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The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 34


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Chapter 34 of the Bradford Legacy

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The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 34

  1. 1. It’s time for more Bradfords! Last time, Steven introduced his girlfriend Mary to the family, with mixed results. They got married. Peggy said goodbye to Doug Thorne as he got in his car and drove west before she headed off to college and began a new life of her own. Nettie contemplated becoming a hippie. James and Cindy fretted as different members of their generation began passing. Mary encouraged Steven to go into politics, even if he wasn’t sure that was what he wanted to do with his life. And the generation 9 firstborn and heir Gregory Bradford came into the world. I think that’s it. Enjoy Chapter 34 of The Bradford Legacy.
  2. 2. “I’m so glad that we have Peggy’s wedding to look forward to,” sighed Alice. “It seems like all the news lately has been bad or sad.” “I know. Poor Dad, he just keeps getting hit with blow after blow.”
  3. 3. James had already suffered the loss of his two best friends from childhood. He had recently gotten word that his little brother Cyrus had passed…
  4. 4. …followed in quick succession by his sister Viola.
  5. 5. Nick, who had never been one to really put his feelings into words, found himself spending more and more time with his parents. He was becoming more and more aware that his time with them was limited, and he didn’t want either one of them to pass without having spent as much time with them as he possibly could.
  6. 6. It was a fine early fall day when the Bradford clan gathered to witness the marriage of Peggy to her college sweetheart, Bobby Frick.
  7. 7. Peggy looked radiant in her mother’s wedding gown, the only thing that she had considered for her “something old.”
  8. 8. After the ceremony, Alice pulled her eldest daughter aside. “Was it everything you hoped for?” “Oh, Mom, it was. I just…” “Yes?” “I wish that Doug had at least replied to my invitation.”
  9. 9. Alice did her best to keep her expression neutral. “I’m sure you missed having one of your oldest friends see you get married. But as I understand it, no one’s heard from Doug in a while. He may have moved since the last address you had or him. I’m sure he would have at least called if he got the message.” “I like to think so, Mom. Maybe you’re right. I hope that he’s doing well.” “He’ll be in touch when you least expect it, I’m sure. And you two will have plenty to catch up on.” * * * * *
  10. 10. Mary frowned as she hit a wrong note. She’d taken to using the instrument as an outlet for her frustrations with her husband. Steven had run for city counsel and won election easily, as she’d predicted. But he had shown no further political ambitions than that, despite her incessant hints about the open state legislature seat that was the obvious next step. He enjoyed his teaching too much, he’d insisted, and he didn’t want to be so far away from his family. Portsimouth isn’t far away at all, she scoffed. What will have to happen in order for Steven to come to this decision on his own?
  11. 11. Steven arrived home from work as Mary was scheming, and sat down to review the paper and listen to her play at the same time. “How was work today, dear?” she asked, her tone sweeter than her feelings. “It was all right. I was thinking about the conversation we were having the other day about the state legislative seat. I think that I’d like to run for it after all.” It took all of Mary’s self-control not to jump up and down like a madwoman. “What changed your mind?” “A couple of things, but mostly it was the fact that I hit a few roadblocks with some city ordinances that I think need to be enacted. There are state laws that need to be changed first, so I figured a state office was the next logical step.” “I think that’s a wonderful idea. But you wanted to keep teaching…” “I don’t plan on staying in politics forever; I can always go back to teaching after my terms are up.” “I think it’s a fabulous idea. You should schedule a press conference to announce your intentions as soon as you can. Not that it will be hard for you to win. Your family name recognition will work in your favor.” “I don’t want to be elected because of who my family is, Mary.” “I know darling. But name recognition will help at first, and then you’ll win them over with your ideas. Just you wait.”
  12. 12. So a week later, with his family standing behind him, Steven Bradford announced his candidacy for the Masssimchusetts state legislature.
  13. 13. After the announcement, Mary couldn’t help throwing herself into her husband’s arms. “I’m so proud of you, darling. You did so wonderful with your speech.” Steven was a bit taken aback. Mary was rarely this openly affectionate. “Thank you. Are you…are you crying?” “Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just a bit more emotional than usual. Pregnancy hormones and all that, you know,” she said with a small smile. Steven broke into a wide grin. “So Greggory’s got a little brother or sister on the way?” “That would seem to be the case, yes.”
  14. 14. Mary was not the only Bradford wife expecting that fall.
  15. 15. Peggy and Bobby were expecting also expecting, and eagerly awaiting the arrival of their firstborn.
  16. 16. They were pleased to welcome their daughter, Denise, to the world.
  17. 17. James was just as much of a softie with his great-grandchildren as he had been with his grandchildren, though he really didn’t have the energy to keep up with them. He doted on little Greggory, sent plenty of toys for Denise that she was still too small to play with, and hoped that he’d be around when it was time for Steven’s second-born to make his or her arrival.
  18. 18. As Mary’s due date grew closer, James had the realization that he was probably not going to see his third great-grandchild’s birth. And that thought worried him. Not only because he would miss out on meeting another cute baby, but because he realized that he would not be around to sway Mary’s influence on his decedents.
  19. 19. “I’m just not sure she has Steven’s best interests at heart,” James sighed to his son one afternoon. “I’m not sure of it either, but don’t tell anyone I said that,” agreed Nick. “She pushes him to be more. In some ways, it reminds me of how Alice pushed me.” “Your mom did the same with me,” James agreed. “But with Mary, it feels more like she’s pushing him for her benefit, as opposed to our wives, who did it to help us become better people.”
  20. 20. Nick nodded. “Still, it’s done. Mary’s a Bradford now, and we need to figure out how to make it work. For Steven’s sake, for Greggory’s sake, and for sake of the baby that will be here soon.” “I just don’t want this to turn into Grandmother all over again.”
  21. 21. He found himself confiding in Alice as well. “I want him to be happy, and I think he is, now. But how long is that going to last?” “No one can answer that, James. And it’s not our job to tell Steven what makes him happy and what doesn’t. He says he’s happy, and we need to take his word for it.”
  22. 22. “No, you’re right, of course. I just worry about what’s going to happen when he realizes that he’s not happy any more. You know Steven, Alice. He’s even more duty-bound than Nick, and that’s saying something. He’ll stand by Mary till the end, even if it’s the last thing in the world he wants to do.” Alice said nothing, but James could tell by the expression on her face that she agreed with him.
  23. 23. “I wish that I could do something more that we could do,” James sighed. “We can stand by him, no matter what happens, and continue to encourage him to be who he is, and not who other people want him to be.” “Good luck with that. Mary seems to have her claws into him pretty deep.”
  24. 24. For several days, James tried to work up the courage to say something to Mary. He wanted to ask her about her intentions, and why she was pushing Steven towards things that he didn’t seem to want. But for all his bluster, James couldn’t bring himself to do it. He remembered all too well the rifts in the family when his grandparents were alive, and he didn’t want to be the cause of tension in the household.
  25. 25. Still, he gently probed Steven about his recent foray into politics. “You never liked the spotlight, and that’s what it seems like you’re moving towards.” “It’s just the state legislature, Grandpa. Hardly in the spotlight at all. It’s not like I’m running for Congress or the Presidency.” “No,” James agreed, while in his head he was thinking not yet. “And I think I can make a difference.” “As long as you’re happy, Steven. That’s all that really matters.” “I am, Grandpa.”
  26. 26. With Steven’s assurance that he was happy, James was finally able to reconcile himself to what was coming. He knew that if down the road that changed, the rest of the family would do their best to help. The one thing he was worried about was Cindy. She had been there for him, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer. What was she going to do when he was gone?
  27. 27. Later that day, as the sun set on the western edge of town, James Bradford went to join his parents and siblings in the Great Beyond.
  28. 28. Cindy bore it better than anyone expected. She found comfort in her great-grandson, Greggory.
  29. 29. Still, the loss of her husband was never far from her mind.
  30. 30. Sometimes, late at night when she couldn’t sleep, Cindy would make the short walk to the family graveyard.
  31. 31. There, she would silently curse at her late husband for leaving her behind. “We had a deal, mister,” she said to the night. “We were going to go together, so that neither of us had to live without the other one.” * * * * *
  32. 32. After James’ passing, Peggy gave birth to her second child, a boy they named Curtis.
  33. 33. Not long after Curtis was born, his big sister Denise became a toddler.
  34. 34. While Peggy’s family was busy expanding, the Bradford clan was excited to welcome another new member. Mary went into labor late one night…
  35. 35. …and gave birth to another boy. Nathan Bradford had his dad’s red hair and green eyes.
  36. 36. Cindy was especially excited about the latest addition to the family. Little Nathan looked so much like his father had at that age, and provided a welcome distraction.
  37. 37. Before long, Nathan was ready to celebrate his toddler birthday. The family gathered in the dining room to mark the occasion.
  38. 38. Little Nathan inherited the curly locks that ran sporadically in the family. His personality was emerging more and more, and the little boy was very neat, very outgoing, and very serious, just like his daddy. * * * * *
  39. 39. Across town, the Thorne family was reacting to the news that Wayne, one of the youngest boys of the clan, had enlisted in the military, and had received his orders. Those orders would send him to the war in Vietsim. “Why on earth would you join the army?” Rosalie wanted to know. “I want to serve my country, Mom,” he replied. “Just like Uncle Gil.” Yes, and that cost Gilbert his life, Rosalie thought. Aloud, she replied, “You’re a good boy, Wayne, and I’m proud of you.”
  40. 40. The day he was due to ship out, the Thornes gathered around to say goodbye to him. Rosalie hugged her boy the longest. “You come home safe, you understand?” “Of course, Mom.”
  41. 41. About three months after Wayne arrived in Vietsim, Rosalie received notification that he had been killed in action. Once again, Rosalie found herself donning black and arranging for a military funeral. Her son was laid to rest in the small graveyard near the Simsfield Church, not far from where his Uncle Gilbert’s final resting place.
  42. 42. The loss of one of her sons sent Rosalie into a tailspin. She cried herself to sleep, and often woke up after unrestful sleep that was filled with fitful nightmares.
  43. 43. If not for Natalie and Kimberly, her two granddaughters by her son Franklin and his wife Donna, Rosalie wasn’t sure how she would have made it. Her other children had also started families of their own, and she quickly threw herself headfirst into the role of Grandma. It was the only thing that eased her grief. * * * * *
  44. 44. Back over at the Bradford farm, Greggory was ready to celebrate his childhood birthday.
  45. 45. Greggory was excited to be old enough to start school, and to be old enough to do more for himself.
  46. 46. Now that Greggory was older, Mary again turned her attention towards her husband. He had won election to the state legislature easily, and had caught the eye of several party higher-ups. They had asked him about his plans for the future, and Steven had replied that he didn’t intend on staying in politics for long. Mary had screamed internally at hearing this. She knew that her husband had what it took to make it in national politics. The question was how she was going to convince him of this, especially when his parents were not too keen on the idea of their eldest child heading down to Washsimton.
  47. 47. She thought for a long time on the best way to sway Steven around to her way of thinking. Even with his naivety, he was not a dumb man, and the last thing that Mary needed was Steven getting upset with her for nudging him towards where he should be.
  48. 48. After much consideration, Mary decided to continue on the course that she’d already laid out. It was working, just not as quickly as she’d like. She worried that if she deviated too far from what she’d been doing that it would clue Steven in, and that just wouldn't do.
  49. 49. Cindy, knowing that her days were close to numbered, decided there was no time like the present and decided to confront her granddaughter-in-law. “I know what you’re trying to do to Steven, and I don’t like it.”
  50. 50. Mary merely smirked. “There’s really not much that you can do about it though, is there? If you tell Steven, it’ll break his heart and that’s the last thing you want. So you’re going to take it to your grave, aren’t you, Cindy?”
  51. 51. Cindy glared at Mary. “What is it that you really want, Mary? Because if my grandson get hurt in any way, so help me, I’ll haunt you for the rest of your life.”
  52. 52. For a brief moment, Mary allowed herself to be vulnerable. “What I want is something I can’t have, Cindy. I want to be somebody. As far as women have come in this world, we still can’t be somebody on our own; we still need to be a Mrs. Somebody. There are a exceptions, of course, but they’re few and far between. Since I can’t be somebody on my own, I’m going to be somebody by making my husband into somebody so that I can enjoy all that it means.”
  53. 53. “Why my grandson? Surely there were other men who had more natural ambition that Steven who would have gotten you to be a Mrs. Somebody much faster.” “He was malleable,” Mary stated without apology. “I wanted someone that I could push along in my own way, and not just ride on their coattails.” “Why are you telling me this now, Mary?” “Because you’re old, and won’t be around any much longer. And you don’t want to hurt your grandson, so you’ll keep this to yourself.”
  54. 54. Cindy could not argue with Mary. If Steven knew the real reasons Mary had chosen him, it would break his heart. Steven was sensitive, and he might never recover from such a blow. As much as it pained her, she would keep her newfound knowledge to herself. Except…Alice. She would tell Alice. But not just yet. She had a little time left. She would tell Alice when her time got closer. * * * * *
  55. 55. Mary moved forward with her plan to push Steven towards running for a Congressional seat. The one in their district would be open come fall, due to the current Congressman retiring. It would be an easy race for Steven. The district was solidly Demsimcratic, and had been for years. Steven had name recognition. It was all adding up. If she could only get him to see that.
  56. 56. She broached the subject one night after the evening news, which had featured a story about the sitting Congressman’s retirement.
  57. 57. “But that’s all the way down in Washsimton, Mary. I really don’t want to run for Congress. I’m not even sure that I want to run for reelection to the state legislature.”
  58. 58. Mary, who was dealing with the combined frustrations of a difficult third pregnancy and a husband who wasn’t doing as she wished, snapped for the first time. “Why not? Don’t you want to make a difference in the world? How to you expect to do that by staying in this little town?”
  59. 59. Steven’s face fell at his wife’s harsh words. “Teaching does make a difference, Mary. Not in the say way that being a politician does, but a difference none the less.” “I just don’t understand why you want to leave a career that you’re good at. You’ve done good things in the state legislature, and national office is the next step.” “National office means more time away from home, from you and the children. I’m not sure that’s what I want.”
  60. 60. Mary quickly saw her in, and shifted gears. “Of course it does, and I don’t like that any more than you do. I just thought…Steven, you’re a good man, and you have good ideas on what should be done to make this country better for our children, the children of your friends, and eventually the grandchildren that we’ll have. I don’t mean to sound like a shrew, but I know you’ll do good things in Congress. That’s why I’m pushing you towards it.”
  61. 61. Her words had their desired effect. Steven stopped fighting against her words and began to think. “You really think that I would make a good Congressman?” “I do,” she said. “I think your ideas coupled with your youth and energy are exactly what Simerica needs right now.” He took a deep breath and lapsed into silence. After several moments, he spoke. “I’ll think about it. I’m not saying yes or no. I need to think it over.”
  62. 62. “That’s all I’m asking for,” she replied. “Thank you.” “You really think I could do it?” “Yes,” she repeated. “I would never have suggested such a thing if I thought it wasn’t the right thing.” * * * * *
  63. 63. With the baby due to arrive any day, Mary was spending much of her time resting.
  64. 64. That meant that helping Nathan learn all his toddler skills fell to Grandma and Daddy. Not that either of them minded, as Nathan was a fast and eager learner.
  65. 65. Cindy helped with Nathan as well, though she focused on play time rather than skill time.
  66. 66. Late one afternoon, Mary went into labor for the third time.
  67. 67. She gave birth to a raven-haired, green-eyed little girl who was promptly named Andrea.
  68. 68. Everyone was taken with Andrea, especially great-grandma Cindy. If Andrea wasn’t napping in her crib, she was more than likely in Cindy’s arms.
  69. 69. Andrea’s arrival made Cindy think about her conversation with Mary. She could see the young woman pushing Steven towards a life in politics, a life that Cindy was certain that Steven didn’t really want.
  70. 70. Half a dozen times, she started to say something to Nick. Half a dozen times, she couldn’t find the right words to say that she was terrified of what Mary would do to her grandson.
  71. 71. At the end of the day, she decided that Nick was not the one she needed to warn about Mary’s true intentions. He was her son, and a good man, but he wouldn’t understand her fears and worries.
  72. 72. Instead, Cindy decided it was time to tell Alice about her conversation with Mary regarding Steven and how she was going to use him to become “Mrs. Somebody.”
  73. 73. “I can’t say I’m surprised,” Alice stated, “Other than that she shared her intentions with you.” “I’m old,” Cindy snorted, “And too softhearted to hurt Steven. She’s got all of us pegged pretty well.” Alice frowned. “I suppose she’s right. Still, I’m not sure that I want to wait for Steven to figure out what Mary’s all about on his own. The longer it takes, the harder the truth will be for him to bear.” “And if he finds out that we knew and didn’t tell him…” “Exactly.”
  74. 74. “I wish I had more wisdom to offer to you than ‘don’t let that tart break Steven’s heart,’ Alice,” Cindy sighed. “The truth is I don’t know what the best course of action is.” “Neither do I. I think that she’s going to get him to run for Congress, and probably a greater office after that. It’s not that I don’t think Steven would be good at any of those jobs, because he would be. I just don’t think they make him happy.”
  75. 75. The two women lapsed into silence for a few moments. Eventually, Alice spoke. “I think we just need to be the quiet, steady counter-argument to Mary’s pushing. Keep reminding Steven of who he is and that it’s okay to be that. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that Bradford men have backbones, though it takes some of them longer to find it than others.” Cindy nodded. “James would agree with that statement, citing his father as the prime example. I just hope that by the time Steven learns to stand up for himself that he hasn’t completely lost who he is.” * * * * *
  76. 76. Steven had not yet made up his mind regarding a run for Congress. In his mind, there were good arguments on both sides of the issue. He found himself talking his options over with Nick. Steven thought that Greggory was too young to understand their conversation, but the young boy was more observant than anyone realized.
  77. 77. “Nana, what’s Congress?” “It’s a group of people from each state who are elected to go down to Washsimton and make laws. Why?” “Daddy was asking Grandpa about whether or not he should run for it.” “Ah. What do you think, Greggory?” The little boy shrugged. “It would mean that Daddy wasn’t around as much, and that’s not good. But it also sounds important.” “It is an important job.” “And if it’s important, Daddy should do it. Because who will do it if he doesn’t?” Cindy didn’t have an answer for that.
  78. 78. Cindy filled Alice in on the contents of her conversation with Greggory. “He’s going to run; I know it,” Alice fretted. “If he’s talking it over in front of Greggory, it’s practically a done deal.” “Take care of him, Alice. He’s going to need it.”
  79. 79. Later that day, Cindy knew that her time was drawing to a close. She wanted to say goodbye to everyone, but she didn’t trust herself to speak. Instead, she kissed Nick. “Take care of them, son.” “I will, Mom.”
  80. 80. Cindy looked out on her family for the last time. Please let them be happy, she thought.
  81. 81. And so Cindy Selby Bradford’s time came to an end. * * * * *
  82. 82. Greggory took the loss of his great-grandmother hard, and like his father and his father before him, threw himself into his studies as a means of distraction.
  83. 83. He quickly learned that completing his schoolwork so diligently earned him good grades. Those good grades earned him praise from his mother, which was something that was a rarity indeed.
  84. 84. It was soon time for little Andrea to become a toddler.
  85. 85. Like her brothers, Andrea was neat, outgoing, and serious, and she was nicer than the two of them put together.
  86. 86. Not long after Andrea’s birthday, Steven came to his decision. “Mary,” he said after a deep breath, “I’ve decided to go for it.”
  87. 87. It took all her willpower not to shriek aloud. Instead, she planted a smooch on her husband that left the both of them breathless.
  88. 88. It was the topic of discussion over dinner that night. Mary was the one who did most of the talking, which spoke volumes to Nick and Alice. Still, their son was going to run for Congress, and they were going to do whatever they could to support him. * * * * *
  89. 89. * * * * * And with that, Chapter 34 comes to a close. James and Cindy, the last two members of generation 6, are gone. I’ll admit, I put off playing and writing because I just wasn’t ready to deal with that fact.
  90. 90. Two of my favorite couples.  I’m going to miss James and Cindy very much. Still, I’m getting closer and closer to being done, and I am going to finish this legacy.
  91. 91. There were shades of some bigger plotty things that I never expanded on in this chapter, including Rosalie’s son Wayne dying in the war. As you can see, that went over well. There’s less plottyness now, but a few things that I put into motion had to be seen through, if in an abbreviated form.
  92. 92. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. You can leave comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop, on my Live Journal, or on my Dreamwidth, whichever you prefer. Thank you for reading!