Someone Lost, Something Gained



“Make yourself comfortable,” Veda calls out over her shoulder while she heads to the kitchen to fill the coffee-machine. Her hands shake as she holds the carafe under the tap, the rush of the water louder than it has right to be in the silence. She’s grown accustomed to Niall’s presence, especially after this morning, but it’s still awkward to have a guest. She hasn’t had a visitor that wasn’t Patrice in so long, even before Granddad was diagnosed.

“Why’d you have to go?” she whispers quietly and blinks away the heat in her eyes.

Sniffling, she sets the pot onto the warmer, fills the basket with grounds, and presses the brew button. Niall and David Barkie are sat on the couch by the time she enters the living room again once the cycle is over, two mugs filled, and she can’t help it - the smile tugs at her lips without permission, and she moves to sit on the other end of the sofa. The dog immediately wiggles until he can crawl onto her lap, tongue flicking against her chin.

“Sorry, he likes you. A lot.”

Veda grins at Niall and shrugs. “It’s better than him trying to eat my face because he hates me, right?”

“That’s true.” He pauses, reaches out to scratch at his pup’s ear. “So you’ve learnt a lot about us this morning, but you haven’t really told us anything about yourself. All I know is you work in a hospital, and your best friend just got married a few weeks ago.”

“What is there to tell? I mean, all my time was spent working and caring for Granddad, and you saw Olivia earlier.”

“I don’t think your family has any bearing on who you are.”

“You’re kidding. They’re why I am the way I am.”

“So tell me about your Granddad then. He was obviously important to you.”

Veda stares at Niall unblinkingly for a long moment. No one has ever cared enough to know Granddad, know what type of man he was or how much he influenced Veda’s life. Only Patrice, Hattie, and Ellie have asked after him, and now that he’s gone, she won’t get those inquiries any more. Now they’ll all be about how she is handling his death.

But Niall is smiling so sweetly at her, encouraging without pressure, and Veda is surprised to find that she wants to talk about Granddad. She needs someone besides herself to know how strong and resilient and loving he was. So she emboldens herself with a mouthful of coffee and starts talking.

She tells him about how Granddad was born the oldest boy in a family of seven, though he was the second-youngest child total. Growing up with five older sisters and only one younger brother, he was bullied for being more on the sensitive side; his father, contrary to that era’s beliefs, encouraged it. “The world is dark enough without adding our own self-inflicted misery to it,” he’d said. Granddad carried that lesson throughout his entire life.

He was barely sixteen when he met the woman who would become his wife, and he married her before the year was up. She gave birth to their first child soon after and prevented him from being drafted into the Vietnam War. After Phil came Debbie then Olivia and, finally, Connor five years later. Granddad worked hard, taking on two or three jobs at a time, to provide his family a decent life. When Granddad turned eighteen, Mom-Mom’s parents transferred the deed to the house to him as a belated wedding gift, and the family moved from a one-room flat into the home that Veda spent her teenage years in.

“He helped everyone,” she whispers, coffee long gone cold and neglected on the coffee-table. “He bent over backwards for anyone who needed it, even if they couldn’t pay him back. Wouldn’t pay him back. He was... he was the most amazing man I’ve ever known.”

Niall stares at her without speaking for a moment then he reaches out to touch her hand. “You’re like him, then.”

“What do you mean?”

“You said you dropped everything to care for him when he was diagnosed, right? You didn’t hesitate, and you didn’t stop even when it broke your heart.” Smiling softly, Niall shrugs. “I may be overstepping right now, but I think he’d be proud of you.”

Veda blinks back tears; here’s this man, a man who doesn’t know Granddad from Adam - hell, he doesn’t even really know her, except for the parts of herself that she allows him to see. But still he’s sat right in front of her, telling her Granddad would be proud of her. That she’s so similar to the man who raised her.

The man she always strived to mirror.

“It was the last thing he said to me,” she says instead of launching herself into Niall’s arms and falling apart.

“He has good reason to be, love.”

Veda swallows the last mouthful of cold coffee then stands. “That, uh, that offer of helping go through his stuff still open?”


There is no hesitance, no reluctance or regret, on his face, so Veda carries their mugs to the kitchen. He follows her up the stairs, David Barkie racing ahead. She glances over her shoulder to see Niall examining the photographs that line the walls on the way - school pictures, candies from her birthdays, her senior year Christmas choir concert. A warm hand on her back, a soft smile sent her way, then she pushes open Granddad’s door.

“He always had that fucking camera, constantly taking pictures of me no matter what I was doing,” she explains as his eyes widen at the amount of frames on the wall.

He laughs quietly but doesn’t move from where he stands by the bed, staring down at a frame that would be eye-level if Granddad was lying down. “This is my favourite.”

Veda frowns and moves closer to examine the picture. In it, she’s curled up in the armchair that used to be in the living room, fully engrossed in a book. Sunlight slants through the windows, catches on the curls and twists of her hair pulled back in a low ponytail over her shoulder. Her legs are tucked underneath Mom-Mom’s crocheted throw blanket. The fingers of one hand cradle her chin, the nail of her pinkie pressing against her lower lip as she focuses on the novel.

The entire scene radiates peace, love, a sense of home. Her breath hitches in her chest, tears breaking free. She carefully takes the frame off its hook with trembling hands. In all the time she’s spent in this room, she has never once seen this photograph. The fact that all Granddad had to do was look to his right and he would see his granddaughter finally at ease, unaffected by reality...

Veda drops to sit on the bed, staring down at the image, and Niall doesn’t wait for permission. He just moves David Barkie aside, pulls her securely against his chest, and holds her silently while she cries.