General Fiction posted June 18, 2017


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...the conclusion

The Letter - Part Five

by Mustangpatty1029


In the first four parts of this story, we were introduced to Kathy, her husband Doug, and their estranged family.  W. Jane Hamlin, Kathy's mother-in-law, has had a mysterious letter sent to her with instructions to put together her Memorial Service.  A cashier's check for $100K is to be used to cover the expenses to make sure all the family is there.
 
The letter lets Kathy know that her mother-in-law loved her despite all that had happened in the past.  Based on this knowledge, Kathy uses all her organizational talents to put the service together.  Though the details of the troubles haven't been revealed, Doug and Kathy haven't seen most of the family for over fifteen years.  Doug contacts his estranged siblings and the arrangements are made. 
 
The family includes Doug's four siblings.  Jerry is the oldest, and Doug and Kathy have been in contact with him and his children over the years.  Sylvia, Doug's gay, oldest sister is present with her wife and daughter.  Caressa, the most vicious of the sisters is present with her husband, Bill and their children. Agnes, the youngest sister, is there with her children, and she has the most regrets about her relationship with Kathy.
 
During the reception, there has been a showdown between Kathy, Sylvia, and Caressa in the ladies' room.  Kathy stood her ground and clearly won the round.  We rejoin the story as Kathy returns to the reception…      


From Part Four:
When Kathy reentered the banquet hall, she was followed by a man pushing a wheelchair.  The figure in the chair was dressed all in black.  A dark veil covered the face, and she indicated that he should park her at the front of the room.  Kathy was a bit taken back – who was this stranger?  She didn't know who it could be, and she wondered what they wanted.
 
Suddenly, all eyes were looking at the front of the room.  A murmur could be heard as they all wondered what was going on.  Did Kathy have something special planned?  As the light dawned in Sylvia's mind, she swore to herself that Kathy knew what was coming…
 
-------@>
 
…and now our story concludes:
 
 
The room was so silent, Kathy could hear her heart beating rapidly in her chest.  Instinctively, she reached for Doug's hand.  His hand was cold, and Kathy looked over at his face. 
 
His eyes were focused on the figure at the front of the room.  Bright tears stood just waiting at the brim of his bottom lashes.  Kathy realized in that moment who it was beneath the veil.  Her breath caught in her throat as she turned towards the show at the front of the room.
 
Very slowly, the old, wrinkled hands rose to the hem of the veil.  With agonizing slowness, the veil was raised up.  Within seconds, the face of W. Jane Hamlin was revealed.  She had a beatific smile for the crowd.  After all, this was her crowd.  She had assembled all her offspring and their families for her pleasure.
 
-------@>
 
Jerry felt as though his heart might come through his skin.  She was alive?  How on earth had this come to be?  Did Kathy and Doug know this would happen?  He looked over at his brother, and could tell from the stunned expression on his face that he, too, was in absolute shock.
 
-------@>
 
Sylvia could hardly breathe.  Her mother's presence completely rattled her.  It was obvious she and Kathy must have conspired together to cause this turn of events.  She knew her mother was angry.  She could see through the smile on dear old Mom's face.  Whatever was to come now would not be pleasant.
 
-------@>
 
Narrowing her eyes, Caressa turned her face to look at Kathy.  She was startled to see the surprised look on Kathy's face.  She had been so sure Kathy knew her mother was alive.  If Kathy didn't know what was going on, Caressa shuddered to think of what was coming next.  It seemed as if Mother was in charge now.   What was it she had gone through all this trouble to say?  It certainly wasn't the reading of the will Caressa had come to hear. With disappointment in her cold heart, she waited for what was to come.
 

Agnes didn't know what to do.  Should she rush to the front of the room and embrace her mother?  Or should she continue to stand there along with everyone else and wait for the axe to fall?  She understood in her heart of hearts exactly what this was all about.  She knew she hadn't been to visit the old lady in quite some time.  She hadn't called either.  Mother had brought them all together to complain about the lack of attention.  Her method had been a bit extreme, but then Mother never did things any other way.
 
-------@>
 
Retrieving her cane from the young man who'd wheeled her in, Jane used it to bring herself to a standing position.  Clearing her throat, she began the speech she'd been rehearsing for weeks.
 
"What a lovely sight this is.  Imagine my busy children and grandchildren all in one place.  Even my great-grandchildren, some of whom I've never met, are gathered here to honor me.  I'm so very pleased you could clear your schedules to travel to my funeral.  It pains me that you were unable to come and see me while I was alive.  Many of you didn't even have time to call. 
 
"I hope all of you feel wonderful in your new clothes.  Your bellies are full of the scrumptious food and I'm sure you all enjoyed the open bar.  This has been quite the event, hasn't it?  It only took the news of my death to summon you all here.
 
"Modern technology is wonderful, isn't it?  With the help of a few hidden devices throughout the facility, I could hear all of you and your many conversations.  Does that shock you?"
 
A low murmur could be heard throughout the room.  Suddenly, each person could recall something they said that they would never want the matriarch of the family to hear.  Cold fear crept into everyone's heart as they watched the old, hunched figure at the front of the room.
 
"Many of you had very interesting things to say.  Some of the grandchildren spoke of the good times they enjoyed at my house.  The pool, the parties, Easter egg hunts, and the games played at Christmas amongst yourselves seemed to top the list.  I did not hear one word about how much I would be missed.
 
"But it was the conversations my own children had with their spouses that were of the utmost interest.  I never really knew what each of you thought about me until just this moment.  I'm very disappointed.  And the scene you girls caused in the ladies' room was absolutely appalling.  I'm so glad Kathy stood up to you.
 
"I was a good mother.  Yes, I worked at the hospital when you were young.  I came home bone tired and I needed my rest.  I realize it was your father that helped with homework, took you to your activities, and attended every game and function you participated in.  I was there, though.
 
"It was me that put together the family functions and bought the presents you all enjoyed.  I was the one who remembered which cake was your favorite, and the preferred flavor of ice cream you enjoyed.  Whether you like it or not, I was the heart of this family.
 
"That held true until Kathy became a member of this family.  She began by helping me with the planning of the events, contributing her own lovely ideas, and making sure everything went off without a hitch.  She was the one who organized the Easter egg hunts and the games at Christmas for the grandchildren.
 
"She quickly became the one I could count on. My mistake was in letting all of you know.  For some reason, this caused a great deal of trouble.  Perhaps it was my own fault.  I did point out to all of you that she seemed to be much better at everything.  She always dressed just right for each occasion.  Her children were always clean and well fed when they came to my house.  When I went to her house, I was waited on like a guest, in her well-kept and clean house.  She was a wonderful hostess and her cooking was impeccable.  Which is much more than I can say about my own daughters.
 
"Your father's funeral was the worst day of my life.  I wasn't only burying the man I'd been married to for almost fifty years, but I witnessed behavior from my own daughters that put me to shame.  You all went after Kathy as though she was the scum of the earth.  It's little wonder she ended up in the mental ward when the day was done.  You girls were cruel with the things you said and the accusations you hurled at her.  She was at the hospice with me every day – where were you?  She managed everything for me – could I count on any of you?  But you turned her good deeds into something ugly.  You picked apart everything she had ever done.  You blamed her mental illness for anything and everything.  You were heartless.
 
"Doug and she pulled away then.  Kathy was sure I was at the center of the ring of women who wanted to persecute her for being a good wife, mother, and human being.  Doug wanted to protect the woman he loved.  Two of my grandchildren grew up as I watched from afar, and my heart broke.
 
"I had to watch my oldest daughter, Sylvia, marry another woman.  It was difficult to accept this alternative lifestyle, and my heart broke when you decided to bring a child into the world through artificial insemination.  I was ashamed at church, and I stopped including a newsletter with my Christmas cards.  Your resentment of Kathy started when she and Doug married in the church--something you could never do.
 
"My middle daughter, Caressa, has been a sour and doleful woman for most of her adult life.  It wasn't anyone else's choice to marry a man that would never amount to much.  She resented everyone else's good fortune, and she especially envied Kathy everything she had.  When Doug and Kathy built their new house, I thought her head would explode.
 
"Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all was my youngest child, Agnes.  She has only herself to blame for her divorce.  What man wants to come home every day to a filthy house and an unkempt wife?"
 
The old lady's eyes turned to stare into Agnes's.  "Your boys were always poorly dressed in dirty clothes because you couldn't seem to get the laundry done, and you didn't look any better.  I couldn't imagine how Kathy could manage her house, her job, and even went back to school, and you couldn't seem to clean your house while you stayed home all day.  Every time I thought of you and your situation, I just shook my head in disgust."
 
Agnes burst into sobs, and her sons moved to comfort her.  Sniffles could be heard from the other tables as each sibling absorbed their Mother's words.  No words were spoken as the room collectively waited for the next onslaught.
 
"I've arranged for all of you to be here today so I could be sure everyone knew how I felt about each one of you.  You will be happy to know you won't be expected to attend my real memorial service, and you don't have to worry about the reading of the will, either."
 
Motioning to the young man who still stood beside her, she waved him into the crowd.  He moved forward as he retrieved a stack of envelopes from inside his jacket.  He made his way to hand Jerry, Doug, Kathy, Sylvia, Caressa, and Agnes each the legal sized packet.
 
"Go ahead, open them.  I want to see your reactions," the old lady goaded.
 
Gasps could be heard around the room.  Kathy looked at the contents of her envelope and was surprised to see yet another cashier's check.  This one was made out in the amount of a cool million dollars.  Kathy looked up in shock.  Before looking at the front of the room, she peaked a glance at what Doug pulled out of his envelope.  He was holding another cashier's check for five-hundred thousand dollars.

Jane's eyes flickered from one face to the next.  She was pleased with their reactions.  Some were pleasantly surprised while others were in shock.  It seemed that everything was in order.
 
Sitting back in her wheelchair, the family matriarch addressed her children.  "In your hands, you are all holding your inheritance.  Everything left in my estate will go towards supporting me until I do die, and whatever is remaining will go to charity.  Each of you has received the amount I felt you deserved.
 
"Now that business is over, let's all get together and take our final family portrait."
 
Everyone looked at her incredulously.  How on earth did she expect them to gather together and paste smiles on their faces? But, they knew she was resolute.  The family photo would happen.
 
Kathy dreaded standing next to anyone but Doug.  The photographer stepped forward and asked them to all gather on the few steps at the front of the room.  They all needed to walk past Jane, and each one stopped to either embrace her or shake her hand.  Each grandchild kissed her politely on the cheek, and she chucked each one of her great grandchildren under the chin as she pressed a silver dollar into each little fist.
 
Each of the couples lined up on the top step.  Put in order from the oldest to the youngest, the siblings each looked at one another.  Sylvia hissed at Caressa, "What did you get?"

"My check was for fifty-thousand, how about you?"
 
They each heard Agnes gasp as she listened to them.  Turning to look at her, they watched as she mouthed, "Ten-thousand."
 
Sylvia wondered whether she should disclose the amount of her check or not.  The sisters would love to hold it over her that she only received five-thousand dollars.  Why had she received so little?  And what, pray tell, was in Kathy's envelope?  She wasn't even one of the Hamlin children; she was merely a daughter-in-law.
 
Doug and Jerry looked at one another over the heads of the sisters.  Jerry seemed to be happy, so Doug wasn't really worried about the amount of his check.  He only knew that he and Kathy were coming away with one point five million dollars. 
 
After all the family members were assembled, the photographer took a few moments to make sure he could capture everyone within the lens of his camera.  He called to the crowd, "Say cheese."

 
-------@>

A flash of light was all it took, and the photo session was over.  Kathy looked to see Jane apparently asleep in her chair, and prepared herself to break up the reception.  She needn't have worried as everyone rushed to their tables and gathered their things.
 
Sylvia and her family were the first to go.  Without a word to anyone and only a glance at her sleeping mother, she walked out the door.  Kathy wasn't sorry to see her leave.
 
Caressa and her family walked toward Kathy and Doug.  Kathy prepared herself for the onslaught that was to come.  "Well, I hope you're happy.  This was quite the party, and we were all put in our place, weren't we?  I always knew Mother liked you best, and it made me sick.  The only thing good about this day, is that I know I'll never have to see your smug face ever again."
 
Agnes was still sobbing.  Her hands were full of damp tissues, and she could barely speak.  "Can I have a hug goodbye?" she asked.  Doug reached out and gave her a bear hug.  "Maybe we can get together sometime?  I miss you both so much."  Kathy nodded her head, and Agnes and her family were able to leave.
 
After their family left, Kathy and Doug were left alone in the room with Jane.  The young man who had assisted her was waiting quietly at the door.  As they walked towards her, Jane suddenly lifted her head and smiled at them.
 
"I had to fake being asleep, so I wouldn't have to deal with any of them.  I refuse to suffer fools, and I'm sorry to say that’s what all of them are."  She turned to Kathy and her eyes began to tear.
 
"Thank you so much for putting all of this together, dear.  It was beautiful and only made ugly by the people who attended.  I always knew I could count on you.  I've missed you all these years, but I certainly understand why it had to be this way.  I'm sorry for all of the pain I and my children caused you," she said as she began to sob.
 
"I'm leaving tomorrow for a world cruise.  I want my last days to be full of beauty.  I don't expect to return.  Thank you for giving me a chance to lay eyes on the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Please be sure I get a copy of the family photo.  I've left my address with you in your envelope."
 
She reached up to embrace Doug and she patted his back.  "Please take good care of Kathy.  I know you're a good husband, and I've marveled at the way you handled things.  Your family is beautiful and you've built a good life for yourself.  You and Kathy received the lion's share of my estate because you always made me proud.  I forgive you for not being around these last fifteen years, you simply had no choice."
 
Reaching for Kathy's hand, Jane looked up into her face.  "Thank you for your grace, dear.  You tried to make my life a joy, and you were willing to honor me in death despite all the grief my family caused you.  You are a remarkable woman, and I'm glad I knew you."
 
She motioned to the young man, and he wheeled her out of the room.  Kathy and Doug just looked at one another.  This had been the longest and strangest week of their lives.  What could possibly be next?
 
-------@>
 
Doug smiled at Kathy.  "We are millionaires.  We can do many of the things we always wanted to.  Who ever thought we would inherit anything?  I thought I was written out of the will years ago.  But you have quite the windfall – will you leave me now that you are an heiress?"
 
She pretended to think about it, and then smiled at him.  "After all these years and all this madness, I don't think I can live without you."
 
Hands clasped, they walked out of the banquet room, and into their future.


Recognized


image of antique stamp from Google images

The family dynamics of this dysfunctional crowd remind me a great deal of my in-laws. My fondest wish would be to play out this scene in real life.

I hope you have enjoyed the saga nearly as much as I had fun writing it.

Until next time, dear readers...

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