Original Short Stories

Inheritance (Part 1): The Blazer Saga

May 1, 2015

This story takes place approximately eighteen years before “Project 19”

The attendees packed the church from end to end. Tears flowed freely. A string of whispered chatter buzzed across the auditorium. Even strands of laughter could be heard from various of the sundry conversations. Even in the laughter, though, a solemn spirit was present. It was a spirit of respect and sadness. All who had come understood what had been lost.

The two matching coffins at the front of the sanctuary were the centerpieces of the evening. Despite the innocent grieving of the community, the closed caskets held tight the secret not everybody needed to know.

The plane crash that took the lives of Richard and Mary Blankenship was no accident.

Opening the casket may not have revealed that truth, but the hideous consequences of the plane crash were horrific regardless of the cause of the plane's malfunction.

Eve Loftis watched the two coffins intently, unable to stand and mingle. She knew the danger of opening those coffins. She feared the truth; she also feared the truth within her.

Despite being as alive and well as she could physically be, she felt as if she were contained within a third coffin. She had taken some of the money she had saved and bought this long, flowing, black dress, needing something worthy of the occasion. Mary had helped her acquire a modest treasure of apparel, but none of those seemed appropriate to honor the dead.

Her new gown of sorrow encased her body – her soul – in the same deep black that now held the bodies of her mentors and friends. Her story – her truth – would be just as buried as Richard and Mary. She no longer had their guidance or teaching. They could not support her or comfort her or express their love for her any longer. They could no longer defend her. The only two people in the word she trusted – who had known who she truly was – were gone.

As hundreds of people gathered to honor the Blankenships, Eve Loftis sat among them and felt alone.

Almost.

Beside her, with his hand resting in hers, sat the only other truly quiet soul in the sanctuary. Young Jordan Blankenship had lost more than anyone in this building, yet Eve was uncertain if he truly understood this.

She did not know his entire story, but she knew that he was not wholly unlike her. His life was a pawn of others. He would have eventually been tossed aside or discarded, just like Eve.

Eve did not know her entire story, but the Blankenships had discovered some secrets of her past. She had been cloned from a woman she had never met. Genetic manipulation forced her body to advance at an alarming rate. Her creators wanted to speed her development so she could be impregnated. The experiment worked, at least to some degree. Then she was discarded, unnaturally aged and with no education or mental development. She had only lived for about eight years, but she looked as if she were in her sixties.

She and Jordan were both pawns of a game they had no control over.

The love of two people saved them.

Now, they were alone again.

Except for each other.

Eve had no idea how to care for a ten-year old child.

I hardly know how to care for myself.

Yet, if they took him - if they figured out who or what he was - Richard and Mary's sacrifice would have been in vain. His life would return to hopelessness and despair. Eve's life would as well.

She held his hand more tightly. She could not let him be thrown in a cage or a cell. Those coffins had to stay closed. Her heart carried a heavy burden. Her coffin had to stay closed. If the true reason of the Blankenships' death was known, then Jordan's life would be over.

Eve knew what she had to do, but she had no idea how to do it.

She felt all alone in the world, save for the grieving child beside her. Considering the burden she had been given, she almost wished she was completely alone.

*

Eve liked Pastor Phillip Revis and his wife, Sandy. Mrs. Revis' name made Eve think of the beach. Richard and Mary had taken her to the beach once. She got sunburned on half her body and picked up a rash of some sort, but those were all risks she would willingly take again.

Plus, Sandy Revis made a peach cobbler that Eve liked better than the beach.

Nonetheless, Eve shook nervously as she entered the pastor's office. The vision of the coffins still weighed heavily on her soul; she had planned not to enter the church again for quite a while.

Another man joined them that Eve did not know. He was dressed fancily and had a briefcase in his hand that was just as fancy.

Eve's heart beat faster. They know. They know everything. This is when it happens. This is when it all falls apart.

She looked around uncertainly. “Jay. He might be... I should go check on him.”

Sandy stood just enough to take Eve's hand and guide her back into her chair. “He's at the playground with the others. Danny is out there with him. He'll be fine. This will only take a few minutes.”

Pastor Revis leaned forward. “There's something we need to discuss with you, Eve.”

This is it. I lose everything here. I shouldn't have come. I should have taken Jordan and ran.

Pastor Revis nodded to the other man in the room. “Eve. I want you to meet Chandler Locklear. He is...was Mary and Richard's lawyer.”

Oh, no. Am I being sued?” The words came out of her mouth before she could even consider them.

The lawyer smirked. “No, ma'am. Nothing like that.”

Oh, no. They think I did it. They think I murdered them. Will they believe me? Is the food good in jail? What do I do? What do I do?

Locklear continued. “Ms. Loftis. Richard and Mary visited me not too long ago with some concerns. For you. To keep this simple, they updated their will. They left everything to you.”

Bright smiles lit up the faces of Pastor Revis and Sandy. Eve sat silently, uncertainty clear on her face.

Sandy rubbed a hand against the back of Eve's shoulder. “Isn't that good news, honey?”

Um...” Eve did not want to make the admission, but she saw no other choice. “What does that mean exactly?”

It means that everything is yours,” explained Sandy. “Their house. The car. Even some money. They left it all to you.”

Locklear lifted a finger. “One condition is given. You must utilize these resources in the raising of their adopted son. Jordan. There are still some legal processes that have to take place, but we wanted to make sure you knew.”

Pastor Revis looked at Eve questioningly. “Well, what do you think?”

Eve started to speak, but emotion overcame her. Even in death, they have given me everything I need.

I...I think I'm going to cry.”

Sandy hugged her as the two men stood.

You'll take care of everything, right Chandler?” Pastor Revis asked as he shook the lawyer's hand.

Certainly. They'll be some signatures needed, but nothing of great concern.”

Thank you, Chandler.”

You're welcome pastor.” The lawyer nodded to Sandy and Eve as he stepped away. “Good afternoon, ladies.”

Before he could make it out the door, Eve jumped up from her chair, dashed across the hall, and hugged him tightly. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

He returned her hug.

It's all going to be okay.

*

Eve felt relieved when she entered her home that night.

My home. It's still my home.

Wow. It's not just mine. It's...mine.

I've never owned anything as big as a house before.

Food had been brought by in exorbitant quantities over the past few days, which turned into a great blessing. She and Jordan would be able to eat for several days before she would have to get groceries. Or cook.

Oh. Cook.

Hmmm. That lawyer said there was money left to me. I wonder if there's enough money for Dairy Queen.

Um. How am I supposed to get to Dairy Queen? Maybe they deliver.

Eve stored the food and cleaned the kitchen after they ate. Jordan went to his room. Glad to finally not have any guests, Eve cleaned the living room. Then she cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the hall. Mary had taught her a lot about cleaning.

Then she popped popcorn and watched Disney movies.

*

Finally feeling tired, she went upstairs to her room. As she changed into her pajamas, she had a disappointing realization.

It's dark.

I have to sleep here. Without Richard or Mary. In the dark.

The shadows taunted her. The chirping of crickets outside sounded like evil whispers. She heard another noise. Is that a car? Why is there a car so close to the house? We're kind of far from the road. Wait. Maybe that's a woodpecker. They sound the same, right?

For the first time all day, she realized how alone she was. Her only friends in the world were dead.

In the back on her mind, one thought cycled over and over.

They're dead because of me. They're dead because I came into their life.

Sorrow overwhelmed her. Richard and Mary were such good people. They left me this house.

Right. They left me this big house in the middle of nowhere that gets really dark at night. And it takes a long time to clean. And they left me a car that I don't know how to drive. They even left me that really nice television and I don't even know how to work all three remotes.

In the still, intimidating night, she heard a saddened cry from down the hall.

They left me something else too.

Jordan.

Jordan's crying.

Each step down the hall made her heart heavier.

Why is he crying? I was so close to tears? I'm the one who needs to be comforted.

The jealousy made her feel guilty.

After opening the bedroom door to find the boy weeping beside his bed, she sat beside him and wrapped him in her arms.

I miss them, Gram.”

Eve wanted to cry, but she did not. She just held the boy tightly. Richard and Mary loved her enough to give her all of these things. She would take care of them. All of them.

Her voice steadily began to sing. “Rest my child and peace attend thee, all through the night.” The words rolled off her tongue. She held him and sang until the boy fell asleep in her arms. Then, unable to lift him, she had to wake him to get him into bed. She just lay down next to him and sang some more. When he fell asleep the second time, she did not get up. She just lay in bed with him, letting his breathing soothe her in the dark.

*

The food lasted three days, or rather two days and a breakfast. Eve forgot how much she could eat when food was so readily available. Jordan ate his share as well.

After calling Dairy Queen and confirming that they truly did not deliver, Eve decided to make supper for her and Jordan. He suggested macaroni and cheese.

Eve nodded. She liked macaroni and cheese as well. Unfortunately, there were no boxes of macaroni and cheese in the pantry. She did find spaghetti noodles. There was cheese in the refrigerator and a jar of spaghetti sauce in the pantry.

Spaghetti's similar to macaroni, right?

Spaghetti it is.

Eve turned the stove to four hundred fifty degrees. Feeling hungry, she increased it to five hundred. She took out the biggest pan she could find and dumped the whole box of spaghetti noodles into it. Fearing it was too full, she took a couple of handfuls of noodles and put them back into the box. Next, she covered the noodles with the whole jar of sauce. That seemed like too much as well, but since the sauce was harder to put back, she left it. Then she sprinkled cheese over it. She added more. After a third sprinkling of cheese, she put the pan in the oven.

Ten minutes? Maybe fifteen?

Anxious, she found Jordan in the living room watching cartoons. Snuggling beside him on the couch, she decided to watch it with him to make the time go by faster.

*

The fire alarm sounded simultaneously with the knocks on the back door. Eve woke with a start.

I must've fallen asleep. Is supper ready?

Then she noticed the smoke. “Ahh! The house is on fire! The house is burning!”

Startled, Jordan woke beside her. He noticed the smoke as well. He also heard the pounding on the door. Jumping up, he grabbed Eve by the arm. “Come on, Gram. Come on.”

No. It's on fire! Stay here.” She pulled away from him.

He reached after her. “Come on!”

No!” she screamed. “I don't want us to die!”

Jordan looked at her a moment, and then ran into the kitchen. Eve began to cry. It had only taken her three days to destroy everything that had been given to her.

She heard voices in the kitchen. Jordan had unlocked the door.

Sandy entered the living room and wrapped Eve in a hug. “It's okay. It's all going to be okay.” The words soothed Eve, but did not stop her from crying.

A few moments later, an exasperated Pastor Revis stepped into the living room with Jordan at his side. “Eve, what were you doing?”

Cooking spaghetti.”

He looked at her for a moment. Then he laughed. It was such a contagious laugh that soon they were all laughing.

Twenty minutes later, they were all in Pastor Revis' car on the way to Dairy Queen.

*

Sandy visited often after that. Another woman would often pick up Eve and Jordan for church services.

Different people helped, which made life easier. However, that did not mean life was easy.

Eve actually feared the help. She feared that they would find out the truth about her and Jordan.

Then her life would be gone again.

She remembered little about life before being invited to live with Richard and Mary. She remembered a few foster homes. She remembered being pregnant. Anything before that was a blank slate.

She did, however, remember a cell. A dark, lonely cell. She feared those memories.

On occasion, Mr. Locklear, the lawyer, would come by to have her sign more papers. He was always accompanied by Pastor Revis or Sandy. Mr. Locklear made her more nervous than anyone else. Something in his eyes worried her. He dealt with a lot of sensitive information. How much had the Blankenships told him?

Every time he entered the house, her heart beat faster. Would this be the time he pulled the rug from under her feet? He had been loyal to Richard, but Richard was dead. Would he maintain loyalty to her?

Without his help, though, she would never be able to leap the legal hurdles necessary to maintain the life that Richard and Mary had given her.

Only time would tell.

Eve feared each day, knowing that she could not live this charade forever.

*

Eve split the rice between her plate and Jordan's, putting a little more on hers. Despite her sadness that Dairy Queen did not deliver, she discovered two places that did deliver to her address. Considering how far out they lived, she considered that miraculous.

One place served pizza and the other Chinese food. Occasionally Joni McNeal, who kind of lived next door, would bring home some food from the deli she worked at as long as Eve tipped her at least five dollars.

Ordering pizza worked out as long as Eve didn't forget to only order banana peppers on only half the pizza. Jordan hated banana peppers and would not eat a slice if he suspected a banana pepper had even touched it.

Jordan sat at the table and looked at his plate of rice and chicken nuggets (from the Chinese restaurant). As Eve began to eat greedily from her plate, Jordan just stared at his.

Finally he exclaimed, “I don't want this! Cook some mac and cheese.”

Eve shook her head, still chewing her food. “No way. I don't think I'm allowed to cook spaghetti anymore.”

No! Not spaghetti! I want mac and cheese!”

No! You're ten. You can eat your rice!”

Well, you're a hundred and you can eat macaroni.”

Eat your nuggets, Jay!”

You eat 'em, Gram. I don't want 'em!”

I'm not going to eat your food. I have my food.”

Jordan crossed his arms and glared at her.

Eat!”

No!”

Yes!”

No!”

Fine!” Eve snatched a chicken nugget from his plate and shoved it in her mouth.

This tastes horrible.

Jordan uncrossed his arms. “Hey! That's mine!”

I'm yeatin' yit!” Eve replied, her mouth full.

Jordan lunged across the table, reaching for his nugget still in Eve's mouth. His fingernails scraped her chin.

Ahhh!,” she cried, shoving him away. He fell from his perch on the table, crashing to the floor.

You took my nugget!” he screamed.

Keep your stupid nugget!” she replied loudly, removing the chicken from her mouth. “It tastes like dog poo!” She threw it at him, nailing him in the head. It bounced off, leaving a wet spot in his hair.

A loud clearing of the throat caught both of their attentions. They turned to the door where, just outside the screen door, stood an elderly woman with thin gray hair. She held a plastic grocery bag in either hand and had a scowl on her face.

Neither recognized her, but Eve knew this was not good.

Don't eat that, Jordan,” the woman said, her voice stern and sour. “I'll make you some real food. It's okay now that Granny's here.” Her eyes bore into Eve. “Your real Granny.”

They just continued to stare.

The woman scowled. “Well, are you just going to stand there or are you going to open this blasted door for me!”

Eve, feeling like her true age, hopped up and obeyed the woman, primarily out of fear.

*

Eve had no idea what to do. Her territory had been invaded with no warning, and she had no idea how to defend it.

The older woman came into the house and swept through like a whirlwind. After sitting her bags on the counter, she scooped up the take-out food (even Eve's) and tossed it in the garbage.

Then she sat down, urged Jordan into her lap, and gave him a wrapped box from one of her bags. His eyes widened as he allowed her to embrace him.

Poor baby,” she said as he ripped off the paper to reveal a hand held video game. “You've never met your dear Granny. Well, I saw you once, but I don't think you'd remember that. Now my poor Mary and that husband of hers are gone. Here you are, all alone. Not to worry, now. Granny Fischer is here.”

After many more hugs and kisses, Granny Fischer sent Jordan off to play with the promise of a home-cooked meal in an hour or so.

As he ran off, greedily eying his new toy, Eve just stared at this woman whom she had never seen before.

Granny Fischer's warm demeanor vanished once the boy had both feet out the kitchen.

God best have mercy on the girl's soul, because I don't have any for her.” She glared at Eve. “I didn't even hear of their deaths till after the funeral. Then I come back to find this old bag of bones setting up shop in my daughter's house and acting like a grandmother to that boy. I don't know who you think you are, but I think it best you sink your claws into some other poor victim's home!”

Eve could barely keep up with what the woman was saying, but she fully understood the bitterness that dripped off her lips.

Mary was my friend,” she replied meekly. “And Richard too.” Her voice faded, along with her confidence. “My name is Eve.”

Well, Eve,” Granny Fischer snarled, “I understand that Mary had a lot of friends, but do I see them all shacking up in her house now that she's dead?”

I...they let me stay here. They helped me.” Eve did not know what to say. “I've been taking care of Jordan.”

Jordan was their adopted son, which makes him my grandson.” Her eyes were haughty and her tone was cruel. “I imagine your services here are no longer needed. The boy has family now.”

I thought I was his family. She's kicking me out? I...I have nowhere to go.

But...I'm...” What am I supposed to say? “You threw my food away. I'm hungry.”

You poor dear.” The woman's voice softened momentarily. “You don't have to leave right away. I'll give you until tomorrow morning. Then I expect you to go.”

Granny Fischer turned her back on Eve and proceeded to make dinner as if she were not there.

*

Eve laid in bed, not certain if she would ever get to sleep. She had expected this day since Richard and Mary's death, but now that it was here, nothing about it seemed right.

As simple as it was, her life was here. This was home. For all the ways she had expected it to end, she never expected it to come through a grouchy old woman overrun with bitterness.

It was a shame, too. Last night's supper was one of the best meals she had ever tasted. Even Mary couldn't cook that good. It's like Pastor Revis says in his sermons. Satan comes with grand temptations that are hard to turn away from. I think I finally understand what he meant. If Satan cooked, it probably tasted like Granny Fischer's cooking.

Therefore, Eve lay awake half the night, waiting to succumb to the poison.

She had not realized she had fallen asleep until she woke up. The sun shone brightly through the window of her room. It was much later than she usually woke up. For a moment, she wondered if she had imagined Granny Fischer. Then a familiar grunt from the hallway proved the woman was truly there.

That boy's been awake for two hours and you're just now stirring. God help us all. It's a good thing I got here when I did.”

Eve saw no reason to hide the truth. “I have no place to go.”

Is that my problem?”

Jordan appeared suddenly from the hallway. “Can I have some cereal?”

Yes.

No.”

Both women spoke simultaneously.

Granny Fischer shook her head. “I'll fix you something healthier for breakfast than cereal.”

But I always have cereal, don't I Gram?”

Before Eve could respond, Granny Fischer squatted down beside the boy. “I know you've been allowed some bad habits for a couple of weeks, but you need to come to me from now on. It's just going to be you and me.”

Concern covered Jordan's face. “What about Gram?”

She's leaving.”

No!” Jordan crossed the room and flung himself on her bed. “I don't want her to go.”

But Jordan...”

Gram lives here!”

Granny Fischer nodded. “Fine.” Her word was filled with anger. “You have two weeks. I'll expect you out of here by then.” She turned and walked down the hallway, her displeasure apparent.

*

Eve felt the happiest she had been since Richard and Mary had passed away as Jordan embraced her for a few more moments. Jordan had never expressed his love for her in such a manner. In her weakest moment, he loved her.

That day, her confidence grew at least two sizes.

 

Inheritance (Part 2): The Blazer Saga

May 1, 2015

*

Two days later, Eve walked into the kitchen to find Granny Fischer scraping breakfast – it looked like burnt scrambled eggs – into the trash can. She was muttering under her breath. Eve caught some of the words and blushed.

This stove. I can't cook like this. There is something wrong with it. Everything I cook scorches. I've never had such trouble with a stove in all my life.” She turned to Eve. “Does it do you like this? Scorch everything you try to cook.”

Um. Only when I ...


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