She appeared in the doorway a few seconds later. “Oh, there you are Hunter. Are you two alright?”
“I was just showing Hunter some pictures of my dad,” I said quickly.
Her lips made a thin line and she nodded. “Okay. Well, don’t stay too long.”
“We were just coming up,” Hunter said. “Plenty of work to do today.”
Aunt Caroline smiled and then turned to go back upstairs without a word. Hunter gave my shoulder a quick squeeze and we made eye contact. His look was apologetic. I shrugged and nodded my understanding as he walked around the boxes in the room and out the door.
When I was alone again, I looked down at the picture in my hand, the feeling of Hunter’s lips still fresh on my own. My dad was gone, but that didn’t mean I had to forget him.
I decided to continue flipping through the pictures of him in my room. Stack in hand, I left the storage area and followed Hunter and my aunt upstairs.
When I came upstairs I found Aunt Caroline at the kitchen table writing out a list of groceries she had to get for the week. Judging by the noise, Hunter was already back at work in the dining room.
She looked up from her list as I came into the room. “So did you find some pictures of your father?”
I stood for a moment and processed her question before flipping to the first picture I found of my dad and handing it to her.
She took it hesitantly, looked at it, and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh my goodness, his hair! Bill had such beautiful hair when he was young.”
I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. How long had those pictures been down there?
“That is such a nice picture. What are you going to do with it?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I just wanted to bring it to my room for now, I guess.”
She tore her eyes away from the photo in her hand. “Okay. What are your plans for the day?”
“For now I was just going to keep flipping through these in my room. It would be nice to have some pictures of him upstairs. Maybe I could go get some frames later at Target or something.”
She winced, but quickly got her expression back to neutral and handed me the picture. I took it from her and went up to my room, thinking about her reaction to my idea of getting some pictures of my dad in the house.
Once I was in my room, I plopped onto my bed, lay on my back on top of the off-white comforter, and began sifting through the pictures.
They didn’t seem to be in any chronological order. I was in many of them, but there were also several with my dad’s cousins and other people I only remember seeing a handful of times at family reunions. All in all, I’d grabbed about twenty pictures.
The picture that stuck out to me was toward the very back. It was a shot of my mom and dad on a tropical beach. They both looked like they might still be in college. The picture had definitely been taken before I was born.
Seeing the way my parents were lovingly embraced made me think of my relationship with Hunter. Kissing him again had been a high and I definitely felt lucky that he had come after me. There was no doubt in my mind we needed each other.
Still, there was a lot for us to overcome. For one, I was worried that this felt too much like a honeymoon period between us and too little like reality. I had no idea what was going on in my life. I couldn’t stay at my aunt and uncle’s house forever.
Then there was Hunter. Anytime I thought about his future, it was hard not to jump to his MS. No matter how brave he was about it, it was still scary. I had almost no idea what it even was. All I knew was that it had something to do with his nerves or his brain and that it was bad and incurable. Even beyond his disease, I wasn’t sure he had any more idea what he was doing with his life than I did.
Plus, I was still dealing with what happened to my parents. Marco’s letter had removed the scab from an awful wound. I was trying to move on from their deaths and make some headway into figuring out my future, but every setback made it that much harder.
Maybe my therapist was right and I should write him. The more I thought about it, the more plausible it sounded. What was the worst that could happen? If I got some answers, maybe it would be easier for Hunter and I to build a healthy relationship together. I could be free from the past.
I decided to go for it. Since I’d thrown away the letter Marco wrote me, I had to look up where to address my letter back to him on the Cook County Penal System website. That done, I found a piece of paper and a pen, went to my desk, and scratched something out.
I have been doing my best to recover. One thing has continued to bother me, and you could help with that.
Why did you kill my mother?
It would help me greatly if I could understand the reason it happened, and maybe it would help you too.
I looked over the letter again. It asked the question without being too intimate. It definitely didn’t make it look like I’d forgiven him, but it was something. Kind of like a business letter or something. I didn’t have high hopes, but there was a chance he would read it and have some remorse.
I put it into its envelope and sealed it in. After Aunt Caroline’s reaction to Marco’s letter, I decided not to talk to her about sending it. I could sneak a stamp at some point and put it in the mail.
Once I was done, I put the envelope into a notebook and left it on my desk. After hopping back on my bed, I began to flip through the pictures again.
My aunt came to my door and knocked twenty minutes later.
“Can I come in?” she asked.
I sat up straighter in bed, glancing briefly at my desk. The envelope was well hidden. “Sure.”
She walked into the room and took a seat at the foot of my bed. “Did you find any other good pictures?” she asked.
I picked up the stack and began flipping through them again. I came to a photo of me with my aunt, uncle, and dad taken at a family gathering. Both me and my aunt had our hair up with a scrunchie. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m not so sure the scrunchie was a good look though.”
I handed her the picture with a smile. She took it and laughed to herself. “Those things really were terrible. God, look at us all. So young. I need to show this to your uncle.”
I nodded, and we sat in silence. Finally, I got the nerve to ask the question that had been on my mind all morning. “So what’s the real reason you don’t have any pictures of my dad up?”
She pursed her lips and looked away for a second. Her face was set in stone by the time she looked back. “When your father . . . when Bill did what he did, I was angry. I couldn’t believe he would leave his family behind like that. It’s just . . . not what people do.”