Thirty minutes passed before Ana Sellers returned Jeff Russell’s call. Expecting a receptionist or machine, she was surprised when Jeff answered the phone.
“Russell and Peters, may I help you?”
“I’m returning a call to Jeff Russell.”
Pulling the phone away from her ear, Ana stared at it, incredulous. He knew her? Sixteen years had passed since the day she left Corwin without looking back.
“You know me?”
You were a year ahead of me in school.”
The name still didn’t ring any bells so she would have to take his word for it.
“I see. And now you’re an attorney in Corwin.?”
“Yes, my cousin, Adam, and I took over the practice from our dads about seven years ago.”
“And… and why d-do you need to speak to me, Jeff? What is the urgency?”
Silence was his response.
“Jeff? Still there?”
“Yes, I’m here. I’ve been looking for you for over two weeks.”
“Please tell me what this is about and why you’ve been looking for me.”
She heard an exhale escape from him, gruff and harsh.
“Analeigh, Rosie Chastain passed away.”
Ana froze. Rosie? Gone? No. No way. She spoke to her dear friend… three weeks ago. Damn it. Rosie said she was coming down with a cold but was looking forward to flying to Georgia in July to see her good friend and surrogate daughter.
Ana pulled at her chest, trying to ease the pain gnawing at her heart.
“Heart failure. She told everyone she had a cold, but it was pneumonia. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to handle it. Rosie had a heart attack and slipped into a coma. Three days later, she coded. There was nothing the doctors could do.”
Her dear friend was gone. Ana’s skin prickled with anxiety as she fought to keep grief from overwhelming her.
“Jeff, how did you find me? What made you even look for me?”
“Like I said, it took some time, Analeigh. Rosie didn’t get out much the last few years. The few people she did talk to said she was disgusted with the changes and direction of Corwin.”
Ana knew that was true.
She tried to avoid the subject of Corwin when she and Rosie talked. Ana didn’t need memories of the place flashing through her mind, and Rosie said it decayed into nothing more than a political cesspool. The town’s first families — the Burfords, Foleys, and Lakes held all the offices of power. They treated Corwin like it was their personal kingdom and speaking out against them killed social standing and sometimes worse.
“Rosie had no family, and at the beginning, we thought she had no will. After wading through the legalities, we were able to enter her home. We found her will, drawn up by an attorney over in Spradlin. We also found your name and number, but the number was disconnected.”
Damn it! After a mini-battle with her cell provider over dropped calls and shoddy service, Ana switched carriers… and got a new number… four days after she and Rosie last spoke.
Analeigh didn’t bother to wipe away her tears when she realized by the time she activated her new number… Rosie was already gone.
“I’m here, Jeff. Just trying to take all this in.”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Analeigh.”
“It’s alright. I do appreciate the call, Jeff… and thank you.”
“Wait, Analeigh. I didn’t hunt you done just to tell you Rosie was gone. In her will, she left everything to you. Her home and the store.”
The buzzing in Ana’s ears roared over Jeff’s voice. Analeigh Sellers sat there overwhelmed and in shock with a sense of dread taking over.