Closing my eyes, I inhale.
“Count down from 100, Mrs. Oakley,” the surgeon says.
“100, 99, 98…”
Falling into the arms of the sedative, I realize I, Jannet Oakley, am finally outdoing my sister, Melody. I know that’s a little twisted, but then, I am the fruit of my family’s warped tree.
As I wander into sleep a twenty year old memory comes into view. I’m eight years old and building a mud castle. I can see my mom through the family room window. The sun is catching the streaks of gray in her hair and she’s arguing with my sister, Melody.
Mom opens the door to the backyard. “Jannet! Inside, now.”
Melody laughs as I step inside. “She looks like a turd.” Taking a step, she falls on her face.
As I help her up, mom smiles at me like she only does when I’m doing something for Melody. I roll my eyes, Melody is high enough to touch the clouds on her latest drug buy, but to our parents she’s still better than their surprise that ruined retirement, me.
“I’ll get her a snack.” I say.
“There’s a mug of coffee on the counter, bring that too, Jannet.”
“I think Toby might win that city council seat, honey,” my dad says as he comes into the room.
I bring a tray of peanut butter crackers and the coffee and set it in Melody’s lap.
“This is his first step toward the presidency of the nation.” Our mom says. “The past has a way of rising up when elected to higher office. If Melody will ever be any sort of a first lady, we have work to do.”
Melody laughs, kissing the top of my head. “It’s always about you, isn’t it, Mother?”
“Jannet,” Dad says, picking up his pipe, “go to your room.”
“Jannet,” Mom says, “Jannet, Jannet…”
I open my eyes and 1986 fades into 2014.
“Nod if you can hear me.” The surgeon says
“Your procedure went well, the liver is headed to Melody now.”
I sigh as I’m pulled back into sleep.
“Leave her alone. She’s still asleep.” My husband, Preston, says.
I struggle into consciousness. I’m in a private hospital room. There’s no way I can afford it. My husband is arguing with a black suit. Rubbing my eyes, I shake the haze from my mind. “What’s going on?”
“Mrs. Oakley, I need you to sign some paperwork.”
“Paperwork?” I try to set up and grab my stomach as fire spreads over my core.
“Stay still, Jannet!” Preston presses me gently into the pillow. “She’s not signing anything.”
“I’m sorry, but I have to insist.” My brother-in-law, Toby, strides in. He takes my hand, a grin befitting the Cheshire Cat covering his face. “You saved Melody’s life today, and I appreciate that. Unfortunately, I’m still a senator, and the press is still after me, so I need to be certain you’ll keep family matters private.”
“Now Preston, we all know Jannet is a good girl, but I don’t need family business spattered in headlines.”
“Oh, don’t look at me like that, Jannet, I’m paying the press enough as it is. I want to be sure I can trust you, or that if I can’t you’re legally bound to be trustworthy.”
I free my hand and pinch the bridge of my nose. “What is there to tell? She hasn’t done anything in decades.”
Toby laughs. “A 1992 document can easily be fixed to read 2012. Or so I’m told. Please,
Jannet, as a birthday gift for me, won’t you sign?” He pouts.
Preston stands behind him shaking his head.
“Am I going to regret this?” I swallow the dust in my throat and take the pen.
Preston slaps his forehead.
“That’s a good girl.” Toby smiles.
I scribble my signature and turn away as Preston’s glare bares down on me.
“What were you thinking?” He says as they leave.
“They’re my family. What else am I supposed to do?”
“I understand,” taking my hand, he sets down, “but what are they trying to hide?”
“He just said—”
“He said what he wanted you to hear.” He sighs. “If the words conniving and manipulative had a baby, it’d be him.”
“You’ve never liked him.” I roll my eyes.
“Jannet, you’ve always known family secrets were kept from you.”
“Whatever they were they’re in the ground now.”
“All I care about in this,” he kisses my hand, “is you, and I know you’re not going to be fine with being gagged.”
“I know, but she’s my sister and for all the mess our relationship has been, I want it to be better. I did this because I thought it would take the competition element out of our relationship.”
“You did this because if your mother was alive Melody couldn’t have bought her a big enough present to overshadow it?”
“Why don’t you go away and let me sleep?” As he leaves, the truth of his words reverberate through me and I tense. I yelp as my incision screams.
A strange face pops into my room. “Everything okay?”
“Who are you?”
“I’m security for the Senator, ma’am. He requested I stay with you.”
I cover my face. “What is he so paranoid about?”
“He wants you to rest, ma’am.”
“I wasn’t talking to you!”
The man winces.
“I’m sorry. Could you—”
“Excuse me.” Preston pushes past the guard. “Where’s your tv remote?”
I frown, looking to the table. “Why?”
He finds it and begins rapidly flipping through channels.
“Preston, stop. You’re making me sick.”
“You need to see this.”
As he finds a news station, the guard takes the remote from him. “I’m sorry sir, but I need to ask you to leave. You’re disturbing her.”
The two begin to argue, but all I see is the tickertape rolling across the screen reading The Senator’s Secret: DNA tests reveal Senator’s wife gives birth at fifteen. Wife’s parents raise the daughter as her sister.
Thanks so much for reading! I really hope you enjoyed this story. Do you have a question for Jannet? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll be sure to ‘ask’ her. This story was inspired by When Readers Write’s, Blah Buster topic, Gifts. To read more Blah Busters click here.