I stood over the coffin of my Aunt Helen. Memories flashed through me of the last time Aunt Helen talked to me.
“John, you need to find a nice girl and settle down.”
I rolled my eyes before turning to respond to my eighty-year old aunt that sat in the sagging armchair in her apartment. Every week I came over to mow the lawn and work on the mechanical issues around the apartment, every week she told me to settle down.
“We’ve been over this a million times. There are not any good girls out there.”
“Hmm…you are not trying hard enough, young man. I’ll get you settled down yet.”
Now she was gone and she hadn’t managed to settle me down. A mixture of grief and relief warred inside of me. I knew that I would miss the banter. I turned away from the coffin.
I turned at the sound of my name being called. An old man stood by the coffin. His suit was decades old and he kept pushing up his glasses to peer at me. His eyes looked magnified. If I wasn’t grieving, I would have probably laughed at the image.
“I’m your aunt’s lawyer and would like you to join us for the reading of her will.”
“Me? I didn’t know her that well.”
“Well, it is my business to know who is in her will and you are in it.”
Dazed, I walked into the room that the lawyer indicated. I stopped short and stared at the girl that had lived across the street from Aunt Helen for ages. I swallowed slowly.
I sat down and tried to ignore the jasmine perfume that wafted to my nostrils. Maggie and had been friends, more than friends until one day she broke my heart by breaking up with me. Since then, I had not seen her or had any desire to see her. She was as beautiful as I remembered her. I sat rigidly, trying hard not to stare at her. She seemed to enjoy my discomfort.
The lawyer cleared his throat and looked at me.
“Your Aunt Helen was very insistent that you would find a wife.”
My face burned as Maggie let out a bark of laughter.
“What does this have to do with the will?”
“She says that you cannot have her inheritance if you do not get married within a year of her death.”
The lawyer cleared his throat again.
“She has over three million dollars in her bank account, not including the properties that she owned.”
“What happens if I don’t get married?”
“The money goes to Maggie.”
Maggie sat up straight in the chair and frowned. I turned and looked at her accusingly.
“Of course.” I spat, turned around, and left.
“Wait!” I turned around to see Maggie running after me. “I’m sorry John.”
“I didn’t want her money. I never did what I did for her money.” I pulled my hand through my hair and breathed a sigh.
“She knew that. She just wanted you to be happy.” Maggie touched my arm and I jerked it from her grasp.
“Happy?” I laughed. It sounded desperate in my own ears. “She had weird way of showing it.”
I turned around to leave.
“You know that I regret breaking up with you.”
“Yeah, join the club.”
I walked away from her and headed towards my car. I sat down in my car as my emotions tumbled over each other. Why did she leave the money to me under a condition? Why did Maggie have to walk back into my life?
I leaned against the wheel of the car and closed my eyes. I grieved that such a great woman passed away. I grieved that my life was so different then what I had imagined it to be.
I heard a knock on the window. I rolled down the window to see Maggie staring at me.
“John, I didn’t put Aunt Helen up to this.”
“I know. She always thought we would get married.”
She pushed her hair back from her face. She always did this when she was nervous.
“I know it was my fault that it didn’t work out between us.”
“You left me at the alter.”
She flinched at my accusing voice.
“I know. I was young and stupid.”
“I called you and you never responded to my calls.”
“I know. I was scared.”
I breathed in deeply trying to get control of my emotions.
“I loved you and would have never hurt you.”
She was crying. I felt horrible about making her cry.
“I left you at the alter because I needed time to process. We were so young.”
“You crushed me.” I remembered those dark days like they were yesterday. Aunt Helen was the only one that knew of that dark time. Since then she had tried to get me to find happiness. I stared at the woman that I knew that I still loved. Maybe Aunt Helen knew that I never stopped loving her and found a way to make her come back into my life.
She breathed deeply.
“You don’t know what had happened the weeks before the wedding. I had been diagnosed with cancer. I was scared and you were so distant coming up to the wedding. My mom encouraged me to not get married. I didn’t know if I would survive the year.” She was hiccuping and crying at the same time. I felt like a cad.
“Maggie, I would have supported you. We could have made it.”
She turned glaring eyes at me.
“You say that now, but we might have been torn apart. We might not have made it.”
“Isn’t love about chance? We need to take the chance to see if we would be happy together.”
I got out of my car and gave her a hug.
“I didn’t want to take the chance.” She pushed my arms away and turned away. “I didn’t want to ruin your dreams.”
I turned her towards me and made her look into my face.
“With God’s help we would have made it. My dreams were not more important than you.”
She sniffed and started to laugh.
“When I found out that you were in the will, I told myself that I would not make a fool of myself with you.” She pulled away. “When you walked into that room I could not help remembering all the reasons why I loved you.”
My heart picked up a little bit.
“Are you willing to take a chance?”
“I learned my lesson the hard way. Living without you was the worst decision of my life.”