This story at Fictionpress.
A Story Across Years
Chapter eleven: Departures
Siblings always find something to disagree on. Something to have spats about. They grow distant from each other in little ways, and hopefully they come back together again and they're better for it.
Marilyn was the wedge that drove itself between them. No. Skeleton Scott was. And the wedge didn't drive itself. It never does.
Marilyn could have averted it, but how could she have been willing to? And it couldn't be placed squarely in her lap. James could have overcome. Richie could have overcome. Allison could have overcome.
It was nobody's fault. It was everybody's fault. Nobody, everybody, anybody- but nobody was talking to each other. That was something that could be determined with certainty.
James and Richie stood by each other. No, they stood each other, could stand each other, but to say that they stood by each other was to imply something more than what was literally meant. They stood close to each other, then. But they stood by their mother. For their mother.
For all that their mother had hated Marilyn, she had loved the woman too. Of anyone, Marilyn was the one that she could blame the least. Allison had tried to understand it, but she couldn't (or she had, but couldn't bear to stare into the darkness). Marilyn had been broken in some way, she determined. She hadn't had a chance. It was brainwashing, pure and simple.
Raised by Skeleton Scott, isolated from meaningful human contact for so many years, was it any wonder that Marilyn had been programmed so easily? Programmed was certainly the right word. The worst part of it, she thought, was that so far as Skeleton Scott could love her, he had loved her. It hadn't been an act. He had loved his daughter, and he had loved his grandchildren.
Allison wondered what he thought about all this, if he was in any state to think about it. If there was a life after death, it was pretty likely he was too busy burning. But then again, Grandfather was the sort of man who could ignore hellfire for his family. She wouldn't put it past him that he hadn't even noticed yet.
It was as if Skeleton Scott was a virus. And what could a virus do but spread? Grandfather passed it on, maybe unintentionally. He was just teaching her what he thought she needed to be safe. Truth be told, Allison thought as her mind went back to a long-past mugging, she couldn't argue that those skills hadn't been necessary. And how could the man teach her a morality that he didn't possess himself?
The inheriting of his mantle may very well have been the furthest thing from his mind. Allison couldn't say for sure. But he couldn't help passing on the skills and thoughts that would resurrect Skeleton Scott. And perhaps, perhaps Marilyn couldn't either. Brainwashed. Programmed. Infected. She had to do what she thought was right, and she had minded her boundaries, Allison had to admit. She had been quiet until someone had asked, and that was really all that Allison could have asked for and expected to get.
Now it had gotten her boy. But he was still her boy. Marilyn had made sure that she recognized the distinction. She had to be able to look at Richie's face and not see Skeleton Scott's mask.
And now he was in so much danger. Her Richie, poor Richie.
There was another one, now. The Spook. A killer, like Scott. Killing the masked criminals, every one of them that he found. Dismantling the gangs that Scott so carefully tried to regulate, choosing a power vacuum over dealing with devils.
Scott's antithesis. Destroyer. Dismantler. Chaos.
Uncompromising, Allison thought. In another world, she might have applauded him. But in this world Skeleton Scott had been her Grandfather, had been her mother, was now her son. In another world… But in this world, she worried.
In this world, she mourned, and thought of the future and the past.
This had started with Marilyn, this had started with Grandfather, this had started but a few years ago when Richie put the jigsaw back together and asked his grandmother one terrible, solitary question. This had started a few months ago. This hadn't even started yet. It all depended on what "this" was.
But one thing was sure. This was going to come to an end.
If Allison could have known of her ignorance, she would have blessed it. It would all come crashing down soon enough, but could the world wait to end until she had passed away? Of course it could.
The end of the world is actually pretty polite, when you get down to it. Especially when it's just a little end.
And in the end, a different end, the end that was right here, Allison found that she could turn her heart inside-out and empty it. Empty it of the hate. Empty it of the love. But the hate ran out and the love continued to flow, full of forgiveness. Because this was an end, right now, right here. The end of her mother, six feet under while the rain poured and the winds blew like the storm that blew down the foolish man's house in some old parable.