Her breath hitches as she tries to suppress a sob. “Maggie didn’t have a dad. She only had a mom, and her mom d-d-died. Now, she’s all alone.”
I knew she hasn’t been dealing well with the loss of Lori. We missed the service, because Evelyn was still in the hospital after having another surgery. I think it made her feel guilty. I tried having a therapist talk to her. She opened up some, but it seemed the only thing to help the grief would be time.
What she never shared is this fear of losing me and being alone.
A lump forms in my throat, and I blink back tears of my own. It takes everything in me to keep my voice steady and reassuring when it’d be so much easier to cry with her.
“Evelyn, look at me.”
I expect her to be hesitant, but her tear–filled eyes shoot to mine, wide and searching, as if I hold all the answers in the world. I wish I did. The only thing I can do is try my best and help her understand.
“The world can be a terrifying place. I wish I could tell you differently, but bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s horrible and unfair, and the sucky part is, there’s not a lot we can do about it. Maggie’s mom didn’t cause that accident. The black ice did. There wasn’t anything anyone could have done to stop it from happening. And that sucks baby. It sucks a whole lot. Lori was a beautiful person. A great mom, a good friend to us. We’re going to miss her for a long time.” I wipe away the tears rolling down her cheeks. More follow, but the gesture comforts me. “But you need to understand that you are loved. So loved. You need to understand that even when bad things happen, that love will help you through it.”
“If, God forbid, anything happened to me, your Aunt Kiersten would be there in a heartbeat. I also know deep down, even if he and I don’t always get along, that Law will be too. He’d never, ever leave you to fend for yourself.”
He and I could hate each other for the rest of our lives, but now that he knows the truth, he won’t go anywhere. She’s his family, and Law’s nothing if not loyal.
I loathe myself for my past mistakes and having to hurt him not only once, but twice. I got Evelyn out of the mess I made the first time, and out of the second, I gave her the one person who I trusted with my life. Now it’s time I learn to forgive myself, because neither of these things I can bring myself to regret.
“How can you be sure?”
“Because. Once upon a time, I knew him better than I knew anybody. Before Kiersten, before you were born, before my brother died, I had Law, and he was my best friend. That might have been what feels like an eternity ago, but those good qualities in people, honey, they’re made in the beginning, so I know. I know he’s not going anywhere for you.”
“Mmhmm.” I give her another squeeze. “It’s also how I know you’re going to be a wonderful, kind, selfless person, because that’s who you are now. That’s not going to change. But, honey?” I wait to continue until I have her full attention, because I need to make sure she understands this next part.
Using the blanket, she dries the last of the tears off her cheeks. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry you’re missing out on not having a dad. But I need to know you understand that’s not what Law is to you. You need to let him be in your life how he can and not make him feel like he has to be something he isn’t.”
“I still think he’d be a good dad,” she mumbles, but the spark of attitude tells me she gets me.
“I understand, Mom.”
“Good. Also, I love you more than enough for two parents, so you’re pretty lucky.”
“I love you too.”
We stay cuddled for a while, talking quietly about visiting Maggie soon. Once her sadness trickles away, she bounces back into my Evelyn and suggests we play a game. After nearly three hours of Monopoly, which she wins, I make us gourmet mac ‘n cheese (from a box), and we eat dinner in front of the TV, watching Grey’s Anatomy.
Too many people die in this damn show. I spend half the time blinking back tears and the other half trying to not choke on my mac ‘n cheese.
Law lowers the glass of whiskey to his chest, leans back in the black leather office chair, and regards the disordered mess of papers scattered over the oak surface of the desk. The evening light seeps through the drawn shades surrounding him; the four-seasoned porch bathed in a dim glow. One lamp is lit, the one to his right, and a single spotlight shines directly on the cream envelop he found just that evening. Days have passed, drunk off alcohol and the desperation to find evidence, anything to prove or disprove what she said.
It never once crossed his mind that his father, the man who gave him a life full of support and encouragement, not only when he lost his babies and his cheating ex-wife but all the time, hid something of this magnitude.
Cleaning out the house months ago, Law only came across one thing in the old office files that seemed strange. Even then, the single explanation most feasible for the monthly deposit into a secret bank account was that it was business related. The account was in his father’s name, a high interest savings account at a different bank than the one he used for his regular finances.
That was it. It was also the clue that led him to the envelope.
He’d been in town for a week when, hungover and desperate, he wracked his brain for a clue. It was then he remembered the bank account.