Everything You Are - Kerry Anne King
Ophelia MacPhee, newly eighteen years old and full of life and curiosity, takes the stairs to the apartment above MacPhee’s Fine Instruments two at a time. Granddad missed her birthday dinner, claiming old bones and exhaustion, but had called to say, “You’ll come by afterward, Phee. I have a gift for you.”
She can’t wait to see what he has for her. Grandmother’s emerald ring, perhaps. Or maybe something related to the MacPhee luthier business. She’s become proficient enough at repairs that he trusts her with most of the instruments that come into the shop, and they’ve been making plans for her to build her first violin.
Maybe he’ll give her a set of tools of her own, or a piece of wood that she will shape into an Ophelia MacPhee original.
“I’m here,” she sings out as she hits the top of the stairs, and then she skids to a halt, staring.
A small, precise woman with a shiny black briefcase sits at the table. A stranger.
“You made it,” Granddad says. He hugs Phee, kisses both of her cheeks. “Happy birthday. Have a seat, my girl. This is my attorney, Angela Toth.”
The woman nods at Phee, managing to convey disapproval without a word.
Granddad pours three glasses from a bottle on the table.
“She’s underage,” the attorney objects as Phee picks up the glass and sniffs at the contents.
“Only in America. And the whiskey came with me all the way from the old country. Tonight, we celebrate.”
It’s far from Phee’s first drink, but it is the first one countenanced by adults. The glass, the woman with the shiny briefcase, and her grandfather’s unusual mood all create a mysterious solemnity, like high mass, only different.
“A toast,” her grandfather says. “To Ophelia MacPhee!” He raises his glass, and Phee and the attorney follow suit. The whiskey is smooth and potent, and Phee can feel it warming her blood after the first swallow.
“You’ll be wondering why Angela is here, of course,” her grandfather says, draining half of his glass.
“I am,” Phee admits.
He spreads his arms wide in a grand gesture. “I am giving you the business.”
She stares at him in shocked silence, and he laughs.
“Don’t look like that, child. I’d always planned to give it to you sooner or later. It’s become sooner. A perfect birthday gift, don’t you think?”
“I don’t think I understand.” She takes another cautious sip of her own whiskey, elation growing in her breast. She’ll follow in his footsteps, maybe even surpass him. She’ll be a brilliant luthier; maybe she’ll create an instrument that people will still be talking about hundreds of years from now.
“It’s all yours,” Granddad says. But he looks tired and frail, smaller, not happy and excited about this unexpected gift. “Explain,” he orders the attorney.
Angela lays her briefcase in the middle of the table and makes a production out of unsnapping the locks, opening it, and drawing out a set of papers.
“These are the legal documents. Read carefully, then sign here, initial here.”
“Oh, explain it to her, Angela. It will take her hours to read all that.”
The woman fixes him with a severe gaze. “She should read every word, Adrian.”
He makes a rude noise with his lips. “She can read it later. You’re turning my party into a boring legal event.” He splashes more whiskey into his glass.
“You are in too much of a hurry,” the attorney says. “This is a boring legal event. In general, Ophelia, these papers lay out the terms of your grandfather’s bequest. Your signature indicates that you accept his gift of the building, the business, and everything within these walls, along with an account into which he has deposited a sum of money for your use.”
“You accept all of my obligations,” the old man interrupts, with emphasis. “It’s part of the language.”
“You should read it,” Angela says. “We can wait.”
“You can wait. I’m paying for every minute you are here. Once she’s signed, Ophelia will be paying.”
“We could have done this in my office.”
“That’s ridiculous. It needs to happen here. Tonight.”
Phee takes the papers and tries to read, but the arguing is distracting. The whiskey has set up a quiet buzz in her head, and worry over her grandfather’s atypical behavior aggravates everything. She scans through it, five pages of densely written legalese that twists on itself and makes her go back and reread, over and over. Still, she only grasps the highlights, the terms already pointed out.
At the bottom, above the space for her signature, it reads:
I, Ophelia Florence MacPhee, being of sound