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Chapter 1

November 13, 2007

Head down. No eye contact. That was her motto as Shane trudged home on the dark streets of Detroit’s West Side in the thick snow of January. Evan hadn’t worked tonight so she was forced to walk the mile by herself home. Cars passed – some honked, but Shane never looked up. She kept her eyes glued to the sidewalk knowing the pavement like the back of her hand.

Shane Keaton had grown up on the west side of Detroit all of her life. Before her mother died, they would walk up and down each block trying to sell everything from Avon to Amway. Lila Keaton had always been trying to run her own business, but there was no business she could run by herself as a single mother and with her sickness. When she became too sick to walk around or do anything for herself, no one came to help. It had been up to Shane to help her mother out, run the household and still keep up her perfect GPA for school. Shane had always been a hard worker. Just from watching her mother, she had gained a sense of strong perseverance despite bad situations.

There had been no man in her life; just her mother and Shane had been content with that. She wasn’t a person that longed for emotional attachments because she always knew in the back of her mind, she wouldn’t get true happiness unless she went out there in the world and took it herself, but she was always too small or too young to do anything.

Soon that would change for Shane once she finished her degree in college.

With no one to help them out and no good medical assistance for Lila, she passed away from the cancer that ate away at her internal organs. Yet as soon as she died, Lila’s sister, Bethany Keaton Meadows came knocking on the door with her lecherous family – her husband and daughter. For fourteen years, Shane had to endure the Meadows as her guardians.
Bethany could care less whether Shane lived or died. She paid no attention to her niece and avoided saying anything to her about the past accept that her mother had hit pay dirt with some rich old geezer who died on top of her, but Bethany would never tell Shane who the rich old geezer was.

 Uncle Budrick – and that was his real name – barely paid any attention to Shane until she started developing. Once that happened, every time she turned around, Aunt Bethany’s husband was either standing at her bedroom door or staring as she walked around the house. It was Uncle Bud who made her start wearing non-revealing clothes. Shane made sure she was covered from her neck down to the tips of her toes at all times – Even when she wasn’t at home.  Uncle Bud’s pitch-black beady eyes made chills go down her spine.

 Bethany’s only child, Trudy Meadows, who was the same age as Shane at twenty-one, had just back in three years ago. Since the Meadows had moved in, Trudy had been in and out of the house. She ran away three times officially where the cops had to return her, yet unofficially it was seven. When she became pregnant at eighteen, she came home on her own and, of course, Bethany helped her through the pregnancy.

In Shane’s opinion, Trudy gave birth to the worst behaved twins.

Health-wise, the boys were great, but with Bethany spoiling them and Trudy never around, the boys were more than a handful to any baby sitter. Now going on four years old, they had gotten kicked out of several Head Start programs in the area, and six baby sitters had refused to watch them. Often Shane was forced to stay home because Aunt Bethany ordered her to stay and watch the boys because no one else would watch them. Under Shane’s guidance, she was able to give the boys some discipline and they would actually cry whenever she would leave or wasn’t able to play with them.

Shane wasn’t naïve as Aunt Bethany thought her to be, but she just didn’t want to get into a pissing contest with her aunt. She had a feeling that if she did fight to get Aunt Bethany out of the house, even though she was over twenty and had the right to get them out of her property the house Lila had left Shane would literally go up in smoke.
Often she heard Aunt Bethany saying to Uncle Bud when they thought Shane was sleeping that if Shane ever thought of kicking them out, Aunt Bethany would make sure that “stupid heifer” would watch this house burn. “I’d rather see it in ashes before I walk away from it and leave it to her.”

One top of that, Shane also knew there was a large amount of money left to her in a trust to make sure she was taken care of as a child and that there were checks still coming to the home that Aunt Bethany was taking and cashing. Along with the house being Shane’s, there was also the new Jeep in the driveway that Aunt Bethany would never let Shane drive, which Shane had only found out about a week ago that was really in her name.

 So many times, Shane had thought about going to the police or even the trust lawyer, Aldridge Tate, to dispute what Bethany was doing with Shane’s money, but that would mean rocking the boat.

 She didn’t want to rock the boat – at least not Bethany’s boat.

Shane worked to have extra money in her pocket because Aunt Bethany never gave her a dime. The trust paid for her education, but Aunt Bethany even took the money Shane needed for her books and transportation. Shane was never one to fight many battles, especially with Aunt Bethany, because money really didn’t matter to her. She wasn’t materialistic person. As long as her needs were taken car of, she didn’t mind the inconvenience of having Aunt Bethany in the house. They stayed out of her way and she stayed out of theirs.

 Aldridge Tate, the lawyer over the trust, often talked with Shane about getting a lot of stress out of her life, so she could better concentrate on her education and get the internship credits she needed to graduate. He never said it was her “family” causing the stress because he tried not to say bad things about Bethany and her husband. Shane never told him anything bad to encourage Aldridge to help her anymore than what he was already doing. She had no doubt that he would do a lot more if he knew Bethany was taking the money meant for Shane. He thought Shane just worked at McDonald’s because she loved the job, but it was really out of necessity. Aunt Bethany would never give her any money that was owned to Shane and Shane needed money for personal items and things she didn’t feel like explaining to Aunt Bethany.

 All the good internships had been given away because Shane had not been able to get them due to her family, but she had faith that things would get better soon… she hoped.

 Aldridge figured that Shane’s problems were only the mild trifles of her needy family still being in her life and causing her ill feelings, but Shane’s problems were more than emotional.

 At their last meeting a week ago at his office in Southfield (a city suburb right outside of Detroit) Aldridge was still trying to get Shane to request an injunction to hand the trust over to him until her twenty-sixth birthday. Shane knew if she did this, Aunt Bethany would forever harass her and that was one thing Shane didn’t want.
 “I just want to know what other way I could go about getting my relatives out of the house,” Shane stressed.

 He sat back in the chair behind his desk and stretched his long arms behind his head. His thick brownish copper hair was cropped short and he smiled looking amazed Shane asked the question.

 He was handsome for a white man. She knew he was going on thirty this year and was up for partner at Bellini and Lintez Law Firm.

 “I was wondering when you were going to ask that of me, Shane. I was going to make a personal suggestion in the matter if another year went by, but I do understand why you want this. But because Bethany is your trustee I can’t play devil’s advocate. It would be morally wrong.”

 “So you’ve thought of some options already?” she asked hopefully.

 “Only one, Shane, if they are not willing to leave on their own. I know they won’t take that option,” he said. “You’ll have to evict them right after I’m awarded custody of your trust. It’s your home and it’s perfectly legal and sane.”

 Shaking her head, she said, “No, Aldridge, they are the only family that I have and I don’t want bad blood between us. I know that will definitely make bad blood.” Shane had been ignoring the fact that Aunt Bethany controlled the trust for years because she knew that would upset her aunt if her name was taken off. Although Shane now was legally able to select another trust head until she turned twenty-six or married, she didn’t want to because of the retribution from her aunt.

 Aldridge had told her years ago that Shane could not be in charge of the trust because that was how the trust was set up. She had to choose someone. The courts had chosen Aunt Bethany when she was little when Shane didn’t know how hateful and horrible her aunt was, but if she took her aunt off the trust now… Shane didn’t want to think about what could happen.

 Desperately, she asked, “Are you sure there are no other options?”

 He leaned forward, clasping his hands together on his desk looking mildly glum. “There is one other way,” he said quietly, rubbing the back of his neck. After a moments pause, he continued, “Bethany and Budrick came here the other day.”

 “They did? Without me?” she asked offended. As the person receiving the trust, she was supposed to be present at any important meetings that concerned the trust.

 Aldridge nodded. “They asked if there was any way to get retro pay for raising you.”
 “They are still after that?” It had been an old issue. They had been trying to convince Aldridge that at certain times raising Shane had taken money out of their own pockets and the monthly sum that was distributed from the trust had not been enough to cover the cost of raising a child in the past.

 Again the lawyer nodded his dark thick head of hair. “I told her there was no way she would ever get her hands on any money. She was given fifteen hundred dollars a month and use of the house, plus additional money was given to any special events such as school trips, graduations, proms and other events she complained she didn’t have money to afford for you.”

 Shane had only gone on one trip during her high school and paid her own way for prom and graduation with the money she earned on her own, but she refused to tell Aldridge this. She knew it would upset him to know Bethany had used that money for herself and not for Shane.

 Her mother’s house meant too much to her.

 Aldridge continued, “She was also given that Jeep she drives that’s in your name.”
 Shane didn’t know the car was in her name until that time. She just knew that when Bud came home with the blue Jeep a year ago, her relatives had coveted the vehicle like it was some kind of deity to worship. Shane was never allowed the drive it, but was told that as long as she lived in the house she would have to contribute to it with some of the money she received from the lawyers.

 Even just last week, Bethany had screamed about using Shane’s money to pay off the monthly insurance.

 A knot in her belly about all the deceit taking place tightened in her stomach.
 ‘Just open your mouth and tell Aldridge. All your problems will be over.’

 No they wouldn’t. Bethany would burn the house to the ground and make Shane’s life a living hell.

 There was only one way to get rid of Aunt Bethany.

 “They said they would persist in suing the trust for a laughable amount of money,” he said disgustedly. “The amount she told me was merely money she just wanted in her pocket.”

 “How much was it?” Shane asked, tightening her hands on her lap to hide her own mounting stress on this matter.

 “Fifty thousand dollars,” Aldridge answered.

 She stiffened significantly. That amount was laughable to Aldridge, but not to Shane. She knew the trust was worth a lot of money, which she didn’t know when she would ever see or get to use for her own. She also knew that Bethany was just trying  – as she always had been – to put money in her pocket, yet if it would get Shane the house, then Shane would happily pay for it.

 “Would I be able to authorize this amount out of my trust?” she asked.

 He was appalled by her decision. “You can’t be seriously thinking of paying that, Shane?!”

 “If it would get her out of the house, then yes, I would.”

 “I’d rather you have the bad blood, Shane. Excuse my French, but you don’t owe her shit. You’ve given her a place to stay, a car and not to mention all the crap she bought with your checks, while you were given hand me downs from that fat ass daughter of hers.” Aldridge was truly upset over the matter. “I’ve been quiet because I know how you feel about rocking the boat and I know if I pursue the matter it could endanger your trust all together and I know you don’t want that.”

 Shane was surprised Aldridge knew that much about how her family treated her. “Please Aldridge,” she said calmly to pacify the matter. “I want to stay in the house. It’s all the memories I have of my mother.”

 “Well, fortunately for you, the person who created the trust was a much smarter man and not even you can get that kind of money out of the trust for that reason. Five thousand a month is all that can be bequeath and unless you plan to stop going to school, then I don’t think she’ll be getting that amount of money from your trust.”
 She frowned disappointedly. “There were no special provisions for emergencies?”

 “Only health. All medical bills that could not be paid out of the monthly stipend would revert to a special holding account.”
 “This has to fall under mental health,” she suggested teasingly. “I think I’m going crazy with them around.” On the outside her demeanor didn’t look serious, but in truth, Shane knew growing concern about her family in her home had started to put a lot of emotional strain on her. It also could be loneliness and … there was something else, but she didn’t want to even address that with herself or she really would go crazy.

 “No, Shane. I can’t do it. I love you very much and if I had fifty grand to give away like that I would. You deserve so much better.”

 She knew this and in order to keep her sanity she needed to get the Meadows out of her house as calmly and quickly as possible. What if I put the house up for collateral? Won’t this do?”

 He looked tiredly over her. “It not worth it, Shane,” he pleaded.

 “If it’s my state of mind in jeopardy, then yes it is, Aldridge.” She fought to keep the unsteadiness out of her voice by taking a deep breath. She didn’t want Aldridge to know this was a serious bother to her.

 “You won’t be able to pay it back and you know that right? Or you’ll have to forgo the college and pay off the debt or you’ll still lose the house.”

 She knew that was not an option. Not yet. Determinedly, she said, “I’m going to find the money.”

 Aldridge shook his head hopelessly. “I won’t encourage you on this, but if you need me to help you out with any paperwork, Shane, call me. No matter the time of day or night.” He handed her a card with his home number written on it.

 “Thank you,” she said gratefully, standing up preparing to leave. She would catch the Detroit bus home before Aunt Bethany suspected she had not really gone to class.

Jokingly, she said, “You wouldn’t happen to have any friends who would have that kind of money laying around?”

 There was this strange look in his eye briefly, but then he shook his head disappointedly.

 When she got to the door of his office, he called her quietly. Turning to him, he said, “If you happen upon a way to get this money make sure you have Bethany’s agreement to leave in writing.”

 Shane nodded knowing she could turn to him to handle something like that. Now all she had to do was find a way to get the money.

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3 Comments
  1. Tori permalink

    Man this is already the first chapter and I already hate this Bethany lady. I did save this to my favorites Sylvia but I didn’t get a chance to post. But I will be checking everyday. Great Start!

  2. Frances Richardson permalink

    This makes me want to read more to find out how she gets the Aunt’s family out and who is her benefactor I hopw to hear more I live in northern Quebec Canada, we don’t have very many English books here and I have to go 1 hou and a half from here to buy books but they got rid of the book store Coles there. good luck with your future books and thank you.

  3. Tony permalink

    Hey, Syl-B. I see the “name” is quite useful. Nowadays, this seems the only way to contact you. Wait, isn’t your number: 313-28…lol! No. I’m not gonna do that. Just joking. Talk to you soon.

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