After delivering his mother to a nursing home, Joe returns home with his fiancée only to discover another family moving in and his baggage on the doorstep. Though his mother fooled him, he quickly realises that she did so to save him from a greater evil menace.
“You did the right thing, baby.” Emily grinned as she reached across to pat Joe’s leg. “Your mom will have a much better quality of life in the nursing home, and you and I can start turning her old crafts room into a nursery for our baby.”
Joe stopped at an intersection and grinned at his amazing fiancée. She was such a good person. If only Mom could see it, but she was suffering from the effects of both age and disease. He was afraid that if Emily hadn’t been along, he might not have understood how horrible it was.
A strange automobile was already parked in the driveway, so Joe was forced to park outside Mom’s house. Looking out the window, he noticed people bringing furniture inside the house while two little girls played on the lawn, which increased his uncertainty.
“What the heck is going on here?” Joe exited the car and jogged up to the front step. He waved at a man at the front door. “Hey, what are you doing in my house?”
“You must be Joe!” The man grinned sheepishly and put a hand to the back of his head. “Your mom said you’d come. See, the thing is, this isn’t her house anymore. She sold it to us last week. Here are the papers and, uh, there’s your stuff.”
When Joe saw his suitcases stacked up on the doorstep along with a cardboard box carrying his name, he was astounded. He turned as he felt a hand on his arm. Alongside him, Emily sneered while her eyes flashed with rage.
“Give me that,” she snarled, snatching the papers from his hand.
While Emily looked over the documents, Joe saw the reddening of her face. Her face was all-inclusive: Mom had actually sold the house! In search of solace and something to ground him in this absurd position, Joe went out to his fiancée.
But Emily shook him off.
“You have got to be the biggest fool I’ve ever met, Joe!” Emily yelled. “How could you let your mother trick you like this, right under your nose? Everything is ruined now.”
“Don’t say that, Emily. I don’t understand when, or why Mom did this, but we still have each other. We can—”
“This was the last straw for me! You’re a loser with nothing to offer me, Joe. Forget about me.” Emily pulled the ring from her finger and hurled it to the ground. “And forget about our marriage.”
“Wait!” Joe followed Emily as she marched away. “You can’t just leave. What about our child?”
Emily laughed in his face. “You really are a naive idiot. There is no child, Joe, now get out of my way, I’m leaving!”
“What do you mean? Emily…Emily! Stop, explain what you mean about our child,” Joe called.
Emily did not even turn around. The love of his life left Joe’s life as he watched her walk over the lawn. He couldn’t comprehend. He felt numb and unmoored just now, as if everything he had ever known had been a lie because so much had happened all at once.
Just when his knees gave up, he went back to the porch and sat down. When he leaned up against his bag, he saw the letter concealed under a cardboard box flap. Mom had put his name on it in her angular cursive. A letter was inside when he opened it.
I’m sorry everything turned out this way. I wish I never had to take such drastic steps, but you left me no other choice. Let me explain: It all started the day you first brought Emily home…
A Few Weeks Earlier
The news that her son was suddenly involved in a very serious relationship with the young woman reclining next to him on the sofa was received by Nora as she sat in her favourite recliner and smiled nicely
“And where did you two meet?” Nora asked.
“I regularly deliver packages to the office where Emily was working at the front desk,” Joe replied. “She was so professional at first, didn’t want to chat with me, but I didn’t give up trying.”
“It was a temp job and I didn’t want to get into trouble.” Emily smiled shyly and glanced at Joe through her eyelashes. “But Joe was just so funny, and so charming. I couldn’t say no when he asked me on a date to the funfair.”
Nora massaged her temples. She had a deep love for her son. He had a lot of wonderful character attributes, like kindness, honesty, and directness, but charm was not one of them.
“That was about three weeks ago, and we’ve been seeing each other every day since then.” Joe looked at Nora with stars in his eyes. “It’s clear we were meant for each other. That’s why I’ve asked Emily to move in with me.”
Nora had a coughing episode as a result of her shock at Joe’s revelation. She shivered as she made a move for the water glass she always kept close, but another person beat her to it.
“Here.” Emily smiled sweetly at Nora and put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay? Is there anything else I can get you?”
While sipping her water, Nora waved her off. After gathering herself, she sat back in her chair, put her oxygen mask on, and took a few slow, deep breaths.
“I’m sorry if this has come as a shock, Mom.” Joe perched on the arm of her chair and rubbed her shoulder. “I’ve been waiting for the right time to tell you about Emily. It must seem sudden, but everything has been so perfect in our relationship so far. We’re soulmates!”
Nora reached out to Emily, who was still hovering nearby, and patted her hand. “Emily, won’t you be a dear and make me some tea? The warmth soothes my throat. You’ll find everything you need on the kitchen counter.”
“Isn’t she the best?” Joe murmured as he watched Emily leave the room.
“She seems like a lovely girl, but don’t you think you’re moving a bit fast, Joey?”
“Mom, I appreciate your concerns, but…” Joe sighed. “I didn’t want to tell you everything at once because of your health, but you deserve to know this.” Joe grinned and took his mother’s hands in his.
“I’m planning to propose to Emily this weekend.”
Nora’s fingers went limp, and her oxygen mask fell into her lap. “This weekend? But…you can’t; it’s too soon…”
“We have something special together, Mom.” Joe smiled as though all his wildest dreams had come true. “You’re the one who taught me to believe in true love and fight for it. That’s what you and Dad did when you eloped. Didn’t you tell me that Grandma and Grandpa also had doubts about your relationship?”
“It’s not the same.” Nora shook her head. “Your father and I were in love for a long time, and we had to elope so we could be married before he was shipped out to the Gulf. Those were different times, Joe. So much was changing back then, and while a lot of it was exciting, there were crises to deal with too.”
“There still is, Mom! The only difference between then and now is that the threats my generation faces are different from what yours faced.” Joe leaned in to look Nora in the eye. “I love Emily, Mom. I love her so much that I can’t even believe it! Life’s too short to waste time waiting to make her my wife when I already know we’re meant to be together forever.”
Nora groaned. Although she was still unsure, it was obvious that Joe and Emily were truly in love and that he would propose regardless of what she replied. When Joe’s parents banned him from marrying her, she and Joe’s father had taken the same action.
“Alright,” Nora said. “She’s welcome to move in here, but don’t you get any ideas about eloping! I want to be there when my son ties the knot.”
Joe made a joyful promise to Nora that he wouldn’t wed Emily absent her. Nora sighed in silence in relief. Even though she continued to have doubts about Joe’s choice, she wished him nothing but the best and hoped he would disprove her.
The day after Emily moved in, Nora was shocked to discover how much they shared in common. That evening as she was crocheting, she almost fell out of her chair, and Emily sat down next to her with her own needles and yarn.
“I hope you don’t mind me joining you.” Emily smiled shyly. “I’ve recently taken up knitting and I thought maybe we could chat a little and knit together…I’d sure appreciate it if you could give me some tips on maintaining my tension.”
Nora concurred, and the two women talked for the majority of the night. Joe ordered takeout for dinner, and the three of them then watched a documentary on television. Soon after becoming exhausted, Nora went to bed. A few hours later, she woke up startled because she had forgotten to take her evening medication.
Nora tiptoed to the kitchen and drank her pills. On her way back to bed, she noted the bathroom light was on.
“Yeah right!” Emily’s hushed voice carried clearly in the silent house. “It’s so creepy living with this old lady and her oxygen machine. She sounds like the villain from that old sci-fi movie…yeah, that one! Luckily, Joe is totally hooked on me so I should be able to get rid of her soon.”
Nora was stunned as she stood in the corridor. It was inconceivable to her that the young woman she had shared such a pleasant evening with should now be speaking so dreadfully about her. And exactly how was Emily going to get rid of her?
“Shouldn’t be too hard to convince him to stick her in a nursing home. Then, I’ll give him the boot too and this house will be mine!”
Nora made her way to Joe’s room down the hall. Her son needed to be informed that his fiancée was a cunning gold digger, so she did. Then she recalled their previous talk and how his face lit up as he turned to face Emily.
Joe would never accept her story. He was in the grip of Emily’s hooks in spades. She’d need a strategy—a technique to demonstrate Emily’s dishonesty.
Nora silently withdrew to her bedroom as her mind raced with ideas. Joe would experience heartbreak no matter what she did, and she realised she had to preserve her kid.
For days, Nora suffered from Emily’s deceit. She was hoping the woman would make a mistake and reveal her actual self, but it never happened. Nora would never have known Emily was anything other than a kind woman who adored Joe if she hadn’t overheard her chatting to her accomplice.
Then Joe came to her one day with a serious expression and told Nora they needed to talk.
“It’s about Emily—” Joe said.
“Oh, honey.” Nora patted Joe’s hand. “I’m so sorry things didn’t work out, but I’m glad you’ve finally realized—”
“What are you talking about?” Joe frowned. “Things are great between Emily and I. I’ve never been happier! Are you still caught up on the issue of how long we’ve known each other?”
“No…I just thought…I’m sorry, Joey.” Nora quickly backtracked. “You know it’s rarely a good thing when people say they need to talk and then you mentioned Emily and I assumed something had happened between you two.”
“That makes sense.” Joe’s smile returned. “Actually, I want to talk to you about Emily’s work. You know she’s been running her own business while working through the temp agency and things have been going very well lately. In fact, Emily can’t keep up with all the orders coming in.”
“That’s wonderful news,” Nora replied.
“Yes, but it’s also a huge problem. She needs to hire help and buy more machinery to keep up, but she can’t afford to do that right now.” Joe swallowed hard. “I’d like to help her, Mom. I want to invest in her business, but there’s only one way I can get the capital I need to do that.”
Nora’s stomach tightened with dread. She couldn’t help but believe that Emily was moving in and that whatever Joe said next would spell her death.
“Spit it out, Joe,” Nora said. “What do you want to do?”
Joe glanced her way but couldn’t maintain eye contact as he spoke. “I think…you know, your health isn’t improving, Mom, and there’s only so much I can do for you at home…I think it’s time you moved into a nursing home.”
“…more comfortable there,” Joe continued, “and if you agree to sell your house, then Emily and I can put that money into her business. I promise you I’ll buy this place back as soon as we see a return on the investment. According to Emily’s numbers, it shouldn’t take more than a few months.”
Nora’s ears were so unbelievable. Reaching for her oxygen mask as she experienced the recognisable sensation of her lungs spasming was futile. As the coughing fit tore through her body, she leaned against her chair.
She was hearing Joe talk, but she didn’t understand a word. She was limited to trying to concentrate on her breath. Joe applying her oxygen mask to her face probably took less than a minute, but to Nora, it seemed like hours.
“I don’t…want…to leave…my home,” Nora gasped.
“But this is exactly why it’ll be better for you in a nursing home,” Joe pleaded. “I’m just trying to look out for you, Mom.”
Nora shook her head. Emily was pulling Joe’s puppet strings behind the scenes but didn’t know what she could do about it.
“I won’t be…around…much longer,” Nora continued. “You’ll get…the house…”
“Don’t talk like that, Mom!” Joe looked sorrowfully at her. “I don’t even want to think about losing you! I love you so much, and I wish you’d at least consider going to a nursing home.”
Nora sighed. She started feeling better physically, but her heart was still torn regarding her son.
“I’ll think about it, Joey,” she said. “Just…give me some time, okay?”
Nora was given a bear hug by Joe. “Mom, thank you. Even while I know you adore this location, I believe a nursing home would provide you with greater care. Okay, I’ll fetch some flyers so we can read through them together.
Nodding, Nora. She had no plans to check herself into a nursing home, but at least she had given herself more time to find a method to out Emily.
The following day, Nora heard the front door creak as she was knitting and eating her mid-afternoon snack. She quickly peered through the door of her craft room to see Emily sneaking out.
Nora was immediately on the lookout for Emily because she hadn’t made any mention of going out. As she hastened to the door, she observed Emily get into her car and leave.Nora didn’t drive as much as she once did, but she immediately started after Emily. She was spotted by Nora at the street’s bottom intersection, and she followed her all the way to a cafe in the city.
With a beaming smile on her face, Nora parked across the street and observed Emily jog in the direction of the cafe entrance. Unknown man approached her and gave her a hug. As they entered the cafe together, the couple held hands. Soon after, Nora noticed them sitting at a table next to the window once more.
Nora pressed a hand to her chest and tried to breathe calmly as she watched the strange man lean across the table to kiss Emily.
Fortunately, Nora brought her oxygen machine with her. She took a few deep breaths and then called Joe.
“Joey, I’m sorry to interrupt you at work but this is very important. I’m outside the cafe on the corner of 3rd Street. Meet me here immediately!”
Nora stepped up to the cafe window and began filming Emily and her lover. They grinned and occasionally touched hands on the table while conversing, but they didn’t kiss again.
“Mom? What’s going on?” Joe called as he jogged toward her.
“That’s what’s going on!” Nora pointed toward the cafe window. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Joey, but Emily is cheating on you.”
To the window, Joe turned. His bewildered scowl quickly turned to alarm and then wrath. He clenched his palms into fists and charged the door of the cafe. Nora went after.
“What the heck is going on here?” Joe thumped his palms down on the table where Emily and her lover were seated. “How long have you been seeing this chump behind my back, Emily?”
When Joe approached them, both the man and Emily sprang in terror, and Emily immediately started cryi
“What?! You think I’m cheating on you?” She stood and shoved Joe’s shoulder. “How could you, Joe?”
“I saw you holding hands and kissing!” Nora moved closer.
“He’s my cousin! God, Nora, it was a peck on the lips.” Emily turned to Joe. “I know a kiss like that is a big deal out here, but I grew up in New York and that’s how we always greeted family.”
“Your cousin, huh?” Joe turned to the guy. “And why haven’t I heard of this cousin?”
“Because…” Emily put a hand to her forehead and sighed. “Because I was ashamed, okay? I’ve worked real hard to make a success of myself, and I didn’t want you to know the poor side of my family. If you still don’t believe me, I’ll show you proof of how much I love you.”
Emily wiped the tears from her eyes and reached into her bag. She removed a pregnancy test and showed it to Joe.
“I didn’t want to tell you like this, but you’re going to be a daddy, Joe. Our baby is growing inside me, and if you think that I’d cheat on you while I’m pregnant with our child—”
As Joe embraced her, Emily’s comments were interrupted. Nora was in disbelief at what she was observing. She walked over to her kid and gave him a sharp slap on the shoulder as she hardly saw Emily’s alleged cousin slipping away.
“Wake up, Joe!” Nora said. “She’s lying to you to cover her tracks! There’s no way that man is her cousin, and she’s probably lying about being pregnant too! You need to snap out of it and see this gold digger for who she really is.
Joe put his arm around Emily as he turned to face Nora.
“Stop it, Mom! Why are you so determined to think the worst of Emily? She’s done nothing but be kind to you.”
“What?” Nora leaned on the table as she reeled from the shock of Joe’s words. “I’m telling the truth…I saw her! Nobody kisses their cousin like that.”
“Don’t be so hard on her, baby.” Emily put a hand on Joe’s chest. “Remember what we talked about? It’s not her fault she’s getting confused.”
“Excuse me? I’m not confused, and you should not be talking about me behind my back!”
Nora glared at Joe. “What lies did this little viper whisper to you?”
Joe scowled as he stroked his hair with his fingers. “I believe we should have this discussion in a more private setting. Let’s return home.
As Joe delicately and carefully explained to Nora that she had just started exhibiting signs of senility and how Emily had made him aware of it, Nora sputtered in silence.
It was all a great hoax, but Nora realised at that point that she had vastly underestimated Emily’s intelligence and sheer tenacity in trying to con Joe. She was sitting next to her son right then, showing worry and care in a completely believable manner.
“…part of the reason I pushed so hard to get you into a nursing home,” Joe concluded. “They can give you the care you need, Mom, and help you deal with this confusion caused by your decreasing mental faculties. I love you, and I only want the best for you.”
This was perfectly put up by Emily. Any remarks or actions Nora made at this time to support herself or expose Emily’s fraud would simply be dismissed as evidence of her alleged senility. The realisation that Joe had shown to be such a naïve fool was the worst aspect of it all.
Nora was imprisoned but was not yet lost. There was only one thing she could do right now to shield her son from Emily’s horrible plan, even if she hated to do it to Joe. She consented to visit the nursing home and sell the property, but Nora was already preparing a cunning strategy to finally defeat Emily.
…I only ever wanted the best for you, son, and I hope you can see now that I was telling you the truth all along.
As he read the last few lines of Mom’s letter, Joe wiped tears from his eyes. He couldn’t believe he had fallen for Emily’s elaborate and protracted deception. He felt guilty for how much he had wounded Mom by not having faith in her.
“I’ve been such an idiot!”
Joe leaped from the porch and raced to his car. He still had time to make things right, and he was willing to beg at his mother’s feet if that’s what it took for her to forgive him. He reached the nursing home in record time and hurried inside.
“I’m here to see my mom, Mrs. Brady,” he said to the receptionist.
“Thank God you’re here,” the receptionist exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to reach you for the past half hour. Your mother went into respiratory failure and had to be transported to the hospital. We’re still waiting—”
Joe left before hearing the rest. Back outside, he hurried to the hospital.
Joe visited the emergency department right away. He felt as like he had been waiting an eternity for Mom’s doctor to show up and take him into a private room to speak.
“How is she doing, doc?” Joe asked as the doctor shut the door. “When can I see her?”
“I’m sorry Joe, but your mother didn’t make it. We did everything possible to save her but it wasn’t enough.”
“But…this doesn’t make sense! Her condition was under control.”
The doctor shook his head. “She was stable for a long time but her health started deteriorating recently. I thought you knew…I advised a more aggressive treatment plan at her last check-up. She was supposed to come in for treatments, but she never showed.”
Joe slumped into a chair and covered his head. He was too surprised to cry, and he didn’t know where to start thinking through his feelings and thoughts. His entire world had fallen apart in a matter of hours, leaving him buried beneath the debris of the joyous life he had once known.
He was startled out of his mute stupor by the vibration of his phone in his pocket.
He noticed a text message from his bank and several missed calls from the nursing home on his notification bar. $500,000,000 had been sent to his account by mum! The home is where. It had to be the cash she got from the property sale.