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Maria goes to Thailand.
Perhaps I would come back and read the cause and the date of death sometime, if I ever got the courage.
A thick envelope contained a life insurance policy on Laura T Stone. It named Randy Tucker as the sole beneficiary. The policy had only been in effect six months.
In the forth envelope was a stack of United States Savings Bonds in various denominations. They were all in Laura's name until I got to the bottom of the stack and found my name on the last six bonds.
I opened the thin envelope on the bottom of the box and removed a single sheet of paper. It was a copy of the bill of sale for the car. Ollie's Auto had purchased the Corvette from Laura T Stone.
I had the sudden urge to evacuate the contents of my stomach; to spill my guts. I had just looked inside a person. It was as if I had opened Laura's soul and peered inside. I had read her most personal and private documents without her permission. Did she know I would investigate everything in the box? Did she want me to see the life insurance policy and the will? Did she want me to see what her mother or father had scribbled on the envelope that contained Karen's death certificate? How had she gotten my social security number to buy the savings bonds in my name and did she intend for me to see them? Did she want me to see the bill of sale from Ollie's Auto? Was she trying to tell me something? Was she being a whore? Or was it more; a matter of trust?
Lying beside her in the dark I could not help wonder what I was doing there. The responsibility was enormous. I was all that she had. I was her everything. I had read her most private papers. It was as if I had opened her up and looked inside. Did I really know her? What was she hiding from me?
"I sold him the car and he drove me home," Laura had read my mind. In the dark she clutched my hand to her stomach and spoke slowly and clearly as if she had rehearsed what she was going to tell me.
"I got out at the corner but he waited to see where I walked. When I got to the front door he was still there, waiting to watch me go inside. A week later he was there, asking for me. I was busy but he waited for me to finish. I acted as if I didn't recognize him. I told him my name was Tess. He came back and asked for Tess and I took his money. He kept coming back. He said he wanted more. We went on a weekend date.
I did it for the money. When I refused to let him have my ass he said he had warned me that he wanted more. Do you know what the ironic part was?"
She had delivered the speech without showing emotion. I spread my fingers to cover as much of her tummy as I could because she had begun to shake. The speech delivered, she was breaking down.
"No," I said, failing to see the irony.
"He doesn't smoke, don't you think that's ironic? He doesn't smoke, yet he brought cigarettes along on our date."
Her body was shaking but she did not cry. I wished she would. I held her to me and she patted my hand, rubbing it, wanting to let me know, I think, that we were one.
"Yes sweetheart," she answered timidly in the darkness of the night.
"I want you to know that you are the dearest thing I have ever known. You have nothing more to prove to me. There is nothing more you need to tell me. I will not ask more questions of you. Ever."
"It's a matter of trust," I heard her say as I felt her body relax.
I went back to sleep, feeling safe for the first time in months. Laura had disclosed
her innermost secrets to me without using her crutch, "am I being a whore?" There were no ulterior motives to what she had done. It was a matter of trust.
Jimmy arrived early as usual and woke me when he banged his ladder on the side of the house. I jumped out of bed and ran outside in my shorts to ask him to move to the other side of the house. We had started at 11 a.m. on Monday as soon as I had a clear title to the house. I worked with him, scraping, sanding and caulking the weathered clapboard in preparation to paint.
We would finish the prep work that afternoon but had not bought the paint, waiting for Laur