen. Please shut off your cell phones, no cheating by searching FB, Instagram, etc. All answers must be from your own knowledge of Rebecca. Be sure to put your name on the paper” The group followed the instructions and I began with the questions.
“Her favorite color, food and animal?” the group scribbled answers, some quickly, some hesitantly.
“Her favorite place to vacation the world?” this question seemed easy for all.
“What was here favorite hairstyle?” this question seemed to stump only Edward and James.
“Her favorite spot on her property?” Tina, James and Laurie began writing while Edward and Annie looked across at each other bewildered. I knew from Rebecca’s stories that neither of them had ever been to her home and this question would obviously stump them. Again, when all were ready, I went on.
“I am going to read the instructions for this question, from Rebecca’s letter; ‘Final question folks, lets see who knows me. This is the 3-point question, please answer it in detail, do not worry about revealing anything you feel is private, I am gone now, it doesn’t matter. The question is; What is the saddest memory that changed my life, when did it happen and why was it so precious to me” I looked at the group, who looked at me as if I knew the answer, which I didn’t and was just as taken by the question as they were. I looked at Tina who seemed extremely sad, she softly spoke “Mr. Burton , are you sure she wants this memory to be told?” the group all turned to her in shock that this woman actually knew the answer.
“She said in her letter it was okay, maybe she wants everyone to know?” I answered.
Tina nodded and looked at the group and then turned and began writing. Then James sighed, turned to his paper to write. The other three stared blankly at each other, Edward threw his pen on the table in defeat while muttering ‘insane, just insane’ Annie crossed her arms and pouted. Laurie seemed more curious than disappointed.
James finished first, then Tina. I gathered up their papers and headed towards Mr. Lawrence. After a short time, we had the tally and disclosed it to the group.
I began “Fifth place goes to Edward, fourth to Annie, third to Laurie, second to James and the winner is Tina” The groups emotions by this time were erupting. Edward was complaining about having his time wasted with typical Rebecca behavior, Annie wanted to know what she got, Laurie was still excited, James was concerned about who got the company and Tina sat quietly with a tissue.
“If I can have everyone’s attention!” I hollered, “If we could all take a seat, Mr. Lawrence will now read the rest of the will. The room quieted and he began. “As Mr. Burton did, I will be reading from Rebecca’s letter, the legal documents of your inheritance I will give you individually in private. Understood?”
The group nodded “Eddie and Annie just as I guessed 4th and 5th, for years I tried to include you in my life, but neither of you wanted to be, you always let your jealousy and bitterness get in the way of what we could have had, but we are siblings, I love you and would not forget you. I left you equal amounts of money I hope you find happiness in life as I did.” The two sat side by side staring at the floor filled with guilt and regret.
“Laurie, I knew you would do slightly better than my siblings, the truth is you felt more like my sister than Annie did, I hope you still love the Cape Cod cottage as much as you always have because its yours now, along with enough money to maintain it during your life. Luv ya, keep smiling that beautiful smile.” As I looked at her, she was smiling, and it was beautiful.
“James, we have made a great team all these years, Thanks for all the hard work, devotion and friendship, I knew you would make it to 2nd place, because you know me so well. The final question you only knew part of; the when my heart broke, but I never told you what it was or why it changed me, but you knew it had, and stood by me with out prying. I left you my half of the company, no one deserves this more, keep on being you.” Relief and gratitude washed over him as he relaxed back into his chair.
“And last but certainly not least. Tina, You, my closest truest friend, the only one I told the story to, I knew you would win. Everything else I owned is now yours, you were always there when I needed you, You shared your life and family with me, I loved watching your children grow and shared in all their accomplishments like a proud aunt. Thankyou for letting me experience the one thing I didn’t have in my life, a family. I know you and your family will be taken care of now, all I ask is that you never forget me, and every once in a while, give your kids a hug from me. I love you forever my friend.” Tears were streaming down Tina’s face, as she whispered, “we will never forget you”
I choked back the tears that were trying to escape so I could conclude the meeting, when Annie stood up and blurted out coldly “Typical Rebecca, she fixed this whole game, she knew only one person knew that answer, and What was this so called life changing heartbreaker b.s anyway.”
James stood up “Back off lady, its none of your business, if you had been in her life for more than begging for money, maybe she would have told you.”
Annie stuttered “Well, she didn’t tell you either”
James stepped towards her “Maybe not the details, but what ever happened to her when she was in Africa for 6 months mattered to her, I should have asked, but I didn’t know how to and I didn’t know how to help. So, I just stayed silent.”
“Stop it!” Tina cried, “She didn’t tell any of you because she didn’t want you to feel pity or try to fix it, It wasn’t anything anyone could fix.” She took a breath, wiped her tears “The first week she was there, she was working with a group of wardens to protect the animals against poachers. One night the poachers attacked the camp, before the poachers were killed, they managed to kill the warden sleeping beside Becca, and ran a large hunting knife through Rebecca’s lower body in an X. She lived, but she would never have children. This is why her heart was broken, why she never dated or fell in love. This is why she dedicated so much to wildlife, she wanted to protect them and other wardens from the poachers.”
The group was stunned, never in a million years would anybody have guessed that Rebecca, who by all observation was a joyous, successful, energetic woman with a fearless zest for life, had ever experienced such trauma. But they now understood her better even if it was to late. I had one last part of her letter to read, the group sat still.
“To all of you I give my last goodbye, please remember the quote by AJ Sachs ‘Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.’ I want all of you to live, I love you, catch ya on the flipside.”