It begins when Ann received a call that her mother had died.
The call came after the burial. She became hysterical. Not knowing what to do, her husband, Paul called his mother.
Ann was closer to his mother than he was. In fact, Ann had become a clone of Beth.
Before Beth arrived, Paul tried to calm Ann; "You never cared about your mother anyway..." he said.
This set Ann off into insanity. She screamed and shouted, and Paul didn't know what to do, so went out of the room. Shortly after Beth and her husband, Stan, arrived to console Ann.
It was then, holding a hysterical Ann in her arms that Beth felt a sense of guilt mixed with shame.
Diana had been exuberant, active, involved, full of humor and insights, the kind of person Beth, in her locked down life, had avoided as a 'bad influence'.
Now Diana was dead, and Ann was suddenly acting as if she cared about her mother, who'd been pushed so far from her life she barely existed.
A touch of History
Paul had married Ann because she was pretty and a weak version of Diana, whom he'd really liked at their few meetings.
After the marriage, if he said positive things to Ann about her mother she reacted angrily.
Paul had put up with his boring restrictive mother and pulled away as soon as he could. He wanted an adventurous life, fun and easy, not the sour conformity of his mother. That Ann could turn into his mother in a few years would have had him through the gate, save the children.
Ann was pregnant when he married her, and as soon as she had the baby his mother came barreling in, taking control, and Ann let her.
Paul decided to avoid tension by spending as much time as he could at the office, at the gym, and alone in his man cave watching sports.
He objected to everything Ann and Beth decided so to avoid stress, he ceased to be part of the family.
When Diana died and Ann went into her hysterics, he called his mother to step in while he stepped out.
Ann went beyond simple grief and mourning, so a doctor was called. It was clear this wasn't sorrow at the death of her mother, this went deeper.
Beth knew the answers, but didn't want to share them. To speak, to put the fact she had cultivated Ann's estrangement from her mother to gain a puppet would be kept silent.
With Ann incapable, Beth now got three children to take care of. She demanded Paul step up and he, who had been quiet and compliant all his life, refused.
"You and Ann never cared what I thought or wanted. You managed the kids in your style, so keep going," he said, walking out.
Beth shouted that his wife 'needed' him, his children 'needed' him yet Paul walked out.
Beth heard the car drive off. Now she was stuck in the house with three kids to manage and a debilitated daughter in law.
Coming to Himself
As Paul drove away he suddenly had a sense of freedom. A sense of having a life. Something he hadn't felt for many years.
If he had known Ann would turn into his mother, he'd never have married her.
He asked himself why he hadn't left years ago, and the answer was laziness. His life was easy. No responsibilities. His wife and mother would manage all domestic chores. He had no role to play. So, he lived his life.
Ann was focused on the children, being worse than a warden... in fact being even worse than his mother who had attempted to control him.
No sense to argue with Ann about anything, for his own mother would take Ann's side, because Ann was her image.
Now, with Ann lapsing into insanity he didn't want to be there. She wasn't the woman he thought he married, and the mere idea of playing nurse made him puke.
He hadn't thought about his life for over a decade, now was the time.
Entering the gym, moving to the treadmill he began to think what he wanted. And it wasn't Ann and the children.
He decided to run away, really run away. Why not? Ann didn't need him, she had Beth. Beth had Ann. He could have someone.
Don't Want What She Got
Beth didn't know what to do. Stan told her to stay with Ann, he was going home. He walked away before she could respond and there went the car. She was now stuck here, with Ann and the kids.
She did the meal preparation, got the kids organized and to bed. Beth took a lie down in a side room. The room Diana had occupied the few days she'd spent here, so many years ago.
It wasn't her fault.
Ann had been anti-Diana before they even met, seeing her mother as some icon she couldn't reach and resenting her for it.
Beth had been afraid Ann would capture her son, take him away, so played warm and loving. She soon owned Ann to the extent she could get her to pressure Paul to buy a particular house in virtual walking distance.
Yes, she had been afraid Diana would come and see through her, but Ann's natural resentment and her own performance were so good Diana didn't have a chance. In fact it was at the point that whatever Diana suggested Ann would do the opposite, yet perform exactly as Beth demanded.
So Diana pulled farther and farther away. Beth taking it as a victory.
Now, Diana is dead, and here she is, having to take care of her daughter in law and grand children on her own.
Beth got up and went to Ann's room. The sedative was wearing off and Ann waking. She woke in confusion, then into hysteria. She cried so loud the children heard and raced in so Beth now had an 'army' of mourners.
She thought she heard a car drive up, but with all the hysteria and drama couldn't be certain any more than that someone was in the other room.
It took long for the kids and Ann to cry themselves to sleep. Beth came from the room, exhausted. Exhausted, yet, for some reason, went downstairs to Paul's 'man cave'.
The drawers were open, as were the closets, and lying on the table was the SIM card from a phone.
Paul had come and run.
Running Away or To
Call him a coward, irresponsible, any term one wants. But it was now or never. So it was Now.
Now Paul would get his own life. A life without his mother and her clone. A life without annoying children he had been prevented from disciplining or even mentoring.
He could spit in Ann's face. Crying over a mother she had 'hated' when alive, as if her 'mourning' of a woman she ignored would erase reality?
Since Ann had given herself to his mother getting away from both of them would give him a chance to exist.
He slapped thoughts of Ann out of his mind focusing on where he was going.
Years ago a friend of his had opened a Gym in another State. He'd go there. Didn't have to put down any roots. Just grab a few weeks of 'me' time to get everything organized in his head.
Beth caught a few hours sleep and woke annoyed.
Why had she invested so much time into Ann? Why had it been so important to her to control her son's wife?
She took off her clothing, had a shower, realizing then that she didn't even like Ann. She loved owning her, but as person she was mist. Ann didn't exist. Ann strove to her her 'shadow'.
It wasn't because of her great feats and triumphs why Ann 'worshipped' her. It was to hurt her own mother. Now that Diana was dead... who would she be hurting?
Beth put back on her clothing, came out to make breakfast. The kids swarmed into the room, babbling, and she fed them, then went to Ann who seemed robotic.
If she called for a doctor they'd move Ann to some mental ward and she'd be stuck with the kids.
Speaking harshly, she got Ann out of the bed, had her shower, dress, then go in to the dining room.
"I have to go home to change, I'll be back later," she proclaimed and moved quickly out.
She ought call Stan to pick her up but decided to walk. Decided to have a retrospective, and get it all out of her system so that when she entered her house she was complete.
It only took about fifteen minutes to reach her door, and she went in.
Stan was sitting in the living room; "I thought you'd call."
"Paul's gone. Cleaned out his secret stashes...."
"His phone isn't answering."
"That's because his SIM card is sitting on a table."
"He ran? Paul deserted his wife and kids when they need him? That doesn't sound like Paul."
"Stan, I don't know what Paul sounds like, but I can tell you, spending that night over there with Ann and the kids, I feel like boarding a plane to Mexico."
The children spoke and Ann looked at them as if she didn't know them. She said something about Daddy, and they said he wasn't there.
This shocked Ann. Where could he be?
She sent one of the children for her phone, called Paul but the number wasn't working. She then called Beth.
Beth saw the call, wanted to let it go to voice mail, but answered because she had a feeling what it was about. She was right. It was Ann wondering about Paul.
In a clear voice Beth informed her that Paul had left, and disabled his phone. This caused Ann to go into another bout of hysteria.
"Pull yourself together! You have three children to look after. Look after them. I'll see you later," and hung up.
Ann felt as if she'd stepped into another dimension. This was not how Beth was supposed to respond. Paul wasn't to have left her.
What was happening? Her mother died and took her life with her? Is that it?
Ann called Paul's grandmother who sometimes looked after the kids and told her she needed her. Inez said she'd be there in an hour.
Could she live another hour?
For the first time in life she needed Beth and Inez and Paul; and they were gone. All gone about their own lives.
Her children were staring at her, and she went with them to lie down on the bed, and hold them, and try to understand what happened. How it happened.
And she couldn't.