Title: Snapshots: A Brief History of a Life Less Ordinary
Word Count: ~20,500
Please see first part for disclaimer/summary/notes.
April 13th, 1972
The principal, Ms. David, came into the classroom and spoke to the teacher quietly. Then she turned to the students. “Jessica, I need you to come with me, please.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She walked next to the principal until they arrived at her office. There she saw her favorite person in the whole world – her grandfather. “Grandfather!” She ran into his always-strong arms.
He picked her up and held her close. “Jessica! How’s my little Sunshine?”
She smiled and laughed at his pet name for her and wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him.
He looked at the principal. “We’re going to go for a walk, Sunshine.”
Ms. David nodded in understanding as he carried Jessica outside.
The Earl found their favorite quiet spot on a bench under a tree. “Jessica, I’m afraid I have some bad news, sweetheart.”
“What’s wrong, Grandfather?”
“It’s your mother... she’s gone, Jessica.”
She reached up and wiped away the few tears that had escaped and ran down his cheeks towards his beard. “It’s okay. She goes away a lot, but she always comes back eventually.”
“Not this time, Sunshine. Your mother is dead, Jessica.”
“Oh.” She was quiet for several seconds before speaking again. “She wasn’t a happy person, Grandfather.”
He gazed into the sparkling grey eyes of his granddaughter and saw intelligence far beyond her years. He sighed. “No, sweetheart, she wasn’t.”
“Maybe she’ll be happy now.”
“Maybe she will.”
That sat together in silence for several minutes.
April 17th, 1972
“Lord Essington, I understand you’re Jessica’s grandfather, but Mr. Rodier is her father. And quite frankly we are just not set up to board students through the summer.”
“As far as her father is concerned–” He stopped himself before he said something very regretful. “That man didn’t even bother to show up for his wife’s funeral. He was ‘too busy’ to attend or to spend any time with daughter. So I don’t care what it takes, Ms. David, just make it happen. And don’t give me any crap about not having money in the budget. I will cover any and all associated costs.”
“Why don’t you let her stay with you during the summer?”
“Jessica’s expressed a desire to stay at school. She loves learning, and I think she likes the consistency of environment. If Jessica wants to stay at school during the summer, then that’s what she’ll get to do.”
The Earl left the principal’s office and rejoined Jessica outside under ‘their’ tree.
“What did Ms. David say?”
“It’ll be arranged. But are you sure it’s what you want, Sunshine? Do you really want to stay here during the summers?”
“Yes. It’s not like Father is ever around anyway; I never see him when I am home. And here I can study and learn stuff.”
“You know you can come spend summers with me. I’d love to have you stay with me.”
“I know. Father might not notice if I’m around or not, but he’d never give permission for me to go England with you. At least you can still visit me here,” she said with a smile.
“That I can, Sunshine. That I can.”
He sat on the side of the bed and brushed the hair back from her face. “Hey, Sunshine.”
She opened her eyes and smiled tiredly. “Hi, Grandfather.”
He bent down and kissed her forehead. “They tell me you haven’t been feeling your best.”
She yawned. “I’m so tired.”
“Do you think you feel up to a walk with your old grandfather?”
Jessica simply held her arms out. The Earl picked her up and carried her. Once outside he walked until he found a quiet place away from everything. He sat down on the ground, under a shade tree. He looked at his granddaughter and saw she’d already fallen asleep. He kissed her forehead.
Jessica lifted her head up from his shoulder with a yawn. “S’ry.”
“It’s okay, Sunshine. I’m sorry you haven’t been feeling well.”
“The school nurse called a doctor. He couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”
“No, he wouldn’t. Unless someone told him...”
The little girl frowned. “What is wrong with me, Grandfather?” She could easily sense his apprehension as he sighed. “I’m not like the other kids, am I?”
“What do you mean, Jessica?”
She held the index finger of her left hand up. “I cut my finger the other day.”
He looked but didn’t see any sign of injury.
“When it started bleeding, I felt funny... a little like after spinning too fast on the merry-go-round.
I didn’t have a kleenex so I sucked on my finger.” She took a weary breath and let it out. “When I looked at my finger it was already scabbed over, and the scab was gone the next day.”
The Earl gave his granddaughter a squeeze. “No, sweetheart, you’re not like the other kids. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, just different.” He was hesitant to continue; he had prayed this day wouldn’t come. But Jessica deserved to know the truth, needed to know. And with her intelligence, he was sure she could comprehend everything. And of course, he’d always be there for her.
Jessica sensed something serious was going on. She waited for her grandfather to gather his thoughts.
“I’m not quite sure how to tell you, Sunshine, so I guess I’ll just say it.” He paused for half a beat. “The reason you’re different is because you’re half vampire.” The Earl almost laughed at Jessica’s expression. Her left eyebrow had climbed nearly to her hairline.
“Vampire?!” Jessica couldn’t believe her ears. She knew her grandfather had a sense of humor, but she also could tell he definitely wasn’t joking. She reached up and laid her hand across his forehead, like the nurse always did to check for a fever. “Are you sick?” she asked with concern.
He took her hand in his own and lowered it from his forehead. “I’m just fine, honey.”
“Grandfather, I can’t be half vampire because vampires aren’t real,” she said as if he was the child and she was gently and patiently explaining there was no Tooth Fairy. “They’re just make-believe, like ghosts, and monsters, and Santa Claus, and the Easter rabbit, and Tinker Bell.”
Even though Jessica was an exceptionally gifted child, with an intellect that far surpassed her age, the Earl of Essington couldn’t help but feel a little sadness that his seven-year-old granddaughter didn’t seem to believe in any of the magical things most kids her age believed in. But then, her childhood had not been very typical. “I’m afraid vampires are real, Jessica.”
“But the sun doesn’t hurt me,” she protested.
“That’s because you’re only half vampire. If you were full vampire the sun would definitely hurt you.”
“So you mean Mom was a vampire?”
“Father?” she asked incredulously. “He can’t be. He’s not nice, but the sun doesn’t hurt him. How can I be half vampire?”
He sighed. “You remember how your mother used to go away, sometimes for a few days at a time?”
“Well, one time when your mother was visiting me in England, she left for several days. While she was gone she met someone, a vampire, who tricked her.”
“He bit her?”
“No, honey.” He paused, trying to figure out how to tell her. “They spent time together like mommies and daddies do.”
Jessica paused for only half a beat before responding with, “Oh, you mean they had sex.”
He didn’t want to know how she already knew about sex. He simply nodded. Jessica’s ensuing silence worried him though. “Jessica? What are you thinking?”
She frowned. “If I’m half vampire because my mother had sex with a vampire... then Father isn’t really my father.”
The Earl sighed. “I’m afraid not.”
She took a deep breath and let it out before continuing. “Is that why he’s so... not nice?”
“No, sweetheart. He doesn’t know about the vampire. And your father is just... the way he is. But it’s not because of you. Okay?”
She gave a slight nod.
They continued to talk and he answered all the questions she asked. He carefully and clearly explained what she needed to do take care of herself, to remain healthy. He also explained the importance of not drinking human blood as she drank the pig’s blood he’d brought. He just hoped she grasped the seriousness of the situation and the responsibilities that came with her biological heritage.
Since he visited her regularly at school, he would ensure she received the sustenance she would periodically require.
Everyone there had friends and family in attendance, all to wish them well and congratulations on their achievement. Every student graduating was exceptional; none were older than 15. Jessica accepted her diploma, shifted her tassel, and looked for that one special face in the crowd on the way to the stage steps. Her smile brightened her entire countenance when she spotted him.
After the end of the ceremony she ran to her grandfather and they hugged fiercely. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Sunshine.”
“Congratulations, Jessica. Your father sends his love.”
She looked at Mr. Michaels, the family lawyer, and smirked. “No he doesn’t. But it’s still good to see you, Mr. Michaels.” She smiled and gave him a quick hug.
Benjamin Michaels had never approved of Philippe Rodier on a personal level, especially of how he’d treated his wife and daughter. Michaels had become quite fond of the girl and did whatever he could to make her life as easy as possible. He knew her two greatest joys were learning and her grandfather. So he had become her advocate in ensuring she got to pursue whatever educational goals she had, and that she got to see her grandfather as much as possible, despite the fact that Philippe held an animosity toward the Earl for some completely unknown reason.
Michaels returned her smile as they parted. “Be that as it may, I do have a gift from him – some really good news.”
“You get to spend the summer with your grandfather – as long as it’s here in the States or in Canada.”
Her whole face lit up. “You’re kidding!”
“Nope. You have the whole summer together.”
The Earl also grinned as his granddaughter threw her arms around him with a squeal of delight. He looked at the lawyer. “Thank you.”
“You’re more than welcome.”
The phone on her desk rang. At first she ignored it. She was too wrapped up in the book she was reading to tolerate the interruption. She figured whoever was calling who soon give up. But when it rang for the ninth time, she put the book down with an irritated growl.
“What?” she barked.
“It’s Mr. Michaels.”
“Oh, hi, Mr. Michaels. How are you?” She heard his soft sigh.
“I’m alright. But I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“What is it?”
“I’m afraid your father... he was in an accident, Jessica, a car accident. I’m afraid he’s gone.”
“Oh.” She really didn’t know what to say. She hadn’t even seen the man since before her mother died. He was her father in name only... Well, actually, he hadn’t even given her his name. He was simply her mother’s husband. She was closer to Mr. Michaels, the family lawyer, than she was to Philippe Rodier.
“Are you okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, he was your father.”
She let out a humorous bark of laughter, tinged with a touch of bitterness. “Yeah, right.”
“The funeral will be in two days. You should be here.”
“Do I have to?”
He sighed heavily. “No, you don’t have to. But...”
“But you think I should.”
“Yes. Besides, there are some matters we’ll have to discuss.”
It was Jessica’s turn to sigh. “Alright then.”
“I’ve made arrangements for a car to pick you up and drive you to the airport. I’ll pick you up at the airport here myself.”
“I need to call Grandfather.”
“I’ve already called the Earl. He’s flying in to Vancouver as well.”
July 24th, 1980
She was weary. She didn’t know any of the people who had attended her father’s funeral, and didn’t really care about their condolences and well wishes. She hated the pretense. Philippe Rodier was a misogynistic bastard and everyone knew it. She also didn’t like the vibe she got from a couple of the board members of Rodier International. Finally everyone was gone.
Mr. Michaels said he needed to talk to Jessica and her grandfather. They went into the study. Jessica and the Earl sat on the couch while Michaels sat at the desk.
“It’s time to discuss your father’s will,” Michaels started.
Jessica smiled. “I don’t care.”
Mr. Michaels looked at her sympathetically. He understood her feelings; after all, he’d been the Rodier family lawyer since before she was born. Which is why he’d done whatever he could for her, wherever he could. “I understand, Jessica, but hear me out.”
The Earl took her hand in his and squeezed it as she nodded.
“Since you are a minor, your inheritance is to be placed into a trust until you’re 18. Also, you will have a guardian assigned to see after you.”
“Now wait a minute! I’m her grandfather, her only living relative. She should come live with me,” the Earl objected.
“You and I both know Philippe did not like you. And he never liked the relationship you two have.”
“It’s not like he ever gave a damn about me,” Jessica spat out.
Michaels nodded. “I know, Jessica. I know. Fortunately, as the executor of your father’s will, I get to say who controls your trust and who becomes your guardian,” he said with a knowing smile.
As soon as his words sunk in, Jessica smiled. She’d always known Mr. Michaels was a good guy, even though he worked for her father.
“So, unless you have any objections, I believe it’s in your best interest to have your grandfather become your guardian.”
“I’m so proud of you, Jessica.”
“Thanks, Grandfather.” They hugged. She grabbed his hand as they parted. “Come on, I want you meet Dr. Lenihan.” She pulled him along until they approached some of the faculty. She tapped the professor on the shoulder. “Dr. Lenihan?”
The man turned and smiled. “Ah, Dr. Morgan. Congratulations.”
“Thank you. Dr. Lenihan, I’d like you meet my grandfather, Geoffrey Morgan. Grandfather, this is Dr. Lenihan, my favorite professor and doctoral advisor.”
They two men shook hands. “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Morgan. Jessica has spoken highly of you, and often.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Dr. Lenihan. I want to thank you for looking out for Jessica.”
“No trouble at all. She’s the best T.A. I’ve ever had.” Lenihan reached out and patted her shoulder.
“And you’re going to be great at Oxford. I’m glad you decided to take the Rhodes scholarship.”
She blushed but smiled. “Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Earl slipped his arm around her shoulders. “And I, for one, will be thrilled to have her so close to home.”
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