Acropolis

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Chapter 3: Missing Intentions

“Mom,” Ondrea protested as he looked from the paper to the country-style kitchen into endless rows of golden peach trees. “I didn’t know tuition would go this high! Does it change for me once I stay enrolled?”

“Why ever would it go up for you, peach? You’re the good one!”

“I know, but just ‘what if?’ Jason’s term is coming up in the mayoral election and so far, he hasn’t studied like I asked him and I asked him what he wanted to major in and he said, ‘Political science, I guess.’ You know, like he wasn’t absolutely enthusiastic.”

“Why worry about what Jason could do once elected by default? By default, you would always have enough scholarships and if not, I urge you to apply for more. We are in debt but Jan and his father will only push tuition up to keep fresh money circulating back into town. They know what’s best, plum, and those foreigners from Oldston and Archaica will be contributing more.

“Most of the inheritance goes toward Acacia. It may not contribute much toward us but that’s the way Daphne wanted it and we must respect her wishes because, after all, we are better off.”

“But Mom!”

“Did I tell you protesting much wasn’t the sign of a mature, independent college student?”

If mature means drunken calls, doing laundry on the last pair of drawers, and fungus in dorm bathrooms and kitchens maturity is cake, Ondrea answered himself.

Mrs. Fiore’s mind shifted uncomfortably. “However, it’s my job to do what’s best for you as it was Daphne’s to think about her last line. You have always been a responsible one and Acacia was always like your sibling so in the morning I could call Judge Danika Pierce, so we can close this inheritance fifty-fifty. Your father may have had a foggy understanding of Daphne’s wishes and Daphne hadn’t the faintest clue herself.”

“Mother, I’m not sure either but Acacia is her closest descendant, and not in the literal sense, I know, but it makes sense she has the most to utilize with the money and she doesn’t possess the most.”

“There you go with protesting my every word! Do you realize Acacia could drop out in two years at the latest? I don’t know my niece’s problems entirely but practically you may go on to Secondary College or Third College or Doctorate’s.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Why wouldn’t you want to become a doctor?”

“I never said I wouldn’t!” He barked then added more sadly and sincerely, “I’m having doubts though. Do I want to feed my inner masochist, Mom? I know I wouldn’t be in it for the paycheck like I suspect of my classmates but I’m lukewarm, Mother.”

“Oh, I see...well, if you change your mind, I’m still calling court because you are my Mr. Responsible, my pear, and I’m still the full-grown apple. There are things we haven’t told you about the will and things you may never understand.”

The next morning, Judge Danika Pierce, Executive Judge of Domain seven years and counting, agreed to court.

Kazimir was perhaps a closer family friend than Jason, but Kazimir and the Malevich’s refused involvement and accepted the small but generous offer Jason was willing to spread only to keep them away. It went without Acacia’s knowledge in the amount of 2,000 Domarians.

Jason met him before another trial outside the restrooms.

“What is it, Jason?” Kazimir was tired of the untimely company.

“I want to give you this.” Jason dropped ten large silver Domarian pieces into Kazimir’s palm. Corn was embossed into the tails and the heads had the original kings and queens some foreigners like to call “Creation Rulers.” “And I want you to keep it.”

“What for?”

Jason laughed. “You don’t mean to sound thankful?”

“It’s not that we’re not friends, but I think this should go to Acacia.”

“You would really lead me to believe you would give it to Acacia—like anyone is that honest? Come on, it’s just a little to get by and this way, if you keep it, I’ll let you stay out of the case. Fair?”

“Fair but...hey! Are you bribing me?”

“No, think of it as a truce.”

“If Acacia would like it, truce it is.”

Kazimir sincerely wanted to help Acacia, but he had nothing to give except the bribe. He also had a deed to an isolated part of Domain which was given to him by service to the church years ago, the church where Daphne served as High Priestess of Domain years ago. Kazimir wanted to give Acacia all that he could, but Jason and maybe Daphne, would not advise it. Acacia didn’t know what Kazimir was playing at, but he wanted to stay out of it against Daphne’s, and even her own, wishes. Kazimir wanted to hand over the bribe to Acacia but didn’t know how to tiptoe around where he acquired it.

“I don’t want to be a part of this, Acacia!”

“Why not? You’re my only defense against the mayoral throne!”

He tried to shut her up by emptying the bribe into her palm the same way Jason gingerly did.

“This has to be the most money I’ve seen at one time in my life. Kazimir, please tell me where this came from!” She whispered into a hiss.

“Don’t tell anyone, okay? It came from Jason.”

“He just wants you out of the case and out of my family. Daphne saw you as family. Besides, what would happen if you give it to me and decide to stick around?”

“I’m afraid I’m not a good liar.”

“But that’s what I’m for! If Jason asks how you spent it, say tuition. Oh! That’s right. He’s in the tiny government’s pockets. Say you put it in the bank?” She spoke faster when she was nervous.

“I want you to have it. Either way, I shouldn’t have been part of any of this.”

Acacia took a bite out of his half-eaten generosity and accepted the material. Either way, she couldn’t convince him to stay out of the will.

“I knew Daphne more than Jason would have ever and Daphne would have liked you to stay.”

Later it was settled between the Alexander’s and Malevich’s that Kazimir would join Acacia and her family on the will. The decision was hushed and only sprung on the Droughts in court that day. Acacia announced in court that “Daphne would have felt it best” but soon more matters complicated. Jason wanted her to have so much more—too much more, perhaps.

He shot up like an over-eager Kazimir in class. “Judge, I could offer so much more than the Malevich’s. They told me they were on the fence and...”

“Janus! Hearsay doesn’t bode well here. Regardless of how much you could offer, Daphne Alexander would have felt it best.” Jason sunk in his chair but his eyes scorned.

Acacia’s bond with her grandmother, living or dead, gave her renewed bonds with Jason but it suffocated her. The mayoral heir and close friend seethed and fermented his jealousy on the mayoral throne. Acacia intended to have all of her inheritance but since part of the will went missing, some of it might have ends with Janus, the heir of Domain, for Daphne’s intentions were kept beyond the grave.

However, before her death, she hinted that Kazimir was to inherit “more than his dreams” and “his studies will take him far.” Ondrea was given some inheritance on his side of the family but, again, this did not support Acacia whose family went fifty thousand grand Domarians in debt. It was up to the lonely defendant, Acacia, to settle this by claiming all the will entailed: the church, the treasury, the garden, and the orchard all obscured by a deed that needed to be settled—she sought all. She sought Domain.

“I am original executor, Your Honor, despite the doubts from across town that I’m capable of handling so focused a task.”

“Acacia—if you must know why you’re here, it’s to find evidence of what you are. It’s to find evidence of Daphne’s doubts.”

She regretted keeping Kazimir’s 2,000 but the judge seemed to hint she could lose every part of the will, her grandmother’s unfinished wishes, and even her chance to pay for college. The judge worked on the side of the law, but Acacia wondered if there was more to it.

Did she create the law or did Daphne? Who created Domain? Perhaps the Drought family could undo the law and accept what belongs to me by right even though Daphne lost parts of the will. But if it’s little or nothing I just hope whatever I get, Daphne left enough. It wasn’t the same growing up for her. We need too much now. If the Droughts created the law what side does Judge Pierce act on behalf?

A bribe had led to another bribe. Hidden in the Fiore orchard was a secret that led to another family secret and she craved answers more than she did assets, money, or even a grand deed.

September, the air turned dry and the leaves were kissed with drops of yellow and red. The trees rustled in fear of the small town while the breezes blew relief from the heated court.

“Alexander family, I invite you to the stand. State your claim.” Town judge, Danika Pierce, proclaimed.

Acacia’s willowy mother was first to speak. “I am subject to all the will entails: the treasury and orchard, yes that includes Ondrea’s deed or deeds, so I claim whatever lies beneath and beyond it.” Her actions seemed strong if a bit over-rehearsed.

Acacia’s father objected, seemingly reserved. “Your Honor, I would so like to view whatever the will entails beyond and beneath it.” Her father shot Jason’s family a stoic glance which went hardly unreadable. Kazimir sat in painfully with the jurors. He agreed to stay out of the will and be content with the deed Daphne gave to him, but he promised Acacia and her parents he will serve jury duty to sniff out treachery. It took lots of lying on his part to convince the judge he was an unbiased juror but Kazimir knew that her family grew poorer everyday as the citizens grew wearier. The Judge sided with this too. The town was in everyone’s pockets anyway. Although Jason’s assets grew with avarice, Kazimir did not want to blame Acacia’s loyal friend, not quite just yet.

The lawyer for the Alexander’s, Mr. Henseworth, extracted his briefcase. “Madame Pierce, the defendant only has copies of the original will. Seeing the Alexander’s were the original caretakers, even without formidable evidence, the law goes without repetition—the mother and father, next in line, shall give it to whichever young executor is fitting between the ages of 15 and 30. The Law of Dominium Sharing implies family means ‘next in line’ meaning next of kin, meaning closest of kin.”

Judge Pierce announced, “Point conceded, counselor. The implications are enough, but something is missing. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, I understand there is also a deed. Henseworth,” she pointed to the Alexander’s lawyer, “kindly show it to them.”

I’m beginning to think the judge doesn’t see me fit for the job for Daphne’s error. Less because of my reputation.

Henseworth stood. “Your Honor, the deed belonged with the Alexander’s originally, first and foremost.” Henseworth’s voice was high, tightened with nerves, or perhaps that was his personality. “I will kindly show it you.” He quickened, “the town of Domain exchanges claims with the Droughts, as knighted, to be bestower of all goods.” The lawyer reviewed it, hiding his quizzical look. Jason’s parents, the original Droughts and soon-to-be potential heirs of the will, used their best charms to look pleased or contentedly haughty. “I know it sounds archaic, but as laws change, the original intent still stands.”

The Alexander lawyer contradicted his earlier statement and Acacia thought, I’m screwed.

“I shall take it from here,” Jason’s lawyer stood, as obvious protector and keeper of the mayor and judge. “What the Alexander’s hold is true—a missing part of the will. That was barely a deed, however much it counted as a flimsy per se. Though Janus is rightly in conferring of the will, I believe it is up to Janus’s eldest beneficiaries to decide the executor. They have the title to wherever this will lies. Daphne originally gave her inheritance to Mayor Drought.” Jason glanced at his parents, then Acacia’s parents, but his glares missed the other Alexander’s and instead bore through Acacia. She returned a far-off gaze, both confused and calculating. Acacia sat deep in anguish over Jason’s kind intentions. Did he mean to keep the deed or bestow it upon her family under the nose of Domain’s court? Now the deed is missing? Her grandmother wasn’t the best will-writer, so, either way, Jason could end up with the will, perhaps even the church. Ondrea could keep the orchard, but she cared deepest for the church they could no longer afford to upkeep. Acacia massaged her forehead in deep thought. Jason was the same age, yet steadier in his holdings, however, he wasn’t family.

Perhaps even the college...perhaps even the entire village-port of Domain could go to him. The will should hand out the deed, not the other way around. If Daphne couldn’t write the will, then better she had kept track of it!

The judge wore a pleasing facade. “Under Domain, and its capital city mandate, there must be one executor to determine the current executor and so on and so forth.” Acacia was not in the mood for this discussion. She wished Judge Danika would move quicker in her proceedings. She thought Danika Pierce a little too slap-happy.

Is she enjoying her job a bit too much?

Acacia’s father rose dismally. “The original executor is dead.” Acacia’s best attempt at a calming mood melted away. “This is how wills work, and this is how they begin, Your Honor. Someone dies. Sorry.”

The Judge’s face became blank. Her chin sagged like her robe while her hand sagged, holding the leaden gavel. “In the case of a dead beneficiary, I call Janus to the stand. What is your intention in mending the will, proprietor?” There was something concealed behind the judge’s facade. It seemed she pretended to not know of Daphne’s death.

Jason shuttered then took his place. “My intentions explicitly show that I’m bringing together separation, but Acacia’s cousin, Ondrea, is losing his inheritance too,” he looked toward his close friend and Acacia’s cousin, “so no longer are they able to support them. I informed my parents what a brilliant idea it would be to bring our inheritance together with the Alexander’s but of course Daphne would have approved. I owe my life to her by forging our families together as one so Acacia could continue her education at Domain Private College.”

Acacia was slightly relieved. He intended to share! But he’s actually giving his plans out to the court?

Acacia yawned at the verbiage but couldn’t help but feel warm thanks crawling up her knees and into her cheeks. Mr. Henseworth, the Alexander lawyer, nodded and he thought this his most unusual case yet.

After the first trial, Kazimir met Acacia in the courtyard of Domain Private College.

“Kazimir, I finished my journal for English class. The professor accepted my writing. But I changed it to fake names.” Acacia then froze but she did not stop quickly enough to catch her breath. “He said it wasn’t real but would pass because they were memories and stories from Grandma.”

Kazimir caught his breath too quickly. “Hmm...interesting.” Kazimir did not know whether to sound proud or neglected because he was so deep in thought. Acacia could tell trouble was stirring behind him and she wanted to let him know his thoughts intrigued her, but she could not help but feel ignored also. Acacia was bored often but not with Kazimir. She knew Kazimir her whole life but went through phases thinking he seemed a little too proud; not proud, she kept telling herself, thoughtful, quizzical, maybe, too much like me, same but opposite, Daphne tells me. “He’s concentrated like frozen juice; you’re spread like syrup.” How can I forget her strong, sweet words?

“I have known you forever and this isn’t like you, but I can’t even give even a ‘perhaps’ to answer your trials... I can’t offer you my help, but faith I can.” Acacia then added in a more bored than mournful sigh, “does this settle on the case?”

He sighed and gave a slow response as if the first part of her console wasn’t heard and bared no weight because it bared too much truth. “We’ve always been able to help each other. What I can’t help is this: is Jason really in this for charity and is Ondrea in the will for the money?” Kazimir’s tone was questionably harsher. He felt that Ondrea was siding more with Jason in the case if there were sides to be chosen. “Is this even a case?”

For a moment, Acacia felt accused and more so neglected. Did Kazimir want involvement or not?

“A case? Well, certainly Jason can’t be in it for the penitence? Surely not my cousin either?” Her eyes were saddened. She questioned the lies to herself; she questioned Jason’s motive.

“Or surely they can...” He stole the words right from her mouth. “He just seemed so cold...so repugnant toward any involvement at first. Not even happy to stay out of the case, maybe distraught, but torn, I’d more accurately guess. What I can’t leave to faith is whether Jason wants you or Ondrea.” He threw his hands in the air in frustration.

Acacia was dazed. What did Kazimir mean by “whether” and “want”? Part of her wanted Jason in the will so her family could replenish the church and even the family fishery, so she could attend college. She needed Jason, like it or not, for security. She could give part of the charity to Conrad, then Ondrea if trustworthy, leaving enough for Kazimir if she became executor —that is, if she found the treasure first. She raised her hand in protest and with gentle coaxing tried to stop Kazimir’s worries, but Kazimir continued. She stopped her hand before it had a chance of resting on Kazimir’s shoulder, yet the weight of his shoulders collapsed.

“Jason is too comfortable, Acacia—with his lifestyle, with you, with the entire family.”

“He hasn’t been acting too comfortable with me. You saw the way he looked at me the first week at college. I know we had jealousy but rightly he must be over it now. I almost thought we weren’t friends. Now he is trying to make up for it. I know he grieves for us.”

“What is he grieving over?”

“I know,” but really, she didn’t. Acacia fished for filler words, “... about me, either out of self-pity, desperation, or mutual charity but what about Ondrea? What of him?”

“Ondrea is a charity case and he has already done enough for Jason’s reputation.”

Jason’s wealth was rumored all across the fishing town to the peripheries of Domain. Jason wanted his image to be as clean as possible, but maybe he didn’t want to end up as greedy as his father. With Anton Drought in the picture, Acacia became increasingly distraught over sharing Jason’s inheritance. Once she inherited Jason’s assets, her assets: the missing will, the deed of the many orchards and acres, and even the church which might also belong to him as it did the town—bringing two families together still didn’t seem enough to unite them after her grandmother’s death. Forging families seemed to drag things further apart. Family fought more than friends, at least with the clans of Domain.

Acacia pondered her cousin next. Her attention was turned to his image in a flash.

Have I done enough for Ondrea? Or has he done enough for me?

Acacia finally thought of a response to Kazimir’s accusation. “You sound just like those lawyers, Kazimir. Ondrea is not a charity case to my family but to this college. And neither am I. You are forgetting Ondrea and I are part of the same family.” She knew their blood wasn’t connected by dollar and cent symbols but of charity. She walked on in exasperation and, what Kazimir thought, teetered on melodramatic.

Acacia wished she could be more charitable to her cousin Ondrea but they shared deprivation. They should share trust unless Ondrea was really on Jason’s side like Kazimir said.

Should I be worried about Ondrea or Jason? No, I think I should really be worried about Kazimir.

She tried to calm herself but continued, “Our links may not be as close, Kazimir, but I don’t call you a charity case.”

Kazimir had enough for the day. Acacia jumped. She thought Kazimir had left, but he was still there—squatting like Rodin’s The Thinking Man in the dark shadow of the campus courtyard.

“Blink before you speak...the least we could do is the best for this town.” She needed more time to connect his meaning but she cut time and played the situation safe. Acacia immediately regretted her mild outburst brought on by stress. She could tell Kazimir had genuinely been hurt.

“...I’m sorry and I know we have some troubles but, like everybody, I wish—without asking—that since we’re so close you could just support us. It certainly doesn’t have to be a penny, but please have some involvement, some support, because I won’t be offended if you did. I know you are worried.”

The timing of the plea was too late.

“I’ll have to discuss it with my family however much I refrain from the will. I don’t have much either, but I’d like to share everything with you. Daphne pretty much adopted me. That aside, Jason wants too much from Ondrea. I won’t let him control me either—not like he is controlling you or maybe him.” He paused, making the humid air dampen more with the weightiness of his thoughts. “We are closer than you think, Acacia, so I know you and how far you would go for him.”

His change of focus, evident in his voice, sent a chill through Acacia’s fingers and spine that convulsed her knees, but the chill faded as soon as the conversation. It was too humid for chills. He knew something she didn’t and maybe the judge knew too. Above all else, she was left with regret, shame, and worthlessness. After so many years together how could Kazimir be so untrusting and cold? His usual soft hair, warm eyes, tugged at his jaw and melted away.

How could he think once I have ever stopped thinking about us as close—after all that time, trying to better one another, even if our faults, our differences, upset us?

Kazimir walked from the unsettling vibe left in the courtyard and hobbled to class. Acacia caught his trail of fury and lost answers—lost answers or answers that were only questions. Only blanks bore into her mind after the quiet shock.

The cellar lay on the border of Ondrea’s property and deep forests—a room darker yet less dreary than the outside, oddly filled with cloying warmth and more assets than wealth could inherit. The cellar room shone with torches, moonlight, memories, armory, maps to unknown territories, volumes of knowledge never lost, and a vestibule of orchard preservatives. It lay on the precipice of Ondrea’s property. The property was first consecrated by the Drought family, after Daphne gave permission, but Acacia’s elders knew the land before Jason. Titles were eventually passed onto Ondrea, a few years before Acacia began Domain Private, after his noble battles in distant lands, lands beyond the peripheries of Domain, lands taught in history class to be corrupt, anarchist, purely theocratic, or whatever new word they labeled the unstructured or non-constructed lands. The hinge to the cellar door waited for her, unlocked...inviting.

✷✷✷

Kazimir became, at first, furious but he relaxed once he found out that his family approved of the sharing between all the families to release Acacia’s burdens, including his. This did not, however, relax the deed, known as “the missing part of the will”, still missing. Although the cellar was long before discovered by Acacia’s kin, the Alexander’s, Jason’s family tried to take full ownership and could afford to pay more for the property than Ondrea. Ondrea could still uncover and map the cellar safely but he asked for Jason’s company in case Jason noticed Ondrea’s suspicion. Some things remained in Ondrea’s possession and full knowledge, but he was wary to share, even to Jason, his ally.

So, Ondrea adhered to the stand by himself with no other witnesses.

Judge Danika Pierce looked cuttingly at Ondrea’s family, the Fiore’s. “Ondrea,” she drew out his name in amusement, “show the Malevich’s, Drought’s, and Alexander’s the pieces you’ve found.”

Little does he know what I’ve found, Acacia thought. Kazimir was right about Ondrea—especially about Jason—but I still need to wait for evidence.

Ondrea wanted to give all he could to Acacia, if only she could see it, but he knew the passing around of fortune was now left for Jason.

Ondrea read a note he found left in the cellar but didn’t mention the cellar or its location. It looked to him like a piece of the will, so he guarded it with his heart. “‘To my dying daughter Daphne: the will is in our trust, but the deed has been lost. Whoever holds the deed, give them our trust,’ that’s all it says, Your Honor.” It had been the only part of the will written by a predecessor other than Daphne.

The fury that once was Kazimir’s, could not be contained within Acacia’s fists. The deed, not the will, has been lost! Daphne spun the court in circles beyond the grave. By Acacia’s great-grandmother, the will was for Ondrea! Her anguish could not be contained within her veins, her forehead, and welled from her heart mixed with betrayal and wretched over with untargeted and confused dishonesty. The courtroom seemed a lot hotter. The expression on Acacia became hard, stern, but contained and not yet fierce.

The Drought’s lawyer took the stand to coerce his witness. “Ondrea, is it true that you are in current ownership of the old Drought plot?”

“It’s true even as I choose Jason to be my shareholder. But who is to say it entirely belonged to the Droughts?”

Acacia lighted. Her mouth lifted but she kept her head down. This meant good news for her family, but she still worried about Conrad and whether she would ever be true executor. Her charities needed to go to him even more than her cousin.

The Judge addressed Mr. Mennings and Ondrea. “And the will, apart from the deed, represents which date?”

Ondrea answered, “Your Honor, it was not dated, only signed.” Daphne’s large scrawl bled at the bottom of the parchment.

The Drought lawyer, Mr. Mennings, then declared. “I will need a forensics specialist to approximate the carbon date from the ink. The laws of executors might have been different in the days in which the copy was written.”

Judge Danika proclaimed. “Capital Domain needs a date to make any document official. Without one we can’t find an executor. The date of the will could matter most in determining the original signage and what laws were undertaken in Domain during the days it was prepared. Motion granted.”

All of Acacia’s fury had subsided—passed on. Until the Alexander side of the family went into an uproar of which the bailiff had to act as a restraint between the Fiore’s. Acacia started from being deep in thought to alert and sound. She jumped from her chair. The few tangible words understood further exacerbated the quarrel.

“The law is now, and we must take it in our hands; the law is ours!” roared her seemingly mild mother between the cackles and calamity of the jury and hushed gossip in the gallery.

The discipline of her family astounded her. Acacia scoffed. It was her only chance to take the stand. Elders from across town—bakers, florists, and clergymen were caught off by her quiet disregard finally when she stood.

“What’s ours is ours, Judge Pierce. And I’m not the only one responsible but I’d like to remain responsible.” Her voice rose. “My lawyers agreed I should be the one to find the date.” A few gossips were left but the calamity left quicker than it came. “We believe there are still more documents missing.”

Judge Danika Pierce stared at her, looked from the jury to defendants, to plaintiffs, to bailiffs, and then knocked her gavel. “And so, it is,” she answered in a deceptive and smoothly reserved regard. “If not found, Mr. Henseworth, find a forensics team to share the warrant of Ondrea’s orchard. Ondrea and Janus have completed their job. Acacia, find yours.” Even Judge Pierce glowered in fear at her own words. Everyone held their titles except Acacia. Until more missing pieces of the will were found, no title was hers, no assets—even if Jason could relinquish them—were hers.

Ondrea, a merchant, and Acacia’s first cousin, (whom students at Domain mocked as “androgynous”), kept his orchard that possessed one magical tree of one magic fruit, although it was slowly being lost to Jason whether to his knowledge.

Maybe this is just a phase. Jason will pass our rights back to us, and the new Janus will pass on like the old one.

The deed, if Acacia could not claim, she would at least protect.

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