Disclaimer: Do you think if I close my eyes and wish real hard I can have a Rick all of my very own? I can't? Really? Damn!!!
Okay, so this is my first Mummy fic. I don't think it has many redeeming features and I'm sure it's very very bad but please read it anyway. If it's been done before (which it more than likely has) and I've ripped someone off I'm very sorry, it was unintentional. Just a little one off short story that wouldn't leave me alone so I decided to share it. Please review and let me know what you think. So without further ado:
It's funny. Most people's first memory is of their parents, their first day at school, or their first teddy. Mine's not all that different really I suppose, but my first memory is of my grandpa, and the fact that… well…he really didn't look like other people's grandpas at all.
I remember there was a portrait in the library at the manner. It was of a man with a lean face and salt and pepper hair. He had laugh lines that crinkled the skin around his eyes that you could make out even in that old painting. That guy, Jonathan Carnahan Senior, he looked like a grandpa. My grandpa barely looked older than my friend's dad's when he dropped me off at school. I know for a fact that as I got older, several of the girls I made friends with had crushes on him.
He'd laugh when I'd complain in my early teen years that yet another girl I had been wanting to ask out for weeks (forever it seemed in those days) had announced that she only had eyes for him. When he finally calmed down, tears of mirth running down his face, he'd always give me the same response. "Tell them I'm flattered Richie, but I'm already spoken for."
And he was.
I don't think I've ever seen anyone so as in love as he was with grandma. Even before I was old enough to understand what it meant, I knew that these two were soul mates; that they belonged together. It always made me so happy to know that, to know that I would never loose them because nothing would ever be able to tear our little family apart.
I'd watch him sometimes, as he watched her. Whenever they were in the same room his eyes would be glued to her, following every move she made. It was a good thing too. More than once she would lean too far over on a stool or ladder and fall, only to land in his arms, both laughing at her clumsy behaviour.
I used to sneak out of my room some nights just so I could watch them dance. They didn't go out much; that was more uncle Jonathan's idea of fun. Instead, after they thought I was sound asleep they would put on a record in the large living room and dance…or rather just move together slowly, holding each other close. I'm not going to claim it was always so fluffy and romantic, not at all. There were several occasions when they did a little more than dance and…well…let's just say I usually left them to it before I saw something which might warp my fragile little mind!
I'm sure they had their fair share of fights too, I mean what couple doesn't? But it never happened when I was around to hear it, and I never saw them anything but happy together.
I only ever saw grandpa cry twice in the entire time I knew him.
The first time was when I asked why I didn't have a mom and dad like all the other boys at school. I was six at the time, and a rather snotty teacher had only just pointed out to me that my living with grandparents was "a most peculiar arrangement."
I remember the stricken look on grandpa's face when I looked up from the toy soldiers I was playing with on the floor and asked quite plainly "Why do I live with you and grandma Evy instead of a mom and dad?"
I remember the way he dropped the figure he had picked up to pass to me as if it had burned him and him staring at it in absolute silence.
I remember grandma walking into the room and calling his name three times before he looked up at her, and then back at me, before scrambling to his feet and walking out the front door.
I remember hearing the engine of the car start up and the sound of squealing tyres.
Grandma looked torn in that moment between chasing after him and staying with me. She chose me. I guess she knew he would come back. I, on the other hand, had no such certainty and was quickly reduced to gut wrenching sobs at the thought that I had made my grandpa run away.
Grandma quickly ran to me and held me in her arms, rocking me gently, soothingly until I began to quiet down. "Richie darling," she began, her voice calm "what happened?"
"I asked why I didn't live with my mommy and daddy." I told her between sniffles and almost instantly I felt her tense.
"Oh." She murmured, almost too quietly for me to hear and while her reaction was nowhere near as startling as grandpa's, I was still a little alarmed.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked, more tears beginning to well "I didn't mean to! I didn't know I wasn't s'possed to ask…"
"Shh" grandma interrupted and began rocking me again. "Shh darling, you did nothing wrong."
"Then why was grandpa so upset?"
She sighed at this and moved me so I was sitting next to her on the sofa. She looked at me, her head titled as if trying to work something out. She must have been looking at me for a full minute before sighing again and looking away to some distant spot above my head.
"I suppose we should have told you sooner," she began "but we thought it might be easier for you to understand when you were older…"
I think some children would have cried at the story she told me over the next hour. I learned how my father had turned eighteen in 1943; a year after conscription had been introduced in England and just a few months into his education at Cambridge University.
Grandpa was away in Egypt when my dad received the telegram telling him he had two weeks before he was to report to the train station where he would be taken to barracks for training. Where he would go from there would be anyone's guess at that time, the way things were, but most likely North Africa. Dad was lucky Grandma said; he'd found the love of his life while he was young and the two were married mere days after the telegram arrived. It was a common thing to do for soldiers going to war in those days apparently.
Grandpa couldn't be reached to be told the news. The reason he had gone to Egypt was for the burial ceremony of a dear friend. The laws of his tribe dictated the ceremony be conducted with the utmost secrecy. He was likely out in the middle of the desert, some place you couldn't find unless you knew where to look.
Not being a Med-jai, my mother wasn't allowed to go. Apparently there were 'special circumstances' where grandpa was concerned, something about them thinking if him as one of them. Reluctant as he was to be away from grandma and my dad for so long, he felt he owed it to his friend to be there. They'd been through a lot together.
The day after my dad left for training, grandpa returned. One month later, they found out my mom was pregnant with me. Three moths after that, they received a telegram telling them that my dad had been killed.
Grandpa didn't say a word when grandma tearfully told him what had happened. He just got up, very calmly and walked out of the door, much like he had earlier that night. She didn't see him again for two days. When he did come back he had several broken fingers, his clothes were bloody and torn, and he smelled like a brewery. He apologised to grandma for leaving her alone in her grief, for making her worry. But even as he held her while she cried and watched her comfort my mom, he never cried himself. Not once.
I was named after him and dad. Richard Alexander O'Connell. Mom said dad would have wanted it that way.
When I was two months old, my mom had 'an accident'. It would be many years before I found out that post natal depression and the pain of loosing my dad had simply been too much for her.
Rather than let me go to an orphanage, a fate my grandpa was adamant he didn't want for me, they raised me themselves and they loved more than anything. They wanted me to be happy, to not feel like I was missing out.
"So you see darling, she concluded, "it's not your fault, not at all. Grandpa just…well it still makes him so sad to think that he never got to see your father before he went away. He never got to say goodbye."
Long after I'd been put to bed I was woken by the sound of tyres on the drive once more and I quickly leapt from bed. I watched from my usual hiding place on the balcony as grandpa came in the door and was immediately wrapped up in grandpa's arms. I could only make out disjointed words and sentences as I listened to them, as I watched my usually strong and playful grandpa sob on his wife's shoulder.
"…never meant to worry…"
"…never got to say goodbye…"
"…not your fault…"
"…shouldn't have gone…"
I knew this wasn't something I was meant to see, knew that grandpa wouldn't want me to see him like this, so I left as quietly as I had come. I remember being upset by it all, but mostly I was said because my grandpa was said. Don't misunderstand me; it wasn't that I didn't care about my parents, that's not it at all. But they were two people I had only seen in photographs, I didn't know them at all. I knew my grandpa though, and it hurt to see my hero in pain.
This was the man who had told me bedtime stories about his fighting resurrected mummies, pygmies and big bugs; stories which I would all my life believe no matter how ridiculous they might sound. I didn't think that there was anything that this man couldn't do. And so it was…unsettling…to see him so, to see that even he was fallible.
I never thought any less of him of course, and while in the morning it was as if the whole thing had never happened, I like to think he did know that I was happy with them, that I didn't resent not having my parents. In fact, I think I loved him all the more. I don't think I ever actually heard him use the word 'love', but seeing him so affected was at least proof (even if I hadn't really needed it) that he felt it too.
It was only in later years that I was able to understand why it had taken so long for him to mourn the death of his son. He told me a story one night as I was going to bed, one of the few that he told me where the main characters were 'other people', people who weren't him and grandma, or uncle Jonathan and my father. He told me about a man who had fought so hard to save his son's life, beating every obstacle in his way. The man had been on top of the world he told me, so happy that the son he loved more than life was safe.
Never had the man expected his heart to be ripped out mere seconds later when an evil princess took the love of his life away from him. The man was broken in half when she died in his arms, and no longer caring if he lived or died, went to seek revenge on those who had caused his grief.
When he had in fact been closer to death than anyone should be comfortable with, the man's son worked a miracle and brought his wife back to life, and once more he had a reason to go on living.
I knew he had been talking about himself, and I think a part of him knew that I knew it too. I think it was his way of explaining. Grandma had been taken away from him, but she had been given back. While he had always known that my dad was gone, it had taken my bringing it up again to really make him accept that there really wouldn't be any miracles this time around. His son wasn't coming back.
After that day I always noticed sadness in his eyes that hadn't been there before. Though they still sparkled with amusement, their light was just that little bit dimmer. But he was still my grandpa; he was still my hero.
Grandpa must have been at least fifty by this time (I was never really sure about his age since he never acted it according to my grandma) but he looked about twenty years younger, grandma too. I asked her once why that was. She laughed and replied that having me around the house was enough to keep them young – they had to be to keep up with me! Grandpa just shrugged and said something about grandma aging like a fine wine. I never understood either answer to be totally honest. I guess some people just have the good luck to age well.
It would be another ten years before I would see my grandpa cry again. It was at grandma's funeral.
She's been ill for a while I recall, but it seemed to happen so gradually that I barely noticed until it became really serious. It was little things at first: aches and pains, a cold that never seemed to go away, constant tiredness. It was during a normal morning that I realised that it wasn't just a bout of flu. She was talking to me as I was leaving for school. I don't remember what question she asked me, but I remember turning back to answer her just in time to see her sway then faint. Of course grandpa was there to catch her as she fell, assuring me that everything was fine as he carried her to the sofa. But I saw the look in his eyes. I saw the fear.
Things went downhill rather rapidly after that.
I'm sure now they could tell you exactly what it was that had been wrong with her, could give you some fancy name that wouldn't mean a thing. They might even have been able to make her better. There have been a lot of advances in medicine over the last forty years, or so I'm told. Back then though, they didn't know, and so neither did we. Grandpa told me once, near the end, that it didn't even really matter since the final result was still the same. He was still loosing her. Naturally he was drunk at the time. If I haven't mentioned it before, I'll tell you now; he wasn't particularly one to talk about how he was feeling to anyone other than grandma. Even then I think it was only because she could read him so well that there was no sense in denying it. It just wasn't the done thing in his generation someone once said.
I think I was surprised when grandpa didn't cry the night she actually died. We were both there with her when it happened. She'd refused to go into a hospital, insisting she wanted to be at home with the people and surroundings that she loved.
It wasn't the first death I'd known, having lost uncle Jonathan the previous year, but it was the first one I saw up close. She knew it was happening too, that's why I was in their bedroom with them. She'd said she wanted me close.
I was sitting on the edge of the bed while grandpa was against the headboard, grandma leaning back against his chest with his arms wrapped around her. "Tell me a story." She said quietly, barely above a whisper, as she snuggled closer into his embrace.
"Of course baby" grandpa whispered in return, placing a gentle kiss into her hair. "Which one do you want to hear?"
"Tell me about when we met." She replied after a moments thought. "But I want the truth, not your version of it." Grandpa chuckled at that, and I became intrigued. This was one of the few stories I had yet to hear, and it was obviously a matter of some controversy if there were different versions. I shifted closer to them on the bed so as not to miss a word.
"The year I turned twenty-five," he began, his deep baritone taking on a distant tone as he lost himself in some secret memory. "I found myself in some of the worst lodgings possible in Cairo, which at the time was pretty famous for poor conditions."
"Where were you?" I asked, perhaps a little too excited to let the story run it's course.
Grandma laughed softly. "He was in prison." She told me with a shake of her head, then laughed again when she saw my eyes widen in surprise.
"What did you do?" I asked, not quite believing what I was hearing. Grandpa opened his mouth to reply but once again grandma beat him to it.
"He was just looking for a good time!" She grinned, obviously quoting someone. I could only wonder at whom it was as I returned her smile.
"I thought I was telling this story." Grandpa huffed, but I could tell he was amused himself.
"Sorry darling." Grandma sighed, sounding anything but. "Do continue."
"Thank you!" He emphasised with a sharp nod of his head "Anyway, as I was saying…"
He fell in love with her the moment he saw her he said. She stood there amidst the filth and noise yet none of it seemed to touch her, and had he not known better, he would have sworn she were an angel.
Of course angels tend to be more polite and less abrupt and patronising. Not one to believe in love at first sight, even when it happened to himself, he was just as rude in return. He didn't think it would matter really; she only wanted him as a guide. No need to put his heart (not to mention more sensitive parts of his anatomy) on the line for no good reason…not that that would stop him from stealing a kiss. After all, doesn't every condemned man deserve something beautiful to take with him? Just one perfect memory to wipe out all those you'd rather forget.
Throughout the days and trials to come he would remember that kiss. He would remember the softness of her lips and the scent of her hair as a few stray strands fell across his cheek. He would remember the silky smoothness of her skin as he held her close and the look of surprise and wonderment in her eyes when he was pulled away.
It was the memory of that kiss which kept him alive as he dangled from the end of a rope, his life flashing before his eyes and fading dangerously into black. If he survived, he told his oxygen deprived brain, he could hold on to the slim hope that the angel now bargaining for his life would deign to let him kiss her again…perhaps.
He thanked the God he no longer really believed in as his pain-addled body hit the ground and looked up into the smiling face of the woman who had saved his life. He was really beginning to rethink his beliefs on love at first sight.
Neither of us was really sure when, but sometime during the story, grandma's eyes had fallen closed and stayed that way, a content little smile on her lips. We both knew she was lost to us now yet neither of us was quite ready to let go and say the words out loud. I for one was afraid of what would happen when we did.
I don't remember how long we stayed in that tiny cocoon of peace before reality came crashing back with startling clarity, but when it did, I instantly knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again.
The next few days passed by in a blur yet despite the flurry of activity, everything seemed to move in slow motion. How time does that I'll never know. Before I was truly aware of what was happening, I was standing next to my grandpa beside a newly dug grave in the Carnahan family plot deep in the grounds of the manor.
There seemed to be so many faces there who meant nothing more than a passing familiarity, each of them looking at me with such sympathy. Work colleagues, acquaintances somebody said; nobody of any particular significance. I watched grandpa nod at anyone who spoke to him, though I doubt he actually heard a single thing. He'd barely said a word since it happened and that worried me. Granted he'd never been one to speak for the sake of speaking, but now he seemed to exist outside of everything, just watching the world go by with eerie detachment.
I wondered what would happen to me if loosing grandma had been too much, if he had been pushed over the edge by the last in a long line of loss. I should have known better I suppose, but then grief has a way of affecting us that way.
Late in the afternoon, long after mourners and morbid busy bodies had moved on, I found myself alone in the house and I realised that grandpa had never come inside with the rest of us. The winter months had made the evenings bitterly cold and I knew he had no coat with him.
I found him exactly where I had him expected him to be, looking down at the ground where the love of his life now lay. I stayed back, not announcing my presence though he probably knew I was there anyway. He never made a sound as a single tear made it's way down his cheek and he made no move to wipe it away. Why should he be ashamed? It felt like hours that we both stood there in this strange grief induced stalemate before he slowly bent down, placing a single kiss on the marble that bore her name. I saw his lips move yet I had no desire to know what he said. I somehow knew that those words were for her and her alone.
He turned around then, looking directly at me and confirming my suspicions that he had known I was there. "Come on Richie" he said quietly, each word sounding like a sigh. "Lets go back inside."
I nodded and followed his lead, offering a game smile when he looked my way. Though he returned it, it never reached his eyes. In fact, the light that had once been so characteristic of him was barely even there anymore and after that day I would never see it again. I said nothing would ever be the same and it was true. That day something I had never imagined finally happened; Grandpa looked old.
After that life returned to a semblance of normality. I was given advice when it was wanted, a favour when one was asked, and as much support as needed. Never once did he let me down, but I knew he was merely going through the motions. I knew something was missing.
I was twenty-one when I left university with a first class degree in classical literature. Don't ask me why because I truly do not know. Part of my aspiring to be a writer I suppose. I'd met a girl a year earlier, a spirited girl who loved nothing more than to argue with me and I loved nothing more than her. Together we were going to write a book that would change the world…we never did get around to that.
I introduced her to grandpa as my fiancée and he smiled. Just a little smile but it was enough to tell me that he approved. Enough to tell me that there was no need to feel guilty.
We'd never spoken of it but I knew he suspected. I had been afraid before of meeting someone, afraid of what it would mean. If I were to fall in love and marry, where would that leave grandpa? Who did he have except for me? He reassured me with that smile. He silently told me not to worry, that he would be fine.
A week after we returned from our honeymoon a telegram arrived at our door. I knew what it said before I even read it, and despite the tears that sprang to my eyes I couldn't be sad. I knew he was where he wanted to be.
It was peaceful they told me, it happened in his sleep, just one of those things. No one knows why. He'd held on for me, waited this long to make sure I was happy, that he had kept his promise to keep me safe. He did better than he ever could have known, and I'll always be grateful.
"You mean he killed himself?" Evelyn asked her grandfather, her eyes wide with shock.
"Don't be daft." Richie replied with a chuckle "that wasn't his way."
"Then what happened?" asked the ever-curious fourteen-year old. She'd loved the stories about her great great grandfather ever since she was a child and no one told them quite like her grandfather. He always took such delight in telling them.
Richie thought before replying. "It was his reward I think," he said at last, the affection clear in his tone. "For keeping his word and staying strong. He got to be with those he loved."
"It's such a sad story." Evelyn sighed, the lump in her throat proving her point.
"You think so?" Richie asked. It really never occurred to him to look at it that way.
"Well yeah." Evelyn replied, surprised. "All that bad stuff that happened to him. He lost all the people he loved…except you."
"Ah." Now Richie understood where she was coming from. "It depends how you look at it. My grandpa grew up with nothing. No family, no money, and to be honest I doubt he even had any real friends. For a large portion of his life he was utterly alone, so when his life changes he was able to appreciate it all the more. He always considered himself a lucky man and for the most part I'd have to agree. I think we all lost count of his 'near misses' with one disaster or another. And how many men really do go from rags to riches?"
Evelyn stared up at him as he spoke, and the sparkling blue eyes which every O'Connell child since Rick himself had been blessed with seemed to brighten with understanding. Richie had to smile, she reminded him so much of her namesake sometimes with her insatiable desire for knowledge.
"But what really made him lucky was that he found what so few of us ever do. He found his soulmate, the other half of himself. I know for a fact he wouldn't have traded his time with her for anything."
"But…" Evelyn began, not entirely sure what point she was trying to make. A minute or so passed in silence, the unfinished sentence hanging in the air before she decided that it really didn't matter. After all, wasn't every life full of both hardships and triumphs? And how many would leave behind such a legacy that their name would never be forgotten?
Even though she had been young at the time, she remembered those men from America coming to the house and asking her grandfather if he would let them tell great great grandfather's story in a film. He'd said yes. There were two of them now and she'd watched both of them over and over again, overjoyed with the knowledge that these people had been her family, that she was connected to these adventurers and daring Heroes. She only hoped that one day she could experience even a little of the excitement and romance of the stories she had grown up with.
"Grandpa?" she asked as they turned towards the house and began the long walk back.
"Yes Evy?" Richie replied, not missing her grin at the shortening of her name. It was a liberty she only allowed him. Anyone else would be eviscerated.
"Tell me the one about Hamunaptra again…"
As grandfather and granddaughter walked away, their words becoming more and more distant, they didn't see the four figure lounging idly on the freshly tended graves watching them go.
"I don't believe it!" Jonathan cried with an indignant huff.
"What's the matter?" Evy asked, although she knew perfectly well why her dear brother was so perturbed.
"Not a bloody mention! That's what's the matter!" He ranted, pacing angrily.
"He did mention you uncle John." Alex pointed out helpfully, quite used to these tantrums by now. "He said you like to go out a lot."
"Oh that's bloody marvellous that is!" Jonathan continued to sulk. "I get remembered as a drunken good for nothing and he - " he pointed at the final member of their group "gets immortalised on the silver screen as the dashing hero of the hour!"
Rick shrugged elaborately, clearly unconcerned. "If the shoe fits." He said simply. Jonathan merely glared.
Silence fell over them once more as they watched Richie close the door to the manor house they had all called home, each of them wearing varying expressions of pride.
"He turned out good didn't he? Alex said at last, a touch of sadness in his voice as he spoke of the son he had never been able to meet.
"He turned out 'well'." Evy corrected her son, smiling when he rolled his eyes.
"Come on," Rick spoke softly, placing an arm around his wife's shoulders in order to better lead her away. "let's go home."
And the foursome walked away, together at last, leaving behind only marble and words.
Alexander Richard O'Connell
1925 – 1943
Beloved son and husband
Jonathan Edward Carnahan Jr.
1896 – 1959
Ever the lovable rogue
Evelyn Margaret O'Connell And Richard Daniel O'Connell
1901 – 1960 1899 - 1965
Okay so my first Mummy fic is over. Please review and let me know what you think – especially if I don't completely suck and you think I should write some more in the future! Thank you for reading!