When I turned twenty-one, I discovered I’d received an inheritance and it changed my life.
On the day I turned twenty-one, what should have been a joyous celebration with my parents turned into a screaming match with my father after a FedEx delivery man knocked on our door.
“Delivery for Miss Julia Stanley,” the FedEx man said. I signed for it excitedly. Someone had sent me a present, special delivery, and I couldn’t wait to see what it was. I had no idea my entire life was about to change.
I opened the envelope and found a letter from a probate lawyer, informing me that I had inherited a country house in Virginia which was part of the estate of a Mrs. Gloria LeFevre.
LeFevre? This woman had my surname! Why had I never heard of her? She must be my father’s mother… Maybe they were estranged! I found that easy to believe because my father had always had a difficult, austere character.
Letter in hand, I went back to the lounge where I’d been about to blow out my candles. “Mom, dad? It looks like I inherited a house somewhere in Virginia!”
For a second I saw my father’s face transform. Was that a look of fear? But then it was gone, and he was his usual dour self. “An inheritance? From whom?”
“A woman, Gloria LeFevre,” I told him. “She must be a relative since she has our surname.”
“Never heard of her,” my father said, but again the fear flickered across his face. “It must be some kind of a con.” Behind him, I saw my timid mother’s eyes widen, and her hands rise to cover her mouth.
There was something strange behind this inheritance, some family secret, and I was determined to find out what it was. My entire life I’d had the nagging feeling that something was strange, odd, missing.
Maybe now I’d get the chance to find out what it was. The next day, despite my father’s protests and my mother’s tears, I went to the lawyer named in the probate documents.
He informed me that Gloria LeFevre had left me a house in Smithfield Virginia. There were, however, conditions set on my receiving the inheritance. I had to reside in the house for at least three months before I was free to sell the property.
My residence of the house was to be verified by affidavits from the neighbors, which meant I’d have to socialize. I would have to live in a small town in Virginia and hobnob with my country neighbors!
“I can tell you, Miss LeFevre, that the house, which is a lovely antebellum mansion, has been valued at over two million dollars,” the lawyer told me.
Two million dollars? I could do a lot with two million dollars, I could pay for my entire college education and still have enough left over to buy my own home and set up the little business I’d been dreaming about.
Over my father’s frantic protests, I threw a backpack with a few clothes into the back of my little car and headed for Smithfield, Virginia. I drove the 80-odd miles from Richmond to Smithfield, my mind churning. This Gloria LeFevre had lived less than two hours from us. Why had my father never visited her? Who was she?
When I arrived at the address of the house I had inherited, I was stunned. It was just as the lawyer had described, like something out of “Gone with the Wind”! I took out the bundle of keys the lawyer had given me and used the one labeled as ‘front door.’
Inside, the house was even lovelier and spotlessly clean, even the overhead chandeliers sparkled. Someone had been keeping the house clean and dust-free. In the beautiful dining room, I found an envelope on the table.
It was addressed to “Miss Julia LeFevre.” I opened it with trembling hands, unfolded the letter, and started to read it. “My dearest Julia,” it began, “I know that this all comes as a surprise to you. I’m your grandmother Gloria, your father’s mother.”
“Please believe that I love you dearly and that the decision I made which led your father to keep me away from you was the hardest one I’ve ever made. I have lived and will die with a divided heart.”
“My dear, I know that this will come as a shock to you, but you have a twin sister. You can’t imagine our joy when you two were born! Unfortunately, your mother had a hard labor, and the doctors made a sad revelation.”
“During labor, your twin, June, had suffered nerve damage to her spine and would likely never walk. When he heard this, your father was furious. He sued the hospital and received substantial compensation.”
“After that, his interest in June vanished. To my horror, he decided that he and your mother couldn’t give June the care she needed and were determined to have her institutionalized.”
I gasped. I had a twin? And my parents had abandoned her in an institution? I continued reading my grandmother’s letter. “As you can imagine, I was shocked and determined to prevent this at any cost.
“I begged your father to reconsider, but he was adamant. Your mother wanted to keep June too, but as I’m sure you’ve realized long ago, she is completely dominated by your father.”
“Finally, I got him to cede guardianship of June to me on the condition that I had no contact with him or his family. I agreed, and your father moved you and your mom to Richmond.”
“I knew I was too old to raise June, so I allowed my next-door neighbors who were childless to adopt her. June has grown up, beloved and happy, and that is worth any sacrifice.”
“My dear, I hope that now you and your sister will be reunited. I have given you the means to maintain your financial independence from your father and make your own decisions. All my love, your grandmother Gloria.”
I dropped the letter and ran across the garden to the house next door. On the porch was a tall middle-aged woman with kind eyes who smiled at the sight of me. “Julia,” she said, “she’s waiting for you!”
I walked in and saw myself, my exact self sitting in a wheelchair waiting for me with open arms. I ran to her and we hugged. I knew that I had found my other half, the part of me that I’d felt was missing all my life.
This was the most valuable part of my grandmother’s inheritance: my sister, my twin, my other half. As for my parents, I confronted my father and told him what I thought of him.
My mother has been visiting me regularly, and she is slowly developing a relationship with June. She is slowly weaning herself from her emotional dependence on my father and I’ve told her she has a home with me and June whenever she makes her final decision.
My father refuses to meet June, and I have a feeling he is going to end up alone and bitter. Maybe it is exactly what he deserves.