Brooke never really knew how to feel about sitting on her feelings and journaling her thoughts in each week between visits to Dr. Foster. She understood that her brain was trying to tell her a story… But what? She can’t remember any details about her parents, but she remembers the face of a boy in the woods?
She decided to go back to the park for an impromptu photoshoot. Every year it seemed harder and harder to fight for natural photography space in her online magazine. But, her boyfriend/fiancé, Wayne was also the editor and chief of the magazine so while she had to do an annual song and dance for her creative freedom, ultimately he always sided with her.
In the current issue, she had a spread exploring spaces reclaimed by nature with intriguing histories scattered across New York City. She was especially proud of it. But today she was interested in looking at people, couples, children… families. She was grateful for the home that her Aunt Rayah had provided for her after the death of her parents. But, ever since she moved in with her, it had always been just the two of them. Aunt Rayah was actually her father’s cousin and the only next of kin authorities could find after her parents had been killed in a car crash. Her father had been an only child, his parents were deceased. When they’d tried to research her mother’s family… her name ‘Shiloh Moore’ turned out to be an alias. The older Brooke got, the more convinced she was that her mother hadn’t wanted anyone to know who she really was or where she was really from.
So, why had she gone south to visit during the winters?
When she was finished people watching, Brooke went back to the office to look over her spread one last time. However, when she walked into the office, she found it almost completely empty. She came to her desk and found security packing her belongings in a small cardboard box.
“What is going on?” she demanded.
A security guard handed her a letter with the word TERMINATION printed in the subject line. In the next instant, two police officers emerged from nowhere.
“Ms. Morgan, you’re under arrest for fraud and embezzlement.”
The air in Brooke’slungs began to feel too thin as she seemed to struggle for breath. As one officer clamped handcuffs on her, the other read her rights. She was walked out of the office and into the waiting backseat of an unmarked police car and the next thing she knew, she was being booked into prison.
It was the next day when a public defender showed up with a file and more details. In short, her fiancé, the editor in chief of her magazine had been caught embezzling money from the company. Because she lived with him, she was under suspicion as well. Aunt Rayah was able to bail her from jail.
“This is a mess…” Brooke muttered as Rayah drove her to her apartment to collect her things. “How could he do this?”
“Don’t worry. We will get through this.” Aunt Rayah assured her. “Did you share bank accounts with him?”
“No, we agreed to keep separate accounts until we got married… Just in case we didn’t.”
“Good,” Aunt Rayah exhaled in relief.
“Not good. I don’t have a job. Who’s ever gonna hire me after this?”
“You are an excellent photographer!” Aunt Rayah insisted. “Once this is straitened, out you’ll be right back to work.”
“I doubt it…”
It took less time than she’d imagined to pack her belongings in the back of Aunt Rayah’s car and say goodbye to the life that she’d built over the past four years. Her Aunt remained quiet a majority of the time, even on the ride back to her Aunt’s house. In the space of quiet, Brooke tried to think about any clues that should have made it obvious what Wayne had been up to. But, there was nothing.
It took several weeks of investigation for Brooke to be cleared and the charges dropped for her. But three months later she hadn’t been able to find work as a photographer and she was coming to the end of her savings even though living with her Aunt Rayah again helped a lot. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do next when a mysterious envelope arrived addressed to her from an attorney in South Carolina.
‘Dear Ms. Morgan, I am writing at the bequest of my late client, Ellis Moore, III. We believe you may be his next of kin and would like to send you in for DNA testing. If you are his next of kin, you will receive the entirety of his estate property on Sweetgrass Island, South Carolina.”