Joan VS The State of Liberty
Joan pulled up in front of her daughter's house. She looked at the building wondering what she would find inside. The Claire she used to know didn't seem to be around anymore. Inside there was a new Claire who went out with nice looking men and appeared at galas and wore period costumes and had no time for her mother anymore.
As Joan climbed out of the car she tried to decide on the best method of approaching the whole subject of what was going on with Brian. She didn't want Claire to know that she had been spying on her and her brother at the gala, but she wanted some definite answers.
Claire let her in and she found her two nephews sitting at the kitchen table doing their homework.
"Boys," Joan said.
"Hi Gran," John replied and Peter smiled at her.
Joan was momentarily taken aback. Usually the boys hardly acknowledged her presence, let alone called her Gran. That had stopped several years ago.
"I'm glad to see you two working so diligently," Joan said with a frown. "What has brought about this monumental change?"
"It's not monumental, Mother," Claire replied. "We just have some new arrangements in this family."
"Yes," Claire sighed. She really didn't want to get into all this with her mother. "The boys and I eat dinner together every night. When they come home from school they do their homework while I make dinner. That way I can help them if they have any questions."
"You help them?" Joan snorted.
"Yes, I do. I'm not stupid, in spite of what you might think of me."
"Mom helps us a lot," Peter said feeling the need to defend his mother. His grandmother was always so critical of everyone.
Joan looked at her grandson wondering where the real Peter had got to. Joan decided to get to the point. "I wanted to talk to you about this Kinney exhibit at the Sidney Bloom Gallery."
"What?" Claire reacted. "How did you know about that?"
"Father Tom told me."
"It was great," John said as his mother gave him a withering look.
"Surely you didn't take these boys to see that blasphemous stuff." Joan wanted to play dumb about what she knew and hopefully draw out some more information.
"Um…boys," Claire said slowly. "I think you can finish your homework in your room. Run upstairs while grandma and I talk."
"Are you sure, Mom," John asked. Something sounded wrong with this whole thing.
"I'm sure. We won't be long, and then you can watch some TV."
"Okay," the boys said gathering up their books and heading upstairs.
"Mother, what is it you want?" Claire asked when she thought the boys were out of earshot.
"I want to know why the whole Kinney family gets invited to this art show and nobody even tells me that it's taking place, let alone issuing me an invitation. The last time I looked my last name was still Kinney." Joan drew herself up to her full height and used her coldest and most condemning voice.
"We … um … we didn't think you'd be interested."
"We? As in you and Brian? Since when do you care what I'm interested in? Since when do you decide that for me? Who do you think you are?"
"Don't mother me! I want to know where these paintings came from and why the money isn't going to the Kinney family."
"How…how do you know where the money is going?"
Joan started. Had she revealed too much? "I know none of it's coming to me. I'm Jack's heir. I should be getting the benefit of this artwork."
"But it was painted by a fag," Claire said weakly hoping to derail her mother.
"I don't care if it was painted by Satan himself, if there is money that I should be receiving, then I want it."
"You always were a selfish old bitch," Claire said before she could stop herself.
"How dare you!!!"
"I dare. Oh, I dare all right. That money has nothing to do with you. Neither Brian nor I are receiving any of it, and you won't either. It's going to a good cause. Leave it alone, Mother."
"I'm just getting started. I want what's mine and I will have it."
"Don't threaten me, Mother."
"I think I've heard enough of your insinuations for one day. It's time I got myself a lawyer."
"A … a lawyer?"
"Yes, a lawyer. And while I'm at it perhaps I should ask him to look into how fit a mother you are for those two boys. You shouldn't have them hanging around a bunch of homosexuals."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. My lawyer will be in touch." Joan drew herself up and stormed out of the house.
Claire stared after her wondering what had just happened. How could her own mother threaten to take her children away from her? What did her mother know about the paintings? And what did she know about who Claire and the boys were associating with? This was getting too weird.
Claire picked up the phone and hit the number she had come to use so often lately. "Brian," she said. "Can you come over? Something bad has happened."
In about an hour Brian and Justin were at Claire's door. The thought of her mother trying to take legal action was beginning to scare her. The boys were silent, seeing their mother so upset. They didn't know how to help. They were relieved to see their Uncle Brian and Justin too.
It was John who answered the door.
"Hi, Uncle Brian, Justin."
"Hi kid, what's going on?"
"I'm not sure but Grandma was here a while ago and after she left Mom started to shake and cry. I'm really glad you're here."
Brian and Justin found Claire sitting on the couch. Peter was sitting next to her and handing her a tissue.
"Oh Brian, I'm so glad you're here!"
"What happened? What did that bitch say?" Brian demanded. Justin cringed a little and shook his head. Brian took the hint.
"John, Peter, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for but Joan makes me a little nuts."
"Tell me about it," John snarked.
"Look, guys, your mom and I are going to talk about what happened. I'm sure this involves all of you but if your mother wants you to go to your room for a while, respect that. Okay?" The boys nodded.
"Claire, now slowly. Tell me what happened." Claire recounted the encounter with her mother and the remark Joan made just before she left. Claire was certain that Joan was going to try to take the boys away from her. The tears started to stream down her face. John and Peter tried to be brave but the thought of leaving their mother was too scary. They too, started to cry.
Brian sat close to Claire then pulled his sister into a hug. "It'll be all right. I swear I won't let her take away the boys. I promise. I'll get the best lawyers. We're a family and no one is going to break us apart." Then Brian gathered the boys together in his long arms and hugged them with Claire. Justin stood back and smiled at the small miracle that was transpiring. Brian, Claire and the former spawn were about to do battle, together.
Claire was way too upset to think about cooking so Brian suggested the diner. Now that the guys and Claire had gotten over their homophobia the diner seemed like a safe haven. Claire and the boys followed Brian and Justin to Liberty Avenue.
"Hey, Kiddo! Sunshine! The whole family!" Debbie greeted the Kinney clan. "What brings you all over here?"
"Debbie, we're kinda having a family crisis," Brian said seriously. Debbie squeezed into the booth with the family and they huddled together. Brian explained what Joan was planning.
"Brian, you may not like this but why don't you consider calling Melanie. I know she's not your favorite person but she's a damn good lawyer and she has lots of practice in custody cases. Especially when the family is unusual."
Brian thought a few minutes. His first reaction was to say 'fuck no' but Debbie did have a point. Mel was very good at what she did. "I'll think about it. We're all hungry Deb, let's feed these guys and I'll call Mel in the morning." Debbie took their orders and Justin helped get their drinks.
After dinner Brian and Justin followed Claire and the boys back home. Brian offered to stay but Claire told him to go home. They all needed a good night's sleep. Maybe they were jumping the gun a bit too early. There was a chance that Joan's threats were empty but somehow they doubted it.
At the door, they all said goodnight. Claire and the boys gave Brian a hug and he promised to call the next day. No one noticed Joan in her car parked across the street.
Joan watched the hug between her son and daughter and cringed inwardly. Any show of affection in their family had always been anathema. What had brought about this strange transformation, and how could Claire embrace Brian and his perverted lifestyle?
Deep inside Joan knew she longed for Brian to hug her like that, or Claire for that matter. No one had hugged her in a very long time. What had she done to deserve such loneliness and isolation? She had done her best as a mother in the face of Jack's constant disapproval and violent drunken tendencies. She had served the church faithfully all these years. She had counseled her son on his wicked ways. She had stood by Claire and the children when John had accused his uncle of molestation, only to be proved wrong. And there was never a thank you or an appreciative touch in return.
Joan started her car as Brian and his blond boy drove away. She would go home and plan what she was going to do. She pulled out into the street. They were going to pay for cutting her out, for pretending she wasn't part of the Kinney family, for not loving her.
Joan slammed on the brakes and pulled over to the curb. That was it. They didn't love her. They hated her. After all she had done, they hated her. That realization made her want to vomit. How did children come to hate their mother? She felt a tear slide down her face.
With an angry gesture she wiped it away. She would not let this defeat her. She would go to church and pray for their souls, pray for them to change their wicked ways … and maybe love her. No, she wouldn't pray for that. That should happen without her praying for it.
She would contact a lawyer and get custody of those boys. That way she could keep them safe, keep their souls safe, from the godless lifestyle of her son and now apparently of her daughter. Yes, she had a holy crusade to follow. She could do it. She would put all her energies into saving her grandsons. They were young and that was still possible. Her son and daughter had seemingly become hopeless causes, hopeless causes that needed to be punished. And God would punish them. Of that she had no doubt.
Joan felt her heart stop beating so violently and she pulled out into traffic again. She was tempted to go to the church right then, but something stronger pulled her in another direction. She drove in the darkness following the familiar route. This was what she needed before she did anything else. She turned into the driveway and smiled.
Inside her house was the new bottle of sherry that she had purchased earlier in the day. That was just what she needed for now. Tomorrow she would set the wheels in motion to make her children sorry for what they had done to her. Yes, that was exactly what she would do.
Brian and Claire entered Melanie's office.
"Brian," Melanie said with her usual cold reserve where Brian Kinney was concerned.
"Melanie," Brian grinned trying not to look snarky. "This is my sister Claire."
"Hello, Claire. What can I do for the two of you? Needless to say I'm kind of surprised that you are here … to see me … together."
Brian raised an eyebrow. "Has Lindsay told you anything about the Anderson family and how we're related?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact she has. I wondered where she was disappearing to all those weekends over the summer, so she finally told me."
"Then that will save us a lot of time," Brian replied.
"My mother has threatened to take my children away from me," Claire blurted out.
"What? What does that have to do with your long lost relatives?"
"It's kind of a long story," Brian began. "Ever since we found each other - the Andersons and us," Brian said gesturing between Claire and himself, "we've kept this a secret from good old Joanie. When the show of Kinney's work was held at Lindsay's gallery, Joan found out about it. She has been piecing things together, and she seems to think we're cutting her out and ripping her off."
"And are you?" Melanie asked pointedly.
"What?" Claire asked.
"Cutting her out and ripping her off?"
"I guess you could say that," Brian admitted.
"I think you better get to the legal ramifications of what's been going on," Melanie said. "Spill."
Brian took a deep breath. "Joan gave me an old book of Jack's after the funeral. Apparently he wanted me to have it. In the book was a deed to some property near Harrisburg. That led us, through Justin's natural inquisitiveness, to the Andersons. Since I have got to know them, I respect and … love them." Melanie's eyebrows shot up at Brian's use of that word. Brian tried not to notice and plunged on. "I signed the deed over to Claire Anderson."
"Did you have the legal right to do that?"
"I think so. Joan gave me the book with the deed because Jack wanted me to have it. Doesn't that mean the contents belong to me to do with as I choose?"
"That might be open for interpretation," Melanie said slowly. They were in some murky territory legally.
"Fuck," Brian said. "I was afraid you might say that."
"So what about Joan taking your children away from you?" Melanie asked Claire.
"The paintings in the show at the Bloom Gallery were found on Claire's property," the younger Claire explained. "Joan found out they brought in a lot of money and she thinks Brian and I are cheating her out of her share. She always gets vindictive when things don't go her way, so she's threatening me."
"That she will seek custody of your children?" Melanie asked and Claire nodded.
"On what grounds?"
"That I let them associate with fags."
"He is their uncle, and what difference should that make?" Claire asked.
"None to me. Is that all?"
"She thinks I'm exposing them to many other homosexuals through Brian's friends and family. In her religious world that is sinful and she thinks she can use that to take them away from me."
"I don't think she has much of a leg to stand on where that is concerned," Melanie said and Claire visibly relaxed. "Unless there's something more you haven't told me."
"The boys have been kind of out of control for a few years. You probably know what John did to Brian."
"Yes, I do."
"I think she might try to say that I'm a bad mother and that I can't control them."
"She could try."
"But would that work in her favor?"
"Fuck," Claire breathed.
"I think she'll go after the proceeds from the sale of the Kinney paintings too," Brian said. "All the profit went to a charitable institution, but that probably won't make any difference to Joan."
"It might all hinge on whether you had the right to sign that deed over to the Andersons," Melanie said thoughtfully.
"Let me look into it and see what I can find. Joan hasn't sent either of you any legal documents yet, has she?"
"Not yet," Brian said.
"Okay, I'll do some research and we'll wait to see if Joan pursues this through legal channels."
"Thanks, Melanie," Claire said. "You won't let her take my kids, will you?"
"I don't think that's very likely, and besides this will probably all blow over once Joan calms down."
"You don't know Joan if you think that's likely to happen," Brian muttered as he ushered Claire out the door.
Joan VS The State of Liberty
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