Murphy's Law

10 Generations of real life problems.

This was supposed to be a legacy but it's turned into a story...

Anyway, this story is inspired by favorite books, movies, television shows and personal experiences.

Life is not a fairy tale but that doesn't mean it's not beautiful. After all, you love people in spite of their flaws, and sometimes their flaws make you love them even more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 3.8 Always on My Mind

Maybe I didn't love you
Quite as often as I could have
Maybe I didn't treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

*     *     *     *     *     *     * 

One night, I heard the doorbell and I dragged myself downstairs, expecting to see my aunt or Bettina.  Instead, I found my mother.  With her husband and daughter.  With overnight bags at her feet.  She hadn't been on the porch since more than a decade ago, when she had run off into the night, turning her back on us completely.  And here she was...flawless makeup, expensive sweater dress, as stunning as the day she left.  What a bitch.

I invited them in and Farryn immediately made a beeline for Grandmother's room, promising to "catch up" later.  Her boy-toy, Jamie then carried the bags to my parents' old bedroom, leaving me with the half-sister I had never met.

"Hi Zooey, I'm your sister, Ramona."  I bent down to give her a hug.

She smiled shyly.  "I know.  Mommy already told me."

Hearing the little girl call Farryn "Mommy" stung, but I didn't let it show.  Instead, I showed her to my room where we settled her in.  It was after she was asleep before the events of the evening could completely sink in.  

I stared at my  half-sister, snuggled down into the sleeping bag.  She was around the same age I had been the last time I had seen my mother.  I thought about what it would be like to have her life.  Jamie was probably one of those dumb dads who when she was a baby, tossed her up in the air until she puked.  He probably helped her with her homework and tucked her in at night.  Farryn probably set her on the bed, brushed her hair, clipped tiny barrettes in her braids.  I wondered if the lullaby Zooey had fallen asleep to when she was little was the same one that Farryn used to hum to me. 

Unable to choke back my sobs, I fled the bedroom and didn't stop until I was out on the back deck.  It was a peaceful night and quiet enough to hear the water lapping against the pool.  The tile was cool under my bare feet yet it was warm enough to only feel a slight chill in my pajamas.   

Earlier, Farryn had made dinner.  I wanted to hurt her, tell her I was old enough to make my own meals.  Why even pretend to be related?  My mother had clearly fought until she had her happy ending, putting herself before everyone else involved.  Weren't we supposed to have a say, too?  Guess not.  

I felt angry.  Why did I have no say in anything that happened in MY life?  I felt sad. Was I destined to a lifetime of loss?  I felt robbed.  How unfortunate that out of all of them, only one never left.  And now she was being taken.

And strangely, I was also feeling acceptance.  The thing about Jamie was, I couldn't hate him.  He had been my mother's first love, the one who had captured her heart years before she had ever met my father.  I had spent my entire life in what I thought was justifiable outrage, feeling like a shoe that didn't fit properly and had to be exchanged.  A phone that wasn't technologically advanced enough and needed to be upgraded.  But I saw the way she looked at Jamie and I finally understood.

Farryn loved him, felt things for him that she had never felt for my father.  At 18, I could see that, could even understand why she had made the decisions that she had, but as her daughter, would never forgive her.  Before Tuck, I had thought that my mother had been too lazy to sort things out, to make it work.  Before Tuck, I had thought my parents had just given up.  But then I met someone, who was also hurt, who had also been through so much in his own life, that I could love completely.  There is something deliciously human about another person's brokenness.  

And I knew then, that I would always love him, even if he never wanted to be with me.  Even if someone else came along and made me forget, for just a second, the love I felt for Tucker Whitney.  Even if the ache could be replaced and stop hurting for only a moment, would I not waiver.  That made me better than her.

A small "meow" interrupted my thoughts.  I bent down to find a gray-striped tabby looking up at me.  "Why, hello there, little girl.  Aren't you a cutie?"  I could hear her soft purrs as she allowed me to scratch her head.  "You look hungry.  Let me find you something to eat."

I studied the cat while she ate, practically devouring the lunch meat I had set before her, feeling slightly warmed.  She had no collar and could possibly be a stray.  I had never had a pet myself, but something in me yearned for this connection to another living creature.  I watched her scamper off into the night and hoped she would come back soon, maybe even become mine some day.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Tuck stood outside of the warehouse, waiting on his next package to get dropped off.  Although it had been months since he had last spoken to her, Ramona still haunted him.  It wasn't right.  But he couldn't be what she needed.  He was no knight in shining armor.  It was abundantly clear to him that the only thing he had to offer her was heartache.  As if she needed any more.  

He couldn't remember even being that innocent.  His past and the choices he had made to deal with it would always separate them.  The way she looked at him made him wish that he could be everything she thought he was, because if she really knew him, she'd want nothing to do with him.  

Ramona had been cast a rough lot, but his trials were completely self-inflicted.  He was a foster kid, dealing drugs in front of warehouses.  She was a Bergdorf, proverbial silver spoon and all.  Her breeding alone should have been enough to keep them apart, but for some reason, fate had brought them together.  If Tuck were a GOOD man, he would stay far away.  Then again, he WAS a drug dealer.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Marilyn knew she had precious little time left.  She did not fear what lay ahead, eagerly anticipating the reunion with Nate, Gabe, and Olivia Grace.  She did not dwell on the past, content with a long life, full of all of the love she could have ever hoped for.  No, she had accepted her illness and planned to go with Grim peacefully. 

The only thing that bothered her about dying wasn't death itself.  It was Ramona.  Ramona, not quite eighteen, was always the one saying goodbye, always the one left behind.  Marilyn was the only stability her granddaughter had ever known and now she was leaving as well.  She had tried to hang on for as long as possible but the tumor had different ideas.  It would only be a matter of days now. 

"Grandmother?" Ramona called quietly.  "Felicia said you were awake."  The girl softly crept over to the bed where the older lady was resting.  

"Good afternoon, darling," Marilyn smiled weakly.  The disease had taken its toll on her - her clothes hung off her fragile frame and her weary eyes held the look of one who had fought many wars.  There were lines on her time-worn face that had not been there just four months ago.  Yes, cancer had ravaged her body but yet Marilyn Astor Bergdorf was still as lovely as ever.  The woman was timeless and her inner glow was the one thing the disease could never take.  Despite her yellowed pallor, she still managed a smile for her only grandchild.  "I am so glad you came to see me.  You must update me on everything that has been going on."

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

"Not much, Grandmother."

"Studies going well?"

"Yeah, well enough."  What I neglected to tell her was that I had been slacking off in my studies lately and probably had lost all chances of getting into a good school.  In fact, I was pretty sure community college was my only option at this point.

She smiled.  "That's good.  I want you to promise me that no matter what, you will graduate and go on to higher learning.  I have enough money set aside that you should be quite comfortable until you earn your degree."

"I...", my voice faltered a bit.  "I promise, Grandmother."  She had always been proud of me, confident that I could do anything.  I had always wanted to make her proud.  But what was the point of any of it, when she wouldn't be around?

There was a brief silence.


"Yes, darling?"

"Why..." I scrunched up my face, struggling to find the right words.  "Why didn't you let the doctors help you?  You could have done chemo, you could have tried the diets.  Why did you just accept it?"

"Well," she sighed.  "I think you and I both know that the disease is too far along, that chemo would've hurt more than it could have helped.  And even if the diets could have bought me a little more time, I just don't think I could endure it.  You see Ramona, I am very old and I have been through so much.  But I'm ready to be reunited with my Nathaniel, with my son and granddaughter."

"But what about me?" I asked, my eyes welling up.  

"I've lived my life and now you must live yours.  It gives me comfort to know that you've turned into such a remarkable young lady."  Her eyes grew moist.  "It's what makes all of this bearable.  Ramona, you will fall in love, have children of your own and be the woman I have always loved since you were a baby in my arms.  You will carry on the legacy that my Nathaniel and I started."

"I love you, Grandmother."

"I love you, Ramona."

Blinded by my tears, I somehow managed to make it upstairs to my room.  There was only one person I could talk to.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

He was one sick bastard.  Why couldn't he just let her go, give her a real chance at finding love?  But no, when his phone rang, he answered it.  Ramona was on the other end, her voice thick.

"Tuck...I need you."  She was crying.

Just the sound of her voice was enough to erase any ounce of decency he might still possess.  He felt his resolve weakening.  "Fine," he sighed.  "I'm already in Hidden Springs.  I'll be there in ten."

It took some coaxing on his part, but he managed to persuade her to change into a dress.

"Where are we going?" asked Ramona suspiciously, once they were in the car.

"You'll see."

"P.U.R.E.?" she exclaimed.

"You know, if you're uncomfortable or something, we can go somewhere else," he offered.

She pursed her lips.  "I'm serious, Tuck.  This is...great."

"Take this," he said, slipping her a fake ID.  "Normally, they don't card when they're not busy, but you might need it."

As soon as they were inside, Ramona made a beeline for the bar.  "I'll have two Purple Hooters, please."

They each took one and before she had even finished her first, she was already contemplating her next drink.

"Whoa, slow down, the bar's not running out of liquor anytime soon." 

Ramona tossed her head back and laughed, enjoying the way that she was feeling.  Her head was light, her face was flushed and for one evening, she could be a normal girl who just so happened to be on a date with the hottest guy in town.  Hell, she was drunk.  Make that the hottest guy in the universe!

"Dance with me Tuck," she murmured, shimmying.

He swallowed.  "Bright Eyes."

"Don't look at me like that", she giggled.  "I can take care of myself.  After all, I learned from the best.  Gotta love alcoholic fathers..."

"Bu-", he protested.

"Stop!  Look, you brought me here to have a good time so let's have a good time."

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

A couple of hours and many Purple Hooters later, Ramona dragged him to the hot tub.  Why the owners of the club thought it was a good idea to mix alcohol and swimming, Tuck would never understand.  But tonight was about her and he was just along for the ride.

"Ram?  Are you...naked?"

She shrugged, joining him.  "It's not like anything you haven't seen before."

They sat there together, feeling the high-pressured jets on the smalls of their backs.  And when she kissed him, he kissed back, even as every fiber in his being was telling him not to.

"Fuck me,"she whispered.  "It doesn't have to mean anything.  I...I need you."

He pulled away.  "What?"  Tuck wasn't sure if he heard her right.  "Fuck you?  I can't do that.  You're drunk."

She laughed harshly.  "Like that has ever stopped anyone before.  I'm telling you that I want you and I don't care what happens tomorrow, just be with me tonight."

"I can't," Tuck frowned.  "And I won't."

Ramona snorted.  "Is this because I'm a virgin?  Because I'm telling you.  It doesn't mean a goddamn thing to me."  

"I should probably take you home now," Tuck said, his eyes apologetic.  

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

When I got home, my thoughts were a little clearer and I had sobered up a bit.  Before driving away, Tuck had promised to call me the next day, but I knew that I had blown everything.  Staggering onto the deck, hoping to sneak in, I saw the gray cat again.

As soon as I walked through the back door, I was greeted by my mother.

"Where have you been?  We've been worried sick!" she screamed, her emerald eyes ablaze.

"Nice that you wait until I'm eighteen to start caring about what I'm doing," I shot back.

"Ramona, I'm serious.  You've been at God-knows-where with God-knows-who without so much as a phone call while your grandmother lies in the next room dying.  That's it.  After the funeral, you are coming back with us to Twinbrook."

I glared at her.  "Don't pretend like that hasn't been your intention all along.  You think that you can just waltz back into my life after everything that has happened and we'll immediately become a family?  You have the man you love and a replacement daughter.  You don't need me.  You just feel guilty because my father's blood is on your hands!"

I narrowed my eyes.  "I'm going to bed now.  Fuck off and goodnight."

I left her staring after me with a heartbroken expression on her face.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

The next morning, she was gone.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I kissed my beloved Grandmother goodbye.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

"So you're out?" Jay grinned, revealing yellow, rotting teeth. 

Tuck looked down, unable to answer.  Jay and the crew had been family when his own had failed.  They had taken him under their wing and taught him the ways of the world.  Thanks to them, he had learned how to do whatever it took to survive.  That included hustling the poison he could never bring himself to ingest, thanks to his substance-abusing mother.  The fact that he would never touch cocaine for that very reason had made him an ideal candidate for the position.  And now he was taking himself out of the game, throwing everything they had done for him back in their faces.

"It's the girl, huh?" Jay wouldn't even let Tuck respond this time.  He just grinned.  "You don't have to say a thing.  It's always about a girl.  Pains in the ass, they tend to be."  

"Yeah...I guess," mumbled Tuck dejectedly.  "I just feel like if there is any chance at all for us to be together, it starts with this."

"I'm dying to know how you're planning on making money.  Where are you going to work?  In a restaurant, washing dishes?  You really think you'll be happy earning minimum wage?"  Jay couldn't help but snicker.

Tuck shrugged.  "Whatever it takes, bro."

"Fuck that.  You'll be back in no time.  With your tail between your legs.  And your job will be here when you do."  Jay finished the last of his drink in one big swig.

"Well, I guess I'll talk to you later then.  I'm gonna go see her.  You cool?"

" I might stick around for a bit...think I'll get another one of these first," Jay said, gesturing to his now empty martini glass.  He was typically a beer man, but it was Happy Hour and he wasn't choosy.  Besides, he'd never had a Budweiser that came with a cute little star swizzle stick.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *
To my surprise, he came over that evening.  

"What are you doing here?" 

Tuck looked concerned.  "I just wanted to make sure you were alright.  Things got a little crazy last night."

"What's the point?" I asked bitterly.  "You're just going to leave again."

"Ramona," he murmured.  ""Let me be here for you.  We can figure out our stuff later.  Now what happened?"

"She's dead, Tuck!" I cried.  My voice broke.  "She's dead."

"I'm sorry."  His voice cracked a bit, like he meant it.

"I mean, I'm not surprised.  We've been expecting it.  But it didn't really hit me until I saw her this morning that I'm alone.  I'm really alone."

"You're not alone," he said softly.

We sat down in the cool grass together in silence.  Was he telling the truth or would he just run away again?  Even though the wound that was my Grandmother's death was still fresh, I knew she would rest peacefully knowing that I had found love.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

I had been to funerals before, but I knew Grandmother's would be the hardest.  How do you say goodbye to the one person who always believed in you and the only person who had ever made you feel loved?  You would think that I would have mastered the art of saying goodbye, but it never gets easier, does it? 

Loss is a personal thing, felt most by those closest to the departed.  The last moments I had with my Grandmother were spent watching one of the most sickening and twisted displays of false emotion I had ever witnessed.  She was the greatest woman I had ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I was robbed of the opportunity to grieve by those who had never made either one of us a priority.

Uncle Asher was holding Aunt Lilly as she stared through tear-filled eyes at the portraits of Grandmother on the table.  Their children, Charles and Bettina, were comforting each other as they went to go sit down.  Farryn, Jamie and Zooey were standing off to the side, trying to stay out of the way.

It was disgusting.  I couldn't recall the last time Aunt Lilly or Uncle Asher had come to the house for a visit.  I only saw Charles during the holidays and Bettina on the weekends.  My own father had never been close to his sister, especially her husband, but in the face of a tragedy, they decided to suddenly give a fuck?

Don't even get me started on my mother.  I'm glad that after she had dropped Dad and I, she could run into the arms of her other lover and have this perfect little family.  They were patting each other's shoulders and shedding fake tears, really pulling out all of the stops.  I didn't even know why they had come.  

I hid in the foyer, unable to take any more of it.  Grandmother had been the one to comfort me during my father's service.  I had been very young and didn't understand all of the commotion at the time.  All of the people weeping and hugging me.  It was Grandmother who had made it possible to endure the masses.  Her soft hand on mine had let me know that we would weather the storm together.

Even then, I couldn't associate the coffin with my father.  To me, the big wooden box was just that.  A box.  It wasn't until I was much older that I realized the coffin had been closed because Dad was too badly damaged for public viewing.  A bullet to the head will do that, leave a body barely human, unrecognizable, no traces of the life they once lived.  Grandmother was long gone and in her place, in that big, heavy, exquisite death vessel, lying on a bed of satin and silk, was a shell of the woman I had loved.  Still loved.

Is this the culmination of a person's life?  No matter what your accomplishments or achievements, it all ends in a box, where people cry over your corpse and tell you things they never had the chance to while you were alive, then put you in the ground to become worm food.  Is that the only reward we have to look forward to?  It seems like the best thing you can hope to become is a memory.  Graveyards, with their wilting bouquets, dusty picture frames and weed-infested flowerbeds are evidence of that.  After all, once the candles are blown out and people go home, back to their everyday lives, you are thought of less and less until gradually, are forgotten entirely.  So it seems like if you are remembered at all, you're one of the fortunate ones.

It was only after everyone else had left that I finally made my way up to the front.  I stood over Grandmother, wanting to believe she was merely resting and that she'd open her eyes any second and we would go have some tea in the kitchen.  My lip trembled, remembering all of the moments that I had never appreciated, the lessons I had rolled my eyes at.  It's funny how easy it is to take the little things for granted until it's all over and you would kill for one more day of getting nagged, one more comforting smile, one last loving embrace.

My eyes were filled with tears and I was too caught up in my thoughts to notice when he walked in.  He didn't speak or touch me.  He just stood there, with his head bowed respectfully as he let me weep.  For the first time I was finally allowed to mourn.  Although I had been surrounded all evening by loved ones, Tuck said more to me with his silence than they ever could.

After awhile, he took me by the arm and gently led me out of the chapel.  When I looked up at him to ask him where we were going, he simply said "home".  And somehow in that one syllable, the entire meaning of the word had been irrevocably altered.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *
Some things changed after the funeral...

One, I adopted the stray tabby, whom I named Mouse.  

Second, I put my foot down and told my mother I would NOT be moving to Twinbrook.  Before her death, Grandmother had met with her solicitor.  The house and all of the family's liquid assets were left to me, as well as a small savings account for college.  A good deal of our money had gone to hospital bills, Felicia's services as care-taker and the funeral but if I was careful, like Grandmother said, I would be okay until at least graduation.

"So how are you going to manage this big old house by yourself, Ramona?  Who's going to help you maintain things and pay the utility bills?" Farryn demanded.

"Mom, I know you've never met him before, and probably won't until the next time you decide to pop into my life, but the person who is coming to live with me is named Tucker Whitney.  I love him.  And he loves me, too."

I never asked Tuck what had changed his mind, what made him realize that he wanted to be with me.  Did it matter?  Not really.  I would never be like my mother.  Even if he left, I couldn't see myself meeting someone else and having a family with them.  Although I was young, I knew I would only love one man for the rest of my life.  

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

R.I.P. Marilyn Astor Bergdorf
Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Friend
You were one in a million.


  1. A very beautiful funeral! May Marilyn Rest in Peace.

  2. *grabs Kleenex and wipes eyes*
    I can't take this!!
    *runs away weeping*

  3. I cried, gasped and smiled.

    This was just amazing Lauren, so heartfelt, I can tell you put everything into this chapter.


  4. I just found this tonight and I've been trying to catch up. Your writing is beautiful. So beautiful. I've barely been able to keep from crying the entire time, but I couldn't even finish this chapter before writing this. As soon as Marilyn passed away I broke down. My grandmother is fighting cancer now and it just really hit home. Lauren, you are an amazing author and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Ever.

    Now excuse me while I go find some Kleenexes, dry my eyes, and try to get fully caught up.

    1. Thank you so much. It means a lot that people are still reading although I majorly suck at updating!