Friday, October 6, 2017

Gen Three- Prologue


I learned what true heartbreak was at a very young age.

Three to be specific. Three years and a month to the day to be exact. The day was May 23rd- a Saturday. It had been a fun one for me. Every so often Uncle Eden and I got to spend some time together by ourselves without my sisters or his children or grandchildren around. We'd gone to the festival at the park where we rode on rides, watched a magician on stage, and ate a bunch of tasty food. That was when I asked if we could go to the beach to play on the boardwalk like I often did with my dad, but Uncle Eden said we had to visit the hospital first.


I instantly knew why we were going. Back in those younger years of mine, I actually had no idea that hospitals were where sick and injured people went to get treatment. I thought they were apartments where a bunch of sick and injured people simply happened to live. The only reason I ever went there was to visit someone who was always there, so that was the reasoning behind that logic.

     "Uncle Eden, I'm tired!" I complained as we waited for one of the elevators to reach us so we could head upstairs.
     "Alright, c'mon." Uncle Eden extended his arms to pick me up.

I happily scampered into his grasp not noticing at all how he strained to bend over and strained even harder to stand up straight once he held me. That doing something like that had once never been a problem or that it would get harder still for him in the future...naturally I had no understanding of that kind of concept. Uncle Eden was Uncle Eden. He'd been exactly how he was forever, and he'd be exactly how he was forever.

It was actually that afternoon that would start to teach me how wrong that thinking was.


We reached my favorite floor. Not only did it house our destination, but the hallway also had pink walls. A lot of my family was pink: my mother, my aunts, my mom's parents, my sister, and so on, which is why I thought of it as 'my' floor. However, I frowned as Uncle Eden brought me down the hall. A doctor, who I just saw as some random woman, exited the room we meant to reach only to hurriedly rush in our direction when she spotted us. That made Uncle Eden put me down, and I had to go as fast a my tired little feet would allow as he hurried his own pace to meet her.

I technically listened to their conversation, but at the same time I didn't pay attention. I merely wanted to go into the room. The fact that Uncle Eden suddenly got quite panicked and distraught never registered to me. I didn't catch how he pleaded for the doctor to do something, nor how his face fell when she told him there was nothing to be done. I pattered about, bored, as it was revealed to him that the final choice had been made.


Uncle Eden had me stand off to the side while a bunch of other people came out of the room. Most of them wheeled out strange equipment and machines I thought interesting, yet they departed too quickly for me to get a better look. It was my turn to rush inside when Uncle Eden motioned for me to do so.

     "Grandma!" I called merrily as I approached the bed.

However, my grandmother didn't respond to me. She lay there on her bed almost perfectly motionless. The covers were pulled down, her eyes were closed, and she no longer had a dozen cords connected to her.

     "Grandma, are you asleep?" I asked raising my voice.

Reaching up as far as I could to touch was just enough for me to tap her hand and shake it lightly. Slowly, so incredibly slowly, her eyes opened. Dark and glazed, her gaze found her way to me. She smiled.

     "Oh...Dia," she spoke in no more than a whisper in her struggling, scratchy voice, "It's good to see you. I'm glad you came to visit. How are you doing?"
     "I'm good! Uncle Eden took me to the festival. We were doin' a lotta fun stuff. Oh! And guess what? Emmy said I could play with her doll if I did her a favor 'n helped pick up her toys tonight."
     "That's good. It's nice that she'll share, and I know you will a do a good job cleaning. You're quite tidy and good at organizing for someone your age," Grandma smiled again, weakly linking her cold fingers with mine, "But, I wonder if it's alright with you...can you do me a favor too, Dia?"
     "Hmm?"
     "I'm rather sick again. I won't be able to hug everyone any...for a while. Can you hug them instead? Let them know it's from me?"
     "Yeah!"


Grandma thanked me, and I placed a kiss on my fingertips that I pressed against hers. The adults didn't like me and my sister crawling on the bed since they said we would accidentally pull out the cords, and so I didn't crawl up there to give her a proper kiss despite there being no more cords. Uncle Eden ushered me over to the couch, which I didn't mind. My sisters and I visited frequently. There was a stack of pretty picture books and a small container of toys nearby to keep us busy while the adults talked. I picked out my favorite book, sprawled on the couch with it, and ignored the quiet conversation my grandma had with her brother.

I hadn't noticed how grim Uncle Eden's expression had grown. I didn't pick up on the wetness of his eyes, or the stiffness of his body as he moved. I had no idea that the reason he clung onto grandma so tightly as he sat next to her was because she was running on extremely limited time.

     "Ethereal, do you really want this to be the moment?" he asked desperately, his voice rough and tight, "It's not too late to tell them you've changed your mind. There's still so much more they can do for you."
     "There's a lot they can do to keep my body alive, I know, but there's nothing more they can do to keep me alive." Grandma responded with a sad shake of her head.
     "Just...Just a few more hours. Ethereal, please. At least enough time to get Amaranth down here. This wasn't supposed to happen so soon. If he doesn't even get to say goodbye..."
     "We've already said our goodbyes many times, as I've done with you and everyone," Grandma reminded him gently, doing everything she could to retain the wavering grin on her face, "I do feel horrible. I know how much he blames himself for me being like this. He can't rid himself of the idea that if he had been around all those years that I wouldn't have gotten so bad."

Grandma groaned and stiffened as a wave of pain washed over her. She gasped soft, ragged breaths, and she struggled to keep her eyes open.

     "I won't be myself in a few hours. I won't be myself in half an hour. Even if I'm technically alive, even if I'm technically awake...I'll be too far gone to recognize anything. I don't want an empty husk being everyone's last memory of me."


Uncle Eden let out a quivering, deep exhale as he clenched his eyes shut for a moment as it was his turn to shake his head.

     "I'm sorry." Grandma apologized.
     "Don't. There's no need to be sorry for anything. None of this was your fault."
     "No, I have to be at least a little bit sorry. I'm happy, in a way, that I'm going now, and that is highly selfish of me."

The expression of distraught agony on Uncle Eden's face morphed into a frown of utter confusion.

     "All my life, one of my worst nightmares was being without you. It terrified me so much it was why I went with you when you took me away. And as we've grown older, I've grown more frightened by the day at the thought of having to watch you take your last breath. Now I don't have to know what that's like. I never have to experience a day where you're not near me. You've always been there. I even hoped I might get to see you one last time, and you went and walked through the door."

She chuckled a bit as a tear slid down her face.

     "Of course I feel terrible for thinking that way. When I had to live through those weeks of Coal being missing, the pain I felt then can only be a piece of what I'm putting you through now."

Uncle Eden wiped away the tear and gave her a kind look.

     "No, it's fine," he promised, "You're the one who's dying at fifty-four. You've endured incredible amounts of pain, especially these last two years. This is all going to have the same effect on me no matter what, so I'm glad I can give you some sort of relief before the end."
     "You're a saint, Eden."
      "So I've heard." Uncle Eden laughed a little.


The smile on grandma's face stayed there for a moment more, but then it faded only to never come back.

     "Eden," she spoke his name slowly, "You know I know that Blaze told me all those years ago how you thought when you thought you might have lost me. Please, I don't want you to-"
     "There's no need to worry. Those thoughts aren't ever going to take hold of me again. You're going to break my heart, Ethereal, but I'm getting old too. We'll see each other before long."

Uncle Eden took grandma's hand tenderly stroking his cheek and held it tight.

     "Will you tell Am that I'm sorry?" Grandma's voice suddenly went immensely soft as her eyelids fluttered closer and closer together, "And Coal? And everyone else too? Tell them how...much I love.....them.......and want to..."

She moved her lips, but the attempt at words devolved into the most desperate of silent breaths.

     "I will, Ethereal. I'll tell them everything. I promise." Uncle Eden quickly vowed.

Grandma's breathing hastened for a second, hitched for a moment, and then slowed and slowed and slowed. Her eyes turned glassy.

     "...Love you...Ed...n."
     "I love you too."

There was one more blink. There was one more breath. It was a deep one. One that lingered in her chest before leaving in a long sigh. Her chest didn't rise again. Her eyes went blank, and the muscles in her face relaxed. Her palm only remained pressed against Uncle Eden's check because he held it there never wanting to let go.


It was the conversation growing quiet that attracted my attention back towards the adults. They always talked in low, serious tones. The bustle and beeps and intercom messages from outside in the hallway were more entertaining to listen to. I glanced up from my book to only see Uncle Eden's back. I missed knowing how the smile he forced himself to smile until the end became blank. He stood, slowly lowered Grandma's arm back to the bed, and dropped even more slowly to his knees next to her. When he took her other hand and rest his head against her chest, I had no idea what to make of it.

     "Uncle Eden?" I called in curiosity.

Grandma had always had trouble breathing. We weren't supposed to hug her too tightly or press against her too hard. I couldn't figure out why Uncle Eden would be doing that now.


He utterly ignored me, and I wasn't going to have that. My tiny feet made next to no noise as I shuffled my way over.

     "What'a you doing?" I prompted again.

Still, no response came. It would go on to be that Uncle Eden wouldn't say another word to me that day. He would barely say a thing to anyone. Such an effort was too far beyond him. I stood there and watched as his head pressed harder against Grandma. His grip on her increased while his head bowed lower and his shoulders shook. It didn't take more than a few seconds before desperately contained sobs reached my ears.

     "Uncle Eden, are you crying?"

I didn't get it. I didn't get it at all. Why on earth could he be upset?

     "It's okay. Grandma's just sleepin'. Just sleeping. See?" I tried to comfort as best I could.

The adults were constantly worried about her, so the best I could gather was that Uncle Eden was concerned about her then too. That got him turning his head in my direction. However, all I received was a tear-drenched glance that wouldn't look right at me. His expression of agony only grew worse, he shook his head pitifully, and he buried it harder against Grandma's chest as his crying got louder and louder. Soon, it didn't matter that Uncle Eden was an old man. His cries were the cries of a young child- loud and pleading and helpless.

He sounded like me, for I cried too. I understood nothing of the reality in front of me, but I could feel the pain tearing apart Uncle Eden. Some of it anyway. I didn't like seeing him like that, so I bawled like the baby I was at the heavy emotions hitting me from seeing my always happy Uncle breaking. Something was terribly wrong, and that was enough to teach me that I was watching him experience the worst kind of pain to ever exist.


The crescendoing heartache continued until the doctor reappeared with a nurse following behind. The doctor remained with Uncle Eden while I accepted the comfort the nurse offered as she carried me to the waiting room despite her being a complete stranger as I was so desperate for it. I snuggled against her as she tried her best to explain what it all meant. She told me my grandmother's body had been broken too badly. It was like a toy with batteries that had run out, and with people you can't replace those batteries. Everything inside her had stopped working, and once it stopped working it would never work again. Grandma would sleep forever. The nurse then professed all about how she was a soul now though where she resided in a happy place where pain and hurt didn't exist. My mom consoled me in a similar manner when she saw me, for she, dad, and grandpa showed up not too much later. I didn't see grandpa and dad as they went right to Uncle Eden, and mom and I only briefly passed Blaze on our way out when he arrived at the hospital as well.

Over the next few days, I learned more things I could accept but not fully understand. The reason why grandma's body had suddenly gave out on her and left her with no choice but to accept her end peacefully contained too many long or unfamiliar words for me to wrap my head around it. Why we had to dress grandma up nicely and put her in a box in the ground seemed entirely bizarre. Mom dressed my sisters and me in black, and it took me far too long to realize that this was the one situation everyone talked about where it was acceptable to wear it.

I cried a lot in those days. Everyone else did too. When the time for the funeral came, the lone good thing that came out of it all was that all our family and friends were together.


There were some who couldn't have cared less about that though. There was nothing good about anything that day to them, and what made it worse was that those people were the ones who I had always seen smile the most. Dad couldn't get rid of the distant look in his eye. Several moments had come where I caught him crying, but mostly his expression was cold, blank, and detached. Grandpa was the one who cried all the time. He kept getting into arguments with Blaze. He said it was his fault grandma was gone, and Blaze said it wasn't. Confused as to what the truth was, mom told me that grandpa just felt guilty that he hadn't been able to do anything to help grandma. She said that sometimes it was easier to blame yourself than admit you had no chance at fixing something. You could then pretend you had some control in the situation. Worried that grandpa would have to be sad forever, mom comforted me again saying he would get happier in time. It would always hurt to have grandma gone, but I was promised everyone would start smiling once more.


Some people were trying to smile even that day. Some were doing better at it than others. Aunt Cerise guided Aunt Glade around with her as she popped from person to person and group to group to bolster her spirits. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort she put into her work Aunt Glade's expression remained sadly similar to dad's. I think it ended up that Aunt Cerise left Aunt Glade with Rosemary and Pastel as they were the ones having more success in comforting my dad's youngest sister.


Things were going better in the front of the graveyard grounds. Papa Al, my other grandfather, was part of that group, so there was no surprise that their moods were better as he talked with Mama Lia, my two uncles by blood, my aunt-in-law, and my uncle by choice about the good times. Papa Al smiled a whole lot. That's why I didn't believe the whispers I heard between Mama Lia, mom, and Aunt Mimi about how he was struggling greatly. They said he appeared utterly distraught, but I didn't see it. His smiles looked just like they always had to me.


The mood got even less tense the further down in age one went. Off by the planted part of the shore of the small lake chatted my oldest sister and her friends. It would go on to be that not more than a few weeks after the funeral was when my parents started to explain the rather strange relationship between Ember, me, and my sister. It was confounding to hear that Ember was biologically both my half-sister and my cousin while also being my full sister genetically. Honestly, I don't really see why age three was the age mom and dad went with to go into details about it all. I couldn't even stop myself from thinking about jeans when they said genes, so grasping the full reality wouldn't happen for some time. I simply saw Ember how I had seen her before- as my sister.


With her was her usual group of friends- cousins Tangerine, Melrose, and Lightning. Tangerine was the oldest of the four by a bit, although she rarely acted more mature. That role typically fell onto Lightning, which amused the adults for some reason. Tangerine was the one who started the mischief while Ember and Melrose, being best of friends as well, constantly followed along with eager grins.


About thirty feet away from them was the slightly smaller group of slightly younger kids. However, it was usually just Velvet and Surge, Hunter's oldest daughter and Tangerine's younger brother. Canary lived out with her father, my Uncle Prism, in Tinseltown as he made movies there. The two had come down for the funeral, and Ember was having to share her room with our cousin.


And then there was us. There were cousins younger than us, but Aunt Desire and Aunt Mimi had left Scorch and Rosey with babysitters as they were too young to be brought along to this sort of thing. I spotted Uncle Eden off in a quiet corner, so I hurried my way over to him with Gilly in tow. She was my older twin sister. Mom called us identically fraternal. If we had been born with the same colors, we would be like her and Aunt Mimi- it would be incredibly difficult to tell us apart. Gilly and I were fraternal though, which meant there would be no fun swapping pranks from us.

I hadn't seen much of Uncle Eden recently, but he appeared incredibly more calm and like himself than he had been at the hospital. Our presence was welcomed eagerly even if the conversation he had with us wasn't meant to require feedback on our part.

     "I don't know whether this can be considered cruel irony or not," Uncle Eden began, truly speaking more to himself than us, "The first birthday I ever got to celebrate properly with Ethereal was her eleventh one. I had to cut her party short because of things that were going on, and she was so upset with me. Being gifted Button helped clear that up fast, but I continued to feel guilty. That's why I promised her later on that I would make sure all her birthdays with repeated numbers were extra special. I...I knew she wasn't going to make it to her fifty-sixth, so that's why I was working so hard to make her last lucky birthday her best one ever. However, even with just a few more months to go, she couldn't make it..."


Uncle Eden immediately shook his head after several seconds of silence passed when Gilly and I just stared at him wondering what to do with what he was saying.

     "You two remind me of Ethereal quite a lot. Glade looks more like her, but she turned out much more docile and prim than Ethereal ever was. You two though, remember how you made that huge block tower the other day?"
     "Yeah!" Gilly eagerly agreed, "And then Doodle knocked it over."
     "Yes, well, remember before that when I asked why you put all the yellow and pink blocks together and why you put all the blue and purple blocks together?"
     "Because the pink and yellow are like pink lemonade." I answered.
     "And blue and purple are like blueberry pie." Gilly added.
     "Exactly," Uncle Eden chuckled softly, "Ethereal also loved to play with blocks when she was young, and she would pair up those colors and give me the same reason you two just did too."
     "Really?" Gilly wondered.
     "Ohhh, now I want pie."

That was what I responded with. Uncle Eden laughed again, which made me smile.


Our conversation was soon interrupted by the call of a familiar voice.

     "Apple, come here!"

My first cousin once removed, Apple, was being chased by her father and my first cousin twice removed, Hunter. She dashed away from him as fast as her small legs could take her valiantly attempting to reach us.

     "Grandpa!" she whined while making her beeline for Uncle Eden.


She didn't make it. Hunter easily caught up, scooped her in his arms, and held her firmly even as she squirmed, pouted, and whined.

     "Apple, I told you that you could put your boots back on when it was time for us to go. You need to wear your black shoes right now." he instructed with a disapproving look mom and dad often gave Gilly and me as well.
     "No!" Apple huffed.

She squirmed harder and squealed louder, which had Hunter sighing. Apple loved her pink boots. I could hardly recall her wearing anything else on her feet.

     "Sorry about this, dad." Hunter apologized.
     "No, no. It's fine. I don't mind if she wears her boots, and Ethereal would love a bit more color around here. She can wear them."

Apple beamed smugly at her father in her victory, prompting Hunter to merely roll his eyes and boop her on the nose for punishment before placing her on the ground to join us.


Gilly, Apple, and I, we were a tight trio. We were best friends as well as being cousins. If Apple wasn't at our house then we were at hers. Our parents even often referred to us as triplets. She snuggled up close to me as Uncle Eden gave a wave of his hand to catch our attention. We, and Hunter too, listened as he found a stronger smile within him. He wore it as he delved into tale after tale about grandma and the fun, silly, or interesting things she'd done growing up. I heard about ridiculous pranks pulled on sleepovers, crazy games played with friends, and tender moments spent with family. I loved listening to everything. I recalled how much I loved grandma, and I didn't get as sad missing her as I should have as I hadn't fully accepted yet that I truly wouldn't see her ever again.

Uncle Eden's stories went on and on. My hardly there perception of the passage of time vanished even further as I became so engrossed in the tales. It took someone calling for me this time to break me out of my stupor.

     "Gilly, Dianthus, we're heading home now."


Mom and dad had come over with Ember in tow. Gilly rushed to be picked up by mom while I made sure to give Uncle Eden a hug. It was the third or fourth one for that day. I hadn't forgotten the promise I'd made to grandma for a second, and now that everyone knew I could give them a hug from her it seemed to make them feel better. After the hug, dad gathered me up in his arms.

     "Daddy! Daddy! Guess what?" I patted his shoulder to get his attention.
     "What?"
     "Uncle Eden told me and Gilly that you went to mommy's house naked when you were about our age!"

At that, dad finally looked like dad once more. Well, he looked like him in that true emotion returned to his face. Mom burst out laughing while dad frowned heavily and stared at Uncle Eden with a glaring pout.

     "Why would you do that?" he complained with drooping shoulders.
     "Because I needed the entertainment." Uncle Eden smirked.
     "I remember it so well," Hunter laughed loudly too, "Wisp and I were coming back from Cyclone's house, and when we turned the corner Aunt Lia was rushing you back home with a towel over you. Auntie 'Thereal tried to scold you, but it took everything she had not to laugh."


Dad huffed once more, but he decided to nod and chuckle along a bit.

     "You know, I remember a good story about you too, Hunter," Uncle Eden teased, switching the target of his attack, "It involved a certain day at preschool, a certain pair of shorts, and a certain someone who didn't like wearing underwear at the time."
     "Don't you dare." Hunter pleaded with instant desperation.
     "I haven't heard this one before." mom smiled widely.
     "Me neither." dad smirked in anticipation.
     "That's because I did a thousand and one ridiculous chores to get him to promise to never tell it to anyone ever again." Hunter explained determinedly.
     "Did you? Ah, my mind's getting so old now. Some things are starting to slip." Uncle Eden teased with even more fervor.
     "Daaad!"

Dad laughed, and it felt good to see him do so. Mom's promise was already coming true. He went to say something, to prompt Uncle Eden on I think, but a whine practically identical to Hunter's came from a different source.

     "Daaaaad." Ember pouted in a quiet voice as she tugged on his sleeve, and he let the opportunity for more fun pass.
     "Yes, I know, honey," he told her before looking at the adults, "Em is starting to feel a little under the weather, so we're going to be heading off now."
     "Of course. It's about time for us all to be heading home now anyway." Uncle Eden accepted.


The graveyard wasn't far from the house at all. We walked back, and Ember stole the piggyback from dad I wanted. Mom still held Gilly, Blaze couldn't really carry anyone anymore because it hurt his bad ankle, and grandpa was too out of it. I hoped I could attach myself to Aunt Cerise or Aunt Glade, but they were going somewhere else with Rosemary and Pastel. My small steps had me matching pace with grandpa's slow shuffling, and I think we were both grateful when the house came into sight. He went right for his room while I went right for my favorite dog in the world. Doodle, the silly thing, love to cuddle. He also liked to lick. Ember and Gilly both hated his kisses, but I didn't mind them. That was why after he gave my sisters a greeting sniff he ended up in my arms as I enjoyed a good cuddle.

Gilly, perhaps too tired to go upstairs, joined me in petting him. Ember did too after getting a glass of water and some medicine from mom. So, there we sat.


Dad joined us after a moment. Something having resonated with him, he continued to appear like himself and not all emotionless in his eyes.

     "Is grandpa going to be alright?" Ember wondered, glancing towards the door nearby.
     "He'll be alright. He needs time, just like we all do. Your grandma dying at her age simply makes her passing harder to accept. She was starting to get older, but she should have had a lot more life to live." dad answered with a small sigh.
     "You're not going to die soon too, are you?" Gilly asked in worry, "You're old."
     "I'm only twenty-eight. That's not old at all," dad found himself chuckling again, too amused to be insulted, "People who are Uncle Blaze's and Uncle Eden's ages are old."
     "So they're going to die soon?" Gilly pressed on with even more concern.
     "Uh," dad faltered at having to face the troubles of toddler logic, "No, no, sweetie, they're not. You don't die just because you get old, and people can live a really long time. There was this one woman who lived to be one-hundred and twenty-three."
     "Nu-uh." Ember said in disbelief.
     "It's true. There were all these new articles about her. I can show them to you." dad promised.
     "I want to live to a hundred and twenty-three. It sounds like fun!" I decided.
     "Yeah, it's like 1-2-3." Gilly realized.
     "Look at you two smarties," dad praised, petting our hair, "You speak so well, you know you some big numbers, and I've even heard from Glade that she was able to teach you how to write your names the other day. I think you've definitely got your grandma's intelligence."
     "I'm smart too!" Ember needed to declare.
     "You are indeed," dad agreed, pulling her into a hug before pressing his hand against her forehead, "And you are also a girl with a fever. It's going up bit by bit. You need to get in bed, young lady."
     "Okay." Ember half pouted.


Dad took her upstairs, and mom interrupted my cuddling time with Doodle by having Gilly and I change into normal clothes. Not that we stayed awake for much longer either. Gilly and I crashed as our naps demanded they be napped. After that, it was a lazy afternoon where we would have been better off in our pajamas. Aunt Cerise and Aunt Glade came home about the time the pizza Blaze ordered for dinner arrived. All of us except grandpa and Ember watched a movie, and then my least favorite time of day arrived. Bedtime. Everyone else got to stay up after the sun went down, but it still hung in the horizon when my sister and I were forced to close our eyes. Mom, however, let me have an extra moment that day. The adults had only gone into grandpa's room to talk to him. He hadn't come out once. Mom agreed that it might be nice for him to get a hug from me before I went to bed.

Walking in quietly through the door, I found him in his robe with his hair still slightly damp from a shower. He sat how he had been sitting all day- with his head hung low and his expression painful to look at.

     "Grandpa?"


He reacted somewhat when I called for him, but he didn't move much. He didn't even say anything. Padding my way across the carpet to stand in front of him barely helped either. Grandpa's head lifted only a little.

     "Grandpa?" I repeated softly.

That was finally what broke through some of his barriers. His red eyes met my pink ones, and something about his sad expression shifted.

     "'Grandpa', huh? It's still kind of weird to hear that," he spoke quietly like Uncle Eden had earlier, which was pretty much only to himself, "Fifty-three.  I'm only fifty-three. I've basically got half a life still to live, and I've already lost Ethereal. I felt like I only had her for one quick breath. There were those few good years, and...and then I was so selfishly stupid. No matter how hard we both tried, we couldn't reclaim anything like what we'd had before when I returned. She was always sick. Always in pain. Always stuck in that place she hated. I couldn't do anything to help her. I couldn't even be there when she faced her final moments. If she had ended up passing on all alone..."

He shook his head dismally. The pain contorting on his face signaled his head was about to fall again while my presence would become ignorable.

     "Do you want a hug from grandma?" I offered, reaching out to him before that could happen.


It worked as best as it could work. Grandpa looked at me again, and heartbreak didn't rest quite so heavily on his expression.

     "I would like that very much." he nodded.

Being scooped up into his arms showed me that perhaps bedtime might not be so bad that night. Exhaustion loomed over me more than I thought. Grandpa was warm from his shower, and his shoulder was a good place to rest my head. My eyelids had already started to flutter closer and closer together before he spoke again.

     "I'm sorry, Dia," grandpa apologized, "I didn't mean to speak so sadly. I do know Ethereal's death wasn't my fault. It's just that I made so many promises to her that I don't think I did a good job keeping. They seemed so easy to honor at the time, but life has a way of undoing all your plans. Bad choices don't make it better either. That's why, since you're doing well with keeping your promise to grandma, can you make me a promise too? I know there are so many things out of your control, but can you try to eat your carrots more? Maybe drink a little less juice and drink a little more water? Can you make sure you get lots of sleep? Play a lot? Can you simply just promise me to do what you can do to prevent yourself from being lost before you should? That would make me really relieved."
     "Promise," I yawned sleepily, "'Cept not about the carrots."

Grandpa smiled properly for the first time in what felt like forever. He even laughed a little too.

     "Well, I'm the same way with green beans, so I guess that's fair. Just make sure to give me lots of grandma's hugs instead then."
     "Mmhmm. You're comfy." I agreed, content.
     "So sleepy you are right now. Should I go put you in your bed?" grandpa asked in amusement.
     "Nnnnnh!" I whined, gripping him tightly.
     "Alright, you can stay." he caved with absolutely no resistance.

And there I stayed. Grandpa, sparks of life back in his eyes now, paced about holding me, gently stroking my hair, until I was off deep in dreamland little more than two minutes later.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I'm a complete mess after reading all that. ;-; So sad to see Ethereal go.
Little Dia is very cute though! All the Gen. 3 kiddo's are. There's quite alot of them actually, I can't really keep up! Mind putting together a family tree of some sort? That'd definitely help with the confusion! Especially as we're getting into the later generations now.

iKelsey said...

I teared up a bit writing it :(
You're seriously right when you say there's a lot of kids. Putting together this generation gave me quite a few headaches in that regard- figuring out who had how many kids, what ages the parents would have the kids, the differences in ages between all the children, etc. Even I have a hard time keeping them all straight. I do have a FamilyEcho family tree for the main line that connects the Vivids, Yonders, Springs, Charms, and Waters. I'll be adding the link along with a summary of who's had what kids in a post after the next chapter comes out, which will be on Monday.

Anonymous said...

I cried through this entire chapter!

iKelsey said...

Then I would say this chapter was successful ;)

שיר said...

Noooo why would you do this to meeeeee I'm literally sobbing

Angel Leutz said...

So it's a little late but hi am glad to see generation 3 coming out. You are an amazing writer like always.

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