When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna
– Napoleon Bonaparte
(This one’s even real)
I’m sure you’ve heard of schadenfreude. By now almost everyone has. German word, it means the joy you feel at another’s despair. Yet even the Germans don’t have a word for the joy you feel in your own despair. That oxymoronic concept has thus far escaped the people of Goethe. And yet it’s there. I know it. Gleespair, should you ever have call to use this word for yourself.
My son and my niece have continued to claw at each others’ throats, and yet the situation is now resolved. It is a resolution that brings me great sadness, and yet there is a also relief that it is finally ended, and there is also a perverse joy at the beauty of the solution. It is, in some ways, like the pages of my novels have leapt from the keyboard into my life. Did life imitate art, or did I see this coming and write it in advance?
Does it matter?
Unhappy though we may be, I have tried to keep this log of our family up to date, and so there are a few matters I must cover before hitting the meat of it all. My daughter Shi’ar became a teenager. Though she is a beauty, it is a cold beauty that reminds me over much of her mother. I hope she is able to find more happiness, or at the least to bring less unhappiness to others.
My wife continues her ever increasing efforts at ensuring some form of social standing for us. The parties are nearly endless. She has little regard for our children’s need to do their homework, though I fear it brands me a hypocrite to complain of this. At the last, she has exhausted every idea she has for new parties and themes, and we will now repeat them ad infinitum.
My sister Horta and I have done well, both at the very peaks of our careers. Our older brothers, removed from the comforts of the estate, have not succeeded as well, but they are our friends and neighbors. Gorn has become a constant presence at the house, his friendship with his fellow fisherman ensuring his presence. Horta and I may tease him about his gray hair, but we love having him around.
Skrull has developed a bit of a crush on a young man, Leo. I thought him a bit old for her, and he certainly has not returned her affections, possibly out of fear for the consequences of fooling around with a young child. Yet this is neither an innocent crush nor a saving grace for when I expel her.
I know this is what you’re reading for. You want to know what happened with Skrull and Kree, perhaps what shall happen between me and my wife.
“Tholian,” my wife screeched, “you need to do something about your sister and her brat. I saw them out in the garden this morning and you mark my words, they’re up to something.”
Now, my wife has never been happy I let my twin stay with us. She wanted to be the unchallenged Lady of the Manor, I believe. Neither, after all this time, do I feel any compulsion to humor her whims. Still, this time I did bring it up with my sister, and her response was my first inkling that there might be something going on.
“Sis, I want you to know that you’ll always be welcome here, no matter what happens. Please believe me. But your daughter, the way Skrull and Kree fight…”
She smiled a bit wistfully, “I know. And believe it or not, old man—” I’d been born moments before her, but that never stopped her from rubbing it in, “believe it or not, I know how much it’s cost you to keep us here. As for the rest,” she paused in thought, “I’ll make sure my daughter leaves you out of—”
“So she’s planning something after all?” I couldn’t hold in my surprise.
“I don’t know for sure,” Horta admitted. “She started to say something to me, but clammed up. Tholian, listen to me. She is not the sweet little girl she once was. She’s. She’s dangerous. Be careful.”
I hardly knew what to say to that, but I nodded along with my twin. I knew Skrull grew up sour, and my son was not solely to blame for the bad blood between them. But what could she do? Grandfather Motie’s entail was quite specific. I had sole power within the house.
We held her birthday in the park, another opportunity for my wife to show off. I tried to enjoy it, even knowing what was coming. Skrull was now old enough to support herself, and it was time for the reckoning. I allowed it to wait until we were back at home.
“Skrull, it’s time. I love you like I love my own children,” which, to my shame, was little enough, “but you cannot stay here any longer. You and Kree, well, enough is enough. I’ll give you enough to get you started, but—”
“Sorry, Uncle,” she snapped back, neither sorrow nor pity in her voice, “but you can’t do that.”
“Excuse me. I most certainly—”
“As important as Grampa Motie’s entail is to this family, you’d really think you’d take the time to read it. You can’t throw me out as long as I’m the leading heir.”
“Enough of this,” my wife jumped in. “We’ve put up with her and her mother long enough. It’s time you acted like a man and—”
“Do us a favor and shut up, Aunt Peyton. I’ve got my lawyer on speed dial, but I can sum it up. The heir has to be raised in the estate, be descended from Grampa Motie, and be of the right generation. I meet all the qualifications and currently beat out these two layabouts,” she gestured to my children, who at least had the good grace to look ashamed.
“You can’t be serious,” my wife interrupted. “I’ve had enough of—”
“And while I can’t throw either of you two out either,” Skrull spoke over Peyton, icily calm, “that doesn’t mean I have to keep you comfortable.”
“You’re not taking over yet,” I said with some conviction. “I don’t have to retire early.”
“No,” she smiled a crocodile’s grin, “not until you die, or I have a kid. I wonder which will happen first.”
I think of her crush, Leo, and wonder if that young man might have saved my life. Despite it all, you almost have to admire planning like that.