Heaven let herself into the small quiet house. It had been a few weeks since she’d been by to see her grandfather. This had always been a place of refuge for her growing up and even now under these circumstances, Heaven felt safe and at peace.
Memories of her childhood flooded her as she slowly walked around the cluttered room. This was the place where her grandfather spent most of his time, reading, watching television and writing in the old worn-out black leather notebook that never seemed to leave his sight. Even on the occasions when he would travel, the notebook would be tucked under his arm or secured in his backpack and slung over his shoulder.
Heaven’s grandmother Elva had raised her when her parents had abandoned her shortly after her fifth birthday. She was a beautiful woman with skin the color of caramel and thick unruly curls that bounced on her shoulders whenever she moved. The men around the neighborhood loved her but she paid them no mind. That is until Jasper Collins moved into the vacant house around the corner. He was tall and thin with light green eyes and a wide toothy smile.
Jasper had two sons and a daughter that lived on the other side of the country. He didn’t hear from them often and Heaven always wondered why. She could never understand why a man who was so kind and loving very seldom heard from his children.
Heaven’s grandmother and Jasper married a year after they met and the three of them made Jasper’s small house home. It was cramped and Heaven was certain that it was a tough adjustment for the older man to get used to a rambunctious child running around and turning his world upside down, but he loved Elva and he loved her too.
Heaven lowered her small frame into the worn recliner and closed her eyes. This was the place where her grandfather spent countless hours with his notebook writing, while tuning the rest of the world out. It was during these moments that Heaven and her grandmother left him alone. He was a man who didn’t ask for much and so these moments were the least they could give him. This was the same chair where he would tell her stories of kings and queens and princesses, who were always named Heaven.
Jasper Collins had been her hero and she loved watching her grandmother and the man love and care for each other. Heaven had no blood ties to the man, but he treated her as if she did. She belonged to him, just like his other children who Heaven had seen only a handful of times. They called only on holidays and to ask for money. The three would have to find another ATM, Heaven thought bitterly.
Except for the last three weeks while she was away, Heaven would stop in a few times a week to spend time with him and to make sure that his errands were run, and his cabinets and refrigerator was full. The call from the hospital the night he died broke her heart, and she couldn’t help but feel that she had failed him somehow.
“I’m so sorry, grandpa,” she whispered to herself while scrolling through his phone book for his children’s numbers. One by one, she called them, and each call sent her to voicemail. It reminded her that she wasn’t family; they’d each told her so in times past but the fact that they would not answer now, seemed to seal that fact in stone.
Heaven glanced across the room to the dining room table. There sat the black notebook. She could only imagine what her grandfather must have felt not being able to grab it and take it with him as he was rushed out of the house to the hospital. It seemed to beckon for her to come and hesitantly, she stood and took the few steps toward it.
She picked it up and cradled the soft leather to her chest. Suddenly the tears fell and the memories of a man who loved her for no reason and without obligation nearly knocked her down. She loved him too and she missed him. She was angry that his children had given up on him only seeing his value in a check. Even after her grandmother had died a few years ago, Jasper still loved her.
“I love you grandpa...you’re with your girl now...but my heart still hurts!” She moaned the words while the tears made it hard to breathe. Then taking a seat at the table, Heaven opened the book. A small, yellowed business card was clipped to the inside cover. Written across the top in red ink in Jasper’s handwriting were three words, “Call if something happens.” Wiping the tears from her eyes and taking a deep breath she closed the book without going further and, she dialed the number.
The next day, Heaven made the trip downtown. She wondered why a man of such meager means would need an attorney, especially this attorney with offices in the old and prestigious building. She felt grossly under dressed as she pulled the heavy glass doors open and walked inside. The air was heavy and old, but the dated décor was still beautiful and elegant and the woman behind the desk seemed to have been here as long as the building itself.
“May I help you?” The woman followed the trail down her nose then toward Heaven waiting for an answer.
“Yes, I have an appointment to see Mr. Hiram Schwartz.”
The woman nodded knowingly and without looking at an appointment book or computer screen she picked up the phone and pressed a button.
“Have a seat, Mr. Schwartz will be with you in just a moment.”
Seconds later an elderly white-haired man appeared in the lobby. As ridged and suspicious as the receptionist seemed, the man, Hiram Schwartz, was quite the opposite. He smiled sadly with his eyes and gently called her name and waited for her to look up.
“Yes,” she stood as he approached her with his hand outstretched. She shook his hand and forced a slight smile in return.
“Please follow me.”
Grabbing her things, she followed the man down the long hallway to a surprisingly small office. The office was filled with wall-to-wall books. Other than the size it looked just as she imagined a lawyer’s office would look.
“Please have a seat. I hope you brought the notebook.”
Heaven wondered why it was so important that she bring it. It was the only thing she had of value left from Jasper and she would fight if necessary, to keep it.
“Yes Sir, I did,” pulling it from her bag.
“May I?” He saw the fear and the fight in her eyes as she renewed her grip on the notebook. “I’ll give it back, I assure you.”
Heaven handed the man the book and watched him slowly thumb through each page. Every few pages he would stop and smile or chuckle.
“Jasper old friend, you were one of a kind.” He said to himself.
Heaven nodded at the words. She’d watched him so many times at the dining room table or in his recliner, lost in thought and scribbling in the notebook as if his life depended on it.
“Not to be rude, but why am I here? You must know that I was only related to Jasper by marriage.”
“Oh, but you were much more than that to Jasper. He loved you like you were is own blood; maybe more.”
“I loved him too. He was so good to me, the only grandfather I knew...only father for that matter.”
“Well to answer your question, Jasper left certain instructions in case the time came...”
“You mean his death?” Heaven asked.
“Yes, I was informed shortly after you were that he had passed away.” Hiram watched the young woman wipe away a few tears.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cry...”
“Nonsense,” Hiram interrupted. “I can tell he meant a lot to you. He always spoke of you so fondly.”
“Were you and my grandfather, I mean Jasper friends?”
“Yes, yes indeed. We’ve been friends since college and I have to be honest, I’m going to miss him deeply.”
“I’ve tried calling Jasper Jr., Elias and Devan but all I get is their voicemails and they haven’t returned my calls.”
“Not to worry, I’ll handle them.” Then Hiram pulled a white envelope from his desk and handed it to Heaven. Puzzled she took it. It had her name written across it in her grandfather’s handwriting which made her gasp.
“I know you’re wondering why I insisted you bring the notebook.”
“Your grandfather was quite the prolific writer and this notebook is filled with amazing stories. Before Jasper died, I convinced him to have the stories published and he agreed.”
Heaven looked down at the notebook and for the first time in her life, she began turning the pages. Hiram smiled as he watched the amazement in her eyes as she explored the pages.
“These are the stories he used to tell me when I was a child!”
Hiram nodded, yes.
“He wanted to leave something to the little girl who had meant so much to him. The girl who had grown up to be a remarkable young woman who always cared for him and never ever asked for anything in return.”
Heaven broke down as she continued to thumb through the pages remembering the nights on his lap cuddled close this chest. She could hear his heartbeat speed up as he told her the most amazing stories. It made perfect sense now why he never read them from a book.
“I think you should open the envelope now.”
Heaven slowly closed the notebook, still overcome with what she had seen inside and opened the envelope. It was a check.
“I-I don’t understand. This is a check for twenty-thousand dollars!”
“I found a publisher who wants to publish the stories in your grandfather’s notebook. The twenty-thousand dollars is the advance for the book rights. Jasper wanted you to have it and all the royalties from the book when it’s published.”
“I don’t know what to say,” she said tearfully. “I’m not his blood. Won’t his children fight this?”
“It’s all legal; Jasper made sure of it. There’s nothing anyone can do to change it.”
“Twenty-thousand dollars. He didn’t have to do this for me. I’d give it back right now if it would bring him back.”
“He knew you would say that.” Hiram laughed.
“Yes, you two were kindred spirits, and it didn’t matter if you weren’t related by blood. You two were related by the heart and that’s what really matters in the end.”
Hiram had given her three envelopes with checks for a thousand dollars each addressed to Jasper’s adult children and even after leaving several more detailed messages about their father’s death, three days passed before Jasper, Jr., Elias and Devan returned her calls and she assumed that their calls were prompted more by the meager amount of their father’s final gift than any concern for a man who had died alone without a chance to make amends or to say goodbye to them.
Heaven had no idea what had gone wrong between Jasper and his family and she never would. Now her life consisted of fulfilling her grandfather’s wishes of sharing his stories with the world. Stories that had filled her childhood with love and laughter and adventure. Stories of kings and queens and princesses named Heaven. It wasn’t about DNA or blood, but it was everything about the willingness to allow a little orphan girl a place in an old man’s heart that had been created and reserved for her since the beginning of time.
About the Creator
I adore words and I love what happens when we grab them, sleep with them, holler and scream and laugh at them! I love what happens when we throw them in the air and watch them fall magically from our minds onto paper!