Zep pointed Quaid’s way. “See, I told you. I’ll take those condoms, though. Every time I go to buy them at the Fast Mart, Evelyn Gillwater prays for me. Right there in the middle of the store. It’s embarrassing since she won’t actually give me the box until she’s done praying.”
Dread crept across Sera’s system because she was certain her aunt had something terrible planned for her, too. Irene had always been on her about finding a career and how often she changed jobs, and then there was the unplanned pregnancy when she refused to divulge the name of the father, so Irene had decided he was a married man and Seraphina had brought shame on the family name.
“To my niece Seraphina I leave this advice. You’ve screwed up your whole life. You didn’t try in school. You were lazy about studying. You partied too hard and then you got yourself in trouble.”
Tears pierced her eyes and she wanted to push back the chair and walk out. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t heard before. If she’d been in a big city, no one would have taken any notice of a twenty-one-year-old giving birth out of wedlock. Hallie had been twenty-three when she’d had her baby. But Hallie was married and the town treated it like a big party, congratulating her best friend, whereas they’d all looked at Sera like she was a walking tragedy.
She sucked it up because she wasn’t going to run away. She’d done right by her aunt. She couldn’t control what her aunt did now.
Quaid looked at her with sympathetic eyes. “It gets better, Sera. Let me finish. You got yourself in trouble. You can get yourself out. I know all your life people have told you how pretty you are, but you can be more if you choose to. You have to be more because you’re a momma now and that boy deserves everything you have. It’s time to stop playing around and pretending to be something you’re not. You are a caretaker, Seraphina Guidry. You are a person who makes life easy on others, even old women who don’t like the world much anymore. To my niece Seraphina I leave my home, my land, and fifty thousand dollars to be used to improve it. It would have been fifty-two thousand but Quaid Havery is extremely proud of that expensive education he got. This is your chance, girl. Sell it. Keep it. Turn it into something beautiful. Thank you for your kindness. Good-bye to you all.”
Now the tears started in earnest. The words reached into her soul. Could she be more? This was a massive gift and she couldn’t take it. Could she? She shook her head, trying to let it all sink in.
“Damn,” Zep breathed.
She turned to her youngest brother. How could she take fifty thousand dollars and not share it with her family? Wouldn’t they be upset they’d gotten nothing and she’d gotten a small fortune? It wasn’t fair. “Zep, we should talk about this.”
Her brother nodded. “Damn straight we should. Quaid here got two thousand dollars for reading a letter. Momma, I need to go to law school.”
“There was a little more involved,” Quaid protested.
“Aunt Irene had fifty grand?” Remy looked shocked. “She once tried to serve me salad dressing that had expired five years before, and when I pointed out that ranch wasn’t supposed to be green, she told me I was acting uppity.”
“Guys, I can’t take it all myself. We need to split it up.” They would sell the land. It made her sick to think about it because she’d always adored that land. It had been her childhood playground. Despite the fact that the place was kind of falling apart, she’d always loved that house. It had a big wraparound porch that looked out over the water and gorgeous columns that dominated the front of the house. Well, they would be gorgeous if they were sanded and repainted. There was a lot of restoration work to be done. It wasn’t like she could do it herself.
But if she had fifty thousand dollars, she might be able to make the place shine.
She couldn’t spend fifty grand on a home improvement project.
“There can be no splitting up the cash,” Quaid said. “I’m executor of this will and the only thing you’re allowed to spend this money on is repairing Guidry Place. I hold the purse strings and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t honor the will.”
“Sera, Zep and I aren’t taking any money,” Remy said. “This is yours.”
“Now wait,” Zep began.
Her mother reached out and gently slapped Zep on the chest. “You hush.”
“Well, you got a ring and Sera got a house and money and all I got was a box of condoms.” Zep seemed to take notice of the look on their momma’s face. “For which I will be eternally grateful. Hey, can I cut Remy’s hair and get that twenty?”