A Contest of Wills: Chapter 4

Bex Miller had a lot of work to do, but first she needed some caffeine. A cup of Joe and a nice long talk with a good friend. She pushed open the door to The Brew-Ha and breathed in the smell of freshly ground coffee beans. At 10:30, the morning rush had passed and her friend Linda, also the owner, came out from the back to the counter, wiping her hands on a towel. An Australian Shepherd followed and bounded over to Bex, tail wagging furiously.

“Well hey there,” Linda greeted Bex, “I don’t usually get to see you during the day like this. It’s a real treat!” She stopped and took another look at her friend. “What’s up honey? You look upset and you’re all dressed up. What’s going on? Fubu, get down!”

The dog ducked it’s head and looked up at Bex, who smiled and rubbed his head. “It’s o.k. Fubu, you’re not used to me wearing nice clothes.” She walked to counter and gave her friend a half smile. “Do you have a little time? I just need to talk.”

“Of course!” Linda said. “Go grab a seat and I’ll get us some coffee.”

Bex sat in one of the plush armchairs toward the back of the store, Fubu curling up on the rug at her feet. Linda appeared a moment later with two steaming cups and sat opposite her friend, tucking her legs under her. She took a sip of her coffee and looked at Bex expectantly. “So what’s up?”

Bex sighed and turned to look out the window. After a moment she turned and looked at her friend’s concerned face. “The funeral was today,” she said. “This morning actually.” She looked down into her cup and said softly, “Actually, right now.”

Linda leaned forward and put her hand on Bex’s knee. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. I know they meant a lot to you. But why aren’t you there? You obviously planned to go.”

Bex looked up at her friend and fought back tears. “I did go. I got there and when I got out of my car Bob Taylor walked over to talk to me. He said he was really sorry, but that the Szczepanki’s daughter, Tiffany, didn’t want me at the funeral.”

“What?!?” Linda’s expression reflected how Bex had felt when Bob told her she wasn’t welcome. “But why on earth not? What is wrong with that girl?”

Bex shook her head. “Bob said for some reason they read the will early – and that when the will got read, she just lost it. She’s mad. She’s mad at her parents and she’s mad at me. I guess she’s really just kind of mad at the world.”

“Why on earth is she mad at you? What did you do?”

Bex signed and took another sip of coffee. “Well, you know that I’ve been living in that trailer out on the land her parents own, right?” Linda nodded. “Yes,” she said, “I remember that Mrs. Szczepanski wanted you to be able to start your cat refuge, so they let you use that land.”

Bex nodded, and then continued. “Yeah, but what we didn’t know was that they recently changed their will and left 100 acres of that land and the trailer to me.” She looked at Linda to see how her friend would react. Linda didn’t disappoint her. She sat back in her chair, eyes wide, mouth open.

“I know,” Bex said, “it’s crazy. But the thing is, I actually do feel like that land is mine, and that I should continue the work I’ve started. But Tiffany is furious and plans to contest the will.”

“Wow.” Linda was still processing the information, and took another sip of coffee. “So what are you going to do?”

Bex shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, at first I kind of felt bad. It must be upsetting to have your parents leave a valuable piece of land to someone who’s not even in the family. But then, well, I don’t know, I started thinking about it and really, how much land does she need? I know that Kate believed in the work I was doing, and the last time they came out and visited they were really pleased. And now, with the way she’s acting, I don’t feel bad at all.”

Linda reached down to rub Fubu’s ears. “Well,” she said slowly, “it sounds to me like the Szczepanskis knew what they were doing and wanted you to have that land. How much more is there?” Bex shrugged, “I’m not sure, I think there’s over 200 acres left.”

“Oh for pity sake!” Linda put her coffee cup on the table and folded her arms. “That’s plenty of land! What does she want it all for anyway?”

Bex smiled and said, “Seriously? Linda, it took one day for a developer to contact me about buying that land. It’s worth a lot of money.”

“Really? How much?”

Bex laughed. “That’s really not the point. Anyway, the developer told me that based on zoning restrictions and access rights, the acreage left to me was the most valuable from a development perspective. The other land is almost worthless without my 100 acre parcel.”

Linda looked puzzled. “Why would the Szczepanskis do that?”

Bex was quiet for a minute. “Well,” she said, “I don’t think they wanted that land turned into condos and strip malls. Bill was a real advocate for keeping the county rural, and my guess is they were worried that Tiffany would sell the land. But they knew that I wanted it for something else, something that means more to me than money.”

Linda looked skeptical. “But Bex,” she said, “you could also do a lot of good for a lot of cats with a lot of money.”

Bex smiled at her friend. “Yes, but I can’t buy another piece of land and set it up like what I have now. And I’ve already got 26 cats out there.” Linda nodded and the two women smiled at each other.

“And,” Linda said, “whether Tiffany likes it or not, it sounds to me like her parents knew exactly what they were doing.”

Bex’s smile grew wider as she stood. “You’re right,” she said, “and I think that might be the part that makes Tiffany the maddest of all.” She sighed and said, “Thanks for the coffee, and for talking. I really do feel better. But I need to go, I’ve got a lot to do.” Linda stood up and gave her a hug. Fubu rose, wagging his tail and followed Bex to the door.

As she opened the door to leave Linda said, “I’m here for you honey, whatever you need you just let me know.”

Bex turned and smiled. “I know,” she said, “and I can’t thank you enough for that. But for now I’ve still got to make enough money to feed myself and 26 cats.” With a smile she let go of the door and headed down the sidewalk.

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