Someone Lost, Something Gained



Veda stares at the screen of her phone, the plane emoji next to Niall’s name mocking her. She can’t imagine what could have possessed her to show up at his work yesterday. She was sleep-deprived, that has to be the reason. Any other excuse shows too much weakness.

She’s caught herself composing text after text to the man she doesn’t know, but she deleted each message before she could press send. He may be genuinely interested in some sort of contact with her. She just... can’t. Can’t do that to him. Can’t fathom ever caring about anyone else when she has lost the only one she’s ever cared for more than herself. Can’t imagine feeling anything ever again.

Exhaling slowly, Veda locks her phone and makes her way up the stairs on wooden legs. The bedroom door is still closed just as it has been since he was taken away. Her fingers dance along the handle, but she jerks her hand back as if scalded. Opening the door can only open her up to even more pain, and right now, Veda is content to sink into the numbness. The alternative is too hard to process.

She can’t even hide away in her own bedroom. The silence of the house is haunting, reaching the furthest depths of every corner. It leaves a chill in the air that won’t go away. Echoes of Granddad’s love and life stain the very framework of the house, bleed throughout the things he left behind.

So Veda paces up and down the stairs, through the living room and kitchen, front door to back. Her path studiously avoids Granddad and her bedrooms. The silence is resounding and heavy, but it pales in comparison to how weighted down she feels with the numbness. Breaking down the other day did nothing to bring about her emotions. If anything, it seems to have pushed her feelings further out of focus.

Thankfully, the crematorium calls the next morning to let her know his ashes are ready for pick-up. The subway ride back home is awkward, and she clutches the plain box tightly to her chest and hopes no one jostles her. Dropping it isn’t an option - not only would it be a biohazard, but it would be another loss.

Veda sets the box on the coffee-table, staring blankly at it for a long minute. After too much silence, she pulls her phone from her pocket and finds Hattie’s name in the admittedly short list of contacts. Her cousin picks up almost immediately.

“Great timing, V. Just got out of class. What’s up?”


Hattie draws in a sharp breath, someone shouting on the other end and a thunk of a car door before it all goes quiet. “Veda? Please, please don’t tell me what I think you’re about to say.”

“I’m sorry,” whispers Veda, and she covers her face with one hand. “Hattie, I’m, I’m so fucking sorry.”


“Sometime in the night between Thursday and Friday.”

“It’s - Veda, it’s fuckin’ Wednesday! It’s been almost a week, and you’re just now calling me?”

Veda sniffles and digs her fingertips into her scalp, throat tightening as the tears slip from her eyes. “I’m sorry! I just couldn’t - I couldn’t deal with the thought of everyone barging in when I had shit to take care of. You know as well as I do that none of them woulda gave a damn about arrangements getting made and only about what they could get. I wanted to tell you so goddamn bad, Hatchling.”

“Don’t think using my childhood nickname makes everything better,” Hattie whispers in a watery voice, but she doesn’t sound nearly as angry now. She must understand. “Okay. I’m still hurt that you got to, to grieve longer, but I get it. Want me to call everyone?”

“Please? I only have your number, and I don’t think I could tolerate hearing their voices right now.”

“All right. I’ll call you back when I’m done, okay? Hey, can you - do you think you could save me Mom-Mom’s quilt?”

“Absolutely. She wanted it to go to you, so it’s yours. Thanks, Hatchling.”

Hattie hangs up without another word, and Veda drops her phone to the table and waits. She knows the instant Hattie tells Debbie, everyone will know within minutes. Then the relative peacefulness of the situation will be shattered.

Settling back into the couch, Veda brings her thighs to her chest, resting her cheek on her knees, and stares through the thin curtains to the sunshine outside, the neighbours that pass by and the cars that honk before disappearing from view. Everything outside the window looks so bright. So happy. So much of what Veda used to be.

How long she sits there, she has no idea. She’s lost track of the seconds and minutes that slip by unnoticed, but the buzzing of her phone comes after the sun has risen above the window frame, no longer sending rays of light to illuminate the dust motes that dance and sway in the air. Her joints creak and pop as she finally moves.

“Veda, I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I couldn’t convince them to wait until you called about the will.”

Veda exhales slowly. Of course her aunt and uncles and cousins wouldn’t wait. They never have been patient when it comes to money they believe is owed to them. She expected this. She’s ready for this.

“When are they coming, do you know?”

Hattie’s sigh crackles the line. “I’d be surprised if they aren’t there by sun-up. I mean, everyone except Olivia. I wasn’t able to contact her, and Mom doesn’t have her number any more. Have you heard from her?”

“Last I knew, she moved across the country with her latest husband. Don’t really care to know more.” Veda pushes herself to her feet, thankful for something to do instead of dwelling in the cold emptiness of the house. “Thanks, doll. You’ll be here?”

“Heading that way as soon as I can.”

“See you then.”

Veda shoves her feet into her shoes, grabs her bag, and steps out onto the stoop. Once the door is locked behind her, she points herself in the direction of the nearest hardware store, calling the lawyer on the way. Mister Hunt promises that the copies of the will in her possession are indeed valid but she would do well to have an officer or two at her house whenever her relatives show up.

Veda has never been more thankful for the world wide internet as she is later that afternoon. The WikiHow article is far more informative than she would have thought, and soon enough, the locks on both the front and back doors are changed. She doubts that it would be possible, but that uncertainty isn’t enough to stop her from checking that every window - even on the third floor - can’t be jimmied open.

Hiding anything of value takes longer. She has to force herself into the parasitic mindset of the others, which is almost impossible, but she manages it. Everything that could be put into hock by the others is secreted away in various places all over the house, in boxes full of less-coveted items that Phil will overlook and Debbie will turn up her nose at.

She tucks the photo albums and Granddad’s ashes into the trunk under her loft bed, covering it with the pile of quilts. After changing into a clean pair of pyjamas, she makes her way down to the kitchen for a cup of tea. It isn’t much, and it certainly won’t calm her nerves anyway. But it’s all she has right now.

She falls asleep on the couch while waiting for the Hell that is her family to be unleashed onto her world.