A Land with no Heir

The hint fiction challenge for the month… this is my answer


There were many reasons why Benjamin disliked his mother’s family. First and foremost was because her father – his grandfather – had been instrumental in landing them where they were.

His only son, the younger brother of Benjamin’s mother, had died during the war. That was a sad fact, true. However, it wasn’t singular. Many parents had lost sons during that war. That was how things went when countries waged war. It was even truer when they waged war with their own people.

Benjamin’s grandfather had lost his son, but he still had a daughter. However, as his life neared its inevitable end, he refused to acknowledge his daughter. As far as he was concerned, he had no heir.

The stubborn old man was so old fashioned that he couldn’t see a woman as his heir. To make matters worse, he refused to acknowledge that his grandson even existed. So, rather than falling to his daughter, as it should have done, the fortune the old man had gained was going to the cousins of Benjamin’s mother.

Benjamin watched the old man lying on the bed and frowned darkly. Somehow, it was fitting that the old man was dying from a breathing disorder. Surrounded by air, he was suffocating. Just like his estate, whose true heir was just down the hall, completely unacknowledged.

When this old man died, the cousins who inherited in her place would kick them out. If Mother was very fortunate, they’d wait until after the funeral to do it. Benjamin didn’t expect that his mother would be that lucky. That was why Benjamin’s hatred extended beyond his grandfather to them.

He could almost forgive the old man. He was from another time. In his time, women couldn’t be heirs. That was changing, now. However, he could be forgiven for clinging to the old ways. Benjamin’s mother’s cousins didn’t have old age as an excuse. They were greedy. It was as plain as that.

“What do you want?” the old man rasped, bringing Benjamin back to the present.

Sighing, Benjamin stood. “Mother told me to sit with you a while,” he said, his own voice strained. It took an effort to keep the anger out of his tone. However, he knew his mother still cared for her father. For her sake, he’d be civil. “Do you need anything?”

For a long moment, the old man stared at him. When he spoke, his voice carried nothing but bitterness. “Do you even know who your father was?” he rasped. “Does she?”

Benjamin fought the urge to roll his eyes. “My father died,” he said, sitting a little straighter in his chair. “Like my uncle, he died in that war. He spent one night with my mother: their wedding night. Then, he went off to fight and he died.”

“Who was he?”

It was a simply question. However, Benjamin knew the answer would just anger the old man. He leaned back in his chair and looked out the window. “Ezra McLaine,” he said, his voice soft. “He was from a small town in Virginia.” It was a half-truth, but one that he knew the old man would prefer.

“You look like him?”

Benjamin shrugged. “Mother says so,” he replied, his voice soft. He knew that he looked nothing like his mother. She was fair and petite and slender. He was taller than her and had a more muscular build. He had brown hair and hazel eyes that marked him as an outsider in a family of blue-eyed blonds.

The old man began coughing then. Benjamin moved out of the way when the nurse hurried into the room. As she began attending him, Benjamin slipped out of the room. He headed down the corridor to the upstairs sitting room.

A petite blonde stood by one of the windows. Benjamin squinted and bit his lip. He stepped back and then moved forward once more. This time, as he entered the doorway, he said, “Mother?”

The woman whirled to face him and he heard an annoyed sigh. “Do I look like your mother, McLaine?” she asked, sounding annoyed.

It was his mother’s cousin, Gloria. Benjamin shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Last thing I knew, Mother was in here. Would you happen to know where she went?”

“She’s downstairs, talking with Stephen,” Gloria said. There was sweetness in her tone now. However, Benjamin knew that it was an act. His eyes might be weak, but his hearing seemed to make up for the lack. He’d heard her grumbling when she thought on one could hear.

“Thank you,” Benjamin said, giving her a courteous bow. Then, he turned and headed down the stairs. He heard voices as soon as he reached the landing. Gloria’s husband, Stephen was talking.

“That lazy son of yours,” he said, “needs to learn that he can’t expect everything handed to him.”

Benjamin’s hands clenched into fists as his anger threatened to boil over. However, he took a steadying breath and moved down the last few steps. Then, he headed into the sunroom. “Mother,” he said, ignoring Stephen. “I don’t think it’ll be long, Mother.”

“Thank you, my dear,” Mother said. She paused to kiss his cheek. Then, she hurried up the steps to sit with her father one last time.

Stephen stepped up to Benjamin and crossed his arms over his chest. “So,” he said. Benjamin could almost hear the smirk as he spoke. “Did you hear everything?”

“No,” Benjamin said, his voice soft, “just enough to know what an ass you truly are.” He saw the motion and dodged out of the way before the man could strike him.

“You come here, boy,” Stephen growled. “Let me teach you a lesson about respect.”

“No,” Benjamin said. Then, he turned away and headed upstairs. “You’ll forgive me, but I think my mother needs me.” Then, he followed in his mother’s wake. Yes, the old man he could forgive. However, the other members of his mother’s family were far worse.

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