Someone Lost, Something Gained



Fingers of pale pink-gold stretch through the living room, the early birds tweeting and chirping their songs outside the window. Peace and serenity fill the block; no one else is awake yet, and the silence of the dawn is evidence of that.

That is, until the house echoes with the banging on the door.

Veda just barely manages to stay on the couch as she’s jerked out of her thoughts, and she grimaces at the way her spine pops rather painfully when she stretches. The pounding comes again, joined in by someone smacking on the front window, so Veda pushes herself to her feet and heads to the kitchen.

They can just wait until she’s got coffee. It’s the least they owe her.

As the coffee brews, she hurries up the stairs to grab one of the copies of the will. It would be ill-advised to take more than one. She takes her time brushing her teeth and combing her hair into some semblance of order, pulling it back into a low ponytail.

The coffeemaker beeps as she steps off the stairs, and Veda hesitates, longs for a hot cup of coffee. Reluctantly, she turns away from the kitchen and reaches for the doorknob. The glass rattles in the frame as a fist hits the door once more.

Phil immediately tries rushing past her once the door is open, but Veda shoves him backwards, can’t even take pleasure in the dumbstruck expression on his face that he’s been thwarted. Hattie smiles apologetically from behind the others. Veda draws comfort from that, inhaling slowly and meeting the angry faces of her family.

“What do you want?”

Her aunt gapes, mouth opening and closing a few times, before Debbie rises to her full five-feet-even height. “What do we want? We want what’s ours! We want a reason as to why no one bothered to inform us of our father’s death. We had a right to know!”

“Really?” Veda crosses her arms over her chest and raises a brow. The numbness has receded enough for the flicker of anger to grab hold. “Because as far as I’m concerned, you forfeited that so-called ‘right’ when none of you ever bothered to check in on him. No phone calls to even ask if he was doing okay. As soon as you all heard about his cancer - and you can bet your bottom dollar that I warned him against that - you buried your heads in the sand and waited until he died so you could take everything he worked for like fucking parasites.”

“You warned him against telling his own children about him being sick?” Phil snaps, and Veda huffs out a humourless laugh.

“‘Course I did, Philly boy. Because I knew this was going to happen. I knew you lot wouldn’t give a damn about him. It was always all about what you could get from him, not... Ya know, you didn’t even have to be the ones taking care of him. I was doing that just fine on my own. But you didn’t call to let him know you were thinking of him. That you loved him.”

Connor sighs, holding up a hand when Debbie goes to open her mouth. “Of course we loved him, Veda. It wasn’t easy for -”

“Don’t. My patience is already thin as Hell right now, Con, and I swear if I hear that it wasn’t easy on you to deal with his diagnosis, I will come at you like a fucking lion on a gazelle. Because guess what.

“It wasn’t ‘easy’ on me to watch him die, knowing I couldn’t do a thing to save him, knowing that I was all alone in making sure his final days weren’t a living Hell. It wasn’t ‘easy’ on him to know his kids and grandkids didn’t love him enough to be there for him while he died. So don’t you dare talk about anything not being ‘easy’, because you don’t know the fucking half of it.”

Veda thanks the heavens for small miracles when no one speaks, too busy exchanging pointed looks with each other. As usual, Libby hangs back, uninterested in anything that doesn’t directly involve her; Maria, though just as selfish and self-absorbed as her sister, isn’t quite so disengaged from the conversation. JJ seems content enough to let his mother take over the conversations, while his brother Marshall tries to glare Veda into submission.

She stifles the rush of humour at seeing the group separated into factions. Libby and Maria stick close behind their father, Phil. Debbie stands in front of her sons but completely ignores Hattie. Veda isn’t surprised. Hattie hasn’t been Debbie’s favourite since she learnt to talk.

“Did you know that he died believing he failed all of you?” Veda asks quietly, and everyone’s eyes flit back to her. “He believed that he somehow fucked up and failed you, but you are the ones who failed him. You can’t claim to give a shit now when you’ve never showed it before.”

Voices overlap, each of them trying to argue, but Veda ignores them. Even as JJ and Marshall start shouting demands to be let inside, Veda doesn’t bother responding. She just unfolds the will and begins reading it off. Time freezes when she gets to the part about who Granddad left everything to.

Phil yanks the papers from Veda’s hand, skimming over them quickly, but then Debbie is reaching for them, then the cousins. The pages get ripped in the scuffle, but Veda doesn’t care. She just stands tall and steady as Phil turns a murderous glare onto her.


“Yes. Me.”

“You turned our dad against us!”

“Knock it off!”

Hattie’s shout is enough for the small crowd to go quiet, mostly from shock that she’s raised her voice, and Veda nods at her before explaining that the will is dated a month prior to his diagnosis. She had no say in who he assigned as the executor of his estate, who he chose to give everything to once he died.

“This isn’t fair,” Debbie shrieks as she steps onto the next highest step.

Veda loses the tenuous grip on her temper. Her throat burns with emotions she dares not show, and she digs her fingers into her sides to keep hold of herself. She stares at her relatives with all the disgust and hatred she has felt since she was a child.

“Not fair? You wanna talk about what’s not fair? Where the hell were all of you for any of the last five months? Where were you lot through the hospitalisations, the chemo and radiation, the long nighs spent forcing water down his throat just for him to puke it all back up again? Through having to hold him up because he couldn’t stand alone, being there to do everything including wiping his ass because his heart threatened to give out at the first bit of exertion? Don’t interrupt me, I swear to God I’ll hurt you if you try,” she snaps, and Marshall’s mouth closes immediately.

“Because I didn’t see a damn face when I was sacrificing sleep and risking losing my job and friendships to take care of the man who literally raised every single one of you. Debbie, you were too strung-out to care for your own kids, so who did it for you? And you, Phil, who gave you money for your bills even though he knew - he fuckin’ knew - you’d waste it on gambling and blow? Connor, you just disappeared as soon as you could and never even looked back.

“And all of my dearest, precious cousins. Who gave every last dime he had to make sure you got what you needed and wanted? Who taught you to work on cars and do household repairs and how to balance a goddamn check-book? Who taught you to ride a bike? To cook and clean properly? Because it sure as Hell wasn’t your parents.

“With the exception of Hattie, you all used Granddad. You abused his generosity and his heart and the fact he couldn’t tell you no. Don’t think I didn’t hear all those whispers about what you’d get when he died, long before he did. So fuck every single one of you. You will not step foot into this house ever again. You will get whatever I decide is fair to give to you, and you will be happy with it.

“The house is mine. Everything in it is mine to do with as I please. Get off my property before I call the cops for trespassing, and don’t think I won’t.”

Veda relishes the dumbstruck expressions on their faces for a long moment, the prideful smile that Hattie tries to hide, then pivots sharply on her heel. Shutting the door has never felt more satisfying in her life.