Inheritance

A story a day until there’s a sleigh! This holiday season, I’m sharing a new flash fiction piece inspired by a holiday song every day of December until Christmas. Today’s story is inspired by White Christmas.

Nancy had always loved this picture of her mother and father–the two of them in their late teens, sitting beside each other at a diner, two vanilla milkshakes on the table in front of them, two red straws in each glass. It was a polaroid picture, the border a creamy white. Her parents weren’t looking at the milkshakes or at the camera. They were looking away from each other–her father to his right intrigued by something happening in the diner, her mother to her left staring out the window with a hand under her cheek.

They were two kids on the precipice of a life together–marrying, raising kids, working, retiring, and eventually passing away within a year of each other.

Nancy knew how it would unfold for them because she’d been there for the unfolding. She was born less than a year after the photo was taken. There was a marking on the back, “James & Linda, April 1965.”

Her mother had told Nancy, shortly after James’s funeral, that Nancy was conceived on their wedding night. She was insistent about it in a way that made Nancy suspicious, but she also knew it was important to her mother that she believed her story, so Nancy didn’t press the issue.

She and her mother talked more in the year after her father died than they had for most of Nancy’s life. See, some parents grow away from their spouses and closer to their children over time, but Nancy’s parents weren’t like that. Her mother and father were a unit like the sun that their children orbited like planets.

Now, with their sun gone, Nancy and her siblings were divvying their parents’ belongings and preparing to sell their house. They were supposed to review each and every item together before taking anything, so Nancy made sure no one else was watching as she tucked the polaroid into her purse.

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