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A family heirloom remains the centerpiece of Mariel's divorce
The floral sculpture on the living room wall was always what sold the house. Hand-crafted by Mariel’s great-great-grandfather, it had adorned the wall since its creation nearly a hundred years ago.
The house itself needed work. Most buyers were put off by that—until they saw the sculpture. They still tried to beat Mariel down on the price, but she always remained firm, sometimes even raising her asking price if they persisted. Only a few met her ask. Those few presented a problem, but not one she couldn’t handle.
Mariel’s ex’s lawyer continued to push for her to sell the house—her family’s house—as part of the divorce settlement. Derek could have taken cash in lieu of a share of all assets, but he was a spiteful man. Most judges would not have allowed him a share in the house, but Derek had found one who upheld the demand. She still wondered if he had bought the judge—or the person who assigned cases to judges.
Mariel had put the house on the market at an exorbitant asking price, claiming she wanted to get the maximum value for it. That had been twelve years ago. Buyers had come and inevitably gone when she’d refused to sell the sculpture with the house. And Mariel continued to live in Great-Great-Grandfather’s house. Not even Derek could get the judge to agree that she had to give up the sculpture with the house. It seemed he had a thing for family heirlooms, if not homes.
Mariel had known it would be a waiting game. Which one of them would die first? If it was Mariel, Noel, their son, would inherit her share of the house. If Derek died first, Noel would inherit his. In either case, he would not countenance its sale. He loved the old house as much as she did.
It saddened her to hear that Derek’s plane had crashed last night. He’d always believed himself a better pilot than he was. Sheer arrogance had led him to fly during last night’s storm. No matter how much she had wanted to outlive him, though, she hadn’t wished this on him.
Noel had delivered the news in person, bringing wine with him. Tomorrow, Mariel would call and cancel the listing on the house. Today, she and Noel sat under the ornate sculpture with their wine and mourned Nick’s untimely death, probably the only two people in the world who would do so.
I loved this image when I created it on Midjourney. I knew I wanted to create a story for it. But I had no idea what I would do with it until I started typing. How to make a flower sculpture the centerpiece of a story?
The thought of someone being forced to sell a family heirloom evolved into the story I eventually wrote. I honestly didn’t know I was going to kill Derek off until the moment I did.
I didn’t want Mariel to gloat or be happy about his death, though she profited from it. The ending is bitter-sweet, perfect, I think, for the circumstances. Life just isn’t always (or often) black and white.