An original fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory as created by Melpomene.
The old bank towered over her as she stood staring at it from the sidewalk. The building was a monument of marble and glass and chrome and made quite an imposing figure on from the curb. According to a stipulation in her great-grandmother’s will, she would have to enter it sooner or later that day, while hundreds of miles away the old lady would be put to rest in a strange and ancient cemetery somewhere in southern Georgia, a place she had not know about until the funeral arrangements were being made.
Her family, she knew, had tried to ignore the burial demands, insisting that the elder Blue Wednesday had been insane the last five years of her life. Blue Wednesday’s lawyer, a feisty gentleman of no fewer than seventy years with a shock of white hair and eyes as blue and deep as the ocean, had replied that she may well have been driven out of her mind considering her own family’s callousness and palpable greed, however the burial demands had been written out and witnessed a good two decades earlier while she was still quite sane.
Phineas Jansson, the lawyer and a long time friend of the elder Blue Wednesday, knew the reasons behind her descendants’ complaints. Transporting the deceased from Montana to Georgia would eat up a bit of the money they were to inherit; it would have been far cheaper for them to stick their departed matriarch in a pine box and hide her in the ground in Montana.
The funeral had finally been arranged with all of the children, cousins, nieces, the whole lot of them, including what friends of Blue Wednesday’s still held on to the physical world, and they were all being flown to Fargo, Georgia, the expenses all being covered by the deceased’s estate. Had even one of her family declined to attend, the entire estate would be forfeit and would be rerouted into probate court and would be tied up for years to come in bureaucratic red tape.
It was, Phineas mused, Blue Wednesday’s final trump card, her estate, and she had seen to it that her money grubbing family’s inheritance was dwindling rapidly before their very eyes. Oh, she had been a wealthy woman, the wealthiest he had ever chanced to meet, and there would be plenty left even after the first class flights, four-star restaurants and top notch hotel rooms which were also stipulations of the will. But her heirs simply couldn’t bear to lose even a penny of her assets, regardless of whether they could legally claim them yet or not.
The only family member who was allowed to be absent from the funeral, had in fact been ordered not to attend, was her great-granddaughter who had boarded a train the morning after her death destined for New York City. The young woman, along with her young son, had been a constant companion of the elderly lady for her final year of life and Phineas had almost had to threaten her to make her abide by her great-grandmother’s wishes and leave town before the family had the opportunity to arrive.
Phineas was well aware what awaited the younger Blue Wednesday in the safety deposit box far away in New York. He had accompanied her great-grandmother to the bank the day after her birth, two weeks before the infant’s parents had died in an automobile accident, leaving her custody to the woman she had been named for. He had also been the one to suggest opening the box in the child’s name, thereby assuring that no one but the child would ever gain access to its contents. All that had transpired twenty-six years earlier and the child had matured into a sweet and intelligent woman, nearly identical in disposition to her late father and, it would seem, she had passed on that same gentleness to her young son.
And so Blue Wednesday II found herself striding through the heavy glass doors of the bank, her toddler son’s hand gripped tightly in a clammy fist and the weight of the safety deposit key slight on her chest beneath the somewhat rumpled silk shell which had traveled only slightly better that the wrinkled linen suit she had drug from the depths of her garment bag that morning.
“May I be of service to you, madam?” A suited bank employee smiled broadly across a gleaming rosewood desk. He appeared to be similar in age to her although his mannerisms would deny such youth.
“Yes, please,” she replied softly. “My name is Blue Wednesday Hemingway. I’m supposed to retrieve the contents of a safety deposit box, I believe number three sixteen.” In a single fluid movement her free hand extracted the thin chain that encircled her neck, the key dangling in the place of a pendant.
“Oh my!” The young man brought his manicured hands together in a gesture of delight. “So we finally get to meet Blue Wednesday Hemingway.” He rose from his seat, his smile broadening even further. “You must forgive me, ma’am, but my grandfather handled the initial lease of that box himself. There are some names one simply never forgets. One moment and I’ll retrieve Granddad from his meeting, he won’t want to miss meeting you.”
As he turned to leave, Blue Wednesday reached out as if to stop him. “Really, it isn’t necessary. I wouldn’t want to disturb…”
“My dear lady, if Granddad discovered you had come and gone without his knowledge, well, I would simply have to find another place of employment. I’ll only be a moment.” He directed her to a buttery-soft leather chair. “Besides, he despises business meetings. I may even get a raise for freeing him from this one.” Having flashed her another smile, the young man disappeared into the depths of the bank.
She smiled down at her son. He had changed so much since his birth, gone was the straight black hair and grey eyes, now his cherubic face was framed by golden curls and thick lashes fringed deep hazel eyes. She pulled him into her lap and held him tightly in the circle of her arms while he twisted to plant a kiss on her cheek.
David Prosper leaned back after receiving a kiss of his own and studied his mother’s face. “Nana?”
“Nana’s gone to heaven, baby. She’s singing with the saints and angels now.” Blue Wednesday paused to clear the catch from her voice. She hadn’t yet even been allowed to mourn the passing of the woman she had loved so dearly and she hated that so many people were at the funeral who didn’t love her at all. Phineas would be there though as well as the few remaining friends her great-grandmother had retained over the years, they at least would uphold the grand lady’s memory. “It’s just you and me now I’m afraid, little one. Just you and me.” A single tear escaped and traced a path down her cheek, landing on David’s hand much to his delight.
“The resemblance is absolutely stunning.”
Blue Wednesday glanced up quickly at the elderly gentleman who stood just in front of her. How she had missed his arrival she had no idea.
“I met her only once, mind you, well past her middle years, but in the face and figure of age one can still see the vestiges of youth.” The elderly man leaned heavily on a cherry walking stick, his weathered face wrinkling even more with his pleasure.
“Thank you, sir. I’m sorry to disturb you from your meeting.” She stood and hoisted David to her hip, no longer worrying about adding more wrinkled to the suit.
“Hogwash! I despise those dreadful old things. They’re a complete nuisance. My grandson, Peter, has been advised to get me out of them whenever possible.” He slapped young Peter on the back and nearly doubled over with laughter.
Peter grinned. “You’d best have a seat, Granddad, before they all think you’re having another episode.”
“Episode? Hogwash! I’m fit as a fiddle.”
“Yes,” Peter agreed, “But we wouldn’t want Millie in accounting ringing up the ambulance by mistake again.” He assisted the elderly gentleman into a chair and, taking in Blue Wednesday’s questioning gaze, explained, “They ran all manner of tests the last time she summoned them. He didn’t return home until well past dinner. Granddad does so hate to miss a meal.” He flashed her another gleaming smile.
“Now let’s see here.” The man, whose name Blue Wednesday had yet to learn, was rifling through a manila file folder, finally extracting the appropriate pages. “I just need your signature here, next to your great-grandmother’s. Her lawyer faxed her death certificate last night, my dear. I was so sorry to hear of her passing, she was truly one of the few great ladies left. But you see, my dear, we’ve been expecting you.” His eyes brightened and a smile identical to his grandson’s creased his broad face.
Blue Wednesday studied the older signature. Her great-grandmother’s writing had always been distinctive, thin and spindly and reminiscent of an earlier age. It had also been quite impossible to forge, something she had learned when she was still a schoolgirl and wanted to skip a few classes here and there. Finally she added her own signature to the line he had indicated.
“Now all we need is the box,” the elderly gentleman said, his eyes shining.
Blue Wednesday looked down at her son before touching the lid of the safety deposit box. The entirety of her inheritance lay within the confines of that small metal box. Her great-grandmother had omitted her name from her will so that the family would be unable to challenge her inheritance in any way.
If the truth was to be known, the young woman would have given up any rights she may had had just to keep the only parent she had ever known alive and healthy, but the ravages of time had steadily destroyed that hope.
“This is the big moment I suppose.” She glanced around at those who surrounded the table, the air thick with excitement and anticipation. Soundlessly, she lifted the lid.
Nestled within the box were several items: a letter lay on top of three packages and a leather-bound book. Across the letter’s browning envelope was scrawled in her great-grandmother’s elegant script a simple instruction.
“Could we all hear the letter?” Peter asked, grinning hopefully at her anxious face.
“Yes. Yes, of course. I can’t imagine why not. You are, after all, part of this great mystery just as much as I am.” Her fingers fumbled slightly as she removed a single sheet of powder blue paper from the envelope.
My dearest child,
*****At the time you shall read this, I will be gone from this life. Let it be known that I love you dearly and always shall. When your dear parents informed me of your name, I was both honored and proud. They are good people and I know their love will overpower the wretchedness of the rest of our family.
*****To further protect you from the hatefulness of those people who share our family tree, I have left your inheritance within this box. Use it well, my lovely Blue Wednesday.
*****The journal is yours to do with as you wish, as is the contents of the packages. All that I ask is that you do not inform the others of the family as to what is within as they will surely dog you for it to the end of your days on this sweet and beautiful earth. What is written within the journal are known only to me, and now to you.
*****Guard your heart against those who would do you harm, my child, but be willing to love with your very soul.
Blue Wednesday Hemingway
“How very incredible,” the elder gentleman said, his eyes twinkling. “What an inheritance to receive.”
Blue Wednesday nodded, her thoughts preoccupied with the notion that her great-grandmother had written the letter at a time when she had been such a tiny infant and her parents had still lived. Shaking herself from her reverie, she lifted the first of the packages from the box. “Shall we see what lies within?”
“I thought you’d never open them,” Peter answered, garnering a mirthful glance from the young woman.
Sliding her fingers along the seam, she watched as the yellowed tape came away from the brown paper with a crackle of old paste. Folding back the stiff paper, she discovered an old shoebox.
“Hmm…” the old man encouraged when she paused. He and Peter watched closely as she lifted the lid from the box.
Blue Wednesday stared down in silent awe at the neatly bundled stacks of bills within the cardboard box. If the top bills and their paper wrappers were to be believed, she was staring at a fortune. Bundle upon bundle of ten thousand dollar bills rested at her fingertips. She was afraid to touch them.
The elderly bank executive’s eyes widened in amazement at the sight while his grandson shared Blue Wednesday’s speechlessness. Even young David was uncharacteristically quiet, overwhelmed by the gleaming glass and metal that surrounded him in the vast vault room.
“We’ll make sure you have a safe place for that before you get away from us today, my dear,” Peter’s grandfather promised. “I haven’t seen bills like that in some time now, my my... Now go ahead, dear, and see what else you were left.”
Two more boxes lay in the safety deposit box and Blue Wednesday’s hands shook as she reached to remove another. It was smaller than the first package, roughly the size of a VHS tape but from a time when such things were as of yet unknown. Again, she unfolded the stiff brown wrapping, more reticent than before.
A smallish leather case was revealed as the paper fell away. She slowly flipped it open to discover a small stack of property deeds as well as other official papers and what appeared to be a set of house keys. A pasteboard tag was threaded through the keys and gave an address in that same distinctive script:
The address matched the one on the top-most deed as well but she couldn’t recall her great-grandmother ever holding property in Washington. Puzzled, she thumbed through the remainder of the deeds and discovered acreages in at least four different states, most of them without improvements and all of them in her name. There were also grants of mineral rights and half a dozen stock certificates.
“Margot, Washington.” Peter sighed and grinned. “That does sound terribly romantic. Is it as lovely as its name would imply?”
Blue Wednesday shook her head in bewilderment. “I… I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it before.”
“How amazing.” The older of the two gentlemen quirked an eyebrow. “This is becoming more of an intrigue than one might have previously expected.”
Setting aside the papers and keys, she turned her attention back to the table. The last package remained undisturbed in its nest of more than two decades. She was unsure she could withstand any more surprises. She knew her complexion had to have paled by several shades and her heart was doing a curious little halting syncopation within her breast.
“Are you feeling alright, dear? You look a bit piqued.”
She looked away from the remaining package and met the faded green eyes of the old man. “I’ll be fine. It’s merely a bit of a shock is all. I don’t know what to think or say.”
“Quite understandable, dear girl. Quite understandable indeed.”
She looked down again to see David examining his reflection and returned to the box. Once opened, the package was very similar to the boxes little David’s shoes came in, rather squat and square-ish. She held her breath as she lifted away the lid. An old-fashioned scrapbook, no larger than a paperback novel, sat on top of bundled letters, their edges and ribbons yellowing with age. The name on the return address was unfamiliar to her but they were each sent to her great-grandmother more than half a century before she had hidden them away in the safety deposit box in New York City, far from the prying eyes of the family.
Blue Wednesday gently opened the scrapbook, rifling through pages of old photos and newspaper clippings. The book held the memories of the first “great war” as well as the warmth of the young woman who had compiled it. The portrait on the opening page startled her for a moment; it was as if she were looking back out at herself. She knew she held a close resemblance to the elderly lady, but it startled her each time she was faced with one of her old portraits.
The other snapshots and pictures in the book all had a young man posed in them, sometimes with her great-grandmother, sometimes alone, but he was a constant presence within the book’s pages. He was a constant presence and yet he wasn’t her great-grandfather.
“What a lovely pair they made. Picture perfect, if I do say so.” Peter leaned over her shoulder and studied the pictures on the opened pages, humming his admiration to the beautiful people the photographic paper had captured.
Still reeling in shock, Blue Wednesday gathered the packets and journal into a neat pile, leaving the shoebox filled with cash aside. “Excuse me my ignorance,” she said, leveling her gaze at Peter’s grandfather, “but I didn’t catch your name earlier.”
The old man slapped his knee good-naturedly. “Jimminey Cricket! If my head weren’t so firmly attached I’d leave it on the nightstand! Of course, dear. Let me introduce myself properly.” He affected an easy bow before extending his hand to her. “I’m Harrington Bricker, proprietor of the Bank of Greater Trust.”
She smiled and accepted his outstretched hand. “Well, Mr. Bricker, I believe I have some business to attend to with your bank. I don’t believe I’d be safe carrying such a large amount of cash about the streets of New York. I believe I’ll simply conduct my business through your establishment and save myself the worry.”
“What a brilliant idea, dear girl. Absolutely brilliant. Come along, Peter, let’s find the best way to manage Ms. Hemingway’s inheritance.” Happy as a lark, the elder Bricker wobbled out of the vault with Peter and Blue Wednesday in tow.
It took the better part of the afternoon, but Blue Wednesday Hemingway II walked out of New York City’s Bank of Greater Trust a true heiress. Not only that, but none of her so-called family would be able to harass her into revealing her own portion of the estate. By the time the will had been read at the courthouse in Fargo, Georgia, she would be completely moved out of the expansive ranch in Montana and well on her way to Washington and whatever adventures awaited her there.
She smiled a final farewell to Harrington and Peter Bricker, David waving his complimentary lollypop happily at them, and slid into the backseat of the taxi the men had hailed for her. They had tried to convince her to stay in New York for a few days and give herself a chance to explore their beautiful city but she had begged a rain check on sightseeing. She was anxious to make sure the moving company she had arranged for had seen to the removal of her possessions from the only home she had ever known, but had promised to return to New York once she was able to settle into the new life that had been thrust upon her.
Sinking into the upholstery of the seat, she stroked the back of her son’s hand in a vain attempt to calm the racing of her own heart. This was too much. Far too much for her to take in on such short notice. All she wanted to do was crawl under the covers in her cozy bedroom at the ranch and cry over the passing of her surrogate mother. But there was no tie for tears, far too much had to be handled before she would be allowed to grieve.
While she waited for the taxi to arrive at her hotel, she spared another glance at the deed to 618 Seaside Drive in Margot, Washington. It was a house as she had suspected, erected in 1820 and possessing twelve rooms in all as well as seven acres of surrounding land and a private beach. A photograph was paper clipped to the back of the deed itself and showed an extraordinary three story Victorian masterpiece surrounded by expansive gardens and overlooking the Pacific.
The home in the yellowing snap shot was grander by far than any of her great-grandmother’s frequently visited estates; it was even larger than the Montana ranch where they had lived the majority of the year. How had she managed to keep it such a secret for so long, and why would she want to?
It was a full week later that Blue stumbled onto the platform of the train depot in Margot Washington with one hand clinging to David Prosper and the other clutching the deed to the house she had traveled so far to see. After spending so much time traversing from one end of the passenger compartments to the other, she was rather wobbly on solid ground. She took a hesitant step forward. At the far end of the old fashioned depot, a taxicab sat waiting, the driver leaning against the front fender with a cocky grin spread across his face. Blue took a deep cleansing breath and struck out toward the young man.
“Afternoon, ma’am.” His grin spread even farther and he tipped his baseball cap in greeting. “The name’s Michael, Michael Mortensen. Let me help ya’ with those bags.” He was moving toward Blue before she could think to assure him she was not in need of his assistance.
In a swift and smooth motion, Michael had both Blue and David Prosper settled into the cab’s backseat and their bags tucked into the trunk. He slid behind the steering wheel and gently eased the car into motion.
“We don’t get a lot of trains stopping in these parts. It’s always big news when the depot gets a little action. Bessie and Otis had me come to give ya’ a ride on out to the house.”
Blue clutched David Prosper’s hand a little tighter. “Otis and Bessie?” she asked. “Sir, just where are you taking us?”
Michael glanced back over his shoulder and winked at her. “I’m taking ya’ home.”
Blue rode on in silence, her attention drawn to the passing landscape of lush green. Washington was a great deal different than Montana and she was unsure she would be able to acclimate to the sudden change.
“Here ya’ are, ma’am.” The cab driver slowed to a stop as the taxi pulled up in front of one of the largest houses Blue had ever chanced to lay eyes on. Her mouth gaped open as her gaze took in everything from the intricate brickwork of the driveway to the gleaming copper weathervane that topped the uppermost tower.
Blue was still speechless when the driver hopped out and opened her door for her. He turned to look up at the house. “This is it,” he said with a devilish grin. “La Maison de Bleus Mercredi. Just like I promissed.” He let out a low whistle of appreciation. “But isn’t she a beaut?”
Blue stumbled out of the back seat and pulled David Prosper with her to stand in bewildered amazement. She was sure the young man had made a mistake. He had misheard her or was playing a joke. This mansion surely couldn’t be the home she had been left. As much as her mind tried to convince her otherwise, she knew there was no mistake. The building before her was identical to the one in the photograph she had been studying all week aboard the train.
“I don’t understand,” she murmured. “How could she hide this from me for so long?” Her question went unanswered and she took an involuntary step backward when the front door swung open. Bright sunlight glinted off the stained glass panel of the door and sent shards of colored light dancing across the dim porch.
“Bessie. Otis.” The cab driver nodded to the elderly couple that had stepped out into the slanted morning sunlight.
Blue watched as the couple descended the steps. She was half afraid they were going to topple down the steps and break every bone in their bodies on the hard brick of the circle drive. She wouldn’t let her eyes leave their feet until the pair had mad it to stand on the drive without incident. When she at last raised her gaze to their faces, she was startled to see their eyes staring at her with obvious recognition.
"Ah, see now? My grandda' always said she'd be back one day, somehow. You see now? He was right. She's back where she belongs." The older gentleman beamed at her as she stood uncertainly on the rust colored bricks of the wide driveway.
"Excuse me, sir?" Blue asked, clearly confused at the familiarity of his speech. She could feel David Prosper’s hands clutch at her slacks as he peered around her legs at the pair of people who had greeted them. “I’m sorry. I… I don’t understand.”
The woman who had stood beside the aged gardener gave him a good-natured shove out of the way as she approached the pair who stood behind the taxi. "Never you mind that one, dearie. Otis never has learned when to keep his thoughts to himself and shut his trap." She paused just in front of Blue and David Prosper, a broad smile doubling the wrinkles of her worn face. “But oh, if it isn’t like steppin’ back in time, seein’ you standin’ here so young and lovely. So much like her.”
Blue glanced over her shoulder, her hand clutching tighter to the packet of papers she had carried with her, as she scanned the area around them for another visitor. These people were far too friendly to be addressing her, a total stranger.
“Never you mind my foolishness, dearie.” The woman grinned down at David Prosper and coaxed a smile out of the bashful toddler. “What would you say to a plate of cookies and some good fresh milk, young man? I’ve just pulled a batch of my blue ribbon peanut butter gems out of the oven.” She gently reached out for the little one’s hand and Blue was surprised to see her young son step out from behind her to join the older woman.
“Been waitin’ fer ya’, that we have. Haven’t we, Bessie?” He gardener hooked his hands in the straps of his dusty coveralls and grinned.
Blue looked down at David Prosper as he held the elderly lady’s hand and smiled so sweetly up at her. “My name is…”
“Oh, we know who you are,” Bessie assured her. “Just you come on inside and I’ll be explaining exactly how it is that we do know who you are.”
“Well, ma’am, I’m off now. Don’t you worry. Bessie and Otis are good folk. They’ll take good care of the two of you.” The cab driver tipped his head to her before he climbed back into his taxi and drove toward the road.
Left standing on the drive, Blue turned to look at her stack of suitcases as the gardener stepped forward and shooed her hands away. She was amused as she watched him heft the bags and head toward the house.
“Just you come on in, Missy. Bessie’s got somethin’ she’ll be wantin’ to show ye.” Relieved of her luggage and her son, Blue trailed after both Otis and Bessie. She was still a bit out of sorts and in need of a nice comfortable bed that didn’t sway with the movements of a train but was wary of such a warm welcome. She crossed the porch and stepped into the cool house.
It wasn’t just a house, she noted in silent awe. It was a palace. The room she first came to stand in was filled with an extraordinary array of antiques that would have had the accountants at Christie’s drooling. The Victorian settee and chairs looked brand new and the tables and mantle shone with obvious care. Every flat surface was decorated with fragile figurines and vases overflowing with colorful bouquets. Even the Persian rug that covered the glorious polished wood floor looked to be untouched by the passage of time. She felt as if she had just stepped through Alice’s looking glass and landed in a century long past.
“This is what you’ll be wanting to see, dearie.”
Blue’s head whirled around to spy Bessie standing in a small alcove that branched off of the main room. Blue side stepped the rug and padded softly to stand next to David Prosper and Bessie.
“Mama!” David Prosper cried excitedly. He grinned broadly and pointed to a large painting that took up a good portion of the alcove’s wall.
The painting reminded Blue of the old documentaries she had once watched about Regency England and it’s life-sized portraits. The woman in the painting was surely painted to scale and Blue’s eyes were frozen on the woman’s face. She knew the face as surely as she knew her own but never before had she been witness to the remarkable resemblances between herself and her great-grandmother in full living color. They were right, she was the spitting image of the grand lady.
“Now you see what all the fuss was about?” Bessie inclined her head toward the portrait. “I was just a wee little thing when he had it commissioned and I can recall the sitting just as clear as if it happened yesterday.” She smiled up at the painting. “She was certainly an elegant lady and so kind to us all. More than once, she bribed cook into making me special sweets. I was just crushed when she left us.”