What could be from the lawyers now? he wondered as he began to tear at the tape binding. His mother’s will had been read. Her estate had been left entirely to him, her only child. His father, a high-profile Atlanta attorney, had died years earlier. He had left his widow with an estate that gave her the option to stop working and live a comfortable lifestyle. Zora Green had a successful career as a magazine editor and continued working at what she loved until the cancer that would take her life forced her to retire.
When Atticus inherited his estate, he’d donated a significant portion to charities that helped the poor in Atlanta. He also made a generous pledge to the Ebenezer Baptist Church stewardship fund. What he’d do with the rest, however, Atticus didn’t know. He was a newly ordained minister and committed to his calling. He lived a modest lifestyle. Not married. He liked to take women to dinner at nice restaurants, take a trip once in a while. Other than that, he had no need for it. So until he received some message from God about what he should do with the money, he had arranged with the law firm to put the funds into safe investments. Atticus knew how fast that money would have flowed through his fingers if he’d inherited it when he was twenty-one.
Atticus felt a little apprehensive when he opened the box. He pulled out a glossy black folder bearing the insignia of the Pearlman & Pearlman law firm. There was also a plastic bag—filled with two bundles of envelopes of different sizes and colors, each bundle tied with red ribbon. Glancing at them, ever more curious, he set them aside and turned back to the folder. Opening it, he found a formal typed letter in the left pocket, a sealed envelope in the right. He reached out to take a sip of his coffee. It was hot, black, and sweet. Then he pulled out the typed letter to read.
Following Mrs. Zora Green’s (your mother’s) instructions, we waited until all the business of the will and estate were settled before embarking on her final wishes. To date, all outstanding debts, taxes, and funeral expenses have been paid.
Which brings us to her second request. Mrs. Green gave to our safekeeping certain letters that were to be delivered to you after her death. The said letters are enclosed. A sealed, personal letter from your mother, located in this folder, is addressed to you and should be read first. The bundles of letters in the plastic bag can be read at your leisure.
The aforementioned letter is written in Mrs. Green’s own handwriting and signed by her in the presence of my secretary and a clerk. Mrs. Green also provided us with all the necessary legal documentation to substantiate the claims she makes in her letter. Please contact me at your convenience and we will send you the complete set of documents under separate cover.
Again, I am here to assist you in any way possible. My sympathy again on the passing of your mother.
Pearlman & Pearlman LLC
Atticus set the lawyer’s letter on the table, then pulled the sealed envelope out from the right side of the folder. He held it in front of him with two hands, immediately recognizing his mother’s beautiful script. On the envelope she’d written only his first name, as was her habit for all birthday and holiday cards she’d sent during her lifetime. Just Atticus. Underlined with great flourish.
His mother had told him with pride and a certain conceit that she had chosen his unusual name. He hadn’t liked the name as a child. There wasn’t an easy nickname for it, not a good thing for a boy. He’d wished he’d been named for his father, Tyrone, a good, strong, popular name. His father had once told Atticus he’d never wanted his son named after a famous white literary character, but he’d finally approved once Zora reminded him Atticus Finch was a lawyer. Zora had pushed hard for the name as hers was a literary background. Her favorite novel was To Kill a Mockingbird and her favorite male character Atticus Finch. When she was young, Zora, then an editor at a major New York publishing house, was in a commuter marriage with Atlanta-based Tyrone, but left the city when she learned she was pregnant and returned to Atlanta to settle there. She continued working in publishing, rising up to become publisher of a local magazine. Both Atticus’s parents were highly educated, but he got his love of books from his mother.
Atticus looked at the envelope as though he could see right through to its contents. What kind of news could it carry that required legal documents and a lawyer on call for questions? His mother had lived to see him change his life, become a minister, and fulfill her dream for him. God knew how hard he had struggled to find this peace. Did he want to risk shaking the emotional terra firma of his world with whatever his mother felt he needed to know in some cryptic letter from the grave?
He resigned himself to the inevitable. Picking up a knife, he slit open the envelope with one smooth sweep. On the letter, written on pale blue parchment, her name was engraved in navy script: Zora Middleton Green. Atticus took a deep breath and began to read.
My darling Atticus,
I’m writing this letter with the intention that it be delivered to you after my death. It contains information that I should have told you years ago. It’s important you understand that I had promised your father that I would never tell you. I kept that promise in my lifetime. I feel, however, that you have the right to know your history. In these modern times, genetic histories are critical for one’s health and welfare and I do not want to deprive you of these important facts.
Atticus lowered the letter, swallowing hard at what the words indicated. He reached to pick up his coffee and took a bolstering sip. His cup clattered when he returned it to the saucer. Then, picking up the letter, he continued reading.
Tyrone Green is not your biological father. He has been your father in every way since your birth, and he could not have loved you more if you were his flesh and blood. Your biological father was a decent man. He never met you, never held you in his arms, never participated in your life. His name was Parker Muir.
Allow me to tell you the circumstances of your birth. As you know, I was an assistant editor for the executive editor of a major publishing house in New York City. What you did not know was that we were already married and that Tyrone and I were separated at the time—he was living in Atlanta working on his law career. While working I met the husband of my boss, Georgiana James. He was a writer by the name of Parker Muir. He and Georgiana James were recently married, but it was obvious they were having a hard time of it. There was little love lost between them. Parker had hoped Georgiana would edit his manuscript. But instead she tossed it on my desk and asked me to do the job. I found the situation awkward, to say the least. But Georgiana James was not a woman whose orders were not obeyed. Thus it was I began editing Parker’s novel.