Parker was a wonderful storyteller. When he spoke, his eyes lit up and with his delicate southern accent he made his story come alive. I could listen to him for hours. And did. Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring that same enthusiasm and life to his printed words. To be fair, the novel had undergone too many revisions. Like a body that had one too many surgeries, its life’s blood had been drained. Yet he was so in earnest I tried to encourage him. We would go out in the afternoon to a nearby coffee shop and discuss the book, and eventually, our lives. Over the course of months of working together, we grew close. We were both lonely. He learned of my separation. I learned that his marriage was doomed. He wanted to leave but Georgiana was pregnant. She had little interest in Parker, his manuscript, or their marriage. She was constantly working, and when she wasn’t at the office, she was out at luncheon and dinner meetings, never inviting her husband to join her. Neither of us knew many people in the city and thus we spent evenings together as well. In short, we fell in love.
Georgiana found out about our affair. When she confronted Parker, he asked her for a divorce. I believed Parker when he said he would marry me. I know he loved me. But I did not want to marry him. Though I loved him, I knew his weaknesses. You see, at this same time I discovered I was pregnant. Atticus my darling, you were the child I desperately wanted. Tyrone could not give me a child. This was one of the reasons we separated. To his great credit, when I called him and explained my situation, without hesitation Tyrone told me to come home to Atlanta.
I’ll spare you the drama. Suffice to say it all ended quickly in New York. I was promptly fired. Georgiana and Parker were divorced. After the debacle I traveled to Atlanta and Parker to Charleston. He did not know that I carried his child.
Tyrone agreed to raise the child I was carrying as his own provided I promised him that I would never tell you or anyone that the child wasn’t his. A point of pride, perhaps. I agreed. When you were born, no one questioned that he was your father, and in every way that mattered, he was. Your skin is fair, like mine. Though your blue eyes are the same color of Parker’s. So many times when you were young you asked me where you got your blue eyes from. Now you know. I wondered if every time Tyrone saw those eyes he was reminded of my infidelity. We both know that Tyrone was an exacting man. Even cold, at times. That was his nature, not you. He wasn’t the kind of man that showed affection readily. I know this was hard for you, especially when you were young. When you grew older, it made my heart happy to see the two of you playing golf, watching basketball games, bonding. Believe me, Atticus, he did love you in his own way. Very much.
I never told Tyrone this—not long after I’d returned to Atlanta, Parker Muir wrote to me asking to see me again. Naturally I couldn’t allow that. Parker would take one look at you and know you weren’t Tyrone’s child. So I told him the truth, that I’d given birth to his son, and just like that he offered to marry me. He was a good man. I explained to him that I’d reconciled with my husband and how he’d agreed to raise my child as his own. I asked Parker for only one thing—his silence. I made him swear never to see you or contact you.
He kept that promise. Though he never met you or contacted you, every year on your birthday he sent you a card in my care, and every year I tucked it away, unopened. I think he hoped that someday I would tell you and when that day came you would know that he’d remembered you. I saved these cards for you and instructed Bobby Pearlman to give them to you with my letter. They are yours to do with as you wish.
Now it is done. I hope I’ve not made a mistake in telling you the truth of your birth. I’ve given the subject twenty-eight years of thought and always I have come to the same conclusion—you had a right to know. You had a self-centered youth which you turned around. I am very proud of you. In retrospect, I wonder if you didn’t suspect something was amiss between you and your father. I hope this information answers any questions stirring in your brain, resolves any shadowy doubts, and quiets any unrest in your heart. You are a strong man and I have every confidence that you will figure out what to do with this knowledge.
My dear Atticus, I have loved you from the moment you were conceived, completely and unconditionally. No mother could love a child more than I have loved you. I hope you’ll understand and forgive me for not telling you earlier. I’ve learned in this life that one cannot foresee the future. We must place our trust in God. After all, I was given you, the greatest gift of my life, without expecting that miracle. So trust that He has His plan and that you will come to understand it, in God’s good time.
I am tired. At last I am free to die with a clear conscience and peaceful heart. In the end, my child, regardless of who your parents are, your life is your own. We all enter and exit alone.
Farewell, child of my heart. You carry my love in yours.
Atticus’s hands were shaking as he let the last page of the letter drop. He brought his hands to cover his face and wept. He missed his mother, longed to talk to her about all she’d revealed. He wanted to hear her melodious voice comfort him, hear the gentle inflections of her southern accent, which he’d committed to memory. Needed to feel her hand on his shoulder, her kiss on his cheek. She’d written how she hoped learning this resolves any shadowy doubts, and quiets any unrest. Just the opposite! He’d never felt so alone.
After a long while he dropped his hands, emotionally spent. Atticus mopped his face with his palms, then brought his fingers to the bridge of his nose and took a long, shuddering breath as his composure returned to him. Quickly, efficiently, he gathered the pages of his mother’s letter and neatly tucked them back into the envelope. This he placed into the right side of the folder and closed it, resting his palms upon the table.
He desperately wanted a drink. More than he could remember wanting a drink in years. He reached for the coffee and gulped down the final dregs. It had turned cold and bitter. Atticus rose from the table and paced the room. His mind was spinning with unanswered questions. Chief among them was who this Parker Muir was. His biological father.
He went to his desk and opened his laptop to begin an Internet search on Parker Muir. There was scant information. Just an obituary.
So his father was dead. This gave him pause. He rested his hands and closed his eyes. While he didn’t feel an emotional loss, never having known Muir, he nonetheless felt a profound regret that he’d not met him. Another vacancy in his life that couldn’t be filled. He returned to the obituary, devouring the scant information there. Searching further, he discovered a notice about some adult film Muir was involved in. Some articles written by him had been published in newspapers and magazines. Apparently Parker Muir was published; he just never got that novel published. In the end Atticus had not learned much. Parker Muir was from Charleston, part of a historic family. Parker’s surviving relatives were listed as father Edward Muir, mother Marietta Muir, and three sisters, Eudora Muir Tupper, Carson Muir, and Harper Muir-James.