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“She became ill from school...” Jason attempts to reason with his aunt, “I know that may not be an entirely true fact because you stutter when you grow anxious...or when you lie.”

 

“Jason, it really doesn’t matter. She’s comfortable. We just wanted you to know because the two of you are her parents.” Bernie responds to both Jason and Greta as they sit on the sofa in their lounge, “there’s no reason for you to believe anything worse.”

 

“Stating that nothing worse happened implies that something awful happened and it had the possibility to be...worse.” Greta focuses on her mobile as she speaks, “and you’re trying to hide what truly happened because you believe we may not be able to handle the information. However-”

 

“No one is saying that.” Bernie exhales slowly.

 

“Guinevere wishes to seek the treatment of a mental health professional after some substance abuse issues that she acquired.” Serena tries to be as delicate with her explanation as possible, “she’s safe and she was able to...realize that she had an issue before it became a true problem.”

 

“She should have told us. Not you.” Jason shakes his head, “we’re her parents. Not you.”

 

“You’re like my glorified little brother.” Guinevere comes to stand in the doorway, having been listening in on the conversation from the stairs. “This is why I don’t want to live with you anymore, Dad. Because Mum just...does whatever you want to do and...” Gwen shakes her head, “you seem not to realize that she’s not your mother. You say you love her, but...occasional gifts and telling her that you love her isn’t enough. You don’t ever show her that you love her.”

 

“That isn’t true.” Jason stands from his seat.

 

“Even while you went on your...’adventure’ last year. You didn’t understand why she wouldn’t just...take you back without any sort of...time apart or time to consider your relationship. The only thing you understood was that Mum didn’t want to live with you for a spell. Not that what you did could hurt other people...could scar other people.” Guinevere has tears in her eyes, “myself included...and you still don’t understand that.”

 

“Guinevere.” Serena warns, quickly turning her head to look at the teenager.

 

“I’m tired of it, Nan. He’s my father, but I’ve never felt as if he’s fatherly.” Guinevere continues, “Nan, you have no idea. Mum walks on eggshells, even now.”

 

“And he’s still your father and you will respect him. Am I understood?” Bernie interrupts, looking at the teenager when she doesn’t answer, “I’m sorry, Guinevere, I couldn’t hear you. Am I understood?”

 

“Yes, Gran.” Guinevere mumbles, still watching the scene in front of her. “I’m sorry, I just...I want Dad to understand and...that doesn’t always happen...or ever happen.” She swallows, “and if I’m expected to treat him with respect, I’d like for him to treat Mum and I with respect as well. I don’t think that’s too much to...ask.” Guinevere glances between her grandparents, “this isn’t new. This is...his constant. That and demanding me to do things instead of...just asking me or...” She shrugs, “I know you probably wouldn’t-”

 

“Of course we do.” Serena nods slowly, “of course, but you need to understand that your parents, both of your parents, don’t exactly take social cues or pick up on emotions very well. They sometimes don’t notice or understand when someone might be feeling anger, regardless of how much training they’ve done over the years. It’s understandable that they may, occasionally, come across as-”

 

“You’re taking up for him.” Gwen starts to slowly shake her head.

 

“No, I’m stating a fact.” Serena exhales slowly, “truly, Guinevere.” She nods slowly, “autism-”

 

“I know what autism is.” Gwen sighs, lifting a hand to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, “as I was growing up, I’d hear people tell my parents how good they were at being parents because I had a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I had a bed to sleep on and a mother who felt like a friend. Amazed that two autistic people could be successful parents.” She shakes her head, licking her lips before she continues, “but my Mum should have felt like a mother. Of course, I...I adore my parents and I’m thankful for...” Guinevere stops herself, closing her eyes as she absently glances toward the floor, “I love them very much, that isn’t ever going to change, but I’m not about to sugar coat anything anymore. They wouldn’t have ever done so with me.”

 

“I...I understand that what I did last year was not good. That what I did would have made others disappointed in me and upset with the situation.” Jason attempts, unable to look his daughter in the eye as he speaks, “it was never my intention to upset you. I would never do that on purpose, Guinevere.”

 

“I know, Dad.” Gwen answers quietly, biting her lip after licking them again, “but I need you to try being kinder to Mum. I need you to do things around the house, even if you don’t want to do them. I need you to offer to do more things. She’s not your servant or your maid...or housekeeper. Mum is your wife and she obviously cares for you deeply because she’s put up with things for as long as she has with you.”

 

“I think this conversation would be...better had in a controlled setting that is able to be moderated by a neutral party.” Serena watches the scene unfold in front of her, “in addition to what Guinevere has already decided to do in regards to her mental health, maybe it would be in your best interests to seek family counseling as a whole.” She offers an understanding smile, “and I’d be happy to look into that for you, if you’d like.”

 

“Guinevere, it was never our intention to cause you stress.” Greta mumbles quietly, noticing her daughter approaching from the corner of her eye.

 

“I...I know, Mum.” Gwen takes a seat on her mother’s opposite side, the side of her arm bumping gently against her mother’s as a gesture of endearment. She doesn’t want to alarm the woman by wrapping her arm around her, “but I think Nan’s idea of counseling for us all would be a good idea.”

 

“Are you cross?” Greta focuses on her mobile, glad when her husband returns to his seat on her other side.

 

“No...no, of course not.” Guinevere shakes her head, “but...you need to let me make my own decisions...even if they’re the wrong ones. That’s why I want to stay here.” She swallows, glancing over between her parents, “I’ll visit and...we can work on our relationship in therapy, but...I don’t want...” Gwen swallows, taking a moment to formulate her thoughts, “I don’t want to ruin our relationship further because of my own mental health. I don’t want to say or do something that I’ll later regret and have only said or done out of spite or...anger.”

 

“Why would you say things you would regret?” Jason tilts his head to the side, pursing his lips out of habit.

 

“Because that’s what happens when emotions boil over...or when one isn’t able to control them.” Serena answers for the teenager, “it’s what happens when one needs assistance with their mental health.”

 

Bernie continues after her wife, “mental health is just as important, if not more important at times, to physical health.” She takes Serena’s hand, catching the woman’s attention as she continues to speak with the others, “we’re very familiar with both and any stigma remaining is...unfounded and unnecessary.”

 

Jason nods a little, “and you think it would help?” He focuses on Bernie, needing to hear the truth from her, “I miss Guinevere living with us.”

 

“We both do.” Greta mumbles, still staring at her mobile.

 

Guinevere smiles a little, “And I miss my room...even though I want to redecorate and Dad didn’t want me to-”

 

“It’s a rental. We’re not able-” Jason shakes his head, interrupting his daughter.

 

“That we’ve had ever since I was born.” Gwen says quietly, “couldn’t we just...get a house or something?” She says quietly, “I’ll...get a job or...” Gwen swallows, bringing a hand up to push some hair behind her ear, “after we...sort things, that way it would give you both time to think.”

 

“And it doesn’t need to be right away or anything like that, but we’d be happy to help where we can.” Serena feels Bernie squeeze her hand in confirmation and support, “whatever you and Greta wish to do, we would support, but it is something to think about.”

 

“New beginnings all around.” Bernie nods, absently pulling her wife a bit closer.