December 23, 2035
Juliet tosses and turns. She's getting used to sleeping alone – sort of. Kind of likes it, actually. She looks at the clock. Just past 11. Hell. She's got to be up at dawn to get her cousin from the airport, and she's here in "The Big House," as they call it, in a guest bedroom, and she's not quite sure about the alarm clock: AM/PM button, radio volume, you name it. She'd hate to be late picking up Jake, but, well, he's a grown-up (or practically is), so he can handle it.
She tosses and turns a bit more. Why did she volunteer to pick up Jake? Because that's "just Juliet," the "Good One." She starts thinking of Aunt Jen's pumpkin pie. Hmmm. A slice of that might help.
She slips an old college sweatshirt on over her pjs and pads down the back staircase into the massive kitchen. She's surprised to see a glowing circle of light over the center island. Dad and Uncle Oliver with stacks of paper. Dad has his reading glasses on the end of his nose, and his face is all wrinkled up and squinty like it gets when he's frustrated. Uncle Oliver is running his hands through his hair, or, well, over his head, through what (very little) hair he has left.
They sense her presence in the kitchen. "Hey, sweetie," Dad looks up at her, blows out air. "Everything OK?"
"Couldn't sleep," Juliet answers. "What're you guys up to?" She heads toward the fridge, taking out Aunt Jen's pie.
"Did Nana ever tell you anything about, I don't know . . . a secret account or something?" says Uncle Oliver.
Juliet sets down the pie and walks over to the island.
Dad hands her a sheet of paper. "That's a list of accounts. Mine and Oliver's. You three girls. Jake's and Susan's. Even the twins." Juliet peers down, sees it all neatly typed out. Dad's name, social, account info, Uncle Oliver's, hers, her sisters', her cousins', even her infant nieces'. "But we've gone through all of this," he gestures at the stacks of papers all around them, "and I don't see anything for your Nana and Granddad. Did she ever say anything to you?"
Juliet always was close to Nana. Maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy being named after her and all. Nana always claimed she reminded her of herself. Juliet never saw it, but was always happy to play along.
Nana was an accountant; Juliet's a doctor.
Nana was married to Granddad for more than 50 years; Juliet's marriage lasted about three years, or will once the divorce is final.
Granddad was a big, handsome, fun loving guy; William (Juliet's soon-to-be ex) was (God, how did she miss it at the time?) just a little dweeb. God, she'd been so blinded by . . . by what exactly? Stem cell research? What a joke.
She brought him home for Thanksgiving one year. How did she not see it? He hit on Ella's roommate right there in front of her. Right in front of her family. She let that simmer for a little bit and when she had the temerity to say something, just under her breath . . . he said, "Oh grow up, Juliet. Stop being so stupid." Said it right there, right in front of her mother and grandparents, then stalked out of the room.
Well, Mom, bless her heart, was just so happy that Juliet finally found someone, finally had a life outside the classroom, that she made some excuse about how stressful it can be to meet the family and blah blah blah. Granddad just kind of growled and muttered curse words under his breath, and that's just the way Granddad was. Nana, on the other hand, just stood there, stock still, looking incredibly angry.
Twenty minutes later, William walked back in, and Nana up and says, "You will not speak to my granddaughter like that under my roof. Ever again." William kind of gulped and agreed and stammered an apology.
On the flight back home he said, "Your grandma's kind of a mega-bitch."
And Juliet should've known. Geez. How is it Nana ever thought they were alike? She could just stand right up to stupid William, and it had taken Juliet nearly six years of sleeping with the guy, nearly three married to him to make any kind of stand.
She didn't care if Nana was so misguided, she loved the closeness anyway. After Granddad died, Juliet had lunch with Nana every chance she got. This summer, when Nana was so sick . . . when she was dying (Juliet's heart lurches a bit). . . Juliet took a leave of absence from her practice to be with her.
She actually chuckles now, thinking of it. She was on the fence about William. Maybe if they had kids . . . Nana rolled her eyes. Ha. Nana was dying and still she had the gumption to push Juliet right over the line, serve that bastard with papers.
Juliet remembers asking, "Did you know right away?"
"Know what, dear?"
"The first time you met Granddad. Did you know right away that he was The One?"
Nana snorted a laugh, started a coughing fit, but she kept on laughing until she finally wheezed out. "Not even remotely."
"Hello?" Dad snaps Juliet from her reverie. Juliet thinks on other things she and Nana talked about right before. . .well, right before . . . Right before she died she was really in and out of it a lot. A lot of stuff that didn't make any sense. But maybe . . .
"She mentioned an island a bunch of times. Like, maybe an offshore account, do you think?"
Dad and Uncle Oliver nod, purse their lips, make little hemmmmm sounds.
"Like the Caymans? Isn't that a tax haven?" Dad asks.
"Shit, Al. If Mom hid this money somewhere, no way in hell we're ever gonna find it." Nana was kind of a whiz with money.
"Do you really need to find it?" Juliet asks. I mean, really. How much money does anyone need? Besides they've all got their accounts, their pots of money.
They hear gravel crunch on the driveway and a car door open and slam.
"Thanks guys!" It's Juliet's cousin, Susan, rushing in. She's a senior in high school, and her curfew is midnight. Sure enough, the clock strikes twelve.
"Hey, happy birthday, Dad," Juliet says, realizes what today is. He grumbles. Apparently having a birthday so close to Christmas kind of sucks.
Susan's in now, smelling very minty. Mint doesn't hide the smell of smoke in her hair, and doesn't quite cover the alcohol on her breath. Susan's kind of the wild one, but she's a hell of a lot of fun.
She was out doing karaoke, and starts belting out "No New Year's Day . . . to celebrate."
"Stevie Wonder!" Uncle Oliver shouts. Juliet supposes he either doesn't know or care about whatever else Susan was up to.
Susan launches into another one, "Our D.I.V.O.R.C.E becomes final today . . ."
"Ha ha, very funny," Juliet swats at her.
Dad's playing along now, too. "Tammy Wynette."
"Uncle Alex for 5 points!" Susan's kind of loud. "When you're alone and life is making you lonely . . ."
"Petula Clark!" That's from the doorway. Here's Aunt Jen.
Do they know that was Nana's favorite song? Juliet wonders. Aunt Jen is clucking about Susan, starts slicing pie for all of them, teasing Uncle Oliver about his weight. Now here comes Ella, fussing about the noise, worried the babies will wake up.
Do they know this was Nana's favorite time of year? Juliet wonders. Uncle Oliver's got some ridiculous over-the-top Christmas sweater, Dad is now singing some Christmas song with Susan, Aunt Jen is handing out pie, and even Ella relents a little and dips her finger in the whipped cream.
Merry Christmas, Nana, hope you can see us, thinks Juliet. Say Hi to Granddad.