Maddie Jones hung up the phone and dropped to the floor. Nothing could have prepared her for what she just heard. Her Aunt Daisy was dead. The shocking part was not that she was dead—it was the fact that Maddie thought she had been dead for twenty-years.
Her mother had been the one to break the news to her when she was nine-years-old. She had sat her down on her bed and leaned in closer to say, “I am so sorry, Madelyn, but Aunt Daisy is gone.”
“What do you mean? Gone?” young Maddie asked.
Her mother looked away to the window. “She died. I’m so sorry you won’t be able to see her again.”
Maddie had cried her heart out that day and vowed to remember her favorite aunt forever. She kept a picture of her aunt on her desk and, whenever she was feeling a little down, she would talk to her. Twenty years later she still did it. Broken heart? Talk to Aunt Daisy. Not sure why you didn’t get a pay raise? Talk it over with Aunt Daisy.
And whenever someone told her she reminded them of Daisy, she held her head up high. Daisy had been known as the black sheep of the family, although her aunt had once told her, “I’m more of a gray sheep.” Maddie laughed at the memory.
For twenty-years, she thought her aunt was dead. What had her mother been thinking? Her father? He must have known, too. That story had to have been something her mother and her family concocted. A scheme so none of them would be embarrassed by Daisy’s actions again. Unfortunately, both were now gone, and she had no way to find out what really happened to Aunt Daisy twenty years ago.
Taking a deep breath, Maddie picked herself up off the floor. She had things to do. The attorney she had spoken with said it was imperative she come to Maine immediately to accept or decline her inheritance. Decline? Why would somebody even think about turning down an inheritance?
She would have to take some time off work. The ad agency she worked for was one of the largest in Boston, and she had worked hard to earn her position in the company. She heard she was up for a promotion soon. She did not want to jeopardize her job. After all, Wendy was not exactly easy to work for most of the time and could hold a grudge like nobody else. But what was she supposed to do?
After getting her suitcase out of the closet, she sat down on the stool at the kitchen counter and picked up her phone. As she dialed her best friend, Kyra, she thought back to the call to her boss. Wendy had told her to take all the time she needed and to check in when she returned to Boston. Of course, she had said it in her most patronizing voice. Maddie could not imagine what she would be like when she returned.
When Kyra answered the phone, Maddie got right to the point. “My Aunt Daisy died and left me an inheritance. The lawyer said she just died, but I was told she died twenty years ago. I don’t understand what’s going on and now I have to go to Maine and…”
Kyra interrupted. “Slow down. I have no idea what you are talking about. I remember when your aunt died. We were in fourth grade.”
Taking a deep breath, Maddie continued. “I know. I don’t get it. My parents told me my aunt died twenty years ago, but now a lawyer calls me up and tells me she just died.”
After a short pause, Kyra stated, “That doesn’t make any sense at all. Who else in your family can you ask about it?”
“My mother’s brother, who would have been Daisy’s brother, too, died last year of cancer. That’s all there was…the three of them. I doubt anyone on my father’s side would know anything, but I will call my Aunt Evie.”
“When are you going to Maine? What did she leave you?” Kyra asked. “Do you want me to go with you?”
“I wish you could, but I’m leaving in the morning. Wendy isn’t happy about it, but what am I supposed to do? I have to go. I don’t know what she left me, but the lawyer said I have to be there to accept it or decline it.”
“I can’t imagine why they would say you could decline it. I wonder what it is. What if it’s a business? You could be your own boss, Maddie!”
“I doubt it. The last time I saw Aunt Daisy, she had a farm on the coast in the middle of nowhere. Can you imagine me living in the country?” While Maddie had loved visiting as a child, she could not imagine it now. Dirt? Bugs? Animals? Definitely not her thing. And she preferred her Jimmy Choos over Muck boots.
Kyra’s laughter took over the airwaves and Maddie could not help but grin. They had tried camping. Once. That was enough for either of them.
“Well, even if she left you the farm, you could sell it and pretty much do what you want with the money. Or maybe she left you money instead? Then you wouldn’t have to worry about the hassle of it all.”
Maddie had thought about all that, too. She would feel bad selling her aunt’s farm if it was what she inherited. But she could not imagine living anywhere but the city—in her apartment with the perfect location. The last twelve years, Boston had been her home and, really, the only place she felt comfortable.
“I’ll call you tomorrow night and let you know what’s going on. I’ll probably be back tomorrow night anyway.”
After hanging up the phone, Maddie quickly packed her bag with enough items to get her through the weekend in case she did decide to stay for more than one night. She also threw in a bathing suit. Her aunt’s farm was right on the coast and the private beach was only a five-minute walk from the farmhouse. It was always one of her favorite things about visiting the farm. Of course, her aunt always called it a farm, but it was nothing more than a large farmhouse in the middle of a field. She did have a few laying hens, but that was it. Farm? Not quite. But she did wonder if the little town her aunt lived in had been transformed into something larger.
Driving to Cove’s Port Maddie’s stomach churned. It had been twenty years since she had been to Maine. It had always seemed so far away when she was a child. As the Welcome to Maine sign came into view, she glanced at the clock on her dashboard. Less than two hours. It would be another hour to get to Cove’s Port, causing Maddie to wince. All this time her aunt had been three hours away. If only she had known.
While there was a stoplight in the middle of Main Street in Cove’s Port, nothing else looked like it had changed much. Even the ice cream parlor where she and her aunt used to go still stood on the corner of Main and Elm. Although it could use a paint job, the signs were still boasting the largest ice cream cones on the coast. It was the quintessential small town.
Before she had left Boston, she looked up the town on the Internet and found twelve-hundred people called Cove’s Port their home year-round. There were several seasonal cottages near the beaches, which were rented out in the summer, but for the most part, the town was not a tourist attraction. Boothbay Harbor, a half-hour to the south, and Camden, an hour north, seemed to attract more tourists.
She had not thought coming back would cause a lot of emotion, but she was suddenly drowning in memories of happier times. She did not come to her aunt’s house as often as she wanted to, but when she did it was usually during her week-long vacation from school or when school let out in the summer. She and her older sister, Phoenix, would take turns. Sadly, she had never gotten her last summer visit with Aunt Daisy because Phoenix had gone when school got out and, after a call home to ask her parents, was allowed to stay until school was ready to begin.
Oh, she had been mad about that. Her mother and father explained that being sixteen, Phoenix needed a break before she entered her junior year of high school. And it would keep her away from her boyfriend for a few months. That was a bonus for her parents. They said they did not want Phoenix getting too serious with any boy. At nine-years-old, her needs did not matter. Or that was how she felt.
After being told her Aunt Daisy had died a week after her sister returned home, Maddie did what any nine-year-old would do. She had blamed her sister. For the next two years, she barely spoken to her, but that was her biggest regret and a whole different story.
When a truck pulled into the parking space beside her, Maddie’s thoughts were interrupted. A glance at the clock on her dash revealed she had about fifteen minutes before she was to meet with the lawyer. Grabbing her purse and keys, she got out of her Toyota Camry and locked the doors. Not really needed around this town, but it was a habit she had learned quickly in the city.
Walking up the sidewalk, she went past the entrance of the hardware store and then the small coffee shop. In between an antique shop and a used bookstore, she found his office. Turning back around, she walked the short distance to The Grind and opened the door.
She and her aunt had come in here a few times when she was a kid. Aunt Daisy did not go anywhere without a coffee in hand. Like her aunt, she also traveled with a coffee cup and figured after the almost three-hour ride, it was needed before she saw Mr. Bingham.
Inside, Maddie looked around and realized nothing looked the same at The Grind as it did twenty years ago. The black-and-white checkered floor had been replaced with what appeared to be laminated flooring and the old rickety booths were replaced with small, patio-sized tables for two.
At the counter, she ordered a large coffee with extra sugar and cream to go and took a step back. Her aunt’s friend, Carol, had run the place when she was there the last time. Maybe she could get some information from her about her aunt.
“Excuse me?” she said to the cashier. “Does Carol still own this place?”
The cashier, who looked a few years older than she did, shook her head. “Lord, no. Carol sold this place to me about ten years ago and moved to Florida.”
Figures, she thought. To the cashier, she replied, “Good for her… and you. I used to come here when I was a kid. Did you know Daisy Carr?”
“Oh yes, I knew Daisy. I’m so sad she’s gone. Are you a relative?” she asked.
“I’m her niece. I’m sorry. I should have introduced myself. Maddie Jones.” Maddie set her money on the counter and watched as the cashier smiled.
“It’s nice to meet you, Maddie. Just sorry it’s under these circumstances. I’m Delia Jackson. I take it you’re here to see Sal?” Delia handed Maddie her change and stepped from behind the counter.
Throwing the change into the tip jar, Maddie nodded her head. “Yeah, just heading to his office now.”
“Well, if you need anything…a cup of coffee…a shoulder… stop back in,” Delia said.
“Thanks so much.” That was what she remembered about Cove’s Port. Everyone was friendly even if they did not know you. Boston was nothing like this place. The people who lived in Boston were friendly enough if they knew you, but the truth was everyone was too busy to pay attention to anyone else. At least it was like that where she lived and worked. It really was how she preferred it in her everyday life.
Grabbing her coffee, Maddie exited the coffee shop and walked back toward the lawyer’s office. She still could not get over how quaint the town seemed. As a kid, she did not pay much attention to things like cobblestone, benches, or streetlights, but the way everything meshed gave her a feeling like she was coming home. The thought scared her, and she quickly hurried to her appointment.
“What do you mean? A boy?” Maddie’s mouth hung open. Confusion seemed to be an understatement for this meeting.
The lawyer, who asked her to call him Sal, sat back in his chair. “Pardon me, a young man. Twenty years ago, Daisy adopted an infant. She never had children of her own and chose to adopt Kyle right after his birth. He now resides on Dandelion Farm, but he needs assistance. He is not able to completely care for himself. Your aunt’s will states very clearly you must become his guardian to inherit the rest of her estate. If you choose not to accept your inheritance, the inheritance, including the money, will be passed onto the next person on the list and you will receive one dollar.”
What? How could her aunt have adopted a child twenty-years ago? It must have happened right after Phoenix came back from Aunt Daisy’s. Her sister had never said a word to her about it and, at sixteen, Phoenix had trouble keeping quiet about anything. She could not imagine Phoenix keeping anything a secret. None of this made sense.
To the lawyer, she said, “I don’t get it. My parents told me Daisy died twenty years ago. Do you know anything about that?”
Sal shook his head. “I don’t. I do know, however, your sister’s name was first on the list, but when she died unexpectedly, Daisy came in and removed her name and placed you down as the first to inherit should something happen to her. Your parent’s names were never on her list to be contacted.”
“You don’t know why?” she inquired. Something was not adding up.
Sal shrugged his shoulders. “There were rumors, but honestly, I don’t want to say anything unless I know for certain. Why don’t we take a ride out to Dandelion Farm and let you see for yourself what you have inherited? If you don’t have any interest in it…well, I’d rather go right to the next name on the list.”
“Can you tell me more about the boy Daisy adopted? You said he’s unable to take care of himself?”
Sal leaned back in his chair. “Kyle is a great young man with Down Syndrome. Are you familiar with what it is?”
Maddie sighed and nodded. Yes, she was familiar with it. She and Kyra had helped coordinate a walk to raise money on World Down Syndrome Day a few years ago. She never thought Down Syndrome would have a direct impact on her own life, though.
“Kyle is high-functioning. He has a job, but he does not drive. Daisy was the one who usually took him back and forth to work. His social worker has since stepped in and has been caring for him and the farm. However, Lincoln has his job and cannot take care of the farm indefinitely. He has taken a leave of absence to take care of Kyle until this is sorted out. So, if you are willing to take your inheritance, you will need to move to Dandelion Farm as soon as possible to relieve him. On top of this, you will never have to worry about money again. Daisy knew how to manage her money and investments quite well. With the value of the property, her assets, and investments, it totals up to almost two million dollars.”