Duty: Giles and Jenny
The clock in the hall strikes two and Jenny Giles (what an odd name, she thinks fleetingly. Even now, after all these years, the combination catches her off guard.) looks up from her computer. She's working on a book, the story of her life. A book most would take for fiction and only a select few would not.
Jenny pushes away from the desk; her chair rolls across the hard wood floor. No more writing today. Her guests will be here soon.
Jenny looks around her study and frowns. If the rest of the house looks like this, and it does, they'll know she's been working all day. They'll worry that she's wearing herself out and that she's not properly enjoying her retirement. They don't seem to understand that keeping busy keeps her happy.
Jenny stands up and walks over to the fire place. Despite the name, a fire hasn't burnt there in over two decades. Now the mantel is a convenient surface for the collection of framed photographs. A life captured in a dozen 3 and a half by 5 inch frames.
Jenny picks up the nearest picture, the last complete family photo: Jenny and Rupert with their three daughters. The photo was taken back when Hailey was 13, ten years ago.
How much a girl can change in ten years. Jenny thought to herself, How much a family can change.
Hailey had been such a sweetie at thirteen, slower to reach those rebellious teens than many of her peers. She had dreams she had written up in her diary and never let anyone read. Jenny knows because she has read them, uninvited, concerned that her daughter may have been living some double life on her, like Emily. Emily who hid drugs in her jewellery box and slept with men twice her age. Emily who lost her virginity before her older sister.
But Hailey's secrets had been normal teenage secrets. Safe secrets and Jenny was content to let her keep them. Jenny knows all about secrets. She has her own, after all, which she keeps from everyone: her friends, her children, her husband. Especially her husband. These are secrets she doesn't dare write down, secrets she will take to her grave.
Jenny's glad that Hailey wants to be a watcher and wants to learn about the slayers. Otherwise, the duty would fall to the oldest, Rachel, who cared nothing for her father's occupation. Rachel, who never liked school, never cared for writing or taking tests. She was far too concrete, better at mechanics than mathematics. But she would suffer though, because she understands duty. Something Jenny can appreciate. She loves her daughter for it and loathes her at the same time.
Rupert understood duty too. Even in the end, with cancer in his lungs, too weak to walk, barely able to sit up, he did his duty. His last days were passed in seclusion with his youngest daughter, passing on his watcher wisdom with his last breath. Duty kept Hailey at his side and duty kept Jenny from not interrupting.
Duty was a harsh word.
That was five years ago. Jenny kisses her fingers and touches the photo of her husband. A photo of how she always wants to remember him. His duty, long and hard with few rewards, was done.
Life hadn't been all duty, of course. And not all duties had been unpleasant.
Buffy had been such a duty. Even after all those years, Rupert has remembered her with such fondness. Even after all those years, he remembered her with such sadness.
Jenny steps away from the mantel. Soon she will hear the car drive up to the garage, the gravel crackling under the tires. She will be waiting with the door wide open. She will greet her daughter and son-in-law and fat grandchildren with hugs and exclamations of joy.
She will leave the sadness she feels for Buffy's death and the role she played in it behind with Rupert's photo on the mantel. She will forget the sadness she didn't feel when the newly resouled vampire with the angelic face stepped into the sun. All she will remember is the relief that such a creature is gone.
Author Notes: This has, by far, been the hardest chapter to write. It's the first one you read but the last one I wrote. To be honest, I considered cutting it out all together because I simply couldn't seem to write it. The title started out by being "Fat Grandchildren", referring to that comment The First, as Jenny, said to Angel. But as I wrote it, it turned into something else. The fat grandchild only managed to make a brief appearance at the end.