“Who the fuck are you to ring me up and lie to me like that?” I blasted.
“I’m not lying, Anna!” Jim quickly responded.
“My mom would’ve told me. I would’ve gotten wind of it. She wouldn’t keep something like this from me.”
“She didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Liar,” I hissed.
“The week you came down to L.A. she wanted to tell you, she tried—”
I gasped and cut him off. “How long has she kept this from me?”
I heard him swallow. “Anna, did you visit your father on your last visit to L.A?”
I racked my brain for the answer but I knew it all too well. I knew it in his voice and I knew it in the heat that slowly prickled my skin. He’d been gone even before I visited.
“Why didn’t she tell me? Why did no one tell me?”
“No one knew!” he struggled, huffing and puffing. “I’m sorry. No one knew. We had a small funeral.”
“You—” my twitching lips curled back to reveal my grinding teeth— “you went to my father’s funeral?”
“I…I wanted to comfort your mother.”
“That!…That…snake doesn’t need comforting. Put her on the phone.”
“Put her on the fucking phone!”
“Anna, please, I beg you, I only meant to—”
I hung up in his face and quickly dialled for the wench that spawned me. On the third ring she answered.
“Hello lovely,” she greeted brightly.
“Is it true?” my voice wavered. Not out of sadness—oddly enough—but out of anger.
“Is what true?”
I inhaled sharply and bellowed, “IS HE DEAD!?”
I heard a slight whimper. “Where—where did you hear that from?” After I didn’t answer she said, “I’m—I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Oh my God.”
“I only meant to save you from the pain it would’ve cause.”
“Save me?” I shrieked. “Save me!?”
“Anna, sweetie, I’ll come to New York and we can talk about it. I’ll tell you everything. Anything you want to know.”
“Oh, now you’ll tell me? Now you’ll tell me!?”
My mother sniffed. “Honey, darling—”
“Don’t you ever speak to me again.” A cold silence lifted. “For as long as I don’t hear my father’s voice, for as long as I don’t see him, for as long as I can’t hug him, I don’t want to hear, see or hug you. We’re finished.”
“Anna…” she blubbered.
I narrowed my eyes. “We’re finished!”
And I hung up in her face. By the time both conversations ended, I was boiling with rage. I was sweating, I had a headache, and I wanted nothing more than to cure my confusion by making sense of everything.
I started on the shower. I turned the tap stone cold and soaked myself in my pyjamas. I sat on the floor of the shower, cross legged and hunched over, trying to force tears to come out. Feeling as though it hadn’t hit me yet. With the mourning period stolen from me, I sit in a frozen shock, not understanding this feeling of mine. Not understanding what to do. It’s the first time in my life I’ve said something so definitive and harsh to my mother, and it’s the first time in my life where I didn’t care for her feelings. Just like she didn’t care for mine.
I know I shouldn’t do this.
I know I shouldn’t be here.
But Adam is the only person in the world that knew my father as close as I’ve known him. Adam never had a father growing up, so he’s always seen mine as his own. Sure, they’ve drifted apart ever since Adam moved to New York, but I figured he would at least know that he died. He’d at least get wind of it. I caught myself in Adam’s apartment, as if the entire time on the journey to get here I’d mentally been away. As if he didn’t invite me in. As if we weren’t facing each other right now, in his grandiose apartment with what seemed like the last of the moving boxes still in the corner of the living room next to the window.
“Fancy seeing you here,” he said, eyeing me peculiarly. It must because my eyes were tired and half-closed, dark circles underneath, my face sallow, the hood of my jacket pulled back to reveal a rat’s nest of hair; by all accounts I’m sure he’d have thought I had a bad fucking night.
“Did you know my dad died?” I asked.
Adam’s face dropped. “No,” he breathed. “How?”
I shrugged. “I just found out.”
“You were very close.”
He nodded. “Yes, we were.”
“He never said anything to you?”
“We hadn’t kept in touch as often as I’d liked,” he mumbled. “But, it doesn’t make sense. He was healthy.”
“Well, what did your mother say?”
I rolled my eyes and it hurt. “She texted me saying it was a sudden death.”
“A heart attack?”
I shrugged. “Possibly.”
Adam furrowed his brows. “How come you don’t know the answers to all these questions?”
“Is your girlfriend here?”
“Fiancé. And no. Why?”
“No reason.” I stared at him, trying to force a smile that turned out lazy and painful. “She kept it from me you know. I had to hear it from Jim, her new model, last night.”
Adam’s brows relaxed then. “Oh.”
“Yeah. Sweet mother I have.” I manoeuvred around him and walked deeper into the living room. I unzipped my hoodie and threw it on the sofa.
Adam followed closely. “Does Daniel know you’re here?”
I giggled and a pang in my chest made me stop short. I turned around. “No, my parole officer doesn’t know.”
Adam shook his head. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I know what you meant.”
Then a silence. We were just staring at each other. My hands held together behind me.
“Do you want me to call him?” he asked.
“That won’t be necessary.” Daniel called me already today. I didn’t answer and he texted me saying that he wanted to hear my voice first thing in the morning and sent a smiley face emoji along with the message. I hadn’t called back yet. I wondered if he knew. But if Adam didn’t know. If none of my friends did. If it was only a small funeral. Then Daniel definitely wouldn’t have known.
I stepped forward. Adam stepped back in response. I tilted my head quizzically then stepped forward again. This time he didn’t move. His Adam’s apple jumped as he gulped. In the dead silence of this room it was the loudest sound. The blaring sirens of New York even sounded faint.
I moved forward and cupped his face, leaning in ready to kiss him. He quickly grabbed my wrists and gently pushed me away.
“Don’t what?” I giggled slightly.
“Don’t do this to yourself.”
“I’m not,” I breathed weakly.
“Don’t,” he repeated when I tried breaking free.
“Is it because you’re getting married?” I teased. He sighed. “Is it because of Daniel?” the words tasted like salt and metal under the sword of betrayal. The taste of blood, but I hid it. “Don’t you lurrrve me? No one will know. I promise.”
“Anna, I know what you’re doing.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I joked. I bared my teeth, smiling widely for the first time. It taking all of my energy to do so and I felt an even heavier weight.
“Listen to me!” he shook me, catching my attention. My eyes completely focused on him. “This isn’t you. I know you. You wouldn’t do this to yourself if you weren’t in so much pain. But that’s no excuse! I’m begging you, stop this. I know what it’s like,” my eyes captured in his steel gaze, “I know what it’s like to hurt so bad you want something to take the pain away. I know that you’ll do anything for the pain to go away. I know. But this is not it. You’ll only regret this. You’ll only hate yourself. And not only will the pain not go away, but you’ll be in so much more pain. Trust me, Anna. If our friendship—if our relationship meant anything to you, you would trust me on this.”
I looked down shamefully. He let go of me. Another headache arising. “I haven’t even cried,” I whispered. “I feel like a shit person.”
Adam pulled me into a hug. A strong hug. One that I didn’t even return. “It doesn’t make you a bad person.”
“What does it mean then?”
He pulled back to look at me, taking a moment for himself, and then smiled. “It just means your dad is holding your tears for you until you’re ready to mourn.”
I huffed a petite laugh. “Liar.” The thought that I should be mourning with Daniel crossed my mind.
He cupped my face and lowered his head as he pulled my face up to his. “I’m going to go and get us a lot of ice-cream, a lot of chocolate, a lot of junk, and be right back. You stay put, okay?”
He started for his keys when I asked, “Won’t your fiancé be back soon?”
“She’s staying at her mother’s for the weekend.”
“Adam,” I said when he opened the front door. He turned back and waited for me to say something. My jaw tightened and started to ache. “I’m sorry I almost…I almost…”
“Hey,” he interjected. I looked up. “Don’t worry. I got you.” He smiled. I smiled back and this time it wasn’t forced. “I’ll be back.”
I sank down to the floor, my mind blank, and waited for him.
When he did come back, with multiple bags of ice-cream, chocolate and junk, we sat on the living room floor and started telling each other stories about my dad. Funny stories, scary stories, a lifetime of memories encrusted with love from childhood to end and beyond.
I’m sorry dad. I’m sorry I never saw you before you left.
I love you. I miss you. I’ll see you.