Carly took ages climbing the stairs to the restaurant. She’d like to pretend it was her growing belly that was slowing her down, but the truth was she was trying to put off the talk with her father for as long as she could. She hated disappointing people, and she knew she’d let him down.
The place was closed, but she could smell the delicious scent from the kitchen as soon as she walked in. Sundays were Leo’s days for trying out new dishes and experimentingwith recipes. Carly wasn’t savvy enough in the kitchen to pinpoint all the ingredients, but whatever Leo was cooking, she’d gladly have.
“Dad?” She poked her head in the kitchen.
“Hi sweetie!” Leo greeted her. “What are you doing here today? No need to work on Sundays, remember?” He glanced towards her growing baby bump. “In fact, we should probably talk about how much longer you can work for before you go on maternity leave…”
Carly sighed. He was being so understanding… it wasn’t making things any easier though.
“That’s kind of why I’m here, actually.” She started slowly. “I think I can’t work in the restaurant anymore.”
“I completely understand,” Leo nodded. “You can’t be on your feet all day, in your state. Don’t worry about it honey, I’ll sort out a maternity cover for you…”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” Carly told him. “I mean, you’re right, my legs are really swollen and running around the restaurant is getting harder… but I kind of meant working here in general.”
“Oh.” Leo looked hurt for a split second. “Well, that’s fine, if you don’t like it here anymore…”
“I do like it,” Carly shook her head. “It’s just… I’m going to be a mom now. I think I need a job with more regular hours… something where I don’t always work evenings. Something a little less exhausting. Maybe something to do with books. Something a little more… me.”
Leo sighed with relief. “I completely understand that.”
“Of course.” He nodded. “I was just worried that something happened to you here that you changed your mind so quickly. But Carly, I never expected you to work here forever. You’ve been great help over the years, but you don’t have any more of an obligation to work here than your siblings. If anything, you’ve more than paid your dues.” Leo smiled.
A smile spread across Carly’s lips. “Thank you so much, dad! I mean, I’d still love to help in any way I can, you know that but…”
“But your priority is being a mom now,” Leo said. “Don’t worry about me and my little restaurant, Carly. I can always hire a new assistant manager. But I only have one grandbaby on the way. Speaking of which, can I…” he gestured towards her belly.
Leo placed the palms of his hands on her stomach. His eyes were getting misty.
“I can’t believe I’ll be a grandpa,” he shook his head with a soft smile.
“Sorry it’s not under different circumstances.” Carly said awkwardly.
“All I care about is that both you and the baby are healthy and happy,” he shrugged. “And you making big decisions for yourself and the baby… well that seems like a good start.”
“It’s an opportunity to see what you can do for your part of the legacy, after all,” Leo added with a wink.
“I know,” Carly nodded. “The new generation is coming, better start thinking about those builds,” she laughed. “I was thinking a little bookstore might be a good idea. Or a collectible store…”
She stopped herself. Wasn’t that what Ralph had suggested, after things imploded? Of course, he wanted to sell furniture in the store too…
Stop thinking about Ralph, Carly scolded herself.
“I’ve got to admit, it will be hard to find somebody with your work ethic,” Leo joked.
“I’ll help you find a replacement,” Carly promised.
“You don’t need to do that, sweetie,” Leo smiled. “But if you do recommend someone, I’ll hire them straight away.”
“You shouldn’t just take my word for it!” Carly laughed.
“I’d take your word for anything.” Leo hugged his little girl.
Yenn sat up in her bed slowly. It was only the morning, but she already felt exhausted. Even more so when she remembered what day it was.
Vito was coming over. He’d called saying he wanted to talk to her and Pauline urgently, and that it was important.
Yenn didn’t like the sound of it. Especially after Hallie’s visit the day before.
She looked nervous when she walked in, even though she was trying to mask it with a smile.
Yenn and Pauline didn’t even notice her at first, who knew how long she’d been standing in the doorway for till Yenn caught a glimpse of her in the corner of her eye.
“Hallie! What a surprise!” Yenn greeted her.
“So you’re finally back from Windenburg! It’s about time!” Pauline enthused.
“Yeah… we got back this morning.”
“Aren’t you jetlagged? You didn’t need to rush here…” Pauline told the girl.
“I know. But I needed to see you. Both of you, really.”
She sat down, looking even more nervous. The older women smiled at her encouragingly.
“Well we’d love to hear all about your trip,” Yenn smiled. She studied Hallie’s face for a brief moment. “Or anything else you’d like to talk about.” She added.
Pauline took a deep breath. “Here we go,” she whispered.
“I don’t think I can carry on the legacy.” Hallie blurted out. “Wow. I didn’t mean to just drop the news like that. I’m so sorry…”
“I didn’t realise you felt that way, Hallie,” Pauline said carefully. “You seemed so excited when I included you as one of the heirs…”
Hallie looked down in shame. “I was. I really was. And I know I promised I wouldn’t let you down. I really didn’t want to let you down…”
Tears rushed into Hallie’s eyes.
“Hallie… you’re not letting anybody down.” Pauline told the girl. “You have to do what’s right for you.”
“You’re so nice… You’ve always been so nice to me… I wish I could continue the legacy, I swear,” Hallie said desperately. “I just don’t think I can ever have kids, or start a family. You know how I feel about… well… you know.”
“It’s ok Hallie,” Pauline interrupted her. “We understand. You’re not letting us down. We want you to be comfortable with the life you’re leading, not push you into something you don’t want.”
“So… you’re not mad?” Hallie asked.
“Of course not,” Yenn said. “The legacy was never meant to be a burden. It’s just something that’s meant to inspire you to make a difference to the world. But Hallie, you’ll make a difference to the world, heir or not. It doesn’t matter. You’re special, and whatever you choose to do next will make all of our lives richer.” She smiled.
“That’s right,” Pauline nodded approvingly. “And for the record, look at aunt Yenn. She was never an heir, and look what a huge difference she’s making every day.”
Yenn smiled weakly. Hallie, on the other hand lit up.
“Thank you so much,” she hugged Pauline. “Both of you. I couldn’t ask for a better family.”
“We just want you to be happy, that’s all!” Pauline whispered to her, holding back tears.
Hallie felt amazing. The huge weight that had been on her shoulders for years had been lifted. She didn’t have to get married and have kids. She didn’t have to get intimate with someone for the sake of a legacy. For the first time in ages, she could just… be. She felt light as a feather.
She didn’t stay behind much longer, and after catching up with the older women briefly, she left the house.
Yenn and Pauline dropped their smiles once she was out of the door.
Well, that was unexpected,” Yenn said. “Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe we’ve been blind.”
Pauline sighed. “I never wanted to pressure her. That wasn’t what I wanted at all. I just wanted her to feel included. I got it all wrong…”
“No you didn’t,” Yenn shook her head firmly. “You did what you thought was best. And today, you’ve done it again. Did you see that smile on her face?”
“I suppose,” Pauline sighed. “Well, there’s still three other heirs to the legacy. Although, things are less than ideal.”
“Shh,” Yenn hughed her. “They’re your children. They’re Bloomers. The legacy will be fine. Don’t worry, Pauline. Things have a way of working out in the end.”
Of course, Yenn wasn’t all that sure about what she’d said. But she had to put on a strong face for Pauline, the way Pauline had for Hallie.
The way she’d done for generations.
When would it end? Yenn felt so tired of holding so much on his shoulders. All these years, being the one to save the day, the one the family can count on, the one to turn to when things get really bad…
The Bloomer legacy was strong, she’d repeated to herself. But then why did it feel like so much of the family’s future was still depending on her and her guidance? Why did it feel like the beginning of the end?
They’d need to carry on without her some day.
She felt so tired.
But there was no time for that. Vito was coming over, and if the chat with Hallie was any indication, Pauline would need her support. So she’d be the strong aunt Yenn, the saviour, once more. For just a bit longer.
Her back ached as she walked down the hallway.
Perhaps one day she’d get some rest.