Something tells me a story like this should start at the beginning. But that's boring, let's start at the end.
It all ended with a phone call
Sandra sat down on the bed, phone in hand, blood draining from her face as she used one hand to pull her long blond hair back out of her eyes, an almost automatic gesture to give her some reassurance, some reality in this situation.
"What?" She asked, not wanting to believe.
"She died yesterday in her sleep. It was peaceful, she just didn't wake up. She was ill, Sand. We knew this was coming." She pictured her cousin - in heart and home if not in blood, he and his sister had been Uncle and Aunt to her children since the very start - in his city-house home so far away, his light brown hair tousled and all over the place, as it always had been and always would be, his soft brown eyes filled with the sadness that she could hear in his voice.
"OK, I'll be right down, the first flight I can get. I'll have to bring the kids, Kelly's there already isn't she, and I don't trust Liz on her own here with David."
"We have plenty of room here, Sand, you can stay with us."
"Thanks Ade." She whispered, feeling a lump rising in her throat.
"My Dad's coming down too, he's going to help us sort out the funeral and things."
"Is he OK making the journey on his own?"
"Tammy was at his house, she's coming down with him. She'll take care of him. After this I think I'll offer him a place here. They were the same age, you know, Sand."
"Yeah. I know." A young face appeared in the doorway and Sandra beckoned her youngest, David into the room, pulling him into a hug. "I'll see you tomorrow Ade, be safe." David watched her put down the phone and smile at him bravely.
"Are we going to see Uncle Adrian?" He asked brightly, seeing the tears in his mother's eyes and searching for a reason she might be sad. She sighed, pulling him close and squeezing him, breathing in the soft scent of his white-blond locks.
"Yes." She sighed softly. "Your Gramma has gone to live with God, David, just like your dad did." She explained.
"Oh." He thought about this for a moment. Though the answer may have washed with the child when he was only five and his father had died, he was ten now, and a little more world-wise. "That's very sad." He finished. "But she was ill, she'll be better now." He offered.
"Yes." She scrubbed at a stray tear. "Yes that's true." She smiled through the haze of falling tears.
"Shall I get Liz so we can have a hug?" He asked, scrabbling for a way to try and make this better.
"No, just sit here with me for a moment. She'll come when she's ready." True enough, the teen appeared in the doorway moments later, tears already glistening in her sky-blue eyes. She didn't say a word, moving to embrace her mother and brother as they sat there on the bed. They sat for a time until the young boy started to shift in the stillness.
"Come on, David, let's start to get packed." Liz said, standing to push her younger brother out of the room, stopping in the doorway and turning back to her mother. "Think happy thoughts. It's Gramma's motto, remember?" Sandra offered her daughter a smile.
"Thanks, I'll be out soon to sort out dinner."
"No problem, it's under control. I'll stick something in now and it'll be done by the time I've packed." The older woman sighed.
"You're a gem, you know that." She sighed.
"I'm a teenager, you know I can't accept compliments." They laughed together for a minute. "You going to eat something?"
"I don't think I could."
"OK, well, I'll see you later then. Come down if you need anything."
"I'll wait here for the fire alarms." The teen stuck her tongue out jokingly and left her mother to rest, dreading the thought of the days to come.
Liz looked up from the TV as her mother stepped into the room, coffee in hand. The sixteen-year old rubbed at her eyes for a minute, struggling to hide the tears that had fallen as she had sat thinking.
"I would have got you that." She said, pointing to the drink.
"I needed to get up. I was getting maudlin." Her mother replied.
"Do you think anyone would mind if I ask Sarah to come with us? For moral support."
"No, I was going to ask you if you wanted to ask her before I ordered the tickets. I think Gramma would have found it very appropriate. If you feel conscious you can always say she's a friend."
"No, I'm through with that. I want to be able to hold her hand and kiss her if I feel like it. What do you mean, appropriate?"
"Oh, nothing." She sat silent for a moment. "I was thinking how great it was that Gramma had a chance to spend time with her first great granddaughter before she went."
"First? That implies you're waiting for more Mum." She laughed softly.
"Oh, I think David will make a great father one day. And maybe Kelly and Daniel will decide that Shazné needs a brother or sister. And maybe you'll decide that you want to find a way"
"Is Kelly still staying with Uncle Ade while Daniel is away?"
"Yes, she'll be there when we get down there. She'll probably be the one to pick us up from the airport."
"Good, I'll get to spend more time with my niece."
"You like that don't you. That you're an Aunty."
"Yes. It makes me feel older."
"Well, being a Grandma makes me feel old too, and I don't need to feel any older. Phone Sarah before it gets too late and let's see how many tickets we need."