Disclaimer: I do not own Charmed.
Moments after the Summer Dies
A story by: Ryeloza
Guilt eats at your heart more when you can't share the pain with anyone else. Penny knows. She knows so well because right now guilt has filled her gut, throbbing and coursing through her veins and trying to take up any leftover space in her soul not occupied by grief. There is no way to alleviate this. No way to escape. Penny is simply trapped, trapped, trapped.
But she deserves to be.
"I'm pregnant." Not excited. Not anxious. Not happy. Patty had stood before Penny, biting her lip, tears welling in her big, brown eyes, looking all of four-years-old.
Looking back now, Penny realizes that Patty's fears weren't anything she had believed them to be. Lost destinies. Wrath of a higher power. The possible ruin of her daughters. No. Patty had simply been afraid of Penny herself. Penny, and what she would inevitably force her daughter to give up.
Everything had been so matter of fact. Hide the pregnancy. Tell no one. Bind powers. Send the child away.
And nine-month-mantra: "It's for the good of everyone, Patty."
Patty had spent six weeks in bed afterward. She had wasted six weeks of her short life in bed, grieving for the loss of her daughter and at the time all Penny had been able to say was, "You have three girls here who need you. Get it together and get out of bed." And Patty had because Patty always seemed to do what Penny said.
Now Patty is gone. Buried in a graveyard with a cold March rain pouring down upon her and Penny is nearly ready to burst with the pain and injustice of it all. She wants nothing more than to crawl into bed and weep for the loss of her child, just as Patty did six months ago.
But those three little girls are still there and they are grieving too and no one would be there to force Penny out of bed.
So she goes on.
"I'm not ready! I'm not ready!"
"I'm. Not. Ready!"
Somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind Patty knows that ready or not, this baby is coming out of her today, but at the moment, she wants nothing more than to send her back to wherever she came from. Victor isn't there and her mother is annoyingly calm and Patty is only twenty. What the hell does she know about having a baby?
"Please, please, please. I can't. I can't."
But in the end, she could. She did. And Victor came in time and her mother held her hand and afterward…
"She's the most beautiful…the most perfect…"
And ready or not, Prue stole Patty's heart.
Paige can't remember a time she didn't know that she was adopted. Her parents had never kept it a secret or withheld information. "I'm adopted." As simple a fact as "I have brown eyes."
Maybe that's why she's never really thought about seeking her biological parents until now. Now that her parents are gone and she is so alone that sometimes she can't breathe from pain of such loss. So she starts to dig via her connections at work and after some incredibly odd twists and turns—the records are astonishingly poorly kept—she finds a name. One single, lonely name.
One glaring date of death.
But she digs a little further because even after all of this she can't live with just a name. There has to be a picture or a story or a reason.
All she finds are three women. Three daughters. And she knows. She knows deep down to her bones that these are her sisters, but she decides to do nothing about it.
As much as she wants a family again, these women do nothing but break Paige's heart over and over and over each time she thinks of them. Because they got to stay. They were raised together and loved together and belonged. And Paige…Paige was just…
She can't finish the sentence unless she asks and she's too afraid to know. She's too scared to ask, "Why me?"
So she pretends there's no way, but it doesn't dull the pain.
"She's not going to college! Can you believe it? I swear that girl just doesn't know what she has!"
Patience sits and watches her only daughter pace back and forth while venting her frustrations. She loves Penny in an acute, focused way that warms her long-deadened heart. No one, unfortunately, can truly thaw the years of hurt and loss and longing, but Patience loves her daughter as strongly as she can manage to.
Penny deserves more. She deserves a mother as passionate for her as she is for Patty. She deserves someone who always listens and who is devoted. Who pokes her nose in where it doesn't belong. Who never forgets a birthday and doesn't have unprovoked crying jags. But Patience had given her heart away long before Penny—long before her husband even—and she simply couldn't seem to get it back.
Is there anything more shameful? she wonders.
Patty isn't surprised to see glitter smeared across Prue's cheek and paint splashed down Piper's sundress, but Victor is covered in both glitter and paint, which forces Patty to stifle a giggle. The three of them look so comical and sweet that pride and warmth and love swell within her and she can't help but grin.
"Happy mother's day!" Prue and Piper yell.
The card is still wet and glitter comes off on her fingers as she picks it up, but she's never loved a piece of paper as much as she loves this one.
Grams had always told Phoebe that she hoped someday she'd have a daughter exactly like Phoebe was. Nora, Phoebe thinks, would fulfill all of Grams' wishes and more.
The similarities are more than in appearance. More than a wild streak. More than a smart mouth and sneaking out of the house and getting into trouble. They're in strange little ways that Phoebe never even considered before because, in her own experience, she'd never had more than pictures and stories to rely on for comparison.
They make the loops on their "y's" the same way. They both eat potato chips with ice cream. They both put on the right sock first; they both cry at the same part of It's a Wonderful Life; they both can't carry a tune to save their lives.
These little things are what run through her mind when people say how similar Nora is to her. And she wonders: when a person tells her and her sisters that they're like Patty, is that person thinking of appearance and personality, or the little day-to-day things?
The saddest part is that she'll never know.
For all of the terrible, heart-wrenching aspects of dying before—before first days of school; before Girl Scouts; before failed music lessons; before first kisses; before school dances; before weddings; before grandchildren—there is one, and only one, bright spot. Now she can see for her own eyes that her baby is safe and healthy and happy.
They named her Paige Theresa, which is nice and Patty open-mindedly tries to think of it as the perfect name for her baby (even though she had lovingly chosen Philomena Samantha; Philip had been Sam's father's name and Mena an old family name on her side and Samantha, well, was obvious). She also tries to like the heavily purpled wardrobe, though she's not sure why they insist on dressing Paige in every shade from lavender to violet to plum.
Then there are things she can't quite force herself to accept. That as Paige learns to toddle around the house they make her wear shoes all of the time. The terrible haircut she gets right before her second birthday. The frilly dresses they make her wear whenever she goes to her grandfather's house.
Despite these things, she reminds herself again and again that the Matthews love Paige and that is the most important thing in the end.
And she pretends that her heart doesn't break every time Paige calls Theresa Matthews "Mama."
Piper can't remember much about her mother. Sometimes she wonders if the few memories she has are even real, or if they're a culmination of stories and imagination and hope. She thinks the fact that she wants to believe they're real so badly should count for something, so she usually pushes her doubts aside.
Still, it's slightly disconcerting that her husband has more concrete memories of her mother interacting with her as a child than she does. She tries not to be jealous of the fact that he can confidently say her mothering skills remind him of Patty. She tries not to think of how unfair the situation is, but often she simply can't help herself.
But there's one thing she remembers with such utter clarity that she knows deep down in her soul—absolutely no doubts!—that she's actually remembering a time with her mother and not someone else's recollection. For her fifth birthday, just nearly two months before Patty died, she'd gotten a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit as a gift and night after night she had begged her mother to read the book to her. She can remember, so clearly, the last night with her mother. Reading the book. Cuddling into the crook of her arm. Her mother tracing her fingers up and down Piper's arm as she read. She treasures that memory more dearly than any other, real or imagined.
That memory is what allows her to pass the book on to her daughter on her birthday. For the first time since that memory, Piper reads the words her mother once read to her.
Aunt Phoebe is the only one who has spent any time truly studying the family history and Meli uses her as a reliable source of information. Not shockingly, Aunt Phoebe knows more stories about sisters than anything else. They're wonderful stories—sad, thrilling, touching—but lately Meli is more interested in the legacy of mother to daughter in their family. She, after all, has no sisters; just two brothers.
She's seen things first-hand, of course. Her own mother would kill for her and her brothers, if need be. Aunt Phoebe practically lived for Nora and Lena. Aunt Paige had tracked down Eliana's birthmother in order to save her life. So she knows the sorts of things that mothers will do for their children.
She knows what Melinda Warren, one of her namesakes, did her for daughter. Aunt Phoebe told her about her many-greats-aunt Grace who jumped in front of a fireball to save her daughter's life. In her research she's unearthed more stories than she thought possible with signs of love and devotion that range from huge sacrifices to tiny displays. She revels in the history and the idea of a love that powerful.
She just hopes that now that she's pregnant that she can do the same for her daughter.
Penny doesn't visit Patty's grave often. Once a year she takes the girls, but that is usually the only time. The hard ground and cold, unfeeling headstone aren't her daughter. They don't feel like her daughter and she doesn't sense Patty when she's there.
For her, Patty is in the kitchen curtains they made together one day. She's the marks on the wall inside the basement door where Penny tracked her height each year. She's in the ghost whispers of laughter Penny hears on the stairs at night. She's a million little reminders throughout the house that tear Penny apart every day and simultaneously make her so happy that she had Patty, however short the time.
And she's in the girls. Prue's determination to do what's right. Piper's love and kindness. Phoebe's sense of humor. Penny loves them fiercely for who they are individually and even more for every fleeting glimpse of Patty she can see. They're a concrete hold on the daughter she would give anything to have back and maybe it's wrong to love them for this reason, but Penny does. So much.
But Patty was Patty. Patty was hers. And no one can replace her.
A/n: This is the result of spending my summer nights marathon-watching my Gilmore Girls DVDs and listening to a playlist I found online called, "The Top Twenty-Five Saddest Songs." Oh, and my long-standing love of Charmed of course.
I hope you all enjoyed this. Thanks for reading!