“How are you holding up?” Penny was on the phone with my father. I listened to one end of the conversation and could see that they were good friends. Penny cared about his well-being. Again the nagging question reentered my mind-- Had they slept together? I pushed the thought away and headed over to the letters. I felt Penny’s eyes follow me across the room as I held the stack in my hands and made my way out to the patio to read my first daily dose of Mama. It was time.
My Dearest Addy,
You are away in Boston creating a new life for yourself, and I am so proud of you. I came across your piece on the Vietnam War Veterans yesterday and cried for nearly an hour. You are such a talented and beautiful young woman. I just wish you knew it.
I am writing you this letter because I have a lot to say but not a lot of time left. I don’t quite know where to start. For lack of anywhere better, I’ll start at the beginning. Do you remember that time that you wrote me a poem? You were maybe eight. The one I framed and put in the hall? I was writing a letter and you came into my room and asked for a sheet of paper. I put my letter aside and never finished it. I’m glad I didn’t finish it. Honey, that letter was to your Daddy. I was going to leave him. In your own little way you stopped me and made me think twice. In your own little way, you saved our marriage.
I know you haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with your Daddy, and I am partly to blame, but I want you to know that he is a wonderful man. He loves you and your sister more than the very air he breathes. Do me a favor and give him a chance. God knows he’s waited patiently for one.
All for now and all my love,
I read the letter three times. I analyzed every word and every single phrase. I thought back to the day that I wrote the poem for her. What would my life have been like if she had left my father? What would her life have been like? What, what, what. Would Mama have found a faithful husband? Would she have had more kids? Would Father have married Maria?
My mind was buzzing with questions and possibilities. I wanted to tear into the other letters, but knew I had to follow the rules and only read one. Mama spoke so highly of my father. Maybe she never knew about his philandering. Maybe she just thought I hated him for some unknown reason. Maybe she thought it was a phase. Maybe I should heed her advice and give him a chance. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
The letter left me with more questions than answers. I wasn’t sure what I had expected from it, but it was definitely not this. Penny came out on the patio and patted me on the head. I looked up at her and half smiled. I knew she could help me forget about the questions that were flooding my mind. “Want to watch a movie?”
“Sure,” a visible sense of relief washed over her. “Only if I can pick!”
I realized that Penny had no idea what the letters said. She seemed to be waiting for me to discover something-- some truth or major epiphany. As we settled in to watch West Side Story, I slid a little further away from her than usual. I had a feeling that one day my daily dose would make her my enemy. I was now almost certain that Penny had slept with Father.