This story at Fictionpress.
A Story Across Years
Chapter ten: Fractures
It was better than Allison would have hoped for. The boys didn't ask why they hadn't been able to meet their other grandmother for so long. Marilyn didn't ask if they would like to grow up to be masked criminals.
By unspoken agreement, neither adult spoke of certain matters that now lay in the past, buried like so many corpses. Rotting, falling apart, and… perhaps nourishing the soil in which they rested.
Allison hadn't let herself recognize the hunger that had been growing in her for years. The hunger that was a betrayal of her father and herself, the hunger that was merely a different flavor of a kind that she had known for many years before she had stopped talking with her mother. The hunger for her family, no matter what she had learned about some of them.
Allison still loved her mother. Missed her. Secretly, she was glad that her sons had forced her hand.
Perhaps this was what children were for, to make parents rectify the mistakes of their pasts.
Her siblings began to speak to her again. It was slow, but Marilyn had been furious to learn that they had cut off contact at all, and they were cowed easily enough by her tone. There were times that Allison wondered if her mother was able to get her voice just right because she was a killer. Or perhaps she was simply a more experienced mother, with more time to perfect it, more children to handle (Allison wants to think "change," but doesn't know why), and less support from others.
It didn't matter. They were a family again. And Allison was able to forget.
It could never last, of course.
In the (beginning of the) end, It was Richie who came to her.
Marilyn would have pegged James to be the Querent, if she had known for sure that there would be one. Oh she had hoped that there would be one (that's why she had made the title in her mind) but she hadn't known for sure that there would. She kept silent as she knew Allison wanted her to, but she didn't take proactive measures to keep her grandchildren from finding out.
And it was one of her Allison's boys who found out, as she hoped would happen. Her other grandchildren didn't have the stuff for it. They wouldn't have survived the stress. A stint in the military might change that (she was especially encouraging to Rachel on that front) but for now there were no other good options. Her daughter could think what she would, but Marilyn would not put the legacy of Skeleton Scott above the psychological well-being of her family. Even Father hadn't pushed her into it.
Always their choice (perhaps Allison might even take up the role, as Marilyn had originally wanted nothing more than the simple life, but she feared that this was only wishful thinking).
But she had supposed that James would be the one to find out, if indeed anyone did. Sweet, reserved James, who spoke little but watched everything. Surely he would hang the clues together on a string of deduction and know who his grandmother was and her grandfather had been.
It was Richie instead. Brash, forward, bustling Richie, who talked much— and, Marilyn realized, listened as much as he spoke. Perhaps he could have exercised a little tact or caution rather than pose the question in front of his brother and mother, but Marilyn wasn't going to be remembered as a liar. She had only ever withheld the truth from her grandchildren, never substituted it.
So she told him. To her credit (for patience that is) she refused to discuss the subject any further that day. She knew that he would come back later. Perhaps James would come with him.
But Richie came alone. Marilyn didn't ask, but she wonders if they had talked about it before Richie approached her. Perhaps James had been the first to know. Or perhaps he had simply declined the invitation.
One thing was for sure. Family get-togethers had suddenly gotten very awkward.
Marilyn pretended to focus on her knitting. She knew her daughter. The girl needed time to adjust (but five months?). She intended to give whatever time was necessary.
And yet, this was the most perfect time to take the first step. Richie and James had left the house for the evening, and none of her other myriad descendants were visiting at the moment. With others in the house Allison might censor herself, if censorship were necessary, and that might mean that things needing saying would go unsaid.
Marilyn wasn't sure exactly what Allison needed to hear or say, or when, or how, but she would stack the deck in their favor. And there was something else that needed saying, for someone else's benefit.
"You're going to let Richie take up the mask when I get too old to wear it," she said.
Allison didn't turn to face her. "Is that a commandment, Mother?"
"An observation. I've been your mother for as long as you've been my daughter. Assume that I know a thing or two about you."
Allison sighed. She started scrubbing another dish. "I have to let them make their own choices. Or else…" She paused, and let her hands work in the sink. Another dish went through her hands before she spoke again. "Or else I'm no better than you and… Grandpa."
"Then you can't judge them, love. Or make them take sides against family."
Allison stopped. The plate in her hands was laid to rest on the bottom of the sink. She looked at her mother. "What are you saying?"
"I've watched how you interact with your boys. Nothing wrong with having a better dynamic with one of them than the other. You can't help that, now can you? James understood, and he didn't seem to hold it against you. Something about you was closer to Richie than him." Marilyn set her knitting aside. "But now things are different, and you have to recapture that. I don't think either of them has put it into words, yet, but they can feel that something's different. You're cooler toward Richie, and that's because he'll want to be Scott one day, even if he doesn't know it yet."
She walked to the sink and started cleaning the dish that her daughter had held. "You're making him choose between the two of us. Keep this up and James will feel like he has to choose between you and Richie. And how will you explain this to your husband?"
"That could blow up in any number of ways." Marilyn shook her head. "You have to be careful. I know that you'll always love Richie, but what you have to do is find out how to love Skeleton Scott too, or you'll hate a part of your family."