“You can’t be serious?” I rub a tense spot between my eyes as I level an incredulous look at the bald-headed man sitting behind the other side of the desk. Lowering his chin, he stares at me over the top of his black-rimmed spectacles. Perched on the tip of his rather pointy nose, his glasses are the outdated sort you expect to see on old-fashioned solicitor types.
“I can assure you, Ms. Donovan, that Hayes, Ryan, Barrett, and Company Solicitors do not joke about such matters.” His lips pinch into a disapproving line as he eyeballs me. There isn’t a shred of compassion in his tone or his look. His eyes have a dead, empty quality to them. Like his conscience, no doubt.
He oozes indifference.
And, sure, what does he care? He’s already been paid and the clients who hired him can hardly take him to task over his lack of empathy.
“Why haven’t I heard of this”—I swirl my hands in the air—“Kennedy dude before?”
He huffs out a sigh. “Only your parents can answer that question.”
“Well,” I say, narrowing my eyes, “unless you’ve figured out a way to talk to the dead, I’m guessing that’s one question I won’t ever get an answer to.” I slump a little in my chair as the wall of grief hits me like a tsunami. Although my smart-arse remark may suggest apathy, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s been the same these last three days as the aftermath of the accident finally hits home.
The first four days of what I’m now referring to as my “I wish I was dead too” new life is a blur. I vaguely recall the guard knocking on my door, explaining in a soft, sympathetic manner how both my parents were killed instantly in the head-on collision. Their silver Toyota Corolla never stood a chance against the articulated lorry. According to the Garda report, my parent’s car was mangled beyond all recognition.
My eyes shutter as a horrific vision surges to the forefront of my mind. I wrap my arms around my waist, rocking slowly back and forth in the chair. Intense pain twists my stomach into knots, and a messy ball of emotion lodges in the back of my throat. No child should ever have to see their parents like that. As long as I live, I’ll never be able to erase the memory of their grotesquely distorted faces. But there had been no choice. There was no other living relative to ID their bodies.
Or so I thought.
Until ten minutes ago when my world tilted on its axis for the second time in a week.
“Ms. Donovan? Can I get you some water?” The solicitor’s slightly gentler tone breaks me free from the torturous images bouncing around my brain.
I open my eyes, brushing long, sticky strands of my brunette hair back off my face. The weather has been unseasonably warm this summer, and my hair has not thanked Mother Nature for her generosity. Humidity and thick locks don’t mix. I’ve spent the entire summer sporting a sweaty, frizzy mop atop my head. No wonder I’ve barely scored any action since Luke and I went our separate ways.
The solicitor coughs, attempting to recapture my attention. “Faye?” He leans forward in his chair. “Are you okay?”
I smother my snort of disbelief. Am I okay? Is the old fart for real? No, you idiot! I am not okay. My entire life is about to be upended, and my muddled brain can hardly comprehend the implications. Don’t even mention the fact that I’ve barely slept in days or that my heart is shredded into itty-bitty pieces. Torn asunder at the knowledge I’ll never get to see Mum’s radiant smile again or feel the comforting weight of Dad’s ever-loving gaze, I’m the furthest from okay a person can be.
I want to tell him all that—but I don’t. I’m incapable of sharing any part of myself with another human being. I’m like a living, breathing, walking shell of a person. A soulless zombie. I even have the sunken eyes and ghostly pallor to prove it. Maybe I’ll audition for a part in The Walking Dead. Preferably, before this Kennedy dude shows up to whisk me away.
Shaking my head, almost amused at the pitiful meandering of my mind, I force myself to focus on the here and now. “Does he know yet?” I ask, ignoring the solicitor’s stupid question.
“We have notified Mr. Kennedy of the contents of your parents’ Last Will and Testament. He’ll be here at two, tomorrow, to take ownership of you.”
“I’m not a dog or a possession or something you take ownership of,” I snap.
Mr. Hayes sits up straighter in his chair, scrutinizing me with those vacuous eyes of his. “I am merely stating the facts. You are a minor, and your uncle, as your sole living relative, has been named your guardian until you turn eighteen. You are his responsibility until then.”
“Can’t I contest the will? I’m more than capable of looking after myself for the next few months. And you said the mortgage is now paid on the house, and I have my part-time job, so I can manage on that and the savings my parents left me.”
I’d willingly donate a limb to avoid living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean with a bunch of strangers.
I don’t want to leave Ireland.
It’s the only home I’ve ever known.
“Those savings won’t get you far, and besides,” he says, rustling a stack of papers on his desk, “it was your parents’ wish that your uncle take charge of you. They didn’t want you to be alone.”
So, why did they leave me?
Why force this stranger on me?
Compel me to up sticks and move halfway around the world?
I’ll add it to the ever-growing list of futile questions that has accompanied their deaths.
“Isn’t there anything I can do to stop this?” I issue one last pleading question.
He shakes his head as he stands up. “It’s the law, Ms. Donovan. You have no choice in the matter.”
I rise, shoving my hands in the pockets of my jeans. I may not have much of a choice now, but this is only short term.