Epilogue – One Week Later
The small cottage-styled house in the middle of bumfuck Albany was one Shaw had seen from afar many times over the years. She'd turn on the street where the house sat, park a little further down the road to keep out of view, and watch the shadow of the woman who lived there pass by each window as she went about her day. Shaw often found herself releasing a sigh of relief when she saw that lone shadow pass by the window, because that meant the woman was safe.
For the first time in years, Shaw parked in the home's driveway and greeted the woman whose shadow she'd become accustomed to seeing over the years. She was smaller than Shaw remembered; where they were once of a similar build, the woman before her seemed to have shrunk in size, her clothes a size smaller than they used to be. Where there was once only a single strand of gray in her hair, was now replaced by a full head of salt and pepper colored hair.
Many things about the woman's appearance had changed, but her warm, brown eyes and her kind smile had remained the same. The way she tenderly cupped Shaw's face with her hands felt the same, too.
"Khoshgelam, it's been far too long," the woman said tenderly, her thumb stroking Shaw's cheek.
Shaw smiled. "It's good to see you, mom."
Shaw's mom smiled at her daughter and dropped her hands to gently grab at her hands.
"What kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into now, huh?" her mom teased. "Imagine my surprise when I got a call from you asking me to take in a niece and nephew I didn't even know I had."
Shaw scoffed. "Imagine my surprise when I learned I had an aunt."
Her mom gave pause at that and Shaw saw guilt flood the older woman's features. "We will need to discuss that soon."
"We will," Shaw agreed, "but not today. Today, I need you to help them settle in."
Josh and Daniela stood ten feet behind Shaw, curiously looking around the unfamiliar neighborhood and warily eyeing Shaw's mom. They clutched at the straps of their backpacks tightly, Josh nervously fiddling with the handle of his suitcase with the hand not holding his backpack strap in a death grip. Daniela looked between Shaw and her mom, as if studying their features to compare to her own. She must have found what she was looking for, because she looked more at ease than she had a few moments prior.
"Do you guys have everything?" came a voice from the behind the car.
"Yes," came Daniela's quiet reply.
"I think so," said Josh unsurely.
"Make sure you do. Check the car again to be sure."
"I think we're good, Sam. Thanks," said Josh, sounding surer this time.
Root closed the trunk of the car and walked up the driveway to join Shaw and her mother.
"Thank you so much for taking the kids on such short notice. We wanted them to be in a safe place and Sameen really wanted them to stay with you," Root revealed, her tone polite and sweet.
"It's not a problem. They're family," Sameen's mother warmly stated.
The moment Shaw dreaded had begun to unfold right before her eyes. Her mom sized up Root and she gave an approving smile. Not that Shaw was against the idea of her mom liking Root, but once they drove off, Shaw was never going to hear the end of Root's gloating.
"So, Sam, you and my daughter…are things going well?" her mom asked, a twinkle in her eyes that made Shaw want to disappear. Root's shit-eating grin did nothing to alleviate that thought.
"They are. We're actually going on our first official date tonight," Root whispered playfully. "In our line of work, it's a bit difficult to go out for personal business and you know how Sameen gets about these things. I'm honored that she's finally letting me take her out."
Shaw's mom looked delighted by the news. "I'm so glad to hear that. I don't know you well, but I can already tell you're my daughter's perfect match."
Shaw couldn't take it anymore. She needed to get out of there. Wordlessly, she removed herself from their little conversation bubble and walked toward the kids.
"You guys all set?"
Daniela and Josh wordlessly nodded, then exchanged looks. Josh spoke first.
"I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for us. We really appreciate it. If it weren't for you and Sam, we wouldn't be alive right now, let alone standing in the driveway of an aunt we didn't know existed. We already thanked Sam while you were talking to your mom, so we felt the need to say this to you, too. Seriously, thank you," Josh said gratefully, his tone earnest.
Daniela nodded her agreement and muttered out a quiet, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Shaw forced out. The last seven days had really tested her ability to express her feelings. It was difficult, but not impossible. That didn't mean she liked it, though. "You can head in now. My mom doesn't bite."
The two teens nodded once again and slowly began walking up the driveway, toward the open front door.
"Come in, come in," Shaw's mom said to the approaching teens. "Go inside and make yourself at home. Josh, your room will be the first door on the right and Daniela, yours will be the first door on the left. Please, unpack and get settled."
The two teens expressed their thanks and made their way into the home, leaving Shaw, her mother and Root in the driveway.
"Have a safe drive back, Khoshgelam. Enjoy your date. It was a pleasure to meet you, Sam," Shaw's mother said warmly, taking Root's hands into her own and giving them a friendly squeeze.
"The pleasure was all mine. Please take care." Shaw rolled her eyes. Could Root be anymore nauseating? "Maybe next time we come to visit, I'll be asking for your daughter's hand in marriage."
Shaw's mom cackled at the look of utter disbelief on Shaw's face and it was then that Shaw noticed the conspiratorial look they shared. They were screwing with her.
Shaw didn't know what was worse, her mom liking Root or her mom joining forces with Root to make her life a living nightmare.
"We better get going; don't want to get caught in rush hour," Root announced.
"Drive safe, girls. We will talk later, Sameen."
And, with that, Shaw's mom made her way into the house, closing the door behind her. Root and Shaw headed back to the car, Shaw heading to the driver's seat and Root heading to the passenger's side. Once they were buckled in and the key was turned in the ignition, Root turned on her communication line.
"Harry, the kids have been safely dropped off."
"Thank you for the update, Miss Groves. Please get back to city safely," came Harold's kind voice.
"Now, time for our date. I saw an all-you-can-eat barbeque place a few miles back," Root informed Shaw. "You in the mood for that, sweetie?"
"Don't call me sweetie," Shaw grunted as she put the car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway. Once out of the driveway, she put the car in drive and went on her way.
"Whatever you say, wifey."
As if wanting to betray her, her stomach growled. From her peripheral, she could see Root's amused smile. Shaw wanted to wipe that smile from Root's face, but then her stomach growled again, this time louder.
After a moment of silence, Shaw gruffly said, "Put it in the GPS."
Root smiled triumphantly and, while she leaned forward to enter the restaurant name into the GPS, a taunting voice came through the comms.
"Have fun on your date," came a singsong voice.
"Fuck off, John."