By the time she reached Boston, there were twenty-five messages. Allison knew her aunt wasn't going to stop harassing her, so she made a detour to her cell phone store and had her phone number changed. She then called Charlotte and left her new number. She didn't explain why. There would be plenty of time to talk tomorrow.
She also called Giovanni to tell him she had changed her number. She'd hoped to get his answering machine, but he picked up. He grilled her, of course, and was thrilled when she told him she had cut all ties with her relatives.
"It's about time you got away from those bloodsuckers. And don't worry. I won't give your new number to anyone," he promised.
Allison was smiling when she ended the call, thinking how lucky she was to have Giovanni in her life. She pictured him sitting in his studio surrounded by fabric swatches and sketch pads. On a plaque above his desk was printed his favorite quote by Yves Saint Laurent: "Fashion fades, style is eternal"-words he lived by. Even when he was working, he was dressed to the nines, typically in a vintage pin-striped suit with the collar up and a richly colored scarf draped under the lapel. He was a creative genius, but more important, he was a good and trustworthy man. He was also a kind friend.
She parked in front of her house and went inside. It was empty, but she knew within an hour the Saturday night ritual of her roommates hanging out with their girlfriends would begin, and the house would become loud with laughter and music. She hurried up to her room and closed the door. Sitting in the middle of her bed, she opened the envelope and looked inside. The first paper she pulled out was a piece of stationery with some handwriting on it. Underlined at the top were the words For the attorney. She wondered who had jotted the notes. Her mother or her father, perhaps? Under the heading was the name of a private school. She recognized it because it had the reputation as one of the best in the city. There were also the names Suzanne and Peter Hyatt with an address and a phone number.
She put the paper aside and pulled out legal-size pages that were stapled together. At the top was the name of an insurance company. Glancing over the copy, she realized it was a life insurance policy for her father. She quickly scanned it. By the time she reached the signatures on the last page, her hands were shaking. She was both astonished and outraged. The policy was worth five hundred thousand dollars, and she and Charlotte were the beneficiaries. Her father had left them a large sum of money, and yet they had never seen a dime. Where had the money gone? She didn't have to think long for the answer. Her aunt and uncle had somehow gotten their hands on it. Everything was making so much sense to Allison now. It was all about the money. That was the only reason her aunt and uncle had taken them in. They had kept the money a secret all these years. Yet how many times had she and her sister heard they were a financial burden? One big lie.
Allison couldn't help wondering where it went. It certainly wasn't spent on Charlotte and her. Any new clothes or essentials were purchased at a discount store, and once the girls were teenagers, they were expected to find ways to pay their own expenses. They had gone to a public elementary school, and when Allison expressed a wish to go to St. Dominic's for high school, her aunt and uncle refused. She wasn't deterred. She persisted until they gave in, with the stipulation that she would have to pay the tuition on her own. It wasn't easy, but she managed to earn the money by working jobs on nights and weekends. Giovanni helped out her senior year.
Her aunt and uncle hadn't lived a lavish lifestyle. They did, however, like to go out on weekends with their friends. Allison supposed the bars and clubs they frequented had taken a great deal of the money. Pampering Will probably took the rest. There was nothing he ever wanted that he didn't get.
Allison set the documents aside and picked up the piece of stationery again. Suzanne and Peter Hyatt. The names sounded vaguely familiar, but she couldn't place them. She stared at them for several minutes, trying to recall where she'd heard them before, but eventually she gave up. There was an address in Houston and a phone number. She wondered, after all these years, if these were still accurate. One way to find out, she thought. She pulled out her phone and tapped in the numbers. After five rings she was ready to give up, but suddenly a woman's voice came through.
The woman sounded slightly out of breath, as though she'd rushed to get to the phone. "Hello."
"Is this Suzanne Hyatt?" Allison asked hesitantly.