It was a cool autumn day in October. The leaves had begun changing and falling as Halloween neared. Angela Burrows had worked the night shift at the diner down the street from her home and was ready to sleep the rest of the day away. Most people saw it as a waste of a perfect day, but not Angela. She hadn't enjoyed the warm kiss of the sunshine or the sounds of a busy afternoon freeway in a few years. To her, the best time to be awake was late in the evening when the sun had set and everyone was comfortably sleeping in their homes. Time always seemed to move more slowly when the sun was down and it gave her time alone with her thoughts.
Angela preferred the silence on the street that ran past her three story home of many years. She had inherited it from her grandmother, Betty as she was called by friends, whom she had been raised by, only months ago. Angela's mother was nothing more than a crazed lunatic that shacked up with some heroin dealer when she was young and got pregnant. Nothing like the lovely woman that took her in and raised her to be a strong independent woman. Angela remembered the day that sweet lady took her last breath. She had just turned 19 and was preparing for her move out of state for college when she got the call that her grandmother had collapsed in the middle of the grocery store. She rushed to the hospital in hopes of beating the paramedic there. When she arrived her grandmother had just been wheeled in. Angela waited in the lobby for what seemed like an eternity.
The doctor came out and told her that her grandmother had suffered a severe stroke and that she might not make it through the night. Angela stayed by her grandmother's side all through the night waiting. Hoping that the woman she loved so dearly would pull through. She drifted off to sleep while thinking of how strong this woman had been throughout Angela's entire life. Betty had taken in this abandoned baby and raised her alone. Angela began dreaming of her 18th birthday when she had asked her grandmother about how she ended up in the care of an elderly lady. Betty always had eyes full of love for Angela and this day was no different. "Come with me," she said. She took Angela to the garage and pulled out a shoe box full of photos and photo albums from the well organized shelves. Most of the photos were Angela as she was growing up. Some of them were of a little girl that looked similar to Angela and others were of a young woman with jet black hair and a very handsome young man. Betty looked at Angela with tears filling her eyes. "Let's go to the kitchen and I'll tell you all about it honey." She managed to crack a smile through the tears as she headed upstairs to the kitchen, Angela following close behind. That was the very first time Betty had cried in front of her and she didn't know how to process the feeling of anger that crept in her stomach. Not anger towards her grandmother, but towards herself. In the 18 years she had known this woman she had never seen her shed a tear, but on this day she did and it was all her fault.
Once they were seated at the kitchen table, Angela looked over at Betty. The tears had disappeared and all she could see was Betty's loving eyes and that big smile she always had. Angela felt relief slowly emerge from her stomach and creep up into her face. "This is me when I was about your age," Betty said as she grabbed one of the top photos. The photo was of a girl about the same age Angela with jet black hair and dark brown eyes. Beauty radiated off of her with her head cocked to one side, a big smile pasted on her face, but in her eyes Angela saw that it was indeed her grandmother. Although Betty was much older now, she still had the same eye shape as the girl in the photo. The wrinkles were the only difference Angela could see. "I was silly as a teenager. Hard to believe isn't it?" Betty said giggling. Betty reached in and grabbed a photo of a younger girl. "This is your mother, Zoey. She was about 7 here. She was such a good child," Angela looked up at her grandmother and saw a tear fall on the kitchen table. The anger crept up again, only this time towards her mother. "When she turned 16 she ran away with an older man named Tom. He was 19 when they met and she thought she was in love with that man. I wouldn't doubt that she was. He was well off and made a big fuss over Zoey every time they were together. She came home from school one afternoon and packed her bags. She said Tom was going to take her around the world and show her things she couldn't even imagine. There was nothing I could do to stop her. I knew if I fought her on it she would just run away in the middle of the night, so I let her go." Tears began streaming from Betty's eyes. "If I had known what he was going to do to my sweet daughter I would have had him arrested the day he walked through my front door," Angela sensed anger in Betty's voice.
Trying to change the subject she reached for another photo. "Who is this?" Angela asked as she picked up the photo of Betty and a handsome young man standing beside her. They appeared to be in their early twenties and they looked so happy. Betty looked up and a big smile took over her face along with laughter through the tears when she looked at the photo. "That is your grandfather, Harold," Betty said while wiping away the tears. "He was a gentle man with a big loving heart. He was my soul mate." Angela smiled and looked at Betty, "What happened to him?" Angela asked. Betty smiled, "When your mother was about 9 or so he was killed in an accident at work. He worked in an office building in New York and the elevator malfunctioned. He dropped 25 floors to his death," Angela heard the tears before they started falling. She took her grandmothers hand and with a smile she said, "I bet he loved you and Zoey with all of his heart." Betty smiled at Angela and continued, "He did. He was always prepared and one step ahead of anything life could throw at us. The man had taken out a life insurance policy the day Zoey was born. He told me he would take care of us even if he wasn't here."
Betty picked up a photo of a 16 year old Zoey standing with a man at the fire place. "This is your mother and Tom a few weeks before she left. He had everyone fooled for a long time, but I bet Harold could have seen through his façade. He could have saved her from the life she led." Betty put the photos down and began to stand. "Would you like some tea, dear?" she asked as she made her way to the cupboard. Angela looked up from a photo Betty and Harold, "No thank you grandma."
Angela awoke to the sun peeking through the blinds on the window in the hospital room. She could hear the machines beeping as her vision started focusing. She looked over to Betty who was still attached to all of the machines that were making the obnoxious, yet comforting, noises. Angela rubbed her eyes and looked at her watch. It was 7am, which was much earlier than Angela wanted to be awake. She stood from the chair she had spent most of the evening in and stretched, preparing for a trip to the coffee machine down the hall. She slipped on her shoes and was reaching for her purse when she heard a knock on the door. Doctor Quinten, Betty's primary care physician, entered and greeted Angela with a smile. "How are you today Ms. Burrows?" Angela smiled back, "A bit exhausted, but I'm not worried about me Dr. Quinten. How is my grandmother doing?" The smile on Dr. Quinten's face slowly dropped, "She's not doing too great Angela. You need to start preparations for when the time comes," He reached into the chest pocket of his long white lab coat and pulled out a few cards and handed them to Angela. "These are the best services for these situations. Also, I highly recommend reaching out to any other relatives and informing them of the circumstances." Dr. Quinten went on to explain to Angela that there was nothing they could do without making Betty uncomfortable in her final moments. He stated that when she had the stroke she fell and hit a sturdy shelf and it caused a lot of internal bleeding. Angela stayed composed through the entire conversation and when Dr. Quentin said his goodbyes, she went down the hall to get her coffee.
There was a ceremony when Betty passed, but not burial. Betty wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread where she and Harold had spent their honeymoon so many years ago. Angela made sure to do as she had wished. It was the least she could do for her grandma who had loved her so much in her 18 years.
"One year ago today grandma," Angela said as she walked in the door of her quiet and lonely home. She threw her belongings down on the sofa and walked up the steps to the master bathroom. After Betty passed, Angela spent so much of her time in the master bedroom that she just moved into it. She knew her grandmother wouldn't mind. Betty left everything to Angela and even had a life insurance policy with Angela as the only beneficiary. She didn't have to work at all, but she didn't want to stay in the empty house all of the time. She never had any friends and with Betty gone, she didn't have any family now. None that would be worth her time anyway. She began drawing a bath when she heard the doorbell. The sound was so unfamiliar that it startled her. She turned off the water, threw on a robe and rushed down the stairs. When she reached the front door she unlatched the locks and opened it just enough to see out. A tall man with light colored hair and deep green eyes stood at her doorstep. "Can I help you?" She asked, still shocked to have a visitor. "Hello Angela. My name is Ben Reed," the words sent chills down her spine. How did he know her name? "May I come in for a bit? I knew Betty Burrows when I was growing up here. She was my baby sitter for the first 6 years of my life and I only just heard of her passing. I was overseas and she reached out to my parents so she could send me a letter and I am only now getting back to the states. I grew up a few houses down and am staying with my parents for right now but-," Angela interrupted, "Stop! Just stop talking please." Ben quickly closed his mouth and he pulled out a folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and handed it to Angela. Angela took the letter and saw Betty's hand-writing on it. Angela took a step back. She gasped when she saw there were 2 pages. One for Ben, and one for Angela. She began reading the one addressed to her.
"My dearest Angela,
I love you so much and I want you to trust me with this situation. Ben was one of the children I babysat not long before you came into my life. I also kept in touch with him and his family after your arrival. You two used to play together and keep each other company while you were growing up. I asked him to do me a huge favor after our little talk of your mother. He knows where your mother is and I have asked him to take you to her. You need the closure dear. I know you will be mad at me so when Ben gets here I will go to the grocery store. I will see you in a bit.
Love Always, Grandma."
Tears started streaming down Angela's face. She was expecting to be here when Ben arrived, but she isn't. Was she to trust this man she didn't know to take her to her mother at Betty's request? What choice did she have really. She felt like she owed it to her grandmother to do what had been elaborately planned by Betty. This was well out of Angela's comfort zone. She wiped away her tears and looked over at Ben, "Ben is it? Look I had a long night at work and would like to take a bath and go to bed. Can you get out of my house please? Come back by later and we can catch up. Okay?" She was almost pleading him to leave. Ben awkwardly shuffled back outside of the front door, realizing he had just managed to enter the home while Angela was reading. "Sorry about that," he stated awkwardly, "Yeah, sure. I can come back later. What time would be-," he was cut off again. "8 p.m." Angela quickly announced. "I work nights so I sleep through the day." Ben nodded, "Okay see you at 8 then." She closed the door and put the letters down on the living room table and headed upstairs for her bath.