And now for the final installment…
“I know my grandchildren just fine.”
Brett’s kids. Her brother was still the only member of her family that understood the choice she’d made. The only one she’d been able to maintain a close relationship with. The only one who tried to defend her. Not that it helped. In fact it only made life harder on him, and Evie had eventually asked that he stop trying.
“You don’t know my kids, Mom.”
“And I don’t intend to,” she said harshly. “When my other children get married and start families of their own, I’ll have more. But until then, I only have three.” Hers made it a total of five, but unless the situation changed, they would never know this grandmother.
“How do you sleep at night, Mom?”
“Very well, thank you. How do you sleep knowing you married the son of the man who killed your sister?”
“Doug didn’t kill her. It was an accident. A blown tire, Mom. And he has lived with the guilt of it all this time. It wasn’t his fault. Heidi was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Are you finished here?”
Evie looked for any sign of softening in the woman she so resembled and saw none. Only the bitterness and hatred she’d clung to like a life preserver since that day so long ago.
She turned her gaze again to the pink headstone. It glittered in the sunlight, the sparkles looking almost cheerful. Heidi had only lived until a few days after her fourteenth birthday. A headstone shouldn’t look pretty. Only things that were good should be pretty. Evie’s heart hurt. She missed her sister. She missed the rest of her family.
“Yes. I‘m finished here,” she whispered, forcing her gaze back to her mother. “If you ever change your mind, Brett knows how to get in touch with me.”
Unable to respond past the lump in her throat, she turned and started walking up the hill toward her family.
“Don’t bother coming back for my funeral,” Maddie called after her. “I don’t want you there.”
Her eyes were brimming with tears as she reached Jess. His smile was sad as he pulled her into his arms, gently kissing her hair. He told the kids to go ahead and go back to the car and to wait for them there.
“Is Mom okay?” ten year old Spencer asked hesitantly.
“I’m fine, Sweetheart,” Evie assured him quickly.
“Who is that lady, Mama?” Heidi Anne wanted to know.
“It’s Mom’s mother, you dope,” Spencer hissed, grabbing his sister’s arm and dragging her toward the car.
“Then isn’t she our grandma?”
“But if she’s Mom’s mom, then-”
“Shut up, Heidi Anne. Do you want to make Mom cry some more?”
Evie couldn’t hear any more of the conversation after that. She sighed and said,
“I should go and talk to them. Explain it so they understand.”
“We can do that when we get back to the hotel.”
“But Heidi Anne-”
“Hasn’t known about the situation for eight years. Another half-hour or so isn’t going to make a difference.”
“I guess you’re right.”
They just stood quietly for several long moments. As always she drew comfort from husband, and appreciated him more than ever.
“Evie, I am so sorry about all of this,” Jess murmured softly. “I’d hoped that after all this time-after losing Abe now, that maybe she‘d see what she was missing without you in her life.”
“I know. I’d hoped for that, too. But it’s okay. She’s made her choice.” Again.
And it hurt. Evie thought it probably always would. The only thing she could do was be willing to mend fences if her mother relented and decided to forgive her. Not that she felt she’d done anything requiring forgiveness. But she loved her mother enough to put the past aside if the opportunity ever arose to do so.
At least she had her big brother. And he’d hinted that a couple of their other siblings were beginning to soften just a bit. In fact, Brett and their sister were meeting her in the lounge at the hotel later for coffee and to talk. It was enough for now.
“Let’s go,” she sighed, smiling up at Jess. She started to pull away from him for the short walk to the car but he held her firmly in place, a question in his eyes.
“Have you ever been sorry that- You know. That you and I-”
“Not even once.”