This chapter is rated PG 13. Some swearing.
Authors note: Sorry for the length of this chapter. It’s a lot of reading. I hope that this chapter is an appropriate ending to the whole Michael drama, and ties up some loose ends. There is a little bit of a time jump, but I hope everything makes sense why I wrote it the way I did.
My legs could hardly support my weight as I climbed out of the boat and crawled ashore. Once my feet touched dry land I bent double and vomited onto the beach. What had I done?
My knees gave way and I collapsed hitting the wet sand and just laid there staring up at the gulls as they circled overhead. From this distance, they looked like vultures circling my corpse. I was so battered, bruised and bloody It wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination.
As the rain and clouds parted the hot sun beat down on my body, I felt dizzy, and week. Every fiber of my body throbbed and ached. I gently touched my ribcage, and winced at the hot flare of pain that ran up my body. I gently probed my face, which felt hot and swollen to the touch.
It was self defense, Grace. I thought closing my eyes as another wave of dizziness hit. With my eyes closed I heard the thump of the boat when I hit Michael’s body in the water, and I heard his outraged scream of pain. I quickly rolled over and vomited into the sand…
Like a movie which was stuck on repeat, the memory replayed itself over and over again in my mind. I would never forget the amount of blood in the water, not in a million years.
You had no choice Grace, if you would have left Michael alive he would have killed you the second he had another shot, and he wouldn’t have failed a second time, I thought still staring up at the cloudy sky.
A loud bark shook me out of my troubled thoughts. I turned my head slightly to see a large dog running in my direction with a loud bark, his or her tail was wagging excitedly.
Once the dog reached me it threw back its head and howled an alert.
“Moxie, Come here girl!” A male voice called, he ran closer, speeding up when he saw me laying there still staring up at the sky.
I realized now, I was still in my bra and underwear, having kicked off my jeans, shirt and shoes into the ocean because it was easier to swim without them.
“Oh my god, Miss, are you ok?” The man said standing over my body staring down at me with concern. “Are you hurt? What happened. Can you walk?”
“I’m ok.” I said finally, struggling to sit up. It wasn’t easy. My head felt like a million tiny men had set up shop in my head, and they brought sharp tools…
I drew my knees up to partially cover my lack of clothing, now wasn’t the time for modesty. I couldn’t lay on this beach all day, I needed to get to the police station right away and report what happened. So much blood, there was no way he could still be alive could he? I thought.
Gently he helped me too my feet. My sore ankle screamed and protest, but I was able to stand with his assistance.
“Can I take you somewhere? The police station? The hospital?” The good Samaritan asked.
I caught a good look at my battered face in the reflection of his mirrored sunglasses. I couldn’t imagine what he thought had happened to me.
“I have a towel in my car, I was walking Moxie when she just ran in this direction. I’m so glad we found you. Are you sure you’re ok? You are really beat up. I really think you need to go to the hospital and at least get checked out.” He said.
“The boat. Michael. Oh my god.” I started to collapse but he held me upright, and held me as I sobbed. How could I live with what I had done?
“What boat? Who is Michael? Were you in the hurricane?” He asked his tone was worried, he turned toward the ocean as if looking for someone else, more survivors maybe? I wanted to laugh, but couldn’t. My tongue felt glued to the roof of my mouth. No survivors…just me. I thought feeling another surge of nausea.
“My husband. My husband is dead.” I murmured my sanity finally cracking like an egg when the events of what happened hit me like a slap in the face. “I need to go to the police station. Can you please take me?” I begged.
He ran to retrieve the towel from the back of his trunk, and gently wrapped it around my underwear clad body like a gentleman, careful to avert his eyes.
“Ok, let’s go.” He said. “My name is Ryan by the way.”
“Grace.” I whispered as he led me to his car parked near the lighthouse. “Grace Hunt.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
3 Weeks later…..
“Grace!” Tessa’s voice cut through the fog of my mind like a knife through hot butter.
“Girl, you need to get your shit together, its been 3 weeks. I know you have been through a lot, but girl, you need to join the land of the living. Besides, you have that appointment with the lawyer here in an hour. And its a good thing I came over because you would have missed it.” Tessa threw her hands up looking stressed out.
3 weeks…Had it really been 3 weeks? It seemed like just yesterday. I felt the tears building behind my eyes, threatening to cascade over my face. I had done a lot of crying these past weeks. First came the guilt, then the overwhelming relief that Michael was dead, and then the guilt for being relieved that Michael was finally gone.
My first stop had been the police station, despite Ryan’s attempts to get me checked out in the hospital. I had told them the truth, told them everything. The years of abuse, and how I finally left him and moved halfway around the country. I told them about the private investigator that had tracked me down, and ultimately kidnapped me from my own home.
It felt good getting everything out in the open, I was worried they wouldn’t believe me. But my haunted eyes and battered face told another story. Michael’s private investigator was arrested, having not been able to have left town due to the hurricane. He admitted everything, and I was completely off the hook for Michael’s death, much to my relief. However, I may have not been guilty in the eyes of the law and was deemed as self-defense, but in my heart, I felt like a murderer. I had taken a life.
The police had taken me out in a boat so I could show them where I had hit Michael with the boat. His body was never found, but I had nightmares every night about his body washing up on shore near my house. Probably eaten by sharks, I was told. I should be relieved, but I wasn’t.
“Grace are you ok?” Tessa asked her dark eyes concerned at my silence.
I rubbed my eyes tiredly. “I guess.” I lied. “Just not looking forward to meeting with Michael’s estate lawyer.” I said.
“If it’s too soon, why don’t you ask him if you can do it another time?” Tessa said, her face sympathetic.
“No, I might as well just get it done and over with. It wont be any easier, a week, a month, a year from now.”
It didn’t take me long to get ready. I threw my hair up into a tight bun with a ribbon tied around it. I dressed in appropriate will reading attire. A dove grey pencil skirt, and a silky beige blouse. Not that I cared how I looked. Lately I hadn’t cared much about anything.
“You look great!” Tessa smiled. “It’s good to see you up and out of your pajama’s.”
“I guess I have no excuse not to go.” I said blankly, feeling a surge of panic in my stomach.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to go?” Tessa asked, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder, as if saying, I’m here for you.
I shook my head, small wisps of hair that escaped my up-do hitting my cheeks. “No.” I said confidently. “This is something I need to do alone.”
“Thanks for being there Tessa.” I said smiling at my friend. “Thanks for being here. I’m sorry I’ve been so out of it lately.”
Tessa smiled. “That’s what friends are for. I’m just glad that it ended the way it did, and we don’t have to worry about him ever again. You can live your life now, you can get a job where you don’t need to worry about tax info.” She smiled brightly.
“Well I guess there is that.” I laughed slightly. “I just want to put this all behind me, and move on.” I smiled closing my eyes so I wouldn’t cry, and again wincing inwardly when I replayed the exact moment I hit Michael’s body with the boat in my mind. Would I ever forget? Could I?
My body felt like a jumble of nerves when I walked into the courthouse. I was lucky that Michael’s estate Lawyer was willing to fly to North Carolina to read his will. I don’t think I could have made the trip back to California, mentally. I wasn’t ready for that yet.
Outside his door, I took a deep intake of air and felt my body stiffen. You can do this, Grace. I thought trying to gather the nerve to raise my hand and knock.
I leaned my head against the cool dark wooden door, counted to ten, and then knocked. A light little rap on the door that made me feel sick with anxiety.
“Mrs. Harris. Thank you for coming. Have a seat.” Mr. Archibald said from behind his desk. My feet felt stuck to the floor, but I forced them to move, and took a seat across from the thin Lawyer, who smiled at me behind his thick glasses.
“Thank you.” I said, my voice little more than a whisper.
“First off I’d like to say how sorry I am for what you went through.” He took off his glasses and polished them with a handkerchief he pulled from his suit pocket. “I’ve been Michael’s lawyer for many years, and I never had a clue, and I’m very sorry.” He smiled at me, replacing his glasses on his face, and pushing them up his nose.
I didn’t know what to say, so I sat silent, because I knew if I opened my mouth, I would cry, and if there was ever a time to be strong, now was it, so I just nodded.
“I’ll continue on to the reading of the will then.” He said all business again. He opened his desk and pulled out a folder, placing it on top of the desk.
He began to read. “I, Michael Harris, being of sound mind and body, declare this to be my Last Will and Testament. I revoke all wills previously made by me.
I appoint Barry Archibald, as my Personal Representative to administer this Will, and ask that he be permitted to serve without Court supervision.
I bequeath all my properties to my wife Grace Harris. The summer-house in lake Tahoe, and our personal home in Reyes County California.
I bequeath my share holdings of Harris Enterprises to go to my wife Grace Harris…” I tuned out. This has to be a mistake!
When he finished, I sat there silently, my mind reeling.
“There has to be some sort of Mistake.” I said shaking my head back and forth. I felt my tight bun loosen.
“I assure you Mrs. Harris. There is no mistake.” He smiled at me sympathetically.
“But. He left me everything?” I asked incredulously. “How. Why?”
“Mr. Harris made this will not long after your marriage. I assure you, he intended everything to go to you, should he die before you.” He blinked his dark eyes behind his thick goggle like glasses.
“I don’t want a damn thing from him.” I swore, suddenly feeling a surge of anger so intense my face flushed. “He made my life a living hell. Then he goes and leaves me everything? As if that makes up for the years of abuse?”
The lawyer sat quietly letting me vent, obviously no use to such theatrics when a last will and testament was read.
“Mrs. Harris.” He began.
“Hunt.” I cut in. “Grace Hunt. That’s my maiden name.”
“Ms. Hunt.” He cleared his throat. “I know Michael did a lot of horrible acts, but If I could advise you that this inheritance could change your life, and you could put the money to good use. I think in his own deranged way, he really did love you.”
“He had a funny way of showing it.” I said staring angrily at the wall, my mind going a million miles a minute.
“I would like to think about this for a couple of days. Is that possible?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. Call me if you have any questions. You have my card.”
I stood up reaching over the desk to shake the lawyers hand. “Thank you. You will be hearing from me soon.” I said confidently.
I walked out of the lawyer’s office with my head held high even though I felt like I was dying on the inside.
I found myself at the beach overlooking the ocean. I stood staring out at the sea even as it began to rain.
Michael had made my life a living hell, he had beaten me down like a rabid dog not only mentally but physically, leaving deep wounds mentally that I’m not sure could ever heal, no matter how much money I received from him, I wasn’t sure if I could ever forgive and move on.
I wouldn’t lie and say the money wouldn’t change my life. It would, drastically. There was a lot of good things I could do with Michael’s money. I knew then, I would accept it all, and put it to good use, so at least one good thing could come out of this tragedy.
I tilted my head up to the sky and smiled, the rain was gentle on my face as it washed the tears away. It felt like a new beginning…..
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *