Entering the living room, I pass the grand piano and cross through a sitting area framed by magnificent towering windows, to halt at the double doors to my father’s office. My hands grip the knobs but I hesitate to open the doors and I know why. This room was his private space and it’s now the tomb of his real self, even if his body has left this earth. A self I don’t fully understand, but I think—no, I know—that if tonight proved anything to me, it’s that I’m reacting to situations, not controlling them. That has to end. And so, I open the doors, and I dive deeper into the hell of shark-infested waters.
Entering the room, a hint of an earthy cigar scent tinges the air, a cigar my father enjoyed in this very room, and try as I might, I can’t squash the emotions clawing at my chest. Those feelings, all the mishmash of feelings, are here, they’re present, they aren’t going away. And so I carry them with me as I walk to the desk surrounded by bookshelves, shelves filled with every type of book imaginable, books that I used to spend hours exploring, reading, loving. Hours with my father, who educated me, challenged me, loved me. I know he loved me. I just—I don’t know if he deserved my love.
I sit down and open a drawer, pulling out a folder that is buried deep in the midst of many files, and I remove the large envelope I plan to take with me. In turn, just to be safe, I grab an accordion file thick with documents. Shutting the drawer, I then do what I shouldn’t do here and now, but rather later. I open the file and remove the leather journal inside where my father kept all the words he didn’t dare speak or register electronically. My heart starts to race as I flip in hunt of the page I need to read again. I need to review it again because I need to be wrong about what I think I’d read. That’s why I’m here, I realize. Not to take charge, but to disprove my own memory.
I flip so fast that I nick my finger, a sharp sensation followed by blood pooling, but I don’t stop looking for what I seek. I snag a tissue and wrap my wound, my hand shaking as I stop on the page I seek. My eyes land on the middle of neatly written words, words that were crafted with thought and precision, not rushed in an emotional frenzy. I swallow hard as I read: We were all better off when he was dead. The shaking overtakes my entire body and I look down to find blood seeping through the tissue on my finger.
The women in my life are many, too many, but only one really matters…
I wake Saturday morning to the doorbell, sitting up in the center of my bed, my father’s journal falling from my lap, those words, his written words, and so many more burned into my mind. Papers are scattered around me, the accordion file I’d found in my father’s office emptied into random piles. I grab the journal and fling it across the room. He didn’t name names or give specifics about anything or anyone, but he still said plenty. I was worried about my secrets destroying this family. My secrets are nothing. I am nothing to him. The doorbell sounds again and I groan with the certainty that it’s a delivery of some sort that I don’t want, but I can’t stand not knowing.
Climbing over the top of the papers, I perch on the edge of the mattress and glance down at my leggings and thick tank top and decide I’m suitably dressed. The doorbell rings yet again with a determined visitor, a delivery a building staff person isn’t allowed to leave at the door, no doubt. With a huffed breath, I cave to the fact that whoever this is isn’t going away. Pushing to my feet, I cross the bedroom and bound down the stairs to the living room that frames my front door. “Who is it?” I ask, wondering what time it is, because I truly have no idea.
“Open up, Bird Dog.”
Even if I didn’t recognize Chance’s voice, no one else calls me Bird Dog, and thank God for it. I unlock the door and open it to find my brother standing there, his dark hair a rumpled mess, his sweats and T-shirt telling me that he just came from his habitual weekend run. The one he hasn’t taken since dad died. The two Starbucks coffee cups in his hands telling me why he believes he can get a say with that old nickname. “I hate when you call me that.”
He pushes off the doorframe his muscular shoulder is holding up and offers me a coffee. “If it fits, you must acquit.” I roll my eyes and accept the coffee.