Ghost Marina on the Mississippi

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Chapter 52 – Meeting the Past – Modern Day

The drive to Joillet was uneventful and at precisely 2 o’ clock Jason was knocking on the door of Esther Grant. The young, attractive, lady who answered the door was obviously not Esther.

“Hi, I’m Jason Clifford, this is Caroline, we’re here to see Esther Grant?” Jason said in a way as to make it sound like a question. The house was one in a row of town-houses that all looked as though they had seen better days and he wasn’t sure if he had chosen the correct door to knock on.

“Yes, she’s expecting you, come in.” The young lady said. Caroline and Jason walked into a narrow but well-decorated hallway. “My name is Abby, I’m Esther’s youngest granddaughter.” Abby beckoned them into a room where an elderly lady sat, this thought Jason, would be Esther. She looked a bit haggard, grey wizened hair, crumpled clothes with a blanket wrapped around her. Not the sight Jason was expecting when you compared her to his father who was of the same age.

“Hello, my name is Esther Grant, how are you?” Esther said, “forgive me, I won’t stand, had my hip replaced a week before you phoned, my granddaughter has come to live with me for a few weeks until I’m back on my feet.” Which, thought Jason, would account for her appearance.

“Can I get you a coffee, tea, anything?” Abby said, as if on cue.

“Oh, I would love a coffee please,” Caroline replied, and Jason nodded his head in agreement.

Jason got down to business and displayed the photographs and belongings he had that were once Tony’s and explained in a little more detail on how he had come by them. Esther didn’t take much notice of the photo of Tony and his brother, they meant nothing to her, but she did look longingly at the picture of her grandparents whom she had met that one occasion when she was quite young. They had paid for a trip for her and her mother to go to Italy to see them, but she only went the once. She explained to Caroline and Jason that her mother’s husband didn’t like the idea of his wife going to Italy with another man’s daughter and pocketed future payments that came from Mario’s parents. Of course, the grandparents caught on to this and future payments were restricted to sending money for child maintenance.

“I understand you received an inheritance from Mario’s parents?” Caroline asked.

“Yes, but my stupid ex-husband squandered most of it,” Esther said bitterly, “but what he didn’t know is that there’s still a little money over there and a beautiful little house in the mountains to go with it. But I doubt if I’ll ever get to go there again, can’t afford it. A codicil in the will prevents me from selling it, the house must remain in the family. So, I’m hanging on to it in case one of the children can use it, which is highly unlikely.”

“So, what happens to it if your family wants to get rid of it?” Caroline asked, the lawyer in her being inquisitive.

“One of my grandparent’s extended family would inherit,” Esther explained. At that moment, Abby returned to the room with two mugs of instant coffee and placed them on coasters on small coffee tables next to Caroline and Jason.

“Everything alright gran?” Abby asked.

“Yes dear, fine,” Esther replied.

“Look, I hope you don’t mind,” Abby said, addressing Jason and Caroline, “but if you’re going to be here for a half an hour or so, I could go out to get some groceries. I don’t like leaving gran on her own. She tends to try and do things herself. Don’t you gran?” Abby said.

“No not at all,” Caroline said, “we’ll stay here until you get back.”

As it turned out, Abby’s departure was a welcome blessing as they really didn’t want to disclose the inheritance money with any other member of the family knowing, that would be Esther’s prerogative. So, after they heard the front door close, Jason decided to get down to business.

“Look Esther, we have some good news for you,” Jason said as he extracted the now familiar envelope from his inside jacket pocket, “there was money on board the boat that we have divided into equal shares for you and my father, as you two would be the rightful heirs. Your share is $10,000.00.” Jason passed the envelope to Esther. Like Jason’s father, at first, Esther too was a little dumbfounded but certainly did not have the same qualms about accepting the money as his father had.

“That would be enough to get me to Italy, wouldn’t it?” Esther said as though a dream had just come true, “with a little left over!”

“Don’t know how long it would last over there though,” Jason added.

“Wouldn’t have to, I could sell this dump. What with my pension and what I have saved up I could live over there for a good long while. No rent or mortgage, fresh fruit, and vegetables everyday…” Esther’s mind seemed to retract into a longing reverie. “You don’t know how much this means to me, thank you so much.”

“What about your children? Wouldn’t you miss them?” Caroline asked.

“Let me tell you a little about myself,” Esther replied pragmatically. “As I said earlier, my ex-husband took almost everything, even the three kids. They moved out west, only my youngest daughter had children and then it was just one, Abby. She came to Chicago for college and ended up staying with me, she has been great. If she wanted to travel to Italy with me, she would be welcome.”

“Wow, that’s so sad!” Caroline said, looking genuinely hurt.

“It’s life. I have had to accept it, but now, once this hip is sorted out, I’m outta here!” Esther said with some gusto. They all laughed, just as Abby returned, laden with grocery bags and wondering what was so amusing.

“Well, I think it is time we took our leave, but look, here is my telephone number and email address. I’d love to know what you decide and if you need any help with anything please let me know.” Jason said, handing Esther one of his old business cards. They all shook hands and Abby was still looking a little bewildered. As Caroline and Jason shut the front door they heard a squeal of delight coming from within. They both smiled, it appeared Esther had told Abby and they assumed she had decided to go to Italy.

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