In her hands, Mary held the last picture of her grandmother. She had thought her grandmother had been merely a kindly old woman, who loved to hand out sweets to her visitors and play merry old tunes to soothe her soul. She had thought her grandmother had been beloved by all for her happy warmth and her warm laughter. She had thought her grandmother had been a housewife by trade, with no skills other than those required by such a position. She had thought her grandmother had been a faithfully religious woman, always attending church on Sunday and reading her Bible, like a good Christian woman should.
But everything she had thought was wrong.
The woman in the picture, the woman she called grandmother, had a very long and storied past, peppered with adventure and seasoned with danger. Her long list of skills covered much more than simply cooking, sewing, and cleaning, though those and many variations of them made her more talented than most people imaginable. She had raised kids and kept house and worked many a dangerous job on top of it. She had made money–and lots of it–doing these dangerous jobs, and she did it solely for the sake of adventure, for her grandmother had more than a small streak of adventure in her. Her streak had become so large over the years that it had taken over her life.
She had died like any other old woman, though. Asleep in bed. Peaceful. Not like she would have wanted. She would have wanted to go while skydiving. Or maybe while on a hike in the middle of the jungle. Maybe she would have preferred to die while in a car chase with a drug cartel or while hiding prisoners of war. It didn’t matter what the particulars were, she would have wanted to go down the way she had lived most of her life: in adventure.
She had even been born in adventure. Her mother, Mary’s great grandmother, was the wife of a missionary on the African plains. Almost nine months pregnant when they had arrived on the continent, she gave birth in the middle of seemingly nowhere, before they had even arrived at their final destination. The child was born in the middle of a dangerous land, so it only seemed appropriate that she would have grown up wanting, craving, so much more than the simple life of a housewife.
Mary couldn’t believe the words she heard coming from her mother’s lips, her voice dancing with laughter as she retold the stories of her husband’s mother’s adventures. “She once was hired to do a hit,” she began, wiping away tears, half of sorrow, half of extreme laughter, “and, not being hard on money, she decided to take the job anyway because she wanted to know what it was like to be a hitman. But when she arrived at the spot of the job, she realized that her target was a young kid. No more than fifteen or sixteen. Dirty. Probably homeless. So rather than killing the kid like she had been hired to do, she practically kidnapped him, took him home, uprooted her entire family, and moved to a completely different country–a different continent even–just so that she could keep the kid safe. That kid is your Uncle Jeffrey.
“And then there was the time that she gave birth to your father.” Mary watched in awe as her mother broke down crying. She couldn’t tell if her mother were crying or laughing, but she knew she was dying of one or the other. “Her older children were playing at the park when she was approached by this real shady man. He asked her to sell him drugs, and so she pulled them out of her purse, demanding a high price, and when he wouldn’t give it to her, she thought she was done for, but just then she went into labor. Her water broke and the man gave her everything she had wanted and more.”
Mary’s mother’s laughter died off, leaving her in tears. “And when your father brought me home… Well, I was just the kind of kid she would have taken in and raised as her own if I hadn’t been in my mid-twenties at the time. Rough looking and dirty, practically living on the streets, with parents who didn’t care about me or my well-being in the least. She decided right then and there that no matter how the relationship between me and her son ended, she would adopt me into her family unofficially, so I always had a home to go back to.”
“I bet you really miss her,” Mary said, her voice quiet.
Her mother nodded. “Yeah, I do.” She took the photo from Mary’s hands, running her fingertips over the picture, her nails the same bright red her mother-in-law had always worn in abundance: her clothes, her hat, her nails, her lipstick. She tossed the picture in the fire and watched as it burned to ash with all the rest of the photos.
“I miss them both.”
Prompt: See picture.