Lilly Jean sat on the couch outside the branch manager’s office. She’d been waiting for the past fifteen minutes, staring at the sign on the office door. Frank Liebowics, Branch Manager. What the hell was the man doing back there all that time was what Lilly Jean wanted to know. Likely taking a nap, she mused, crossing her legs and drumming her fingernails on the arm of the chair.
A woman entered the bank and strode to the manager’s door. “Frank, I’m kind of in a hurry here.”
Lilly Jean looked up. Frowned. Nobody barged in front of Lilly Jean Jacobs. She opened her mouth to speak. Closed it just as quick. Lilly Jean suddenly regretted her decision to stop putting on makeup; to stop doing her hair of a morning. This woman was drop dead gorgeous. She wore a wool suit, red. An ivory scoop neck shirt beneath. Gray pumps. A pearl necklace and matching earrings. Her nails—fingers and toes—wore shiny red polish. Her long blonde hair was pulled back into a casual but neat bun. “What’re you starin’ at?”
Lilly Jean felt her skin grow hot; she looked at the floor. She felt awkward in her postal uniform. She felt ugly and unbalanced and uncoordinated. She wished she’d at least put on a spot of lipstick that morning.
The woman opened the manager’s office and stepped in.
“Good morning, Miss Jackson.”
“You used to call me Neala, Frank.” The woman gave a sultry laugh. “Remember that?”
“May I help you, Miss Jackson?”
This was getting interesting. Lilly Jean pulled a book from her purse—some science fiction thing Howard had loaned to her. She held the book to her face and strained her ears.
“I’d like to make a withdrawal from my account.”
“Did you fill out the proper paperwork?”
“I have all the paperwork I need. Remember these? I saved every last one of your letters, Frank.”
“You said you destroyed them.” The man was whispering now.
“I say a lot of things, Frank.”
A drawer opened and then closed. “This account is in your daughter’s name, Neala. Are you the custodian?”
“Well I ought to be, don’t you think? I am her mother, after all.”
Lilly Jean heard some keys being pressed on the computer. “You’re not listed.”
“Why don’t you just list me then, Frank?”
“I can’t do that…”
“Ellie needs to make a deposit at
“Bring her in. I’ll be happy to help her with that.”
“I want to surprise her, Frank. I’m trying to turn my life around; do something right for once.”
“Neala, I can’t. It’s against bank policy. I could lose my job. I’m sorry, but I just can’t…”
“Frank, I’m telling you, if you don’t put my name on this account, the entire town will know about us.”
“Please, Neala. I’m a married man. I have children.”
“You were married then. And your wife was pregnant. I saved more than the letters, Frank. I never destroy anything. You don’t help me out, I’ll cook your ass. You’ll lose your job. And your family.”
“You wouldn’t do that.”
She laughed again. “Try me.”
The manager sighed.
“All you have to do is list me as the custodian, Frank. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“You can have ‘em.”
“The other stuff?”
“Good as gone.”
Lilly Jean squirmed in her seat. She brought the book closer to her face. She listened harder than she’d ever listened in her life.
“You’re now the custodian of Ellie’s account. I hope you’re not screwing with me.”
“Oh, I’m not screwing around with you Frank. You are a married man, after all. Here are you letters. Don’t worry. I’ve got copies at home.”
The woman emerged from the office and walked up to the counter. “I’d like to make a withdrawal.”
Lilly Jean turned a page. Looked up over the top of the book. Yes. She could definitely see the resemblance. This was the famed Neala Jackson.
“All of it.”
The teller looked up. “That’s quite a sum.”
“Five hundred dollars is nothing.”
“Ms. Jackson, there’s over sixty-five thousand dollars in this account.”
Ellie’s mother gasped. “What?”
Lilly Jean grasped the edges of her book tightly.
“Still want to take it all out?”
Lilly Jean watched Neala Jackson consider. “All but five hundred. I want to transfer the rest to a new account. In my name only.”
Frank Liebowics, Branch Manager finally decided to haul his ass out of his chair and make an appearance at the door. “May I help you?” The man looked about as bad as road kill. His face was red and sweaty. His hair stood up in the front. His tie was loosened and his suit jacket was rumpled.
Lilly Jean paused. She’d wanted to see how this played out. But…She glanced at her watch. “I’d like to open an account, please.” Reluctantly she stood and followed Frank Liebowics, Branch Manager into his office.