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2

"What is this? What's going on here!"

Sierra Matthews stared at the people exiting her grandfather's house carrying off his old couch, lamps, and paintings incredulously, as if she couldn't believe her eyes.

"Are you Ms. Matthews?" a man in a grey uniform with a clipboard in hand asked, coming up beside her. Sierra turned to him, intending to vent her anger on someone, but realizing that might not be the best course of action managed to keep her anger down enough to ask as politely as she could, "Why is my grandfather's property being removed from his home?"

"Well," the man stated, "it says here that because of an inability to pay off bank debts his property is going to be auctioned off and all proceeds given to the bank."

"Debts?" Sierra squeaked out, outraged. "My grandfather never had any debts! He wouldn't even use a credit card!"

The man didn't bat an eye, obviously used to this kind of questions. "It says here that he took out a loan five years, using his house and belongings as collateral."

Sierra blushed in frustration; five years ago she'd started college, graduating only a year back. But her grandfather had said that money for college hadn't been a problem!

"He stopped making payments two months ago," the man continued, "and has ignored repeated attempts by the bank to convince him to pay. He is now obviously unable to make the payments so the bank is possessing what he borrowed against." He seemed to realize then that the last phrase had been callous and tried to apologize, but Sierra turned around quickly and left before he could say what he wanted.

She rushed into the house, intent on saving something. She passed two workers carrying out a rolled up rug, obviously one of the Persian rugs from her grandfather's room, and she quickened her pace. When one of the workers waltzed past her carrying one of his Chinese vases though, she stepped in front of him, effectively stopping him. "I'm afraid you can't take that," she stated authoritatively.

"I'm afraid I can, and will," he answered, rolling his eyes and moving to go past her, but she just moved with him. "Look," he stated, obviously exasperated, "why don't you save yourself and us a little trouble..."

"That is my vase, given to me by my mother, who got it from her mother." It surprised her just how easily the lie came out. "It's a family heirloom, one I loaned my grandfather for decoration and am going to take back. Now."

The man's face screwed itself up into an annoyed frown, the brown eyes tightening around the corners. "Ma'am, unless my boss tells me to do otherwise or you have some proof on you, everything in this house goes."

Sierra, shocked at the rebuttal, was about to break down and beg for him to stop when a loud annoying voice rose up from the front yard. "What in hell's name is going on here? Where are you all taking Sierra's stuff?!"

Sierra's eyes widened as she realized who it was, relief and trepidation going through her body as she raced down the stairs towards the front door. "Meredith!" she called, racing out of the house.

Meredith was very easy to spot; a bright red shirt, short black leather skirt, fish net stockings and stiletto-like heels on a black woman with blond streaked hair greeted her from across the driveway. She had obviously found the man with the clipboard, the one who had informed Sierra as to what had been happening. Even from this distance Sierra could hear her friend's side of the conversation clearly. "Just who the hell do you think you are, barging into my friend's house and taking everything that was hers? And don't you dare give me all that bull shit about you just doing your job!"

"Meredith," Sierra called out again, and this time her friend heard her name and turned her head.

"Sierra," she stated angrily, hands going to her hips in dismay, "what in God's name is going on here?"

Sierra winced slightly at the curse but replied, "It seems grandpa had taken some loans out and used the house for collateral..."

"What?! Your grandpa was one of the most self reliant people I've ever met! He wouldn't take out any loans that he couldn't pay off..."

"It was for my tuition, Meredith," she answered, and as Meredith's eyebrows went up Sierra took the opportunity to apologize to the frazzled-looking coordinator. "I'm really sorry about my friend. Sometimes she gets a little worked up about things...."

"Worked up! I'm not worked up, I'm pissed!"

"....but she means well," Sierra continued. "I'm her friend after all, and she's a little protective." Before Meredith could formulate a response to the last part, Sierra grabbed her arm and pulled her to the side; Meredith followed obligingly, staring daggers at her quarry. "What the hell is going on here?" the black woman asked angrily, looking around at all the movers.

"Meredith," Sierra stated slowly as if speaking to a child, "remember what I asked you about swearing around me?"

The black woman looked down at her friend, then smacked her forehead. "I'm sorry baby," she stated, "I completely forgot. It's just that when I get so angry it just comes out like that." Singing, she dug into her purse and pulled out a quarter. "I'm going to be poor when I finally kick this habit," she muttered, handing the money over to Sierra.

Taking the quarter, Sierra turned back to the house with movers carrying away all her grandfather's belongings. Her jaw began to quiver and tears pooled in her green eyes. "Couldn't they have at least waited a few days?" she asked sadly, her voice breaking.

"Oh honey," Meredith replied gently, gathering the smaller woman into a hug, "I know, I know, it's hard." She looked at the house she had once thought a mansion, now being emptied of all its possessions, and felt for her friend. "Do you know if you can still live there?" she asked softly, stroking her head like she would a child's.

Sierra frowned through her tears. "I didn't think to ask. Do you really think they'll kick me out of my house?"

"It's been known to happen," Meredith muttered darkly, then looked up and shouted, "Hey, you with the clipboard! Come here!"

Sierra flinched at the loud voice right next to her ear and stepped away. "Did you have to do that?" she asked, rubbing her ear and crinkling her nose.

"Sorry, didn't mean to," Meredith answered, then put her hands angrily on her hips. "Well, I'll be da...." With a quick look at Sierra she instantly amended her choice in phrases. "...darned! Come on, he's ignoring us." Grabbing Sierra's arm, she dragged the shorter girl after her towards Tom, who had his back still turned to them.

Sierra worked her legs to keep up, but when she saw one of the movers holding a stack of books come out of the door, her eyes popped wide. "Wait, please!" she exclaimed, tearing her arm from Meredith's hold and rushing over toward a bleached blond mover in grey. "Don't take those, they're mine! Please, not those!"

The mover stopped, surprised to see the diminutive red haired woman running towards him at full speed. "Are these yours?" he asked when she came close enough to hear.

"No, they're my family's but it's all I have about them and it wasn't really my grandfather's, just being stored there mostly although he helped to put them together." She realized she was rambling as well as breathing hard but was desperate to get the books. "Please, don't take those, they've been in my family for a long time...."

"Hey! Hey, it's alright! You can have them." And with that the mover dumped the stack of books into her arms and headed back into the house, leaving Sierra, who wasn't the strongest person alive, to deal with the combined weight of the books.

"Let me help you with that sweetie!" Meredith rushed over and grabbed several of the books before they fell to the ground, relieving the weight enough so that Sierra wasn't in danger of falling over anymore. "That was rude, leaving you here to carry that," the black woman stated, walking over towards her car.

"Well," Sierra commented over the books, "at least he gave them to me. The last one I talked to wouldn't even consider it."

Reaching her car, Meredith balanced the books on her left hand as she rummaged through her gold purse for her keys. "What's so big about these books anyway?" she asked as she unlocked the trunk of her Metro, swinging it open and putting the books carefully inside.

"They're my family's history," Sierra stated proudly, handing her books over into Meredith's waiting arms. "Journal entries, bills of sale, everything is in these books. They go all the way back to 1723." The books, some four very thick volumes in all, were her prize possessions. The accumulated history and works of her family, it had enthralled her as a child to read through the old journals and histories of her ancestors. Through the civil war, the World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, she had the histories of her whole family.

That's when it hit her right in the gut: she was the last of her family. There were no more St. James, no more McDougals; she was the last and only part of her family. "Meredith," she stated weakly, clutching her stomach, "I don't feel so good."

Meredith slammed the trunk closed and quickly gathered Sierra, who had bent over hugging her stomach, and steered her to the car door. "It's alright baby, I'm here with you." Supporting the shorter woman with one arm, Meredith opened the car door and slowly settled Sierra into the passenger's seat.

"I'm the last one," Sierra sobbed out, tears of grief beginning to run down her face. "I'm all that's left."

Meredith had no clue what the redhead was talking about but continued in her comforting voice, "We're just going over to my house now and getting you settled in. You're in no shape to live here, even if you could."

"But what will Jake think?" Sierra protested weakly. "You know he doesn't like me."

"Jake can learn to deal," Meredith promised, shutting the passenger door before Sierra could utter another word and moving around to the driver's side.

"But what about Roger? Won't he be a little put off that you have an unexpected guest?"

Meredith sighed. "Roger's in school half the day and in day care until five. Look Sierra, if you don't want to come, you don't have to..."

"No, it's not that at all." Sierra sighed, staring out the window at her grandfather's old house. "I just don't want to be a burden to anyone." Waving her hand out the window towards the house and the moving people, she added softly, "Look what it did the last time."

"Honey, it's not your fault. Your grandfather chose to help you, and from what you said you didn't even know." Starting the car, Meredith backed out of the driveway and turned towards the main road. "And it's not a bother that you're going to stay with me; it'll be like old times except that you'll be staying at my house."

Sierra didn't respond at all but just stared at her grandfather's house as they drove off, now being emptied of all its contents. "Why now?" she repeated quietly as the old house disappeared around a corner.

Sarah Pearson, 1998


Chapter 3



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