Sasha waited outside the County Courthouse building. The session ended twenty minutes ago, but everyone was still inside. He scrubbed a shaking hand across his face, trying to remain calm. The sheen of sweat smeared across his cheeks and stung his eyes. He blinked furiously, trying not to tear up.
His uncle Nikolai was the first out of the door, followed by his lawyer, Mr. Jenkins. Sasha shrank back. He needed to know the outcome, though he had little doubt.
“Get the car,” Nikolai snapped at the lawyer.
“Kolya,” Mr. Jenkins admonished softly. “A continuance isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.”
Nikolai whirled on the black-suited man, face beet red. “If Alexander Mikhailovich succeeds in his suit, there will be nothing. Nothing, do you hear?”
“I know, I know,” Jenkins mollified. “Just calm down. I’ll get the car. Don’t excite yourself.”
Nikolai turned away angrily and Jenkins spoke quietly into a cell phone.
Sasha moved back into the shadows, shaking. A continuance. A continuance! He couldn’t believe it. Silent tears slid almost unnoticed down his cheeks. He did turn toward the bushes, in case anyone was near enough to see.
“See, Father? Maybe it will work,” he whispered. He heard a car door slam and looked over his shoulder.
Nikolai and Mr. Jenkins were getting into a black sedan, the driver a large Black man that Sasha had never seen before. He watched them drive away, still shaking.
It took another fifteen minutes to be able to stop.
He made his way, finally, back to his car. It sat, forlorn among the Mercedes and Porches. He got in, feeling small and insignificant, and dug his mobile phone out of the glove box.
“Celia,” he whispered.
“Sasha?” His girlfriend sounded startled. “Already?” She paused. “Did it go… badly?”
“Continuance.” He managed to spit it out. “Continuance,” he said again, just to hear it. “I heard Uncle talking outside the courthouse.”
“Oh, Sasha! That’s good news!”
“I don’t know when it’s for, though,” Sasha whispered. “Celia, what if…” He couldn’t say it.
“I’ll call. Just give me a moment. I’ll call you back.”
He nodded, then realized she couldn’t hear it. “Okay.” His voice was hoarse.
They hung up. Sasha started the car and threw it into gear. He pulled onto the main drag, tension flowing through his body like poison. He cleared his throat, trying to think. He’d go back to his apartment and… He didn’t know what next.
He pulled into his parking spot and got out. He locked the door and looked around, by reflex checking for anything out of the ordinary. He didn’t live in a very good part of town, but it was all he could afford right now. His father hadn’t liked it, but Sasha had insisted. He wanted to make his own way in the world. He wanted to make it on his own. He hadn’t expected his father to die so soon…
Sudden tears choked him and he blinked furiously. He shouldn’t think about his father. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and walked over to the gate in front of the door to the apartment. His keys rattled against the metal and then he was inside.
He was inside the apartment, the door locked and bolted, before Celia called back. “Celia?”
“Sasha.” She didn’t sound very good.
“I… don’t know what to say, Sasha.”
“Just tell me!”
“It’s not a Continuance on the inheritance. They decided already. It’s a Continuance on the payout schedule. The Court wants time to decide whether it should be a lump-sum or a series of payments.”
Sasha fell onto the couch, feeling punched. “What?”
“I’m so sorry, Sasha!”
“It’s okay, Celia,” he murmured. The phone fell from his ear, and he thumbed it off. “It’s okay.” He put the phone on the coffee table, shaking again.
He wanted to pace the floor but couldn’t get up. How had it happened? His uncle had appeared out of nowhere, claiming that his father’s fortune was his. He claimed that Sasha’s grandfather had gifted both sons equally, and that meant that he was the heir before Sasha. Sasha couldn’t afford a lawyer and his uncle’s challenge had gone before the Judge, and now…
“Papa,” he whispered. “Why did you leave me now?” Sasha wished he could figure out what to do, but emotions clouded his thoughts and he slid to the floor, his back against the couch. His eyes fell on the phone.
His fingers were dialing before he could stop himself. It started ringing and his heart began to pound.
“Allo,” the voice answered, heavily Russian.
“Mozhno govorit na Dyedushku,” he said, translating in his head: may I speak to the Grandfather. ‘Forgive me, Papa,’ he added in his head.
There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment. “Who is this?” a new voice demanded.
“Alexander Mikhailovich,” he responded as firmly as he could manage.
“Sasha,” the voice purred. “What can I do for you?”
“I…” Sasha faltered, then swallowed. “I was calling because my Uncle’s challenge succeeded in court today.”
“I see,” the Grandfather said softly. “And you come to me. Your father would not approve, Sashka.”
Sasha flushed. He hated that the Grandfather added the diminutive to his name, like he was a little boy. He kept his temper in check. “Please. I need your help. I can’t challenge it.”
“And what can I do, Sashka?”
“Can you help?”
The Grandfather said nothing further. “What do you want?” Sasha asked, fearing the answer.
“Semyon will be by to pick you up in fifteen minutes, and we will discuss it, Sashka. Be ready.”
Sasha swallowed, second thoughts flooding him. “I’ll be ready,” he said bravely.
The Grandfather laughed. “You’d better be.” He hung up.
Sasha sat, trembling painfully, unable to move for a long time. He checked his watch and, five minutes before Semyon was to be downstairs, he pulled himself to his feet and started downstairs.