Disclaimer: I don't Grey's Anatomy… duh.
Letters from a Stranger in California
Meredith Grey considered the bland, dusty attic of her home. Well… it really couldn't be considered her home anymore, could it? After all, she hadn't been in this house in Seattle for over eight years.
And even when she had been living here, Meredith thought as her icy blue eyes deadened, it had never really been home. There had been no warmth and no compassion. Just a woman and a child, living together.
But the house was hers now, whether she liked or not. For the time being everything in this house belonged to her. Until she could sell it and move into an apartment, she would be living here.
She stepped deeper into the musty attic. It surprised her that she had never been here. But she had always been afraid of high places before so she had avoided the narrow, pull-down steps of the attic.
Now she wasn't a child, and she had to pack the boxes up before she could sell the house. With a nod of determination, her silky blonde hair bouncing in its ponytail, Meredith pulled the thick curtain covering the window away. The sudden action used a film of dust to dance in the air, moving gracefully in the golden sunlight like tiny ballerinas on a stage.
Her fingers touched the first box, pulling at the duck tape and opening the decaying cardboard. Pictures. Pictures of her mother in high school, college, med school. A pictures of her at prom, a picture of her father.
Without real malice, Meredith realized there were no pictures of her.
One couldn't hold much malice at Ellis Grey. Her whole life had been her hospital, the very place where Meredith herself hoped to make a name for herself—and in the very same field. Everything about Ellis Grey could be said in the way she drew her scalpel across a man's chest, the way her eyes hardened with focus as she tore open flesh and veins to touch the cores of human beings.
A child, even her own daughter, had simply been an obstacle in Ellis Grey's attempt to become the world famous surgeon she was born to be. Meredith knew and understood that. And she harbored no ill will against her mother. At this point, she was practically neutral to the women.
Underneath those pictures were thin, white envelopes. At first Meredith considered resealing the box and putting it away immediately. But then something caught her eye. It was her mother's handwriting on the letters.
Ellis Grey's handwriting had always been stiff and neat, unlike so many other doctors. The woman had been a perfectionist. She would never have allowed her hand writing to become so scribbled like all the other doctors.
It was a simple letter. Thin, even with the envelope covering. On the white sachet were two simple words. Month 2.
Her fingers flipped the envelope over calmly. She hesitated only a second before opening it, gently. What would her mother care if she read the letter? After all, her mother probably didn't even remember writing them.
Dear baby, it read,
You were unplanned and, yes, unwanted. I found out about you when we, Martin and I, were in California, vacationing. That's where we are now, in California. Your father and I are too busy with our careers to even think of children. I am almost twenty nine and maybe old for having my first child, but no one seems to understand that my real child is the hospital—
Meredith almost groaned in disgust. It sounded like her mother and it didn't make her feel good about herself. She had always known she had been unwanted. Ever since she was young she could feel her mother's eyes on her back, measuring her and finding her wanting in the Ellis Grey vision.
But curiosity kept her reading.
But I am not having an abortion. Martin even suggested it. No, I'm having you, baby. No matter what. If a woman makes a big enough mistake to get pregnant then she doesn't deserve the right of an abortion. And if you can afford it, you should you keep the baby. So I'm keeping you. Once you're born you'll be trained, educated, given the privileges of being a Grey. And I'll go back to surgery.
The doctors—well, they're not really doctors, they're therapists—say writing this too you will help stop the mood swings that are bound to come along. I don't see how. You're never going to read this.
The letter ended there. Meredith turned her attention back to the box and found several more letters like it. All with a month number on it.
"I can't deal with this," she grumbled and stood. With a quick pace she left the room, unaware that she carried all of the letters out with her.
That night she found herself leafing through the thin, short letters again. She picked out Month 5 and, despite her promise that she didn't care, find her eyes eagerly reading each word.
Five months. I have now had you inside me for five months. I look down and I see you, popping out from under my shirt. How can that be you? How can you grow there, inside me? I know the hows and the whys, but it doesn't make sense. How you can grow inside me? We, Martin and I, saw you on the ultrasound but it just doesn't seen possible that there can be two heart beats inside me at one time.
I've seen hearts, I've done heart transplants, I've saved people's life, but it's different when I look at you. I didn't save you. I made you. And that makes all the difference. You're blood is my blood. You wiggle your little thumb inside my womb and it's almost as if I can feel that tiny, insignificant movement. I can feel you, twitching, growing, expanding, and widening my stomach to fit you.
It's scary and at the same time oddly rewarding. It's almost as if my body is saying: there, we can this, too.
Meredith put the letter down when it ended and rolled away. She flicked off her light and closed her eyes. When she fell asleep she dreamed of a woman with her mother's face, writing with a rounded tummy.
The morning after Meredith made herself breakfast even though she wasn't hungry. It was odd. She felt alone and empty, in this big house. She had always been alone, for as long as she could remember. Mother in the hospital and father no where to be seen.
But she remembered the tiny, blonde girl who had sat at the breakfast table, toast and jam made but no mother or father in sight. A little note on the end of the table saying mother had gone and since she was such a big girl she could get on the bus herself.
And she remembered that little girl lowering her bright head to the table and crying, crying because she didn't know how to do a math problem and her mother wasn't there to help her. The girl's teacher had explained it to her, of course, but it had left an aching, bleeding hole in her heart where her mother should have been.
Now that little girl was all grown up and she stopped waiting for her mother a long time ago. After finishing the toast and jam she didn't even taste, Meredith looked over at her calendar and with a red Sharpie marker x-ed off another day on it. 3 more days and it was time for the internship at Grace Seattle Hospital, like her mother before her.
Then she pulled out the next in her mother's series of pregnancy letters. She hated realizing she had slipped Month 6 into her pajama pocket, but she had. She peeled the tiny letter out of its envelope and read.
I've taken maternity leave for the last three months of my pregnancy. I don't want to. I don't want to leave Grace, but I have to. I know what they're saying. They think I can't handle it. They think I'm too high-strung with a baby.
I'm not. I'm fine. I am. I am. I'm just fatter now. There's nothing different about me expect that. But I am different now, aren't I? Yesterday I ate tuna. I hate tuna. You had better like it because I was allergic to tuna when I was younger. I don't even know why I'm doing this.
Martin's gone, I guess you should know. He upped and left. I told him to get out. He thinks we should give you up for adoption. There are over a million kids without homes in America alone and he wants to give you because he can't deal with the responsibility. I never loved him but it was sad to see him go.
You and me, we're going to California. My mother lives there. That's where I'll have you. I don't want anyone in my hospital to help bring you into this world.
Meredith placed the letter down on the table and realized she never knew her mother. Her phone rang but she ignored it. She knew who it was, who was calling. She didn't want to answer it.
"Miss Grey? This is the caretaker of your mother, Ellis Grey? We have a family picnic tomorrow and I was wondering if you—" Meredith picked the phone up and then placed it back on its cradle.
All her life, Meredith wanted to be like her mother. She wanted her mother's respect, her love, her admiration. But nothing Meredith did was ever good enough. She always just fell short of the dream, tripped at the finish line. She cried when she wasn't supposed to, said the wrong word, needed a nightlight in her room, didn't know her math…
But despite the fact that Ellis Grey always found a way to shatter her daughter and her dreams, Meredith loved her mother. It is the inbreed instinct of the offspring to love the parent. To yearn for them.
It made Meredith so tired to remember the confusion in her mother's eyes. The questions that lingered in those empty, blank irises. Who are you? she asks her daughter. Why aren't I at the hospital? My hospital?
Ellis Grey couldn't remember. Remember herself, remember her daughter. Her hands will shake when she touches the books that litter her tiny room. And she looks at her daughter and she doesn't know who she is. All she remembers is the hospital and the surgeries and the nurses who once worked for her.
Meredith sighed and went upstairs to take a shower. She sat at the drain, letting the water beat down on her head. She sat there until the water chilled and her skin was red from the heat and intensity of the spray. Then she got out, put her hair in a ponytail, and curled on her bed.
When she emerged from her weary sleep she picked up another one of her mother's letters to her. This was Month 9, the last month. But not the last letter. There was one more to go after this.
I hate you. I don't know what's going on with me, what's wrong with me. I'm sick and you kick me in my ribs. I eat disgusting food and it's all you're fault. I HATE YOU. I hate the pain and the anger and I hate the ache in my back. And I hate you because it's all your fault.
I want you out of me. I want them to cut you out and I want to go back to Seattle and the hospital, where I belong. I don't want you anymore. I hate lying in bed, moaning, because you roll over in my womb. STOP MOVING!
Only a week. You're supposed to be born in a week, strange thing that grows inside me. When you're out I don't know what I'll do with you, but all I know is that I want you out. NOW. So get out. Get out and leave me alone.
You weren't supposed to happen. I didn't want a kid. I don't need one. I'm Ellis Grey. I'm a surgeon, not a mother. What am I going to do with you, tiny thing inside me? I'm not supposed to have kids.
But most of all, You, I hate you.
Meredith touched her cheeks and blinked in surprise. She was crying? Why? Her mother didn't hate her. Ellis Grey just couldn't show love or affection. She didn't hate her daughter. Meredith was almost sure of that.
There was only one letter left, but Meredith didn't feel like reading at that moment. She didn't care what her mother had written to her, presumably when she was born. She just didn't care.
She took a drive across Seattle, with nothing to do but drive. Once she had lived here. Then had come to boarding schools and then had come college, and then, finally, had come to decision to go to medical school, to learn to be a surgeon, like her mother.
Her mother hadn't believed she could do it. Meredith remembered that last bitter talk they had had. Ellis Grey had shaken her head at her daughter and sat down at her table. "You won't be able to handle it," she had said.
On the steering wheel, Meredith's hands clenched into white-knuckles. She had said nothing to her mother, hadn't been able to. Her heart had been tripping over itself, all sorts of emotions clogging her arteries. She had gone to medical school anyway and, while she had been in her second year there, her mother had finally given over to Alzheimer's disease. Meredith had put her mother in the nursing home because she knew her mother's pride would not allow her to have anyone else know.
When Meredith had first come to see her mother, Ellis Grey almost didn't allow it. Then she remembered that 'Meredith' was her daughter—she was going to be a surgeon—and that she wasn't a colleague come to gloat about her fall from Grace.
She ignored the last of the letters for almost two days, spending her time researching Grace Seattle Hospital—even though she knew everything there was to know about the hospital—and sleeping.
But when there was only a day left until her internship, Meredith found herself pulling out the last letter. She thought she told herself to stop, but she couldn't. She peeled the letter from the envelope entitled, Year 1, and read the neatly sprawled words.
You are a month old now. You are so tiny. I thought you'd be bigger because you felt huge in labor. But you're not, you fit into my two hands. It's strange. I never thought anything so tiny could live.
I don't hate you, I suppose. I just don't know what to do with you. You're a strange, foreign creature that lives in the room next to mine. Sometimes I stand at your door when you cry and stare. What do you want? What do you want from me? You tiny creature, I'm not meant to be a mother. I can't coddle or soothe or comfort. I hate loud noises and I hate drool.
But you're mine, Meredith. You're mine, I suppose. I'll have to figure out something to do with you. I start back at the hospital next week. My mother's here to take care of you, but she's going back to California soon. I think I like California. I might move there when I'm older, at least visit.
I love California. I don't know why and I wish I could say I love you, too… but I don't think I do. I think we're meant to share this life together, Meredith, but I don't think I can love. So I'll just be your mother.
Meredith didn't cry. And it wasn't surprising. Her mother didn't love her, but her mother didn't hate her. Considering how Ellis Grey lived, Meredith told herself that was enough. She put the letters, all of them, back in the box, and sealed it away.
Then, when it was around nine, she realized that she hated it, being alone in this house. She picked up her jacket and got into her car, driving down the darkened roads.
She saw a bar on the dusty road. The bright neon light read, open all night! She pulled into the small parking light, grabbed her purse from the back seat, and strode into the bar, into the loud music and the bodies.
What was she doing? This was so un-Meredith. Meredith Grey didn't go into bars and she was always okay with being alone. But suddenly, Meredith didn't want to be alone anymore. She was tired of it. Tired of everything.
The bartender offered her a remote smile and Meredith ordered a beer, resisting the urge to make it light. What did she care about calories? She would burn them off when her shifts at Grace Hospital started. You did a lot of running there.
"Hey," a man said as he slid into a stool beside her. "Mind if I join you?" He ordered a tall glass of scotch as he waited for her answer.
Meredith glanced over at him, blinking when she saw he wasn't some beer-belly truck driver. He was trim and lean and very, very handsome. His hair was curly and dark, almost black and he had sparkling blue eyes. He looked out of place in a bar.
So she hitched a shoulder. "Sure," she answered and managed to produce a small smile for him. Flirting? What's next, Meredith?
Then she downed the rest of her beer and forgot about why she was so upset.
Time: forty minutes
Couples: minor Meredith/Derek
Status: one-shot (complete)
Author: Lizzy Rebel
Characters/Style: a look at Ellis Grey
Notes: I like Ellis Grey and I thought we should know a little more about her. I get the feeling she and Meredith weren't a big mother-daughter duo.