Disclaimer: Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Paramount and TPTB. The plot is the property of the author.  The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise.  No copyright infringement is intended. This fanfic is based loosely on the beginning of the made for TV movie "One More Day"

 

Unexpected Gifts by Corimariee

I come up over the hill and see the old farm house in the distance ahead of me. I have aged I know; the years in the Delta Quadrant have done things to me even I cannot see. But the house, and the memories it evokes, seems to have stood unchanged in the passing years. As though they were so important that they had to be encased in glass, and preserved for all those who came upon them after she was dead and gone. She was my Aunt Martha.

The old bitter woman the family spoke about as the black sheep and who no one wanted to be with. Her Scrooge like attitude towards the holidays, and her barbaric idea that children should be seen and not heard, even in the 24th century, made every holiday gathering a spectacularly dismal failure. I was on the receiving end of many of her less than tolerant lectures. By thirteen I had learned to stay well out of her way if I wanted to see the next holiday party with my heart and mind in tact.

But coming upon the house now and thinking back on the woman as an adult, I canít help but think I may have been missing a piece of the puzzle. For no one ever gets that bitter or that stern without something having happened to shape their lives. Nor is everyone all good or all bad. I wanted to understand my Aunt Martha; not just who she appeared to be to me, but who she truly was. And to do that, I had to go back and visit the farmhouse.

The family still owned the property although no one lived there. Phoebe swore that by the time her kids were old enough to own it theyíd probably sell it to build an astro mall on the land. The way I was going, none of my descendants would ever grace its doorstep. I figured this might be my only time I would get a chance to sit back and enjoy it alone, and really appreciate its beauty for what it was. It wasnít modern, nor technologically sound, but regal and dignified like Aunt Martha.

I go up to the front porch and open the door. It creaks, and for once I appreciate the magic of a door that still has the ability to creak. When I was younger, I thought Aunt Martha was archaic for keeping around things that you had to use your hands to operate manually. Now I can appreciate the creaking is more than just old age. It means wisdom and experience. It means hands touched this door and feet trampled past it. Lives were changed by its opening.

I enter the living room and am surprised to see that although a slight veil of dust has settled upon it, it looks remarkably similar to what it did when Aunt Martha was alive. Mama always said Aunt Martha just needed someone to show her the holiday spirit. We always gave her presents at Christmas and she received them with a curt nod and nothing more. I also remember Phoebe trying to when she was five. She dangled mistletoe over Aunt Marthaís head. She found out that the old woman had a tongue sharper than the leaves of the plant. And like so many of her shattered dreams, Aunt Martha ground the mistletoe into the carpet.

Now as I think back on that memory, I understand why Aunt Martha may not have wanted mistletoe hung over her head. She, like I, may not have had good luck with love. When I was fourteen, I heard Mom and Daddy discussing some sort of anniversary for Aunt Martha. I gathered it wasnít a happy one as no one seemed keen about bringing her presents. My parents mentioned something, a gentleman named Brian and a broken heart. I figured it was his since there was no way Aunt Martha had a heart let alone a broken one. But now I wonder if was her; it is certainly possible.

I remember the last day I stood on the bridge of Voyager watching Chakotay and Seven walk away. Someone who didnít know me would have thought I was truly wishing my crewman and friend well. They may even believe that I had no vested interest in seeing the handsome man leave the side of the young woman and come away with me, but I did. Like Aunt Martha, I kept it hidden in hopes that no one would see the gaping wound it left in me. Perhaps thatís how she ended up the woman in my memory. No one sought to understand the person she was.

Despite the fact that I know she is dead, I hesitate before taking a seat on the couch without her permission. I close my eyes trying to see if I can hear her voice and smell her acrid perfume. Her perfume always tickled my nose and made me want to retch. Now that itís tinged with the sweetness of memory however, itís not nearly so unpalatable. As my eyes drift shut I wonder whether she can hear me. Creaking around in her house, remembering her and trying in my own way to say I was sorry. To let her know that I have loved and lost too, and that I was a kindred spirit.

Moments passed, minutes maybe even hours, and then I heard her voice, "Kathryn, what are you doing sitting there?"

"Aunt Martha?" I stuttered opening my eyes.

"Thatís right child. What are you doing on my couch? Donít you know itís not polite to sit on someoneís furniture without asking?"

"Well Iím sorry, maíam. But, butÖ"

"Iím dead. Thatís right Iím dead. I know that. You know that. Everyone knows that. Iím not here to take you on a trip, and Iím not here to show what life could be without you or with you. Iím here to tell you to get. Off. My. Couch."

"Yes, Aunt Martha." I stand up moving carefully away from the couch while remembering just how sharp her tongue could be if I didnít follow her directions the first time they were given.

"Thatís better, Kathryn. Now look at me. My, the years havenít been kind to you have they?"

"No, Aunt Martha, I guess not. You donít know this Iím sure, but my shipÖ"

"Voyager, I know. It got lost in the Delta Quadrant didnít it? Didnít I always tell you to ask for directions? Didnít I always tell you to listen to others? Didnít I always tell you not to race impulsively ahead without checking with someone first?"

"Yes, Aunt Martha." I respond automatically.

"And you probably thought I was just an old bitch, right Kathryn? Just an old bitch bent on making your life a living hell because my life was one; so why shouldnít your life be? Isnít that right?"

"When I was little I probably wouldnít have used those words," I hedge but her gaze is so intense that I canít look away. So I decide to be honest, "But by sixteen, I wouldíve said you were a royal bitch. In fact, I told everyone I met about my crotchety old Aunt Martha. The one who couldnít even be bothered to have a pleasant Christmas with us."

"A pleasant Christmas? You think I didnít enjoy those times when you visited? Your sister was always scampering around my backyard, and playing in the snow. And then in the summers? You and your father would come to pick berries. You were always laughing and jumping in the creek. You think I didnít enjoy watching that?"

"Well you sure you didnít seem like it Aunt Martha. If you enjoyed us being here," I turn my back to her. "You sure hid it well."

"Have a seat child."

I stand stunned for a moment. Hadnít she just told me to get off the couch?

"Kathryn, are you deaf? Have a seat."

The old woman looked as formidable as she always had, shaking what appeared to be her old cane in my direction and glaring me into a sitting position. Iíd always thought I had gotten my glare from Mom, but perhaps it was Aunt Martha.

Once I was seated, she took the seat next to me and pulled my face into her wrinkled hands. They were cold as ice confirming to me once more that she really was dead.

"Iím sorry for the cold hands child, but I really do need to look you in the eyes as I say this. You thought that I saw you as a headstrong young woman who would do nothing but what she pleased. And who for whatever reason, decided that what she pleased was to cross me. Well, youíre half right, but mostly wrong." Aunt Martha sighed. "I never saw you as different. It never even entered my head. You were Kathryn. You werenít the Starship Captain to me. You werenít the one in the family who was always chasing after boys. You were the unique one with the independent spirit. The one who wanted to follow her own path, but to me you were always my Kathryn."

I sat stock still for a moment. Aunt Martha was never this demonstrative and now she was showing me the all the love in her heart. I was overwhelmed momentarily as her love for me was something I had never understood as a child, but which had apparently always existed.

"And you think that because I was crotchety with all of your friends that you brought over to my plantation to pick berries means that I didnít like children. No Kathryn, it doesnít mean that at all. It never did. Some of your friends I truly enjoyed," She said with a touch of nostalgia before her voice turned hard again. "I wanted to crack the heads of the ones who were foolish enough to pick on you for your choices in life or later for your choice of school. As your Aunt I felt it was my job to protect you, but I had to keep up my nasty image. I could never let you know that behind all that gruff exterior was affection."

My eyes widened further still as she stroked the short hair back from my face before continuing, "You cut your hair, Kathryn. Darling, why did you cut it? You had such pretty hair. I always thought that the man you fell in love with would run his hands through your hair, and know how truly beautiful you were inside and out. Why did you cut it? Did he break your heart? Did he go away from you?"

I stiffened at the questions feeling the hurt coursing through me. Aunt Martha noticed my reaction and stroked my cheek continuing to talk, "Oh, I remember Justin. He was a nice boy, and that Mark fellow. I met him about a year before I died. Neither one of them seemed right for you."

I turned my head away from her, embarrassed and rankled by her knowledge of me but her next words forced me to listen, "But there was someone who ran his fingers through your hair wasnít there, Kathryn? Someone who saw your beauty inside and out. You canít lie to me young lady. Look at me."

I had had enough, and I was getting out of here. I scooted to the edge of the couch, but a gentle yet firm grip on my arm stopped me, "You may be old and I may be dead, but you are always going to be a young lady to me. Look at me."

I did as I was told; even though I had shut my eyes against the shock and the tears that were starting to flow down my cheeks.

"Did he make you feel like you were the only woman for him? Did he make you feel like there was nothing you couldnít do?" Aunt Martha paused before continuing, "When you were with him everything you touched wasnít necessarily gold, but rather tarnished silver that you could polish together."

I realized she was right, and for the first time since coming home, I admitted to someone that I loved my first officer. My best friend, Chakotay. To whom I admitted it; I donít know. To a spirit? To the wind? To the house? To the moment? But, I admitted it to something I trusted. For the first time, I realized that I had always trusted my aunt. I trusted her to do the right thing even if she did it in a way that wasnít perfect. The same way Chakotay trusted me to do the right thing, even if I didnít do it quite the way he may want or expect. I realize now that Aunt Martha and I may have more in common than just our glare.

I take a breath and begin to tell her about Chakotay, and the kind of man he was. I recount for her our best moments together as well as our worst arguments. I tell her about the pain of losing him. I feel safe with her, and she listens as I pour my heart out about the events of the last seven years. She conveys her understanding with a gentle squeeze on my shoulder and the occasional whispered, "Oh, sweetheart."

Before I left the house that day, my Aunt told me one more thing. "If you ever have questions, Kathryn, donít be afraid to ask. Iíll answer honestly. You should know by now that Iíll always be there for you in your heart. This house will also be in your heart, and something tells me that the man you seek, the man that would run his fingers through your hair, will find this house as comforting as you have. You have to go to him and show him as youíve shown me what is in your heart."

Before Aunt Martha began to fade away to my memory again she was determined to leave me with one final lesson, "Iím sorry, I didnít say it often enough when you were younger. To you, to your sister, or to anyone, but I love you and always will. Now, Kathryn I want you to question what you remember, for in doing that you may find things you never saw before. Never forget that things may not be as hopeless as they seem, if only you take a second look. And for goodness sake dear, get some real sleep. Youíre supposed to count the sheep not let them hit you in the head."

I left the farmhouse that day not quite understanding what I had experienced. Had I visited with Aunt Martha? Had she visited with me? I do know that I put to rest a ghost that had haunted me for many years. Had she really understood what I was going through with Chakotay and sought to make it right for me? Had my Aunt finally told me she loved me?

I donít know if she did in the corporeal sense, but in the sense of Chakotayís spirit guide she had. And with her guidance and care, I went to San Francisco and found Chakotay.

We now live in the old farmhouse, and each time my nieces and nephews come to visit I think of Aunt Martha. I am stern, strict, and careful, but I am also loving and fun. Things that I now understand Aunt Martha was too.

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