I sat across from Samantha, acutely aware of the din in the restaurant around us: the scraping of cutlery against ceramics; the clinking of glasses; the sound of laughter and the chatter of conversation. All amplified in my head like a symphony of chaos.
I reached for my medicine bottle, which I now carried in my pocket and shook out two tablets of aspirin, dry-swallowed them and threw back a glass of wine.
My head was throbbing, my hands constantly shaking, and not for the first time I wondered again if it was the right thing I was about to do: blowing the lid off the gauntlet of lies that was our history, and putting my child smack at the centre of the merciless wave.
My paternal instincts said not to tell her, but a voice in my head kept reminding me I couldn’t let history repeat itself. I couldn’t make the mistakes of the past a second time around…
One of humanity’s deepest flaws is the struggle for control, even over things we have no business trying to control. And one of such things is truth.
The truth either is or isn’t, and even though it can be doled out in small measures it would only then be less a lie…
Deceit is an art of self-preservation, and lies are a luxury that pass slowly but surely.
The truth on the other hand is permanent and immutable, irrespective of whatever lies try to conceal it like a dark cloud would hide the sun.
Deceit would contort the true nature of facts, but not the existence of what is, because the truth would remain even after the lies have faded from sight like ashes caught on a south-western wind…
The truth would hurt us sometimes, cut us, and leave threadbare beliefs we’ve had.
The truth has the power to change our perspectives and alter our history, leaving changed in our eyes and mind the people we thought we knew. The people we love…
The truth is the harbinger of betrayals of which we’d been blissfully unaware; of trust irretrievably broken; of history lost…
The truth might be a Pandora’s box, but it’s best to know the truth, what is, than believe in something that never was…
‘What’s the problem dad? You look horrible!’ Samantha cried, worry etched on her face. She’d only just arrived.
‘I’m fine Samantha’ I assured her.
‘Oh no you’re not!’ She was having none of it. ‘Are you having those headaches again?’
I nodded absently. ‘But that’s not why I’m here…’
‘On the phone you said you had something really urgent you had to tell me… What is it dad?’
I took a deep breath and exhaled.
‘Look Samantha’ I began, ‘what I’m about to tell you would alter your life as you thought you knew it… It would shake all the beliefs you had and all the things you thought you knew about the closest people in your life… All the things you thought you knew about your history.’
‘Dad you’re scaring me’ she stated matter-of-factly, and there was a fragility I saw in her eyes that inclined me to stop. But she deserved to know the truth.
‘What is this thing you need to tell me dad? What is going on?’
I sighed audibly and looked her in the eye.
‘Samantha…’ I began, holding her gaze.
‘You have a brother.’
Her mouth fell open.
Three Weeks Earlier…
I rolled from one end of the bed to the other. I couldn’t sleep.
I had a headache, and they seemed to have gotten a lot more severe and recurrent ever since Tom’s funeral two days before…
My wife was barely cold in the ground, and now my best friend was dead too. Death seemed to be harvesting all around me, and it was frightening to think when it would come for me, but that didn’t stop me from wondering.
Adrienne… I missed her now more than ever, and laying alone in the large, cold bed in the darkness I held her pillow to myself, inhaling the faint scent of summer oranges…
I recalled scenes from our life together like photographs. Some scenes were cheery and animated while others were sad and unremarkable. But like photographs, the shots once they were taken could not be undone.
I thought of the colour of her nails and lipstick. Red. And the colour of the coffee mugs in the kitchen downstairs, and I felt myself become plagued once more by a curiosity that had been shoved onto the back burner by all the events of the last two weeks.
I got out of bed and turned on the bedroom lights, sitting on the edge of the bed for a long time before deciding what it was I wanted to do.
All of Adrienne’s stuff in her closet and bureau still remained as they were while she was alive. I hadn’t touched or moved any of her things, not for sentimental reasons but because I hadn’t had the time.
First I rose and padded over to the Venetian doors that enclosed her walk-in closet. I threw the doors open and flicked on the light switch inside, her clothes and shoes and handbags piling down on either side of me to the opposite wall.
I noted the colours, and realized for the first time that the arrangement of dresses and shoes were colour-coded. And indeed there was a lot of red, and blue, and green…
Maybe I was right. Maybe she did like green.
I stood there for a long time just looking, keeping myself from inhaling the smell of her off her things only because the act provoked a horrible memory…
I turned off the light and shut the door in my wake when I started to feel claustrophobic, and returning into the bedroom I set about opening drawers in her bureau and sifting through her panties and bras. Searching for something, anything that belonged to Adrienne, which I could relate to and which could give me a sense of who she really was. What did she want out of life? Did she feel fulfilled? Was she happy?
I was hoping I would find a journal or a diary, but what I found instead was an old shoe box hidden in the lowest drawer of her bureau. And I knew it was hidden because it had been carefully wrapped in a pashmina, with scarves and mufflers and several other pashminas of different colours piled on and around it. For concealment, I surmised.
I pulled the drawer out from the bureau and carried it to the bed and then took out the box and opened it.
In it were dozens of handwritten letters done in Adrienne’s hand and bound together with rubber-band.
I undid the rubber band and started to go through the letters.
They were arranged chronologically and the dates on them spanned a twenty-year period. Some of the papers had yellowed, the writing on them faded with age.
What was more curious, however, was that the letters were all addressed to me…
My Dearest Sam,
I began to read. Words from beyond the grave…