Eva patiently waited for her stepbrother, Robert, to end his drone about the money he was to get from the will Ė something about opening a business with other peopleís money and having the bank foreclose on some recalcitrant properties. I didnít seem fair that
Robert would inherit everything except the contents of the old house, but after all, she had to remind herself that she qualified only as a stepdaughter. Every time she thought of her wonderful step dad, she got a lump in her heart that wouldnít go away.
She daydreamed about the wonderful talks she and dad shared. A wonderful father, he loved to tell her of his adventures in foreign countries and even took her along once to Europe. She thought about the time when Mom was alive, about the hard days of her illness and about her passing. Robert had been in college at the time so it passed to her to stay at home. She got a job as a veterinarianís assistant, since she always loved animals. Someday she would finish her schooling and become a vet herself. Maybe next year.
Robertís smile turned into a smirk as he offered his opinion on what she could do with the furniture left in the house. Eva couldnít imagine anyone wanting to buy these old, run-down pieces, but Robertís suggestion of a one price sale to a local second hand shop would have to do. Robertís brow furrowed with annoyance as he ranted on about the missing bearer bonds he thought his dad had owned. There was no specific mention of it in the will and Robert wanted to make sure he got everything owed to him. Of course, the house and land, even though mortgaged to the hilt, would pay the outstanding bills with money left over.
After their first conversation about settling Dadís affairs, Robertís frequent phone calls became surlier by the day. Two weeks later a call from the police cam with the shocking news that her Dadís house had burned down to the ground. The house itself did have fire insurance to the tune of $100,000.00. Lucky Robert.
Lucky also was the fire investigator who canvassed the neighbors, one of whom recorded the license plate of a car in the street just before the time of the fire. The police questioned Robert who admitted burning some papers in the fireplace before he left the house.
Sad with the loss of Dadís mementos, Eva sat reading the single piece of his writing left in the world. Halfway down the last page of the will, he sentimentally included a poem he wrote for his beloved stepdaughter. It read:
You came like smoke into my life
To warm my heart and bless my wife.
Your giving nature deserves to find
A precious hearth for a heart thatís kind.
Your loving Dad
Mystified, but touched by the poem, Eva wondered why Dad would make it part of the will.
One month later, as a final gesture, Eva decided to make one last visit to the old homestead. Her eyes filled with tears as she neared the street of her youth. One last turn revealed an empty lot already over-grown with weeds. Reaching to the sky, a lone chimney stood mute, surrounded by ghostly memories of happier days. As Eva approached the small fireplace at the base of the chimney, the line in the will about a precious hearth struck a chord in her mind. Frantically she grabbed a stick and pried at the hearthstone. Raising it, the dark space under the stone at first seemed empty. No, something wrapped in a dark, damp bundle occupied the space. Unwrapping the folds carefully, in an envelope addressed to her was a large number of bearer bonds. Now the tears of her loss turned to tears of joy as she pressed the evidence of her fatherís love to her chest. The sadness of her loss was transformed into the promise of a bright future.