Delicious Surprise, Part 23
Part one for Disclaimers
We're roughly two chapters from the conclusion of the story. This one is short for necessity's sake.
Cliffhanger here, and a longer chapter and an epilogue to follow.
Lilah inched her way through the dim, damp sewers of New New York. She knew enough to lean against the walls, inching sideways to avoid the powerful-smelling river.
Large green rats skittered over her feet. She flinched but kept silent. Over the trumpet-note of sewage, she suddenly detected the scent of baking bread. Lilah moved toward it like a lost traveler who sees a light in the distance.
Through a pipe across the river a dilapidated village came into view. All of the ramshackle, spoiled homes lay in disrepair except one, whose lights glowed steadily in the hazy air. She stepped carefully to the door before applying her fist in a heavy, rapid rhythm.
For a moment, there wasn't an answer. Then the door squeaked open, admitting Lilah to a dusty, empty room.
She turned to take it all in, silently wondering why the place was so empty. On the mantle stood a photo, the only object in the room that wasn't dusty. From the frame her mother smiled confidently.
Something warm slithered around her neck. Startled, she spun around.
Leela swam the sewage river, ignoring her husband's gasps of disgust and pain. Bender's complaints rang loudly too, but all were swallowed up by the pounding in Leela's ears. Besides the filth in which Lilah had been plunged, there was the danger of her being killed by some mutated rodent!
She landed with a thud at the end of a series of pipes. Clearing the noisome mess from her eye, she looked up and shivered at the sight of her mother's hometown, rising before her in crumbling disrepair.
Fry landed against her with an "Oof", and then the massive heft of Bender squashed them both against the wall.
"What?" They rolled the robot off of them, rested a moment, and stood.
Leela turned her gaze to the only important thing at the moment; the light glowing from Munda's house.
Admiration warred with sadness in her voice. "She's probably the only person still living here." She gestured for the group to follow her, and they did, keeping a respectful distance.
Through the door she heard voices and sagged with relief. At least Lilah had made it here! But what about Munda? She crept closer and peered in.
"Mom loves you. She loves you, and she still talks about you like you're the greatest person in the galaxy."
"I wish she wouldn't remember me."
"I didn't want her to know me. She deserved so much better than this."
"Then why did you kick her out?"
"Because, Honey, I couldn't see leaving here. I couldn't see leaving my memories of Morris and trying to live on the surface, and I couldn't ask your mother to stay down here, especially after what the War did to her constitution. I knew she wouldn't give up the idea of me moving in, so I just..." She held out her tentacles, supplicating. "I pushed her away. She was all I had, darling, but I had to push her away."
"Don't you know that only hurt her more?" she said quietly. "I want to know you, Grandma."
"I don't know if your Mom would want that."
"I do!" Leela said, entering the room. Munda stiffened, and Leela continued, "Mom, I love you! I just wanted to keep you safe. After I lost Dad, I couldn't think about leaving you alone here."
"Leela, Dollushki! I only tried to make it better for you! You had a new baby, you'd just lost your father...I couldn't ask you to live in the one place I tried to protect you from."
It doesn't matter any more! I love you, Mom!" She held out her arms. "If being safe means never seeing you again, I'd rather be afraid for the rest of my life!"
The pain, the guilt, the suffering... all melted away in the tearful embrace. Father and daughter took their relatives' example, joining in another hug.
"Let's give them some privacy," Fry whispered and escorted Lilah outside.
She listened to the sounds within and shook her head. "Why did they waste so much time, Dad?"
"Your mom's stubborn," Fry said. "Think of the five years she and I wasted."
"Mom wouldn't say you wasted them."
"From her point of view, we didn't. But I'd do anything to've started dating her right away."
"You always did love her, didn't you, Dad?"
"As soon as I got over the eye thing. Probably after lunch that day." He shrugged. "But I don't really have anything to complain about, do I?" He wrapped her in another strong embrace.
This time she squirmed. "Eew! You smell like...oh, gross! You're covered in sewage!"
"I've been covered in grosser things!" he proclaimed, dangling his fingers in front of her. "Woo-ooo-ooo!" he said, in a tone intended to send chills down her spine; she just laughed.
Bender rolled his eyes. "Human love: still disgusting after all these years." He was the first to notice the widening cracks in the cement overhead.
And he decided he might as well go out a hero.
"Look out!" he yelled, throwing himself over Lilah and pushing them against the wall of Munda's shack.
A second later the ancient pavement above caved in.