Warning: Coarse Language
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn’t that. This was James and Tyler’s mother? I had never seen anything like this woman in my life. Her eyes were sunken and bloodshot, her hair lank and greasy, and her face so thin it appeared almost skeletal. The leathery skin stretched over her skull was yellowed and wrinkled with age, and the blood-red colour on her lips did little to hide a mouthful of broken and decayed teeth. I shuddered to think what could possibly have happened to make her appearance so horrific… and found myself recalling the night, many years ago, when I had visited their house just in time to witness her arrest for illegal drug abuse. Was it possible that something like that could have caused this?
To top it all off, she was filthy. I couldn’t help wrinkling my nose as the ancient woman stepped over the threshold into the house, with arms outstretched towards my husband and a grin that looked more like a leer plastered across her sunken face.
“James…” she croaked, in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, as she closed the door behind her. “My dear old son.”
I glanced at James, and saw the scowl on his face as he stepped away from her.
“What the hell do you want?” he growled. The shock had certainly worn off quickly – James wasn’t messing around here. The smile slid instantly from her face, to be replaced by a look of fear.
“Now, now, Jimsie,” she said hastily, “Let’s try to keep things civil-”
“Civil my ass!” I had never heard James talk like that before. Then again, I couldn’t remember ever seeing him as furious as he was now. “You abandoned us!” he cried. “You had two children who needed you, but you didn’t give two shits about them, did you? All you cared about was your next damn fix! You’ve got some nerve, turning up here after all that crap you put us through!”
“Hey, that’s not true,” she protested. “I swear I never meant to leave you kids, it wasn’t my fault! I couldn’t help it if they took me away, now, could I?”
“Oh yeah, just like you couldn’t help getting addicted to fucking heroin, right?” he spat. “Or like you couldn’t help neglecting your daughter for years? What are you even doing here now? Huh? Want to make up for your mistakes or some bullshit? Well, it’s too fucking late! Get out!”
“My sentence is up,” she interrupted him – I don’t think she dared say anything but the plain truth, with the state James was in – “but I need a place to stay. Not for too long, just-”
“No. No way. No fucking way.”
“Please, James, hear me out-”
“No! There is nothing you could say that would convince me to take you in after everything you’ve done!”
“You’re not my only option,” she interjected.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
A malicious grin spread across her face as she watched the realisation dawn on his… soon to be replaced with anger.
“No.” His voice was quiet, but if I thought James was furious before, now he was positively livid. “Don’t you dare touch her. She’s had enough of your poison already to last a lifetime.”
“Well, you see…” the woman was smiling now… “That’s why I came to you first, because I knew you would prefer it that way. But if you won’t take in your own dear elderly mother, I’m sure I have someone else that will. Little Tyler’s all grown up now, isn’t she? I hear she even has a family of her own! I would certainly love to meet my grandchildren. And Tyler always was a soft-hearted child…”
James was fighting for control now; I could see his shaking hands, balled into fists. Finally, he spoke, and it was as though every word cost him a painful effort. But if it was for Tyler…
“One week. Okay? One week and then you’re gone!”
He interrupted her. “I don’t care. One week, that’s it. And it’s only on one condition.”
“Stay the hell away from my sister.”
She shrugged. “Fine by me. I’d rather not see the little brat anyway.” James growled angrily, but apparently decided that the last comment was best left alone.
Thus the pact with the devil was made, and the only thing left to worry about was how the kids would take it. Knowing what she had done, I was no fonder of the woman than James was, but I knew she had given him no choice, and I wasn’t going to add to his problems by complaining. I was more worried about the impact her visit would have on Flynn in particular, who was still only a toddler. Given her dislike for children, not to mention her past misdeeds, I firmly intended to make sure that contact between my own children and their grandmother would be minimal.
Unfortunately, though, I couldn’t be there all the time. The morning after that woman’s arrival, I stumbled upon her and Diana talking together in the living room.
“Who are you?” Di was asking. I had intended to explain the situation to her and Emily together, but apparently she had beaten me to it.
“I’m your Daddy’s mother,” was the reply.
“So you’re… my grandmother?”
“I didn’t know I had another grandma!” Di cried excitedly. Then she hesitated. “Can I call you ‘grandma’?”
‘Grandma’ grimaced, and looked away in distaste. “I would rather you didn’t.”
“Oh, okay,” Di said politely. “So does this mean I have a second grandpa as well?”
“Theoretically.” She looked uncomfortable.
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why? Is he dead? Does he live somewhere else?”
She didn’t answer – her eyes were darting from door to door, probably searching for an escape route. Much as I enjoyed watching the woman who had made the childhoods of my husband and my best friend hell, squirming under interrogation from my daughter, I had to remind myself of my resolution to limit contact between them. So I intervened.
“Di, why don’t you leave your grandmother alone for a while? There’s something I need you to do for me.”
“Did you know gran- my grandmother was here, Mummy?” Di asked me as I led her out of the room.
I hesitated. “… Yes, I did. She arrived last night.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was going to, sweetheart. Actually, I was going to talk to you and your sister about it this morning. Why don’t you go and find her, and then I’ll explain everything?”
In the end, Diana and Emily were pretty okay with the idea of having their grandmother living with us, once I had explained everything to them (leaving out the parts which involved swearing or blackmail). As it turned out, their coping with the situation wasn’t a problem at all. The worst part of the visit actually happened one morning several days later, when I opened the door to an unexpected guest – possibly the worst guest to have under the circumstances, although ordinarily I would have been delighted by her presence.
For the first thirty seconds after I opened the door, everything was fine. Tyler chatted happily to me as she walked into the room, barely even paying attention to her surroundings. “I’m sorry to turn up out of the blue like this, Bee. I was just driving by your house and I thought, hey, I haven’t seen James and Bianca in forever! So I decided to just drop in. Man, is that Flynn? He’s grown so much since I last saw him!”
Smiling, she looked up at me, but the smile fell from her face when she saw mine. Misinterpreting my worried expression, she added, “I can always leave, you know, if you were busy. I shouldn’t have just come without calling first, you’re probably about to go out or something, aren’t you?”
“What?” I said. “Oh, no, we’re not busy. It’s just that…” I trailed off as Tyler stared around the room, and watched the flash of recognition appear in her eyes as her gaze stopped dead on her mother, who was relaxing in one of the armchairs near the fire.
Ty stood, rooted to the spot as her mother, smiling, rose from her chair and walked forward to greet her. “What a surprise to see you here! I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see me, did you?”
Tyler, apparently struck dumb with shock, didn’t respond, except to shake her head ever so slightly. Her eyes remained wide and staring, fixed on her mother’s face as if she were unable to tear them away.
After a few moments of tense silence, she spoke.
“That’s me!” The false cheeriness in her tone made me feel sick to my stomach. “You sure have grown since the last time I saw you, Tyler. How many years has it been? Ten? Fifteen?”
Tyler ignored the question. Knowing her as I did, I could sense the false bravado in her posture, trying to hide her fear and confusion. “Does James know you’re here?” she asked.
“James?” a wide grin spread across the woman’s face. “Why, of course! James was the one who invited me to stay!”
Tyler averted her eyes, looking hurt and confused, but was saved the necessity of responding by her brother, who entered the room at that moment.
“Tyler!” he gasped when his eyes landed on her… then narrowed as he took in who she was with. He crossed the room in three strides, caught his mother by the shoulder and turned her roughly to face him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he growled at her through clenched teeth.
“What? I’ve done nothing wrong?”
“Nothing wrong? Let me refresh your, clearly heavily damaged, memory. There was a condition to you staying here.”
“So what? I have stayed away from her. I can’t help it if she comes running in here unannounced, can I?”
James looked disgusted. “Everything’s always someone else’s fault with you, isn’t it? I’ll bet she forced you to talk to her as well, did she? I’ve got to say, I’m getting really tired of your bullshit!”
I suddenly came to my senses, and remembered that Flynn was still sitting in my arms. Deciding that he didn’t need to hear this, I left the room and went upstairs. At the same time, I felt like this was something that needed to be sorted out between the three of them. I felt I had no business even being in the room.
When I came back downstairs, Tyler was gone, and I could see James’ mother watching television in the next room. James was sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace. I went over to him and sat down.
He sighed. “She’s leaving tomorrow. I can’t let her get near Tyler. This time, I’m going to make sure she stays out of our lives for good.”
The following morning was the last time we saw that woman.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t call a death a good thing, but under the circumstances… well, it certainly made everything a lot less complicated.
“So… she’s really dead?”
“She is, ma’am. Cardiac arrest, by the looks of things. A body like that, it’s a wonder she didn’t die in a cell years ago.”
I was shocked. Cardiac arrest… otherwise known as a heart attack. I knew it was common in the elderly, and even more so for those whose internal organs had been damaged by harmful drugs as much as hers had. But somehow… I would never have expected it in this case.
After we had arrived home and called the police, the body was taken to a hospital for autopsy. The death had occurred that very morning; It had been quick, and virtually painless. A comforting fact… though to be honest, terrible as it sounds, comfort was scarcely needed. Both James and Tyler seemed more relieved than anything else that she was gone, and the kids had barely even met her. After they got over the initial shock of the situation, it was only a matter of weeks before life pretty much returned to normal, and all evidence to the contrary was practically forgotten.
“What did you get for question three, Di?”
I smiled as I watched my two daughters sitting together at the dining table, both working hard on their homework for school the next day. Or rather, Emily was working hard – Di had already finished her own work, and was now helping her sister with hers.
Di had always been a bright child, and though she had been terribly excited for school when she had first started, I hadn’t expected it to last – but it had. If anything, she was loving her work more with every passing day. Even when she had finished her homework and triple-checked every line, she could reliably be found upstairs in one of the bedrooms, studying as if the elementary school was setting exams every other day.
With Di and Emily so fixated on school and each other, James and I had more time than ever to spend with our son. Though not as smart as his eldest sister had been, Flynn was an obedient child, and learned new things with every passing day. I treasured every moment I got to spend with him, knowing that very soon they would be gone, and my youngest baby would be joining his sisters in ‘big school’. I sighed… the time had gone so quickly.
After that incident, the months fairly flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for Flynn’s birthday. I held my son for the last time as he blew out the candles on his home-made cake, then stood back to watch him grow from a toddler into a little boy.
My little boy.
He looked more like his grandfather than ever. Filled with emotion, and in spite of his protests, I leaned down and kissed him gently on the forehead…
… then wrapped my arms around him and pulled him close, hoping he hadn’t seen the tears that had sprung into my eyes without warning when I looked at him.
He was so handsome… and in spite of everything that had happened, he had grown up so well. I hugged him to me tightly, hoping in the act of physical reassurance to convey some small portion of the overwhelming and unconditional love I felt for my son. My only son. If there was one thing I was certain of, it was that the beautiful boy in my arms, and his sisters also, deserved nothing but happiness.
And I would do anything in my power to give it to them.
And that’s it for Generation Two! I hope you enjoyed Bianca’s story as much as I did. After this, there will be a couple of Gen 2 extras before we pick up the story again with Generation Three.
There’s still a week left on the heir vote, so don’t forget to head over and cast your vote on which of Bianca’s children you think would make the best legacy heir! After the poll closes, I’ll be announcing the winner and letting you know when to expect the next chapter, so stay tuned for that as well 🙂