A family secret, a small black book, and the will to be who you want
It had been just another normal day for Ellie as she went through her daily motions. Her dead-end customer service job seemed to be the bane of her existence and no matter how hard she tried she could not get another job. Ellie had been applying for jobs for months and had only received a few first round interviews, but nothing more than that. Most days Ellie got up, went to work, came home, cooked dinner, relaxed, and then went to bed. There was not much excitement that went on in her life, but she was okay with that.
What she really wanted to do was to be a book editor for fiction novels. Ellie had always been fascinated by the world of literature and the way words could take so many different shapes. Ellie especially loved historical fiction novels, they were her favorite. She didn’t know much about her own family history, other than the few stories her grandma would tell her when she was a child. Growing up in Portland, Maine didn’t allow for too many adventures to happen, but her grandma’s stories always kept Ellie’s head alive with adventure.
Ellie liked to daydream as she rode the bus on her way home from work, but today her daydreaming was interrupted by a violent buzzing from her phone. An unknown number was calling her, most of the time she wouldn’t answer, but she had a gut feeling that she should answer this one.”Hello?” “Hello, is this Ms. Costello?” the unknown voice asked. “Yes, this is her,” Ellie replied. “Ms. Costello, I am Edwin Hayworth, your grandmother’s lawyer. She has passed away and in her will has left you the deed to her house and everything in it.” “My grandmother, but I haven’t spoken to her in years. My parents told me she died 12 years ago.” Ellie said confused and suspecting this to be a prank or a scam. “Ms. Costello, I know this may be alarming and I am sorry for the lie your parents told you, but your grandmother just passed last week. I have all the legal documentation in my office if you would like to see it.” While Ellie still seemed a bit skeptical, she wouldn’t put it past her parents to lie to her about something like this. Her parents and grandmother hadn’t gotten along well for some time before they told her she passed. The question remained as to why her parents would lie about a death? “Yes, that would be very much appreciated, Mr. Hayworth. If you wouldn’t mind texting me your office information to this number? I can stop by tomorrow after work if that works for you. I get off at 4 p.m.?” “Yes, that would be perfect Ms. Costello. I will see you tomorrow afternoon and I’ll send you the information. Have a good evening.” “You as well,” Ellie said as she hung up the phone.
Ellie wasn’t quite sure what to think about her phone call, but it was time for her to stop and she was ready to go home and relax, put her feet up, and have a nice glass of wine. Ellie tried to calm her mind for the night, but nothing seemed to work. She already had so many questions about her family and this incident just fueled that fire even more. What were they hiding? Why did her parents lie about her grandmother’s death? Why did her grandmother leave Ellie her house? All of these questions swirled through Ellie’s mind like a tornado. All she could do was wait until she spoke with Mr. Hayworth tomorrow. Ellie spent some of her night checking up on the information Mr. Hayworth sent her to make sure he was actually a lawyer and she wasn’t walking into a trap or a pit of lies. She already had enough of those.
It was the next morning and Ellie got up and pushed through her boring day until it was time to go to Mr. Hayworth’s office. Butterflies whirled around her stomach as she made her way to the office. She couldn’t help but feel that this may not be the best decision, but she was already on her way. Besides, what else did she have to lose? As she walked up the steps to the law office her phone buzzed in her sweater pocket. She pulled her phone out and saw that her father was calling. The last thing she needed right now was a lecture from her parents, especially before she went in to see Mr. Hayworth.
Mr. Hayworth welcomed Ellie when she got off of the elevator and showed her to his office. “Ms. Costello, here is all of the paperwork for your grandmother’s estate, naming you as the sole proprietor.” Ellie sat there for over an hour examining all of the different pieces of paperwork. Mr. Hayworth had been telling her the truth, she sat back astonished. Her grandma had just recently passed away and her parents had truly told her the biggest lie of her life. So far at least, who knew what else they had lied about. Ellie stood up cautiously as she was a little lost. “Thank you, Mr. Hayworth. Do you have the keys to my grandma’s house?” “I do,” He said somberly, “If you could just please sign this form, noting that you accept your grandmother’s wishes.” “Yes, here you go,” Ellie said as she signed her name. Mr. Hayworth took the form and then pulled some keys and an envelope out of his desk. “Your grandmother wanted you to have this letter as well. If there is anything else I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.” “Thank you, Mr. Hayworth,” Ellie said and she took the keys and the envelope and headed out.
Ellie checked her phone as she left the building and all it consisted of was an angry voicemail from her father demanding for her to call him back. She was so tired of her parent’s lies and manipulations, she just turned her phone off. Ellie needed some fresh air, so she walked home. Mr. Hayworth’s office was only a fifteen-minute walk back to her apartment. The entire walk home Ellie turned the envelope back and forth between her hands. What was so important that her grandma needed to write her a letter.
When she got home, she sat there with the keys next to her and the letter resting between her fingers. She knew she needed to open it, but what would this letter contain? After taking a deep breath, Ellie slowly pushed her finger under the wax seal of the envelope and popped it open. She carefully unfolded the letter, so she could read its content.
My Dear Ellie,
There are so many things that I wish I could have told you and taught you. There is so much to our family that you do not know, but that you need to know. I wish your parents had not kept you from me. I tried my hardest to get past them, but every path I took led to a block they had instilled.
I don’t blame them, but I was not about to give them everything I own. That belongs to you, my beautiful granddaughter. Your love of history and literature has always been an inspiration to me. Our family has some powerful ties and it is time that you learned about them. My house is yours please take it and use it to escape your parents. Everything you need to know will be in a small black notebook in my attic. It will tell you everything about our family, that I never got the chance to do.
I love you so much my Ellie Bear! Now go and live your life.
Ellie was at a loss for words as a single tear fell and created a small droplet on the worn paper. Her grandmother’s house was at least a three-hour drive from her apartment. It was already late and she would need to pack, so she planned to leave the next morning.
Ellie awoke at the break of dawn, grabbed her bags, and headed out to what was now her house. It was a quiet, peaceful, drive filled with the smell of fresh rain that dripped onto her car as she drove. By the time she reached the house it was only mid-morning. Her first move was to get upstairs to the attic and find that small black notebook. When she climbed the stairs to the attic, it was a dangerous feat. These stairs were old and the years had not been kind to them.
It took Ellie a couple of hours of digging through old boxes and trunks, but she finally found the small black notebook her grandmother had mentioned in the letter. The notebook had an envelope taped to the back, Ellie opened it and almost dropped it. The envelope held a check for $20,000 written in her name from her grandma. The memo line said, “Live your life.” Ellie was almost too stunned to move. How did her grandmother have this much money? Ellie pulled herself together and carefully made her way back downstairs to the kitchen. She heated up some water, made some tea, and opened the notebook that held her family’s history. Keeping the envelope with the check just under the notebook the entire time.
The notebook contained stories of her family history and everything about her ancestors. She knew her last name was familiar, but what Ellie didn’t realize was that her family, Costello, was the same Costello family of gangsters from New York, one of the five families of a major crime syndicate. This notebook covered years and years of family secrets and mistakes, leading all the way up to her parents who abandoned the family. There was a note that said they couldn’t bear to be a part of a family that was so awful. Ellie couldn’t believe what she was reading, her mind was blown.
After all the years, she now understood why her parents pushed away every question and connection. But, Ellie didn’t want to do that, she wanted to embrace her family. The only way to embrace them was to leave them. Her grandmother had barely left anything in her house, and Ellie knew that she needed to listen to her grandmother’s words.
Ellie sold the house and got rid of her apartment. She packed up all her belongings and used the money from her grandma’s house to buy a house in Ireland. She used the $20,000 to make her way there, become a novel writer and live her life. She was able to escape her parents without them ever knowing. She would occasional send them postcards to let them know she was okay, but she embraced her heritage and used the connections her family had to send them from all over the place. This way her parents would never truly be able to track her down. She used her family connections for that as well.
All the while, Ellie became inspired to become a write instead of an editor. Ellie took stories and adventures from that little black book and turned them into the Costello Family Mystery series. She chose to write under the name E. C. Stello, to help hide her identity. For the rest of her life, Ellie listened to her grandmother’s words and lived as much as she could. She built back up the Costello family connections and created a whole new generation of bosses who chose to help those in need live to the fullest, just like Ellie was striving to do. Ellie never could have imagined that a small black notebook and $20,000 would change her life forever.