Pauline and Yenn sat in the garden, trying to not act tense.
“It’s probably not a big deal,” Pauline repeated again.
“There’s no point in speculating about it,” Yenn smiled. “But whatever it is, it’s nothing we can’t deal with.”
Vito finally arrived, bursting through the garden gate. He looked more tense than the two of them combined.
Yenn braced herself.
Pauline stood up. “Hi Vito, it’s good to see you,” she tried to put her son at ease.
“Ok ok ok,” Vito whispered to himself, placing his fingers on his temples.
Yenn and Pauline exchanged worried looks.
“I… I thought this would be easier,” Vito sighed.
“Whatever it is, you can tell us,” Yenn encouraged him. Vito attempted to compose himself.
“Ok… here it goes…”
“I’m not going to continue the legacy.” He said finally.
Yenn tried to hide her disappointment. It felt like a strange déjà vu. She wondered how Pauline was feeling.
“I do have a reason for it, though, I’m not just trying to be a plum,” he continued.
“It’s Louis, isn’t it?” Pauline asked quietly.
Vito nodded. “Not that he asked me to leave the legacy for him,” he added quickly. “But I can’t stay here. My heart is in Windenburg. All I care about is in Windenburg. I need to go back, once Carly’s had the baby.”
Pauline stared at him blankly.
“For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure I’d be a plummy heir,” Vito continued. “It just doesn’t come to me naturally, the whole bettering the community for others thing. I’m sorry. I know the girls will do way better than me.” He sighed.
Pauline looked at him sadly. “Believe it or not, I’ve been there.” She surprised him. “It doesn’t even feel like that long ago. When I first came to Newcrest from Windenburg, everything and everyone I knew and loved was back there. I was going to leave the legacy behind and go back to Windenburg as soon as I could. To get my real life. Follow my real dreams. So I do get it.”
Vito stared at his mother in shock. “So… are you now going to tell me what changed your mind, and how I’ll end up doing the same?”
She shook her head. “No. It’s your call to make. You need to make it with your own heart. I’m just saying I understand. Because I know where you’re coming from.”
Yenn’s heart was breaking watching them. She stood up.
“I don’t think it’s quite the same situation, mind you,” she told Vito. “Your mother grew up in Windenburg, so of course she had stronger ties to that city than to Newcrest. But then she saw all the work the generations before her had put in the town, the soul of Newcrest, and what it stands for…”
She paused. It wasn’t like her to tell people what to do. She could even understand Vito’s point. She just felt awful for Pauline. And deep down, she selfishly felt awful for herself too.
“I do apologise Vito,” Yenn corrected herself. “I’m not trying to blackmail you into staying, even though that sounded like it. I just want to make sure you appreciate what you’re leaving behind.”
“I know, I’m being a plumhead,” Vito looked away, feeling guilty. “All the more reason why the legacy is better off without me.”
“That’s not what I said,” Yenn said. “At the end of the day, you’re the only one that has a say in what you want to do with your life. And I do understand wanting to follow love. We all need love.”
Vito smiled gratefully. “I do really think Louis is my soulmate. You’ve had yours, so tell me, would you not do anything in your power to be with them? Sacrifice anything?”
Yenn didn’t respond. If she was completely honest with herself, it was probably always Ethan who’d done the majority of sacrificing in their relationship. Maybe she was the one who had it all wrong. Who knew. It was all lifetimes ago. Maybe she had been around for far too long for her life experiences to still be relatable.
Neither Pauline not Yenn spoke much more, other than muttering something about wishing Vito well. So he made his way out. He didn’t feel too great about it, but it had to be done. It was like ripping off a band aid.
Louis was worth it, he told himself, trying not to think about their sad faces too much.
Or maybe what Louis said before he’d gone back to Newcrest was true and he was just being a selfish jerk yet again, the voice at the back of his head said.
Pauline looked gobsmacked when he left. This was bad, Yenn thought.
“I’ve failed,” Pauline said. “Back then, when I was about to leave Newcrest instead of carrying on with the legacy… I might as well have. None of my heirs seem to want to keep it going. So the legacy will die with me anyway…”
“That is not true,” Yenn said. “Don’t forget about Carly and Sera…”
“Yes, Carly has a baby on the way, but under what circumstances? I never pictured it would be like this… and Sera? She doesn’t tell me much, but I can see she’s in pain. Poor lost soul…”
“Just because things aren’t the way we pictured them doesn’t mean they’re wrong,” Yenn pointed out.
“But they are wrong, aren’t they?” Pauline asked. “I’ve failed with the legacy. And I’ve failed with my children. I thought I did the right thing. Passing on the legacy to several heirs to make it stronger… turns out it just dilutes it, because they don’t think their decisions matter as much.”
“What’s worse, I’ve failed as a mother.” Pauline said tearfully. “I wanted to give my children the freedom I never had. Give them the world. Let them make their own choices. But they’re all lost and in pain. I’ve failed at everything I could have possibly failed at.”
“We’re human, we all fail,” Yenn raised her voice. “And then we picked ourselves up and rise again. We keep going. And so will you. You’ve given your children the love you never had. You’ve given Newcrest so much hope Pauline. Maybe it’s not the way you’d planned, but without you, the town would have withered away a long time ago. You’re not a failure.”
“If you are a failure, then what am I?” Yenn asked quietly. “I’ve stood here and let it all happen. Watched your children in pain. Watched you suffer. And your mother before you. I’d seen the legacy stumble and almost fall, I’d seen it on hold… but I’ve also seen the good things. So I know it’s not all been for nothing. And you know what, Pauline? It’s not over. We’re still here.”
“You’re right.” Pauline nodded. “It’s not over. And Carly’s baby is coming any day now. I need to stop focusing on the negatives. Maybe they’re not even that bad… I mean, it’s a good thing that both Hallie and Vito are pursing happiness, isn’t it?”
“Exactly,” Yenn nodded, attempting a smile.
But she was far from smiling on the inside. Once Pauline was out of sight, she dragged herself into her room.
She had failed. She had been around for generations, and still wasn’t able to save the legacy.
She looked at the photos on her wall. Will all of them be forgotten in history? Did their lives really matter? Did her own?
Staring at those old pictures of a legacy that was crumbling to the ground, Yenn felt defeated for the first time in a few lifetimes.