When Aurora slipped the envelope under Lola’s bedroom door, she knew that her youngest daughter would thrill at the invitation. Lola was a geek, yes, but she was far from a loner – and as the resident social butterfly, she was never one to turn down a party. Aurora knew that a special party like this one – an exclusive, secret, s’mores-for-breakfast party for just the two of them – would be no different. So she slipped down the stairs, pulled out the marshmallows, and tiptoed out to the back deck.
It was still dark outside, the sun just beginning to peek over the horizon, and Aurora pulled her sweater tight around her shoulders before sinking into a wicker chair. And as she sipped her coffee, watching the sun rise above the trees, she considered again – for the millionth time – just what she would say to Lola when the time was right. Because, of course, the time to choose an heir had already passed, and Aurora had delayed too long already. Like the sun, her elderhood loomed on the horizon, and though she longed for more time – a few more days, a few more years, a few more eternities! – she knew that the decision could wait no longer.
Tradition dictated that an heiress could only be announced after the youngest eligible heir was a teenager. But for Aurora, family had always come first, no matter what, tradition be damned. And she was sure now that what was best for her family – what was best for her daughters – was to make the announcement now. Now, before Coralie fell too hard for Kody. Now, before Lola set her heart on an impossible dream. Yes, it had to happen now – and she could only hope that what was best for her daughters would also be best for the legacy – and that Grainna’s already vulnerable legacy could survive a deviation from tradition.
Aurora was jolted from her thoughts when Lola bounded through the back door, laughing and full of energy.
Lola: Seriously, Mom? S’mores for breakfast? This is the best party I’ve ever been invited to, ever, ever, EVER!
She snatched up the sticks and marshmallows and immediately plopped down by the fire. Aurora joined her, and for the next hour they sat side by side, talking about important things like video games, candy, and sea monsters.
At a rare lull in their light-hearted conversation, Aurora took a deep breath and looked her daughter straight in the eye.
Aurora: I love our silly talks, Lola, but there’s something serious I want to talk to you about —
Lola’s eyes flew open, and she cringed.
Lola: Mooooommmm!! You’re not gonna give me the talk, are you? I already know about woohoo, we REALLY don’t have to do this, it’s so gross! –
Aurora: You what?! Where on earth did you hear that, Lola? If your brother thinks this is funny, he has another thing coming to him! —
Lola: Xander didn’t tell me anything, Mom. He didn’t have to! I’m just obversent. I mean – asbervent? I mean, I pay attention to things, and did you know I can hear you grown-ups when you talk? I can hear you through the vent in my bedroom, Mom. I’m like a super-secret-agent-spy. I even know about the legacy!
Aurora’s eyebrows shot up and her mouth fell open.
Aurora: What do you mean, honey? What do you know about the legacy?
Lola: Well, I know that you’re the heir now and that Grandma Andalie was the heir before that. And that my great-grandma and great-great-grandma were heirs, too, all the way back to some lady named Grainna. And that me or Coralie have to be the heir next, and that you have to pick one of us, and that whoever is the heir has to woohoo and have lots and lots of girl babies but can’t ever get married. And that’s why there’s all those weird paintings and vases in the basement.
Aurora fell silent as she studied her daughter. She’d had no idea Lola knew so much about the legacy – she’d tried so hard to protect her from it all, to give her a carefree, fun-filled childhood.
It’s like they say, she thought to herself, laughing inwardly. Kids are like sponges – so very “abversent.”
Aurora: Well – how does that all make you feel, honey?
Lola shrugged and shoved a s’more in her mouth. Her words were muffled, but Aurora heard her loud and clear.
Lola: I feel like I wanna have all those girl babies. I mean, I’d have to order them online or something ‘cuz boys are so gross, Mom. There is no way I’m doing that woohoo thing, just no, Mom. And I’m not getting married, either, ‘cuz you had to kiss Dad when you got married, and kissing is gross too, so I don’t care about never getting married —
Aurora: Well, just so you know, Lola, you actually can get married someday, even if you’re the heir. See, the way it works is….
Maybe Lola the super-secret-agent-spy wasn’t so abservent after all.
Aurora spent the next few days considering her decision. Her conversation with Lola had gone better than expected, and Lola seemed more than open to the role of heiress. But of course, Lola was only a little girl – how could she possibly know what she would want in ten years? Or twenty?
Aurora launched herself into yoga in an effort to gain some clarity.
And when that didn’t work, she wandered to the Hall of Founders to consult with her ancestors. She paced the length of the hall, staring up at the faces of the heirs who came before her. She swore their eyes all followed her, watching, waiting for her to make a mistake. She knew she could commune with them through meditation – it was what she was supposed in a situation like this. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She couldn’t bring herself to ask for advice she knew she didn’t want to hear. Advice she knew she wouldn’t follow.
Because as she stared at the blank space on the wall where she would hang the portrait of the Generation Five Heir, Aurora had an idea. She made a decision. Tradition be damned.
Once the decision was made, it took little time to make the preparations. And before she knew it, Aurora was calling her daughters to the Hall of Founders. It was time to make the announcement.
Aurora: I know that this day has come earlier than either of you expected – that we’re supposed to wait until Lola’s next birthday. But I think it’s in our family’s best interest to do this now. This decision has been so hard for me, and I want you to understand that I’ve thought long and hard about how our legacy should move forward. You girls and your brothers are my absolute first priority. You are more important to me than anyone or anything else in this world – including the legacy. I have no doubt that Grainna’s intentions were pure when she started this legacy, but your happiness, and your freedom, are non-negotiable. It’s not up to me to decide your fate, to choose a path for you to follow. So with that in mind, I hereby choose you both. Coralie Hasslich and Lola Hasslich, you are officially the fifth generation co-heirs. You will need to work together to ensure the success of this legacy and to further our lineage. I know that this is a break in tradition, and that it doesn’t leave either of you entirely free. But it means that you can share the burden, that you can lean on each other. Both of your daughters will be eligible heirs, and when the time comes, you will make that decision as a team.
As her last word faded into silence, Aurora heaved a sigh of relief. This was non-traditional, yes. It might even put the legacy at risk. But she’d done the best she knew how for her children, and in that knowledge, she knew she could finally sleep at night.
Lola smiled and hugged her mother, glad to be included, but not completely understanding the significance of the night’s events.
Lola: Thanks, Mom! I promise to be a good heiress and everything, but is it okay if I go play now? I told Amy we’d go fishing for a sea monster today…
Aurora nodded and laughed as her youngest bounded up the stairs, leaving her alone with Coralie.
Aurora: You’ll take care of her, won’t you, Coralie? She’s so little, and she has her whole life ahead of her. I just…. I couldn’t saddle either of you with this. You both should be able to choose your own lives, make your own decisions. Be with the people you love.
Coralie: You mean like Kody?
Aurora: I see the way you look at him, sweetie. And the way he looks at you, too. You deserve to be happy, and so does Lola. I just hope that together, you can figure out a way to make it work for you both.
Coralie turned to her mother, and looked her dead in the eye.
Coralie: We will, Mom. I promise we won’t let the legacy down. And Kody won’t be a problem. I mean – I won’t be seeing him again.
She paused, shaking her head sadly, and Aurora looked at her in surprise.
Coralie: I’m pregnant, Mom. And it’s not Kody’s. It happened when I was gone, I mean – I’ve never even woohoo’ed before. Some experiment from Sixam, I guess….but at least it solves the Kody problem, right? He’ll never be with me now, so I’m free to be a good heir…
She forced a smile, and wandered up the stairs looking lost and dejected.
Aurora stood alone in the Hall of Founders feeling stunned. She thought she’d done it – fixed everything so her daughters would know happiness.
It turned out, there are some things even a mother can’t fix.
“You did good.”
Aurora startled, and turned, surprised to find herself face to face with her mother.
Andalie: You did good. The other ancestors might not be happy with me saying it, but you did good. I know I’ve been hard on you, Aurora, and I was barely a mother. I can see it now, how selfish I was. But somehow, you’ve become the mother I never could be. You deserved better, and I’m sorry. But you’ve done right by your family, honey, no matter the cost. I’m proud of you, and I love you.
And despite years of anger and resentment, Aurora found herself in her mother’s arms. She released a heavy, contented sigh, and with it, a lifetime of heartache and rejection.
She smiled, and whispered, “I love you too, Mom.” And for the first time, she meant it.