Cast out in a clearing, high on the hill, stood the mansion of the Peterson family. It was a quaint, vintage-looking property with wooden exteriors and a brick roof. The first of the Peterson family bought the house in the 1890s. Since then, each generation was passed down the property, every twenty or so years.
Family history aside, today was a special day. Today was the day, the remaining Peterson family members were reuniting for a family dinner, at none other than the Peterson mansion.
Grandfather Peterson, known as Earl Peterson was 89 years of age and the oldest surviving Peterson. He wanted to know what was happening in the lives of his immediate family.
Set to attend were Grandfather Peterson; his son Eric Peterson, 60 years old; Eric's son, Jaden Peterson, 38 years old, and Jaden's 12-year-old son, Michael Peterson.
As for the matriarchs, not all would attend. Grandfather Peterson's wife passed away a long time ago and Eric's wife Linda Peterson, 62, was in the hospital battling lung cancer. Those coming for the dinner were Jaden's wife, Anna Peterson, 32, a supermodel, and her sister, Casey Jenkins, 30.
Earl Peterson planned a lavish entrance, to greet his family-Flowers on the front door, Christmas lights around the roof, and a welcome sign on the front lawn.
Each of the members pulled into the driveway of the house one by one. Earl opened the front door and greeted everyone as they walked in.
"What is this house?" Anna Peterson then asked in disgust, looking around.
"It's Grandfather's house," replied her husband, Jaden Peterson, in a reprimanding manner.
"I know, but it looks creepy,'' she muttered.
Earl Peterson, still strong enough to walk around with a walker asked everyone to follow him to the dining room where dinner would be served. They were led into a big room with a long medieval-style table. There was a glass fishbowl in the center.
"Each of you will sit in your assigned seats," Earl said to everyone.
Everyone raised their eyebrows.
"Assigned seats?" Eric asked, confused.
"You'll see, son," Earl said.
Each one looked at the chairs surrounding the table. There was a name written on every seat. Earl took his spot at the edge. Jaden sat next to him, on the right. Next to Jaden was Anna. Across from Jaden sat Casey. Next to Casey was Eric. Next to Eric was Michael.
"Good, now that we all are in our respective seats, I want to ask everyone, how are you all tonight?"
Everyone nodded their heads happily.
Earl smiled. "That's great to hear. Now, I have a game that we will play before dinner is served. From this game, we'll see what new things we learn about one another."
Anna kept a face. She adjusted her expensive attire and looked around in disgust, at the wooden interior. It felt so eerie and musky in here.
Earl continued, "Now, I have on the center of the table, a list of statements inside of the fishbowl. Michael, will you grab it for me?"
Michael carried the fishbowl and placed it closer to Earl.
"Now, I will pull out a paper and read aloud a statement written. If the statement applies to you, you will stand up."
"I don't like this. This is boring," Jaden suddenly said.
"I agree," Casey said. "This is stupid. Why can't we all just chat, like normal people?"
Earl shook his head. "You don't understand, this is my house so I make the rules. I decide we play this game. It's all for fun, right? Relax, will you? Now, please listen carefully. I think you will want to hear what I have to read aloud."
Casey and Jaden rolled their eyes.
Earl pulled out a paper from the fishbowl and read aloud, "Never have I ever cried during a movie."
Everyone looked around, stifling laughter.
Anna and Casey stood up. "Who hasn't cried during a movie?" Anna asked, with attitude.
Casey looked at Michael. "Get up, you punk. I know you cried for Toy Story 3."
Michael sighed and stood up.
"Eric? Jaden?" Earl asked.
Eric didn't say anything. Jaden stood up finally.
"What movie was it?" Casey asked him, curiously.
"Manchester by the Sea, remember you were there watching it with Anna and I?"
"Right..." she said.
Earl cleared his throat. He pulled another paper out of the fishbowl. "Okay next statement: I wish I could be like someone else."
Anna stood up. "Duh. Don't we all?"
Eric stood up.
Jaden then turned to his wife and asked, "Wait, who do you want to be like?"
"Like Gisele Bundchen, supermodel and Tom Brady's wife?" She asked as if he should have known that.
"Okay let's move on-" Earl started.
"Wait what about Grandpa?" interrupted Michael, turning to Eric. "Who does he want to be like?"
Eric hesitated before saying, "I want to be one of those doctors , at my wife's hospital, so I'll know how to cure her."
There was an awkward silence that pierced the room. Michael looked down with instant regret.
Earl nodded sympathetically. "I hope Linda recovers and is back to her jovial self," he said even though this was highly unlikely to happen. She was in the last stages of her cancer, after all.
Earl put his hands into the fishbowl. "Alright, next statement: Stand up if you did something that you regret."
Everyone paused. They looked at one another with fear. "What do you mean?" Jaden asked.
"Stand up if this applies to you," Earl replied, with a serious tone.
"But who hasn't done something they regret. Everyone has done silly things when they were younger -" Jaden started.
"That's not what I'm talking about," Earl said, sharply. He waited a few seconds longer. The silence was deafening. No one stood up.
Casey looked at Anna. Then she stood up. "You know what. Fine, I have something. I regret not marrying Jaden."
Everyone gasped. Anna glared at her sister.
"What do you mean?" she asked Casey.
"I regret not saying yes to him first. That's why he went after you, isn't it?"
Jaden stared at her, getting up. "Why, you have the nerve to say that-"
"It's true though. Your grandfather wants the truth, he'll get the truth-"
A murmur of voices were overlapping against one another. Earl patiently waited till the voices died down.
"What's your next statement, huh?" Jaden demanded. "How to ruin our relationships, is that it?"
"No. I was going to serve us dinner now." Earl said nonchalantly.
Jaden held in his breath. Eric told him to calm down.
"The game is not over yet. After we eat, we will continue. After all, there is still the surprise left..." Earl stood up.
He left the room to go to the kitchen.
Anna looked at everyone. "This is so weird. Why is he trying to pit us all against each other?"
"I don't know. But he said the game is not over. And what surprise is he talking about?" Eric asked.
"Who knows? Maybe he has something buried here-" Jaden said.
"Shh, not in front of Michael," Anna said, irritated.
"So what? He's not five years old. He's at the age where he should know what is happening in our family."
"He's still a chi-uld. He's only 12." Anna said, enunciating every syllable.
"I'm not a child," Michael said, defensively. "I know a lot more than you, about certain things -"
Eric rolled his eyes. "Here we go, with the younger generation telling us that they know more than us-"
"Hey, that's my son you're talking about!" Jaden exclaimed.
Everyone started arguing about how to educate the younger generation to be better people.
Earl returned, holding a silver tray in one hand."Michael, can you help me get the plates from the kitchen?" he then asked.
Michael left the room, leaving his phone behind on his chair.
Earl opened up the tray. It was a turkey roast. "Dig in, once Michael returns with the plates," he merrily said.
Anna let out a sigh of relief. For some reason, she was expecting the dish to be something bizarre given all the craziness from Earl's game and their arguments
While they waited for the plates, Eric looked down at Michael's phone. He felt the urge to click on the home screen. When he did, he saw a text message that Michael just received.
I wish you all the best of luck... sounds like a crazy family reunion.
It was from someone named Melissa.
Michael returned with the plates. He served everyone. Then he sat down in his seat. He stared at his phone's home screen.
As everyone ate, Earl continued with the game. "So... now that we know a little more about each other, we are one step closer to revealing the surprise. But before I do so, I want each of you to answer one last question from the fishbowl."
He pulled out the last paper. It read: What would you with a million dollars?
This seemed like a regular question for everyone. They didn't think too much about it.
Little did they know, they would be very wrong.
"I came up with this question with careful thought. We will go down the line starting from my right. Jaden?"
Jaden stood up. "Well, I'd buy a house for Anna, Michael, and myself. We need a new house now that our current one is not very practical- We don't even have a guest house."
"I would buy a day spa for our house. I would also use the money to pay for a cruise that I have planned along with parents from Michael's class."
Jaden interjected. "Why does he need to answer? How would he realistically know what to do with a million dollars?"
"Of course I know what'd I do. I know he's asking!" Michael retorted, with anger. "I would buy an apartment for my friend, Melissa. She lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her mother. I told her, if I could, I would help her out when I'm older."
Anna and Jaden turned serious. "Wait, who is Melissa?" they asked at the same time.
"A friend.." he muttered.
"A friend? Why don't we know about her?" Anna asked.
Michael didn't say anything. Eric then took this time to say, "He's been texting her about this family gathering.."
"Really?" Jaden asked. "Wait, how do you know, father?"
"I saw his phone when he went to get the plates."
Michael looked up in alarm. "Wait you were looking at my phone? That's like... an invasion of privacy!"
"Michael! Have some respect for your grandfather!" Jaden scolded. " Now tell us, who is Melissa?"
"She's my friend..."
"I don't know any Melissa from your class. And I know literally everyone at your school, parents included." Anna said firmly.
"She doesn't go to my school. She attends another school."
"Great! There goes our son, not telling us who he hangs out with! Didn't we teach him that to be successful like us, you have to be careful with who you pick as friends," Anna asked, jabbing at her husband's arm, to scold Michael.
"Yeah, your mother is right. How well do you know about Melissa, anyways? Now give me your phone. I'll put an end to this."
"What?! No!" Michael retracted.
"Give it to me now!" Jaden demanded, reaching across the table to grab Michael's phone. In an attempt to do so, his hips jabbed the sides of the table, and he fell back hard on the wooden floor.
Jaden groaned, clutching his hip "Oh my god! Are you alright?!" Anna asked, lifting her husband to her feet.
"What is the meaning of this childishness?!" Eric demanded. "Everyone stop now! I have had it with this crazy game! All it's doing is agitating us more than necessary."
Earl didn't say a word.
Eric continued, "Let's just end this now, okay? I would use a million dollars to pay for my wife's treatment, and possibly a vacation for the two of us. Okay, Casey, you next."
"Why, am I also not invited for this vacation?" Jaden asked.
" No, you're not. It will only be your mother and myself. You never bother to visit her in the hospital. You only come across as selfish, by asking that."
Jaden said nothing. Casey, cleared her throat. "My turn now. With a million dollars, I would help pay for my wedding. I think Garrett is going to propose any time soon."
Anna looked at Casey with a confused look. "Who's Garrett? I thought it was Blake?"
"No.. it's now Garrett. I think he may be the one."
"I don't think you know what you want," Anna said rolling her eyes.
"How do you know what I want? Did you know what you wanted when you married Jaden?"
"Hey, you don't even know what you're talking about!"
"Oh yeah? Then why is it that Jaden texts me at night, telling me that he's not sure that marrying you was the right decision?"
"Jaden does not text you anything, you uncommitted liar!" Anna screamed, reaching across the table to lunge at Casey.
They both engaged in a catfight, while Jaden tried to justify himself. "She's lying! I didn't tell her anything!" Eric gave his son a harsh look.
"This is not how I raised you, Jaden."
" She's a liar, father! That's what she is! Can't even decide what she wants in life and decides to be a nuisance in mine!"
"So it's true that Casey and you text at night?" Anna asked, pushing her sister away from her.
Michael was stone-faced, staring at the commotion.
"We talked once, but I told her not to tell anyone!" he hissed at Casey.
"So it's true then-" Anna said, tears stung her eyes.
Earl cleared his throat. "Ahem! Now it's time for the surprise! Don't you want to know what it is?"
Everyone stopped what they were doing. They kept silent, waiting for Earl.
Earl asked everyone to push the dining table to the right. He bent down and pulled on the floorboards. Underneath the floorboards, right where Jaden had fallen, was a black box.
"Michael will you open the box please?" he instructed. Everyone gaped in awe.
Michael opened it carefully, unlocking the golden clasp on the sides.
It was multiple stacks of $100 bills. On top, was a manila folder.
"How much is in there?" Jaden asked astonished.
"It's one million dollars. I had it saved up over the years, hidden, waiting for the right moment to show it to you all," Earl replied. Everyone's eyes widened.
"Wait, wait, wait, you had one million dollars all this time and you never told us?" Eric asked. "Not even to mother?"
"She knew all right. She took this piece of information to her death bed. I kept this from you all because I wanted time to decide, who in my family would deserve this money, in the event, I pass away. Which is probably very soon. So I drafted a will, which is in the manila folder. Can one of you hand it over to me?"
Eric handed it over, hesitantly.
Earl waved the folder. "This will reveal who the one million dollars will go to."
Everyone straightened up. Then Anna said with a fraudulent smile. " Oh, grandpa, you shouldn't have. It's too kind of you to consider us-"
"It's not like the money will go to you, Mrs. Fake," Casey interrupted.
"It's not like it will go to you either, you backstabber."
"It will not go to any of you. It will go to me, as I plan to use it for my wife." Eric said.
"She seems to be the only one you care about. You don't even care about me." Jaden stated, bluntly.
"Not after the way you behaved today-"
"Fine. Then if not me, the money must be going to Michael. He's just a boy after all. We all have our flaws, but I think that the money going to him, would be the right thing." Jaden figured. Everyone reverently nodded their heads.
"I beg to differ," Earl interjected, to everyone's surprise. He started reading from the manila folder.
"I am transferring all my assets, including the black box containing one million dollars to Felicia Downey and her family."
Eric looked at him, shocked. "What?! My wife's sister?"
"Yes. Since Linda is battling cancer in the hospital and is unable to hold responsibility of the money, her sister was my next candidate of choice,"
"Bu-but why Linda of all people?" Eric asked.
"Linda actually cared about me, before her cancer diagnosis. She used to call every week to check up on me. And she sent me food baskets whenever I had a cold."
"So? That doesn't give you the right to hand her family a million dollars just because she sent you 'Betty Crocker food baskets', that I myself paid for!" Eric fumed.
"It's not just that. It's what you all said tonight, that confirmed my doubts. None of you were willing to use the million dollars for someone else, who may need it. Instead, you all went on about how you'd use it for yourselves-"
"But I said that I would use it for Melissa!" Michael interrupted.
"Did you even tell your parents about Melissa? I don't think so. You are full of secrets too, young man...."
He continued, "None of you know what you want. You aren't committed to your relationships, you aren't loving to the ones you're supposed to love. You all are wrapped up in your own worlds. My ideal choice was Felicia. She knew about this already, which is why she is not here today. She is at the hospital with Linda. Somewhere where Jaden should be right now but isn't."
(CONT in next post)
"This isn't fair!" yelled Eric. He stormed out of the room, leaving the house.
Jaden and Michael left the house, following, feeling just as disappointed.
Anna and Casey were the only ones left. After Anna left, Casey stood up, her back, faced the old man. "I am not technically, part of your family, so I have no right to say anything. But, I apologize for my sister's and brother-in-law's words... I guess it's too late for that now.."
She turned around, but all she saw was a lifeless Earl, slouched in his seat.
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Here is the remaining part of the story since it wouldn't fit under my submission. ------------------------------------------------------------------- (CONT.) Four days later, after Earl's funeral got over, Eric walked over to Felicia who was standing aside. He started, "Hey, so you have the money after all... I hope you are happy with it. It's what my father would have wanted." She faced him sadly. "I will be. I hope you know this was all for the better. "I feel like things would have been better if this family reunion never ...