My mother waited until I’d graduated from high school to tell me that she’d selected me to be heiress of our legacy heritage, as well as our accumulated wealth and family home, but being who she was, she didn’t push me to accept it sooner than I felt I was ready. She wanted me to be able to experience my youth, as she had, and live my life to the fullest and exactly as I wanted before having to take up the mantle and responsibility of the family, myself.
When I was sixteen, I was given this journal by my grandmother Anne when she passed away, but only after reading the accounts of my ancestors when I got older did I truly realize the significance of it. I shared it with my mother after I read it so that she could hear the wisdom of all of our predecessors as well, and we both gained a substantial amount of respect for the history held within these pages.
In my life, there was one thing that I wanted more than anything else in the world, and that was to be a mother, so it wasn’t altogether unexpected when, quite soon after I graduated from high school as class president for four years running and valedictorian of my graduating class, I married my high school sweetheart, Bob Newbie, the most popular boy in my year. His family was well-known and respected within the community, and we were in love.
It had taken a while for Bob and I to begin dating while we were in high school. Him and his previous girlfriend, Betty Simovitch, had been going steady for three years before Bob broke it off with her so that he could start seeing me, although Bob and I had been friends for a year before anything happened between us. We had an attraction from day one, but we did our best to forget about it since him and Betty were still together, that is until we could ignore it no longer.
Being that Riverview was a small town, there was little you could hide from anyone, and everyone knew everyone else’s business. With as long as Bob and Betty had been together, most people had expected them to get married after high school. As a result, I made quite a few enemies within the town by pushing them apart and was labeled a home-wrecker by many since I was the new girl in town. Everyone else’s families had been there for generations, and my family had shown up on the scene and disrupted the natural order of things.
Nevertheless, that did not stop Bob and me from being extremely happy together, and before long, we were expecting our first baby. I was pregnant at the same time as my sister, though several months behind her. Lisa was expecting her second child with her husband, Maximus; they already had a son who was just over a year old by this point.
Her and Maximus were so perfect for each other. They never had very much–living in his parents’ old house, they were always extremely strapped for cash trying to make ends meet–but they were so happy just having each other.
Our first daughter, Kayla, was born weighing 7 pounds, 2 ounces. She had my blue eyes, my father’s pale blonde hair, and you could see in her face, even at that young of an age, that she was going to look just like me. Everyone in our family adored her, and she had enough love to go around. My mother was ecstatic to have a granddaughter to dote upon, but I could not help but notice how much her age had caught up to her. In only a couple of years, it was if a decade of her life had passed her by. I didn’t know the explanation for it at the time, but I know now that this change in my mother’s physique was attributed to the fact that she had fallen extremely ill with a debilitating disease that the doctors had not yet found a treatment for. She did not remain healthy for very long after Kayla was born, but that did not stop her from trying to be the best grandmother anyone possibly could.
Bob’s parents, Robert and Mags Newbie, were also thrilled at becoming grandparents. As Bob was their eldest child, Kayla was their first grandchild, and they often visited on weekends to spend time with Kayla and our family. Sometimes, Bob’s two sisters, who were substantially younger than him, would come along as well.
Less than a year after Kayla was born, I found myself pregnant again with our second daughter, Kelly, whom we named after my grandmother. She resembled a miniature version of her father with my complexion, but her face was a mixture of the two of us. Kayla loved being a big sister, and her and Kelly got along like peas and carrots. Kayla never complained about having to share her toys or her time with Mommy and Daddy with her sister, and Bob and I did our best to keep it that way by making sure that both of the girls got equal attention from us.
Unfortunately, not long after Kelly was born, Mom passed away. Although I was distraught over losing my mother, her death was actually a relief to us, because for six months or so preceding her passing, she had been bed-bound and on a strict regimen of pain medication. Now that she had finally found peace, our family would be able to find solace in the fact that she would no longer have to endure all that suffering.
A few years following Mom’s death, Bob and I decided that we were ready to have another baby, and nine months later we welcomed our third little girl to the family. We named her Jenna, and though she inherited my hair and eyes, her face was her father’s. Kayla and Kelly were in school by this point. Kayla was our little diva, you could say. She loved to dance and perform for anyone that would take the time to watch. Kelly, on the other hand, was more of a bookworm and preferred to keep to herself.
These were the happiest years of my life: raising my children, being a mom, taking care of my husband. I felt blessed to have been given to much and to still have my father, who still seemed so youthful, around to know his grandchildren. The years flew by quickly, and when Jenna was a few years old, Bob and I brought our fourth daughter into the world; we named her Margaret, after Bob’s mother.
Margaret was born with her father’s fair complexion, the flaming red hair of her Grandma Mags, and the light brown eyes of her Grandma Sara. She was a unique mixture of our families and very different from her sisters.
Although Bob and I adored our four girls, we were not done having children just yet; both of us wanted one more baby to make our family complete. So it was that when Margaret was getting ready to start preschool, I found out that I was pregnant again. Eight months and two weeks later, we brought home not one, but two bundles of joy: Madeline and Matilda Newbie. Madeline inherited the dirty blonde hair of her great-grandma Kelly and Matilda inherited Bob’s brown hair, but both girls got my blue eyes.
We truly had our hands full with three small children in the house, and Margaret did not take kindly to not being the center of attention anymore. My father was a huge help with the kids while Bob was at work, and my brother, Brandon, even stopped by occasionally to give me a hand with the babies. Bob, however, was often absent from our home. Ever since I’d found out that I was pregnant with the twins, Bob had become distant, and he regularly stayed out well into the evening, missing dinner. I missed his support, and the girls missed their daddy; not having him there was hard on all of us, and I could not help but wonder where he spent all his time away from home.
After a year and a half of this behavior, Bob came to me to confess what had been going on with him: he’d become reacquainted with Betty–who was now married to Dallas Shallow, Bob’s best friend from high school. Bob told me everything: how he’d been sleeping with Betty for the past year; how she’d accidentally ended up pregnant; and how they’d had a daughter together, whom Dallas believed he was the father of, since he had no knowledge of the affair.
I was extremely hurt, but I respected him for telling me what he’d done, and I didn’t want to give up on our marriage that easily, especially with six children that needed their father. It was hard to rebuild trust within our relationship, but Bob went out of his way to reassure me that the kids and I were his priority above anything else again. As for his daughter with Betty, Dallas and Betty were raising her, and Betty had no desire to ever inform Dallas that he was not the father, absolving Bob from having any parental obligations toward the child.
By this point, Kayla had grown into a stunning young woman and was a sophomore year in high school, and she had her mind set on going into the music business. She had a beautiful singing voice, and she loved performing.
Although she relished the attention she received while she was in the spotlight, however, the stress of it got to her, as well, and for a time, she began losing weight rapidly until she was as thin as a rail. Bob and I were extremely worried about her, concerned that she might be anorexic, and took her to the hospital for evaluation. Her doctor informed us that her condition was stable and not serious as of yet, but that if she continued down her current path, she would do real harm to herself.
Following the doctor’s recommendation, we checked Kayla into a rehabilitation clinic for two months, and she made a full and complete recovery. Once the constant pressure of the image she was expected to maintain was removed, she was able to get her head back on straight, per say, and realize how detrimental to her health what she was doing to herself was.
Not far behind Kayla, Kelly was becoming quite grown up, as well. She did not have her big sister’s flare for dramatics, but she did find that she had a passion for writing as well as gardening and decided to clean out and replant the garden in the backyard that had once been loved by my great-great-grandmother Brianna.
Kelly was also much more of a tomboy than any of her sisters, and she loved being outside in nature; whether it was hiking, playing sports with her dad, gardening, or just taking a walk in the park, she just didn’t like being cooped up indoors. She would often take her notebook with her and walk down to the river, using the quiet to her advantage so that she could write in peace.
Jenna, who was still in elementary school, idolized her big sisters and spent every moment she could with them. The play tower in the backyard was their hangout spot–a place away from the chaos of the main household where they could talk freely. Like the good sisters they were, Kayla and Kelly tolerated Jenna’s adoration most of the time.
Jenna was a true girly girl, you could say, and she loved anything that was pretty or feminine. She was anxious to grow up and be just like her older sisters, but that often got her in trouble with them when they’d find her playing with their makeup or reading their diaries.
As all of the girls got older, Margaret began to identify more with her big sisters, especially Jenna, rather than the twins, who had been playmates with her since they were in diapers. She began to get annoyed by the childish antics of her younger sisters and tried more and more every day to emulate Kayla, Kelly, and Jenna. Matilda and Madeline, however, were hurt by their big sister’s sudden rejection and didn’t understand why Margaret didn’t want to spend time with them anymore. Unfortunately, growing up and making new friends is something that they would only gain understanding for once they got a bit older themselves.
When Margaret started high school, she joined the yearbook staff and found that she had a talent for art as well as management and organization. By now, Jenna was a senior, getting ready to graduate that year, and Kayla and Kelly had already gotten married and started their own families. Kayla had married her high school boyfriend, Lashawn Lothario, and given birth to a son, my first grandchild, Jeremy Lothario, and Kelly had married a man by the name of Tyree Bagley and was pregnant with their first child.
By the time the twins entered high school, Jenna had graduated and married Micheal Simovitch—Betty’s younger brother, with a dramatic age gap between them—and given birth to a little boy, Joseph. Kayla had another son, whom they’d named Uriah. Kelly had also given birth to a boy, Elliot, and Margaret was in her senior year and had a steady boyfriend: Nathan Gallegos.
Matilda was very into sports, but she struggled to excel in them because she also had troubles with her weight. She was often discouraged as a result, but she never gave up, and she always had our support behind her with whatever she decided to do. Madeline, though, was very socially awkward at school and had difficulty making friends. She was also very dependent on others and felt as though she needed the acceptance of her peers in order to affirm her own self-worth. I worried about her often, but she had to make a path for herself, and in that respect, I could only guide her; she had to make her own decisions and mistakes.
As our youngest girls finished school and got ready to move out on their own, leaving Bob and I with an empty nest, save for visits from our grandchildren, we realized that we would soon enough have to choose between our girls for who would inherit the legacy and family home from us. We labored over the decision for weeks, which gave way to months and, soon, years. Kelly and Jenna were both pregnant again. Margaret and Nathan had gotten married and had a little girl, whom they’d named Jaime. Madeline had gotten married to Kristian Shallow—Betty’s eldest son—and Matilda had also gotten married to a man by the name of Roman Rutledge.
Bob and I did not approve of Madeline’s marriage; Kristian had an ex-wife–who, it was rumored, had left him because he was abusive to her–and a daughter with her. We worried whether he would treat our girl as well as she deserved, but it was not our place to meddle in her affairs.
My father lived to see several of his great-grandchildren, but time eventually catches up with all of us, and one night, he passed away peacefully in his sleep. He lived a long, full life, and although I knew that it was just his time, I still missed him dearly.
Years passed, and still we did not make a decision on who would be come the heir to our line; it was simply too difficult to decide between all of our girls. However, when Bob’s health began to fail, we realized that, no matter how much we didn’t want to choose, we needed to, or we would risk leaving our girls to sell the home and divide everything six ways, as would be the case if we left no definitive heir, and I knew that I would need to choose one of them to give the responsibility of this journal to, as well.
Eventually, we decided to give everything to Margaret after she and her family moved back into the manor to assist me in caring for Bob after he fell ill. Of her sisters, she had stayed the closest and most connected with not only us, but all of her siblings over the years, and we felt that she would be the most deserving. However, it was not her that would directly inherit the fortune. We chose to pass everything to our granddaughter, Margaret’s daughter, Jaime, with Margaret as legal guardian for the inheritance until Jaime was old enough to assume responsibility for it.
Although some would say that I did not do much with my life, I believe the best thing that any person can do in his or her life is to be the best parent that they can be, and that is what I’ve tried to do. Even after I am gone, my spirit will live on in my six wonderful girls and all of their children. My life has been blessed with the gift of living long enough to see my children give birth to many grandchildren and make homes for themselves, and that is all I ever really asked for. I hope that Margaret and Jaime can experience as much happiness in their lives as I have.
Keeping with the tradition that was begun so many generations ago, my mother passed this journal off to me with instructions that I was to write in it a record of my life once my children were grown and on their own. Although the pattern was disrupted with the death of my grandmother Janet, my mother believed, and I share her opinion, that this testament to our lives and accomplishments should be continued so that our children may know of their family history directly from the pen of those who lived it.
As most of my family has, I shall begin where my mother left off. My parents made me the sole heir to their assets in their wills, and I took over management of our home and its finances when I became of age so that my parents could retire and relax in their later years. My mother became an accomplished author in her time, although she only ever released a handful of books because she devoted so much time to caring for my sister Jennifer and myself, and my father retired from his elected position as city mayor after three terms.
Growing up, I had been somewhat of my parents’ princess because they had been so overjoyed to have a daughter who was normal for all intent and purposes. My sister grew up to be somewhat plain and average. She kept her hair short so as to not have to deal with it and usually wore lose-fitting clothes for comfort. Given her condition, she tended to keep to herself and stay home most of the time unless she accompanied me when I went out somewhere. She continued to live at home with us so that my parents and I would be able to take care of her whenever she needed us; despite her medication keeping her condition fairly stable, she still sometimes had problems.
I was probably the only person in the family that did not treat her like there was something wrong with her. For my entire life she had been just same, so there was nothing for me to compare her behavior to; she was just my sister. This was, perhaps, why she preferred my company over others’, because I never treated her differently from anyone else.
Jennifer did manage to have a handful of romantic relationships, though, but none of them stuck. She would always get bored of them and cut them out of her life, moving on to her next conquest. Mom and Dad didn’t approve of her using men as an outlet for her emotional turbulence, but that didn’t do anything to stop her.
Not long after high school, I met and fell for a man who had just recently moved in from out of town: Andrew Carson. We put our relationship on the fast-track and within six months we had already gotten married. We probably should have waited and given it more time, but we thought we were in love and wanted to start our lives together. However, not three months after we’d said our vows, I came home from shopping to find Andrew upstairs in bed with my sister. I was beyond furious at them both; I couldn’t even comprehend how either of them could do something like that to me, especially Jennifer, whom I had always stood up for and supported through anything that came her way. I kicked Andrew out and moved immediately to file for a divorce, and it was weeks before I uttered even a single word to Jennifer.
Within a week of kicking Andrew out, though, I began to think that I might be pregnant. I acted with my family as though nothing was out of the ordinary, but my mother had her suspicions. I went to my doctor and my worries were confirmed; I was going to have a baby–Andrew’s baby, whom I was going to be forced to raise by myself. The whole divorce was a big, ugly scandal within our family. I was the only heir in our entire family line that had ever gone through it, and my parents considered it unacceptable for us to even consider breaking off our vows, despite anything that had happened. Had it been any other woman that he’d had an affair with, I might have been able to forgive him and move on, but having him sleep with my sister was just too much for me to deal with.
Mom and Dad were excited that they were going to have a grandchild, but their disappointment over my failed marriage was evident, nonetheless, and persisted for a great while after our divorce was finalized. I never told Andrew about the baby, and he left town, moving back to where he’d previously lived not long after we split up. I gave birth to a daughter, whom I named Lisa. She inherited my eyes and my mother’s hair color, but her face was her father’s. I tried to make life as normal for her as possible; however, as she got older and started school, the inevitable questions of who and where her daddy was began to pour in.
For a long time, I was guarded and unwilling to allow myself to fall in love again. I was extremely distrustful of others and threw my time into raising my daughter and running the household. By this time, my father had passed away. Mother didn’t deal with it well, and the only one who could bring her out of her shell of mourning was Lisa.
Eventually, though, there was a man that managed to scale my ivory tower and win me over; his name was Rufus Sauer, and he worked as a family doctor at the hospital. It by no means happened overnight, and it took quite a bit of time for him to break through the thorns that had grown around my heart, but eventually I began to care for him as much as he did for me. Our marriage date was set for the end of the year, and mother was ecstatic that I was finally going to settle down again. Everything with Rufus was wonderful, and it wasn’t long after our marriage before we decided that we were ready to have our first child–a girl whom we named Anne. She was born with her grandfather’s brown hair and her father’s blue eyes.
After the first year or so, though, the glow of new love had worn off, and the long hours that Rufus was forced to work at the hospital began to wear on me. My eyes, and my hands, began to wander, and despite how much I had hated Andrew for cheating on me when we were married, I began to stray. I felt immensely guilty every time I found my way into the arms of another man while my husband was not around, and although he never found out what I was up to while he was away at work, my guilt led me to call an end to my affairs and devote my time to new hobbies, such as painting, to occupy my time. After my indiscretions, though, my anger towards my sister lessened. Were her mistakes any greater than what I had done, after all? She became my only confidant in the times that followed, and remains to this day the only one that knows of my infidelity.
It was around this time that the town began to change. It was not the good neighborhood that it had once been. The crime syndicates had grown more bold, and the police were unable to keep up with the rising crime rates. People had begun disappearing; murdered, kidnapped–no one knew what had become of them. Entire families would vanish overnight, and local law enforcement was at a loss as to how to resolve the situation. Rufus and I feared for the safety of our family and began looking for other places to live. I’d been to Riverview several times when my parents had taken Jennifer there for treatment, and it seemed like a good area–exactly the type of place we were looking for to raise our children and grow old together.
We commissioned a house built there in the high class part of town using the same blueprint as our current house here in Sunset Valley with minor changes. We paid extra to move the job along quickly, wanting to get out of Sunset Valley as soon as possible with everything that was going on here, and a few months later we said goodbye to the house that had been home to our family for six generations and moved to begin our new lives in a new town; my mother and sister came with us, as well.
The builders had done a less-than-adequate job when it came to the electrical wiring and plumbing in the house, and we had various repairmen come over the next several months to fix our leaks and shortages and replace the shoddy craftsmanship with quality materials. Other than that, we settled into life in Riverview quickly, glad to be away from the distress occurring back in our old town. Rufus got a job at County Care General Hospital while I stayed home as a full-time mom. Having Mother around was a huge help to me with the kids, especially since, after life returned to a normal routine in our new home, Rufus and I decided to have another baby.
The girls adjusted to their new school well, but while Anne had no difficulty fitting in, Lisa had a very hard time making new friends. Lisa had always struggled with her weight; her father had been somewhat overweight, himself, and Lisa had, unfortunately, inherited that part of her genetics from him. I still thought her to be a very pretty girl, but she was often teased at school. Anne, on the other hand, had many friends and was very popular within her class. I wished the girls would spend more time together, but because of their age difference and social standing, they rarely associated with each other voluntarily. Both of them were excellent students, though, and were given awards for making the honor roll at the end of the school year. During the following summer, I gave birth to our son, Brandon Sauer, and with him, our family was complete. Rufus had always been a wonderful step-father to Lisa, and he loved Anne dearly, but I knew he had always wanted a son of his own.
When Anne started high school, she joined the cheerleading squad and ran for class president, vying for the respect of her peers and turning the heads of several boys in her class and in the years above her.
Despite all the happiness in our lives at the time, we had sadness, as well. Not long after Anne started her freshman year, my mother fell ill and passed away. We were all devastated, but Jennifer took it the hardest. I think it was then that she came to the realization that her life had passed her by, and yet the only descendants she had to show that her life had meant something were her nieces and nephew. She had never held a job, never had a meaningful relationship, and the person she had leaned on for her entire life was gone. She seemed lost after Mom died.
It was then that she let Rufus and I know that she wanted to move out and get her own place–that she needed to find herself. We, of course, assisted her in finding a little one-bedroom house across town that was somewhat isolated and bought it for her–anything to give her a little peace of mind. It was what my mother would have wanted us to do.
When Lisa turned eighteen, she seemed to outgrow most of her teenage awkwardness and come into her own. It was then that Rufus and I realized that we needed to make a decision as to which of our children would inherit our estate in our wills. Naturally, although Rufus loved Lisa, it was his wish for one of his own children to continue his legacy. I agreed, and Anne became our designated heir legally.
Lisa did not take the news badly. She was happy for her sister and decided that that was the right time to give us the news that the boy she’d fancied for most of high school, Maximus McDermott, had finally expressed an interest in her. Maximus’s parents had recently passed away and he had inherited their house but didn’t have the funds to support it, so he was looking for a roommate. Rufus and I met him and approved, and Lisa and Maximus started dating, moving in together not long afterwards.
Lisa is now married and expecting my first grandchild, Anne will be turning eighteen tomorrow, and Brandon is about to start high school. My part in is over, and it’s time for Anne to take her place among the matriarchs of our family. This journal will be among my gifts to her for her birthday, symbolizing all that she is inheriting from our family line.
It wasn’t until I was about sixteen years old that I even learned of the existence of this journal. My aunt kept it hidden from me, along with anything else that was related to my mother, whom my aunt made no attempt to hide her hatred for. Aunt Leah made it clear from early-on that I wasn’t to ask anything about my mother, ever. As far as my aunt was concerned, my mother was a tramp that had gotten herself killed because of her own naivety.
To say the least, my upbringing was difficult. My brother and I were outcasts in our own household. William and I weren’t permitted to enjoy nearly as many luxuries as Alfred, my cousin and Aunt Leah’s son, was allowed, even down to simple things like having birthday parties and inviting friends over. Even as I have gotten older, I cannot understand what caused her bitterness to run so deeply.
During my growing up years, I spent a lot of time on my own, and I was often horribly depressed, but when I was old enough, I started digging around the house, trying to find things that had been my mother’s or grandmother’s. It was as if my aunt had attempted to erase them from everything around her, but I did find some things hidden away in the attic, including this journal. Among the heirlooms, I found pictures of my mother as a baby, growing up, and a few of her as an adult. She appeared so happy and carefree, and I wished that I could have had the chance to get to know her. She seemed nothing like Aunt Leah.
After finding the pictures, I went to the salon and had my hair styled the same as my mother had worn hers when she’d been my age; that incensed my aunt like nothing I had ever seen before. To her I was the ghost of my mother that had come back from the dead to haunt her. Having to see me, a mirror image of the sister she hated so deeply, every day constantly tormented her, and it did nothing to improve relations between us. We were nearly always at each other’s throats, and I knew that she wanted nothing more than for me to be old enough that she’d never have to deal with me again.
When I turned eighteen, she and Alfred moved across town, leaving me to take care of myself and my brother on my own. Until then, I had been unaware that everything we’d owned–our house, property, and all our possessions–belonged to me. I had no idea that my grandparents had left all of it to me in their wills; my aunt had never wanted to share that information with me, that is until she announced that she was leaving. Legally, she was only permitted to oversee my inheritance until I was eighteen, and then she had no right to any of it. I would never have forced her and my cousin to move out, despite the anger and resentment I felt toward both of them, but I think it was for the best that she did. I believe we were both happier that way; the house held too many negative memories for my aunt.
That left William and me in that huge house all by ourselves, but it wouldn’t remain that way for long. Within a year of Aunt Leah’s departure, I met and fell in love with a man by the name of Clint Randall, a young but up-and-coming politician.
Clint had a desk job at City Hall working for the mayor when we started dating, and he had big dreams to hold an office of his own eventually. After a few months of dating, he moved in with my brother and me, and things stayed that way for several years, through William graduating and moving out. We weren’t in a hurry to get married; we just enjoyed each other.
During all of this, I did a lot of soul-searching to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My grandparents had left me quite a sum of money, but eventually it would run out, and a house as large as our had expensive bills that had to be paid. I also realized that I needed to become my own person, not live in the shadow of what I thought my mother should have been. To start, I grew my hair out so that I would no longer look just like her. I also bought some new clothes to make my wardrobe appear more sophisticated.
I discovered that I had a flare for writing, and whenever Clint would be working late at City Hall, I would head over to the library to work on my first attempts at writing a book. I could have worked at home, but the library had such a rich atmosphere, and I often drew inspiration from the people I observed there. I had no idea whether I would have any success at getting published when my book was done, but it was the first thing I’d truly felt like I had a talent for, so I had to go for it.
Almost three years after we’d started dating, Clint proposed to me one morning at home, and of course I accepted. Although we both hadn’t wanted to rush into marriage, I had been anxious for him to ask me for quite a while–worried that his career would take off and he wouldn’t have a place for me in his life anymore. Having never experienced the warmth of having a loving family of my own growing up, with Clint, I was the happiest I’d ever been in my entire life, and I was eager to be the perfect wife to him and have a family of our own–to shower my children with the affection I had never known.
We got married on the beach at sunset, just the two of us. Neither of us had any family that we were interested in inviting. It was the perfect romantic setting, and I’d never before in my life felt more special and loved than I did at that moment.
It wasn’t long after our wedding before we found ourselves expecting our first child, a daughter whom we named Jennifer, and as our family grew, Clint’s career finally took off. The city council seats were up for re-election, and I launched enthusiastically into supporting Clint’s campaign and being as best a mother as I could be. Meanwhile, I’d completed my first book and managed to get it published. My publishing company had high hopes for me as a promising new writer, and my book sold quite well. They signed me on with a five-year contract under the requirement that I complete a certain number more books within that time frame.
However, with Jennifer in our lives now, Clint and I began to have problems with our marriage. Clint would become jealous of the time that I would devote to caring for Jennifer, and refused to give her any attention, himself. He would argue with me that he had never wanted children and had only gone along with it because it meant so much to me. Despite his aversion to our daughter, though, he still loved me deeply. Although it required more out of me than I truly had hours for in the day, I did my best to put time aside to give Clint the attention he desired from his wife, and as a result, our relationship began to repair itself over time.
Jennifer inherited Clint’s light brown eyes and the black hair of my great-grandfather, Dedrick Keaton, that had shown up sporadically throughout our family line, despite the blonde being so dominant. It was the same hair my aunt Leah had. I loved my baby girl more than I could possibly express, and I’d like to think that she received enough care form me to supplement Clint’s absence. She was somewhat delayed in her development and learned to walk and talk at a much later age than most toddlers, though. It worried me, but her pediatrician assured me that it was perfectly normal and that there was nothing nothing to worry about at that point; all children develop at their own rate.
The three of us made for the picture perfect family to the community, and I did my best to appear the ideal wife at political events for Clint. He’d gotten elected to the city council with a landslide victory over his opponent, the incumbent, and he’d set his sights on climbing the political ladder further. We held social events at our home regularly with Jennifer and me always there, dressed in our best to impress the wealthy guests we entertained with the hope of getting substantial campaign donations.
But as Jennifer grew, Clint and I began to notice some extremely strange behavior from our little girl. She had extreme difficulty falling asleep, and when she did manage to sleep, she would be tormented with nightmares. Night after night this occurred, and I often slept on the couch we’d put in her bedroom so that I would be there whenever she’d wake up. During the day, she acted isolated and withdrawn and rarely associated with either of us. We would often find her staring straight forward, expressionless, and when we would speak to her, she rarely responded. When she started school, her teacher observed the same behavior and expressed her concern to us partway through the year that Jennifer had not made a single friend at school, nor did she seem to have the desire to interact with anyone.
Then one afternoon I heard whispers coming from upstairs while Clint was at work. I climbed the stairs to find Jennifer sitting alone in her bedroom, whispering wildly to herself with increasing agitation as though there were someone there she was speaking to. It frightened me deeply, and I began to think there might be something seriously wrong with my daughter. As public image was very important to Clint’s career, we had avoided taking Jennifer to a psychiatrist with the concern that something would be leaked to the press about it, but after that day, I insisted that we get her help.
After a series of sessions with a discreet psychiatrist whose practice was in Riverview–out of the way of prying eyes and gossip–Jennifer was diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia. The doctor prescribed some anti-psychotic medications for her to take regularly, and over time, her condition seemed to improve gradually, though we knew she would probably never be able to lead an entirely normal life.
Even with the medicine, though, there were times when Jennifer would succumb to the influences of her condition and attempt to cause harm to herself or those around her. It pained me to have to restrain or sedate her to protect her from herself, but it was necessary.
Although Clint had never wanted to have any more children, I expressed my desire to try just once more, to have at least one child that would hopefully grow to be completely normal so that he or she would be able to care for Jennifer when we were gone and carry on our legacy. He had reservations about it; what if our second child grew to develop the same problems that Jennifer had? After enough begging from me, however, he finally consented to giving me the second child I wanted so badly.
We named our second daughter Sara, and it was clear at a very young age that she was not going to develop the problems that had affected her sister. She inherited Clint’s light brown eyes, just like Jennifer, and a slightly lighter shade of blonde than my own. She was extremely bright and social, bringing a great deal of light to our household. Even Clint, despite his aversion to children, could not deny her charm.
Jennifer adjusted well to becoming a big sister. At first I was concerned for Sara’s safety if left alone with her sister, and I kept watch over the two of them like a hawk whenever they were together, getting very little sleep at night, overcome with concern that Jennifer would do something to harm Sara. I knew that in her right mind nothing of that sort would ever occur, but if she were to have one of her episodes, there was no telling what she would be influenced to do. She demonstrated quickly to me, though, that I had nothing to worry about.
Caring for Sara actually helped to improve Jennifer’s condition dramatically. She was so devoted to her little sister; it was as if Sara kept Jennifer grounded to reality, staying the episodes that had been so common before Sara had been in her life. In time, our lives began to actually resemble that of a normal family’s, and when Clint ran for mayor when the elections rolled around, he won by a substantial margin.
Sara grew into a gorgeous young woman and Jennifer continued to make progress. As Sara grew up, she began to dislike having Jennifer around so often and would try to avoid her when possible, but she understood what a crucial part she played in her sister’s life and tolerated her presence.
As we are now getting older, ourselves, as well, Clint and I have made the clear decision to declare Sara the heir to the family inheritance, with the understanding that she continue to make sure that Jennifer is cared for. Her condition has improved so substantially since she was a child that she is not restricted to always needing to have a guardian. As long as she continues to take her medication regularly, she is capable of taking care of herself, but we, Clint and I, still want to assure that she will always have a place that she can call home.
My life has had its ups and down, but I would like to think that there were more high points than low and that I did the best with the cards that were dealt to me. I love my husband; I love my daughters, and I love the life that I built for myself. There’s nothing I would take back, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything. I would like to think that, had my mother been able to know me, she would have been proud of what I’ve done with the time I’ve been given.