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Authors: Bentley Little

Dispatch (44 page)

BOOK: Dispatch
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I wanted to watch the videotape, but I restrained myself and read the report first. According to Scholder, Vicki was living in Brea again, working at her old job. She was not seeing anyone, was not dating and spent the time when she was not at work taking care of Eric, who now went to a Montessori school because they offered afternoon day care.

Taking a deep breath, I picked up the videocassette. My hands were shaking as I took it over to the VCR and slid it in. I turned on the television, pressed play.

It was a videotape of the two of them. They were at a park, and Vicki was sitting on a bench, watching Eric as he played with another little boy. She was wearing clothes I didn't recognize—shorts and a simple sleeveless top—and she looked absolutely beautiful to me. Her hair was longer than I remembered, and she'd done something to make it wavier. The result was stunning.

Eric had grown nearly a foot, and his face was thinner. He was still a little boy, but I could see in his features the teenager he would become, and I hated myself for missing over a year and a half of his life. It wasn't my fault, at least not directly, but I was angry at myself for being who I was, for being what I was, for not being strong enough to fight my addiction.

At least that was all over now.

Eric ran up to Vicki, gave her a hug, said something in her ear that made her laugh.

I started crying. The tears felt good in a way, but they were horrible, too, and rather than try and stifle them, I let them come, let my feelings have their way with me. I was not used to experiencing emotion so straight and unfettered. Hope had been in such short supply for me that I'd grown accustomed to tamping down any feeling that would make me think about what I'd had and lost, what I'd probably never find again. But now I sobbed like a baby, and my heart ached with the love I felt for both of them. Time had passed, a lot had happened, and my mind minimized the messiness surrounding our breakup. I wondered if hers would do the same or if the negative emotions she felt for me had been strengthened and amplified over the past year and a half. From her point of view, I was a deadbeat dad, and she'd no doubt received anonymous letters confirming that fact.

My eyes hurt, my jaw ached, but finally I cried myself out, and exhausted, I lay down on the couch and slept.

Hours later, I awoke. I sat up groggily, went into the kitchen to get myself a drink of water, went into the bathroom to take a piss, then with blurred eyes reread the report until I found Vicki's new phone number.

I picked up the cell phone. Dialed.

"Hello?" Vicki answered.

I recognized her voice immediately, though I hadn't heard it for a long, long time. That cadence and timbre had been seared into my memory, and I would be able to recognize her speech even if I were stricken with Alzheimer's. A flood of memories accompanied that one word, all of them good, and once again the tears threatened to return.

"Hello?" she said again.

I switched off the phone.

I couldn't do it. After all this time, I was afraid to speak to her, didn't know what to say to her.

I stared at the small phone in my hand. Maybe I should work out ahead of time what I wanted to say, practice it. Even better, maybe she had an answering machine. I could keep calling until she wasn't there, until the machine answered, and then I could leave a message. She could call
me
back after that, which would make it a hell of a lot easier.

No. This was too important to be left to the vagaries of phone tag. It was too easy to avoid people that way, too easy to opt out of that sort of indirect attempt at personal connection. Besides, speaking was not my strong suit. And after all this time, after all the lies they'd probably been told, I needed Vicki and Eric to hear my words straight, uncensored, unfiltered, from the heart. If I was ever going to win them back, I needed to make my case in the strongest way possible. I needed to be at my absolute best.

I thought for a moment, then went into the kitchen and sat down.

There was only a moment's hesitation. Then my left hand was holding down the side of the paper and my right hand was holding the pen.

I took a deep breath.

Dear Vicki
, I began...
 

About the Author

Born in Arizona shortly after his mother attended the world premiere of
Psycho
, Bentley Little is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of fifteen previous novels and
The Collection
, a book of short stories. He has worked as a technical writer, reporter/photographer, library assistant, sales clerk, phonebook deliveryman, video arcade attendant, newspaper deliveryman, furniture mover, and rodeo gatekeeper. The son of a Russian artist and an American educator, he and his Chinese wife were married by the justice of the peace in Tombstone, Arizona.

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BOOK: Dispatch
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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