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Inheritance

Jennifer was enjoying life, despite some milestone disappointments. Her 25 year marriage to Richard had foundered just after they moved away from the sea to a regional city in Victoria. Richard did not transplant well and he descended into a sombre depression. He became distant and eventually they separated. At 65 Jennifer embarked on a new life as a single woman. She had had plenty of practice, as she and Richard had not married until she was 36 and he 42. They had not had any children and, although Jennifer was disappointed about this, she had somehow overcome it, by nursing the strangely comforting thought that the looming situation with environmental decline and overpopulation would have been a burden on any children she may have had. A further disappointment was that her family had fallen away after the deaths of her parents and, although she made supreme efforts with cousins, she had only a sparse, although valuable, array of family still in touch.

Jennifer had made her will a number of times, and with business affairs amicably settled between herself and Richard, he no longer figured in this confronting document. It had become a matter of dispersing her not insignificant assets. She had been left a considerable fortune by a favourite aunt in 2010 and so she needed do this with care and to revise it every few years.

One day she had a call from a friend in another state, who had come across an elderly nursing home resident, whom she believed was related to Jennifer. The name fitted in but Jennifer had never heard of this particular person. Her friend suggested that she write a letter to the resident at the nursing home. Jennifer did this, being very interested, since she already knew a lot about this branch of her family and thought she had already completed the picture.

About three weeks went by, with no word from this possible relative, Being in a nursing home, he was probably not capable of getting together the requirements for a letter, and getting it posted. Jennifer did not think much more about this. It had been worth a try, but it hadn't worked, and she was quite busy with her life in bustling Ballarat.

One day, Jennifer received a phone call from a woman called Deborah, who said she was the daughter of the man in the nursing home, and she was responding to the letter on behalf of her father. Jennifer and Deborah were second cousins, but they had never met! They knew the same people, they understood where they each fitted into the family, and they were born the same year - Jennifer three months earlier. As a child, Jennifer had spent many school holidays with her grandparents in Perth, and had met many cousins, but they were all about ten years older- actually her mother's first cousins. There was no-one her own age At this late stage of her life, finding Deborah was thrilling and joyous. Jennifer looked forward to a meeting the next time she was in Perth. They vowed to keep in touch and they immediately exchanged family photos and documents to fill in the picture for each other.

Deborah had been equally pleased about this new connection. Although she had a husband, children, and grand children, a sister and a brother, so was replete with family, she welcomed the opening of this new door, looked forward to many interesting exchanges, and to possibly solving the mystery of why they had not hitherto met. One night, Deborah and her husband Ben were relaxing in front of television when the subject of Jennifer came up.

Ben warned that there must be an ulterior motive for a cousin to turn up, after virtually a whole lifetime, and to contact Deborah's elderly father in a nursing home. People only befriend elderly people in nursing homes in order to influence and exploit them, Ben proposed to Deborah. Deborah took this in, having not considered such a devious act on the part of Jennifer, who actually sounded warm, friendly, genuine, and uncomplicated. But, of course, Ben was right. It all made sense. Deborah would not contact Jennifer again, even though she had received an email from her the day before. The decision was made. It was not worth the risk!

Jennifer was surprised not to hear back from Deborah. She had been hoping to catch up on so much, to learn about this cousin's parallel childhood in Perth, played out during those school holidays when Jennifer was close by so many times. About two weeks after not hearing back, Jennifer rang Deborah, to thank her for documents she had sent and for which she had already thanked her in her last email. The voice on the other end of the phone was harsh and cold. It was as though Jennifer's call was an unsolicited intrusion from a call centre! Jennifer retreated quickly but politely, surprised at the about-face in the new relationship.

Deborah had felt almost panic stricken when she heard Jennifer's voice on the phone. It was now the voice of the enemy, threatening her financial future. She knew what Jennifer was up to. Good riddance! She told Ben that she would have no more to do with Jennifer. This resolution brought their marital relations back into a tenuous workable harmony.

Originally, Jennifer had only ever expected to have a few words with the old man, and possibly find out why she had never met him. She knew he was a much younger brother of one of her mother's first cousins, whom she remembered very well, but she had never known that she had a younger brother. She was bewildered but philosophically she reflected that she was never going to find out why Deborah had turned on her. At least she had some interesting family history from the brief exchange, and hopefully she had filled in some gaps for Deborah.

A few weeks later, Jennifer was about to embark on a six week trip to Russia and, as usual when travelling, she felt a sense of doom. The plane could well crash, and she may never see her kitchen or her cat again! Her heart was in her mouth, as she accumulated all her travel documents, all the time with a sense of having forgotten something. Finally, all that was left to do was revising her will. This must be done since she could be dead soon!