Reunion Story – Part 8 THE CONCLUSION

Sorry I’ve been a slacker posting lately, but I started my new job last week, so my head has been a carousel of excitement, stress and a bunch of other things. Anyway, I’m hoping the conclusion (yes, finally!) to the reunion story makes up for it.

Read Part 7 HERE.

I skipped my high school reunion to have dinner with the girl next door on the pier.

Actually, first we started to go to dinner, then she threw my cell phone into a forest, then I went to the reunion, then she punched the guy I hated most in high school, and then we got pizza. I’m not sure, but I think that probably qualifies as one of the most unusual high school reunion stories.

I stared at Keri while she we sat there eating pizza (from Luigi’s, of course). The reflection of the moon and stars floated on the water below us. She pulled another slice from the cardboard box.

“You know what’s crazy?” she said, pointing the tip of the slice in my direction.

“What?”

“I have these friends, and they’re perfectly normal in almost every way, except for the way they eat pizza,” she said. She nodded at me, completely serious.

“What’s wrong with the way they eat pizza?” I said.

She took a bite of her slice. “You see how I crease it in the middle? I fold the slice over? They don’t do that.”

“What do you mean?” I said. I picked up a slice and held it in my hands, watching Keri.

She un-creased her slice of pizza, holding it tenderly, making sure it was perfectly straight, rigid. “They keep it flat, like this. For the entire time.”

I laughed. “What’s so bad about that?”

She smiled and her eyes narrowed. “Try it. Try eating the slice without bending it at all.”

I tried and she watched, giggling at my actions.

“You look like you’re eating corn on the cob!” she laughed. “It’s not normal!”

After we finished the pizza, we stayed on the pier, talking about college and life after college, and how time flies, and laughing about high school. We talked about the teachers we missed the most and we talked about our jobs and bosses. I talked about my mom, and I told her what my dad had shown me that afternoon.

“Oh,” she said. She rested her chin in her hand and looked up at me, her expression a mixture of emotions.

“Yeah.”

“So that was the whole thing? That’s why you guys were acting so strange?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh,” she said again.

“Yeah,” I sighed. I watched the water bob up and down in the moonlight. I thought about that binder of information and how my dad had held on to it so that he could show me everything today. I shrugged.

Keri reached over and put her hand on my arm. “I don’t know what to say,” she whispered.

“Yeah,” I whispered back.

I dropped Keri off at her house and pulled into the driveway. I saw Tom watering some flowers near the edge of his driveway. I turned the car off and walked over.

“You’re out late,” I said.

“Don’t tell Ann,” he said. “I give them a little extra water at night. I don’t like Ann out here in the middle of the day when it’s so hot, so I try to get some of the watering done while she’s asleep.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re kidding, right?”

Tom shook his head. “How was the big reunion?”

“Well, funny you should mention that. We sort of skipped most of it,” I said. I filled Tom in on the whole story from the flinging of the cell phone to the punching of Jimmy Paige. Tom laughed through all of it.

“So you accomplished all of the tasks on the list?” he said.

I nodded.

He smiled. “They were good ones, if I do say so myself.”

I stared at him, my mouth dropping open. “Wait – you said you didn’t know…”

“I said that I’d never seen Ann with those notes, and I never have,” Tom said, smiling.

I sat down on the curb in shock while my mind raced backwards to those few years in my early teens when I found those notes in the hole in the mailbox. I never would have guessed that Tom was the one behind it.

“You were such a quiet kid,” Tom said. “Even before I married Ann and moved in here, I would notice you sitting on your front porch. You seemed like you didn’t like the entire world. You weren’t angry, just … withdrawn. I wanted you to have a little fun in your life. Something that would give you a spark of hope and excitement.”

“You made me clean my room,” I pointed out. “That was less about hope and excitement.”

“Yeah, well,” Tom shrugged. “Kids always need some instruction on that front, too.”

I shook my head. “I had almost convinced myself the notes were from my mother, until this weekend… And even then, I think a part of me harbored some fantasy that the notes were from the great beyond or something,” I laughed at how stupid I felt and looked up at Tom.

He stood there, still watering the flowers. “I ruined the mystery, huh?”

I shook my head again and bit back any emotions that fought their way through my throat and eyes.

“Your mom,” he said quietly. “She was a special woman.”

He said it because in that moment it had to be said, but he also said it because it was true. The emotions broke through and I leaned my head down.

Keri was right: we have friends and we have family, and then we have a special amalgam of the two that she called a forever friend. These are the people that know me and know my history and they know what I need to hear. Just as Keri was a forever friend (whether I liked it or not), so was Tom.

I wiped at my eyes and stood up. Tom turned off the hose and looked at me. “Your mom was special,” he repeated. “Your father is, too. And he’s still here. He’s an amazing man to take care of your family the way he has. You need to hear that.”

He watched me for a second, until I nodded, and then he walked into his house.

***

The next morning I woke up early and went downstairs. I made scrambled eggs and toast, and brewed some coffee. My dad came trotting down the stairs as I set our plates on the table.

“I could smell the food upstairs,” he said, his eyes wide with surprise. “I thought someone had broken in.”

I laughed. “It’s just a way to say thanks for putting up with me this weekend while I’m back in town. And… just to say thanks.”

He beamed. We sat down and ate breakfast and talked about the Giants. Then, when we were done talking about sports, I listened to my dad tell stories about Jim’s kids. And then he listened to my stories about work.

After breakfast, I walked over to Keri’s house and knocked on the door. She answered, wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

“You planning on going to the beach thing today?” I asked her. The reunion last night was only the beginning of the weekend’s activities. We were supposed to meet at the high school and caravan to the shore, then spend the late afternoon and early evening having a barbecue in the park. It would be torture.

“Not on your life!” Keri laughed. She leaned over and grabbed some shoes. We walked down her lawn, crossed the street and stood at my car.

“What do you feel like doing?” I said. I hopped in the Corvette.

She got in by climbing over her door and stepping on the passenger seat.

“I don’t care,” she said, pulling her hair into a ponytail. “Let’s just take this fancy car out for a drive!”

I backed out of the driveway, and we were off. It was just the beginning.

THE END (is not the end).

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Reunion Story – Part Six

Read Part 5 here.

I closed the binder and ran my hand over the cover. “Why now, Dad?”

He rubbed at his eyes. His hair was grayer than I remember. He’d aged in between my visits home. He looked like my grandfather did, and I had to remind myself that he was now a grandfather.

“I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to be completely honest with you, Sam,” my father said. “My excuses won’t erase or explain our actions, but I promise you that at the time, we thought we were doing you a favor by keeping her illness a secret.”

He reached over and flipped open the binder. He pointed to a date at the top of the page. It was the August before my freshman year of college.

“The first appointment where we heard the word cancer,” my father said. “Just days before you left for school. Of course, we hoped and prayed it was a fluke, that a second opinion would change everything.”

He turned to another page: two weeks later. “It didn’t. The prognosis was bad. She started chemo quickly.”

I remembered. I was busy navigating the campus, meeting new friends, going to parties, taking tests. But I knew that something was wrong at home. Every time I called she sounded sick. Every time she spoke into the phone, she sounded weaker. Things happened so quietly and slowly that when I came home, it just seemed normal for her to spend most of the time in bed, or for her and my dad to go out for hours and her to come back looking exhausted.

I sat there with my father for hours as we shuffled through the binder and he filled me in on everything. I heard more than a person should ever hear about chemo and losing hair and vomiting blood. But I’d asked for it, and he was finally giving it to me.

It took two and a half years for the cancer to eat away at my mother. They only told me right before my junior year, when it was impossible to hide it anymore. I knew there was something wrong – she was sick all the time and her skin and hair looked wrong. When they finally told me, I was so angry at the secrets they kept that I wanted nothing to do with either of my parents. I stayed away from them as long as I could.

My father put the binder away in a file cabinet when we finished and came back to where I sat.

“Part of the reason for not telling you was that we were in denial, I guess,” he said. “We thought we could handle it, cover it up and cure it before you ever needed to know.”

He shook his head and shrugged. “We were wrong.”

I sat anchored to my chair. Now I had the facts, but I still wasn’t happy. The weight of anger and resentment still fell on my shoulders.

“Okay,” I said, finally standing up. My father looked up at me, waiting for some sort of absolution.

“Okay,” was all I could muster. “Okay,” I repeated once more.

Then I went upstairs.

Keri knocked on my bedroom door at 6:15.

“Your dad let me in,” she said.

“Shit,” I said, sitting up in my bed. “I think I fell asleep.”

I rubbed my eyes. “I – I’ll be down in a second. I just need to change.” I took a good look at her. She had some shiny thing in her hair to pull it away from her face, but it still streamed around her shoulders. Her dress was blue and so was a tiny purse she carried. Her shoes were those heels that I never could imagine her wearing in high school. The look suited her.

Keri nodded once, but her eyes held concern. I probably looked like I was run over by a steamroller.

I put on a clean, pressed shirt and a nice tie. I changed my jeans to a less wrinkled pair. Casual but nice, not looking like I was trying too hard. I’d spent years crafting the “not trying too hard” look. I ran my fingers through my hair and splashed water on my face to chase the sleep away.

I checked the note again – my strange tasks for this weekend.

Breakfast with dad on porch

Lunch with neighbor in piano room

Dinner with girl next door on pier

“These dumb errands,” I said, crumbling it into a tiny wad. The tasks hadn’t given me any clue to the identity of the note-writer and it hadn’t done anything to improve my weekend. If anything, I had wasted my entire day leading up to the reunion performing the first two tasks. The final task was dinner with Keri on the pier. I would get it over with, leave town and never think about the notes or the note-writer ever again.

I went downstairs. Keri was sitting with my father at the kitchen table.

“Pizza sound good to you?” I asked her, avoiding my father’s eyes. She nodded and stood.

“Bye Mr. Lancey, we’ll see you later,” she said. My dad nodded without speaking. Keri glanced at me, but I turned away. She followed me out the front door and to my car. She said nothing while I started the car and lowered the convertible top. She was silent while I steered out of the neighborhood.

“Okay, what’s going on?” she finally said. I shrugged and shifted gears, picking up speed now that we were away from the residential roads. “You and your dad are normally pretty quiet, but you were both downright shifty tonight. You wouldn’t talk to or look at each other. You’re acting like you were conspirators in some heist or something.”

“Nope, no crime,” I muttered. “Where’s the best pizza?”

“Luigi’s,” Keri said. She folded her arms. “You’re not going to tell me what’s up?”

I focused on the road. “Not Villa Pizza?”

She shook her head. “Luigi’s,” she repeated. “Off Route 34. Okay, you don’t have to tell me now, but if you keep acting like we’re carrying WMDs in the trunk of your car, I’m going to bring it up again.”

I swung the car into a hard u-turn. “Villa is better,” I said. Keri shook her head and sighed.

“What?” I said. “Give it up. It’s none of your business.”

She swiveled in her seat and stared at me, her face a storm of anger. “Pull over,” she said.

Her voice was icy enough to make me follow her instructions immediately. I pulled the Corvette off to the side of the road. We were on a two-lane road, empty except for trees and more trees bordering either side of the lane.

“This is where you’re wrong, Sam,” Keri said. Her words were spiked and pointed. “You are my business. I’ve known you since we were born and maybe we weren’t the best of friends all the time, but we’re forever friends. We’re the type of people that can always rely on each other. I know your past – I know you ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day in elementary school, and I know how much it hurt you when your mom died. There are things that happen to us as kids that mold us into the adults we become, and not only do we know each other’s things but we were there when they happened. So don’t tell me that something is none of my business.”

She unbuckled herself and pulled herself up so she was sitting on passenger door. She swiveled herself around and stepped out onto the street. She turned around to face me once more, “And you’re also wrong about the pizza. Luigi’s is much better.”

She started to walk. There was a forest of trees behind her.

“Keri,” I said, tired of this day, this weekend. “Get back in the car.”

She shook her head. She took a few more steps in those crazy high heels. She wasn’t going to get very far.

“You’re being so stubborn.” I tapped the accelerator to pull beside her. She continued to walk without looking at me. “This is like that time in sixth grade that you refused to drink the milk in school because you wanted the Board of Education to invest in a cow farm. It’s ridiculous. You can’t walk to the reunion.”

She stopped and turned to me. “You’re proving my point. You know that I’m stubborn because of something that happened in sixth grade.”

My cellphone rang. It was Freddie. I sighed and picked it up, still staring at Keri. She rolled her eyes.

“What’s going on, Freddie?”

“You on your way to the reunion, bro?”

“Yeah, I’m working on it.”

“I cannot believe you,” Keri said. “I can’t believe you’re taking a call.”

“Who’s that?” Freddie said.

“My neighbor,” I said. “We’re supposed to be getting dinner and then be on our way to the reunion.”

“Unbelievable,” Keri muttered. “It’s like you always have something to prove.” She began to walk again. I kept the Corvette at a steady, slow pace beside her.

“It she hot?” Freddie said.

I sighed. “This is not really the time, Freddie.”

Keri snorted.

“Is she mad or something?” Freddie said.

I paused long enough for my silence to give him the answer.

“Let me talk to her,” Freddie said.

“No way,” I said.

“No seriously, man. I’m extremely charming with the ladies. I can smooth things over with just a few simple sentences. Let me work my magic.”

I held the phone out to Keri. “My friend Freddie wants to talk to you.”

She stared at me for a second before grabbing the cellphone from my hand. “You are a piece of work, Sam,” she said. “When are you going to start living your own life? When will your flashy cars and moronic friends stop mattering to you?”

She looked at the phone in her hand. I could hear a tinny voice coming from the speaker. Freddie’s magical words.

She made a face and turned toward the forest of trees behind her.

“Keri, wait,” I said. Too late.

She wound up and tossed the phone into the darkness.

“This is the crap that doesn’t matter, Sam. Get it?” she said. “It’s time to start focusing on the stuff that does.”

TO BE CONTINUED!

Reunion Story: Part 3

Read earlier parts:
Part 1
Part 2

It was just after 10 and the morning air was refreshing. I lowered the top of the Corvette, and was pulling out of the driveway when I heard the familiar slam of the screen door next door. I stopped in front of Keri’s house just as she reached the edge of her lawn. She hopped over the side of the car, stepping on the passenger seat on the way.
“I hope that doesn’t leave a scuff mark,” I muttered.
“Oh, shoot,” she said. She leaned over to look at the bottom of her shoe. “I did just rub my feet around in some manure. Because I’m four years old.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Where are we going?” Keri said.
“Anywhere.”
I drove over to Ann’s house and Keri stayed in the car while I ran up to the front door.
Ann answered.
“Hey. Do you still want to have that coffee? I can come by for lunch today,” I said.
She nodded and peeked past me at Keri in the passenger seat of my car. “And have Keri come, too,” she said.
I nodded and waved goodbye.
I jogged back to the car and slid in the driver’s seat. Keri had found some classic rock radio station and was twisting her hair up into a ponytail.
“Hope you didn’t have lunch plans,” I said, pulling back out onto the street.
“I’m free as a bird,” Keri said.
I drove to the high school and parked in the empty parking lot. The reunion committee had planned a few things that weekend for everyone who was coming back into town, but none of the plans consisted of a tour of the old high school.
“School on Saturday?” Keri said. “You must really be trying to escape something.”
I tried a door and found it open. We walked in. The halls were dark and kind of creepy.
“Ugh, it looks the same,” I said.
“You sound disappointed.”
“It’s just weird. Nothing here has changed. But we have, you know? We could probably come back in twenty years and the only thing that will have changed is that the teachers are older.”
She walked in front of me and ran her hand along the lockers. Some of her wavy hairs had pulled loose from the ponytail from the ride in the convertible, and she brushed them off her neck. She pulled the hair tie out and let all of her hair fall loose down her back.
I remembered that last time I saw her, when we were both home from college. It was the college break when my mother died and took a part of all of us with her. At the memorial service, some college friends rode down to support me. We were in the sanctuary of my church, and Keri walked up, wearing a short, black skirt and a gray sweater. She wore high heels, and I don’t know if it was the grief or what, but I just focused on those shoes. I had never thought Keri was a high heel kind of girl. She’d always worn sneakers and jeans in high school. She came over to me and hugged me. She whispered that she was sorry, and then she walked away, tears in her eyes.
“Who is that?” my friend Jason said at the time, as we all watched her find her parents and sit down.
“We grew up together,” I replied. I looked at her through his eyes, and I saw her differently from the girl I grew up with. She was not that girl anymore, just like I was trying not to be the boy I once was.
I didn’t see her again during that break from school because things were so hectic with relatives and friends coming over to pay their condolences. I avoided coming home after that, opting for summer internships away from home and planning vacations during the shorter breaks.
She stopped in front of a locker and turned to me, smiling. “My locker,” she said.
“Really?” I wondered vaguely if I’d even be able to locate my locker. It was on the second floor, near some science classrooms.
“I bet I can remember the combination,” she said.
“No way.”
She started spinning the built-in combination lock. “Hey, we had to remember this combination over every summer and somehow we did it.” She tugged at the locker door. It didn’t open.
“Take two.” She spun the lock around again, and tugged again. Nothing.
“Third time’s a charm,” she said.
I watched her and thought about that last time, at the memorial service, when she walked up to me and hugged me. I thought about my surprise at seeing her there. I don’t really know why I was so surprised; of course she’d be there for my mom. I looked at her now, concentrating on the numbers, and brushing her hair out of her eyes. Even now, standing in our old high school, dressed in jeans and t-shirt, I would be able to tell that she is a high heel kind of girl. Keri was the girl next door, complete with ponytail and sneakers, who could also turns heads in heels and a dress.
“Got it,” she said, and threw open the locker door. Some loose papers and pens fell to the ground. She picked the papers up. “Alonzo Lopez,” she read. She stuffed them back into the locker.
“I cannot believe you remember your locker combination after ten years.”
“I know! That should have been a game at the reunion, right? I should win something,” she said.
“Okay, let’s keep moving and leave Alonzo and his locker in peace,” I said.
Keri picked the pens up from the ground, and then pulled one of the loose pieces of paper out of the locker again. “Yeah, just a sec. I’m going to leave him a note.”
“You’re joking.”
“No.” She scribbled something down on the paper, and then positioned everything so that only the one paper would fall out when the locker door was opened again.
We walked down the hall to a stairwell.
“What did you write?” I said.
“Clean your locker and tell Mr. Loriczech that K. Free says hi.”
I laughed. “Nice.”
We went to the auditorium and sat in front row, directly in front of the stage.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been here when it was so empty,” I said. I stood and climbed the steps of the stage. I stood directly in the middle, facing Keri and the empty seats of the audience.
“Did you know that I wanted to go out for the school play when we were sophomores?” I said.
“Seriously?” Keri said. “Why didn’t you?”
I shrugged and walked around. I checked out the backstage area behind the curtains. I had never been back there. “I figured football was more of a guy-thing, and musicals were … not.”
“Ohhhh, what was the musical that year…” Keri said.
“Singin’ In The Rain,” I said.
Keri’s eyes were wide and shining. “Gene Kelly! He’s a man’s man. You totally could’ve pulled that off.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, like I would’ve gotten the lead.”
Keri skipped up the steps onto the stage with me. “I bet you could have.” She found some hats backstage and tossed one to me.
I put it on, and jumped up and clicked my heels. We both doubled over with laughter.
We heard a door slam somewhere in the huge auditorium, and we both froze.
“Someone in here?” a man’s voice called out. We both recognized it as Principal Porter’s voice.
Keri grabbed my arm and dragged me backstage and through a series of hallways. We shook with silent laughter the entire way. When I finally caught my breath, I whispered, “Where the hell are we going?”
“This goes to the band room,” Keri whispered back.
When we finally got to the band room, we fell into the small student desks, exhausted from running and stifling our laughter.
“Oh my gosh,” I said, looking around horrified. “Did it always look like this? I feel like I’m in some three-year-old’s nightmare.”
The walls were painted with cartoon characters playing instruments. Keri punched my arm.
“Yes.”
She tried to say something else, but we were already laughing too hard. I felt like a teenager again. My stomach muscles ached that old, good ache that I remember from when Keri and I were kids.
When we finally stopped I leaned over close to her.
“Listen, I have something to tell you,” I said.
She stared at me, her eyes flickering back and forth between mine. “What?”
“It might make you feel uncomfortable.”
She waited.
“Or, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not the right time to tell you…”
Keri bit at her lip, an old nervous habit.
She put her hand on my arm, and leaned in toward me. “What is it?”
“Keri,” I said softly, and leaned in slightly closer. I reached my arm out and stretched it past her. “Mr. Loriczech retired two years ago.”
I pointed at a plaque on the wall with a picture of Mr. Loriczech and the dates of his employment. It hung next to a cartoon illustration of Popeye playing the flute. “Alonzo will have no idea what your note means.”

TO BE CONTINUED…
Read Part FOUR

Reunion Story: Part 2

Read Part 1 here

In the morning while I showered and got dressed, I went over the possibilities for the author of the notes. First, the person would have to know I was in town for the weekend. Unfortunately, that didn’t narrow things down too much. Anyone who graduated with me would know about the ten year reunion. Plus, there was my father, the Frees, Ann, and anybody who had spoken to any of those people recently. Ann said she’d heard from my father that I would be in town, so he probably had told others, as well.
The tasks, however, pointed me to my father, Ann – the only neighbor I knew who had a piano room, and Keri. My father could not be the note-sender. Not only was he asleep when I received this note, but there was also no way that he could have kept it such a secret over the years. Plus, the task-giving thing was not really his style. It was too fun, too creative. It was something my mother would have done to make boring chores seem more exciting. My father just would have ordered us to get the job done.
I didn’t think Keri was really a possibility because she could not have kept the secret for so long, either. Also, though, the timeline just did not match up for the notes to be from her. I started receiving them when I was fourteen, when Keri and I were close friends. But then once high school began, we drifted apart and were in different crowds of friends. We did not really talk much, and there was a time when we even avoided each other. But I still received notes through all of that.
So that left Ann as my prime suspect.
I was downstairs by nine, and I hoped to get a jump on the whole “breakfast with dad” thing but when I entered the kitchen, he was sitting at the table, reading a newspaper and sipping coffee with an empty plate in front of him.
“Oh,” I said, slightly taken aback.
My father snapped shut the newspaper. “Morning, Sammy. What’s on the agenda today – errands for the big reunion tonight?”
The reunion began at 9pm at a bar down the shore. It was the kind of place that we scammed our way into with fake IDs when we were in high school, but now it seemed like a cheesy place for our reunion.
“Not really, no,” I said. I stood in the kitchen and stared at the empty plate in front of my father. There were a few crumbs littered on it, and I wondered if he might still be able to eat, just so I could check the task off the list.
“There’s coffee on the counter,” my father said, pointing. He had noticed my gaze.
“Yeah, thanks.” I poured myself a cup of coffee and then sat down across from my father, who had resumed reading his paper.
“Hey, Dad?”
“Hm?”
I cleared my throat and waited. He looked up from the paper.
“You think we can eat breakfast together on the porch?”
He glanced at the crumb-lined plate and quickly folded the newspaper over it. “Sure, sure,” he said. “Let me just, uh, put on some eggs. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds great,” I said. I got plates and utensils out of the cupboards and set the table on the porch.
Our screened-in porch was one of my mother’s favorite features of the house. She often said that she knew this was the house she wanted when she saw the porch. She and my father bought the house when they were pregnant with me and Jim was a toddler. At the first sign of spring, she insisted we eat dinner on the porch. She always made our last dinner on the porch for the summer into a special occasion, and we would talk about our memories of that summer over a candlelit meal.
My father came in with the eggs. We ate our breakfast and drank the coffee and talked about work and sports. When the food was gone, we sat silently. I looked out into the backyard. Buddy’s old doghouse was off to the left, and on the right side of the yard was the clothesline where my mother hung our clothes out to dry until she was too sick and my father finally bought a dryer.
“I’m glad you came home, Sam,” my father said, breaking through the quiet. “It’s been too long.”
I kept my eyes on the clothesline, and I thought back to pulling up in the driveway yesterday, seeing the rocking chair on the front porch. I thought about our summertime dinner traditions on the porch. I thought about checking the mailbox with my father and discussing the notes, and how my statement to him about thinking that Mom had written the notes seemed to slap him across the face.
“It’s too hard,” I said. “It’s too hard to come back here and see it all. She’s in everything.”
I felt my voice give in and I stopped speaking. My father lowered his head. The secondhand of a clock ticked off the silence.
“I know,” my father said.
I swallowed and spoke again.
“I can’t even walk around without thinking of something. I don’t know how you can stay here.”
My father looked at me, and I shifted my gaze.
“It’s okay to remember, Sammy,” he said.
“No,” I said. “Not for me.”
I stood up and picked up my plate. I walked toward the kitchen, and paused.
“Why didn’t you tell me? How could you let me go so long without knowing?” I couldn’t look at him as I said the words.
He did not respond.
I put my dishes in the dishwasher and went upstairs. I got my keys and wallet and returned to the porch where my father still sat.
“I’m going out. I’ll see you later.”
My father nodded, his eyebrows frayed with grief.

TO BE CONTINUED.