Jessica cut in the conversation and leaned over toward her sister. “How the hell are you going to live without dear Daddy’s money? Or would you just like to camp out in the forest like some of your New Age friends in one of those filthy, beat-up camper trucks filled with their every belonging? Better yet, maybe you would like to be one of those matted-haired lunatics seeking God who walk through Sedona with their backpacks clung to them like it’s a second skin?”
“If I have to do that, then I will. I know that I have lived off of Daddy’s money. Maybe Daddy’s death is the lesson I’m suppose to learn in this life, not to live off of others. I probably need to meditate on that for a while.” Natalie sounded like a little girl.
Jessica exploded, “Christ! Just talking to you makes my blood boil. Why don’t you act like a normal person instead of using all that New Age bullshit psycho babble?”
Natalie sat up straight like a puppet whose stings had just been yanked. She turned to look directly at her older sister, her voice quivering but surprisingly strong. “I’m tired of listening to you attack what I believe in, Jessica. How about your lifestyle? Let’s look at that for a moment. During the day all you do is play tennis, lunch or shop. At night, you screw any man you can get your hands on. At least I’m trying to understand myself and the meaning of life. You’re nothing but a whore!”
“Shut-up!” Philip said as the waiter approached with their drinks. All three picked up their menus while the waiter set down another gin and tonic for Philip, a Perier with lime for Jessica, and a Rim Rock water for Natalie.
After they ordered and the waiter left the table, Philip leaned forward on his elbows and gave the two women a hard stare. His tone was even, measured.
“Look. I don’t give a good goddamn about either of you. As far as I’m concerned you can both go to hell, but we’re in this together. Your father made a change in his will about a year before he died, probably while he was in one of his remorseful periods. Prior to that, she was never included in the will. The pre-marital agreement Kathleen signed prevented her from getting anything from the estate.”
Jessica squeezed the lime into her drink. “So...what’s the strategy to cut Kathleen out?”
“To prove your father was an alcoholic and not in his right mind when he changed the will.”
Natalie shook her head and Jessica rudely laughed. “And you’re the one who’s talking about perceptions! People in this community aren’t going to take that one lightly.”
Philip pressed on, unconcerned.
“What really disturbs me is the land trade. Those Forest Service bureaucrats are hard enough to deal with, let alone working with them while the land is in contested probate.” Natalie again shook her head. “I don’t understand anything about this land exchange.”
Jessica interrupted. “All I know is that Daddy bought acreage along Oak Creek many years ago from some old geezer who was down on his luck and needed money. What is it anyway, Philip?”
Philip looked around him, making sure no one was within earshot. He explained Forest Service policy was to trade land that borders development with land the agency considers valuable.
“We’re talking about trading the 10 acres your father owned along Oak Creek for 100 acres the Forest Service owns near Edgarville. You know, that small rural community south of Sedona.”
“So, what’s the big problem?” Natalie asked her uncle.
“The problem is that these Sedona environmental do-gooders don’t want the Forest Service to deal in land exchanges. They know the Edgarville land will be developed by us, and those people who live out there don’t want anyone else out there. They like that rural bullshit with their horses and flies. I hear they’re a strange bunch, angry with the government for every goddamn thing. This is a very touchy political issue.”
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