Authors: Holly Hood
His entire house is dark, and it’s soothing.
I take off my jacket and throw it over a chair in his kitchen.
“You want something to eat or drink?” He looks at me.
“No.” I shake my head. “I really just want to lay down.”
Jackson nods. “Well, let’s go.”
I love his bed. It’s a giant king size with an overstuffed comforter that smells like freshly washed linen and feels amazing against my skin. I sit on the edge and remove my shoes and then my socks.
Jackson comes into the room and sets his keys and wallet on his dresser. “Do you want a t-shirt or something to wear?”
He takes one from his drawer and hands it over. “Thanks.”
I undo my shirt and unzip my jeans and, like the gentleman he is, he looks away to give me a bit of privacy.
“You are one of a kind,” I tell him. “You know that, right?”
He gives a small smile. “So you keep saying.”
I climb onto the bed after slipping the shirt on. “You could have disappointed me like Ryker did, but you didn’t.”
He climbs into bed and settles into his pillows. He grabs the remote from his nightstand and turns on the television. And we stare at the news not saying anything for a moment. And finally he looks at me. “What did he do?”
It’s not weird talking about Ryker with Jackson. Like I said, we have an understanding, all of us.
The light from the television flickers against his face.
“It’s more what he didn’t do.”
“Oh,” is all he says.
“Ryker said he saw my dad four years ago doing something strange. And he tried to tell me back then. But the accident happened so he couldn’t. But now that we’ve been hanging out he had more than enough chances to tell me and he didn’t. And this might have changed something.”
Jackson shrugs. “I honestly don’t see it changing anything, Savy. Unless Ryker knew the truth, there’s nothing he could have said or done to make this any better.”
He leans back, and I drop my head against his chest. He wraps an arm around me protectively. “I think he meant well.”
“You don’t even know him,” I argue. “After all these years he had a chance to say something and he never did.”
I settle into his chest. “I just want some answers. I want to know that there’s a good reason for it and that I am not a mistake.”
Jackson nods in agreement. “I think anyone would want that… considering.”
His fingers close around mine, and he squeezes.
“Thank you for being here,” I tell him.
I kiss him on the cheek.
I’m at the shelter sorting through boxes of canned goods and supplies. I’m doing all I can to stay focused and not come undone. Another day slips by, and I’m no closer to knowing the truth. But I also know that I might see Lee today, and that might offer answers. But I’m not sure exactly how I will get them. If Lee doesn’t know about me, trying to explain who I think I am will only devastate this man more than he already is.
I put the last of the green beans on the shelf and spin around. There is still a giant stack of boxes to get through before the day is over. And I haven’t seen Jackson at all.
I work at the shelter one day a week if I’m needed. And today is the day I’m needed.
So I dive back into the boxes working through them one by one until I finally finish.
I break down the cardboard and make two trips to the big dumpster behind the shelter.
I’m free to go, but I want to see if I can find Lee.
I go out into the dining hall and look around, but I don’t see him. He’s not around; usually he’s sitting enjoying a bowl of soup or eating some kind of sweets. But today he’s not here.
I decide to check one more place before I go.
I go down the hall, searching for the room that Lee always wants but never uses. And by some miracle he is actually there laying in the bed. I knock on the door, and when he doesn’t wake up, I carefully step inside. It’s a simple room with a bed, a dresser, and a small table for reading or writing.
“Lee,” I whisper. He startles and sits up. His hat next to him. His hair is thinning, and there is a small scar on his forehead that I never noticed before.
“What a way to wake up,” he says, giving me a big grin.
“I came to talk to you.” I take a seat at the table and watch him with his hat. He finally gets it back on his head and looks at me.
“What would you like to talk about?”
I swallow. “About your daughter. I would like to know about her.”
He studies the floor. “Sara Rose was a good girl.”
“What was she like?”
“She was wonderful. Always smiling. Always happy no matter what.” He looks at me, and I see life in his eyes again. “I was always proud of her.”
“I bet you were.” I sigh. “What happened to her?”
He looks away. “She got involved with the wrong people and made mistakes. But that didn’t matter to me; she was still my daughter.”
“What kind of mistakes?”
He smiles. “Drugs. Crime. You name it; she did it.”
“Lee, do you have any other kids?” Maybe he has more family.
“Just my Sara Rose.” And a darkness sweeps over him. He tugs his hat off. “Now, I’m tired. I need to go to sleep.”
I stand up. “Okay. Thanks for talking with me.”
“You be good.”
When I’m in the hallway, I take out my phone and dial Jackson.
“Hey,” I say. “Is there any way you can find out information about Sara Rose and Lee for me?”
I’m pretty sure Jackson can find out whatever he wants.
“No problem. I’ll see what I can do.”
And just like that I am one step closer to uncovering this secret. But first there’s one person I want to see.
She’s in the kitchen when I get there.
I come in the door, and I wait until she notices me standing there.
“I didn’t even hear you pull up.” She dries her hands on a dish towel and looks me over. “You look pale.”
I shrug. “I haven’t been feeling all that well lately, Mother.” And it sounds odd saying it now.
“Do you need to see a doctor?”
I shake my head letting her fuss with my hair. “No, I’m fine. It’ll pass.”
“Are you hungry?”
I shake my head again and sit down. “How was the anniversary?”
“It was great.” She smiles. “Your father and I were very impressed with the dinner and the decorations. You really went all out this year.”
I smile back.
“Ben says Jackson helped out too.”
“Yeah. He’s been very helpful lately,” I say. “Mom, have you always been in love with my dad?”
I spot a slight wrinkle in her brows. “Of course. Why do you ask that?”
“I’m just curious. You never know when you need to know these things.” I tap my fingers on the table. “Maybe one day I’ll fall in love and get married and have two wonderful kids just like you and dad.”
She nods. “It’s very possible. Is that what you want?”
This is the psychologist in her coming through, but I go along with it. “Of course that’s what I want. Everyone wants to be happy.”
“Do you think it’ll be with Ryker?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. I couldn’t say. He hasn’t been honest with me and honesty is a big deal. You know that.”
She nods her head. “Of course I do.”
It’s hard not blurting it out. But I don’t. I wonder if she even knows that the birth certificate is missing. Or if she thinks it’s still safely put wherever she placed it to begin with.
“Is there anything the person you love could do to make you not love them?”
She studies me for a long time. “There’s always room for forgiveness.”
She nods. “Of course.”
“Have you or dad ever done something that warranted forgiveness?”
Now I can see the crease in her forehead. She sighs. “When we first got together we both made some very silly mistakes.”
I don’t think an affair that leads to a baby with another woman is silly.
“We got over them. And we learned to move on and grow.” She looks away. “Your father and I, we have had our obstacles but we always managed to understand and grow.”
“You’ve never felt betrayed?” I can’t believe this is all there is to my parents’ relationship, considering the newest detail. “You never thought that you would be better off without him ever?”
“No. I’ve always been in love with your father. No matter what. And I love my family, each and every one of you no matter what.”
I don’t get it. And I’m afraid I’ll never get it unless I say something to her. But I don’t know what to say.
“Tell me about the day I was born.” I can’t believe I just said that. “Were you happy?”
“What about dad?”
I don’t get it. “Is there anything you want to say to me?”
She searches my eyes. “No, Savy. I don’t know what there would need to be said.”
“Why did you name me Savy?” I watch her fuss with the buttons of her shirt. “Benjamin is such a common name. And then you name me Savy. And I know you, it’s a strange choice for you.”
She gets up and starts straightening the table. “It just seemed fitting. I don’t know. I liked the sound of it.”
I watch her clamber around the kitchen, avoiding me just like she says I always do to her when I don’t want to talk about something. She has to know I see it.
I touch her arm, stopping her in her tracks. “I love you, Mom.” And I squeeze her tight. “I know sometimes I don’t say it enough, but I do.” She squeezes me back.
“I love you too, Savy.”
When she starts scrubbing the sink out, I sneak down the hallway to my parent’s bedroom. I open up the box where Jackson found the birth certificate and slip it back inside. I know her enough to know that she is going to look for it now that I’ve asked things I normally wouldn’t talk about. I put it back, so she doesn’t have to feel what I felt. I’m not sure if I can admit what I know. I’m just not ready to say it.
And if my mother were willing to tell me, she would have She has no regrets, she doesn’t hate my father. She has never made me feel like an outsider; I can’t understand why anyone would want to ruin their perfect world by exposing the truth that was neatly hidden away.
It’s not like I totally lost out on something wonderful; I was raised by great people.
But there is also a chance that there’s more to the part of me I never knew about. I need to know if this strange secret is true. If it is, my question is how could this happen?
I sit in a diner with Jackson. He’s holding an envelope, the one that holds answers to a very serious question: Is Sara Rose Gately my mother?
Jackson sets the envelope down between us. Before I pick it up I take another sip of my coffee. I look at him. “If it was you, would you want to know?”
He blinks and considers it quietly before giving me an answer. “I think I would. Just for the sake of knowing.”
“I want you to tell me.” I sit back in my seat and wait for him to do the honors.
He opens the envelope and starts reading.
“This says Sarah Rose Gately drowned nineteen years ago.”
“That would have made me two.” I scratch my head. “What else does it say?”
Jackson reads silently for several minutes, and then he looks at me. “She had two children. One, a girl, three years older than you.”
I swallow, waiting for the moment I’m not sure I’m ready for.
“And you.” He drops the paper down on the table. “It says here that Sara Rose Gately gave birth to one Savy Andrea Arnold. It’s all right here.”
Jackson slips in the booth next to me when I burst into tears. He puts his arm around me and does his best to comfort me.
“Why didn’t they tell me this?” I have so many questions. “How did she drown? Where did it happen?”
“There’s no record showing you were placed up for adoption. My guy says she drowned out a ways in a lake in the middle of nowhere. He seems to think it used to be an old hangout.”
“Ryker saw my dad giving someone something years ago. And he never told me.” I wipe my eyes. “I think he was paying someone to keep them quiet. I don’t know.”
“It would make sense why nobody has made a big deal about you being there one minute and gone the next.” Jackson rubs my back. “Now you have some answers.”
“Is that all you found out?” I can tell he is holding something back.
“She had a pretty extensive criminal background. I didn’t think that was anything we needed to discuss.”
“Of course it is.” I wipe my eyes again. “She was my mother, according to these papers. It all matters. Every bit of it.”
“Do you think you could get in touch with Ryker?” Jackson smooths his shirt.
I look at him, not understanding why we need Ryker. “He’s still in town, so yeah I could.”
“Well, call him and see if he can meet up with us. I have a few questions for him.”
I shake my head. “Jackson, I don’t want to deal with any more drama.”
“There’s not going to be any drama. It has nothing to do with you and him. It has to do with the person he saw taking something from your father.”
I nod. That makes sense. If we can figure out who my father was possibly paying off maybe we could get a little closer to knowing the real story behind my life; why they chose to cover the whole thing up.