“Well, yeah,” Joni replied. “The jewelry boxes?”
“Oh. Right!” John conceded. “The jewelry boxes. And the suits in the chiffarobe.”
“The chiffa-what?!” Amber demanded.
“The Chiffarobe,” Joni declared in her best Mayella Ewell voice. “Like the one in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’? I like to call it a wardrobe because when I was little I’d play in it thinking that it could take me to Nar-”
“The point?” Amber insisted, cutting her big sister off.
“The point, I believe,” John said, “Is that I started to go through things. Make some piles? Things to throw away. Things to give away? Stuff to discuss?”
“You didn’t throw anything away!?” Amber demanded.
“No,” John replied calmly. “I made piles. Of the ‘crap’ that is ‘fit to burn’? I had, have, no intention of making these decisions for you guys. It’s your stuff; not mine.”
“And?” Payton asked calmly.
“And John found two jewelry boxes. A big one, stuffed with women’s jewelry, and a smaller one with men’s stuff in it. Definitely treasure, though I haven’t a clue what it’s worth.”
“You did?” Amber asked, face suddenly lit up with delight. “Let’s go see!”
“Upstairs?” Sean asked. “Really? They’re jewelry boxes. Doesn’t it make more sense to bring them down here?”
“No. I want to see them in situ,” Amber demanded. “See what else might be up there.”
Jacob and Payton exchanged a glance. Jacob mouthed, ‘In situ’ and raised his eyebrows to indicate a question. Payton shrugged, held his hands out, palms upward and furrowed his brow.
Sean closed his eyes, exhaled, consigned himself to the inevitable, sighed the word, “Fine,” and rose.
“For real?” Jacob demanded. “Shit on a stick.” He too sighed and said, “Fine.”
Eight adults would fill the treasure room even if it were empty. It was not. Amber went up the stairs first and made a bee-line for the eastern dormer. Joni and John followed her but turned left to make room for the five others who thumped up the narrow, steep steps.
“God, this place is a dump!” Amber declared, drawing her mouth up, tightening her cheek muscles and narrowing her eyes. “And it stinks! How can you live like this?” she demanded of Joni.
“Mom’s house,” Joni responded from the back of the throng, “not mine. What did you want me to do? Beat her up?”
“I would have just gone through this crap and been done with it,” Amber answered.
“Easier said than done. And besides, you didn’t: You only live twelve miles from here; you could have come over.”
A noise of disgust erupted from deep in Amber’s throat. Her right shoulder rose and her head shook back and forth so quickly that her young jowls shook. “Not on your life. It is so depressing around here. If you want to live in Riverdale, then you go right ahead; give me Beverly.”
“Well if we push this house thing then maybe we can get poor Joni out on the street,” Bilhah declared. “Isn’t that what you’re really after?”
Amber spun around to confront Jake’s paramour. Bilhah, though a decade older, was also six inches taller, ropy and knottily muscled. When Amber spun Bilhah’s eyebrows shot up contemptuously, her head tilted to the left ten degrees, a smirk appeared on her face and her left eyebrow rose. “Really?” she asked. “Really? You think so?”
This time Amber’s throat growl was one of frustration rather than contempt and turning back to the wardrobe she asked, “So, the jewelry boxes are in the wardrobe?”
“It’s a chiffarobe,” Bilhah declared, smirk still on her face, left foot positioned languidly forward.
Behind Amber’s field of vision, Jacob reached for Bilhah’s arm, gently took it, lowered his head to look at her through the upper part of his eyes, brought her next to him and shaking his head minutely kissed the top of her head.
Bilhah, muscles tight in response to her flee or fight moment, looked at Jake’s hand on her arm, moved up to his eyes, flared her nostrils, exhaled deeply and then stood next to him, muscles no longer taut. Jacob patted her fanny, kissed her again and then put his arm around her waist.
“The jewelry boxes are in the top drawer,” John reported.
Amber pulled the drawer open, stood on tip toes to see inside, retrieved the two boxes and, without turning to see her husband, thrust the smaller one toward Sean. “Here!” she declared. “Take it!” Sean’s mouth opened, his eyes narrowed and his head turned from her to the right and returned to her before he grabbed the box and yanked it away from her forcefully. Amber ignore her husband’s reaction and flipped open her box lid. “Well!” she quickly declared, “This really is something, isn’t it? Anything else up here?”
“Those boxes are the only two things of Lottie’s that I’ve found so far that looked like they would be worth some real money. There’s a couple a piles in Joni’s room and another down in Lottie’s. If you guys want to look at them I can either save, sell, donate or discard the stuff.”
“That sounds promising,” Amber said distractedly, looking at the jewels. “Let’s see what else is in here,” she added, opening the second drawer.
As she opened the drawer there was a loud quadruple knock on the front door. Amber gasped, slammed the drawer shut and clutched the jewelry box to her. Then she laughed and asked, “Who the hell is that? The IRS?”