She stared out the rain-soaked windows of her train car as she zipped through woods and fields lit by a dim grey light. A distinct feeling of dread hung over her – but not the usual blanket of discomfort she usually felt, it was a more smothering dread that she could feel deep into her bones. Along with the dread came the guilt.
Why hadn’t she just sucked it up and gone to Aunt Wanda’s for dinner? Aside from the fact that Emily didn’t know that “dinner” to a southerner meant lunch, she had been too wrapped up in her own daily drama to take the time to clarify the semantics.
Now Aunt Wanda was gone, and she would never get to speak with her again. She would never learn the stories she had promised herself she would put to paper, giving Wanda’s experience a life, beyond her earthly life.
Aunt Wanda was quirky, to say the least. She didn’t seem to get along with anyone, but she had always taken a liking to Emily. Every summer as a child, Emily could remember the obligatory visit to Wanda’s house in Arlington, Virginia. Emily’s parents only suffered Wanda’s company; Emily was the only one who actually wanted to be there. She was fascinated by all the trinkets on display in Aunt Wanda’s house. It had been years since Emily had visited – college and first jobs and boyfriends had consumed all of her time. The dinner invitation had been only recently, and Emily couldn’t help but feel regret at blowing her off, as unintentional as it had been.
Emily wiped a tear from the corner of her eye as the train squealed to a halt. She was there.
Opening the door she was blasted by the faintly floral-scented stale air of Aunt Wanda’s deserted house. She took off her wet shoes and left them at the door. Looking around, she smiled at the familiar curio cabinets lining the walls, filled with figurines – entirely figurines of bulldogs. Aunt Wanda had loved bulldogs, and you could definitely tell.
Emily had vivid memories of staring into those very cabinets with wonder, and then pestering Aunt Wanda incessantly to let her keep a figurine. This would happen on every visit, without exception, and would only end with Aunt Wanda capitulating and giving Emily a trinket to take home with her.
Now she only knew that Aunt Wanda had requested in her will that no one other than Emily should be allowed to come to her house and dispose of all her possessions. No one else had received anything in the will, only Emily.
She had to give it to Aunt Wanda, the house was immaculate. She walked around in silence, accompanied by only her reflection in the mirrored cabinets and hundreds of porcelain bulldogs, all looking at her. What would she do with them all? What was she to do with the property? She really had no guidance – the will only stated that Emily must appear at the house on the date specified.
And here she was.
“What do you want me to do, Wanda? I can’t keep all this stuff in my little studio apartment. It’s cluttered enough as it is,” she spoke out loud to the silence. The bulldogs stared back at her dubiously.
She sat down on the perfect antique fainting couch where she knew Aunt Wanda had loved to write.
But she had never written about herself.
Emily’s eyes fell to the delicate table in front of her. On it was placed a small black book.
Emily picked up the book and opened it. It was blank except for a few lines written in Wanda’s graceful cursive handwriting.
Please take care of my Edward. He will be arriving at 2 o’clock. The entire property is left to you, but only on the condition that you keep him safe and happy.
Emily stared at the writing. She jumped when the grandfather clock in the hall began chiming. It was exactly 2 o’clock.
Who is Edward?
As the clock stopped chiming, Emily took a deep breath, almost relieved to think that Aunt Wanda must be pulling her leg from her grave, playing one last wacky joke on Emily.
Just then she heard a light tapping on the door. Emily felt the strong desire to pour herself some of the scotch that she knew was in a beautiful crystal decanter in the corner liquor cabinet.
She instead pried herself off of the couch and walked slowly to the front door. Opening the door, she saw nothing but the quiet street in front of her, until she looked down.
There, sitting on the doorstep, was a huge bulldog, tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Slobber dripping on the red brick. The bulldog stood up and walked past Emily and into the living room, turning to look back at her, wagging its tail.
“Edward?” Emily laughed. The dog barked happily. She kneeled down to pet him and noticed a collar around his neck had a key attached to it. He licked her hand as she fumbled with the key to get it loose.
As she turned the key over in the palm of her hand, Edward started walking toward one of the back rooms. She followed him into a room lit by a bright sunbeam. He sat down next to a rectangular black lockbox. He cocked his head to the side and looked at her.
Opening the box, Emily could not believe her eyes. Inside, a tiny golden bulldog figurine sat, staring up at her with diamond eyes. Emily grinned as she remembered pestering Aunt Wanda endlessly to let her keep the solid gold dog. Next to the dog was a stack of bills – one thousand dollar bills -wrapped with a shiny gold ribbon. There had to be 20,000 dollars worth of them. She wasn’t even sure that bill of currency was printed anymore.
And it’s not.
“Thank you Edward.” Emily patted Edward on the head, laughing so hard she fell over on the carpet. She couldn’t remember the last time she laughed so hard.
“And thank you Aunt Wanda!”
This short story was originally published on Vocal Media.