Secret Grandma

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story focuses upon a girl named Cheryl who is trying to find out who her grandmother really is.

Submitted: October 24, 2011

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Submitted: October 24, 2011

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Secrets

I flip my hair behind my ear, beads of sweat forming on my forehead. My high school really should get air-conditioning. I am just finishing up the math test as I hear the phone ring. I roll my eyes. It is probably time for another one of those regular lice checks, and I am so close to finishing the test. Well, the test is just going to have to wait for another day. Or not.

"Cheryl? The phone is for you," my teacher says in his gruff voice.
"Thanks." I take the phone from Mr. Ives, hoping it will be a short call. After math class is the end of school, and I have a very important party to attend. Actually, I pretty much have "very" important parties to go to at the end of almost every day. I am, after all, the most popular girl in my high school.
"Hello? Who is this?" I ask, wondering who would be calling me in the middle of class.
"Cheryl, right? Well your Grandmother Beth is in the hospital. She's dying, okay? We assume you're going to visit her, okay?" The person on the phone is annoying me by constantly saying "Right?" and "Okay?" But that is not what I am focused on at the moment. My Grandma Beth was in the hospital? There must've been some kind of mistake. My only grandmother, (my mom's mom) Grandma Frank, lived miles away.
You might be wondering about my other grandmother. I had asked about my dad's mom multiple times, but all that my dad ever told me was that she was dead and that I shouldn't bother to ask any more questions about my grandma, that it brought back bad memories. I was always curious about my grandma (my dad wouldn't even tell me her name), but I learned to let it go when I graduated middle school. I decided to take my Lexus and drive down to the hospital, to see who this grandma really was.
"Mr. Ives?"
"Yes, Cheryl?"
"Can I finish my test tomorrow? That was the hospital telling me that my grandmother was dying. Would it be fine if I skip the last few minutes of school and drive down to see my grandmother?" I try to act all sad about it, and I'm still not sure if I pull it off, but I knew he couldn't say no. Who would refuse to let his student visit her dying grandmother? Plus Mr. Ives was a really nice teacher, so I knew he would let me.
"Of course, Cheryl! I'm so sorry about your grandmother, I hope she feels better soon!" I am already out of my seat and heading towards my Lexus (whom I call Lexi) as Mr. Ives finishes his sentence. My "grandmother" isn't going to feel better any time soon; she is dying, not sick. I am determined, once and for all, to find out the story behind my other grandmother. And to do that, I need to get to the hospital before she passes away, all the secrets of my life going with her.
I know I am going way above the speed limit, as I hit the gas pedal. Anyways, why did it matter in the first place? No one is there, no other car drivers or bus drivers, and there are definitely no police. Trust me, I checked for the police. There was going to be no way that I am going to lose the opportunity to find out about my family secrets because of a stupid ticket.
I pull into the hospital's parking lot, practically slamming Lexi's doors shut as I exit the car. At the last second, I remember to lock the doors. As far as I know, there is only one thing at that point that I am really grateful for. I wore my sneakers today and not my usual three-inch, red heels that I thought went well with my hair. It was cooler outside now that I wasn't inside the hot walls of high school, I think as I race through the emergency room's doors.
There's a young lady, probably twenty-something, sitting at the front desk typing like crazy. I wonder if she can hear me as I ask about Beth. Finally, after what seemes to be hours of waiting, she tiredly looks up at me.
"Are you family?" She asks, sleepily. "Only family can visit during these hours."
"Umm…Yes, I'm her granddaughter." Somehow it feels right saying that, that she is my grandma. I am also happy she isn't dead yet, so that I could question her.
"Identification, please?"
"Wait a second…" I fish out my driver's license from my pocket, annoyed at how much security there was at the hospital. I mean, what do they think the visitors will do? Kill someone? (Well, maybe, but that's not the point…)
"All right, Cheryl James, you may go in now. Through the doors, to the left and the second room you see, room 124." As if a machine programmed to type, she finishes talking right after she starts to type mechanically again.
I quietly go through the big, glass doors leading to my grandmother. I quickly look through the first door on my left and see a mother sigh with pleasure at her newborn baby girl. I look away, not wanting them to notice me intruding their privacy. Too late.
"Who's there?" I hear a low voice ask, probably the baby's father. I ignore the question and practically burst into the second room, room 124. Finally. I was here. Where all the answers lie.
"Beth?" No reply.
"Grandma Beth?" I hear a tiny moan of pain and then an answer.
"Cheryl? Is that really you? Come here, my girl, come here. I haven't seen you in so long…" The voice trails off.
"Beth? Are you okay? Do you want me to call the nurse?"
"No, no sweetie, just come here; I want to touch your beautiful red hair!" Truthfully, It was starting to get a little bit creepy. Am I really going to let a random woman touch my hair? Okay, maybe she isn't random as she knew my name, but still…
All my doubts fade as I look at her. I finally understand where my flaming hair came from, my mysterious grandmother. I quietly and quickly come over to her side, letting her nimble hands touch mine.
"Beth, I was wonder…"
"Please, Cherry-girl, call me Betty."
"Okay then, Betty, how come I never knew about you? I thought you were dead!" I didn't mean to raise my voice at the end of the sentence, but it just came out that way. And as I say it, I realize I meant it--I was really, really mad. What grandmother lets her granddaughter think she doesn't exist?
Immediately, Betty's hand shot away from mine. For such a small woman, I never expected her to have such speed.
"Please don't be mad at me, Cherry; I always wanted to come over to your house and talk to you, but your daddy wouldn't let me. It's all for good reason, Cherry, I wish I could tell you why." She gives a small cough, and I know her life is coming to a close. Before she dies, I need to find out about my past.
"If you tell me why, I'll forgive you; otherwise, I won't!" As I yell the last word, I can hear the heartbeat monitor beep faster and louder. I barely notice when a nurse walks into the room, grabbing my hand and starting to drag me out of the room. "Tell Me! What about my daddy? Tell Me!" I yell one last time, a feeble attempt to get to the truth.
"Cherry…" she rasps, "Talk to your dad. He can tell you everything if you really want to know!” Those were her last words. I am going to ask my dad and find out. As the doctors and nurses carry her body out, I whisper in to Betty's ear "I forgive you."
I slowly, as if I am a zombie, walk out of the room which smells like blood. How am I going to approach my dad and ask him about my grandma? Imagine: “Hey dad! So I just talked to your mom and the grandma you never told me I had, and she told me you had something to do with keeping this from me. Would you finally tell me the truth?” I don’t think that would’ve gone so well.
I drive Lexi home. My parents are waiting for me outside my house.
"Where were you?" Both my mom and dad say practically simultaneously.
"The school called and said that…" My dad starts off.
"You got a phone call from the hospital and…" That’s mom.
"You missed school for the rest of the day…" That’s dad.
"And we missed you so much; are you okay?!" Mom finishes off. God, it could be so annoying how they finish each other's sentences. Sometimes it could be very helpful like one time in my first year of high school when I wanted to go to a party:
"You absolutely may…" Dad started off
"Go to the party!" My mom finished for him hurriedly. If mom had let dad decide about the party, I definitely wouldn't have been allowed to go.
I roll my eyes. "Mom, Dad, I'm fine. It was nothing." They look at me disbelievingly. "Fine! What do you want to know? I'm tired; just hurry up!" That got them worked up.
"Where did you go?" Dad asks madly, but he seems worried.
"To the hospital! Where'd you think I went?"
"Who? Who from our relatives do we know who lives in California?" My mom asks, truly not knowing what is going on, but dad is looking more worried than ever. He knows everything.
"Daddy," I say sweetly, "Do you know what's going on?" I smile at him, but he could see through the smile.
"Honey, I need to talk to Cheryl. Alone." My dad turns to my mom who is frowning and trying not to act hurt.
"Of course! I'll let you two have your privacy." My mom leaves my dad and I staring at each other.
"So? Who was this mystery visitor?" My dad asks. I assume he's hoping it's not who he thinks it is.
"Dad, I think you already know." He becomes stern as I suspected he would. I've learned before that there are four stages parents go through in a situation like this:
  1. Pretending to not know what's going on. (Denial)
  2. Becoming angry for no apparent reason
  3. Softening his/her voice to get the answers he/she is looking for, and finally
  4. Admitting everything to his/her daughter/son.

You might think the list is funny and childish, but it's actually true. Dad has already gone through the first two stages, and it was time for the third.

"Please tell me who you saw in the hospital? I really want to know, tell me, won’t you please?" Here was stage three, trying to pry the information out of me.
"I don't want to tell you. But I think you can already guess." I nod to him to let him know he should start talking. It seems as if my murky green eyes bore right into him, because he is looking uncomfortable.
"Fine! It was Grandma Beth you saw, wasn't it?"
I hear a gasp coming from behind me. Not surprisingly, my mom was eavesdropping. As usual.
"But…but…Grandma Beth? Who's she?" my mom whispers. It must be really upsetting to have no idea what is going on.
"Yeah, dad. Tell mom who she is, will ya?" I laugh inside. My dad finally has to tell the truth. He had been lying all those years to my mom and me, and now, finally, the truth is going to come out.
"Honey, I'm so sorry. My mom…she's not actually dead.” My mom is at a loss for words; she is so surprised. And maybe even a bit disappointed that her husband would lie to her about such an important matter.
"Who is she?" My mom finally asks after a pause.
"Grandma Beth…Well, she's my mom and Cheryl's grandma for starters." My dad answers, but my mom and I know he is leaving out some important details.
"Then why have you never told us about her?" My mom demands.
"She…she is mentally ill." My dad starts out, and I interrupt.
"So that's why she seemed so retarded, asking to touch my hair and saying that you wouldn’t let her in the house." It is all starting to make sense. My dad didn't tell me about her because he was scared that she'd hurt me in some way. Though I didn't know why my dad hadn't told my mom about it.
"Yes, she's mentally ill, but she can still think. She just thinks…differently.”

“There’s more to this story, isn’t there?” I ask.

"Tell us everything," my mom sternly tells dad.
"I have a brother, actually a twin. His name is Karl. Ever since he was a toddler, he was always a troublemaker. Not your usual kind. Not a kid who puts bubblegum in his hair and then does the same for his twin brother. No, he was different. He was always quiet. He always stayed in his room and almost never came out. He didn't eat dinner with my mom and me; we didn’t even know where he got his food! As he grew older, he grew better. Or so it seemed. Karl got straight A's in school; he was always polite. I knew it was all just an act. How could my mother not see that? But my mom and my friends all thought that he was getting better. Not even close. One time, Karl and I were left home alone. My mother had to go to a meeting with her shrink. I approached my brother and asked him why he was lying by pretending that he was well-behaved. 'I am doing well, what more can you ask for?' He replied. 'I know it's all just an act! Tell me the truth!' I started yelling at him to stop lying to his family and friends. He just gave me this sickening look. 'You don't have any proof. You can't do anything about me.'" My dad took a breath. His voice shook from talking about his brother, and I knew there wasn't going to be the happy ending that everybody had hoped for.
"What happened then?" I ask my dad, curious.
"Karl…he died. In high-school he got really sick. It was pneumonia. It didn't have to kill him but we found about it when it was too late, and the doctors couldn't do anything. He got worse and worse, and finally he died. It affected my mother in such away I can't even describe. Before Karl, my mom was still mentally ill, but she could understand things. She could tie her shoes; she could talk normally without slurring, and she could think almost properly." I could see a tear going down my dad's eye; he was probably recalling memories about his mother.
"Go on," my mom urges Dad, and she hugs him.
"After Karl…passed away, she got worse and worse. Finally, she needed help with the little things, like tying her shoes or cooking dinner. She couldn't do any of that. I never told you about her because I was scared that you'd want to find about her, and you'd see that she was mentally ill."
"So what, so she's mentally ill?" I couldn't understand why it was such a big deal.
"I thought you'd see me as a bad person because of my mother, that maybe you'd think I was ill, too. And if you would find out about my brother I thought that you'd think of me badly. That maybe you'd think I also have pneumonia and that I would have passed it on to Cheryl. You don't think that, do you?" My mom smiles sweetly at my dad.

"I would never, ever have thought that. You're the love of my life! And I'm sorry about your mother, and your brother. But you still shouldn't have kept all of this from us. Think about how Cheryl felt all those years. All the other kids in her school visiting their grandma's house, and Cheryl didn't have any grandma living nearby to visit."

"Mom! I can talk for myself. Dad, you really should have told us." I think I can hear my mom muttering under her breath that she said the exact same thing.

"I know, I know. I kept on planning to tell you but there was never a perfect time." My dad's voice is sad, and I know he truly means it.

"Excuse." My mom and I mutter at the same time, and we all start laughing and my dad even starts to cry, probably with happiness of getting everything of his chest.

At the end of the day, in my room, I realize that my goal is finally complete. I finally found out the truth. I didn't have to wonder anymore about my family's past, and you know what? It felt really good.


© Copyright 2017 Detective Rose. All rights reserved.

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