Oak Island Chapter 17: A big surprise

Oak Island Chapter 17: A big surprise

A Chapter by SweetNutmeg
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A big surprise

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Chapter 17


Leo took care of checking out and the bill while I hurriedly collected our things. Once again I was faced with leaving a room I had rented without being able to sleep in it, feeling glad I hadn't unpacked. I popped the trunk and Leo brought out our luggage.


I'm driving, Cassie. You're too upset.”


I silently nodded, glad to have him here with me, glad to not have to drive. He took my keys and we got in. I had a small part of my mind free enough to feel disappointed we didn't get to have our vacation.


Aunt Pam had said respiratory failure. That sounded pretty permanent and terminal. But...


Leo, what if I have to make a decision? As her power of attorney? What if I have to decide if she will live or die?”


You're getting ahead of yourself, Cassie, getting worked up about disasters that aren't there.”


I don't want to have the power of life and death over my mother.” I began crying.


Cassie, you're jumping to conclusions. You said Aunt Pam said she might have already passed away by the time we get there.”


I wanted to see her alive one last time, but I didn't want to be forced to make decisions. I wanted to see her one last time because there was still a small part of me that hoped, if I could just wring a tiny bit of remorse from my mother, I could undo the damage, the hurt. But that was irrational. No apology could ever make up for 18 years of solid, constant abuse. The hurt would always be there. I couldn't magically make it go away.


And if that was the case, it would be easier if she would just die. I was so full of grief over my lost childhood, I had no room for other feelings. And this was a wild, uncontrollable, wailing grief. I tried to stop my sobbing and couldn't. Leo was driving, couldn't look at me, couldn't hold me, so I wrapped my arms around myself, closed my eyes and let myself feel all there was to feel.


I eventually calmed and sank into a blank place with no feelings. When I looked up, we were about half way home. I realized how fast Leo was driving as we passed another car. We would make record time. It couldn't be fast enough for me. I wished to get this over with.


We arrived at the hospital an hour and a half after we left Oak Island. We quickly found her room number and Leo navigated us. I had somehow put myself back together and could be rational again. I greeted Aunt Pam with a big hug, holding her tight for a moment.


How are you, Aunt Pam?” For once I was the one asking and being solicitous. Aunt Pam looked terrible. “How long have you been here?”


Since six. She's been just hanging on for the last two hours.”


I'm sorry I wasn't here with you. You must be tired. Go sit for a while, get something to drink. Are you hungry? I think the cafeteria is open 24/7.”


I think I'll get some coffee.”


Leo was loitering at a polite distance, looking at a painting. I caught his eye and motioned to him.


Aunt Pam, Leo is here. Leo, can you take Aunt Pam to the cafeteria?”


I realized I had been very selfish throughout all of this and Aunt Pam had borne the brunt of the care and work. I went into the room, not knowing what to expect. My mother looked even smaller, swallowed up by the hospital bed. She had an oxygen mask loosely hanging over her mouth, and all the tubes and wires as before. Maybe more wires, for there were two machines showing numbers and lines. Her eyes were closed. The nurse came in as I was looking at my mother.


How is she?” I asked.


She's comfortable. We are administering fluids and pain killers.” She pointed to the IV bag. “If you want to sit next to her, here's a chair.”


I sat down and looked at my mother. It was hard to believe this small person had caused me so much pain and grief. I felt far away from her and from this distance, she looked harmless. Finally the pity she had asked for welled up in me. I supposed all she wanted was to be happy, like anyone else. However awful she was to me, she must have been miserable too.


I took her hand and said, “Mother, I'm here.” She didn't open her eyes, but her hand gripped mine hard. I didn't know what else to say, so I sat quietly. She took a great rasping breath that seemed to cause her a great deal of effort. I looked at the nurse, who was checking a machine.


She's not in any pain?” I asked.


The nurse turned from her machine and said, “No, she's in no pain.” I must have looked unconvinced because she went on, “It sounds a lot worse to us than it feels for her. Her lung function is so low, she can't clear her lungs of mucus by coughing. But she isn't uncomfortable.” The nurse smiled and left us alone.


We sat together for what seemed a long time, her hand gripping mine. I heard Leo's voice outside the room, then Aunt Pam was next to me, her hand on my shoulder.


Has she said anything?”


No.”


The last thing she said was to ask for you. Thank you for coming, Cassie.”


I still didn't know what to say, so I sat in silence, Aunt Pam's hand on my shoulder, my mother's hand in mine. When her grip relaxed, I let go of mother's hand and got up. I joined Leo in the corridor. He put his arms around me and I hung onto him. I thought I had used up all of my tears on the drive from Oak Island, but more began, silent, hopeless tears. She had been a miserable woman most of her adult life, and made my life miserable. All of that misery collected in one small woman now just made me sad.


The three of us, Leo, Aunt Pam and I, stayed until almost six in the morning, when she passed away, not having said another word.


Then there were all kinds of things to take care of. She left no will but did have a small burial fund, which would help defray costs. I had to choose a funeral home and decide on cremation or burial.


Leo, Aunt Pam and I walked out together, I on wooden legs. I felt far away from my feet and was thankful they were doing what I told them to do. Aunt Pam got in her car and drove away. Instead of getting into my Camry, I leaned against it and hugged Leo. The weather was warm and it was a sunny day, but I couldn't seem to get warm.


You're cold. Let's get you home.” Leo took the keys from me and I went around to the passenger's side. When we got to my place, I felt like a sleep walker. All I wanted to do was lie down.


Cassie,” Leo said. He repeated himself when I didn't answer. Finally I took in that he wanted to talk to me.


Cassie, when was the last time you ate?”


I shrugged.


You need to eat something. I'll fix you some soup.”


Soon I was presented with a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup. I became more aware after I got a few spoonfuls in me. It was warm and soothing. I finished the soup and started eating the sandwich Leo set down in front of me. I was quite hungry.


Seeing that I was a bit more alert, Leo spoke to me. “You have to remember to eat. Anita left some beef stew, and Janine dropped off a chicken casserole. Do you need to go to the grocery store?”


I had emptied out my fridge in anticipation of our trip to Oak Island and my cupboard was bare. A trip to the Piggly Wiggly remedied that, but nothing could fill the emptiness I felt.


***



The service was small. My mother didn't have many friends. All of my Mantville friends came to support me, and four of my five cousins made it. About 15 people all told. Aunt Pam and I stood as people offered their condolences after the service. At the very end of the line was a man who looked familiar but I couldn't place. I assumed he was a neighbor or other acquaintance.


I'm a very old friend of your mother's, Paul Deepner.” He was about my mother's age, around 60, and had red hair and striking green eyes. “I don't suppose she ever told you about me?”


Gears turned in my tired mind and suddenly I was very alert.


Cautiously I said, “I believe she mentioned you by first name once.” I looked at him carefully. “If you are who I think you are.”


I am. It's a real pleasure to meet you, Cassie.”


We looked at each other. I could see so many similarities, the same arch of the eyebrow, the same slant of our eyes. He even had eyelashes like mine, fine and red. I had my mother's nose and mouth, but now I could see I had my father's eyes.


Would you like to talk some time? Is that too much to ask?”


I opened my mouth and then shut it, having no words.


He offered me a card. “If you ever do, give me a call. I'd really like that.”


Leo came towards me as he left. Leo looked at him curiously.


Who was that?”


In response, I handed Leo the card and said, “My father.”


That was just one thing too many. I couldn't process it. Leo returned the card with my father's name on it and I carefully put it in my wallet. The service was over, all the guests gone, just myself, Aunt Pam and Leo left. The chaplain said his good byes and we made our way out to my Camry. I hugged Aunt Pam goodbye and she joined her daughter Anita, a few cars away.


Can you drive?” I asked Leo. He took the keys from me, walked me over to the passenger's door and helped me in. I didn't really need help, but I felt loved and cared for. I was silent until we reached my apartment and were inside. I put down my purse and turned to Leo.


Leo, why did he never contact me before? If he knew I existed, knew my name, why didn't he contact me before?”


I don't know, Cassie. You can ask him.”


I was so used to questions about my father going unanswered, the idea that he might explain himself surprised me. All the questions I learned not to ask might be answered by him. But what were my questions? I knew his name now, but that didn't really answer my question of Who is my father? I wanted to know what sort of person he was, what it would have been like to have him in my life. I wanted to know far more than his name. And maybe he could tell me the circumstances that left my mother so permanently disfigured by rage and resentment. What had he done to her?


I had always day dreamed of a father who would save me from my mother's abuse. I thought he might take me away to some fantastic and magical place, a place where I was loved, not resented. But he never came to rescue me.


And now, what did he want? After all of these years of abandonment and absence? If he wanted to see me now, why hadn't he wanted to earlier?


Leo came to my side and led me to the couch. He sat with me, his arms around me. I gave up my questions for now and settled into his warmth and care.



***


I went back to work on the Tuesday after Easter, as I had planned. I wanted to get back to doing my routine things and found my usual number crunching comforting and familiar.


The next few days my father was on my mind. I was still full of questions I wanted answers for. But I was also angry. Angry with him for thinking he could waltz into my life after a 23 year absence. Angry with him for not rescuing me as a child, when I desperately needed rescuing. Angry with him for turning my mother into such a miserable person.


Rationally I knew the bit about turning my mother into a miserable person was not entirely fair. My mother had chosen to feel resentment rather than forgiving and moving on to a place where she could be happy again. My father had abandoned her, but what happened next was her choice and not his fault.


Finally my curiosity overcame my anger and I called him. When I made the call, I avoided calling him father. That felt intimate and loving. It felt like a word that implies trust and comfort. I had none of those feelings. I was angry and wary.


We arranged to meet Friday afternoon at the restaurant, Maple Hill, just north of Mantville. I took the afternoon off and changed out of my work clothes into my little black dress, dressed down with the cardigan and boots I felt comfortable in.


Maple Hill featured groves of leafy potted plants placed as barriers between seating areas. It created a soft, intimate atmosphere. The lighting was low and relaxing. It was a good choice. My father rose from our forested booth to greet me. My anxiety level was off the scales and it sharpened my senses, making me notice incredibly small details. Like his Breguet watch and French cuffs with silver cuff links shaped in the form of a single snake wrapped around a staff. So he was a doctor. A successful one.


We shook hands and I was relieved he didn't try to hug me. I settled into the cushy booth and ordered a Sprite when our waiter appeared.


My father asked, “Dewar's. Do you have 15?” I knew from life with Ezra that the number referred to the number of years it had been aged, the higher the number, the higher the quality.


We have 12, sir.”


My father nodded and the waiter made a tiny bow. He was much like Ezra in inspiring good service at restaurants. My excursion into the world of the wealthy had not gone well, and his sophistication made me even more wary.


So Cassie, what do you do?”


Accounting.” I named the corporation I worked for. He gave a little nod, as if to say that was acceptable. Goddammit, I hadn't come here to be judged.


Aside from being a doctor, what else have you been doing the last 23 years?”


He winced at my acid tone and said, “I deserve that.”


Yes, you do.” I looked at him, not breaking eye contact. He looked down.


I'm sorry, Cassie.”


I looked at his down cast eyes. “What on earth happened between you two when she was pregnant with me?”


He looked up again. “That's a long story.”


I have time. I don't think our fawning waiter will rush us out as long as you keep buying fancy Scotch.”


He cleared his throat. “This all happened when my wife went to Japan for a year, to complete her doctoral dissertation. I didn't like the idea of being without a companion for so long, so I advertised in a singles classified.” He saw the look on my face and said, “I'm not proud of what I did. I was young and thoughtless.”


Go on,” I said. I tried to keep all of my eager curiosity off my face. I willed myself to be stone.


Well, I was clear. I was a married man and this was for a limited amount of time. I indicated that in my ad and told your mother this explicitly the first time we met. I thought I could enjoy myself for a year and then say goodbye. But your mother had other ideas, other feelings.” He took a sip of his Scotch. “I want you to understand I had no idea your mother stopped taking birth control. She did that deliberately, on her own, without consulting me. I thought we were safe.”


The waiter approached and my father indicated another Scotch and waved him away.


It was messy. Your mother wanted me to leave my wife. She threatened many things... suicide, telling my wife, exposing me at my workplace. I guess presenting me with a baby was her last effort to keep me. I'm sorry. I really am sorry. But I wasn't going to leave my wife when I had been so clear.”


Are you still married?”


My wife died several years ago.”


Any children?”


No, my wife couldn't have children.”


Do you have any other love children lying around? Your wild oats all grown up?”


No, of course not.” He looked indignant.


I refused to relent. “I don't know, you might have made a habit of knocking women up and abandoning them. What do I know about you? Nothing, except that you left me to my mother's tender care.”


I gave her money for an abortion.” He was starting to get agitated, defending himself. “I thought it was taken care of. I thought I had done the right thing and taken care of the problem.”


Taken care of me.”


His face collapsed. “Yes.”


And you never thought to contact me until last week?”


I did, when you were 18. I tried to find you, but your mother refused to answer my letters.”


I see. You tried all you could think of and failed.” I twisted the hook and my father cringed. “Well let me tell you my story. It is short. My first 18 years of my life were a living hell because my mother resented and hated me. I had no one to protect me from her abuse. I spent my childhood wishing I had never been born. So at least you and I agreed on one count.”


Cassie, please,” he started.


Why did you come to my mother's memorial service?”


I...” Words failed him.


Did you think I'd open my arms and welcome my absent father after 23 years?”


He had nothing to say for himself, just looked miserable. I saw the waiter out of the corner of my eye and he quickly withdrew.


I decided to let up. “I will give you this: You had no control over my mother's behavior and how she acted in conceiving me and how she reacted to your leaving her. She made choices, too.” My stony expression slipped a little when I said, “I really could have used some help when I was a child, but you didn't know that. I wished so hard you would come and rescue me. But you never did.” My voice cracked.


Cassie, is there any way you can forgive me?”


I have already forgiven you. Not to make you feel better. For my own good, I forgave you a long time ago. I learned from my mother. Never to forgive makes misery and poison, kills the soul, makes life hell. She could have decided to forgive you and move on, but she didn't.”


Can I ever make up for my mistakes?”


I looked at him sadly. “I don't think so.”


Can I see you again?”


Not right now. I'll call you if that changes. I have your card.”


I slid out of the booth and left my father looking at his untouched glass of Scotch.



***


That was a rough 30 minutes and I needed to unclench my body, calm my mind. I didn't want to go home, so I went to the park and sat down on my favorite park bench to watch the river flow by. The restful sound of flowing water eventually had its effect. My body relaxed and I released my emotions. I don't know what I had expected, but I didn't get the satisfaction I'd hoped for. I continued watching the river and let my mind just float. After a while, I got up and went home.

I had planned for Leo to come over tonight. I knew whatever happened with my father, it wouldn't be easy, and that having Leo here would make me feel better. So I got to work making marinated grilled chicken and a tomato basil salad. We'd have some French bread with our meal.


Leo came over immediately after work, only stopping at home to change out of his work clothes and clean up a little bit. I greeted him with a hot dinner.


How did it go with your dad?” Leo asked when we were settled with coffee in the living room.


It went ok, I guess. He answered all of my questions. I must have expected something more than that, though because I felt disappointed. I don't know what I wanted.”


We finished our coffee and found a movie on Netflix, another of Leo's mob movies. I didn't really care and didn't pay much attention to the movie. I just rested in Leo's arms. I might not have had a father there to love me and protect me, but I'd always had Leo. Leo was real, Leo wasn't going anywhere. Leo was the one who always loved me.



© 2017 SweetNutmeg


Author's Note

SweetNutmeg
THE END.
Was this ending unsatisfying? Did it leave you feeling suddenly cut off?

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Featured Review

Very nice touch, expanding the chapter to include a meeting with the mythical father. It felt very authentic and really hit home for me since I was also produced from the fling of a single woman and married man. Cassie's life has finally come full circle and she has all the peace she is ever going to get. Excellent work.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

I was unsure how a person with an absent father might feel, but realized nothing really can ever mak.. read more



Reviews

the ending left me wanting more left, me cutoff with issues unresolved. Will Cassie marry Leo what will develop with her father now in the picture and what about Ezra need more lots more to be discovered.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

1 Year Ago

I'm sorry you feel cut off... It was meant to be a satisfying ending. Mother gone, father discovered.. read more
Shep

1 Year Ago

no mother need to just to die
Very nice touch, expanding the chapter to include a meeting with the mythical father. It felt very authentic and really hit home for me since I was also produced from the fling of a single woman and married man. Cassie's life has finally come full circle and she has all the peace she is ever going to get. Excellent work.

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

I was unsure how a person with an absent father might feel, but realized nothing really can ever mak.. read more
I was expecting the death of Cassie's mother to be more eventful. It is great that Cassie has finally met her father, although I would not call him by that term, seeing as he never did anything for her. Maybe she will call him, but even if she doesn't, that's fine too. As the child of an absentee sperm donor, I personally didn't want my life disrupted, didn't want to hear a word the guy had to say about anything, once I came of age. Great work, like always.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

Did her death feel anticlimactic, in a bad way? Do you feel you were deprived of something or that i.. read more
MeratheRestless

3 Years Ago

It seemed to me that knowing she'd never get another chance to talk to her mother again and the with.. read more
SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

Thanks for giving me your insight. I'll think that over. I agree Cassie def. didn't unload. My think.. read more
I agree with Numidia. I like Numidia's reviews. They are very revealing and accurate.
Excellent Nutmeg!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

Thanks for reading and responding. I agree, Numidia gives great critiques, always helpful, always en.. read more
Wow. I don't have much to say about this one except, I think you hit all the notes pretty much perfectly.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Years Ago

Thank you so much. Your praise means a lot to me.

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