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Authors: Shane Morgan

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BOOK: Finding Julian
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Chapter Five


Aunt Bev and I arrived
at the church shortly after Marlene and Mackenzie. Seven had driven them.

When I got out of the car, I fidgeted
with my navy blue dress, feeling a little nervous going inside the church. The
way everyone else was dressed—like they were competing against each other for
the most stylish title—didn’t make me feel very confident.

Aunt Bev joined me and took my hand into
hers. “Remember what I said,” she whispered as we slowly walked behind

“Beverly,” said a syrupy voice as we approached
the steps. “Oh, Bev,” the petite lady threw her arms around Aunt Bev, hugging
her as if she’d been dying to do so.

Finally she released Aunt Bev long
enough for her to get a word out. “It’s good to see you, Carey.”

“Oh, my dear friend. How are you holding
up?” she asked.

Dipping her head, Aunt Bev replied
solemnly, “I’m all right.” She turned and reached her hand out, towing me over.
“I want you to meet Julian, my niece.” She said nothing more. There was nothing
else needed to be said.

An unexpected chill swished through my
body. I felt good, being acknowledged as a Vanderson.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Julian,”
Carey said, a genuine smile playing across her porcelain face. She enclosed my
hand with both of hers. “Your aunt’s mentioned you on many occasions.” She took
on a more serious look. “I’m so sorry about your father.”

“Thank you,” I replied, politely
slipping out of her grasp.

Aunt Bev held my hand once again and led
me into the church, not saying another word to Carey. “She’s a good friend, but
quite the gossiper,” she whispered as we slowly moved down the middle aisle
behind the crowd.

There were quite a few people at the
service; many crying, and some sitting motionless in the pews. The organist
played a wistful song that expressed the time of mourning. It consumed the air
and nestled a gloomy cloud over everyone.

I’d never experienced a depressive
environment like this before—the black clothes and grief-stricken expressions.
Yet, I felt more nervous than sorrowful. Even if I didn’t have a connection
with my father, shouldn’t I be feeling something now?

My eyes glanced up at the glistening,
silver open casket ahead, with elegantly arranged white wreaths placed aside.

Aunt Bev’s hand trembled in mine. As we
approached the casket, her grip tightened and her body shivered.

Fear circulated throughout me. Many
times I’d imagined meeting my father, telling him what my life had been like
growing up. How much I wanted him there. Somehow, there’d always been a part of
me missing, lost. But my stubbornness had shoved the chance of finding that
missing piece away. Now, he was lying in a casket. All I had left was regret.

Coming to a standstill, as the person in
front of us whispered something then walked away from my father’s casket, I
allowed Aunt Bev to go ahead. So she could have one last time with him. What
going to say though? Huh. Silly me, he was already gone. My words
would be useless.

Aunt Bev stepped up to the silver casket
and exhaled deeply. She kissed her fingers and rested them on top of his
forehead, sobbing quietly. Then she opened her purse, taking out tissue to dry
her eyes. She turned and came back towards me.

“Go ahead, dear,” she prompted.

I looked at her and swallowed hard. The
person behind me coughed, possibly to urge me on. My legs started to shake
nervously as I moved towards the casket. I placed my hands on the metal edge
and stared down at my father, Cole Vanderson.

What a surreal moment, unlike anything
I’d ever felt before. I wanted to shed a tear. This was my father. The man
whose eyes I had. My dad. Where was my grief? I was frozen inside.

Not a single tear fell from my eyes. My
fingers bore down into the smooth material lining his casket. Frustration and
shame battled inside me. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t reproduce that
feeling from a few nights ago when Aunt Bev called to say he’d died. Instead, I

A warm hand gently wrapped around my
wrist, gradually pulling me away. Like a ragdoll, I sluggishly followed.

“It’s fine,” he whispered. I breathed in
his cool, minty breath as it brushed past my cheeks and calmed my nerves.

Glancing up, I collided with piercing
emerald eyes. Seven’s. I said nothing to him, only let him lead me to one of
the benches where I sat down beside Aunt Bev. Seven—dressed appropriately in a
black suit, with a white shirt and grey tie—settled in next to me.
Unexpectedly, he grasped my hand in his and squeezed it. The warm touch of his
skin on mine comforted me. That was all I needed. The numbness, which
immobilized me, seeing my father’s lifeless body, began to thaw.

As time passed by, a few people went up
to pay tribute, including Mackenzie and Marlene. Unlike her wailing mother,
Mackenzie was just as emotionless as I was. Despite dark shades, concealing her
eyes, no wetness or smudged make-up stained her cheeks. She may be many things,
but here and now, I admired her strength, and also how subtle she looked among
the fashionable crowd. She was wearing a plain black dress, stocking and low

Following a short sermon, the casket was
carried out of the church and placed into the hearse by a few men who were good
friends of my father, I’d been told. Not everyone went to the cemetery, only
closest friends and family. Mr. Monroe wasn’t at the church and I didn’t see
him at the burial site either. That was odd, since he’d been dressed up when I
saw him earlier.



I drove with Aunt Bev back to the
estate. Everyone else arrived ahead of us. Then Aunt Bev walked with Marlene,
Mackenzie and Seven to the house as a black car pulled up in the driveway.
Instead of waiting to see who it was, I headed towards the guesthouse.

My time to get out of here had come.

“Julian,” Aunt Bev stopped me. I looked
around. She stepped away from the door and walked closer to me. “Come inside
with me,” she said softly. “You should be present at the reading of the will.”

I shook my head, backing away from her.
“I didn’t come here for that. I’m going to get my stuff and head home.”

Not giving her a second glance, I turned
and continued around to the side steps. My ponytail bounced as I hurried across
the lawn to the guesthouse.

Getting back to the room, I started
putting my things together. I’d decided to catch a bus to Providence and take a
train back to Manhattan. I did what I came here to do. Now all I wanted was to
get out and go home.

I went into the bathroom to get my body
wash and red towel, but I couldn’t find the latter. Maybe Claire had taken it
to the laundry. Whatever. I had plenty in my apartment, which were probably
going to get thrown out if I didn’t make it back in time.

Draping my bag over my shoulder, I
glanced around the guestroom one last time, peering out at the balcony and
admired how breathtaking the view truly was. A sigh escaped my lips as I headed
for the door. Before I could grab the knob, the door opened. Aunt Bev.

“Julian, I want you to stay,” she
implored, filling the doorway and blocking my means of escape.

I shook my head vehemently. “I don’t
think so. Look, I’ll just take one of the city buses downtown.”

Lowering my eyes to the hardwood floor,
I said, “Aunt Bev, I’m sorry you lost your brother, my father…” I paused, not
sure how my words sounded to her, but then continued anyway, “Thank you for your
hospitality, and for caring so much for me over the years, but I don’t belong
here. I have to get back to Manhattan.”

Moving around her to leave, Aunt Bev
gripped my forearm and tugged me out into the passage.

“What are you doing?” I fumed, trying to
wring my arm out of her grasp.

With a strength I never knew she had,
she, she ignored my fussing and dragged me out of the guesthouse, across the
lawn, towards the back door of the main house. Aunt Bev released me only when
we got into the living room, under the watchful eyes of my stepmother,
Mackenzie, Seven, his father, and some man I remembered seeing at the funeral.

An awkward air filled the room. My
irritation at being manhandled by my aunt turned to humiliation.

I cleared my throat and rubbed my sweaty
palms onto my cotton dress. I was so eager to leave I didn’t bother changing.
“Sorry to interrupt, I was just leaving.”

To my surprise, Seven shot up from the
chair. He opened his mouth to say something, but the strange man spoke first.
“Please, I insist you wait until after the reading of the will before walking
out that door.”

“Julian, this is Mr. Cornwell, he’s
Cole’s lawyer and friend,” Aunt Bev explained. She walked over to the beige,
Lexington upholstery, salon sofa on the other side of the room, opposite
Marlene and Mackenzie, keeping her focus on the lawyer as she sat down.

Mr. Cornwell relaxed in one of the
accent chairs and unfolded a sheet of paper. The others eyed me with a look on
their faces that either screamed irritation or pleaded for me to take a seat. I
decided to not to be a nuisance to Aunt Bev any further, settling down beside
her on the plush and comfy sofa.

Seven’s father, Anthony Monroe, remained
standing behind the sofa where Marlene and Mackenzie sat. He rested his hand on
Marlene’s shoulders, eager to hear what the will contained. How ironic he’d
show up for this yet he hadn’t bothered to attend my father’s funeral.

My stomach churned as I regarded their
faces, putting two and two together. With the exception of Aunt Bev and Seven,
it seemed everyone else was more concerned about my father’s wealth than
mourning his death.

Mr. Cornwell cleared his throat. My
attention switched to him. He straightened his glasses on his face then began
to read from the sheet of paper.

“This is the last will and testament of
Cole Vanderson.” He relaxed in the armchair as he went on, “I know I’m not a
perfect man, I’ve done wrong to all of you in some way. But I sincerely hope
you will forgive me, especially my two lovely daughters.”

I quivered, hearing the mention of
daughters. Not just one. That was good enough for me. As soon as he was
finished reading the will I’d be on my way.

“To my darling sister, who’s been
working closely with me for so long, helping to manage Vanderson Publishing, I
grant you complete takeover of the company. I’m sure you will continue to make
me and our father proud, little sister.”

I glanced at Aunt Bev then, she smiled
humbly, staring down at her fingers as she picked at the fabric of her dress.

“To lucky Seven,” my eyes diverted back
to Mr. Cornwell at the mention of Marlene’s nephew in the will.  “I really
got to know you in the short amount of time you’ve been with us. You are indeed
an extraordinary young man. As modest as you are, I doubt you’ll accept my
gifts, so, I’d like you to at least remain at the Vanderson guesthouse for as
long as you wish. Also, I really hope you’ll remember your promise to me.”

I observed Seven discreetly. His
eyelashes fluttered as if fighting back tears. It seemed he and my father
shared some secret.

“As for Marlene,” Mr. Cornwell
proceeded, “I leave more than enough funds to make sure your life remains
comfortable. I hope you’ll be satisfied with the amount.”

I didn’t bother looking over at Marlene
to know she would sport a satisfied grin. Her overly ambitious persona was
evident the moment we came in contact.

“To Mackenzie, I’ve secured that condo
which you love so much. You will also find a large sum of money in your savings
account a day after this will is read. Mr. Cornwell will see to it.”

That’s it. It was over
Already feeling put out by this entire event, I exhaled and started to stand

“Ms. Rowell, I’m not finished yet,” Mr.
Cornwell’s voice stopped me. Aunt Bev pulled me back down. I cocked my ears to
hear what he had to say.

“To Sarah, who I know will not be
present at the reading of this will, I ask for your forgiveness in the only way
I know how, by taking care of our daughter. Julian, I wish I could’ve seen you
before leaving. Beverly showed me pictures and I cried over every single one.
My dear, this is all I can give you now and I hope you will accept your

BOOK: Finding Julian
10.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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