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.
“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.
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.