“Sleep well?” Penny’s eyebrows danced up and down with insinuation. She set my plate in front of me and I attacked it like a wild dog. I hadn’t had a single bite to eat since the French toast from the diner. A full mouth was a good excuse not to answer her inquiry.
“We need to talk…” I took a big gulp of orange juice to wash my breakfast down. Penny’s eyes darted to the stack of letters on the counter. “Not about the letters, I haven’t read any more.”
“Oh,” Penny looked a little embarrassed.
“I don’t think anything Mama could write would surprise me now!” I laughed. “Anyway, I was just thinking about my apartment in Boston… I can’t expect the super to keep feeding the cats and I am sure there are a ton of bills piling up-- not to mention my job.”
“We can make arrangements and have it all taken care of, don’t worry.” Penny was used to setting things in motion, and didn’t see any reason why she couldn’t just send someone up to Boston to pick up Lennon and McCartney and to pay my bills.
“I don’t know, I just wonder how much longer I should stay.” I hadn’t really thought it over, but I couldn’t stay at the beach house forever.
“Your Mama left you this house, you know. She bought it with her own money and it is your’s now.” Penny reminded.
“But I can’t hide out here forever…”
“You aren’t hiding out. You are experiencing life! For the first time by the way. Besides, how could you leave Junior?” Penny knew exactly what to say. “You have more letters to read, you know the deal! Forget about Boston until you are finished with those. I’ll make arrangements to get your cats taken care of as well as your bills.”
“You sure you don’t mind?” There was no arguing with that.
“Not one bit. Oh, forgot to tell you! I bought a house yesterday!” Penny mentioned buying a house like it was a new pair of shoes or something else that you bought every little while.
“A house? Are you leaving me?” I knew I couldn’t do it alone, even with Junior around.
“Not leaving you, just giving you a little space. I bought the cottage next door. That’s where I went yesterday morning!” Penny seemed excited.
“The green one?” I had always liked the little green house next door, it was quaint and cozy. “What will I eat?”
“Oh, honey! We’re neighbors!”
“I don’t know about this, Penny.” I felt abandoned.
“Oh it will be fine, you’ll see. The house came furnished! You can scoot on over there and see it if you want!” She set the key on the counter and went back to loading the dish washer.
After helping Penny lug her bags over to her new place, I curled up in front of the TV. It was a dreary day, so I didn’t bother heading out onto the beach. The green cottage next door was adorable. It was just enough space and was very charming. Penny wasn’t abandoning me after all, she was just giving me some room to breathe and some privacy with Junior. I thought about all the times that Penny had vowed to find me a summer romance and realized that she finally had!
Junior was running a few errands and promised to pick dinner up and bring it over. I couldn’t wait to see him again, and couldn’t get his kisses out of my mind. He was too good to be true, but he was true. Not only was he handsome, but he was kind, gentle, smart, and perfect. He was everything I had never dared to imagine would find me.
I was alone for the first time since reading Father’s letter. I didn’t want to think about it yet, but had to. I had to face the fact that I spent my life hating a man who hadn’t done anything to begin with. I spent my life worshiping a false idol, who was really the one who was being unfaithful. It was a huge shock, and I didn’t know how to handle it! Should I apologize to Father? Should I hate Mama? I didn’t know where to start.
Penny called and informed me that she had already made arrangements to have my cats sent down and had paid all of my bills. I didn’t know what I would do without Penny. Penny remained Mama’s loyal friend, even after her death. She never ceased to amaze me, first she bought a house and moved into it instantly and next she managed to solve problems that would have taken me weeks to fix.
I looked over at the letters, knowing that the next one would be from Mama. I couldn’t, for the first time in my life, fathom reading a letter from Mama. I had not come to terms with it yet, and was not ready for her to apologize to me, as she would, in her next letter. I didn’t hate Mama, I just felt overwhelmingly guilty for hating Father for so long and had no earthly idea how to fix it.
Junior and I sat on the back patio watching the flicker of bon fires scattered along the shore. I wondered what it would feel like to be young and carefree, sipping a beer, and picking on my friends. I wondered if I would have been a more functional human being had I not spent most of my life loathing Father and shielding Mama. Maybe my shy spell would have worn off, maybe under different circumstances I would have made friends.
“Hello neighbor!” Penny waved from her patio, she had a scarf tied around her hair and was beating rugs out. Even though the cottage had simple and tasteful décor, Penny could not stand the thought of living in someone else’s germs. She would probably be up all night long cleaning.
“Hi!” I called, blowing her a kiss.
“I’m having a housewarming party Friday night! Hope you’ll come!” Penny used everything as an excuse to throw a party. I wondered what her ritzy friends would think of her humble abode.
“Wouldn’t miss it!” Junior called, tipping his beer bottle in her direction with a smile. We watched as Penny wrestled the giant rug back in the house and giggled. “Addy, what kind of news did you get yesterday? I saw that you had a letter in your hand.”
I thought about it for a second not knowing quite how to approach it. I didn’t know where to begin, didn’t know how much he could handle, and had no idea if I could hold it together long enough to make any sense.
“When I was a little girl,” I began, “I thought I had a good reason to hate my Father. When Mama died, she left me a bundle of letters to read. Yesterday’s letter was proof that I hadn’t had a good reason to hate him after all.”
“So you don’t hate him anymore?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so, but it is a hard emotion to reverse. I still hate him until I remember that I have no reason to. I don’t know how long it will take to get past it.” I didn’t want to hate Father anymore.
“I guess after you feel a certain way for so long, you almost don’t even remember why…” Junior tried to make sense of what I had told him.
“Sort of. I mean I remembered why, but it became something bigger than me. The hate consumed me and made me change to accommodate it. Now I just have to figure out who I am without it, I guess.”
“Thank you, Addy. I know it can’t be easy to talk about.” Junior reached over and took my hand in his. I felt comfortable telling him things that other people probably wouldn’t understand. He didn’t understand it fully, but he tried. He didn’t discount the things that weighed heavy in making me who I was. He was eager for more, but I had said all that I could say.
“Someday I’ll tell you all the dirty little details, but right now they are too fresh and too raw.” I was still digesting the last twenty-eight years of my life and making sense of my misconceptions.
“Someday... I like the sound of that.”
“Me too.” For the first time, I was ready to imagine myself as Junior’s wife. “Oh God!” I exclaimed.
“What? What’s wrong?” Junior sat up straighter, hoping to protect me from whatever was upsetting me.
“I just realized that my name would be Adeline Banks Hanks!” I covered my eyes and laughed. Junior laughed too. He couldn't protect me from that! As if it wasn’t bad enough to be falling in love with a full-grown man named Junior, now I had rhyming name to come to terms with. “I might just need therapy after all!”