Once Joe leaves his mother at a nursing facility, he comes back with his fiancée to find a different family settling in and his luggage left outside the door. Despite feeling deceived by his mother, he soon understands her intentions were to shield him from a more significant and dangerous threat.
“You made the correct decision, darling,” Emily said with a smile, extending her hand to gently touch Joe’s leg. “Your mother will experience an improved quality of life in the nursing home, and we can begin transforming her old crafting room into a nursery for our upcoming baby.”
Pausing his car at an intersection, Joe beamed at his incredible fiancée. Her kindness was remarkable. If only his mother could perceive it, but her condition was impacted by the challenges of both aging and illness. With Emily by his side, he realized the extent of the difficulty, a perspective he might not have grasped on his own.
An unfamiliar car had already taken up space in the driveway, leaving Joe with no choice but to park his car outside his mother’s residence. Peering through the window, he observed individuals carrying furniture into the house, while two young girls engaged in play on the lawn, intensifying his sense of confusion.
“What’s happening here?” Joe stepped out of his vehicle and hurried to the front porch. He gestured towards a man standing by the front entrance. “Excuse me, why are you inside my house?”
“You’re Joe, right?” The man’s grin was a bit shy, and he scratched the back of his head. “Your mother mentioned you’d be here. So, the deal is, this isn’t her place anymore. She actually sold it to us last week. Here are the documents, and, well, your belongings are right there.”
As Joe gazed upon his suitcases neatly arranged on the doorstep, accompanied by a cardboard box labeled with his name, he was utterly taken aback. He turned, sensing a hand on his arm. Beside him, Emily’s expression twisted into a sneer, her eyes simmering with anger.
“Hand those over,” she hissed, grabbing the papers from his grasp.
As Emily scanned the papers, Joe observed the deepening flush on her face. Her expression revealed the entire story: his mother had indeed sold the house! Seeking comfort and an anchor in this bewildering situation, Joe turned toward his fiancée.
However, Emily pushed him away.
“You must be the most gullible person I’ve ever encountered, Joe!” Emily shouted. “How could you allow your mother to deceive you so blatantly? It all lies in ruins now.”
“Don’t speak like that, Emily. I might not comprehend when or why Mom took this step, but we still have one another. We can—”
“I’m done with this! You’re a failure who can’t give me anything, Joe. Erase me from your plans.” Emily removed her ring forcefully and threw it to the ground. “Our marriage is off.”
“Hold on!” Joe hurried after Emily as she walked away. “You can’t just walk away. What about our child?”
Emily chuckled directly at him. “You’re truly an innocent fool. There’s no child, Joe. Step aside, I’m done here!”
“What are you saying? Emily… Emily! Wait, clarify what you’re saying about our child,” Joe pleaded.
Emily didn’t even glance back. The woman he loved departed from Joe’s world as he witnessed her crossing the lawn. He couldn’t grasp it. At that moment, he felt numb and adrift, as though everything he had ever understood had crumbled, given the overwhelming cascade of events.
As his knees faltered, he returned to the porch and took a seat. Leaning against his suitcase, he noticed a letter tucked beneath the fold of a cardboard box. In her distinctive angular handwriting, Mom had addressed it to him. Opening the letter, he found its contents.
I apologize for the way things have unfolded. I wish I didn’t have to resort to such drastic measures, but I felt there was no alternative left. Allow me to elaborate: It all traces back to the day you introduced Emily into our lives…
Several Weeks Earlier
The revelation that her son had become deeply entangled in a significant relationship with the young woman lounging beside him on the couch was met by Nora while she occupied her cherished armchair, offering a pleasant smile.
“And where did you both cross paths?” Nora inquired.
“I make regular deliveries to the office where Emily worked at the reception,” Joe responded. “Initially, she maintained a professional demeanor, not showing much interest in conversing with me, but I persisted.”
“It was a temporary job, and I didn’t want any trouble,” Emily said, her smile coy as she cast a sidelong glance at Joe. “However, Joe was incredibly funny and charming. I couldn’t resist when he invited me for a date at the amusement park.”
Nora rubbed her temples. Her love for her son ran deep. He possessed numerous admirable qualities such as kindness, honesty, and straightforwardness, but charm wasn’t among them.
“About three weeks back, we went on that date, and ever since then, we’ve been together every day,” Joe shared, his eyes sparkling as he gazed at Nora. “It’s evident we’re a perfect match. That’s why I’ve asked Emily to move in with me.”
Nora’s astonishment at Joe’s confession triggered a sudden bout of coughing. She trembled slightly as she reached for the glass of water she usually kept nearby, but someone else reached it before her.
“Here you go.” Emily offered a gentle smile to Nora while placing a hand on her shoulder. “Are you alright? Can I assist you with anything else?”
Sipping the water, Nora gestured for her to dismiss the concern. Once she regained her composure, she settled back into her seat, donned her oxygen mask, and took several deliberate, deep breaths.
“I apologize if this is surprising, Mom,” Joe said, settling on the chair’s arm while giving her shoulder a reassuring rub. “I wanted to tell you about Emily at the right moment. Even though it might appear sudden, our relationship has been flawless. We truly are soulmates!”
Nora extended her hand towards Emily, who lingered close by, and affectionately patted her hand. “Emily, would you kindly prepare some tea for me? The warmth helps soothe my throat. You’ll find everything you need on the kitchen counter.”
“Isn’t she amazing?” Joe whispered as he observed Emily exiting the room.
“She appears to be a delightful young woman, but are you sure you’re not rushing things, Joey?”
“Mom, I value your worries, but…” Joe let out a sigh. “I’ve been holding back certain details due to your health, but it’s only right you’re aware.” Joe’s smile widened as he grasped his mother’s hands.
“I intend to propose to Emily this upcoming weekend.”
Nora’s fingers lost their grip, and her oxygen mask slipped onto her lap. “This weekend? But… it’s too early…”
“We share something extraordinary, Mom,” Joe grinned, as if he were living his greatest fantasy. “You’re the reason I believe in real love and the courage to pursue it. Just like you and Dad did when you eloped. Remember how Grandma and Grandpa had reservations about your relationship?”
“It’s not comparable,” Nora disagreed, shaking her head. “Your father and I shared a lasting love, and our elopement was driven by the urgency of him being sent off to the Gulf. Those times were distinct, Joe. A lot was evolving, and though much of it was exhilarating, there were also challenges to confront.”
“And there are challenges now too, Mom! The only contrast between then and now is that the challenges my generation confronts are different from those of yours,” Joe asserted, leaning closer to meet Nora’s gaze. “I truly love Emily, Mom. It’s a depth of love I can hardly fathom. Life’s too brief to wait when I’m already convinced that she’s my forever. I can’t waste time not making her my wife.”
Nora let out a groan. Though uncertainty still lingered, it was evident that Joe and Emily’s love was genuine and that he intended to propose, regardless of her response. When Joe’s parents opposed their marriage, she and Joe’s father had taken a similar stand.
“Alright,” Nora conceded. “She can come live here, but I don’t want you two even thinking about eloping! I want to be present when my son takes that step.”
Joe enthusiastically assured Nora that he wouldn’t wed Emily without her presence. A sigh of relief escaped Nora’s lips in quiet assurance. While doubts about Joe’s choice persisted, she wished him the best and hoped he would prove her uncertainties wrong.
The day after Emily settled in, Nora was taken aback by the surprising number of common interests they had. That night, as Nora was engrossed in her crocheting, she nearly lost her balance in her chair. To her amazement, Emily settled beside her with her own set of needles and yarn.
“I hope you don’t mind if I join you,” Emily said with a shy smile. “I’ve started learning knitting recently, and I thought we could have a chat while we knit together… I’d really value your advice on keeping the tension right.”
Nora agreed, and the two women engaged in conversation throughout the majority of the night. For dinner, Joe ordered takeout, and later, the trio watched a documentary on TV. As fatigue set in, Nora retired to bed. A few hours later, she jolted awake, realizing she had forgotten to take her evening medication.
Quietly, Nora crept to the kitchen to take her pills. On her way back to bed, she noticed the bathroom light was switched on.
“Yeah, sure!” Emily’s whispered words echoed distinctly in the silent house. “It’s pretty eerie living with this elderly lady and her oxygen machine. She sounds like the antagonist from that vintage sci-fi film… you know the one! Thankfully, Joe is completely smitten with me, so I should be able to eliminate her soon.”
Nora stood in the corridor, utterly taken aback. The shift from the pleasant evening she had spent with the young woman to the dreadful words she was now hearing was beyond her comprehension. How could Emily be plotting such negativity? And what was her plan for removing Nora from the equation?
“It won’t be too difficult to convince him to place her in a nursing home. After that, I’ll show him the door, and this house will be mine!”
Nora proceeded down the hall to Joe’s room. She needed to inform her son that his fiancée was a cunning opportunist. That’s exactly what she did. But as she recalled their earlier conversation and how Joe’s face lit up when he looked at Emily, she couldn’t help but feel conflicted.
Joe would never buy into her explanation. He was wholeheartedly ensnared by Emily’s charms. Nora needed a plan—a method to expose Emily’s deceit.
Nora retreated quietly to her bedroom, her thoughts racing with potential strategies. No matter her course of action, Joe would inevitably face heartache, and she recognized her utmost priority was to safeguard her son.
Nora endured days of Emily’s deception, longing for a slip-up that would expose her true nature, but it never occurred. Nora would have remained oblivious to Emily’s intentions if she hadn’t accidentally overheard her confiding in a confederate.
One day, Joe approached her with a somber expression, stating they needed to have a conversation.
“It’s concerning Emily,” Joe began.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Nora consoled, giving Joe’s hand a comforting pat. “I’m saddened that things didn’t go well, but I’m relieved you’ve come to understand—”
“What do you mean?” Joe’s brow furrowed. “Emily and I are doing great. I’ve never been happier! Are you still concerned about the duration of time we’ve known each other?”
“No… I just thought… I apologize, Joey,” Nora quickly corrected herself. “You know, it’s often not a positive sign when someone says they need to talk, and then you brought up Emily. I assumed something might have occurred between you two.”,’
“That makes perfect sense,” Joe’s smile returned. “Actually, I want to discuss Emily’s job with you. You’re aware she’s been managing her own business alongside her temporary employment, and things have been quite prosperous lately. Emily is facing a surge of orders she can hardly manage.”
“That’s fantastic news,” Nora replied.
“Yes, but it’s also a significant challenge. She needs to hire additional staff and acquire more equipment to keep up, but her financial resources are limited at the moment.” Joe’s throat tightened. “I’m inclined to assist her, Mom. I want to invest in her business, but there’s only one avenue through which I can obtain the necessary capital.”
Nora’s stomach clenched with apprehension. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Emily’s arrival was impending and that whatever Joe uttered next would bring her downfall.
“Tell me, Joe,” Nora urged, her voice tinged with urgency. “What’s on your mind?”
Joe shifted his gaze towards her but couldn’t hold her eyes as he began speaking. “I believe… well, Mom, your health hasn’t been getting better, and I’ve done all I can to care for you here… I think it might be the right time for you to consider moving into a nursing home.”
“It’s a more comfortable option there,” Joe elaborated, “and if you’re open to selling your house, Emily and I could invest that money into her business. I assure you, once we start seeing returns on the investment, I’ll repurchase this place. According to Emily’s projections, it shouldn’t take more than a few months.”
Nora’s ears registered the words in disbelief. Attempting to reach for her oxygen mask to counteract the familiar sensation of her lungs constricting felt futile. As a fit of coughing seized her body, she leaned against her chair.
Though Joe’s voice persisted, the words eluded her understanding. Her focus was narrowed to the struggle of drawing breath. Joe fitting her oxygen mask back onto her face likely took less than a minute, yet to Nora, it stretched into what felt like hours.
“I don’t… wish… to depart… from my home,” Nora struggled to say amidst gasps.
“But this is precisely why a nursing home could be a better option for you,” Joe implored. “I’m only trying to take care of you, Mom.”
Nora expressed her disagreement by shaking her head. Emily was secretly controlling Joe’s actions, but Nora was unsure of what actions she could take to address the situation.
Nora then revealed her concerns about her own mortality and the future of their house. Joe reacted with sadness, expressing his unwillingness to entertain the thought of losing his mother. He reassured her of his love and suggested the possibility of considering a nursing home.
Feeling conflicted, Nora let out a sigh. While her physical health was improving, her emotions were still torn when it came to her son.
She responded to Joe by saying she would think about it, and asked for some time to do so.
Joe enveloped Nora in a tight embrace. “Mom, thank you. I understand your attachment to this place, but I truly believe a nursing home can offer you better care. Alright, I’ll get some brochures so we can review them together.”
Nodding in agreement, Nora complied. While she had no intention of actually moving into a nursing home, at least she had granted herself more time to figure out a way to expose Emily’s true intentions.
The next day, while Nora was engrossed in her knitting and enjoying her afternoon snack, the front door creaked. She swiftly glanced through the entrance of her craft room to catch Emily slipping out.
Nora’s attention was instantly piqued; Emily hadn’t mentioned anything about leaving. Rushing to the door, she watched Emily enter her car and drive away. Although Nora wasn’t driving as frequently as before, she promptly decided to follow Emily. Spotted by Nora at the intersection down the street, Emily was pursued all the way to a downtown café.
Nora parked across the street with a radiant grin as she saw Emily briskly make her way towards the café entrance. An unfamiliar man joined her, embracing her warmly. As they stepped into the café, hand in hand, Nora observed their closeness. Soon after, she noticed them seated at a window-side table once more.
Nora placed a hand over her heart, focusing on regulating her breathing as she watched the unfamiliar man lean across the table to kiss Emily.
Luckily, Nora had her oxygen device with her. After a few deep breaths, she dialed Joe.
“Joe, I apologize for disturbing you at work, but this is extremely crucial. I’m outside the cafe at the intersection of 3rd Street. Please come here right away!”
Nora approached the cafe’s window and started recording Emily and her partner. They smiled and occasionally held hands on the table while talking, but they refrained from kissing.
“Mom? What’s happening?” Joe shouted as he hurried toward her.
“That’s what’s happening!” Nora pointed toward the cafe window. “I’m sorry to break this to you, Joey, but Emily is being unfaithful.”
Joe turned to the window. His puzzled expression swiftly transformed into concern, then anger. He balled his hands into fists and stormed toward the cafe door, with Nora following closely.
“What in the world is happening here?” Joe slammed his palms onto the table where Emily and her partner were situated. “How long has this guy been sneaking around behind my back, Emily?”
As Joe advanced towards them, both the man and Emily leaped in fear, and Emily promptly began weeping.
“What?! You actually believe I’m cheating on you?” She rose from her seat and pushed Joe’s shoulder. “How could you even think that, Joe?”
“I saw you holding hands and kissing!” Nora approached, getting closer.
“He’s my cousin! Seriously, Nora, it was just a quick kiss on the lips.” Emily turned towards Joe. “I understand that a kiss like that might be a big deal here, but I grew up in New York, and that’s how we’ve always greeted family.”
“Your cousin, huh?” Joe turned his attention to the guy. “Then why have I never heard about this cousin before?”
“Because…” Emily placed a hand on her forehead and exhaled deeply. “Because I was ashamed, alright? I’ve put in a lot of effort to achieve success, and I didn’t want you to see the less fortunate side of my family. And if you’re still skeptical, I can provide evidence of how much I love you.”
Emily wiped away the tears from her eyes and reached into her bag. She took out a pregnancy test and displayed it to Joe.
“I didn’t plan to tell you like this, but you’re going to be a father, Joe. Our baby is growing inside me, and if you think I would betray you while carrying our child—”
Joe embraced her, cutting off Emily’s words. Nora was taken aback by what she was witnessing. She approached her son and delivered a firm slap on his shoulder as she barely noticed Emily’s supposed cousin making a hasty exit.
“Get a grip, Joe!” Nora insisted. “She’s deceiving you to cover her tracks! That man can’t possibly be her cousin, and she’s likely fabricating the pregnancy too! You need to wake up and realize the true intentions of this manipulator.”
Joe wrapped his arm around Emily and turned towards Nora.
“Mom, please stop! Why are you so set on assuming the worst about Emily? She’s only shown kindness to you.”
“What?” Nora leaned against the table, taken aback by Joe’s words. “I’m speaking the truth… I saw her! Nobody kisses their cousin like that.”
“Don’t be too tough on her, sweetheart.” Emily placed a hand on Joe’s chest. “Remember what we discussed? It’s not her fault if she’s feeling disoriented.”
“Excuse me? I’m not confused, and you shouldn’t talk about me behind my back!”
Nora glared at Joe. “What falsehoods did this little troublemaker tell you?”
Joe scowled, running his fingers through his hair. “I think we should continue this conversation somewhere more private. Let’s head back home.”
With his arm around Emily, Joe turned to face Nora.
“Mom, please, enough! Why are you so determined to think the worst of Emily? She’s done nothing but show kindness to you.”
“What?” Nora leaned on the table, surprised by Joe’s words. “I’m telling the truth… I saw her! Nobody kisses their cousin like that.”
“Don’t be too hard on her, darling.” Emily placed a hand on Joe’s chest. “Remember what we talked about? It’s not her fault if she’s feeling confused.”
“Excuse me? I’m not confused, and you shouldn’t be discussing me behind my back!”
Nora glared at Joe. “What lies did this little troublemaker whisper to you?”
Joe scowled, raking his fingers through his hair. “I believe we should continue this conversation in a more private place. Let’s go back home.”
I always wanted the best for you, my son, and I hope you can now recognize that I was consistently honest with you.
As Joe read the concluding sentences of his mother’s letter, he brushed away tears from his eyes. He couldn’t fathom that he had been deceived by Emily’s intricate and prolonged lies. He felt remorseful for doubting his mother and hurting her.
“I’ve been so foolish!”
With determination, Joe sprang off the porch and rushed to his car. He still had an opportunity to mend things, and he was prepared to plead with his mother for forgiveness. He reached the nursing home in record time and hurried indoors.
“I’d like to visit my mother, Mrs. Brady,” he told the receptionist.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” the receptionist exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to contact you for the last thirty minutes. Your mother experienced respiratory failure and had to be taken to the hospital. We’re still waiting—”
Joe left without waiting for the rest of the explanation. Outside again, he hastened to the hospital.
Immediately, Joe rushed to the emergency department. It felt as if he had been waiting endlessly for the doctor in charge of his mother’s case to appear and lead him to a private room for a conversation.
“Doctor, how is her condition?” Joe inquired as the doctor closed the door. “Can I see her soon?”
“I regret to inform you, Joe, that your mother didn’t survive. We made every effort to save her, but unfortunately, it wasn’t successful.”
“This doesn’t make sense! She was stable!”
With a solemn expression, the doctor shook his head. “Although she had been stable for a while, her health started declining recently. I assumed you were aware… During her last check-up, I recommended a more aggressive treatment plan. She was supposed to come in for the treatments, but she never attended.”
Joe slumped into a chair, covering his head. His shock was too overwhelming for tears, and he struggled to navigate his jumble of emotions and thoughts. In a matter of hours, his entire world had shattered, leaving him trapped beneath the ruins of the once-happy life he had known.
The buzzing of his phone in his pocket snapped him out of his speechless daze.
He observed a text notification from his bank and saw multiple unanswered calls from the nursing home. A staggering $500,000,000 had been transferred into his account by his mother! The nursing home was surely the source, likely from the sale of the property.