Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Sixty Two

For the first time in many years, I looked at my Father with respect. He was kind, thoughtful, caring, and one of the most intelligent men I had ever met. We had dinner out on the back deck that over looked the pool, and enjoyed each others’ company very much. We reminisced about Mama and he told me again how much she loved me. He told me how important the letters were to her in her final days. Even when Mama could barely sit up, she asked for a paper and pen to write to me. I felt humbled and began to think about the whole situation differently.

“I’m so thankful that Penny took you under her wing.” Father sipped his sweet tea and looked at me. “She has always been such a good friend to your Mama, and now to you.”

I looked down and fiddled with the cloth napkin in my lap. I knew his words were true, but at the same time my stomach churned in repulsion at the thought of Mama in her arms. “Yes, she did help me a lot.” I couldn’t deny what Penny had done for me.

“Did she introduce you to Junior?” Father didn’t know me well enough anymore to know when I was uncomfortable with a subject. I was uncomfortable discussing Penny, and was painfully uncomfortable discussing Junior.

“Sort of.” I thought back to that afternoon on the beach when Junior approached us. I assumed he was interested in Anna and made myself scarce. Even now, I wondered what in the world he saw in me. I thought about the first night he came to the house, anyone in their right mind would have run at the sight of me stumbling half asleep down the stairs. I thought of our first kiss and pushed him out of my mind as fast as I could.

“She always promised to find you a summer romance.”

“That she did.” I felt like vomiting. The butterflies in my stomach at the mention of his name made me sick instead of excited like they had only a day or two before. I knew that I had hurt him, but I couldn’t fix it. I had to fix myself before apologizing to him. I was still quite confused about my feelings for Junior, and couldn’t face them yet. I had to get to know my Father again first.

“More tea?” Maria asked with a smile. She was prettier than I remembered. Her auburn hair had a nice wave to it, and I decided that her sister Consuela probably taught her how to style it. Maria's eyes were big and round, and I had never noticed the chocolatey brown warmth of them before. I realized in that instant that Maria wasn't the monster that I had molded her into in my mind, she wasn't a monster at all. She was just Maria.

“Yes, please.” I smiled, hoping that Father wouldn’t pick back up with the conversation about Penny after Maria went back inside.

“You look nice, Adeline. Tan.” Maria gave me the once over, I thanked her genuinely as she headed back through the French doors.
“How long has she worked for us?” I couldn’t remember life before Maria.

“Let me think.” Father wracked his brain and wiggled his fingers as he counted. “Twenty nine years… We hired her when your Mama was pregnant with you. She got too big to do much of anything.”

“I guess so with a ten pound baby in there!” I laughed, imagining Mama barefoot and pregnant.

“Yeah, she got spoiled. Maria was supposed to leave after you were a few weeks old, but here she is. Still cooking every meal and getting paid every month.” Father laughed heartily and I smiled. It had been a long time since I heard him laugh.

“You sure loved Mama.” I commented.

“Love. I love her.” He pulled his glasses down and intercepted a tear before it rolled down his face.

“I’m sorry for everything, Daddy.” I whispered, reaching across the table and holding his hand. I didn’t even realize that I had called him Daddy until he thanked me for it. I hadn’t called him that in sixteen years, but it felt right. He was still my Daddy. Even after everything I put him through, he forgave me and accepted me back.

Father took me on a walk after dinner and it felt great to wade our way through the humid summer night. The lightning bugs trembled in the distance and it felt good to coexist without feeling the need to start a one sided fight like I had done so many times before. With each step we took, we forgot a little more of the pain that used to hang between us.

“I want to know about this Junior fellow, Addy. I keep asking and you keep changing the subject…”

“I don’t really know what to tell you. What do you want to know?” I wasn’t ready to admit that my first attempt at love had only last a little while.

“Well, what does he do for a living?” he asked.

“He teaches high school English and coaches soccer.” I was ready for the conversation to be over after the first question.

“Ok, has he ever been married?”

“No!” I exclaimed, surprising myself by answering so passionately. “Junior is thirty one and has never been married. He is cautious when It come to love, like me.”

“Have you met his parents?”

“His Dad. He’s a great guy.” I smiled. “His Mother passed away when he was twelve.” I thought about the mix of sadness and love that flushed across Junior’s face when he spoke of her.

“And when do I get to meet him? Why didn’t he come?” Father was obviously interested in Junior.

“I, I don’t know. I don’t know when you’ll get to meet him.” I confessed. “I broke things off last night.”

“You what? I thought you were in love.” It was obvious that Penny had been giving him updates and I wondered why she hadn’t shared that information with him. Maybe she was selectively sharing the bits of the story that made her look good.

“I don’t know if I was in love or not. I thought I was, but I just got so confused after finding out that Mama…” I stopped myself from finishing the sentence.

“Oh Addy,” Father pulled me closer to him and I began to cry. I really didn’t know why I had broken things off with Junior without thinking it through first. “Your Mama loved me no matter what she did.”

“Did you ever wonder who her lover was?” I asked, wondering if he knew her secrets just like she had known his.

“We agreed not to ask questions. Sure, I wanted to know sometimes, but now I am thankful that I don’t.” Father took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. “It is better not to worry about things, and if I knew who it was I would always compare myself to him. It would have destroyed me.”

Him. There was no him, I thought. Father had no idea that his wife was in love with another woman and I intended to keep it that way. “I’m sorry for everything.”

“You didn’t do it. You have nothing to be sorry about, but you will if you don’t rethink the situation with Junior.” He looked at me, he was leveling with me and sharing his honest opinion.

His words echoed through my mind. Would I be sorry? Would I spend my life regretting letting Junior go? I didn’t know, but I couldn’t think about it. I had bigger things to think about. I had to internalize the truth about Mama and Penny so that Father wouldn’t have to feel the betrayal of it all. He didn’t deserve the agony of it, I wouldn’t wish the staggering pain I felt on anyone. I wouldn’t have even wished him that much pain back when I hated him. Junior would have to wait.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Sixty One

”Do I need bangs?” Mama folded her hair under and studied herself in the mirror.

“You look good without them, I wouldn‘t chance it.” I shrugged. I wasn’t much of a hair person and wasn’t sure if bangs would completely ruin her face or would add to its appeal.

We stood side by side in front of the mirror in Penny’s bathroom. Mama looked beautiful, as usual. She had on a simple navy gown that hugged her curves and highlighted her beautiful collar bones. It was Mama and Father’s thirtieth wedding anniversary, and Penny had arranged a huge party for them. She pulled out all the stops. The lights were low, servers wearing tuxes walked around with serving trays, a string quartet played, and all of my parents’ closest friends came bearing gifts.

“I want bangs.” Mama decided, shuffling through Penny’s bathroom drawers. She knew exactly where the scissors were.

“You came in without bangs, everyone at the party already saw you. Mama, don’t be silly! What if you hate them?” I had bad experiences with bangs in the past and hated to see her ruin her mood. I assumed that everyone there would have paid as much attention to Mama’s hair as I had, but the truth was that besides Penny and maybe Anna, no other guests would notice.

“Not short ones, just side ones.” Mama snipped away a panel of hair and smiled at her reflection, satisfied.

“Only you.”

“Do you remember the time you cut your own bangs?” Mama teased, putting the scissors back into the drawer and playing with her silky smooth hair. She could easily be on a shampoo commercial.

“I do.” I stared at myself in the mirror and remembered…

“Addy! What in the world have you done to your hair?” Mama and Anna came into the kitchen where I sat on the counter with a pair of kitchen scissors and studied my reflection in the tiny compact that I had swiped from Mama’s makeup back.

“I look like Mama now.” I grinned, proud of my new hairdo. I managed to totally butcher my cute bangs that ran across my forehead, framing my face.

“What were you trying to do, honey?” Mama shook her head and Anna laughed at the sight of me.

“I wanted no bangs like you.” I had tiny little spikes standing up from my forehead.

“Honey,” Mama lifted herself on the counter beside me and took the scissor from me. “I didn’t cut my bangs off, I grew them out.” Mama pulled her hair forward and showed me that it was long, not short.

“Oh.” I pondered it for a minute, and then realized that I had made a big mistake.
Anna took the compact from me and headed out of the kitchen to study herself in the mirror, she was already vain even at three years old.

“Well, I think it looks pretty.” Mama gave me a squeeze. “It will grow back.”

“Mama, are you mad?” I felt my eyes fill with tears.

“No, beauty. Just don’t use the scissors again without asking.” Mama ran her hand along the prickly hairs and smiled. “Let’s go take a picture of you. This will be something to remember…”

“Is that why you about wet your pants at the thought of me cutting my bangs?” Mama teased.

“Probably so! But they look nice.” I smiled into the mirror and both faces in front of me smiled back. “It is not even noticeable.”

“Told ya! Well we’d better get back out there! I can’t wait for Robert to the see what I got him!”

“What did you get him?” I admitted the fact that thirty years was a long time, but it would have been more of an anniversary to celebrate if Father had spent those years being faithful to her.

“You’ll see!” Mama slid a plum colored lipstick across her lips and headed back out to the party. It was hard for me to smile and celebrate a marriage that was obviously a lie. Father held Mama close and kissed her after he opened his antique pocket watch, and I looked down at the floor. They really looked like they loved each other, but I wasn’t buying it. Maybe she loved him, but if he loved her he would have never strayed.

“Don’t you want to be just like them someday?” Anna swooned as Father took Mama into his arms for a dance. Anna was standing with Joe Haynes, her on again off again boyfriend, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Not really.” I rolled my eyes and headed out onto the deck for some air.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Sixty

My ride home was very similar to the ride home to Mama’s funeral. The radio was off, my stomach was growling, and I felt like a zombie. My mind kept drifting to places that I didn’t want it to go. I kept seeing Junior’s face, he was so sad. I hated myself for hurting him, but I had no choice.

I thought about Penny, as much as I didn’t want to think about her, I couldn’t avoid it. I thought about our pedicures and manicures. I thought about all of the clothes that she had bought me. I thought about our endless days on the beach. Penny understood me. Penny took time out of her grief to help me handle my own grief. I still couldn’t believe that Mama and Penny were lovers. Why hadn’t I seen it before?

My stomach eventually won the battle and I pulled into the parking lot of Harley’s Sidewalk Café. It felt weird pulling in alone, but I longed for somewhere familiar. I slid into the booth and pulled out a menu.

“Where is Miss Penny?” Beth the waitress came up, obviously happy to see me.

“She’s not with me today…” I mumbled, pretending to read my menu. “I’ll have a bowl of potato soup and a water.”

Her face dropped. “Coming right up.”

I slid the menu back in its spot without reading it, and stared out the window.

“I’ll have one Surprise Me Special.” I heard a voice from behind me say. I turned around to see a complete stranger. What in the world?

“Coming right up!” Beth grinned and headed off toward the kitchen. I was confused.

She set my potato soup in front of me and smiled politely. “Did I hear someone order a Surprise Special?”

“Oh yes! We added it to the menu in honor of Miss Penny!” Beth pulled the menu out and showed me the big bold lettering. “It has been a huge hit!”

I smiled and nodded. I couldn’t escape Penny no matter how hard I tried. I spooned the soup into my body as quickly as I could and left a generous tip on the table. I wondered how long it would take Penny to find out about the impact she had made on Harley’s Sidewalk Café.

The sun was streaming in through the sunroof as I pulled back onto the road toward home. I couldn’t wait to see Father, which was a feeling that I never expected to experience. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was, and I wanted him to see me happy. I would pretend to be happy for him.


“Addy!” Father was sitting on the front porch when I pulled in. He smiled timidly, probably waiting for me to rush past him and ignore him as I had done so many times before.

“Hi.” He looked like a different man when I looked at him without hate clouding my view. His dark blonde hair had gray around the edges, his handsome face had lines that I hadn’t noticed before, and his eyes still held the sadness from years of being beaten and battered by the women in his life.

“Where is Junior?” Father asked, I had forgotten to come up with an excuse.

“He couldn’t come.” I lied.

“Oh, what a shame. I wanted to meet him.” Father and I headed inside together, still tense from years of not getting along.

“I got your letter…” I started.

“I’m sorry for that. I would have never written it if Julianne hadn’t been so adamant about it.” Father looked ashamed.

“No, I needed to know!” I really did.

“Her letters really made a change in you.” Father noticed, smiling slightly.

“They did. I’m a new girl.” I felt proud that he noticed the change that I had worked so hard to achieve.

“Well then, nice to meet you Adeline.” Father held out his right hand.

“It’s Addy.” I smiled, realizing that no matter how wounded my heart was that there was room in it for him.

Instead of shaking my hand, Father gave me a long lost hug. It had been years since I had accepted his embrace and it felt like home. I didn’t hate him anymore, but in the back of my mind I had the sneaky suspicion that I had found a new place for my hate. I hated Penny, someone who had done more for me in the last month than I could ever repay. She was now the unlucky recipient of Adeline Bank’s poisonous hate, but at least it made way for Father to finally have my love.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Nine

I handed Father the handmade valentine with a shy smile.

“For me?”

“For you!” I smiled bigger, revealing two gaping holes. My two front teeth had earned me two dollars a piece.

Father looked down at the construction paper heart and read it aloud. “To the best Daddy in the world! Will you marry me? I love you! Love, Addy.” Father took me in his arms and gave me a big squeeze.

“Well? Will you?” I had already asked him several times, and always got the same reply.

“I’m already married, honey. You can only have one wife, and even if I wasn’t married I couldn’t marry my own daughter!” Father consoled.

“Well, maybe someday I’ll find a man like you.” I could only imagine how hard it would be to find someone as handsome, funny, kind, and caring as my Daddy.

“You will.”

“Did you know that two women can marry each other?” I asked, still trying to wrap my brain around the idea.

“Well, it is not legal actually.” He probably wondered how I knew about homosexuality.

“Well, I saw it on TV. They were both wearing wedding dresses.” I thought about it and wondered why in the world two women would want to get married. How would they decide who got to have the baby?

“What a lovely valentine!” Mama came in and sat on the edge of the chair. “Did you make that for your Daddy?”

I smiled proudly. It was covered in glitter, markers, and stickers. “I did!”

“She was just telling me about a wedding with two brides.” Father explained, giving Mama a look that said I knew too much. Way more than other little girls my age.

Mama’s eyes grew big. “What?”

“They were having a wedding on the news, Mama.” I explained.

“Oh honey, you probably saw a double wedding. Sometimes sisters or best friends get married on the same day. There are two brides and two grooms…” Mama carefully explained.

“Oh,” I thought about it for a minute and it made sense. They were probably sisters. They both had brown hair. “Well, I still wish Daddy wasn’t married.”

Mama laughed and gave him a peck on the head. “He’s taken, sugar. Someday you’ll find Prince Charming!”

“I hope so.”

“Who was it that Anna wants to marry? The one from Turner and Hooch?” Father asked.

“Tom Hanks!” Mama laughed. “When I was a little girl I wanted to marry James Dean, and he turned out to be….” her voice trailed off.

Father cleared his throat and they both laughed.

“Is Maria making spaghetti for dinner like I asked?” I had just seen Lady and the Tramp and thought it was a very appropriate meal for February 14th.

“She is!” Mama smiled and handed Father the valentine.

“Good!” I slid out of Father’s lap and headed into the kitchen to bother Maria for awhile. If I was lucky, she would let me lick the spoon after she frosted the cupcakes that I talked her into making. Maybe Mama was right, maybe someday I would find a man like Daddy.

"Are you married?" Maria was stirring the sauce as is began to boil.


"Why don't you ever bring him over for supper? I bet he gets hungry!" I had never thought to ask Maria about her family at home.

"Your Mama let me take him leftovers. I see him on weekends." Maria went home around nine o'clock every night and was back by six o'clock. "He work in Tennesee." She struggled to get the word Tennesee out, and I laughed.

"Oh," I nodded, my mind shifting back to the cupcake icing that was on the counter. "Can I lick the spoon?"

"Not yet." Maria slid the bowl to the center of the island, beyond my reach.

"Have you ever seen Lady and the Tramp?" I asked, eyeing the noodles.


"Did you like it?" I inquired.

"I think so. I was just a little girl." Maria handed me a spoonful of steaming sauce to taste. "You like?"


"Go tell your family that supper is ready." Maria pulled the breadsticks from the oven and arranged them on a serving platter.

I ran out of the kitchen and did as I was told, hoping she would save me a spoon of icing.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Eight

After a two hour bath, I didn’t have anymore answers than I had before. I headed downstairs and found Junior, he was watching the news and muted the volume when he saw me. “Hey.”

“Hey.” My eyes were swollen from crying. “We need to talk.”

“Okay…” Junior’s bags were sitting by the front door, ready for our trip home to meet my Father. Poor Junior. He had no idea what he was getting into when he met me. It wasn’t fair to drag him through my issues.

“I can’t do this.” I sat beside him, knowing exactly what I had to say. “I can’t love you.”

“What? Addy, please.” Junior’s face filled with pain. “Let’s talk it over.”

“Junior, I can’t talk it over. I have to figure myself out before I bring someone else into the mix. I should have known before today. I was just being selfish before.” I believed every single word that escaped my lips. I had it all rationalized. I wasn’t ready for a relationship. I couldn’t love someone else when I hated life.

“Addy, I love you.” Junior’s eyes pleaded with mine, so I looked away.

“You don’t know me. I don’t even know me.”

“Addy.” Junior’s voice cracked as he said my name. “Do you want to know why I only had two girl friends before you? I only had two because when I love someone I love them with everything I have. Two times I was hurt. Two different girls broke my heart. I waited eight years for the right one to come along and out of nowhere I found you!”

I felt like covering my ears and singing a song at the top of my lungs, I didn’t need to hear this. I couldn’t hear it. “Please, that is why it is better if we part ways here.”

“But we, but you, oh God.” He looked at me and saw that I was serious. “You’re sure?”

“Yes.” And with that I headed back upstairs. Quick like a band aid. I did what I had to do.

Junior gathered his things and left quietly. I should have never tried to love someone when my heart was scarred from a lifetime of pain. I should have known better. I should have never listened to Penny. God, why had I let people in?

I would head home to Father, try and reclaim the shattered remains of what was left between us, and after I fixed that, I would call my boss in Boston and beg for my job back. I needed to go back to blending in and being alone. I longed for the comfort of being a nameless face, a twenty dollar bill under the mat, and a byline on an article. I could be happy alone. I would be happy alone. I didn’t need Junior. I didn’t need Penny. I didn’t need anybody but myself and my cats. Sooner or later I would forget Junior and I would come to terms with Mama’s secrets, sooner or later I would be numb enough to make it through.

I popped a microwave dinner in and pressed start. I looked around me at the beach house that had held so many happy memories, and couldn’t wait to escape its grip. All the times that Mama and Penny had taken us here, all the times that I assumed they shared a room because they were best friends, all the times that I longed for a friend like Penny, because Mama looked so happy. God, why did I ever read those letters?

That night, I climbed into bed and stared out at the black silhouette of trees against the moonlit sky. I wanted to cry, but was out of tears. I was lying in the very bed where Junior had taken me in his arms and made love to me. I was lying there alone, for the first time in many many nights. I shivered against the cold crisp sheets. I wasn’t the same girl that Junior fell in love with, so I had no choice but to push him away. He didn’t deserve that pain that came along with a wounded wife. I didn’t want to risk hurting him and hurting the children that we would have. I may not look like Mama, but I was certain that I was at risk for becoming her. I knew for a fact that Junior deserved so much more than I could offer him. He would get over it, and when he did I would be long gone.


I climbed into my car, hoping that I remembered how to drive. I took special care not to glance over at the ugly green cottage. I didn’t want to think about Penny, or even acknowledge the fact that she existed. Mama’s letters were hidden deep in the bottom of my duffel bag, I wasn’t sure yet whether I would burn them or keep them. It would be something that I could decide later, as long as Father didn’t find them.

I could feel any progress that I had made since Mama’s death slipping through my fingers. For the first time in my life, I had no urge to defend Mama. I felt like she had lied to me. I felt betrayed. I felt like she left me there with Penny of all people, hoping that we would bond and that I wouldn’t be angry about her final letter. But I was angry. I was angrier than I could have ever imagined being at Mama.

I spent my entire life hating Father, and he just sat back and took it! I blamed him for things that he never even had the courage to do! I was so lost. I was a million miles away from the girl who fell in love with Junior. I was a million miles away from the girl who played charades and made a fool of herself in front of thirty people. I was a million miles away from the girl who forgave her Mama for being unfaithful within a few days of finding out. I was a million miles away from anywhere I ever thought I’d be.

I looked straight ahead and drove in silence. How dare she steal my keys and mail them to the beach house? Why didn’t I just hitch hike to the airport and head straight for Boston? I was kicking myself for ever letting Penny sink her hooks in me.

I couldn’t wait to get home to Father. With any luck, we could pick back up where we left off all those years ago. I could see myself dancing around the living room in his arms, and forgetting the pain that life had thrown at me. I hoped and prayed that he would have me back.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Seven

“Paint me!” Mama came up behind me on the balcony. My canvas was empty and my paints sat untouched. I was searching for something to paint, but the dismal browns of winter did anything but inspire me. Mama began gathering my things, she didn’t wait for my reply. “Where should I set up?”

“How about in the downstairs living room? The sun is probably nice in there.” It had never occurred to me to paint Mama before. I doubted I could do her justice.

Mama sat patiently in a wing back chair beside the large floor length window. She watched me set up my easel and paints as if there was something interesting to see. “How should I sit?”

“Just like that.” Her natural elegance was evident as she crossed her legs, her silk robe falling open at the knee. I studied her for a moment before putting my brush to the canvas. She would be easy to paint, but hard to capture. There was something about Mama’s carefree beauty that would be impossible to recreate.

“You don’t have to be totally still…” She sat like a statue. I wasn’t even sure if she was breathing anymore.

“I don’t want to mess you up!” She smiled.

“You won’t.” I slid the tawny paint across the canvas and her hair appeared. The sun outlined her body, danced on the silk of her robe, and shimmered across her face. It was the perfect scenario for art.

I dabbed white in the pale blue paint, capturing the flicker in her eyes. I was finished. “All done?” The statue came back to life.

“Yes,” I nodded. “But I don’t want you seeing it.” I never knew whether my work was good or bad. I needed to study it for awhile. “Let’s let it dry.”

Mama agreed, and headed into the kitchen to check on dinner. Maria was making lasagna and the smell of garlic was already floating around the house. I sat and stared at my work. It looked like Mama, anyone could see that, but I still wasn’t sure if it embodied her.

“Beautiful.” Father stood behind me. I wondered how long he had been standing there.

“Thank you.” Those were the first two words that I had humored him with since I arrived home for Thanksgiving break.

“What did she think of it?”

“She hasn’t seen it yet.” I glanced back at him, he was still staring at the painting.

“She’ll love it.” He turned and began to walk away, but stopped. “I would like to have it in my study, if it doesn’t already have a home.”

I laughed. “I don’t think so.” I couldn’t believe that he had the gall to say that. I wondered if he knew how absurd it sounded.

Dinner was strained. Anna chatted away about her first semester of college, Mama listened attentively and asked lots of questions, but Father simply looked down at his plate and ate. I watched him, still trying to figure him out. If he loved Mama, why had he cheated on her? If he wanted her painting in his study, why had he tainted his study with extramarital sex?

“I thought of a perfect place for your painting, Addy!” Mama announced, once Anna finally ran out of things to say.


“Well, I auctioned the ship painting off for charity. The one in Daddy’s study. I think the portrait would go great in its place!’ Mama hadn’t even seen the painting yet, but had faith in my work.

I looked over at Father, he was still looking down. “It is your painting Mama, wherever you want it is fine.” Maybe having her looking down at him would keep him from chasing after Maria. Maybe Mama’s ice cold eyes would keep his hormones in check. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

“Great! I can’t wait to see it after dinner!” Mama smiled brightly.

“Addy, should paint me!” Anna was so vain.

“Adeline.” I reminded. “I go by Adeline now.”

“Well then, Adeline should paint me! I’m sure Joe would love to have my face on his wall.” She knew it would be a cold day in hell before I painted her.

“Joe has a camera doesn’t he?”

“Don’t give her any ideas!” Mama joked, lightening the mood. After dinner we headed into the living room together and she cried at the sight of herself. I watched as she studied her face, commented about how I had captured her likeness, and thanked me. I was proud of my work, no matter where she decided to hang it.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Six

I ran as fast as I could up to Penny’s cottage. She answered the door and it was obvious that she was expecting me. “How could you?” I screamed at the top of my lungs, waving the letter in her tear stained face. “I’m sorry, Addy.” Penny left the door opened and went and sat down.

“Don’t walk away from me!” I was furious! Lovers? Penny and Mama had been lovers?

“Take it out on me, it is fine. I deserve it.” Penny’s voice trembled.

“I hate you, Penny. I never want to see you again.” I slammed the door and then kicked it with my bare feet, hurting myself far more than I hurt the door. My hate began to bubble over again. I could feel it building inside of me, the all too familiar feeling.

I didn’t know what to think! After taking it upon myself to forgive Mama for cheating, I found out that she had been sneaking around with Penny? I slung the door open again and rushed into Penny’s living room. She couldn’t meet my eyes. “Does Father know?”

Penny shook her head.

“He has no idea that you were Mama’s mistress? No idea?” I wanted the truth.

“No idea. He doesn’t know.” Penny still couldn’t look at me. She was ashamed.

After all the time that I spent protecting Mama from him, she was the one with something to hide. All the hate that I had wasted on him! All the pain that I caused him for her. I wanted to slap Penny, but instead I just walked out. I didn’t even bother shutting the door.

Junior was home and his face lit up when I stormed in. “Hey you!”

I burst into tears and ran up the stairs to my room. I couldn’t face him. I just couldn’t!

“Addy?” Junior knocked, he was concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Go away.” I left my bathing suit in a puddle on the floor. “Please, I’m not being mean, but I have to be alone.”

“I can help.” Junior knocked again.

My head was spinning. I hadn’t seen this coming. After all the years that Mama and Penny had been “best friends,” I just couldn’t imagine them together. My Mama was a lesbian? I was covered in sand, but climbed into bed anyway. I fully intended to stay in bed forever. This was the final blow.

“Adeline.” Junior wouldn’t give up. “Are you okay?”

“No!” I yelled. “No! I am not okay!” It felt good to scream.

“Then let me in, damn it!” Junior yelled. I had never heard him raise his voice.

I wrapped a sheet around me and unlocked the door. I looked at him, his face was red. He was angry and worried, but mostly worried. “I don’t know where to start…”

“The beginning.” Junior pulled me toward the bed and we sat down. I didn’t want Junior knowing about my crazy family. I didn’t want him knowing that after all the bragging I had done on Penny that I now had no choice but to hate her guts.

“I told you about how I spent my childhood hating my Father, but I didn’t tell you anything else. I didn’t want you knowing the details, but I can’t face this alone-- I just can’t.” I knew what I had to do. “Junior, when I was twelve years old I walked into Father’s study and he had Maria, our housekeeper, in his arms. She was half dressed. I was sure they were having sex.”

“Oh God.” Junior whispered.

“At that moment I knew what I had to do. I started protecting Mama from finding out about his affairs, but in the meantime I managed to completely block him out. I hated him. I still kind of hate him, even though I know now that he didn’t cheat on Mama.” I hoped it made sense.

“But what was he doing with Maria?”

“They were going to have sex, but I interrupted them. In the letters that Mama wrote me she explained that she asked Father for an open marriage so that she could be with her lover and still stay with him. He agreed to it, but he never actually cheated on her. I spent my entire lifetime idolizing Mama. I worshiped the ground she walked on. I mean literally worshiped!” I shook my head. Still unable to believe the new truth that I was faced with.

“You found this out today?” Junior still wasn’t totally understanding.

“No. I found out two letters ago. But today I read the final letter- it was a letter that Mama wrote Father when I was just a little girl. She didn’t finish it and never gave it to him. I found out today who her lover was.” I should have never opened that letter.

“It was someone you know?” Junior pushed a strand of hair out of my eyes.

“Penny.” I spit her name out and then burst into tears. Penny was Mama’s “other man.”

“Does your Father know?” Junior held me close to him, he hadn’t reacted much when I told him about Penny and Mama. I had expected him to lose it like me. After all, he knew Penny too!

“No, he has no idea.” I thought of Father. How would he react? He invited Penny into his home, trusted her with his wife, and cried on her shoulder about Mama’s passing. This would crush him. “I’m not going to tell him.”

“Let’s go over and talk to Penny.” Junior suggested. He had witnessed the strength of my relationship with Penny, knew how much we cared about each other, and was certain that we could work things out.

“I already went. I told her I never wanted to see her again.” I couldn’t imagine ever talking to Penny again. I didn’t want to see her face.

“Oh Addy. You and Penny are so close. This doesn’t change who Penny is, it just changes the amount of information you know about her. She is still the woman who helped you come to terms with your Mama’s death. She loves you!” Junior tried talking sense into me. He was saying all the things that I didn’t want to hear.

“God don’t say that. She has single handedly ruined my life.” I thought of the day that I accused her of sleeping with Father. She should have just admitted to it then! If she had told me before I wouldn’t have wasted any more time on her. I could feel myself slipping away from Junior with every kind word he said about her. God, Penny had introduced me to him. How could I ever kiss him or lie beneath him again? How could I be with someone that Penny had sent my way?

“What?” Junior felt me grow stiff. His hands were burning my skin, I didn’t want him touching me.

“I, I just need some time.” I stood up, still wrapped in the sheet. “I’m going to take a bath now.”

“Addy, everything will be okay. You’ve made it through so much… You can make it through this too.” His eyes showed that he hurt for me, but I closed the bathroom door without a reply. I had no idea who I was anymore. I had no idea who Junior was. Everything I had ever known to be fact was now floating in the air above me-- nothing was concrete anymore. Not even my love for Junior.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Five

It was my twenty first birthday. Mama, Penny, Anna, and I were on a plane headed for Hawaii to celebrate. Mama wanted to invite Father, but I talked her into giving his ticket to Penny instead. After all, it was my birthday we were celebrating. I should be able to decide who came!

We arrived at Honolulu International Airport and easily found our hotel, Penny had stayed there a few times and took us straight to it. It was amazing! We had two tiny water bungalows that had to be waded to through the water. We decided that Anna and I would share one hut and that Mama and Penny would share the other. Mama and Penny had been best friends for over thirty years and still stayed up giggling half the night like school girls.

“You can legally drink!” Penny smiled as we all gathered around the bar. I felt uncomfortable, but tried not to let it show.

“I’m getting old…”

“Old?” Mama made a silly face at me. “Twenty one is just the beginning of your life!”

“She’s old.” Anna agreed. “We’re still supposed to be little girls.”

“Whatever you say.” Mama handed me a cocoanut shell filled with a tangy blend of pineapple juice, rum, and cocoanut milk.

“Mmmm.” I found a seat along the sideline where I could observe from afar. Mama and Penny came and sat with me, but Anna made her rounds among the young attractive people that were obviously tourists too.

“You’d think it was her birthday.”

“Anna doesn’t wait for birthdays to demand attention.” Penny was right.

“We don’t need Anna to party! We can have a good time, just the three of us!” Mama raised her glass and I hit it with my fuzzy drink.

The rest of the night was fun. We sat like three old hens, talking about how spirited the young folk were and laughing at the people who had a few too many. I had no urge to get out there and dance around like Anna, but I did wish that I had the ability to let loose and be twenty one.

“Do you mind staying in Mama and Penny’s hut tonight?” Anna was holding hands with one of the fire dancers, he was barefooted and barely dressed.

“I guess not.” I rolled my eyes. Some birthday.

“Thanks, sis.” Anna gave me a peck on the cheek and excitedly scurried off into the darkness toward our rooms.


Day two of our Hawaiian weekend went about the same way as the first afternoon and night. I was twenty-one years and one day old. Mama, Penny, and Anna wanted to sleep in before hitting the beach, and I wanted to explore the island. We were staying on the island of Oahu, and I headed off alone for a morning of exploring and learning.

My first stop was USS Arizona Memorial. I had always been fascinated with Pearl Harbor, and wanted to see the oil that still leaked to the surface of the water. I took a boat over, and was humbled at the thought of all the lost lives and all the families that had been changed after that day. I watched the black tears rise to the surface, after over sixty years, the ocean still wept.

Next I headed to the other local tourist attraction, alone. I saw Diamond Head, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii, and the Nu’uana Freshwater Fish Refuge. I had an amazing day, and knew good and well that they were probably just sipping mixed drinks by the ocean. I was so different from them!

“Have a good day, sweetie?” Mama had on a giant hat, was wearing a French cut black swimsuit, and as expected had a drink in her hand.

“I did!” I was still excited. “I spent a fortune, but I saw almost everything that I wanted!” I still wanted to see Aloha Tower, but decided to wait until dark to see it all lit up.

“I’m glad. You shouldn’t have snuck out, I would have gone too.” I didn’t believe her, but it was nice of her to say.

“Oh sorry.” I headed to my hut to change into a swimsuit. I still had a few hours left of sunshine, and was ready to relax. Anna was still in bed. “Why are you in bed?”

“I didn’t sleep much.” Anna looked like she was in love, but I knew that look and knew she wasn’t in love.

“Well I won’t bother you. I’m just putting on a swimsuit.” I tied the tropical print bikini that Mama had bought me for the trip and pulled my hair into a pony tail.

“Where have you been anyway?” Anna stretched.

“I did the tourist thing.” I didn’t feel like telling her details.


“Not at all! I loved it. I think lying in a bed all day is boring actually.” I snapped.

“I guess we all have different ideas about what a vacation is.” Anna slid on a swimsuit and followed me out into the knee deep water. “What is your problem anyway?”

“I don’t have a problem.” I kept my back to her. What was my problem? It was my birthday trip and she had barely said two words to me. She was too busy being popular and hung over.

“You mad because I brought Kekipi home with me last night?” Anna caught up with me.

“No. I don’t care who you bring home, Anna. I just have to keep reminding myself how very different we are.” I held my tongue, although I wanted to tell her that she was exactly like Father.

“I won’t party tonight… I’ll stay with you.” Anna sounded sorry, but I doubted it would last.

“Well, if you want to spend time with me tonight, I’m going to Aloha Tower.”

“The lighthouse?” Anna asked.

“Yes, it is supposed to be beautiful. I don’t really want to go alone.”

“I’d love to.” Anna grabbed my hand and we walked toward Mama and Penny.

By some strange twist of fate, Anna spent the rest of the vacation trying to cater to my wishes. She only brought her boyfriend around after making sure it was okay with me, and Kekipi was actually a really nice guy. He was much nicer than the guys she dated at home. Mama and Penny got all of their relaxing out, and the birthday vacation was a success! As we waded our way toward the shore with our luggage floating on a little wooden boat, I almost hated to go back to the real world. In Hawaii I felt like the pains and struggles of my life were miles and miles away, and that was where I liked them-- back home in South Carolina with Father!

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Four

I realized on Friday morning that Penny hadn’t been around much lately. I figured that she was trying to give me my space because of Junior, but missed her more than I thought I would. Penny and I had bonded, she was the catalyst that helped me change, and she was the one person who knew me as well as I knew myself. When I thought of Penny, happy memories of Mama flooded back. Mama’s mistakes didn’t matter, even if they were disappointing and eye opening, I was grown up enough to realize that we all make mistakes.

Had it not been for Penny, I would have read all of my daily doses in one sitting and over dosed. I wouldn’t have learned anything from them. If it hadn’t been for Penny, I would have headed back to Boston and picked right back up where I left up-- a lonely misanthrope who could barely function. I was thankful for her. She was Mama’s best friend, and my biggest ally.

“Want to head out and get our tan on?” I was armed and ready with my last letter in my pack. I had been to busy living to really pause and read the last letter, but I knew it was time to finish them.

“Sure.” Penny looked like she had cried for days and I set out the cheer her up. It was the least I could do. “Let me get changed.”

We headed out onto our favorite spot, and assumed our positions. Penny sat in her chair with a beer and I sprawled out on my towel. “I’ve missed this.”

“Me too, honey.” Penny reached down, grabbed my hand, and squeezed.

“You okay?” I was worried about her.

“I am, I think your Mama’s death has finally hit me. At first I was so busy making sure you were okay that I didn’t have to deal with it. Now that you’re Addy again, I’m slowing down and feeling.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. It must feel horrible losing your best friend. I literally had nothing to compare it to, but with as much time as they spent together, I knew that a piece of Penny must be missing.

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know how to help her or what to say.

“It’ll be okay. Grief will run its course.” Penny didn’t even sound like herself.

“Just don’t get fat like Aunt Elise.” I smiled, hoping to lighten the mood.

“Poor Elise.” Penny shook her head. I noticed that her white blonde hair was a mess, Penny always fixed her hair. Grief really had hit her hard.

“I’m heading home tomorrow morning… Taking Junior to meet Father.” I had mixed feelings-- some excitement, some fear.

“I’m glad. Your Mama would be so proud.”

“Yes she sure would. That reminds me! I have one last daily dose.” I reached into my bag.

“Not now, honey.” Penny had never told me not to read a daily dose.

“Why not? It is the letter she was writing to Father when I was seven. I saved their marriage by walking in and asking for paper. She said she never finished it…” I didn’t understand.

“Just wait.”

“Okay.” I slid it back in the bag, confused. “Maybe when I get back on Monday we can go get pedicures!”

“I don’t think so, Addy.” Penny let out a breath slowly. She wasn’t acting like herself. I wanted to help her but had no idea where to start.

“Penny you helped me cope and I’ll help you cope. If it means forcing you to go get your toenails painted or forcing you to shop, so be it!” I knew that she needed the same exact things that I had needed. “Maybe Anna can come next weekend and we’ll have a girls weekend!”

“We’ll see.” Penny gathered her things. “I love you sweetie. No matter what, I love you!”

“I love you too, Penny. It is going to be okay…”

“I hope so. Have a good weekend with Robert. I’m sure he’ll love Junior.” And with that she followed our footprints back up toward the houses. I was worried about her, but knew that she needed her space. I would have to go check on her before I left for the weekend.

I watched as the waves crashed upon the shore and instead of it feeling relaxing and calming like it usually did, it felt unnerving. The waves looked ominous and unruly. I felt like a storm was coming, but the sky was clear blue like Mama’s eyes.

I reached into my bag again, I needed to hear from Mama. I needed to see the letter that she would have given Father had it not been for me. I needed a daily dose now more than ever-- even if the letter wasn’t originally intended for me. I thought back to that day, twenty-one years ago. I remembered wishing that I could read cursive. I remembered writing the poem with hopes of making her smile, and with hopes of outshining Anna. I unfolded the letter-- thankfully I could read cursive now.

Dear Robert,
       I know that no matter how hard you try to forget about my lover that you can’t. I can see that I hurt you every time I leave, and I love you enough to not want this for your future. I have thought about this long and hard, and I have come to a heart breaking conclusion. I am leaving. I can’t keep hurting you. I can’t keep living a double life.
       I truly believe that there is another woman out there who can make you happy. A woman who will love you and only you. I have tried to be that woman, but there was a part of my heart that still belonged with someone else. I know we promised never to tell each other details about our affairs, but I feel that you should know. If we are going to stay in each other’s lives for the girls, you’ll have to know anyway. Although I love you, I am in love with Penelope Quinn. She has the other half of my heart and has since college. I am sorry-- mainly because I never told you before. Please don’t blame yourself, please don’t think that you’ve failed in any way, and please believe that I really do love you.
        I not leaving because I would rather be with Penny, I am leaving because I can’t keep hurting you. If it wasn’t for the pain that I see in your face every time I leave, I would spend my life going from your arms to hers’, but it isn’t right. You don’t deserve it. You shouldn’t have to share.
       Please forgive me, Robert. I am just trying to do what I feel is right. I pray that I am not making a mistake. I have spent the last several days waiting for a sign to stop me from leaving, and nothing has. I have every reason to believe that this is what is best for our family. I am sorry for

Mama’s writing stopped when I walked in. She had never finished the letter, and never given it to Father. Now I understood why Penny didn’t want me reading the letter in front of her. Now I understood why I felt a storm coming. Mama’s words swallowed me whole.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Three

Anna hopped out of the car at the drive-in movies and ran off to find her friends. “Come back when the movie starts!” Mama called. It was a humid summer night and my clothes were sandwiched between my damp body and the leather seats of the car.

“This was a good idea, Addy.” Father was looking at me through the rear view mirror. “I haven’t been to a drive-in movie in years!”

“We come all the time.” I said smugly. He could have easily come with us before.

“Want some popcorn?” Mama unbuckled her seat belt and pulled cash from her purse in the floorboard.

“Sure.” Father nodded, ignoring my rude comment.

The sun was just a memory of golden light at the bottom of the horizon and the mosquitoes were preparing themselves for their evening feast. I waited silently in the backseat for Mama to return with our popcorn and drinks. I was tired of Father trying to talk to me, and slid to the other side of the car so that he couldn’t see me in his mirror.

Just as Mama’s head bobbed back between the sea of cars, Father said, “Addy, why can’t you try to like me?”

“Why should I?” I suddenly wished that I had a group of friends to run off with.

“I’m the only Daddy you’ll ever have.” Father’s voice sounded sad.

“Thank goodness for that.” I showed no mercy. “I couldn’t handle more than one.”

“Here take this!” Mama shoved popcorn in through the open window. “My hands are full.” Father took each item from her, handing me popcorn and a drink politely.

“Thanks.” I mumbled.

It was finally dark enough for the movie to start and Anna was nowhere to be found. Mama asked me to go find her and I begrudgingly did as I was told. It wasn’t easy being fifteen. I had more bad moods than good ones. I headed out, dodging people in lawn chairs, not meeting anyone’s eyes, and half-heartedly looking for my little sister.

“Addy!” Anna spotted me first. “Come over here!” She was sitting on picnic tables wrapped up in some teenage boy’s arms.

“Mama wants you to come back to the car.” I froze, not stepping any closer to the group.

“What if I say no?” she asked, the group collectively laughed.

“I don’t know.” I felt self-conscious.

“Tell them I said no.” Anna smiled brightly, she obviously felt cool. “I’ll watch the movie from here.”

“Okay.” I headed back, climbed in the car, and cried. Not only did I have a Father who I hated, but I had a sister who embarrassed me just for the hell of it.

“Where is Anna?” Father turned around in his seat.

I swiped a tear away and shrugged.

“I’ll go get her.” He returned not two minutes later with her, and even though I didn’t like him, I was glad to see that he had handled the situation.

Anna shot me a dirty look, leaned her head on the door, and went to sleep. She was a waste of a perfectly good movie ticket. I sat in silence as Mama leaned her head on Father’s shoulder and swooned over Harry Connick, Jr. in Hope Floats.

“Did you like the drive-in?” I asked Father as Mama headed through the crowd to use the bathroom before we headed home.

“I did. I haven’t been in years.” Father seemed surprised that I was talking to him.

“I like it too.” Something about watching a movie under the stars appealed to me.

“Next time we should bring lawn chairs.” Next time? I doubted he would go again, especially after realizing that we always picked chick flicks.

“Mosquitoes.” I reminded him. Mama didn’t just get mosquito bites like normal people, but she got bumps the size of quarters that didn't go away for weeks. For some reason they loved her, she blamed it on having sweet blood.

“Oh.” And with that we had said all we could say. It was the longest conversation we managed to have without fighting in three years. We waited in silence on Mama to return from the restroom.

I didn’t want him to think I liked him just because I had a conversation with him, so just before Mama climbed in, I said “Too bad Maria couldn’t come. I’m sure she’d love for you to take her sometime.” Father looked down, and I knew that I had gotten him good. He would spend the next thirteen years paying for his mistakes, I would make sure of it.

“Ahh much better!” Mama got back in the car and smiled back at me. I smiled at her too, I would take a million more low blows at Father if it meant making him pay for cheating on Mama. She was worth it.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty Two

“Who’s car?” Junior pulled the curtains aside. My BMW was parked in the driveway, it hadn’t been there the night before.

“Mine!” I smiled. The keys were sitting on the kitchen table, apparently Father had let himself in but hadn’t stayed. “Looks like I am about to be released from house arrest.”

“Looks like it.” he kissed me and then headed back upstairs for a shower.

I felt amazing. My life had never been better. Over the course of just a few weeks, I managed to bury my Mama, make peace in my own way with my sister, discover that my Father wasn’t the villain that I had made him out to be, learned that Mama was unfaithful for years, and still managed to fall in love with Junior. The old Addy would not have ever gotten past the truth that hit me in face, but the new Addy was okay. She realized that life was not predictable, and she sucked it up like a big girl.

It felt good to be free from the bondage of protecting Mama, and soon I would reconcile with Father. It was childish to prolong it any further really. Maybe I would take Junior to meet Father that weekend. It made me nervous, but also made me excited! A new life called for new and healthy relationships.

“Want to go meet my Father this weekend?” I asked as we sat across from each other in the Diner. I got a strange look from the waitress at first, but soon she realized that I wasn’t crazy anymore and warmed up to me.

“Sure,” his eyes grew big. “I guess I should take you to meet my Father too.”

“Yes, I would love to meet him!” Junior had told me stories about what a great Father he had. His Father was the reason that he decided to teach.

“Well, we’ll have to arrange that.” he sipped his coffee and told me to go ahead and tell Father that we were coming down. He would call his Dad and see if we could meet for dinner the next night. I couldn’t wait Before lunch time we had it all settled. Father sounded happy when I informed him of our visit, and Junior said that Tom Hanks, Sr. was excited about meeting me. Things were really falling into place.

I headed next door to see if Penny wanted to hit the beach with me. Junior was running errands and getting a haircut. I could tell that he was a little nervous about meeting Father, but I was beyond excited about meeting his. If anything made our relationship official, it was this!


“Mr. Hanks!” I smiled at the gray headed version of Junior that stood before me at the restaurant.

“Hi, you must be Adeline.” he held his hands out to me and gave me a warm hug.

“So nice to meet you!” I couldn’t stop smiling.

“Hi, Dad.” Junior patted him on the back and we took our seats.

“So you like my son, huh?” Mr. Hanks asked. I felt like I was sitting across from Junior in twenty or thirty years. Did I like his son? Not only did I like him, I loved him.

“I do!” I nodded, taking a sip of my water.

We talked, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company. Mr. Hanks’ face lit up when he talked about his late wife, and Junior’s face lit up when he shared little tidbits about me.

“Vera always said we were going to have six kids and we ended up with one." He remembered, “But it didn’t take us long to realize that one was plenty!”
“Was Junior bad?” I couldn’t imagine Junior being anything but perfect.

“Not bad, just painfully shy. We had to coax him into leaving the house for a few years there. Once we moved here he managed to come out of his shell.” Mr. Hanks was making Junior blush.

“I would love to see pictures of Junior as a child!” I realized that I hadn’t seen any yet.

“I would like to see pictures of you!” Junior smiled, probably imagining what I would look like.

“I hear you lost your Mother recently? I’m sorry to hear it.”

“Yes sir, she had leukemia. She was only sixty one.” I thought about Mama’s brilliant smile.

“I know that must be hard. If anybody can help you through it, Junior can.” Hearing this made me tear up, Junior had already helped me make it through more than he even realized.

The rest of the evening was wonderful! Meeting Junior’s Dad made me look forward to seeing my own even more. I had wasted so many years. I was more ready than ever to make amends. The weekend couldn’t come soon enough!

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty One

“I don’t want to stay with Aunt Elise!” I insisted as I threw my Barbie suitcase into the backseat of Mama’s tiny car.

“It is only for two nights, sweetie.” Anna was at a friends house, Father was away on business, Maria was off for the weekend, and Mama had plans with Penny. They had been planning a trip to Nashville for weeks and didn’t have any way of getting out of it without losing money.

“Couldn’t I go with you and Penny?” I was desperate. I could only imagine myself having to sleep in Victoria’s bed, which creeped me out.

“Honey, we have tickets to two concerts that are sold out. You wouldn’t be able to have any fun.” Mama felt bad about leaving me behind, I knew. “Elise will love having company anyway.”

Aunt Elise’s house was small compared to ours’. It was a one story house with a hall that went straight through the middle of it, it only had one bathroom, and didn’t even have a dining room. Elise was single. She used to be married, but I never met her husband, he was long gone before I was born-- or before Victoria was born for that matter and Victoria was two years older than me.

“Addy!” Elise was standing on her big front porch waiting for me. I tried to act excited because of the fact that she seemed very excited to have me, but the truth was that I wasn’t excited at all. Mama gave me a big hug and left me there. She didn’t seem nearly as sad as I was, but I figured she was better at hiding her emotions. “Oh don’t cry honey, we’re going to have a great time!”

Elise took my hand and led me inside. “You can stay in Victoria’s old room!” My worst nightmare confirmed. “I’ll put your suitcase on Victoria’s bed.”

I waited for Elise in the living room. She had a big corduroy couch that Mama said was tacky, a worn out leather chair in the corner, a bookcase full of little animal figurines, and a huge painting of Victoria above the fireplace. I stared at her. She had long blonde curls, giant blue eyes, and a certain sadness about her. She almost looked like she knew she was going to die. She was wearing a pink fluffy dress and was holding an umbrella. Victoria looked like she was from a different time.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Aunt Elise was standing beside me, admiring her sweet Victoria.

“Yes ma’am.” I nodded, telling the truth.

“Hungry?” Her eyes were filled with tears, another emotion that she could eat. She had gained a good hundred pounds in the years following my cousin’s death.

“I could eat.” I didn’t want her to have to eat alone.

“I’ve got brownies!” Elise took me by the hand and led me into the kitchen. We sat and ate brownies, chocolate chip cookies, cheese, grapes, fish sticks, and baked potatoes. Everything she offered, I said yes to. I was stuffed and finally turned her down when she offered me left over pizza. I was surprised Aunt Elise had left over pizza! Seemed to me she would have eaten the whole box. Maybe she ordered two.

“I’m full, Aunt Elise.” My jeans felt like they were going to pop at any moment and I wished I had elastic pants like hers’. She slid the box of pizza back into the fridge and sat down across from me.

“I am having so much fun!” she announced.

“Me too.” I smiled, wanting her to feel good about herself. “I’ve never tasted better brownies.”

“That is too sweet, Addy!” she smiled proudly.

“Do you think we could go for a walk?” I needed to get up and move around after our feast.

“A walk?” she didn’t seem too thrilled. “How about we play cards?”

Elise and Mama spent countless hours playing cards as little girls. I remembered Mama telling me that, so I agreed to play. “Okay, let’s play.” Aunt Elise liked playing cards almost as much as she liked eating! We must have played for three hours. She was very good!

“I guess I should start cooking supper.”

“Oh I couldn’t eat a bite.” I confessed, still full from earlier. “I think I’ll take a bath before bed.” It was getting dark outside and I was tired of entertaining her, so I decided to turn in early.

Elise ran my bath water and headed into the kitchen to fix herself a TV dinner. I couldn’t believe she was eating again, but was glad to be alone. I played with the pull string fish that she found in the back of the cabinet for me, knowing that it had probably been Victoria’s.

“Goodnight, Addy.” She tucked me into my cousin’s bed, I was fresh and clean, with my hair braided down my back. “I’ve had fun!”

“Me too, Aunt Elise. Goodnight.” I yawned, I really was tired.

“Tomorrow we’ll go for that walk after breakfast.”

“Okay.” I nodded, watching her survey the room one last time before turning out the light.

I looked around. Victoria’s dolls were lined up, her teddy bears were arranged according to size, her porcelain dolls were standing side by side on her dresser, and her tea set was set up on the table-- ready for a tea party. I thought about my cousin and wondered why she had to die. She and I were friends when we were little, before she got sick.

Her tiny casket had been covered with flowers and I remembered thinking about how much she would have loved them. She was a very girly girl. She loved the color pink, loved wearing ribbons in her hair, took care of her baby dolls like they were real babies, and always sparkled with fancy shoes and little heart shaped earrings. Victoria was six when she died, but four when she got sick.

Even thought I was sleepy, I couldn’t sleep at all. If I were in my own room, I would have gotten up and played with the toys that surrounded me, but I didn’t want to mess anything up. I didn’t want to change a single thing. Even at eight years old, I knew better than to disturb Aunt Elise’s shrine.

Several times during the night I heard Elise creep into the kitchen for a snack. I thought about how pretty and fit she used to be. She was the blonde headed version of Mama before. She was still pretty, but it was a shame that she had let herself go. She would never find a husband now, I heard Mama say it all the time.

“Good morning, sunshine! Did you sleep well?” Aunt Elise was standing over the stove shuffling eggs around a frying pan with a spatula when I finally felt like it was late enough to get out of bed.

“Mmm hmm.” I lied. I dozed off a few times, but really hadn’t slept at all. I ate the food that she placed in front of me, and wondered what Aunt Elise had in store for me.

“Your Daddy called. He’ll be home early, so our walk will have to wait. He’ll be here before lunch to get you.” I bet Aunt Elise was glad that she didn’t have to exercise after all.

“Oh, okay.” I smiled. I couldn’t wait for him to come rescue me from the sadness that showed no matter how hard my aunt tried to hide it. I watched her eat what I left on my plate and swore to myself that I would never eat my feelings.

“You can go play in Victoria’s room if you want…”

“I’ll just watch TV, thanks.” I sat and watched Andy Griffith and waited on Father to arrive.

Around eleven thirty the doorbell rang and I darted into Victoria’s bedroom to grab my suitcase while Aunt Elise answered the door. The bed was now made exactly as it had been when I arrived. A Raggedy Anne doll centered between the pillows and a worn out teddy bear tucked under the covers. The only evidence left of my visit was the little suitcase that was propped against the wall. I grabbed it and headed outside with Father. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I felt Aunt Elise breathe a sigh of relief as she kissed me goodbye. Maybe she was happier alone. I didn’t know, but I knew that I was happy to be heading home to my own bed and my own toys.

“Are you hungry? Want to grab lunch?” Father asked as we pulled away.

“No!” And I wouldn't be hungry at dinner either.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Fifty

Sex. It got a bad reputation in my book when I caught Father and Maria steaming up the windows of his study. It got an even worse reputation in my book when I realized that my sister Anna was attractive enough to lure in tons of neighborhood boys. I never really even imagined myself having it-- it just didn’t seem like something that would happen to a girl who boys ignored and had Father figure issues.

Sex. Junior managed to change my entire perception of the word. Our night together was more satisfying that anything I had ever experienced. It felt more right than anything I had ever done. A part of me, after a night with Junior, understood why Mama enjoyed it enough to need two men-- although I could never fathom doing it with anyone but Junior, or wanting to.

“I love you.” Junior whispered as he fell onto the bed beside me, glistening with sweat. I pulled the covers over my shaking body, let out a quivering sigh, and looked at him. The perfect man. The best concoction of strength, gentleness, love, caution, warmth, and ease that nature ever created. I studied his face, tanned from a summer by the shore. Those eyes that looked at me and saw beauty, golden brown with flecks of gold. Those lips, the first lips that ever met mine and the last ones that ever would. I loved this man. I was sure of it. He was my first and my last. He was mine.

“Thank you.” I whispered back.

“For loving you?” he asked with a half smile.

“No, for making love to me.”

“Well in that case, thank you.” Junior kissed me gently, and we basked in the afterglow of what would be the first of many sleepless sweaty nights.


“Well?” Perceptive Penny always knew when something was up. We were lying on the beach while Junior played Frisbee with a weekender.

“Well, what?” I blushed, rolling over on my stomach.

“You just look a little different today, that’s all. I wondered if you had consummated the relationship.” Penny winked through her giant sunglasses.

“Oh Penny,” I laughed. “You’re crazy!”

“Am I?” Penny thumped me and left it at that.

I watched Junior catch the Frisbee and toss it to the little blonde headed boy in a SpongeBob bathing suit. I imagined him frolicking on the beach with our children and smiled. I wished that Mama could have met Junior, and I couldn’t wait for Father to. We would have to arrange that.

I didn’t know quite where to start with Father… Did I mention his letter? Did I apologize for hating him? Did I start fresh? How could I? We couldn’t pick up where we left off before I started hating him. We couldn’t go back to that, because it was so far from the places that life had led me. I didn’t have answers.

“Do you think Father still loves me?” I asked Penny.

“Oh sure he does.”

“Why would he?” I hoped it wasn’t too late.

“Addy, a Father never stops loving his little girl. The sun rose and set in you for him, and it still does. He loves you.” she sounded convincing, but I still wasn’t convinced. I hoped she was right, but feared that she wasn’t. I had done a lot of mean things to him through the years. Many hateful words had crossed my lips in his direction. Between my bitterness, and Mama’s request for an open marriage, Robert Banks was probably hurting more than I had ever imagined.

I needed to go to him and decided that as soon as my car arrived, I would take Junior home to meet my Father. I wanted Father to see that my faith in “mankind” was restored, and that my love for him was on the mend. If I could have snapped my fingers and fixed things with Father I would have, but unfortunately it was going to take some work.

I wasn’t going back to Boston. My life had found happiness here, and I was going to live at the beach house. I might not have a job, but I was ready to write happy endings again. Maybe, if I could find the words, I would even write about Mama. I still adored her, mistakes and all. She would always be my heart.

“Addy! Catch!” Junior let go of the yellow plastic disc and it soared right into my hands. I stood up, ran out into the sand, and joined in. I was finally living, after twenty eight years of passing through life, I was now taking part in it. Thanks to Penny’s support, Mama’s letters, and Junior's love, I was finally alive.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Forty Nine

“I got your letter, Mama.” Tears were streaming down my face, the letter was in my hand still.

“Oh, don’t cry. It won’t help anything.” Mama’s voice sounded weak, but she was trying to remain upbeat and positive.

“I’ll come home.” I insisted.

“No. You won’t come home, Addy! You’ll stay in Boston.” I knew Mama wouldn’t want me to abandon my life just to come watch her wilt away, but I needed to be by her side. The letter said that she didn’t have much time left, and I wanted more than anything to help her spend that time.

That letter from my Mama was when my life began to spiral out of control. I couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. I couldn’t stand the thought of being Motherless. I wanted to push it out of my mind, and somehow managed to. I called her every single day, but we never mentioned the cancer again. We talked about everything but that. Any news about her Leukemia came through letters, and I learned to dread checking the mail.

My life in Boston was unfulfilling. Even my cats couldn’t keep me happy anymore now that they had grown up. I needed a support system of friends or at least family, but instead had no one. I was for all practical purposes alone in the world.

Mama’s sickness sent me over the edge. I stopped visiting Athan’s Deli and started eating spaghetti o’s at every meal. Instead of heading to the office to turn in my articles, I struck a deal with my boss that allowed me to email them in instead. I became a hermit. On the rare occasion that I ordered a pizza, I left the money under the mat and waited until they were long gone to reach outside and grab it. I was the exact opposite of what I had always dreamed I would become. I was the exact opposite of what Mama and Penny had worked so hard to make me into-- all the shopping trips for cute clothes, all the parties that they threw in my honor just to get me used to people, all the promises for summer romances. It was all a thing of the past. I was now alone hundred and hundreds of miles away from my dying Mama.


I was taking a bubble bath when the news of Mama’s death arrived. Penny called me, she knew that I would hang up on Father. I couldn’t believe my ears. I dropped the cell phone in the temped bath water and began to cry. I was alone. I was an orphan. I had no one left.

The water grew colder and colder by the second, but I just soaked and stared up at the ceiling. Memories of Mama ran through my mind. Happy memories that I would always cherish. I knew that Father would feel even more guilty for cheating on her now that she was gone, and I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to feel half of the pain that was inside of me, which was enough to kill anyone. I needed someone to blame Mama’s Leukemia on, and it found its place with him. I didn’t know if I could face him at the funeral, and really didn’t want to face Anna either.

The house grew dark around me. I was still lying in the still waters, coming to terms with my new normal. I had, in a way, prepared myself for being alone by blocking the whole world out in the months that led up to Mama’s passing. In some ways, I had been preparing for years-- even before I knew about her sickness. I wondered for the first time in my life about heaven and hell. It was something that I hadn’t really concerned myself with-- we went to church, but heaven and hell was such a huge concept that I didn’t try to grasp it. Until now. Now I imagined Mama wrapped in white light, floating up into the arms of Jesus. She was safe there. She was away from Father’s deceit and unfaithfulness. I didn’t have to protect her anymore. I didn’t need to protect her anymore. At that moment, I decided to believe in heaven.

By the time I found the strength to stand on my own two feet, my fingers and toes were shriveled and I was shivering from the cold porcelain bath. The water spiraled down the drain, leaving my ruined cell phone and a mushy bar of soap behind. I wrapped a towel around me and climbed into bed. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but didn’t care. The hunger pains felt right.

I didn’t bother replacing my phone, but knew even without calling that I would need to head home. I had a funeral to get to. The next morning, I stuffed a few things haphazardly in a duffel bag, poured a whole bag of cat food in Lennon and McCartney’s bowl, and left. I had sixteen and a half hours to come to terms with the reality that awaited me in South Carolina. I had sixteen hours to sit, stare straight ahead, and remember Mama.

The sobs that escaped my lips echoed through the silent car and through the emptiness inside of me. The radio which was usually alive with song didn’t make a sound. I didn’t need distraction from the truth that awaited me. I ignored the speed limits, ignored the growling pleas of my stomach for food, ignored the snot running down my neck and chest, and just drove. Mama was gone, and along with her every hope for my future died too. I was nobody without her. 

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Forty Eight

By the time I read another daily dose, my sunburn was just a memory. The days that followed Penny’s housewarming party were full of living. I spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon with Anna and her boyfriend Ryan, spent an amazing Monday having an old movie marathon with Junior, finally remembered to mail Father my keys on Tuesday, and on Wednesday my two cats were delivered-- I had almost forgotten about them!

I took a leap of faith and called the publication that I worked for in Boston and quit, I didn’t even feel like a failure for doing it. My life was being built kiss by kiss here with Junior. I couldn’t imagine going back to the lonely desolation of Brighton Center. I couldn’t imagine having to fly down or drive sixteen hours to see just to see Junior. I needed him and I knew what I had to do.

Penny kept telling me how proud she was of me, but also kept asking me when I was going to read another letter. It had been far too long, and I knew that I couldn’t prolong it any longer. I took the final two letters up to my bedroom and closed the door behind me. Penny and Junior were playing Scrabble at the dining room table, and probably wouldn’t even notice that I was gone.

Lennon climbed into bed with me and purred. I carefully opened Mama’s letter and realized that it almost felt good hearing from her again. Somehow, through it all, I had managed not to transfer my hate onto her. I wasn’t sure where exactly the hate had gone, but I didn’t miss it at all.

Dear Addy,
       This is the last letter that I will write to you. I hope that through these letters I have managed to show you little glimpses of myself and who I really am. I am not perfect. I’m sure you see that by now… I am just a woman who loved, who made mistakes, who lived life without regrets, and who managed to find happiness in the process. I truly am happy and I wish the same fulfillment for you, Addy. So far I have watched you spend your adulthood breeding bitterness and hate. I know that life has so much more in store for you, and I hope with every breath that I have left that you find the kind of love that I have been lucky enough to experience twice.
       You may wonder why I am not writing to Anna, but Anna doesn’t need to learn the lessons that you do. She is a sweet but naïve girl, and I hope that you will take her under your wing instead of trying to out fly her, Addy. You’ll only have one sister in your entire life, and I want you to think long and hard about the relationship that you two have.
       I almost feel like I am leaving behind a little handbook of lessons for you to learn. They aren’t spelled out, but they are here within these letters. I want more than anything for you to see my mistakes and see that we are all fallible. I am not perfect and never have been. None of us are, but that is what makes life so exciting. I want you to let go and love. I want you to throw all caution to the wind and just live. I want you to forget anything you ever thought you knew and just let life take you where it will.
       These are not deep or profound things, they are simple little truths. I see the potential in you! I see what you could have been had I not allowed you to hate your Daddy and spend your life building a case against him. You spent your life protecting me from secrets that were not nearly as heavy as you made them. You can let go of all of that now. You don’t have to protect me anymore, my dear. And as much as I would like to protect you from the pain that my own secrets will cause you, I feel that you need to know the truth. You deserve the be free from the veil of lies that I carried with me. I am enclosing the letter that I was writing all those years ago-- the one I never finished because you wanted a sheet of paper to write a poem on. I want you to see the truth and know the real me that nobody else knows. I want you to take a piece of me that I have not even offered up to your Father or to Anna, and keep it as your own.
       Please know that I love you and that I am proud of you. Dig deep, Addy! You can move past the pain that life has thrown at you, you can forgive the mistakes, you can rise above it, and fly. Thank you for protecting me for all those years. I have always found happiness in the knowledge that someone could love me as wholly and as purely as you did and do. Forgive me for the things that I never told you until now, and remember that part of living is making mistakes and choosing to be happy.

All for now and all my love,


I looked in the envelope for the letter that she had been writing that day, all those years ago, but it wasn’t there. I realized that it would have to wait until my next daily dose. I thought of her words and couldn’t help but smile. She truly was a wonderful woman despite her mistakes. I was thankful that Mama was reaching out to me, even through death, and leading me in the right direction. Finally, after all those years, I had a peace the settled into my heart and healed the wounds of hate. Bitterness left me bruised and battered, but I was finally ready to let go of the pain. I was ready to love. I cried as I made a conscious decision to forgive Mama. I couldn’t wait to read the letter from her past and to close this chapter of my life that began in a dark cloud of hate but was being punctuated by new love, long deserved forgiveness, and hope.

Junior knocked on the door and came into the room that was quickly feeling more and more like home to him. “You okay?” he asked.

“I am.” I put the letter aside and held out my arms to him.

“Penny went home, I think she had a hot date.” Junior smiled. It hadn’t taken him long to catch Penny fever-- it was hard to be around her without loving her to death.

“It is about time.” I joked. Junior smiled and my heart skipped a beat. As I looked into the face of the man I loved, I really couldn’t remember life without him. The sun was sinking into night, and I knew without a doubt that it was time. “Make love to me.”

Junior’s eyes searched mine for a moment, eventually coming to the same conclusion-- it was time. He kissed me gently, undressed me slowly, and gave me all of his love. 

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Forty Seven

Father and I sat together watching The King and I in his upstairs den. Mama and Anna had opted to watch The Little Mermaid downstairs, neither of them quite understanding our fascination with old movies, let alone musicals.

I still adored my Father with the wonder of an eight year old, and hung on his every word. “This movie was banned in Thailand when it was released,” he explained. He always had interesting facts about movies to tell.

“Where is that?” I had never heard of Thailand before.

“It is where they live, it used to be Siam…” Father tried to think of a way to make me understand. “South East Asia.”

“Oh.” I nodded, pretending to understand. We both turned our attention back to the movie, singing along with the familiar Rogers and Hammerstein tunes. “Did you name Anna after her?”

“No, we named her Anna because we thought it sounded good with Addy.” Father pulled me close, tickling me with his stubble.

Those are the moments that I spent many years blocking out. I purged my mind of all happy memories of Father, or twisted them and made them unhappy after catching him with Maria. The truth is, Father loved me and always had time for me.

I watched in awe as the shiny bald headed king spun Anna the teacher around the room. Father obviously saw in my eyes that I wanted to be her and scooped me into his arms and began to dance. I smiled, my hair flowing behind me, my heart pumping with excitement. I had the best Daddy in the world!


“Sweet Adeline, my Adeline. At night dear heart for you I pine. In all my dreams, your fair face beams. You‘re the flower of my heart Sweet Adeline…”

“I don’t want to go bed.” I whined. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t watch more movies.

“Got to.” Father pulled the quilt up around me. It was already ten o’clock.

“I can’t sleep.” I knew Father well enough to know that he would never leave the room if I wasn’t happy about going to sleep, and milked it for all it was worth.

“You haven’t tried yet, Addy. Now I know you’re upset about the king dying, I know you wish you could rewrite the ending, but you can’t.” Father understood me completely. “Someday, you’ll just have to write stories of your own and give them all happy endings.”

That was an idea. I was already quite a poet, even at eight. I hugged him close, finally ready to say goodnight, and rolled over on my side. I spent the rest of the night dreaming of the stories that I would write and the happy endings that I would create.

Father encourage me to write, always was ready to read my work, and always made sure I knew how proud her was of me. For many years, I wrote for him. I would hand him little tattered pieces of notebook paper with fairy tales on them, and wait on his reaction. He always made a big scene about it and asked if he could keep it. I was the apple of Father’s eye.

Unfortunately, my “And they lived happily ever afters” suddenly stopped at twelve years old. I stopped handing him pages of fairy tales and instead ignored him completely. I wrote stories of heart break and pain that would never be read. I wrote journal entries about how much I hated Father and loathed Maria. Suddenly, I found myself with an aversion to happy endings all together. It was like night and day from the relationship that Father and I had before I walked into his study.

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Forty Six

I slid myself into the least amount of clothes that I could get away with for Penny’s housewarming party. My skin was already peeling, and clothes were painful reminders of everything that had ever gone wrong in my life. I pulled my hair back into a loose bun, tried to cover my tomato red face with makeup, and headed over to Penny’s house-- walking sort of like a robot since it hurt to bend my limbs. Junior was meeting me at the party, and I couldn’t wait to see him again.

“Addy! You look…” Penny took a good look at me. “Well you look redder than you did earlier.”

“Gee thanks.” I laughed. “Need any help setting things up?”

“No, thanks. I like the dress!” Penny bought me the long maxi dress with a cute retro pattern on it earlier that day.

“Thanks.” I twirled around, forgetting how stupid and rigid I would look trying to twirl.

“Knock, knock!” It was Anna. Anna was never early, but somehow she managed to show up early.

“Anna!” Penny gave her a hug and greeted the man that trailed in behind her. “Who is this?”

“This is Ryan.” Anna looked proud. “Ryan, this is my pet lobster.”

“Hi Ryan.” I smiled and shook his hand. “I’m actually Addy.”

“Hi, Addy. Nice to meet you.” Ryan was a tall red headed man with a brilliant smile that was almost too white.

“Let me guess!” Penny always said what she thought without worrying about people’s feelings. “A dentist?”

Anna shot Penny a look and didn’t give Ryan a chance to confirm the obvious before dragging him over to
Penny’s floral couch. Penny and I laughed. It didn’t take long for he little house to fill up. Penny had managed to round up twenty five friends on short notice.

Junior slipped in just as Penny proposed a toast. “To new beginnings, new attitudes, and old friends! I know it hasn’t been long since our sweet Julianne passed, but I know she would want us all to keep living! Here’s to pushing through!” We all raised our glasses and seconded her sentiments. I grabbed Juniors hand and looked into his eyes-- it truly was a new beginning worth celebrating.

The rest of the night was wonderful. I all but forgot about my sunburn, forgot my troubles, and just enjoyed myself. It was the first party that I had ever attended where I let my guard down completely. I had no reason to compete with Anna, to vie for Mama’s attention, or to give Father the evil eye. Father wasn’t even there.

“You look a little less red than you did last night.” Junior smiled.

“I’ll still need aloe.” I smiled, flirtatiously. Apparently, with the right person, flirting came naturally to me.

Penny snapped our picture, and continued making her rounds around the tiny living room. “I am digging the cottage!” Anna complimented.

“Thanks, I’m digging it too. It is so cozy!” Penny was proud of her purchase. “Where are you two staying tonight?”

“With Addy, I guess.” Anna shrugged her shoulders.

“I could use some company.” Penny had never been lonely, and we all knew she wasn’t lonely now, but I didn’t point it out. I wanted more time alone with Junior, anyway. Anna agreed that she and Ryan would take Penny’s guest bedroom, and Penny informed her that her guest bedroom was the living room couch. Anna kind of made a face, but she had already agreed to stay with Penny.

“A cow!” We were playing charades and I pretended to milk invisible utters.

“Right!” I jumped up and down and told the score keeper to make sure and write down my point!

Junior stood up timidly and began to dance around and wave his arms. I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt. “A ballerina?” “Richard Simmons?” “A tap dancer?” We all shouted guesses, but each time he frowned and tried even harder.

“Time!” one of Penny’s friends shouted.

“What were you?!?” Penny looked worried.

“Someone who was getting robbed.” He sat down beside me and took a big gulp of beer.

The room erupted with laughter! “That is the last thing I would do if I was getting robbed!”

“He might get lucky and accidentally knock the robber out!” I pointed out.

Anna gave me a look like she had no idea who this new girl in her sister’s body was, and I was proud. I was finally an active participant in life’s little pleasures. I was having a ball playing charades! The night just kept getting better and better and before we knew it, it was nearly midnight.

“We’re going to head out.” Most of the party goers were gone and Junior was tired from a long day. “Thank you so much for having us, Penny! I’ll come help you clean up tomorrow.”

Penny hugged me tight, I could tell that she was proud of me. “Don’t bother, I’ll call a cleaning service.”

“Alright, goodnight everyone!” I waved toward Anna and Ryan who were talking to one of Penny’s friends.

“Goodnight Addy! Goodnight Junior!” They called with a wave.

“You were something else, Addy.” Junior smiled as we crossed the yard to the beach house.

“Yeah I can barely feel my sunburn now! Maybe I am numb from the Jello shots!” I laughed as we headed inside. Even though it was after midnight, I wasn’t sleepy at all. I put in a movie and curled up on the couch with Junior. He was worn out from a long day in the sun chasing kids around, and fell asleep almost instantly. I ran my hands through his hair and thought about our future together. I imagined how wonderful life would be. We really were perfect for each other.

“Junior…” I whispered, trying to talk him into heading upstairs to bed. “Junior, wake up.” He wouldn’t budge. “Junior!”


“Let’s go to bed.” I pulled at him, and finally he sleepily followed me upstairs.

“I love you, Addy.” he mumbled as he closed his eyes.

“I love you, too.” I smiled. I couldn’t believe that the perfect man had just wandered into my life. Lying in bed with a man was new to me. Everything about this experience was new to me. I couldn't get over the wonderful reality that I was now faced with. Within a matter of days, my life changed for the better.

For some reason as I curled up beside Junior and watched him sleep, I thought of Father. All the years that I blamed him for something he hadn't even done in the first place. All of the hate that was boiling within my veins for him had finally cooled. I wanted to apologize, I wanted to meet the real Robert Banks and forget the monster that I had created in my head. I wanted my Daddy back. I wasn't sure where to start, but I had to start. In order to love Junior fully, I had to learn to love the man who gave me life. The burning that was now creeping back into my skin could never compare to the pain that I had caused Father. Again, I was thankful for the stinging pain because it reminded me that Junior was more than just a dream, and that the Father I spent my life hating had actually only been a nightmare. One that I was ready to wake up from. 

Her Secrets & Mine - Chapter Forty Five

Anna’s bra was stuffed as usual, and I couldn’t help but glance down at my own flat chest. She pranced around the house, pretending that they were real. “What are you doing?” I asked, wrinkling my face to show my disdain.

“I’m going to be Miss America someday,” Anna, even at eleven was completely sure of herself. She did a turn and slung her hair over her shoulder with the confidence of a real pageant contestant. “I need to get the walk down pat.”

“Maybe you’ll have real boobs by then.” I smiled snidely.

“Maybe you will too.” Anna stuck her tongue out at me.

“Let me try those things on.” I reached for her training bra and she crossed her arms over her chest, cat like reflexes.

“Get your own!”

I pulled my adidas tennis shoes from my feet and peeled the damp socks off. They left red ridges on my feet and legs. I rolled the white socks up into a perfect little ball and stuffed them in my shirt. It wouldn’t be the first time I had put socks in my under clothes! The mounds looked funny and Anna and I laughed.

“Too tight.” Anna reached into my shirt and fixed the shape, stuffing them back in proudly. “Va va voom!”

I stood up and pranced around like I had seen Anna do. She whistled and clapped. We tip-toed down the hall toward Mama’s room. We wanted to see if she would notice my newly endowed figure. “You go first!” I whispered.

Anna slung open the door and sashayed in. Penny, who was down for our Miss America Viewing Party that night, was consoling Mama. Mama had tears streaming down her face. She looked down right miserable.

“What’s wrong Mama?” Anna asked, forgetting about our game.

“Nothing honey, nothing.” Mama wiped her face and sat down on the bed. I knew exactly what was wrong. Father had done something to her! I should have known that she would find out about what he and Maria had done in the study. I pulled a sock from my shirt and threw it against the wall before running out. I was going to give Father a piece of my mind!

I searched the house for him, but he was nowhere to be found. I ran out onto the porch and saw that he was gathering flowers in the garden. “What are you doing?” I yelled as I stomped over.

“Making bouquets for the party tonight! I thought you and Anna would want to feel like Miss America.” Father smiled broadly, ignoring the anger in my voice. “I was going to surprise you, but I also bought tiaras.”

I wanted to be mad at Father, but as usual he was being too nice for me to scream at. Just as I found the meanest words that I had inside of me, Anna came out onto the lawn behind me. She didn’t know about Father and Maria, so I choked back the words. I gave him a dirty look and told Anna about his surprise.

“Oh Daddy!” Anna took the flowers that he had gathered and gushed about how we could wrap them in tissue paper and tie ribbon around them. “You are the sweetest Daddy in the world!”

Father looked at me sadly and then glanced down at my shirt. I realized that I still had one sock stuffed in my bra, and ran off in embarrassment. I hated him for hurting my Mama, hated him for being so thoughtful, and hated myself for ever walking in on him with the maid in the first place.


“There she is, Miss America…” Penny sang as Anna and I made a big debut. A fresh pair of socks were propped inside my frilly dress and my feet shook as I tried to balance in a pair of Mama’s heels. Anna, who was used to walking in painful shoes already, did a spin and flashed a plastic well-practiced smile.

Mama laughed and applauded as Father came over, handed us our bundles of flowers, and placed shiny gem stone tiaras on our heads. I didn’t meet his eyes, instead I kept my gaze fixed on Mama. She could have been Miss America if she had wanted.

We ate junk food and commented on the contestants. Of course, Miss South Carolina was our favorite! Father eventually had enough and headed upstairs to watch something less girly. Mama hugged his neck and gave him a kiss goodnight. I wondered why she would want to kiss the man who had made her cry only a few hours before.

“Good night, Addy.” Father adjusted my crown and smiled. “Good night, Anna.”

“Goodnight, Daddy!” she said, not taking her eyes off of the TV.

A commercial came on and Penny informed us that it was time for us to perform our talents! I wasn’t in the mood to perform, but had already agreed to. “Up first,” Mama announced, “Anna Belle Banks!”

Anna stood up, adjusted her dress, and steadied herself before gulping in a big mouth full of air and singing the national anthem. She sounded okay, but I knew I could out-sing her! Anna screeched out her final note and we all clapped and cheered as she took a big dramatic bow.

“Our next contestant is Adeline Mae Banks.” Penny sounded like a real MC.

I stood up, prepared to sing, but decided to tell jokes instead. “How do you kill a dumb blonde?”

Penny’s hand flew to her blonde locks as she asked “How?”

“Put a scratch and sniff sticker at the bottom of a swimming pool!” I grinned.

They all laughed, but Penny poked our her lip and braced herself for the next joke.

“Why did the dumb blonde get fired from the M & M factory?”

“Why?” Anna exclaimed

“She ate all of the Ws!” I couldn’t help but giggle at the thought of someone doing this.

Mama and Anna, who were as brunette as it comes, laughed loudly. Penny tried not to laugh, but couldn‘t help herself.

“Last but not least… How did the dumb blonde burn her ear?”

“How?” Penny raised her fists jokingly.

“The phone rang while she was ironing!” I smiled, took a little bow, and settled back in on the couch beside Mama just in time for the pageant to come back on.

“Hey Addy,” Penny sat up and looked at me, “You’re hair is blonde too!”

I hadn’t thought of that!