Blessing in Disguise


Scene 1

Her hand rose up and rested on her own throat, the pounding of her fluttering heart echoed in her fingers. She tilted her head to better see through the blind slats of her living room window.

Out in her front yard, a middle-aged man in a garish sport coat stood with his back to her as he pounded a "for sale" sign into her perfectly maintained grass. The man knew she was there, watching him; his stiff shoulders and furtive glances back at the house betrayed his guilt.

"Oh, this just can't be real," she whispered.

"What?" Ama's voice caught her attention. "What's not real? What's going on, Molly?"

Molly looked around, eyes wide, expecting to find her friend in the room with her. She gasped when she saw his recliner, sitting empty with a newspaper folded over the arm, like he would be back at any moment.

"Are you all right, Molls?" Ama's voice continued to talk to her, despite her absence from the room. "Do you need me to come over?"

Three blinks, and Molly realized that Ama's voice came from the phone in her hand. That connection pulled her back to reality, a little. She turned away from Bill's recliner and looked back out the window at the realtor. "No, I'm fine, Ama. Just shaken up." Her voice only wavered a little. "There's a realtor here, putting up a sale sign. Bitch didn't waste any time, did she?"

"Aw, shit." Ama's voice rang with anger-tinged sympathy. "I should come over. Where's Kenny?"

Molly blinked, the image of her son, awkward 8 year old scarecrow, all limbs and ears filled her mind. For a panicked moment, she couldn't recall where he was. "Kenny?" Think. Think! There was a place he belonged. "Kenny's in school." She looked at the clock on the mantel. "He'll be home in about an hour."

"And Gracey?" Ama asked.

"Napping," Molly answered, turning back to the window in time to see the realtor scurry to his car and speed off. The front yard looked as skeletal as she felt; naked stretching branches empty of autumn fire, reaching up to a cold and heartless sky. Jesus, she was being morose. She shook her head, commanding herself to snap out of it.

"I should come over," Ama said. "I should come over, and we'll go get dinner. Hamburgers. The kids like hamburgers."

Movement in the stark yard caught Molly's attention; a smaller sign hung off the for sale sign, swinging at a slightly difference cadence in the autumn wind. Molly titled her head and squinted to read it. "Do not disturb tenants," she read aloud. Panic and hatred and sorrow and general despair exploded in her brain with a burst of snot and tears.

"Tenants? Tenants! Is that what we are now?" Molly yelled, sinking to her knees. "I'm a fucking tenant in my own home? How can she sell my home? The bitch! How? How?"

"I'm on my way." Ama hung up. And Molly felt like a giant loser. She just couldn't keep it together. The basket that held all of her important life bits kept unraveling, and it seemed to take her strength and sanity with it.

The burst passed, and suddenly she didn't have the energy to cry anymore. Her bones felt tired, and she just wanted to curl up on the floor and take a nap, like a big spoiled housecat. But she wasn't a housecat anymore; Bill's daughter was selling her house right out from under them all. Molly was back out in the alley, with two kittens to take care of, this time.

She had to calm down, and make a plan. Focus on what she had, and what she absolutely needed. She took a deep breath and focused on her blessings. She had a job; Ama and her husband were hardly going to fire her now. She had a car, a really nice car, which Bill had thankfully put in Molly's name.

The phone rang, still cupped in her hand, showing a list of lawyerly names. Bill's lawyer. She frowned. What could he possibly want now? Did Bill forget to put some of her dental work in her name, and now Becky wanted to sell the fillings?

She dragged her thumb across the screen and then tapped the button for speaker phone.

"Miss Shannon?" a cool, cultured voice came out of her palm.

"Yes." She answered quietly. Although she felt drained and limp, a kernel of anger began to burn at the sound of his voice.

"Miss Molly Shannon?" the cultured voice crackled with a little hesitation.

She frowned, the anger now a burning glow. "Yes."

"This is Timothy Kirsch, Miss Shannon. Bill's lawyer."

"I know who you are, Mr. Kirsch." Her voice had ice to match the flame in her gut. "I'm not likely to forget the man who allowed me to be attacked in his own office." In her mind, she could hear that fat girl squealing, arms flailing, blows bounding off Molly's head as they pulled her away.

"I do want to apologize for that. In all my years in estate law, I've never had that happen."

Although he did sound truly apologetic, Molly pursed her lips and said nothing. He hadn't been hitting her, but he had sat there with his mouth hanging open.

"I've known Bill for years, of course, but I've never met his kids. I had no idea…" His voice trailed off, and a faint crinkling sound fuzzed the line. Was he shaking his head? Wiping his mouth, near the mike of his headset?

"That woman is unbalanced," Molly bit out angrily. "And I did not kill Bill." A single, hot tear trailed a burning path down a cheek chapped from too many tears. "We were just going out to dinner, for Chrissakes."

"Of course not, Mol--Miss Shannon. Of course not." His conciliatory tone brought back his practiced polish. "Miss Shannon, do you have a moment for me today?"

"I am not coming back in that office." Her free hand crept back up to cover the pulse fluttering in her throat.

"No. We can do this over the phone. Now, if you're available?"

"I don't really have a lot of free time right now, what with looking for somewhere to live."

"What?"

An angry rush pushed her back onto her feet, pacing the living room as she ranted at him. "That's right. She's selling the house, my home. Without so much as a word, or even thanking me for not pressing charges. No. I find out by watching some stranger post a sign in my yard.

"I get it. We screwed up. Bill should have updated his will. We should have gotten married. We should have done all the stupid paperwork! But it seemed like there was time! We weren't old yet.

"How does some dumb jerk with a gun get to destroy my life? How does a jealous step-kid with an axe to grind mean my kids don't have a roof over their heads? How does any of this make any fucking sense?"

Silence played out. The sharp, dark little face of her Scotty dog peered around the hallway corner. That meant Gracey would be up from her nap soon; she never slept long after Laz got up.

Finally, the lawyer spoke up. "I cannot imagine what you're going through right now. And you've really just been screwed in this circumstance. I want to help. Can you give me a few minutes?"

She frowned, but was not unimpressed by a lawyer freely offering help. "Five minutes. But I've got company coming, and a kid about to wake up from a nap. So, it's a short five."

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