Chapter 3: Same Old, Same Old
“It’s about damn time our granddaughter returns home,” Grams shakes her head at me in disappointment.
My grandparents, including Uncle Jefferey, happen to be the only people I’ve kept in contact with. I kind of had to, they are family after all.
“Your gramps was ready to turn into a hitman and track you down himself,” Grams informs me, her feisty attitude still in place.
The older she gets, the scarier she gets.
“I was?” Gramps questions, clueless.
The older he gets, the more puzzled he becomes.
It’s a sad life they lead.
Grams shoots him a warning look, “Yes, Howard. You were.”
If he doesn’t go with her on this, he’ll obviously pay for it later. After that, I’ll end up getting a call from the neighbors when they hear Gramp’s cries of agony again. They’re worried my grams is capable of murder. I can’t jump to her defense on that one.
Gramps quickly fixes his slip up, mulling it over in his head, before correcting himself, “I was,” he confirms. “I was about to go all gangster on your ass!” he lies, going overboard as always.
He then proceeds by copying Gram’s berated stare, the both of them turning their ruthless glares onto me. Gramps will follow Gram’s lead on just about everything. She owns him and he knows it.
I place my hands up in a surrendering motion as I cower back, “Okay,” I exclaim, exasperated, “I get it. You’re both mad at me. Message received.”
I can’t blame them for being angry. I kept in touch via phone calls and emails, but this is the first time in five years that I’m actually seeing them in person again.
“Can we stop glaring now?” Gramps whispers all too loudly to Grams. “My face is starting to hurt. I’m going to get wrinkles,” he whines in spite of his face already being covered in wrinkles, signifying just how old he and Grams both really are.
Gramps has always been in denial about his age. He’s convinced he’s still as young as he was forty years ago. He still thinks that any woman would die to have him. He even tries to pick up girls when Grams challenges him on his looks. Of course, his attempts always fail and Grams ends up mocking him and laughing in his face. Literally, she laughs directly in his face.
“You better shut that mouth of yours, Howard, or I will tackle you down and inject Botox in your face to make it stay that way for certain,” Grams threatens him, venomous as ever. She puts serpents to shame.
I see that nothing has really changed between them. Their love for each other is as still as strong as it has ever been - in other words, poor.
“You’re such a little girl, Howard. Maybe I’ll force you into getting breast implants too!” Grams hisses at him before clouting him over his head for no apparent reason.
It’s always Armageddon with these two cretins. Whenever I’m in their presence, it feels like an atomic bomb has exploded. They’re both mental.
It’s really a miracle that my grandparents have survived thus far. Every time I see them, it’s like chilling with the walking dead. I’m always surprised to see that they’ve made another day. I’ll never get over my initial shock of how incredibly old they are. They’re like machines - indestructible. They’ll probably outlive me, it’s a notion of mine.
I slap my forehead and close my eyes in disgust, “Too much Grams,” I state, my voice hinting at my concern.
Grams is out of her mind. If it isn’t Gramps going overboard, then it’s Grams going over the top. It never ends. At least they keep each other on their toes.
Grams ignores me as she continues to insult her husband, “And what is up with your hair these days? You look like a walking golliwog! You’re already so unattractive as is, you can’t afford to plaster yourself with fur,” she lectures Gramps, refusing to cut the poor old man some slack.
She’s the meanest person I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing.
“When is Uncle Jeffrey getting here?” I question cautiously, terrified that I might be Gram’s next target.
It’s best I don’t draw too much attention to myself. If I’m careful, I might get out of this alive.
“That better not be an indirect suggestion that you would rather be with him than us!” Grams, as expected, directs her wrath onto me next. “I’ll tell you what, your Gramps and I-” she corrects herself, “Scratch that, just me - make for fantastic company.”
I roll my eyes at her when she’s not looking. What she said is the opposite of the truth - a lie. She makes for the worst company. I’d rather be surrounded by terrorists.
I turn my attention to Gramps instead as he’s more tolerable than Grams, “You’re aging, huh Gramps?” I tease, knowing that he can take a joke, unlike Grams.
Gramp’s receding hairline is more prominent than ever. He’ll be completely bald soon. He’s more than halfway there, with random tufts of his hair all over the place - hence the ‘golliwog’ reference made by Grams.
Gramps frowns, “I know.” He admits it to himself, “I’m finally starting to thin out.”
I raise a curious brow at him.
The man is delusional. He started thinning out years ago, it seems he’s only come to accept it now. Poor sap!
“It’s why he’s been using this,” Grams hands me a bottle of pills accompanied by that evil snicker of hers.
I take the bottle from her hands, my eyes immediately landing on the label. It reads ‘Grow Hair’. What an unoriginal name.
“How odd?” I remark sarcastically, “This label is a sticker with your writing on Grams,” I point out as she motions to me to ‘zip it’ before I give her away. I ignore her threats and tear off her self-made label, only to find the real label underneath. My eyes widen in shock when I see it, “Grams, you’ve been giving him steroids the entire time?!” I all but raise my tone, stunned by how vicious she can be.
Gramps begins coughing in shock, falling into a wheezing fit of surprise.
Instead of Grams looking apologetic, she seems anything but. She bursts out cackling like the witch she is, finding it to be downright hilarious. She doesn’t even look remotely remorseful.
“Is that why my pee-pee has shrunk?” Gramps glares darkly at Grams who is still trying to catch her breath from her intentional laughter.
“It’s always been small,” Grams informs him, vengeful and merciless in her attacks.
I should not be here for this conversation.
No wonder Benley and AJ tapped out on the visit here. AJ’s heard the stories from Benley and Benley’s heard the stories from Max, Bells, and Troy.
My Grams seems to have a thing for Troy and a strong hatred for Bells. As for Max, she always seems to forget who he is. Every time she sees Max, she always reintroduces herself to him. It’s hilarious to watch Max, seemingly all helpless, give her his name for the billionth time since meeting her. Eventually, he just started giving her random names, names like ‘Grey’ and ‘Xavier’. That way, he is free to make a terrible impression without facing the consequences.
“How would you know, Lilian?” Gramps complains. “It’s not like…”
I throw my head up to the ceiling, muttering curse words under my breath, as I purposely block my ears. I do not need to hear this kind of talk from my grandparents of all people. As a child, they gave me the ‘birds and bees talk’ and that in itself was enough to scar me for a lifetime.
“Was this a bad time or…?”
I immediately turn upon hearing his voice. When seeing his face, I don’t hesitate to run into my uncle’s arms, “Jeffster!” I shout in relief, seeking protection. “Thank goodness you’re here!” I squeeze him tightly.
“Right time then?” he lifts an eyebrow in wonder.
“Is there ever really a ‘right time’ to visit these two?” I gesture to my grandparents who are now swatting at each other.
Grams has Gramps in a headlock. She’s giving him a noogie while he fends for his life. Her grip is like a vice, I would know. It’s inescapable. Nonetheless, Gramps flaps about like a duck in order to try and overpower her. It only leads to her giving him a ‘purple nurple’.
I turn back to Jeffrey, “It’s like babysitting two-year-olds,” I tell my uncle, thankful that I’m no longer caught up in the war zone alone.
Uncle Jeffrey chuckles before taking me in, “Well look at you,” he grins at me proudly, “my niece has grown up. You must be breaking a lot of hearts?” He teases, still as playful and friendly as I can last recall.
My expression drops at his words as I’m reminded of what I did. “Nope,” I shake my head at him in response, “just one,” I answer, feeling the strong wave of guilt wash right over me at the reminder.
Uncle Jeffrey doesn’t question it. Instead, he changes the subject to a possibly even worse one, “I heard you found my brother. You okay?” he asks as if knowing how it ended.
My uncle hasn’t spoken to his brother - my father - in years. I now see why. I finally understand.
“I was worried when I heard you went searching for him. He’s someone not to be sought out,” Uncle Jeffrey adds.
I wince, still trying to forget about that run-in with my father.
“He’s a jerk,” I finally voice my opinion on the matter. “I’m glad I didn’t have him around for most of my life. I deserve better,” I tell my uncle, filling him in whilst my grandparents continue to bicker like little toddlers in tiaras.
“You alright then?” he checks in.
“I’m okay,” I admit aloud. “Really,” I emphasize when seeing his face, “I’m fine,” I assure him. “Seeing Lars gave me the closure I needed.”
I can now live without doubting or second-guessing myself. My soul-seeking is complete. Yes, it took some time to get over the initial rejection of my father, but since then, I’ve learned that I don’t need him. I don’t want him in my life.
It’s difficult not to hold a grudge against him, yet somehow I’m coping. I’m slowly working my way up to releasing him entirely from all the anguish he’s caused me. One day, I’ll be able to say that I forgive him.
Uncle Jeffrey nods, offering me a half-smile that doesn’t quite reach his lips, “You’re tough, Kiddo, I’ll give you that,” he concludes, patting the top of my head in pride.
I grin wholeheartedly up at him, appreciative, “Thanks,” I say softly, touched.
I don’t need my father. Jay was right - I’m better off without his presence in my life. I’ve always seen Uncle Jeffrey as more of my role model in any case. He definitely sets a better example than his brother.
“Listen here, Howard, I will beat your ass! Vegeta and Natsu will take Leonardo, Kung Fu Panda, and those rotten little penguins on any given day! Get with the times, Howard!” Grams insists, her love of ‘Dragon Ball Z’ still very much evident in her life - their bed sheets are Dragon Ball Z themed and the pillow cases are Ninja Turtle themed…it’s the first thing they showed me upon seeing me.
“Mom, are you seriously still watching that kiddie show?” Uncle Jeffrey asks in bewilderment. He casts his eyes to her and then to Gramps in question, perplexed by their childishness.
Apparently, Grams is now obsessed with ‘Fairy Tail’ too. Grams is team anime, whilst Gramps is team animation. Their back and forth banter between their shows are amusing, but annoying nonetheless.
I motion to Uncle Jeffrey to shut up. He has no idea what he’s getting himself into. Unfortunately for my uncle, the warning comes too late.
Gram’s eyes light up like a spitfire as she walks up to her son, enraged. “How dare you?!” she hisses before slapping him across his face - hard.
Stunned, Uncle Jeffrey stays still in fear of being hit again. She’s like a shark. Moving will only upset her further. He’s experienced, he knows this firsthand.
Everyone is afraid of getting on the bad side of this woman. I’m beginning to doubt she even has a good side. The only proof I have that there’s good in her is when she first met Jay. She accepted him, from the start, whereas most didn’t.
Grams points to the door, “Get out!” she shouts into his face. “I did not raise such a disgrace of an awful human being.”
Uncle Jeffrey, unfazed, looks to me for help, “What did I do?” he asks, almost as clueless as his father.
I open my mouth to explain, but Grams cuts me off in a raging protest against her own flesh and blood, “What did you do?! What did you do?!” Grams shouts, repeating it again and again before asking him, “What didn’t you do?!”
I shrug helplessly at my uncle, not following either.
“You might as well have just blown up Earth for all I care!”
Once again, she’s blowing this completely out of proportion.
“What?” Gramps sputters as he tries to keep up with the exchange of words between his wife and son. “I’m confused now. Did he do something or not, Lillian?”
Grams turns to spit in Gramp’s face, “Shut the hell up, Howard!” she orders, Gramps immediately falling silent under her command. “You’re good for nothing!” she calls over her shoulder to her husband as she begins pushing Uncle Jeffrey right out the door.
Uncle Jeffrey places his hands up on either side of the door frame, holding himself in, as to avoid being locked out. Grams, relentless, violently pushes at his back.
Jeffrey turns to face his mother who is still adamant in getting him out, “What did I do, Mom?” he questions innocently as he tries to make up for whatever it is he said to upset her so.
“How dare you ask such a preposterous question twice!” Grams proceeds by shoving on his back, putting all her weight on him in order to get him out.
Her attempts seem to be proving futile. It only infuriates her more.
“Get,” she mutters, “out!” she hisses at him when he refuses to budge under all her weight.
Grams lifts her leg to kick him in the back-
“Grams, stop giving him flack!” I courageously stand up for him. I barely get to see the guy and now she’s literally kicking him out the front door. It’s not fair. Screw her stupid shows, I need my uncle.
Grams releases her death grip on her son to shoot me an aggressive stare filled with fury, “Do you want to go with him?” she threatens me.
I shake my head, “No, Ma’am,” I yelp, afraid of her vice like grip that she’d often a time use to pinch my ears.
She doesn’t have nails, she has sharp claws. Her screech is like her claws on a chalkboard. She’s the grandmother from hell. You don’t want to mess with her because you won’t win. Even the cop in this household knows that.
How I wish I could put Lars up against his mother…
“That’s what I thought!” she snaps at me and then turns back to torture Uncle Jeffrey, only to find that he’s no longer in the doorway and now successfully back inside the house.
I high-five my uncle. I had purposely distracted Grams in order for my uncle to get a clean getaway, with extra time to spare too.
Grams, as if already having forgotten the incident, claps her hands - an indication that she wants us to gather around. None of us do, and so she claps and claps until she gets her own way.
We all gather around her, loud groans and sighs of disapproval escaping our lips as we do so.
I think I’m deaf now.
Gran Gran finally takes the liberty to speak once she’s seen that we’ve complied to her lousy demands, “Listen up loser faces, I’m whipping up a nice meal for us to enjoy as a family. If you don’t enjoy it, you will be locked in the cellar-“
“We don’t have a cellar, Lillian,” Gramps interjects.
He’s asking for it today. Even I know better than to interrupt her.
Grams shoots him a seething look, her eyes flaming, before she goes ballistic on him, “What did I tell you about only speaking when spoken to, Howard?!”
Gramps falls silent after that as we’re all forced to sit down around the family table.
Grams continues on unapologetically, now in a mellow tone, as if she hadn’t just lost it a second ago, “So I’m making melted jelly on soup, complimented with German muffins and leek jam,” she informs us of her latest concoction, “and you’d all better eat it.”
You can tell where I get my disastrous cooking skills from. I remember the time I made Grey some green sludge soup. Good times.
“I refuse. You’ve probably poisoned it,” Gramps mumbles beneath his breath, taking a risk on life in doing so.
Grams just about flies over the table to lurch herself at him, wrestling him down to the tiled kitchen floor with a thunderous thud.
“This family needs a serious intervention,” Uncle Jeffrey sighs quietly, unimpressed with his parent’s behavior.
Grams emits a growl as she pummels Gramps to a pulp. Jeffrey has to get up to yank his mother off of his father before his father ends up losing his face.
“We needed an intervention years ago,” Gramps agrees with his son, using my uncle as a shield - hence his sudden burst of bravery, “Lillian was a real alley cat in her time.”
‘Her time’ was ‘his time’ too.
“What does that even mean?” I question, at a loss.
“Well,” Gramps elaborates, “alley cats sleep around every night…” he pauses to build up suspense, “so did your gran,” he clarifies.
Grams scowls at her husband in turn, “You’d know, Howard. After all, it’s how I met you.”
My grandparents will be the death of me.
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have been standing on that street corner with a big-“
“Enough!” I raise my tone, startling everyone. It’s not often I shout. “I’ve heard enough,” I repeat as I pour myself and Uncle Jeffrey a glass of soda in order to calm us down.
My yelling thankfully quietens them down.
“You take after your Grams,” Gramps, surprisingly, is the first to courageously break the deafening silence.
That’s the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me, and I’ve been called names and cussed out at countless of times.
“I’m going to go do some yoga,” Grams declares randomly, having forgotten entirely about the meal she’d been about to feed us.
Miracles do happen.
I sigh and glance at Uncle Jeffrey who seems to be stifling a laugh, “You’re right. This family is in serious need of a therapist or something,” I agree with him.
Grams, eavesdropping, calls out to us, “Ain’t no therapist coming into my house! I’ll take his eyes.”
I roll my eyes at Gram’s dead serious statement. “No therapist it is then, Grams!” I call back before whispering to my uncle, “She’s in dire need of help. It’s urgent,” I chuckle at the thought. They’re annoying, but hell I love them.
“You said it,” Uncle Jeffrey nods, raising his glass to mine in agreement, aware that Gram’s threats are anything but empty. They hold weight because she follows through on what she says.
“Put your back into it woman!” Gramps shouts at my Grams as she purposely makes a show of doing her yoga.
“I’ll break your back!” she retorts before attempting to do the splits.
I need to get out of here. There’s only so much one can take from those two before you start to get stir-crazy.
“When are you going to bring that strapping lad - Jake - over again?” Grams asks me from her odd position. Her one leg is over her head like those contortionists you see from horror movies. It’s enough to make me lose focus.
“Grams!” I yelp in terror as I place a hand over my eyes to block the sight from my vision. “That is not even yoga!” I shout, alarmed. The sight will stay with me forever, just like the ‘birds and bees’ talk.
Where did she even learn to do that?
“So beautiful,” Gramps adds to the chaos, admiring the disturbing view.
That’s it, I really really have to get out of here!
“Gran, can I leave yet? I’m sick of you guys now,” I state bluntly, choosing to be straightforward - it’s the only way.
Uncle Jeffrey chuckles at my words, but quickly masks it with a cough when his mother shoots him a look from her distorted stance.
“Where are you going with this, young lady?” Grams asks, now skeptical of my motives.
Where is she going with this…and how do I go the other way? That’s the real million dollar question here.
I thought I just made it very clear as to where I am going with this - I want to leave.
I have no choice but to return her question, “Where are you going with this, old lady?” I ask her, Gramps seemingly lost with the conversation, as per usual.
Grams raises a brow at me as she undoes herself from the knot she’d just been in, “That depends, where are you going with this?”
“To China?” Gramps interrupts, wanting to be in on the exchange. He hates being excluded.
Grams throws the TV remote at his head. It instantly shuts him up - like magic. Also, he may be unconscious.
Who says violence isn’t the answer?
“I’m hoping to go away with this, hopefully,” I admit, ignoring Gramps grunts of pain.
If I’m lucky, I’ll get away with this.
“Then be gone,” Grams insists, waving me off.
“I take it that means I can go?” I ask wearily as I begin backing off toward the door. Sudden movements will trigger her. I really don’t feel like being tackled into the floor. She did that the last time I tried to run.
Meanwhile, Gramps sits idly by, watching this play out. He really is good for nothing.
“Where do you think you’re going?!” Grams snaps at me, now really confusing me. She’s contradictory, short-sighted and forgets way too easily. She messes with my brain, as well as her own.
“I don’t even know anymore, Gran Gran!” I answer her, exasperated. She sure knows how to suck the life out of someone. No wonder Gramps is a walking zombie. “Can I please just go back to Benley’s place?” I resort to pitiful begging.
Grams blinks at me with uncertainty, “Aqueela?” She frowns at me in confusion, “When did you get here?”
I slap my forehead in aggravation. I’m getting nowhere with this. She has the memory of a goldfish.
“I’m leaving now, Grams,” I inform her as I slowly move to the door.
Just a few more steps and I’m home free from this nutcase.
“I can go, right?”
“Maybe,” Grams answers, astounding me with her nerve.
I really want to leave, but I also don’t want to risk the mad woman attacking me for it. I need permission.
Gosh, I feel like a child again.
“My ‘no’ means no, my ‘yes’ means yes, and my ‘maybe’ means get the hell out!” she shouts at me as if waiting for me to leave, in actual fact, chasing me right out the door.
“Freedom!” I shout in relief as I run for the gate before she changes her mind. I turn back to wave at Uncle Jeffrey and Gramps before charging away at high speed, “Liberation is mine!”
Visiting my grandparents is visiting purgatory.
“How was your visit?” Benley asks as soon as I step in through his front door. He allowed me to use his car in the hopes I wouldn’t crash it.
“Was it eventful?” AJ asks as she curls up beside her boyfriend on the couch.
“Meh,” I shrug as I think back on my visit, “same old, same old.”
I lead a crazy life. I’ve accepted it.
Benley nods before changing topics, “So listen, I just got off the phone with Emma-“
“I’m listening!” I interrupt excitedly, AJ giggling at me whilst Benley rolls his eyes at my obvious enthusiasm. “Get out with it already!” I press impatiently, wanting to hear if he spoke to Emma about what I suspect he spoke to her about.
“Grey told her you’re back in town.”
I open my mouth to protest, but Benley holds up a finger to shush me, “Don’t ask me how he found out.”
I pout at the lack of information. Trust Grey to know everything.
It’s as if Benley hears my thoughts, “It’s Grey. You don’t question it.”
AJ, sensing that her boyfriend is beating around the bush, takes over from him when she sees that my impatience is heightening by the second, “It was me who suggested that Benley phone Emma. She’s excited you’re back in town. She’s also extended an invitation your way. She and Xavier will see you at their wedding tomorrow.”
I grin in excitement, “This is great! Weddings make for the perfect reunions!” I exclaim, overjoyed at the news.
I knew AJ and Benley would come through for me.
“It was my idea,” AJ insists, shooting me a mischievous grin in the process, “you’re welcome.”
“It was a joint effort,” Benley mutters, sending his girlfriend a look for taking all the credit.
She was the brains and he was the one who did all the work.
“That’s Benley’s way of saying that it’s more thanks to me,” AJ winks at her boyfriend before smiling convincingly at me.
“It’s really not,” Benley disagrees, shaking his head in disdain.
I’m barely listening to the two. My mind is already working on my flawless entrance. How am I going to collaborate this? I have a wedding to pull off.
“I told you that she zones out a lot,” I vaguely hear Benley’s remark. “She’s probably coming up with some ploy as we speak,” he tells AJ.
My eyes light up in a buzz of energy as I turn to face the pair, “I wouldn’t call it a ploy, Ben,” I correct him, letting him know that I am indeed working on a plan to invade the wedding without being killed by my long lost friends - by that, I mean Grey and Bells.
Benley eyes me skeptically before a hint of a smirk appears on his lips. “You’re always up to no good,” he points out the facts, expecting the worst when it comes to me.
I don’t waste time in denying it.
“Lay it on me, what’s the plan?” AJ, now inquisitive, asks with a squeal.
You’d think she’s the one making a comeback into an old way of living.
“Whatever you tell them, they’re all still going to be upset with you. They’re not as forgiving and awesome as me,” Benley boasts, not sugarcoating any of it. “You’re not going to be able to convince them of anything.”
I shrug, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”
“That’s your fall back plan? Really?” Benley asks with a scoff. “What a lame contingency plan in case of emergency, and knowing Bells, you might just die tomorrow.”
“If there’s anyone dying tomorrow, it’s Emma and Xavier. First comes the ring and then the suffering. Everybody knows that,” I retort, knowing that Benley is indeed right. Bells will kill me. Instead of a wedding reunion, it will be a funeral reunion.
AJ shakes her head at me, dismissing what I’d just said, “You’re going to need all the help you can get. We’d better get started. We have a lot of work to do.”
“Nah,” I wave the matter off, “I think I’ll just pull a classic Aqueela and-“
“If you say crash it…” Benley warns, waiting for me to conclude.
“Make a grand entrance,” I finish, sending him a scowl.
Benley blows out a breath of relief, “Thank good-“
“And then crash it,” I conclude with a happy-go-lucky grin.
Benley’s face falls as he releases a sigh of despair, “New life, old Aqueela.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.