Five years ago...
"Stop that, you've already done enough today," Gran says, coming to a stop beside me and resting her cool hand on my forearm, halting me from clearing up any more of the abandoned glasses scattered around her living area.
"It's okay. I don't want to leave you with all this."
She lets out a sad sigh. Today has been hard enough on her as it is; the last thing she needs is to be alone to clear up the mess left by all the people who came back here for my grandad's wake.
"Please, just go and sit down. I'll make you a cup of tea."
"Dawson, you don't—" I pin her with a look that cuts off what she was about to say. "Okay, I'll be in the summer room."
With her shoulders slumped in defeat, she heads toward her favourite room in the house.
My heart aches for her. She's lost her best friend, and although she had many people here with her today to celebrate his life, I was the only member of our family.
I wish I could do more, but I think we’ve been broken for too long now to try to fix it.
I put the kettle on and fish out her favourite teapot and cup we'd kept hidden in the cupboard, as well as some shortbread biscuits. I place everything on a tray with a bowl of sugar cubes and carry it through to her.
I find her staring out at my grandad's beloved roses with her eyes full of unshed tears.
"He'd have liked today," I say softly as I place the tray down on the table in front of her.
"He would," she agrees. "Thank you, Dawson. You're a good boy."
I smile at her. Only my gran could call me, a twenty-nine-year-old man who's covered in ink and rocking a beard, a good boy.
"I just wish—"
"Please, don't. I can't think about that right now."
I nod, giving her what she needs. But it doesn't stop me wishing that she had at least tried to reach out to my mum. I know it's been over thirty years, but it wasn't just Gran who lost someone she loved. My mum lost her dad. It might have been the perfect time to reconnect—or at least attempt to bridge the gap.
"I need... I need to talk to you about something," she says after pouring herself a cup of tea from the pot and adding one sugar cube and the perfect splash of milk.
"Okay, I'm listening," I say, leaning forward to rest my elbows on my knees, sensing she's about to tell me something important.
"Your grandad's will."
"Gran, you don't need to do this. Not now. It's not important."
"It is," she says firmly, the tears and sadness of the day giving way to the strong and independent woman I'm more used to. Gran might have spent her life as a housewife, but you'd be a fool to think that's all there is to her. She's a force to be reckoned with. Hence, why my mother never fought all those years ago.
I nod, letting her say what she needs to.
"He's left everything to you."
My chin drops. "I-I'm sorry. What was that?"
She sighs, probably trying to refrain from correcting my English.
"After... everything, we'd both written your mother out of our wills. Your brother too. You're our family, Dawson. You're the only one who understood our decision but fought your way through anyway. It belongs to you."
"N-no. It belongs to you. You're his wife, it should be yours."
"Oh, my boy," she says, taking a sip. "I have more than enough for my last few years. You don't need to worry about me."
I'm not surprised by her words. It's no secret that my grandparents are very wealthy. The size of the house we're currently in is evidence enough. But their money was never the reason I reached out to them all those years ago.
The reason was Emmie. My daughter.
Thanks to the feud between my mother and grandparents, I'd grown up without them. I wasn't allowing them to miss out on anything with Emmie. I knew the second I turned up and saw the wide smile on my gran's face that I'd done the right thing. She's doted on Emmie ever since.
"There's one stipulation."
"Oh?" I ask, my brows lifting in curiosity. My grandad was... quirky. She could be about to say anything.
"The inheritance will only be released once you're engaged."
"Engaged?" I ask, frown lines forming on my brow. "Why?"
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