Natalie sat up in bed at 5 a.m. on Monday and looked over at her sleeping husband. She reached for her book light and her morning devotional. Forty-five minutes later, Greg rolled out of bed and headed to the kitchen to start the coffee.
Natalie pulled her laptop across her knees and switched it on. She opened her email and clicked on a message from an attorney informing her that that her Aunt Maggie had passed away and left her a sizeable sum of money.
Greg came back to bed with two mugs of coffee and handed her one. “Honey, I must have done something right!” Natalie hopped out of bed and danced around the room. “This is what I’ve worked for all my life! Now I have enough money to go to Europe for the opera audition season.”
“Don’t count your chickens, Greg said. “You don’t have a check yet.”
By Tuesday, the chickens had come home to roost. Natalie had a Publisher’s Clearing House moment when she opened her door and signed for a FedEx package with an unreadable return address. As she tore it open, Greg said, “Did you even know you had an Aunt Maggie?”
Natalie pulled a sheaf of papers out of the cardboard mailer. Rummaging inside, she came up empty handed. "There’s no check here, only instructions. The attorney wants to me send him information about my bank so he can deposit the check electronically. He’s asking for passwords and pin numbers.”
“Is Aunt Maggie’s attorney possibly from Nigeria?” Greg asked.
On Wednesday, Natalie stayed in bed until noon. She was thoroughly depressed. She had set her heart on finally attaining her goal – enough money to live in Europe for a year. She had fantasized for so long about writing checks with no thought to taxing her bank account. She would rent an apartment in Paris, take voice lessons from the masters, shop for haute couture fashions befitting a diva, and enjoy all the accoutrements that enabled the life of a rising opera star.
By Thursday life had become a nightmare. “Did you tell anyone you inherited a fortune?” Greg asked her after the mailman piled several boxes of mail on the froth porch. All the boxes contained cards and letters pleading for money. “I might have said something in a tweet,” Natalie said, pulling the covers over her head. She had disconnected the phone and stayed in bed all day. “I didn’t know having money was so hard to handle.”
At 7 am Friday a chastened Natalie woke up and told Greg she realized she had set the wrong goals for herself. “I’ve been acting as if that money would make a difference between whether I have a career in opera or not.” She vowed that if by some miracle she did receive a check, she would give the money away. That afternoon, she received a check in the mail for $500,000. True to her word, she sat down and began to draw up her philanthropic plan. It wasn’t long before she realized that giving away money was a career in itself.
Early Saturday morning the attorney called to remind her that if she cashed the check, she was agreeing to the terms. What terms? Natalie wanted to know. Didn’t you read the sheaf of papers I sent you? said the attorney. Your aunt specified that if you accept the money, you must join the Libertarian party, become a Scientologist and move to Nova Scotia. Natalie tore up the check.
On Sunday Natalie stayed after church to rehearse for evening Vespers. Her voice teacher pulled her aside after rehearsal and asked her if her phone was out of service. “I’ve been trying to reach you all week,” Elizabeth Schiller told Natalie, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “You’ve won Operalia, the World Opera Competition. You are going to Europe for a year, and you won’t need a dime.”
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