Never Came Back: Chapter 8
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All the ambient noise of the pub disappeared. My eyes narrowed. Had he said still married? Dad shifted, glancing from the papers back to me. The shock hit me all at one, robbing me of my breath. I stared at him.
"Look at the papers beneath it. They're divorce papers. I had them drawn up a year after I left so that your Mom could move on. It became pretty apparent that she wanted nothing to do with me, even though I tried to contact her. Besides, I did want her to be able to move on. Live her life. I wanted to move on.“
He winced. “Kind of.”
Oh, boy, I thought, staring at him. Do you have a surprise waiting for you. You wouldn’t even recognize Mom.
He flipped through a couple of pages, settling on the last one, then motioned to the bottom right corner. "See that? That's where she was supposed to sign. I sent her the papers a dozen times. My attorney took them over once. She said she'd mail them. But she never did. I didn't want to keep pressing it, so I just let it drop. At the time, I was busy working on an oil rig anyway. Didn't spend much time in the states. Eventually, I just forgot about it.“
My eyes widened. "You've been married all these years?"
He shrugged with a hint of ruefulness "By law only. Your mother wants nothing to do with me."
"Got that right. So you haven't remarried? Moved on?”
He ran a hand over his head, driving a hand through his thick head of hair. The locks skewed, standing straight up.
"No. Only a few girlfriends here and then. Didn't really appeal to me after my first spectacular failure. I married my job."
"Well," I said, tossing the papers back. "This is no Parent Trap story. Mom basically hates you, and she hasn't moved on either. I mean, she barely leaves the house. So if you're hoping to reunite your happy marriage . . . "
He recoiled, one hand raised. "I didn't come here to reconcile with her, Rachelle. I just want to finalize the divorce and move on with my life."
“This won’t be pretty.”
“Worse. It’s like . . . it's like she lost all motivation to live her life after the divorce. She doesn't even leave the house for groceries anymore. I do all that. She stays on the couch, watching TV. She’s . . . different. I’ve gotten her into counseling, but she stopped going. She had a heart attack and barely recovered, but still has to use oxygen now and then.“
The soft exhalation, and his downturned eyes, lowered my guards. He whistled low. "I'm sorry, Rachelle. I would never have wished that outcome on her." I studied him, seeking for any sign of goading or insincerity, but found none. Nothing but a guarded gaze still riffling with uncertainty.
It's your fault, I heard a voice inside me say. It's your fault she's like this and won’t get better.
I forced that thought aside. Surely, it wasn’t totally true, even though it felt true. Did Dad force her not to talk to me for days on end, or miss all my events, or shove gallons of ice cream at me? Of course not. She chose that. The spot on the couch that she never left bubbled back to my mind. Did he strap her there and tell her never to leave? No. Mom chose to do that.
For a moment, I relived all my most intense teenage moments. The times when I'd lied. Broken the law. Invited boys over all night without telling Mom. Had Mom made me do all that?
No. I'd chosen it.
Was anybody really forced into their decisions by someone else?
So . . . was Dad the bad guy in Mom's story? Not entirely—he certainly played a part. Although I'd believed that he had been the root of every bad thing in my life, I could see that it wasn't true. Dad hadn't even been around. The clouds blocking my mind seemed to part.
Weren't we all the villains in our own story?
Dad hadn't given me anxiety and sugar addiction, as if they could be dispensed like a common virus. Sure, he'd made a few—okay, many—bad mistakes. But hadn't I as well? My mind scaled back, and suddenly I understood. Dad wasn't the bad guy. Mom wasn't the bad guy.
I wasn't even the bad guy.
There was no bad guy.
We were all just people trying to do the best we could. We were all fighting demons. Locked in battle. Waging separate wars at the same time. Janine's voice spiraled through my mind.
Compassion opens the door for forgiveness, which allows us to heal.
So that is what she meant.
For a moment, I held my breath. Compassion was one thing, forgiveness another. I wasn’t ready to forgive, because that required a level of release and vulnerability I wouldn’t do. There were still emotions that bubbled hot and raw. Dad left wounds, and those wounds hadn’t closed. No, forgiveness wasn’t here.
But perspective was.
My tongue seemed to tie together. I didn't know what to say now. This conversation with Dad hadn't been going the way I expected. Could I even have imagined a month ago that this would happen without me—literally—throwing something in his face?
My shoulders slumped as I let out a heavy breath. "Well," I said. "This has been a most revealing night."
He nodded, shaking his head as if in disbelief himself. "You said it."
"So what are you going to do now? I mean . . . about the divorce?"
His lips pushed to one side in thought. The papers flapped slightly in the air conditioning spilling from the vent above. The chilly blast brought goosebumps to my shoulders.
"I want both your Mom and me to be able to move on," he said, eyes narrowed. "I thought I'd get her signature while I was here visiting you, but now I wonder if that's what's best. What do you think?" His gaze bore into mine. "You know her better than I do, Rachelle. Do you think she'll sign it?"
A thousand thoughts spiraled through my mind, scattering like grains of sand. Would Mom completely freak out? Shut down? Die from a heart attack? I had no way of knowing her anymore.
"I don't know," I murmured. "I honestly don't know how she'll respond. I think . . . I think it's probably not a good idea for you to show up unexpectedly though."
"I agree. I've tried calling."
My eyebrows rose. "Really?"
He nodded. "Many times. She never answers. I've left messages, but no call has ever come back.”
My brow turned heavy. She must have deleted the voicemail. Or ignored it. I had no idea who she talked to during the day, if anyone. It wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t even let herself remember that he called. Chosen amnesia.
"Sounds like her," I said with a heavy sigh. "Let me think about how we can approach this, is that okay? I might call my friend, Janine, and get her advice. She always knows what to do in sticky situations like this."
"Thank you. I appreciate your help."
The cool water parched my throat as I slurped some down and plucked a treat from the basket Lexie brought.
“So, let’s set that aside for a minute. Where do you live and what do you do?"
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