The tapping of my painful stiletto heels on ceramic tile echoes in vacant hallways of the downtown office building. It is after hours when I make my exit from the suite of our cities leading law firm. In a rush, I leave a cloud of Estee Lauder trailing behind me.
Death and taxes…
Due to the late hour, I will miss rush hour traffic. Approaching my car, remote key-in-hand, I extend my right arm. If fidgeting with lock and key, I’d be an easy target for an assailant. Keenly aware of danger, as an unescorted woman after dark, I walk in haste.
Once safe in the confines of my vehicle, scents of Lexus leather overshadow telltale perfume. Muscles rigid, I compress a button to implement heated seat massage. Dashboard GPS activated, I then surround myself with sounds of XM Radio’s 60’s on 6. Lesley Gore triggers memories with ‘It’s My Party [and I’ll cry if I want to]…
Reminiscing, I am thirteen again and suffering through unrequited love. In my bedroom, I retrieve my diary from under the mattress. The lock and key secure my deepest secrets from strict parents plus three over-protective big brothers. Crocodile tears fall upon opened pages.
High headlight beams on the Connecticut sprawling estate bring me back to reality and to what dogs me…death and taxes. The costly consolation with my attorney dealt with the unexpected death of my mother. She had appointed me executor of her estate; inheritance taxes are the least of my worries.
After parking, I enter from the garage into the French provincial kitchen; the housekeeper is planning next week’s menu.
“Ms. Karen! I was so worried!”
“Sorry, Cynthia; I had a late appointment with the lawyer.”
“That’s okay; I’ve kept dinner warming for you. Should I set you a place in the dining room?”
“No, please bring it on a tray to the den. Just set it on my desk.”
Slowly, I ease my weary body down into the comfort of a plush swivel chair and run fingertips over my inherited mahogany desk. Fatigued and emotionally drained, I force feed morsels before pushing back from the desk. Despondent, I focus my gaze on the lock and key center drawer. Pulling the drawer’s key from its hiding place, I unlock the desk drawer.
Under lock and key, atop my current journal, rests the last correspondence from my deceased mother. It contains ramblings and rants of a tormented soul. Wishing to make amends, she wants me to come home right away, saying, she regrets concealing something from me all of these years. Life did not afford us the opportunity of reconciliation; she died of a massive stroke the following day.
Pushing 40, I boast a coveted director’s career on Broadway. Yet, I am empty inside, sensing that something vital is missing, but what? I just don’t fit it in, not even in my immediate family.
Dad is close-knit with the boys but Mother, aloof, distanced herself from me. Now, I receive explicit instructions to go to her bank in the morning, the lawyer saying, it was her wish that I open her safe deposit box in private.
I can’t believe she made me executor without my consent; the oldest does that!
Suffering from mental exhaustion, I return the letter to its hiding place before locking the drawer.
In the morning, yes, in the morning…
Though begrudging, I will grant her wish. After a restless night, before heading to First National Bank, I have a breakfast consisting only of strong black coffee. I feel somehow as if I’m making a return trip to the mortuary.
The security guard meets me at the door and nods a pleasant ‘Good Morning.’ Trembling, I nearly lose my balance and get weird glances by bystanders. As if watching myself in slow motion, I approach the bank manager mumbling my safe deposit box request.
Entering the vault, I succumb to claustrophobia brought on by a panic attack. The banker, oblivious to my anxiety, places the box on a counter of cold steel before me.
Inside the safe deposit box, I view Karen Ann Franklin, (my name) embossed upon a business envelope. Opening it with clammy hands, I first discover my birth certificate. Next, I scan a second birth certificate, recorded the same date for a Sharon Ann Franklin. Lastly, sobbing, I read her death certificate dated only three days later.
Twin sister, that’s the key. Sharon, she is what’s been missing in my life.
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