"I imagine a thing like that could take some time," she said. "It'll be fine, however long you need to be away." I read in her look the thing she would never say to me: they didn't really need me. Probably they never had.
I went back to my apartment to get my suitcase and told the apartment manager I would be gone a while, leaving my car parked. He offered to start it and drive it occasionally, then said, "Hey, you related to the Raleigh family in Oklahoma? The old guy just died and left a ton of money, my dad said." It was the most he'd ever said to me, including the day I'd rented the apartment. After twenty blissful years as a nobody, I was somebody again.
We ended up seeing a children's movie about some toys that come to life, the safest choice considering Annadore. She and Muriel at least had fun giggling and chattering. Next to me in the dark, Meda was tense, and I didn't attribute it to me. Maybe
Muriel's visit with the doctor had been bad news. I had my own tension, and I wasn't sure how I'd ended up sitting next to Meda. I'd intended to avoid it at all costs, but I wound up in the aisle seat with Meda next to me, and Annadore in between her mother and grandmother. Meda's hair smelled like jasmine, and despite her tension and mine, the afternoon was pleasant.
We dropped Muriel back at her trailer, and then at Miss Amos' house, Meda asked me if I wanted to come in and have dinner.
"It'll just be our Chinese leftovers." She said it so casually I didn't feel guilty saying yes. The defense she had mounted against me before was relaxed. Once we'd had dinner and Annadore had been put to bed, Meda tried to explain to me about her mother: "It bothers her going to the doctor. If I didn't make her go, she wouldn't. She's really difficult about it."
"She's so hard-headed," Miss Amos said from her corner of the sofa. "She shouldn't be surprised that he left her. When she would get an idea in her head that was it. And mean, was she mean. Used to beat us with her shoe."
"No, Gramma, no, we're here. It's Meda. It's Cathy." She whispered to me, "She's talking about her mother." When I asked if Muriel had been sick long, Meda thought about the question for a long time. "It's hard to know, because she doesn't always see things the way other people do. So you don't know is it real or is it what she thinks?"
"You mean she's a hypochondriac?"
"No, it's that she thinks her cysts are caused by alien experiments. So it's hard to tell how long she's been sick, because she's been telling me that the aliens were making her sick since I was a little kid." Meda blushed and shrugged.
"She mentioned that, but she didn't say what kind of aliens. Were they Grays? Or Reptilians?" It was a whim asking her, but I liked hearing that hushed tone of skepticism that was mitigated by concern for her mother.
"I had no idea normal people knew about this." Meda laughed, her hand creeping up to cover her mouth.
"I watch a lot of late night TV," I confessed. Because I have often been unable to turn off that link to the rest of the world, I've learned a lot about the fringes of humanity. "The Discovery Channel. They have several different shows about aliens. I like the ones where they have experts on to debunk the myths about aliens."
"Those shows always get Mom worked up."
"I particularly enjoy their absolute contempt for anyone who suggests it might be real. They always call it the 'alien abduction phenomenon.' And they're so superior when they talk about 'the power of suggestion and subconscious knowledge assimilation.'" Meda looked amused, either by my monologue or by what a jackass I was. I shut up.
"The abductees are just as bad. Mom and her alien friends go on for hours. And if anyone's ever stupid enough to disagree with them, they have this whole thing about how you're 'blind to the truth' and how you're 'buying the government's lies.' They're not mean about it, because they feel so sorry for you."
Excerpted from Last Will by Bryn Greenwood. Copyright © 2012 by Bryn Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Stairway Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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