Rolling out of my bed on another dreary day. Nothing to look forward to…. just the daily grind of housework and the bland meal we eat every day for breakfast.
Making my bed, cleaning the bathroom after my shower, and washing dishes after breakfast. Same thing every day…just a vicious circle.
I make boiled eggs for me and my roommate, Gertrude. We cannot afford the butter or oil needed to scramble our eggs right now since I just got laid off my job, so we’ve adapted to just boiling them.
Initially, I was a bit upset about being laid off because they hired 2 part-timers to replace my full-time position.
But now, I’ve just accepted it and try to find ways to make ends meet.
My roommate, Gertrude, still works at Ruso’s warehouse where they make rubber soles. She was one of the lucky ones who wasn’t laid off or maybe unlucky ones, but she still has a job. Though a crummy one, it’s still a job.
It doesn’t pay much, so we’re basically unsure of how we’re going to pay rent next month, we ‘ve been behind on our payments for a couple months now. The landlord didn’t say anything at first, then suddenly we got a notice.
We only have 2 weeks to come up with the full payment.
I wish I could borrow from friends or family, but I left home at 15 years old to pursue an acting career…. which bombed.
So now I just try to find work anywhere to get by.
“Morning Gertrude”, I said, as I took her boiled egg from the steaming pot and placed it on a plate that was placed on a place mat where she normally sits. Her place mat has tiny flowers on them going in every direction, no order at all. But this is the one she chose. It makes me think that her mind is scrambled like that.
Gertrude seems a bit more depressed than I am. She comes wallowing into the kitchen with a droopy scarf on her head and an oversized robe that drags behind her as she walks sliding her feet, with oversized house shoes, on across the floor sounding like lumberjack sawing slowly through the bark of a forest tree. Too tired to lift them.
One time I asked her to lift her feet when she walks so that I wouldn’t have to be irritated by the sound, with every step she takes. But she keeps doing it anyway.
Gertrude seems hopeless.
But she has been a close friend of mine for a long time. She doesn’t speak of any goals that she might have, so for now she just does what I tell her to.
“Mornin” she finally responds, looking disappointed at her usual breakfast that she has been accustomed to for months now.
Breakfast time has become a ritual to us, and it is the only time that we really talk.
“Gertrude”, I’m going out to look for work today” I said as I began to peel the cracked shell from my boiled egg which revealed the soft egg white of my morning breakfast.
“Ok” She murmured, fighting with the shells of her hardboiled egg. I watch her every morning fight with her eggshells. They prick her fingers, and she squinches, as she attempts to peel the shell in pieces without causing any damage to the soft egg white.
It’s quite interesting to watch, one of the things that keeps my attention every morning.
“So, can you pay the light and gas bill today”, “it was due yesterday?”, I asked as I handed her yesterday’s mail off the nearby counter, that included our utility bills.
“I can only pay one, I don’t have enough money” she said as she handed me one of the envelopes back.
The envelope she handed back to me was addressed to me, Ms. Marlo Rollins, and had the word CONFIDENTIAL written on it.
All I needed was another bill. I already owed the IRS for taxes I owed from my last year filing, and I had numerous medical bills that I couldn’t pay.
I only had one major surgery, when I tried to have liposuction in my lower stomach. I had a small bulge, and I wanted a tight stomach. I thought it would give me an opportunity to get some acting gigs. Got the surgery, but no acting jobs. But I did get a large scar below my navel and a large medical bill.
I have so many medical bills because I hate being sick. So, whenever I feel a pain in any part of my body or inkling of an illness, I go to the doctor to get medication.
Going to the doctor often, saves us money sometimes, because Gertrude will take some of my left-over medicine when she feels sick.
I bit into my hardboiled egg until the yellow yolk shined through like the sun on a warm summer day. I placed it on my white saucer dish and focused on this letter Gertrude handed me.
I put my finger through the corner of the envelope, peeled the top of the envelope off, and slowly took the letter out. I wasn’t too enthused to receive another letter. My most recent ones have all been bills.
I read it slowly. It said that me and my twin sister, Marlene, had inherited $100,000.00 from my dad! We were to appear tomorrow before the executor at Parkway Bank to receive our funds. I couldn’t believe it, so I had to read it 2 more times.
What a break! I thought.
My heart began to beat fast, like I had just finished a mile run. I felt it pound in my chest in a rhythmic beat that one could tap their feet to.
It was like I had just won the lottery. I could hardly believe it.
But after staring at the letter for another 10 minutes, a thought came to me. I hadn’t spoken to my twin sister in decades, since I left home at 15.
Marlene was my parents’ favorite, so we never really got along. She always got the best dresses from the store. Once my mom brought home a pink and blue one. She gave Marlene the pink one that I wanted and handed me the blue one…Marlene always referred to it as the ‘boy one’.
It seemed petty to my aunts and cousins when I told them of the unfair treatment at home. But they didn’t understand. They just assumed I was jealous. But when toast was made and one was partially burnt and that’s the one your mom gives you…and hands the perfectly light brown toasted one to your sister, you can feel the difference.
These were small things, but there were hundreds of them. So, I left home.
“Gertrude”, “my dad left me some money from his life insurance”, I said, finally looking up from the letter.
Gertrude finally looked up from her plate, “He did?” she said, “How much?”
It’s $100,000.00. This letter says I have the option of picking it up in cash!
It’s in my dad’s safe deposit box. But I must share it with my twin sister, which means I’ll only get $50000.00.
“What do you mean “only”, Gertrude said in her soft mellow tone. Though, I could tell she was Interested because her tempo increased a bit.
“Well, we owe back rent and I owe most of it for doctor bills and the IRS”.
“And when the IRS finds out, they will consider it an increase in my income, and they will surely take most of it. So, I won’t have much left at all”.
I started to feel disappointed and thought, ‘no matter how much you get, it never seems like enough’.
I took a deep sigh. Then, just looked down at all the cracked eggshells that didn’t quite make it on my plate but landed on my placemat.
“Well,” Gertrude said, “then we can catch up with our bills and maybe buy a car”.
“Yeah, but then, I won’t have much left to share with you”. I said touching her hand. Gertrude has been there with me through all of my hard times. She follows my lead. Mainly because she has no one either. But I make sure she maintains a little self-esteem because I really need her for support.
“Well, that’s ok”, Gertrude said. “I’ll just keep working”. She got up from the table, and began walking toward the cellar, sliding her feet across the floor.
“Wait Gertrude!” I have an idea on how we can keep all of the money”.
“You are my height, and we look similar, and the only real difference with my twin is this mole on the left side of my neck, she has one on the right side of her neck.
We can put a mole on the right side of your neck and make you a brunette like me and we can go to the bank and claim the inheritance.
I can keep 80%, which will give me leftover money after I pay my bills, and you can have the remaining 20%, which is $20000.00 that you can keep for yourself.
Of course, I knew Gertrude would lend me her portion of money if I needed it. So, I would win either way.
“How about that”? I said confidently.
I knew she would go for it because she followed me like an obedient puppy following its owner.
“Ok”, she agreed. “But what about your twin sister?”
“Well let’s see”, I said scratching my head. “What do we do about Marlene?” I said out loud, but to myself.
“Well, we’ll just keep her here, while we pick up the money”. I said as if a light bulb just came on in my head.
“Well, my parents gave her everything anyway”. I said, attempting to condone my idea.
“That’s why I left”.
“And I’m sure after I was gone, she received even more from my parents”.
“She won’t need it or deserves it”. I convinced myself.
“So, Gertrude, let’s get her over here for lunch tomorrow”.
I’ll call her today and we’ll have lunch tomorrow”, I said, “We need to do this quickly as our bills are piling up. Ok?”
Gertrude nodded as she always does.
I stood up and gave her a hug. She patted my head, instead of my back, as she always does when I hug her. I knew she was happy. And I was finally going to be able to make her happier and hopeful again.
The next day, I checked the internet
and found Marlene’s contact number on her Page.
I waited until late in the evening before attempting to contact Marlene because I was nervous to speak with her because I didn’t even say goodbye when I left.
I took a deep breath and dialed the number slowly.
Gertrude had just gotten home from work and was in her factory clothes. Her hair was in disarray, and she smelled of rubber from the shoe factory.
She was treading slowly throughout the house, like a turtle without direction. She had been on her feet all day. I assume that’s why she doesn’t like to lift her feet much when she walks. I felt sorry for her.
Looking at her in that condition encouraged me to make the phone call to Marlene.
“Hello Marlene”, I stammered.
“Hi” “Who is this?”, she said from the other end of the phone line.
“It’s me, Marlo”. I responded.
“Marlo”, “Marlo, my sister?” she quickly asked.
“Yes”, “It’s me”. “Um…how are you?”
“Ohh...you’re calling because of the inheritance”. She said in an arrogant tone.
“Well sort of, but not really” I said, “I mean, I’ve been wanting to call you all this time”. “I was just nervous. And the letter we got about the inheritance just gave me more courage to call you”. “I really do miss you Marlene”, I said.
“Sure, you do”, she said sarcastically. “You’ve been gone for more than 20 years and now you miss me?”
I knew had to convince her that I wanted to be in her life again if my plan was going to work.
“Look Marlene”, I explained, “I’ve had hard times, and I didn’t have anything to offer you”. “I couldn’t even afford to treat you to dinner to have a nice talk with you”.
“You’re my sister, and I love you”.
“I cried for days after you left”, Marlene said with a sad tone, “but you didn’t care”. I could tell that she was filled with emotion. Marlene was melodramatic. I always wondered if she would have been selected for the acting parts in the movies I auditioned for.
“I was selfish then”, I said, “I’ve changed”.
“I love you and since we no longer live with mom and dad is gone, we only have each other now”.
“Can you please come to my home for a quick lunch tomorrow?”, I begged. “We must meet with the executor at the bank anyway and we’ll still be able to make our appointment at 2:00 pm and we can go together”.
“I’ll fix us a delicious lunch”, I said. “Do you remember that when we were kids, our favorite lunch was tacos and fried potatoes?” “I’ll make us some for old times’ sake…what do you say?”
There was silence.
“Come on…Marlene”. I said, trying to persuade her. “Please let me make up for some of our lost time”.
“Ok?” “Everything will be ok”. I assured her.
It seemed as if I waited endlessly for a reply.
“Ok…what time tomorrow? she said with apprehension in her voice.
“Come at 11:00”, I replied, “I’ll have everything prepared”.
“Ok”, “I’ll see you tomorrow”.
“Bye, Marlene”, I said, “I love you”.
Now I had to put our plan in place.
So, I went to see Gertrude. She was in the cellar. That’s where she stays most of the time. It is a small, confined area, but she seems to like it. It was always dark, dusty, and chilly down there. It was as if she preferred to live in a cave-like environment.
Even though we have two bedrooms on the main floor she likes it in the cellar. And I have no qualms about it, as long as she’s content. Sometimes, I do wonder what she does down there in the dark for long periods of time, but, after a while, I just dismiss it as she’s just different.
“Gertrude”, “listen carefully”. I said. “For us to get all the money we must go to the bank and sign papers, then they will give us all the funds in cash. That is what the letter says”.
“So, we need to restrain Marlene, down here in the cellar, while we go get the money”.