“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.