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.