“You can’t do this to me, Kenji. I’ve been living in this house for many years,” Priscilla begged her stepson, Kenji, on the phone. But the younger man refused her pleas.
“I don’t care. Get out of my house because I’m going to sell it or whatever. I just don’t want you in it!” he spat at her.
“But I’m 75 years old. I live on a budget. Where will I go?” she asked, her emotions starting to surface.
“Listen to me, Priscilla. I DON’T CARE!” he yelled and hung up abruptly.
As she lowered the phone from her ear, Priscilla couldn’t help but start crying. After all these years, her stepson still resented her… for something she never did.
Decades ago, Priscilla married Oliver, who was divorced and raising his 11-year-old son, Kenji, on his own. The boy immediately made it clear that he was unhappy with the relationship. Regardless, Priscilla and Oliver had fallen madly in love and wanted to be together.
Kenji never warmed up to Priscilla, mainly because he thought she was the reason why Oliver and Kenji’s mother, Marianne, separated in the first place. He also blamed Priscilla for the fact that his mother never visited. That was not true, but the boy never believed them.
Despite his hatred for Priscilla, she tried her best to be a good stepmother to him. Kenji rebuffed her attention and affection at all times and left the house at 18, only contacting his father every once in a while. He wouldn’t even come to family functions because he didn’t want to see Priscilla.
She was a good woman, had many friends in the community, loved her husband, and often donated to local charities, including the non-profit nursing home, which always needed supplies and money. She even volunteered whenever possible because her grandmother had been sent to one when Priscilla was little, and she hated some of the conditions a few residents lived in.
Years later, Oliver died, and everything he owned was passed down to him, including the house. Priscilla was somewhat aware of this, but she never imagined that Kenji would kick an older woman out just like that.
She had a few savings, but primarily for her retirement. She couldn’t afford an apartment and had nowhere to go. However, she knew Kenji would not change his mind, so she had to start packing. She also called a friend, Mrs. Stubby, who offered her a couch for the night. But it was not a permanent solution.
However, Mrs. Stubby was also the neighborhood busybody, and soon, many people found out that Priscilla was homeless. They offered many solutions, but it wasn’t until the director of the local nursing home, Mrs. Patrick, called that the older woman found her new home.
It was not ideal. Priscilla didn’t think she would end up in a nursing home. But it wasn’t that bad. This one survived on donations, and she offered Mrs. Patrick a monthly stipend for her stay, but the director refused.
However, that was not the only surprise the nursing home had in store for her. To her utter shock, Marianne was there. Kenji’s birth mom.
Priscilla had only seen Kenji’s mom once before. She was at the back of the theater during Kenji’s high graduation. He never saw her.
Marianne accidentally met Priscilla’s eyes and left quickly. She rushed out and tried to find her, to get her to come back and see her child, who missed her so much. But she was gone.
The older woman looked up and frowned, but recognition dawned on her face, and she looked down in shame. “What are you doing here? Did you find me on purpose? I… is Oliver here? God, Kenji?” she babbled.
“No, no. I’m here alone. Oliver died a few months ago, and I live here now. Kenji is not here either. You live here too?” Priscilla explained and sat next to her.
“Ah, yes. My legs are not the best, and I had to move here. You look healthy. Why are you here?” Marianne said, and Priscilla sighed.
“That’s a long story,” she responded, almost ashamed of never earning her stepson’s love – or hell, even just a little respect.
“I have time,” Marianne nudged shyly.
Priscilla smiled. “Well, it’s actually because of your son…”
By the time she was finished, Marianne was appalled. “I can’t believe Kenji believed that all these years. That must mean that Oliver never told him the truth,” she muttered, shocked.
“Oliver told him many times that you guys separated way before we met, but he wouldn’t –”
“No. Not that,” Marianne interrupted. “The truth is I left because I cheated. I hated my simple, suburban life with a husband and child, so I ran off with a wannabe rockstar.”
“Oh my,” Priscilla breathed. She had no idea, meaning that Oliver had kept that secret to himself. Kenji must not have ever known.
“Yeah. I was horrible. That’s why I couldn’t return. I didn’t deserve to have Kenji back in my life, and when I saw you with them, I thought it was much better,” she added. “I didn’t know he treated you like that.”
“Well, I guess that’s what happens when you keep secrets,” Priscilla commented offhandedly.
“You’re right. I think it’s time I face the music and do the right thing,” Marianne continued.
“Oh, I didn’t mean anything.”
“Maybe,” Priscilla said, tilting her head. “I could lie about some documents or something.”
Surprisingly, that plan worked. Kenji came, telling Priscilla that he would sign whatever so he would never have to see her again. But Priscilla made him wait in the common room of the nursing home, and Marianne appeared.
She let them talk for a long time. When she returned, Kenji was in tears. She had never seen that in all the years she had known him. He never showed emotion, much less in public.
Kenji wiped a tear and looked up, suddenly noticing Priscilla. “Priscilla, I… I’m so sorry,” he choked, his body still sobbing from the emotional roller coaster.
He had hated his stepmother passionately for years and craved the reappearance of his bio mother for years, only to discover this heartbreaking truth.
Priscilla forgave him quickly and promised that everything would be alright. Their tears settled eventually, and they managed to lighten the mood by talking about Kenji’s life.
When he got up to leave, “Priscilla, you can have the house back. It’s your house, no matter what my dad’s will said,” Kenji told her. “I shouldn’t have kicked you out.”
Priscilla thought about it. “You know? I like it here, and I’m 75. I might have moved here shortly either way, so I think I’m staying. But if you want to do something for me, come visit Marianne if you can,” she said and hinted about seeing her at his graduation.
Kenji nodded and left. He came back once a week and greeted Priscilla with more kindness than she had ever experienced from him but spent most of his time with his mother.
Eventually, Priscilla learned that Kenji was renting the house, and all the funds were donated to the nursing home.
At least he learned something from me, she thought proudly when Mrs. Patrick revealed the news.