“Mom, why is there a for sale sign in the front yard?” Marley Compton said, closing the front door of her mother’s home with a loud bang. She followed the smell of baking cake into the kitchen where her mom, Rose Compton, was removing two round cake pans from the oven.
“You’re just in time, Marley; I made you a birthday cake.” Rose sat the chocolate cakes on a rack to cool and turned off the oven. Even though both her daughter and son were close to thirty years old, she still made a fuss over their birthdays, and any holiday, for that matter. “Do you have time for coffee?”
Marley sat her purse on the breakfast bar and slid out a stool, not far from the cooling cocoa cakes. “That sounds good, Mom.”
Rose poured them both a cup of java and sat across from Marley. “I have a present for you, too, but I didn’t get a chance to wrap it, yet.”
Marley was uninterested. “Mom, you didn’t answer my question. Why do you have the house for sale? I thought that after Dad died you were going to live here.” She watched as her mom avoided eye contact, preferring instead to stare into the mug she was stirring creamer into. “Don’t tell me you’re moving to the estate; you said you were going to sell it.”
With a sip of her coffee and a shrug, Rose said, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since your dad passed on from that awful prostate cancer, and I concluded that I really cannot give up the estate; it’s been in our family since the late eighteen hundreds.” Rose sipped the coffee again. “I want to live there, not here with all the memories.” She looked into the living room. “Your dad passed away, right there by the window, in a hospital bed. Hospice did all they could to keep him comfortable, but every time I look in that room that’s all I see, him lying there . . . suffering.”
Marley did not touch her coffee. “We already talked about this and I had the impression you were in agreement to stay here, a place you can manage, or, at least, go to a retirement village, rather than that over a century old mansion.” She put her elbows on the counter and leaned forward. “Mom, you know you can’t manage that place. No one has lived there for a couple decades because it’s so close to that damned dangerous cliff. Besides, I thought we would sell it and split the money between the three of us.”
Rose reached over and touched the cakes, checking to see if they were cool, even though she knew they would still be too warm to frost. She did not want to talk about this matter with the houses. “I can’t stay here with the memories and I’ve already called Hank who is going out to check the place and make sure the electricity, furnace, and all that stuff works.” She sighed, and then said, “Raven’s Ridge was built in eighteen-ninety by your Great-Great-Great-Grandpa Kittle,” she paused and smiled. “I hope I counted the number of greats correct, but anyway, he worked hard as a lumber baron and took care of our family; I honestly cannot let it go into some stranger’s hands. It isn’t right.”
For a moment, it seemed as though Marley would slam her fist on the counter, but instead, she smiled. “You know Rick and I are looking out for your well-being. I hate to say it, but you are getting older and things are getting harder.”
Rose frowned. “I’m only in my fifties, I’m healthy, and I plan to live to be a hundred years old. Besides, like I said, Hank will check the place out, and he’s a trustworthy handyman; he’ll make sure things are as they should be. And,” Rose paused and raised her eyebrows, “neither you nor your brother have any kids so I need not worry about them falling over the edge and onto the boulders in Lake Michigan, like your Great-Aunt Raven did at the turn of the last century. I remember Grandma Hamilton telling the story, how old Grandpa Kittle was so heartbroken when his seven-year-old daughter, Raven, accidentally fell over the bluff and perished, that he named the estate after her, Raven’s Ridge.”
Still having not taken a sip of her coffee, Marley said, “Rick and I love you and only want what’s best for you, but you’ll be all alone, in the woods, along that dangerous shoreline. Not to mention you could get snowed in during the winters; have you considered all that?”
Rose finished her coffee and pushed the cup aside. “I’ve already thought about that and I’ll be perfectly fine. If it turns out to be harder than I expect, well, then I’ll move and sell the old place.” She stood up and walked to the coffee pot. “I won’t want to leave it, but I will if I need to, so you have nothing to worry about.”
Marley looked back and forth along the countertop, searching for words; then she blurted out, “What about taxes? How are you going to afford the property tax on the estate now that Dad has passed on?”
Rose carried the coffee carafe back to the bar and poured herself another cup of the rather old coffee. She looked over at Marley’s still full cup. “Need fresh coffee?”
“The money, Mom,” Marley said, shaking her head. “Have you thought about the money?”
“I’ll be fine,” Rose said, replacing the coffee decanter. She turned and faced Marley, her oldest child. “I have it all figured out. Your dad and I invested the inheritance, so along with the life insurance and the money I’ll get from this house, there will be enough.” Rose leaned against the counter by the coffee pot. “I realize you and your brother were looking forward to selling the family estate and getting your cut of whatever we get for it, but you both are doing fine.” She walked back to the bar. “You’re one of the top executives at Renders Automotive and Plastics; you get paid well. And your brother is the principal at Black Water High; you both have bright futures.”
Marley dropped her head and then raised it with a smile. “You’re as stubborn as they come, Mom. Please do me a favor and think about it.” She stood up and put her purse on her shoulder. Then in a tone fitting for a child on Christmas Eve, she said as she walked to the front door, “The Babbling Creek Villas will be perfect for you.”
Rose looked at the round layer cakes and then at her daughter who was anxious to leave. “I can frost these quickly if you want to wait a minute, and then you can take it home.”
“Sorry, Mom,” Marley said, opening the door. “I know it’s Saturday, but I have a company policy that I need to update and finish. I’ll call you later.”
“At least, let me take your picture before you leave,” Rose said, taking the smartphone from her pocket and holding it up until her daughter came into view.
“You treat me like I’m a child,” Marley said, smiling long enough for her mom to snap the shot.
As Marley left the house, Rose walked to the kitchen window and watched her daughter walk down the sidewalk and climb into her a brand new black Range Rover. Rose was happy that Marley could afford the ninety-thousand-dollar four-wheel-drive SUV but knew it had to be stretching her budget. She loved and trusted her children, and would do anything for them—except sell Raven’s Ridge.
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