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Great. Thanks, Uncle Carl. Not like I don’t have enough to do already.I let out a big sigh, but as the air went out, guilt crept in. How could I be thinking like that? Uncle Carl was always thinking about others, and I’m sure deep down he meant well when he put all these ridiculous stipulations in place. He must have left the club to me for a reason. Probably because he knew I would do anything not to let him down.

“Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll do what I need to.” I’d need to call and decline the amazing job I’d been offered the other day.

“It’s only a year, Anne. Before you know it, The Treasured Chest can go up for sale. And by the way, all the surrounding property has been purchased and demolished, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re able to sell it at a good price,” he said.

“Don’t you think Uncle Carl would’ve sold it when the others did if that was the case?” I asked.

My mother shook her head. “Your uncle was stubborn. He wasn’t letting go of that place no matter what the offer was. But I know you’ll do the right thing, and if someone makes you a good offer, don’t hesitate. Take it, just not until the year is up. And whatever you do, don’t get yourself tied down to that place like Carl did.”

No chance in hell of that happening.“Don’t worry, Mom, I know what’s expected of me.” I’ve always done what was expected, and look where it’s gotten me. Stuck in the same small town I swore I would never live in again. But they were right, it was only for 365 days. I’d just need to take it one day at a time. Before I could even plan how to pull it off, I needed to get out of here and call the one person I knew could help me.

“Need any help with the dishes, Mom?” I asked like always. Thankfully she gave her usual answer.

“No, dear. I’m sure you have plenty of things you need to take care of,” she said.

More than I probably even know.I got up from the kitchen table and kissed them both. “Love you guys.”

Dad gave me an extra-long squeeze and said, “I know Carl left you this club with a hell of a lot of strings attached, but if you don’t want to do this…”

“No, Dad, I do. Besides, it gives me a reason to stay in Errol a bit longer.”

He smiled as he released me. “Who knows? Maybe you’ll change your mind and decide to stay here for good.”

“Dad, I didn’t go to college to let it go to waste. Besides, there is a big world out there that I want to see.” It’s bad enough I was twenty-six and my parents believed I was…innocent. The thought of living at home for the rest of my life was enough to make me cry. I could put my dreams on hold for a short time, but no way in hell was I giving up on them. Not for Uncle Carl, not for his employees, not even for my parents. “I’ll be staying in Bermoose.”

“And not here in Errol with us?” he asked.

“Yes, Dad. The club is there, and it only makes sense for me to be close by. You know, to monitor everything.” And to have some privacy.

“But I made up your room,” Mom said.

“If I get a break, maybe I’ll come and spend a night or two. I think the club is going to take up a lot of my time,” I said.

“Just make sure you take time for yourself, too. Carl lived and breathed that place.”

“One year, Mom. That’s all,” I stated. Smiling, I grabbed my purse and keys and headed toward the door. “I’ll call you tomorrow once I’m settled in. Thanks for breakfast.”

Once I was in my Honda and pulling out of the driveway, I called my aunt.

“Hello? Anne, is everything okay?” Trixi asked.

“Well, yes and no. I mean, I was hoping you and I could talk.”

“Sure. Do you want me to come to Errol?” she asked.

“Actually, I’m heading to Bermoose. A hotel room until I can find an apartment.”

“A hotel? Why don’t you come and stay with me? I have plenty of room here,” she offered.

I had been hoping she’d offer but wasn’t sure how welcome I’d be after the reading of the will. The look in her eyes as the lawyer made the horrible announcement was one I wouldn’t forget. Trixi seemed as shocked as my dad. Giving her an out, I asked, “Are you sure?”

“Of course. You’re my favorite niece.”

I rolled my eyes, wondering how she could still bring herself to joke after all she’d been through this week. Maybe, like me, her tears had dried up and she had to fill the emptiness with something. Might as well make it humor. “I’m your only niece,” I reminded her jokingly.

Trixi chuckled. “Gee, how could I forget? After all, you sign all your cards, ‘Your one and only niece’.”

I could tell my concerns were misplaced. There’d be no awkwardness - Trixi was the most laid-back individual I knew. Staying with her while I sorted everything out was just what I needed. Hopefully, she’d feel the same after our chat.