A/N: Two things. First, this is another long one, but it was necessary—you’ll see why. They’ll be a more manageable length again after this one though. Second, sometimes I really hate this game. Writing a legacy that’s half game-based and half story-based is usually a great thing—it makes for great inspiration when I’m stuck on a story line. But sometimes, the game gets in the way of the story and not only annoys me, but makes me cry. I literally cried when this happened in the game. Enjoy, I guess? And don’t blame me for what happens 😛
Janelle: “Dammit. Negative again.”
We’re going to skip forward in the story a bit, Jane Anne, because honestly, the first months of my marriage to Derek weren’t that interesting. Mostly because we spent most of that time apart.
Here’s the thing: Derek doesn’t travel for business often. But when he does, he travels a lot. Like, all over the place, all over Europe, going to conferences and speaking at universities and making appearances and charity functions. It’s half business work, and half appointments he has to keep due to his social standing (I hoped, at the time, that I would someday be lucky enough to go out on those appointments with him—I would have loved going to Europe).
Anyway, the result of these many appointments was two things: one, we didn’t see each other for about three months, which isn’t really the best kind of honeymoon; and two, while he was gone, Derek met with some of his relatives.
Derek’s family in the States isn’t large, but apparently the branches of his family tree spread out all across Europe. In other words, he has a lot of extended family he’s obligated to meet. One of these family branches that he stayed with while in Zurich were his cousins, the Damasios. This was an especially important appointment to keep, because the youngest Damasio had recently become the only; Reginald Damasio was Derek’s first cousin, only eighteen years old, and his parents and siblings had died in a fire.
Reginald Damasio, as it turned out, was not a well-adjusted young man. He desperately wanted to come to the States, to escape from the sad memories of his family home.
So to the states came Reginald, to stay in Derek’s home.
It was without much warning, then, though some precedent in Derek’s eyes, that one morning I was greeted by construction workers in my family home, who had started tearing down the outer walls.
Apparently, by Derek’s order, his cousin was going to occupy his own familial home from now on, and Derek would come occupy our property. Which meant that the home required some changes—to him, upgrades.
I won’t say I hated it…
But it was odd. Though my whole family was staying there, they were relocated to an in-law suite out back, and the entire main house (a huge expanse of space) was relegated to solely me and Derek. Which meant, while he was gone, only me.
Luckily, by this point in the story (now that you’re all caught up, and probably bored from the backstory interlude), Derek had returned, and my loneliness had abated somewhat. Nevertheless, the house still didn’t feel like home. It was the home that I knew, that was for sure. It was crisp and clean and shiny and bright, and mostly places looked largely unlived in, and it wasn’t… familial.
Maybe that’s just because it lacked family.
So, to no protest from Derek, we had been trying for children.
Janelle: “How can I still not be pregnant?”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t as fertile as my oops-I’m-pregnant mother.
I’d tried all the tricks: eat more, eat less, eat apples, eat bananas, work out daily, work out never, woohoo upside down. So far, nothing had worked. Derek wasn’t concerned—he was open to children, and knew they were necessary for his family line to continue, but he wasn’t devoted to the idea of family like I was. His life quest lay more in wealth and ambition, in the style of the rest of his family. But each time I took the test and failed to see a plus sign, I was devastated.
Luckily, Derek had been good so far at keeping me distracted by providing me with a wealth of tasks to keep on top of. He was accustomed to a certain way of life, after all, and he didn’t want to lose that just because he was married now.
Step One: Wake up before Derek.
Step Two: Prepare breakfast.
Janelle: “Quiche will be good this morning.”
Step Three: Wake up Derek.
Derek: “Janelle? Where was my wake-up call? You’re slacking again.”
Step Four: Serve Derek breakfast.
Janelle: “Oh, Derek! Breakfast is almost ready.”
Derek: “That would be great if I weren’t awake yet. As it is, I don’t have time for breakfast. I have to leave in fifteen minutes.”
Derek: “Dinner better be ready when I get home, Janelle!”
Step Five: Enjoy breakfast and conversation with my husband.
Janelle: “Dammit. One day I’ll get this right.”
As much as I appreciated the distraction from my childlessness, it would have been a better distraction if I was actually any good at being a wife. I wasn’t horrible, but it seemed like every day I was doing something wrong. Either I wouldn’t wake him up on time, or dinner would be ready late, or my hair wouldn’t be right, or the house wouldn’t be clean enough.
It was something to work towards, at least. That was something I knew I was good at. Striving for something, pursuing what I wanted. It was a little harder to motivate myself when it was what Derek wanted, and not myself, but I was making progress anyhow.
Janelle: “I’ll get it.”
In the meantime, it would have been helpful if someone in my family were actually supportive.
Janelle: “Ah, this is nice.”
Apollo: “Hey, Janelle. You look exhausted! Did your hubbie have you up before dawn again?”
B: “You really shouldn’t let him push you around like that, darling. You’re stronger than that, and he’s not worth it if you’re not happy.”
Janelle: “Oh my Creator, you guys are the worst. Of course I’m happy! I’m tired because I woke up early, because I wanted to. I like waking up early. Why do you guys always have to get on my case?”
Apollo: “Yeah… you like waking up early… the girl who slept until 4 in the afternoon on weekends likes waking up early…”
Janelle: “Shut up, Apollo. Why are you even still here? You’re an adult and shit, fully grown. You going to mooch of my husband’s fortune your whole life, or are you going to go do something with yourself?”
Apollo: “Wow, uncalled for. You know I’m working my way up to astronaut; and I am working. But either way, I won’t stay here forever, and neither will Hari or Leolin. We’re just waiting for Leolin to turn eighteen, so that we can all move out together.”
B: “What was that about my babies moving out?”
Apollo: “Don’t worry about it, Mom. It won’t be for a while yet.”
See, Jane Anne? They were horrible. Sticking their nose in where it wasn’t wanted, staying around where they didn’t belong. I could appreciate their desire to stay with Leolin—I would have killed the both of them if they left without him—but at the same time, I kind of wanted them to leave him here. I loved my brothers, to the extent that one naturally loved family, but I adored Leolin. He always understood me. He always had my back. He was the only one who Derek let in the main house, even, because he was so supportive and well behaved and understood the desire for high status and aristocracy. At the same time, though, he was so sweet and innocent. He adored Mom and Leo, saw no fault in them—in anyone, really.
So as much as I got why Hari and Apollo were staying for him? I really wanted them to leave. So Leolin, when he grew up, could stay.
This wasn’t to be.
But how I wished it had been. As much as I adore my own children, and appreciate my husband, it was refreshing to maintain that sense of freedom and playfulness that always pervaded my mother’s house when my brothers and I were children. As much as I resented her—I missed and still miss that play.
Apollo had it.
Leolin had it too.
One afternoon, following my regular swim with my family in the pool while Derek was at work, I returned to the house to nap. This was a regular routine for me now. With as early as I woke up, and Derek’s strict rule about not leaving his side (unless excused) once he returns home from work, I needed a midday break to ensure that I’d be able to power through until Derek went to bed.
The rest of my family was playing in the pool still. I had actually regretted going indoors that day, as Leolin had just returned from his day at high school, and had decided that he would spend a little time in the pool as well before starting on his homework. It was a Friday, after all—the kid needed a bit of fun.
I wish I hadn’t left him.
I wish I had stayed.
I wished that Leolin had been able to stay with me for the rest of his life.
That was the wrong wish to wish.
In that twisted way of wishes, I got what the semantics said I wanted.
He should have gone with Hari and Apollo. He should have grown up, gotten a job, pursued science—he loved science. He was going to be a chemist—he had already decided, started applying to schools.
I didn’t wake up until I heard my mother’s scream—sharp, piercing, a note beyond comprehension—from beyond the walls of the estate.
B: “No, please. Not my baby. Take me, take me, not my baby.”
Reaper: “You dare request this of me, puny human?”
B: “Please please please, you took my mom, my mother, you took everyone when I was as young as he is. But this is so much worse. So much worse.”
Reaper: “You should have protected him better, then.”
Reaper: “There is no persuading Death. What’s done is done.”
By the time I had run from the house, still in my nap pajamas, the deed had been done. He was gone, an urn all the remained. My mother and brothers were weeping against each other, holding onto each other closely.
Leo had been at work. He was unable to say goodbye to his only son.
Creator, I wish against all wishes that Leolin had gone to live with Apollo and Hari. Creator, I wish.
That night, eyes still crusted over with tears, face red and puffy, with the knowledge that out in the in-law suite my mother and Leo were planning the funeral of their youngest son, my baby brother, I tried to prepare dinner from my husband. I knew it would be late. But the routine of it all was the only thing that kept me from breaking down in an infinite stream of tears.
Derek: “Janelle. There’s no food on the table. I thought I made myself clear this morning.”
Janelle: “I’m so sorry, Derek, but…”
I explained the situation to my husband. I expected a hug. Or at least a comforting pat on the shoulder.
Derek: “I’m sorry for your family’s loss, Janelle, but that’s no excuse to let your duties go. Above all, you are a wife—my wife—not an older sister. Though as a sister you may feel grief, you must above all feel duty to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”
Janelle: “You can’t be serious! My brother just—he just—hours ago. Hours ago. And you want me to… You can’t be serious!”
Derek: “I am utterly serious. Don’t let this happen again, Janelle. Loss is inevitable. It cannot get in the way of what must be done.”
Derek: “Now come along upstairs. Dinner will be late, and is therefore worth nothing. I believe you’re ovulating?”
Janelle: “You can’t be serious—“
Derek: “Now, Janelle. Or are you not committed to being my wife anymore? To raising my children?”
Lost in a daze of confusion and devastation and loss, I didn’t know what to do but follow Derek’s lead. In this moment, I was entirely in the dark. I didn’t know where to go, or to whom to turn, and the person who I should have been able to rely on was guiding me in a way I didn’t understand.
But he was the only one guiding me. It was all I knew to do.
I laid there. It was all I knew to do.
And, of course, that was the night that we conceived.
A life for a life? Is that what the world was trying to tell me, Jane Anne? I don’t know. I don’t care to know, and I didn’t then either.
All I knew is that my world was spinning, and I was watching from afar, wrapped in devastation and wanting nothing more than to hide from the fact that my innocent brother—my baby Leolin, the only one in my entire family who understood me and cared for me without condition.
He was gone. Forever.
And Derek might be the only one I knew to follow now, but Derek be damned if he told me we were not naming our first child Leolin.