A few weeks later I found out: they’d been arguing about the inheritance! Neither Mom nor Dad had left a will.
“Everything belongs to me now,” insisted Claudette. “The whole estate! I’m their proper, biological daughter. I’ll fight Germaine tooth and nail to get what’s rightfully mine.”
I was surprised. Bewildered.
“But there’s nothing much to inherit, Claudette,” I said.
This was true. Mom and Dad had very little saved. They’d spent all they earned getting the three of us educated as best they could. And their tiny house wasn’t even paid off: there was still a mortgage owing to the bank.
Claudette shook her head at me as if I were an idiot.
“Don’t you get it, Faheema? It’s the shed. It’s what’s inside the shed.”
Yes, I remembered the shed in the backyard. It was always kept locked. I’d never thought of it much. I imagined it was filled with garden tools and broken furniture.
“Don’t you get it?” Claudette said again. “There’s all sorts of stuff in that shed, stuff from long ago, stuff from Ouma’s parents even. From when they worked on the wine farm. Antiques, you understand? Do you never watch that program, Cash in the Attic, on TV? People find all kinds of old junk in their attics. And then antique dealers come and tell them how much the stuff is worth. Sometimes these guys end up with a freaking fortune! And I know for a fact there are some paintings in that shed. Ouma worked as a cleaner for some artist’s nephew when she was young. And he gave her some paintings. Bet you they are worth a bomb!”
I laughed. “So this will be Cash in the Shed then? Starring Claudette July?”
Claudette didn’t laugh with me. She glared. “Just don’t think you are getting any of the money. I’ll fight you tooth and nail too, if you try.”
I shook my head, sad that Claudette would even think I wanted anything. Mr and Mrs July had given me so much: a stable home, a chance to grow safe and unafraid, all the hugs and cuddles any little girl could ask for, an Ouma who taught me to play the piano. What was a bunch of antiques compared to that?
It’s like one of those old Mastercard adverts. Do you remember them? Designer outfit: R1 500; Lipstick: R120; 10 centimetre stiletto-heel shoes: R900; Look on your ex-boyfriend’s face – priceless! There are some things money can’t buy.
Well, that’s how I felt. What Mom and Dad had given me was priceless. Their love was something money couldn’t buy. I didn’t need anything more.
“You’re welcome to it,” I told Claudette. “You’re welcome to it all!”
Claudette took Germaine to court over the deceased estate. She won too: it turned out Germaine hadn’t been formally, legally, adopted.
She phoned me from the courthouse steps. “‘Right, Faheema, you’re coming with me to unpack the shed.”
“No problem,” I answered. Even now, as an adult, I usually did what Claudette demanded. It just made life easier and more peaceful.
Tell us what you think: Is it fair that Claudette will inherit everything from her parents?