Chapter 12: Bequest
Sookie was squeezing his hand tightly, but Eric didn’t care about any discomfort he was experiencing. He knew that she needed to hold onto him with all her might at that moment, and he intended to make sure she didn’t lose her grip, so he moved his chair so that it was flush with hers and put one of his long arms around her shoulders.
He saw Sookie biting her lip signaling her nervousness as Sid Matt began to speak again: “The Will begins with Adele Stackhouse’s declaration of sound mind. The document is dated March 12, 2009 and replaced an earlier Will. I was Adele’s attorney of record and hereby testify to her mental acuity. The witnesses of the Will were Mrs. Maxine Fortenberry and Mr. Bud Dearborn. The property is divided according to person, and I will read aloud Adele’s words on the division if that is amenable to you all.”
“A-men-able?” Jason asked. “Is that fancy lawyer talk?”
Sid Matt sighed but spoke with patience. “I’m just asking if that’s okay with y’all, Jason.”
Jason nodded his agreement, as did the others in the room.
Sid Matt glanced at Sookie and then looked back at Jason. He read: “To my grandson Jason Stackhouse, I leave the house at 125 Mulberry Road. I also leave $5,000.00 to cover the property taxes for a couple of years, which will help Jason adapt to home ownership. In addition, Jason is to have his grandfather’s wedding ring and stopwatch, both of which the executrix can pass along to him through Sid Matt Lancaster.”
“Who’s the executrix?” Michelle half-asked and half-demanded.
Sid Matt sighed. “Sookie,” he said evenly.
Michelle scoffed. “It should have been me—as Adele’s daughter-in-law.”
Sid Matt gave Michelle a look that thankfully shut her up for a moment and then continued reading. “To Michelle Stackhouse: I leave $1,000 on the condition that the directions in the letter accompanying this document are followed.”
“That’s all? That’s all I get? After everything I did for her?” Michelle asked in an indignant and demanding tone.
“Michelle,” Sid Matt said sternly. “Please refrain from outbursts.”
Michelle sank back into her seat and seethed.
“To Susanna Stackhouse, my beloved granddaughter,” Sid Matt continued reading, “I leave the remainder of my estate, including the house and property on Hummingbird Lane and all other monies and property. I also nominate Susanna Stackhouse as the executrix of this Will. I hope that I will not carry much debt when I pass, and I have already paid for my funerary and burial costs; however, I leave it up to Susanna to take care of all remaining debt that I leave behind.”
“How much money?” Michelle demanded in Sookie’s direction. “How much did she swindle that poor woman for?”
“Why ain’t I gettin’ half? Five thousand and that house ain’t half,” Jason piped in.
Sid Matt sighed again, this time more noticeably. “There is a codicil to the Will, which I will read now. It was completed just last August.”
“What the hell’s a con-di-cin-al?” Jason asked.
“It’s an extra part,” Sid Matt explained.
“Does that mean I get extra stuff?” Jason inquired.
Sid Matt ignored Jason’s question and soldiered on. “The codicil doesn’t change Jason’s inheritance and the money set aside for Michelle. However, it does include a few more provisions; Adele made it up after she’d been reunited with her other granddaughter, Hadley.” He took a breath and then read. “To Hadley Delahoussaye-Savoy and Remy Savoy, I leave $5,000. To Hunter Savoy, I leave $5,000, which I direct Susanna to place into a trust for him so it will be ready for his college—should he choose to go. If he does not, the fund is to be released to him when he turns 21.”
“A little kid gets more than me!” Michelle cried out, obviously losing control of the false front she’d been trying to display for Sid Matt. “But I was married to her son and had her grandkids!”
Sid Matt gave her a stern look. “Unfortunately, Hadley and Remy were not able to attend today due to Remy’s having to work; however, I’ve told them that they have been named in the Will. And I will contact Hadley with the specifics after this meeting.” He turned to look at Sookie and Eric. “And they told me to tell you that they’ll be at the funeral, Sookie—if you wish to speak to them about the trust. And Hadley asked me to give you her phone number too since she didn’t get to see you the other night.”
“There are just a few more gifts that Adele indicated in her codicil.” He read, “To Mrs. Elsa Larsson: I give my enduring thanks. I am so grateful that I found a new best friend—a sister—before I died. I also leave her my prized cookbooks under the condition that she not share my secrets with anyone else except for Sookie who may copy anything she wishes.”
Eric and Sookie both chuckled a little, even as Sookie wiped away a tear.
“Who the fuck’s this Elsa person?” Jason demanded.
“My grandmother,” Eric said stiffly.
Michelle sighed dramatically as if she were being physically hurt by Adele’s will, but Sid Matt went on. “To Eric Northman, I leave my father’s compass and these words from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene:
What though the sea with waves continual
Doe eat the earth? It is no more at all,
Ne is the earth the less, or loseth ought:
For whatsoever from one place doth fall
Is with the tide unto another brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”
[from Book V canto ii verse 39]
Eric sniffled noticeably.
Sid Matt looked at the young man, whose eyes were now shining with unshed tears. “Adele included a personal message with the poem.” He read, “Eric, you once quoted this stanza to me when we were talking about my love of The Fairie Queene. You said you’d had to memorize it for a class, but I don’t want you to just have it in your head, Eric. I want you to find these words in your heart and live them with my dearest Sookie.”
There was silence in the room for a few moments. Jason and Michelle both seemed confused by the words of the poem, while Sookie had turned to bury her face in Eric’s chest. In turn, his face was in her hair. Sid Matt just let everyone be for a moment.
Michelle was the one who broke the quiet of the room. “Is that all?” she asked, no longer holding in her disdain for Eric and Sookie.
“There’s a letter,” Sid Matt reported even as he opened a sealed envelope, “but I’m not sure what’s in it.”
“Well—read it quick,” Michelle said sharply and haughtily. “Jason and I need to call our attorney. This Will isn’t fair to him! He’s Adele’s oldest grandson—for God’s sake! So he should get her estate—not some prodigal who abandoned her family!”
Sid Matt sighed. “I assure you—Adele’s Will is iron clad, and only a spouse or a child can contest a Will in the state of Louisiana. Since neither one of you is that, you have no case.”
Michelle practically growled. “I won’t see her gettin’ a damned penny!” she seethed toward Sookie.
“Then you’ll have to close your eyes,” Sid Matt said firmly, “because—even if you did have the right to contest the Will—no judge in the state would find Adele’s bequeaths to be inequitable.”
“But Grandma was loaded!” Jason cried. “She and Grandpa lived in a mansion in New Orleans.”
Sid Matt shook his head and decided to set Michelle and Jason straight so that things might be a little easier for Sookie. Maybe talking about the size of the estate wasn’t proper, but it seemed right.
“Actually,” the attorney stated, “most of the money from the sale of Adele and Earl’s modest New Orleans home was used to finish paying off the Mulberry Street house that you and your mother did not pay for, Jason! The rest of the money was used to make some necessary repairs on the farmhouse when Adele moved into it. And once Adele’s final medical bills are paid and the monetary gifts to you two and Hadley’s family are given out, the majority of Adele’s liquid property will have been gone through. Thus, Sookie will not end up with any more money than Jason.”
“But she gets the farmhouse and all that property!” Michelle complained.
“And Jason gets a property that’s worth almost as much and that’s easier to keep up,” Sid Matt sighed. “Now—let me read Mrs. Stackhouse’s letter so that we can adjourn these proceedings.”
Michelle sighed loudly, but gestured for him to continue, even as she went to light up a cigarette.
“Not in here,” Eric said gruffly, his voice oozing authority. Eric didn’t mind the smoke, but he knew that Sookie would be bothered by it.
Michelle glared at him, but shoved the cigarette back into the pack nonetheless.
Sid Matt cleared his throat, “The letter was updated when Adele added the codicil.” He sat up a little straighter as he began reading.
To all present,
If you are hearing this letter, then it means that I’ve passed on. I can’t help but to foresee that there may be discord because of the way I’ve split things up, but—to be honest—I don’t rightly care. I’ve lived long enough to know my own mind, and I feel that I’ve done things fairly.
Jason, as my grandson, I love you very much, but you have let your mother mold you into a man who puts his own needs above others. I’ve tried to spend time with you over the years, but you’ve never shown much interest in having a true relationship with me. Heck—Sookie lives in New York, and I have spent more time in the last years with her than with you. That said—you have so much potential, Jason, and I hope that one day you will find your own place in this world. I’m leaving you the home you grew up in, and I hope that—someday—you will meet a good match and have a family of your own.
Sookie, I want to thank you for being such a joy to me. The moment you came to live with me, my existence brightened. I just wish I had known what kind of environment you were growing up in so that I could have helped you earlier. Earl and I should have never allowed something so petty as money to come between us and our son and grandchildren. That is my greatest regret, but my greatest pride is in you. In this last year, I have seen you blossom into the woman I always knew you could be—strong and brave. I pray that you and your Eric will have a wonderful life together, but even if things don’t work out with him, I know that you can be happy. Never forget how much you are treasured and how worthy you are of being loved.”
Sid Matt paused for a moment to give Sookie a chance to wipe her eyes. “Do you need a minute?” he asked her gently.
“It’s okay,” Sookie said her voice a mixture of grief and strength.
Sid Matt smiled and continued:
Hadley, I was so happy I got the privilege to reconnect with you and meet your man and your baby boy. I’m leaving you what I can to help you and Remy out, and I’m setting up something to help Hunter with his future. I’m so proud of you for turning your life around and becoming such a fine mother.
The last thing I have to say regards Michelle Stackhouse. You know I have no love-lost for you. You blackmailed me into leaving the house on Mulberry Street to Jason (which I would have done anyway, you heartless wench). You also extorted me out of $10,000 when I wanted to take Sookie and provide her with a loving home. You did everything in your power to separate Corbett from me and his father. And, worst of all, you abused Sookie! Therefore, you might wonder why I’ve left you $1,000 more when it could be better spent for my grandchildren and great-grandchild. I’m afraid to say that I’m a selfish woman, and I don’t want you anywhere near my funeral or my burial, so I’m paying for your absence. If you darken either of those events with your noxious presence, then the $1,000 set aside for you will be forfeit to the estate.”
“She can’t do that!” Michelle screeched.
“She can,” Sid Matt said matter-of-factly. “This letter was notarized and was written by her own hand. I recognize the handwriting. Plus, the Will indicates that there is a stipulation. This is it.”
Michelle stood up and stormed out of the room, yelling about contacting her lawyers.
Jason glared at Sookie. “You were always trouble to this family. Just look at how you’ve upset Momma! If you had an ounce of decency, you’d give up the farmhouse! It shoulda gone to Daddy and now me! But Daddy’s dead ’cause of bein’ driven into the ground by you! Why don’t you just get the fuck outta town before you do more damage?” He shook his head. “You’re officially dead to me! And I hope I never have to see you again,” he finished as he marched out after his mother.
Sookie let out a sob at her brother’s words and then buried herself into Eric’s waiting arms. Sid Matt motioned for his secretary to pause the recording until Sookie was once more composed.
“Is there more to the letter?” Eric asked the lawyer after Sookie’s tears had stopped.
Sid Matt nodded and read.
To all my grandchildren, I pray that happiness finds you and sticks to you like glue. I love you all, and I’ll be waiting to see you again—but I hope that won’t be for a long while.”
Sid Matt sighed. “That’s all.”
Eric nodded and then rose with Sookie. “I’m going to take Sookie back to Gran’s house now.”
Sid Matt stood and handed Eric an envelope. “Here’s the key to Adele’s safety deposit box. In it, you’ll find all the possessions mentioned in the Will, as well as the deeds to various properties,” he said quietly. “The phone number on the envelope belongs to Janet Sinclair. She’s the bank manager and is expecting y’all to call. She said she’d help y’all out whenever you need—regardless of the holiday.”
Eric reached out to shake Sid Matt’s hand, giving him a look of both gratefulness and respect as he did so.
Sid Matt caught Sookie’s eye. “I’m sorry, Sookie. I didn’t know what was happening to you when you were a kid; I didn’t make the effort to find out.” He sighed. “I should have. No one in this town knows what Michelle Stackhouse did—what she is,” he said with regret.
Sookie sighed and gave him a little smile. “The important thing is that Michelle is no longer in my life.” She reached out and took the attorney’s hand. “I appreciate everything you did for Gran, Sid Matt.” She smiled a little wider. “Gran mentioned to me that you’d been visiting her quite a bit lately. And I know that she enjoyed your company.”
Sid Matt pulled on the collar of his suit shirt and checked to make sure that the recording had been stopped. Both Sookie and Eric chuckled when they noticed the elderly man blushing.
“Um—well,” Sid Matt began. “Your grandmother and I . . . .”
Sookie patted his hand comfortingly. “You were a good friend and companion to Gran, and she sounded happier over the phone during the last few months than she ever had as long as I knew her.”
“She—uh—loved your grandfather very much,” Sid Matt said.
“Of course she did,” Sookie responded sincerely. “But Gran had a lot of love to give all the way around. I know that better than anyone.”
Sid Matt nodded. “Miss Adele was a lovely woman—one of the finest I ever met,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion.
Sookie nodded. “We’ll see you at the funeral Sid Matt,” she said, as she patted his arm one last time before taking Eric’s hand and leading them out of the office.
Sookie sighed tiredly as she sank into the back seat of the car and then curled into Eric’s side—at least as much as her seatbelt would allow.
“Thanks for waiting, Bobby,” she said to the man who had insisted upon driving them to Sid Matt’s office. Sookie suspected that it was just so Eric would be able to keep ahold of her. And she appreciated Bobby’s gesture more than she’d ever be able to express.
“Don’t worry about it, Sookie,” he said kindly. “Did everything go okay?”
Eric gave Bobby a look that indicated that he shouldn’t ask, but Sookie answered, “My mother and my brother were unimaginable assholes. But my mother won’t be coming to Gran’s funeral—not if she wants the bribe money Gran left her, so that’s something at least.” Sookie smirked a little. “Gran really was a pistol, Bobby. She left Michelle $1,000, but only on the condition that she not attend the funeral or burial.” She chuckled. “So Gran wins either way. If she doesn’t show, then Gran doesn’t have to deal with her—not even from heaven. And if she does show, Gran gets the satisfaction of knowing that she won’t get that money.”
Bobby chuckled. “Your gran was my kind of lady!”
Sookie smiled and looked up at Eric. “Can we go by the bank on the way to Gran’s and see if it’s open?”
He quirked an eyebrow in question. “You want to do that now?”
“I want to go ahead and get a sense of the money situation and clean out the safety deposit box today. I know that the bank will be closed tomorrow since it’s New Year’s Day, and I want to make some decisions before the funeral.” She sighed. “I wanna get home—to Manhattan—just as soon as we can after the funeral.”
“Sure,” Eric said kissing her forehead. “And if it’s not open, we’ll call Miss Sinclair. Bobby, do you know where the bank in town is?”
Eric caught Bobby’s eyes rolling in the rearview mirror. “Eric, Bon Temps has exactly two stop lights and two major streets. I think I can find it.”
“I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself,” Eric deadpanned, eliciting a giggle and a kiss from Sookie.
Bobby grumbled something about successfully navigating one of the largest metropolises in the world on a daily basis, but gave Sookie a wink in the rearview as they traveled the two blocks that separated Sid Matt Lancaster’s office from the bank.
A/N: Thanks for all the comments about the last chapter. I really appreciate them! Most of you seemed to enjoy Sid Matt’s perspective! (And to my guest critic who believes that I’ve gone too far with the exposition—sorry it’s not to your taste. Writing fanfiction allows me to tell stories in a sprawling way, explore the perspectives of secondary characters, and dwell on certain things that touch me. While I want all to be satisfied, it won’t happen. I’m sorry if I’m boring you. You are not the first to find me long-winded. On the other hand, others have pointed to the very thing you critiqued as their favorite thing about my writing. I hope that the story will pick up for you. And—please remember that I delete all negative comments from anonymous posters. Even though yours was not bad, I stick to that policy. Feel free to sign in and leave your critique next time. I cannot “bite” via the Internet—any more than you can via a review—but I do like the opportunity to answer my critics.)
As for the rest of you, thanks so much for the continued support of the story and me! Much love to you!
Will Michelle try to crash the funeral? And—if so—will the spitfire who’s been developing in Sookie finally rear her head (especially if she’s not in a public place—like a hospital or lawyer’s office)?
Until next time,