3.The Lincoln Hotel, New York City.
Standing to one side of the function room, Cordelia watched her extended family in much the same way as an anthropologist might study a newly discovered tribe. There were people here she’d not seen since she was a child…there were people here that she was fairly sure she’d never seen before in her life. But they all had at least one thing in common; they were all keeping their distance from the young woman in Marine dress blues…namely her!
Sipping her tonic water, Cordy watched the interactions of the expensively dressed ‘tribes-people’ as they moved about the room. She watched as they greeted each other and re-established their positions in the family ‘pecking order’. An ‘air-kiss’ here, a handshake there, the hand on the upper arm; all gestures that told each person exactly where they stood in the complex order of the Chase family. It would all have been quite interesting to Cordy if she hadn’t been so mind-numbingly bored!
“How’s it going Marine?” the quiet male voice from behind her made Cordy turn to see an older man studying her with a bemused smile on his lips.
Frowning, Cordelia tried to place the man, he looked a lot like an older version of her father; but she was fairly sure she’d never met him before yet somehow he was familiar.
“Tom Chase,” Tom introduced himself, “I’m your father’s older brother so I guess that makes me your uncle.”
“Uncle Tom?” Cordy frowned, she’d never heard of an ‘Uncle Tom’ before.
“For my sins,” the older man sighed as he sipped from a glass of beer, “I suspect your mother never mentioned me,” Tom smiled again, “I’m the black sheep of the family…a little like you.”
“Like me?” Cordy was just a little confused, ‘uncles’, ‘black sheep’, what was going on here?
“Yeah,” Uncle Tom came to stand next to Cordy and turned to watch the Chase family with her, “only I ran away from home and joined the Air Force.”
“Oh my god!” Cordy turned to face her uncle, now she knew where she’d seen him before, “You’re ‘Major Tom’!”
Major Tom Chase, USAF, had been a pilot on one of the shuttle missions. There’d been some kind of malfunction and he’d conducted a space walk and basically saved every body’s life on the shuttle. For a while his picture had been splashed over the front of newspapers and he’d appeared on talk shows and everything. At the time Cordy had been in college and was too busy enjoying herself and being an officer cadet to really notice.
“It’s an honour to meet you, Sir!” Cordy straightened to attention.
“Aw, cut the ‘Sir’ crap, Marine,” Tom laughed quietly, “It’s Uncle Tom or better yet just Tom.”
“Of-of course Sir-I mean, Uncle Tom…Tom,” Cordy replied just a little flustered; after all it wasn’t everyday you met a long lost uncle who just happened to be a national hero.
“So,” Tom nodded to the main body of the Chase family, “is this boring you as much as its boring me?”
“Uh-huh,” Cordy nodded her head.
“Thought so,” Tom put his beer down on a nearby table, “fancy swapping some ‘war-stories’ with an old Air Force pilot, Marine?” Tom glanced around the room noticing the disapproving looks they were both receiving, “I know a good bar nearby if you’re interested.”
“If you don’t mind waiting for me to change?” Cordy replied, “I’ll be right with you.”
“Erm, Cordelia…” Tom began hesitantly but was interrupted by Cordy.
“It’s ‘Cordy’,” Cordy explained, “and never, ever ‘Cora’.”
“Okay,” Tom nodded, “Cordy, would you mind not changing? I mean it’s not every day a retired Air Force Brigadier General gets to walk out with such an attractive and highly decorated Marine like you on his arm.”
“You know,” Cordy smiled, “you’re one smooth operator, General…now where’s this bar?”0=0=0=0
Waking up the following morning, Cordy rolled over on her bed and groaned loudly. Wincing at the sound of her own voice she groaned again only more quietly this time. Rolling over onto her back she stared at the ceiling and tried to remember what she’d done the night before and just how much she’d drunk.
Leaving the hotel, Uncle Tom and herself had headed up Fifth Avenue and turned off down East one-hundred-and-second Street. Here things got a little hazy and Cordy suspected that if she’d had to find the bar again she’d fail. Whatever, they’d got to the bar, she remembered it was down in the basement of a block of apartments. Cordelia remembered people turning to look at her as she walked in and several young guys had sent drinks over to the table she shared with her uncle.
Anyway, the night went on as the two officers swapped stories and as they got drunker the stories got wilder until eventually it was after midnight and the barman wanted to close up. Helping each other unsteadily to their feet Tom and Cordy made their way to the door where they almost collided with another group of late night drinkers who were just leaving the bar at the same time.
Now, as she thought about it, Cordy realised just how drunk she must have been. As Tom and herself had squeezed out the door between the locals, Cordy was convinced one of them was Willow Rosenberg, she’d even called the young woman ‘Willow’. Okay, she’d dyed her hair brunette, but Cordy would know Willow anywhere. However, when the young woman insisted that her name wasn’t ‘Willow’ that it was in fact, Lilly or Dilly or…whatever. After apologising profusely, Cordelia had grabbed hold of her Uncle’s arm and walked on back to the hotel and had eventually got to bed at about two o’clock.
Looking at her watch where it lay on the night stand, Cordy saw that it was almost eight o’clock, she had three hours before it was time for her grandmother’s funeral. Pushing herself upright, Cordy fought down a wave of nausea that threatened to over take her and send her rushing for the bathroom. Swinging her legs out of bed she sat on the edge of the bed and wondered at the fact that her leg didn’t hurt. Normally when she got up it ached like demons sticking red hot needles into her bones, but today she felt nothing.
“Must be the booze,” she told herself as she levered herself onto her feet.
From her new vantage point, Cordelia could see the rest of her room. Giving a great sigh of relief she saw that she’d not been too drunk last night not to have hung up her uniform neatly on is hanger. Walking over unsteadily to where her uniform hung, Cordy gave it a quick once over. Not so bad, she told herself, ten minutes with an iron would have it back to proper Marine sharpness, looking down she noticed that her shoes would need about five or ten minutes work to get them back up to standard.
So, she had about twenty minutes work to get her uniform up to code and perhaps an hour and a half to get herself looking presentable. Easy, Cordy smiled, if there was one thing the Marine Corps had taught her, it was how not to take hours getting dressed. Walking back to her bed she picked up the phone and ordered some breakfast from room service. Next she headed for the bathroom, once she’d showered and brushed her teeth she’d feel a lot more human and more able to face the day.0=0=0=0
Getting down to the lobby with fifteen minutes to spare, Cordy caught the look her mother gave her. Not only was Cordy wearing her Dress Blues she was also wearing all her medals and that, so it seemed, really appeared to annoy her mother. Turning at the sound of the elevator doors opening, Cordy saw her Uncle Tom step out of the elevator dressed in his Air Force uniform. Seeing Cordy he smiled and walked over to join her.
“So, I’m retired,” he shrugged as he stood in front of her, “but seeing you look so smart and…” he hesitated slightly embarrassed by what he was going to say, “…and, damn-it, beautiful, I thought I’d annoy your mother too.”
“Semper Fi…” Cordy whispered with a smile.
“Aim high…” Tom agreed quietly.
“Why doesn’t my mother approve of you…” Cordy shrugged, “…and I suppose me?”
“You see in her little world,” Tom began to explain, “people like us, don’t go off and join the armed forces that’s a job for…” Tom struggled for the right words, “…well, for the poor. In her reality we’re put here on Earth to make money and, not to put too fine a point on it, sneer at anyone less well off than we are.”
“Sheesh!” Cordy breathed, “No wonder she was so pissed at daddy when he lost all their money.”
“Yeah,” Tom agreed, “in her world money equals self-worth, without it she was nothing.”
“What a horrible way to live,” Cordy looked at her mother, “there but for the grace of god and the IRS go I.”
“No,” Tom shook his head, “from what I’ve found out about you,” he returned Cordy’s shocked look, “Yep, I’ve been following your career from the day I found out you’d enlisted. No, I don’t think you’d have turned out like your mother, Cordy, there’s something special about you.”
“You think?” Cordy asked.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Tom reiterated.
“Gee,” Cordy smiled, “I’m ‘special’,” she frowned for a second, “and that’s special in a good way not, ‘special’, like on the little bus…right?”
“One in a million,” Tom confirmed; seeing movement in the mass that was the Chase family he gestured towards the door, “I think its time to go now.”0=0=0=0
Grandma Chase’s funeral went as well as could be expected. There was a priest, lots of flowers a little hymn singing, but it ended like every other funeral before it. The dearly departed were slowly lowered into the ground, everyone pretended to be sad and then walked away as some Mexican guy on minimum wage shovelled earth into the hole.
The next depressing thing on the schedule was the ‘wake’. In the case of the Chase family the wake consisted of a very fancy sit down meal at the Lincoln, no limp sandwiches for the Chases’, they could afford the best. The only thing that stopped Cordy screaming or walking away from the hypocrites that made up her family was that she could sit next to her uncle and join him in making wise-cracks about the other members of the family.
As most things do, the wake finally drew to an end. Once the bar had stopped handing out free drinks people began to drift away back to their rooms. No doubt they were packing and heading out, unable to stay one more night in the company of the rest of the family. It was strange to Cordelia; in her eyes every member of her family (except her Uncle Tom) was as bad as every other member. But in their own eyes they each believed they were better than everyone else.
Just as Tom and Cordy were about to leave they were approached by a bookish looking man. The man turned out to be a representative of Cordy’s Grandmother’s lawyers. Both Cordelia and her uncle were needed for the reading of the will.0=0=0=0
Sitting at a table in one of the hotel's conference rooms, Cordelia looked around. There was Uncle Tom, her mother and father and herself. No one else had been invited, or so it seemed. After waiting nearly five minutes Cordy’s mother started to complain about ‘grubby little clerks’ making them wait. Almost as if her words were some sort of summoning spell a grey haired man in a charcoal grey suit entered the room. He clutched a brief case in his hand and after introducing himself as ‘Mr Grey’ he sat down at the head of the table. Opening the briefcase he took out a large sheet of paper that Cordy could only assume was her Grandmother’s will.
Sitting at the head of the table, Mr Grey read out the clauses of the will in a monotone voice. There were the usual bequests to family servants and gifts to the medical staff that’d looked after her in her final months. Grandma Chase also appeared to have a social conscience because she’d set up a couple of college scholarships and had made a sizeable donation to a local hospital.
Just as Cordelia was wondering how rich her grandmother had been, it came to the family part of the will. Uncle Tom was left the sum of five million dollars, which appeared to surprise him. Cordy’s father received a similar amount and finally Mr Grey looked directly at Cordelia.
“…and finally,” Mr Grey intoned, “I leave the balance of my estate to my grand daughter, Cordelia Chase, in the hopes that she will use the money wisely and for the benefit of all.”
“Wow,” Cordy said quietly as her eyes fell on her mother and saw the avarice that lay just below the surface of her smile, “Erm, not wishing to sound like totally greedy or anything but…exactly how much is the balance of Grandma’s fortune?”
“Well,” Mr Grey shrugged, “we’ll need to check, but a conservative estimate would put it in the region of one-hundred- and-thirty-four million dollars.”
“One...hundred...thirty…” Cordy lost her voice for a moment, “…four million…?”
“Dollars,” added Mr Grey, “you’re a very rich young woman Miss Chase.”
“Yeah…” Cordy slumped in her seat trying to come to terms with her suddenly changed life.
Vaguely she heard Mr Grey saying something about contacting her at a later date to discuss what Cordelia wanted to do with her new found wealth. Slowly Cordy became aware of her mother’s voice saying how lucky she was to inherit so much money and how she needed to use it wisely.
“…and the first thing we’ll have to do, Cora dear,” her mother continued, “is to get you out of that terrible Marine Corps uniform and into some proper clothes so we can find you a husband and…”
Her mother’s voice faded into the background as it went on and on about all the fun things she could do once she was out of the military. How, she could afford anything she wanted, new clothes, cars almost anything in the world. Looking away from her mother Cordy’s eyes locked with those of her uncle. He sort of looked a little sad, even slightly disappointed, it was then something struck Cordelia like a bucket of iced water in the face.
If her mother got her way, she’d be out of the Marine Corps in weeks; she’d never get to see Faith or any of her friends again. Her mother would never allow her to mix with people like Faith and as for the guys who’d kept her chopper flying well they were just overalled automatons as far as her mother was concerned. She’d never be able to have a laugh and a beer or two with her buddies and swap war stories late into the night. She’d end up in a loveless marriage with an empty life. Suddenly she knew just how much she loved her friends, yeah there were down sides like getting shot at and the monsters, but her uncle had called her special and she wasn’t about to let him or her friends down.
“NO!” Cordy shouted bringing a sudden silence to the room.
“Cora dear…” her mother began.
“Shut up mother!” Cordy snapped, “Never ever call me ‘Cora’ again or I swear to god I’ll punch you on the nose!”
“Cor…” Cordelia’s mother saw the murderous look in her daughter’s eyes and changed what she was about to say, “Cordelia, dear what’s wrong, don’t you want to…”
“I SAID SHUT-UP!” Cordelia noticed that her father was standing at the back of the room smiling quietly, “Mother,” Cordy speared her mother with a steely stare, “I never ever want to see you again…”
“But I’m your mother…”
“You gave up that right the moment you never looked for me after I left home,” Cordy explained levelly, “so go back to whatever stone you’ve been living under and never bother me again…I have a life to lead.”
Picking up her ‘cover’ from the table she placed it on her head, turning to her uncle she came to attention and saluted.
“General Chase,” she said formally, “would you do me the honour of escorting me to the hotel bar, I think I could do with a stiff drink.”
“The honour’s all mine,” 'Major' Tom returned her salute and offered Cordy his arm.
Together, Marine chopper pilot and Air Force shuttle pilot left the room and headed towards the hotel bar leaving Cordy’s mother speechless and her father smiling proudly after her.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking,” Tom asked as they walked along the corridor together, “what are you going to do with all that money?”
“Well,” Cordy shrugged, “I thought I’d buy myself some new clothes and maybe a new car and then…” she flashed her uncle one of her most dazzling Cordy type smiles, “…and then we’ll see.”She,
(What did we do that was wrong?)
(We didn't know it was wrong)
(Love is the one thing that money can't buy).
Something inside that was always denied
For so many years.
She's leaving home,
Bye, bye.The End.