Kell walked up to the door looking around nervously. He didn’t want to be caught. But it was important that he was here. He knew it, deep down.
He didn’t ring the bell. He slipped the envelope between the doors, and slunk away, trying to fit in with the shadows.
At five-thirty am the alarm rung and almost shook itself right off the little stool Jake called his nightstand. He swung out and grabbed the phone with his left hand. “Ugh. It’s too early,” he groaned, but he swung his legs off the bed anyway.
Marianne lay in bed next to him. She quietly sighed, then shifted, as if in reminder for him to keep quiet because she still got to sleep. He stood and stretched, then grabbed his clothes and made his way to the bathroom.
He came out thirty minutes later, ready to go. He leaned over and gave Marianne’s forehead a little kiss, careful not to let his tie drape in her face and wake her up. Then he stepped back from the bed, and made his way out the front door.
The little white envelope slipped and fell over when he opened the door. He wasn’t looking down, so he missed it, stepped right over it and walked down to the sidewalk, humming to himself.
Jake’s cell phone rang a little while later.
“Hey,” Marianne sounded breathless.
“What’s up?” Jake’s tone got a little more serious. His brow furrowed, and he narrowly avoided opening his mouth to share his anxiety.
“Was there an envelope on the front stoop for me when you left this morning?”
“No, not that I noticed. Why?”
“Because I just found one. I was about to go out and – Oh right. You’re at work. Anyway, inside the envelope is a check. For a million dollars.”
“Yes, made out to me.”
“And where’s the check from?”
“Some big company I don’t know.”
“If it’s a big company wouldn’t you know?”
“I dunno. What do I do with it?”
“Put it on the table, I’ll look at it when I get home.”
“But what if it’s real?”
“And what if it isn’t?”
She sighed. There was no use arguing with him. “Should I try and cash it?”
“And get arrested for passing off a fake check?”
“Alright, I’ll leave it on the table.”
“You really have no idea who it’s from?”
“Alright. I’ll look at it when I get home.”
“Okay. Love you.”
Marianne hung up without waiting for a response. She knew she’d never get one anyway, he was in public. God forbid he tell her he love her in public. She left the check on the kitchen table, and went to step outside. The warm air smelled of spring, but the breeze blew slightly and she swore it had the scent of the ocean.
She inhaled. Tasted the salt. She smiled. She turned around and ran back to the bedroom, tossing clothes this way and that until she found her little black dress. She pulled on her strappy heels, found her glistening necklace and set about making herself look as rich as possible. When she was done, she gave herself a glance in the mirror.
This was it.
She grabbed the check from the table, and made a mad dash for her car. “I’m doing this.” She muttered to herself. “If I get arrested, at least my mug shot will look superb.”
She grinned in spite of herself.
She backed the car out of the driveway. It was only a few miles. A few miles of zigzagging this way and that, while hoping and praying the car held itself together. She pulled into the parking lot, in the biggest spot, closest to the door, and stopped. She took a deep breath.
She checked her make-up in the mirror. She touched up her lipstick, smacked her lips together and let out a loud sigh. “It’s now or never, Marianne. Let’s give this a shot. A million bucks! What could be better?”
She puffed out her chest, and walked into the bank. She looked at the police officer, waiting in line and almost turned around. “No, don’t run, you can do this. It’s real, you know it is,” she whispered.
She quieted her self-doubts while waiting in line. When the police officer left the building, she breathed a little sigh of relief.
“I can help the next person.”
Marianne shuffled slowly up to the counter. “Hello. Um. I’m not sure this is good, but it arrived on my doorstep this morning, and it’s made out to me.” She looked down shyly.
“Well, let me take a look.” Marianne handed over the check. “Oh, I see. It’s for a lot of money. A real lot of money. It was on your doorstep?”
Marianne took a deep breath. “Yes, in an envelope, addressed to me.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure if it came in an envelope it’s just a promotion by this company. But you know what? Let me give them a call to verify.”
The receptionist walked into a room on the other side of the bank. Marianne noticed she showed the check to the other receptionists behind the counter with a giggle, and thought about running out of the bank. Her ears burned, her cheeks flared. She felt herself growing more and more angry. What was she supposed to do? It looked like a real check. She’d even looked for the watermark.
Just when Marianne was getting ready to storm out, the receptionist came out of the room, looking rather embarrassed, and hurried over to where Marianne was waiting.
“I’m so sorry, Ms. Carter. Of course it’s a real check. Would you like the funds deposited to your account or would you like the cash?”
Marianne stood stunned. “Um. Could I have it in cash?”
“Absolutely. Again, I’m so sorry I did not recognize you.”
“Mr. Turner thought you would want the cash, so we’re preparing it for you. Unless, of course, you have a bag or a case you’d like it in?”
“Um. Mr. Turner?”
“Yes, Mr. Turner. He’s the one who issued the check.”
“Um. I don’t really have anything special to put it in.”
Marianne frowned. Mr. Turner. That sounded so familiar, and yet she wasn’t quite sure why. She frantically searched her mind. Mr. Turner. Mr. Turner. Her mind was flooded with images of a boy from her past, a summer fling. Kell. That was his name. Kell Turner. No, it couldn’t be the same one.
He’d left for the military right after their summer. That was the summer before Marianne’s parents split up, before her brother ran away with the girl who got arrested shortly after they got married. It was the last summer of happiness. And they’d spent it together, overlooking the beaches of Nantucket. She sighed.
“Ms. Carter?” The receptionist gave her a questioning look. “Are you okay?”
Marianne smiled. “Yes. Yes thank you.”
A handsome man came out of the office and opened the door separating the peons from the bank workers. He was smiling, and holding a briefcase at his side. He walked straight for Marianne and held out his hand. “Ms. Carter. What a pleasure it is to meet you.”
Marianne shook his hand. “Thank you.”
“Here you go, your withdrawal. If you’d like to count it to personally verify the contents, we can use the office over here.” He made a sweeping gesture with his hand.
“No, no thank you. I trust it’s all here.”
“It is. Scout’s honor.”
Marianne smiled. “Thank you, ah-”
“Mr. Kendrick. Owner of this branch.”
“Well, thank you Mr. Kendrick.”
Marianne turned to leave.
“If there’s anything else we can assist you with, Ms. Carter, we’ll be happy to do so.”
“Thank you again, Mr. Kendrick.”
Marianne forced herself to walk through the double doors leading outside. She squinted in the sun, but went straight to her driver’s side door and opened it. She tossed the briefcase on the empty front seat, then silently accosted herself.
It landed with a soft thud, and despite her horrific imaging, it didn’t open and spill the contents out everywhere. She climbed into the seat, as gracefully as she could, and pulled her seat belt on. She left her face as neutral as possible, because she could feel their eyes on her. She put her clunker into reverse and backed out of the parking space.
She drove home almost on autopilot, her thoughts occupying all of her energy. She pulled the car into the driveway next to their apartment. Giddy, she climbed out of the car. She thought about leaving the briefcase in, she wasn’t going to be long, but then she shook her head. “No, best to bring it with me.”
She hurried up the stairs to their apartment. She opened up her suitcase and packed as much as she could. She grabbed her favorite quilt, the one her mother made, her pillow, and her suitcase. She didn’t leave a note. No need. She switched to her running shoes and made the trek back downstairs. This time, she hurled everything in the back seat. She piled in after it, started the engine and was on the road.
She drove down the coastline, then made the 3pm ferry across to Nantucket. She thought about leaving the junker behind, but then decided she’d like to have the wheels, so she paid for the ferry to shuttle the car across. She smiled as she stood at the rail, the sea breeze in her hair. She settled the briefcase by her feet, and watched the rolling waves of the ocean.
The ferry landed, and she hustled to the car. She drove it off the ferry, and the weight bearing down on her shoulders lifted. She was transported back to that summer. She drove down the winding roads, careful to watch out for the bikers straddling the breakdown lane. She made it past the little towns, bustling with people eager to escape the winter’s grayness. She drove until she recognized where she was.
She pulled into the driveway and realized the house was smaller than she imagined. It still had the green shutters and the pale yellow shingles, so she knew she was in the right place. She walked around through the side yard, still clutching the briefcase.
Kell stood on the porch, looking out over the ocean. He turned when she walked around the side of the house, and smiled. “I was hoping you’d come,” he said, his eyes wrinkled with happiness.