"Your mother left explicit instructions not to open this envelope until the event of her death," the lawyer was saying.
He held a small, worn envelope in his hand as he looked over the massive mahogany desk at her.
Your mother. It was so strange to hear those words used to describe a someone she'd never known. Never wanted to know. Maggie felt uncomfortable sitting in the big wing back chair in the fancy downtown office with floor-to-ceiling windows giving her a panoramic view of the city. She looked down at her feet.
And then there were the other people in the room, staring at her expectantly. She couldn't see them; they were seated behind her. But she could feel their collective glare.
Her birth mother's family. Maggie wasn't sure if they even knew of her existence before today. Their faces didn't give it away. They impressed her as people who never gave much away at all. The kind of people who'd be very good at poker. What must they be thinking right now?
When Maggie thought of her mother, an entirely different woman came to mind. The one who had adopted her as an infant and raised her. That was her mother. The woman who had given birth to her and then abandoned her was a stranger.
As a young child, Maggie had asked about her. Many times. But she could always see the pain in her mother's face as she struggled to answer. So she gave up. And eventually, she stopped thinking about "that" woman altogether. Until the day she received a phone call...
The lawyer cleared his throat and brought them all back to the matter at hand. "Ms. Winiski's Last Will and Testament has already been opened and read to all interested parties. This is a separate matter." He turned his attention to the group in the back of the room.
"There's no need for you to be present for this," he said to them.
"This involves us, too," the tall one replied. Maggie didn't even know any of their names. "Ms. Pope is kin, after all."
"Ms. Pope, do you have any objections?" The lawyer looked apologetically at her. He didn't like this situation one bit. She could tell.
"No sir," she replied. "They are welcome to stay." Probably want to make sure she's not leaving me the farm, she thought. Normally an expression. But in this case, it could actually be true. What would she do with a farm, anyway?
"Well, it seems appropriate that you be the one to open the envelope," the lawyer said.
He stood up and came around the desk, leaned over and handed her the envelope. She held it in her hands and looked at it. Turned it over and over. Stared at it. Her hands trembled a little. No reason to put it off. She took her finger and began to rip at the top edge of the envelope. She could hear her "kin" lean forward and strain to see over her shoulders.
It was a letter. "Dear Maggie," it began.
"Yes, I know your name. I know everything about you. I've been watching you from a distance your whole life."
Maggie stopped reading and put the letter down.
"On second thought," she said to the lawyer. "I think I would like some privacy."
"Of course," he nodded. "Take your time."
"Everyone, we can wait in the conference room. My assistant has some refreshments waiting for you..." His voice trailed off as he lead her newfound family out of the room.