“It was amazing.” I ploppd down beside her and realized that I was grinning from ear to ear. I hadn’t stopped smiling for long since meeting Junior, and this was quite a change for me. Especially so soon after losing my Mama.
“What did you do?” Penny might as well have asked what she wanted, I knew she was just killing time until she could ask what she really wanted to know.
“We didn’t kiss.” I poked her ribcage, causing her to smudge her eyeliner.
“Well then, what did you do?” Penny wiped the black streak away and started again.
“We watched Harvey.” I thought back to our night of cuddling on the couch. I assumed that most men would have tried to kiss a girl under those circumstances, but Junior wasn’t just some man. He was an amazing man!
“Had he seen it before?”
“Yes, he and I share the same taste in movies.” I smiled, thinking back to our conversation about the egg and onion sandwich. I would definitely have to make him one sometime.
“He’s an old soul too. Perfect match.” Penny set her makeup bag on the coffee table and headed over to the stack of letters. “Going read a letter today? I think it's time.”
“I hadn’t thought about it. I might.” I didn’t feel like reading more about how great Father was and how much I had to learn. I wanted to bask a little longer in the afterglow of a wonderful night with Junior.
“I’ll set them here, I’m running late already.” She set the letters on the arm of the couch beside me.
“No breakfast?” I was a bit confused. Penny nearly always made me breakfast.
“Not today, Addy. I’ve got an appointment to keep.” And with that she was gone. I looked over at the letters, and knew that it wasn’t the right time. Especially on an empty stomach. I threw on some clothes, tucked the letters in my purse, and headed to the diner at the corner for a warm breakfast.
“French toast and black coffee.” I sat down in a booth alone, something I had grown quite accustomed to over the years. The letters were on my mind and I couldn’t help but wonder why Penny wanted me to read one today, usually she was patient and encouraged me to take them at my own pace.
My food came, but I wasn’t hungry at all anymore. I was too consumed by thoughts of the letters to enjoy my French toast, so I slid my plate out of my way and unearthed the letters from my purse. I carefully opened te envelope and unfolded my fourth daily dose. Immediately I saw that the handwriting in the letter was not Mama’s. My eyes shot to the bottom and saw Father’s “R” at the bottom. He was known for signing everything with a cursive “R” for Robert. I felt a surge of anger rise in me, these were not supposed to be letters from him! He wasn’t dead! These were Mama’s letters. I folded the letter back sloppily and crammed it in my purse, grabbing my plate of French toast and gobbling it down. I didn’t need a letter from Father. Why did he want to ruin a perfectly good daily dose?
By the time I finished my breakfast and downed three cups of coffee, I realized that my attitude was going against everything I had learned from the first letters. Mama wanted me to give him a chance, she wanted me to see that he was not defined by his mistakes anymore than I was defined by my own mistakes. I took a deep breath and pulled the crumpled letter back out. It was something that I had to do whether I liked it or not.
Your Mama is not feeling well today and insisted that I take the chance to write you instead. I don’t suspect that you are too thrilled about opening a letter from me and I apologize. If it were up to me, I would just write to you and tell you that I’m sorry for the things that you know about me. You have every right to hate me and every reason to hate me. I ruined my chance of staying close with you a long time ago and have kicked myself every single day for it. But, unfortunately your Mama has given me something to write about, something that for some unknown reason she thinks you deserve to know.
This isn’t easy for me, but I really don’t have much of a choice. So, here goes… When you were just a little girl, I adored your Mama. I still adore her to this day, but we have really faced some trials together. I began to suspect that she was cheating on me, it was just a feeling, but I finally got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I think you were around four years old when I finally confronted her about the suspicions and to my surprise and heartbreak, the suspicions were confirmed. She admitted that she had a lover and that even though she loved me, that she was falling in love with someone else as well. This shattered me. I left for three months until finally your Mama convinced me to come home to her. She told me that she would try to avoid her lover, break things off, and would recommit herself to our marriage if I would just give her a second chance. She loved me, I knew she did, and so I came back. I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from you and Anna any longer-- I swallowed my pride and forgave her.
I know this can’t be easy to read, but I am laying it all on the line because Julianne has asked me to. I love her so. I really do. When you were around seven years old, your Mama came to me with a proposition. She requested that we open our marriage and allow each other to sleep with other people. I was stunned, yet intrigued by the chance to stay with her while experiencing other women as well. After much deliberation, I agreed. We promised that neither of us would ever ask questions or ever allow ourselves to get jealous and fight about the arrangement. We loved each other, and that was going to be enough to see us through no matter what came our way. I was handed the opportunity to live many men's fantasy-- I had a beautiful and amazing wife, but could also indulge in a variety of different women without feeling guilty. I had permission!
I’m sure you remember lots of weekends without your Mama around, I always told you she was off shopping with Penny, but the truth is that she was usually with her lover instead. If it were up to me, I would never have told you this. Please believe me! I spent many years trying to cover for her so that you would believe that I was the only one who had let you down, but I have to fulfill her last wishes whether I agree with telling you these things or not.
I spent many many years watching your Mama head out to long weekends with her lover, and for the longest time never allowed myself to stray. It just didn’t seem right and I figured that if my own wife needed another man, that I must not be that good at it anyway. When I finally got up the courage, it was with Maria and you my dear walked in during foreplay. I am so sorry that you had to see what you saw, and I have regretted it every single moment since. I didn’t allow myself to give into the temptation again until another five years had passed, and unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it) it was at the fourth of July party where I came storming into your bedroom with Mrs. Watson. I hated myself both times for almost betraying your Mama, and for ruining your life. I take full responsibility for your view of men and your hate for me. I wasn’t good at sneaking around and unfortunately you became a victim of the whole situation.
I want to take this chance to formally apologize to you. I want to say how sorry I am that you had to see the things that you saw, feel the things you felt, and have to read this now. I tried my best to keep you from knowing about Julianne’s affairs, and in the meantime exposed my own flaws. I’m sorry and I hope to God that you can eventually move past it. This is no reason to change your view of your dear sweet Mama. I love her so and she loves me, regardless of the choices that we made. I want you to realize that we all make mistakes, and no matter what that we all deserve second chances.
Forgive me for all that I have done, and please even if you can’t forgive me, forgive your Mama. It is one of the last wishes that she will ever make and she loves you so.
With love and deep regret,
“Ma’am! Are you okay?” The waitress ran over to my booth and put her hand on my arm. I was sobbing uncontrollably, harder than I had ever cried in my entire life. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t breath.
“Someone call 9-1-1, now!” she ordered.
“No, I’m okay.” I gasped for air. “Outside.” I stumbled out onto the sidewalk and collapsed to my knees. I tried to calm down but I couldn’t. I didn’t have control of myself or my emotions. Everything I had ever believed about anything in life was a lie. Mama was a lie. Mama was a lie. Oh my God! Mama was a lie.
Once I finally caught my breath, I screamed at the top of my lungs. I had never screamed so loud in my entire life. The waitress who was crouching down beside me covered her ears. My eyes were wild, my body was trembling, and the letter was a tiny ball inside my fist. “Ma’am, breakfast is on us. I’ll go get your bag.” She was probably risking her job by helping the crazy woman who was losing it, and would probably have to pay for my breakfast out of her tips, but none of that occurred to me at the time. I didn’t acknowledge anything she had said. I just cried.
More tears than I ever thought possible poured from my eyes. More pain that I could have ever imagined ripped through my soul. I was broken and bleeding for the whole world to see. I rocked back and forth screaming. I couldn’t control myself. I couldn’t stop and didn't want to. Screaming was the only way to keep myself from facing the truths that were crowding my brain.
“Addy?” Junior threw his surf board down, swept me into his arms, took my purse from the frightened waitress, and ran full speed toward the beach house. A tiny part of me felt safer in his arms, but the rest of me felt like the world was ending. And in a way, it was.