This story is by AA Brown and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Anna sat stiffly in her chair, staring out the large windows of the conference room. The receptionist had shown her into the rather large room several minutes ago, apologizing that the appointments were behind schedule.
She was startled when the door suddenly opened. Swinging her chair around, Anna was surprised when her younger sister came into the room.
Taking a seat on the opposite side if the table from Anna, Kathy placed her designer purse on the table, straightened her classic suit jacket, sitting back stiffly.
“Anna”, Kathy said into the constrained silence. Anna just continued to stare at Kathy.
“Why are you here?” Anna finally asked, her voice low and husky as if she didn’t use it often. Kathy stiffened even further in chair as she let her annoyance show.
“You really didn’t think I wouldn’t come when Mom called?” Kathy disdainfully responds. “If it concerns Mom, of course, I would come.”
Anna sighs, turning back to look out the large windows again.
“Mom said you moved out,” Kathy started then stopped when a slow smile lifted the corners of Anna’s lips.
“Do you think this is a good time for you to move and leave Mom alone?” Kathy asked sharply.
“I moved out eight months ago.” Anna said without looking at Kathy, continuing to look out the windows. Kathy looked down at her hands, frowning. Anna glanced over at her, waiting. Kathy looked up, catching Anna’s eye,
“She called a few weeks ago,” Kathy finally said. “She made it sound like you have just moved. She was upset.”
Sitting in silence, both each lost in their childhood memories. No two people ever shared the same experience alike. Each person has a different perspective of what happened and how it affected them. This was a self-realization that Anna had started to embrace.
A knock at the door made both women jump. The receptionist stepped in, holding onto the door. Looking directly at Anna, bypassing Kathy to her chagrin.
“Your mother called. She said she would be here shortly.” Anna gave a nod and a quiet thank you to the receptionist.
“I think you need to move back in with Mom.” Kathy spoke into the quiet that filled the room. She watched as Anna recoiled slightly.
“Mom needs someone there to help her with the house, keep things organized, help her manage her money,” Kathy spoke quickly. Anna took a deep breath and turned her chair until she faced Kathy directly.
“Mom does well enough. She is in complete control of her life and her home.” Anna said in her low voice. She willed herself to keep her body relaxed.
“Why don’t you move back in with Mom?” Anna threw that out to Kathy. She watched as Kathy stiffened even further, her lips tightly pinched.
“My career starting to take off. I simply cannot leave to come back here,” Kathy said in a tightly controlled voice.
“You wouldn’t have to pay rent. I’m sure Mom would be ok with you helping out with groceries,” Kathy added, gesturing with her hand towards Anna. She jerked back when Anna started to laugh.
“Why are you laughing? I though you would jump at the chance to not have to pay like the rest of us adults do,” Kathy said with acidity in her voice.
“I know we grew up in the same house. Why you think I have never paid Mom is hilarious. She started charging me rent and groceries when I got my first job as a waitress at fifteen. She took most of what I earned until Mr. Franco realized what she was doing and started holding my pay. He became my bank. I don’t know what he told Mom when she went to my pay, I do remember Dad and Mom arguing about it later. Dad told her to never embarrass him again with his friends.” They were divorced within a year.
Kathy heard the ring of truth in Anna’s voice. Shaking her head, she tried to reconcile what she remembered of their childhood. All three of them had had part time jobs as teenagers. Mom had never asked Kathy for money.
Anna watched the play of emotions run across Kathy’s face. She knew the shared memories that Kathy was going through but the perspective was changing. Anna relaxed further back into her chair and waited.
The conference room door opened suddenly, startling them both. Their grandmother, mother, and brother all walked into the room. They sat down quickly. Anna looked at each of them, shaking her head, she again waited.
“Mom, why are you here?” Anna watched as their mother asked their grandmother. She smiled slightly when their grandmother sat straight as an arrow with her purse clutched tightly between her hands, resting in her lap. These two women had been fighting for the last twenty-five years, ever since Anna was born.
“Not important for you to know why,” their grandmother said shortly. Nodding to herself as if making her mind up about something, she turned to Anna.
“Anna, I’ve a letter for you,” she started.
“Mom, don’t,” their mother half rose out of her chair, sitting back down only when Peter grasped arm, shaking his head at her. She sat back down lips pursed tightly, her eyes narrowing in anger.
“I hoped this day would never come but it has. We have no choices here,” she said pragmatically. She opened her purse, took out an envelope and slid it down the table to Anna. Closing her purse, she sat back and waited.
They all jumped as the door opened. A slender, grey haired woman entered the room. She wore a simple silk blouse, simple linen pants, and carried a think folder in her hands. Moving down towards Anna, she sat at the opposite end of the table closest to Anna.
‘Good afternoon everyone. My apologies for the delay.” She started and smiled when everyone nodded back at her. Opening the thick file, she looked over at Anna and smiled a little sadly.
“I’m sorry Anna. No one in your immediate family is a bone marrow match,” she started to say more but was interrupted by Kathy.
“Anna? What do mean Anna?” Kathy demanded. She looked at Anna’s sympathetic face and then looked over at their mother, who sat straighter, her face becoming tighter in annoyance.
“Mom? You told me it was you who needed…”, Kathy’s voice tapered off into silence.
“I needed you to come back and talk sense into your sister. Make her see reason to move back in with me.” She said, sticking her chin out and sliding her eyes from Kathy to Anna.
“You lied to me. Made me think it was you who was sick!” Kathy said in angry disbelief. She thought their mother had favored Anna. Reality was that she had used Anna because she had not fought back. Their mother had just wanted someone she could boss around and keep under her thumb. Glancing at Peter, he sat looking down at the table, not surprised at all. Kathy knew in that moment, how she had buried her head in the sand.
The doctor sensed undercurrents, however, she had a job to do and needed this conversation back on track. Shuffling some of the papers, she regained everyone’s attention and continued as if uninterrupted.
“We will, of course, start looking through the national data base but sibling matches are usually best with the type of leukemia you have,” the doctor said to Anna directly.
Anna fingered the envelope her grandmother had given her. Taking a deep breath, she opened it and read the single page letter. Closing her eyes for a moment, she opened them, glancing at her grandmother she nodded.
“I have a name. I know who my biological father is, I have half siblings that I will need to contact,” Anna said softly, not missing the gasp that came from Kathy. Looking over at her, Anna smiled gently at Kathy with empathy.
“It’s a lot to take in. I found out nine months ago just after I was first diagnosed,” Anna said towards Kathy.
“Who are you?” Kathy asked hesitantly.
“I’m your cousin. Our grandparents made your mom and dad take me in when my mother, your mom’s youngest sister died in childbirth. She was only fourteen. Once I found out, our childhood started to make sense. Why Mom, your mom, resented me and treated me so differently than you or Peter.” Anna said matter-of-factly.
Closing her eyes, Kathy sat back in her chair. The constraint that had always existed between Anna and herself suddenly made sense. They had been taught to dislike each other their whole lives by one person. That same person who couldn’t let go of her own resentments against a helpless baby. She sat up and turned towards the end of the table, locking her eyes on one person.
“Mom?!” was all Kathy said.