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A Story written by Omolola…

“Never.” She stared up at the stars, trying to make sense out of that quirk. Trying to understand why her mother hadn’t ever called her father. And why she’d gone to such lengths to make sure Tomilola never did, either. “Maybe she felt like too much of a loser after a relationship failed and she just wanted to put it behind her, pretend it never happened. Or maybe, after being tossed from one foster family to the next as a kid, she thought further contact was futile. Whatever the reason, I never saw any of them again. In fact, we usually moved to a different town after a breakup. Although that could just as well have had to do with her trying to make sure my father never found us.”

“You’ve been thinking about the name change thing?”

She nodded. “When you put all the pieces together, it certainly looks like she was making sure he didn’t find us. Maybe she was afraid he’d take me away. Maybe. . . I don’t know.” Her brain was too numb to think anymore. “You have to realize that with her gone, you may never understand her motivations for everything she did.”
Sadness washed through her, “I know.”

“It sounds like you moved around a lot. Did you like it? Seeing new places?” Having forced her to face some of the hard truths of her past, he changed the subject, steering her on to easier ground. And she was glad for it. “I hated it. Mom wasn’t the only one who dreamed about having a house. A home. Before she got sick, even after sometimes, Mom and I used to talk about having our own house.”

She smiled thinking of those times. “We’d plan it all out, you know? First, we’d decide what kind it was. A one-story ranch or a two-story contemporary or just a little grandma house on a quiet corner. Then we’d decorate it. Plan what kind of curtains we’d have in the kitchen. And where we’d put the garden. We always planned a garden.”
“Garden?”
She nodded, laughing.
“You wanted roses.”
“Yes. Red roses, mind you. They had to be red.” She smiled, remembering. “It was fun, planning. Dreaming.” “But you never had a house of your own?”
“Are you kidding? There were times when we couldn’t even afford a cheap hotel. There was one time, though, when Mom was dating this guy with money. Not money like this.” She waved her hand, indicating the Big W. “But enough money he could help pay the rent and have a little left over for a few fun things. A night out at the galleria, an afternoon at the beach. Anyway, Mom and I bought some material and hand stitched some kitchen curtains for the tiny apartment we were renting at the time. That was cool.”

“Sounds…cool.”

She shot him a sideways glance. “You don’t think it sounds cool. You think it sounds pitiful.”

“Not pitiful. But…hard.”

She shrugged. “It was sometimes. But I had my mom. I always knew she loved me.”

“Your father loved you, too.” He locked his gaze on hers. “And he was looking for you, Tomi. He – was – looking.”

A million emotions pounded through her. Pain, frustration, loss. “Yes, it looks like he was. And I’m softeniing toward him. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel guilty about it.”

“That’s understandable, if not exactly fair. You’ve thought negatively about your father for twenty-two years; that isn’t going to change overnight. Particularly since your father’s version of what happened that night isn’t any prettier than your mother’s.”

“No, it’s not,” Her voice was as weary as she felt. “But…I would suggest you think very hard abut cutting your dad out of your life just because your mom did. You need to find a way to let them both into your heart.” He stood, pulled a small envelope from his back pocket and handed it to her. “Your dad left this for you. I don’t know what’s in there. But maybe it will help.” He stood and headed for the end of the balcony.
She stared at the envelope, then at his retreating back. The need to call him back danced on her tongue. She didn’t want to be alone. It seemed as if she’d faced every scary moment of her life alone. She didn’t want to face this one that way, too.

Unfortunately, she was afraid to think where her current vulnerability coupled with the S#xual tension between them might lead if her father’s missive upset her and Demola decided to hold her again. Demola might have the wherewithal to keep things in check, to keep things at a comforting level, but she was pretty sure she didn’t. So she clamped her mouth shut and watched him walk away.

Just before he headed down the stairs, he stopped and turned to her. “You said you’ve always wanted a home. This could be your home, Tomi. It’s a beautiful place. A good place.”

Old longing rushed in, but only for a moment. She shook her head. “I don’t think so, Demola. My mother’s memory aside, this place is too rich for my taste. I could never own anything this lavish. There are too many people out there doing without.”

He shrugged. “So downsize. Or make the place work for you. Your dad plowed the money the estate made back into the place so he’d have something grand to bring you and your mom back to if he found you. But you don’t have to do the same. Stop growing the place and use the money for your charity. Or whatever else you’d like to use it for.”

The idea slid through her, sneaking underneath her confusion and pain to tease her, tempt her. She liked the idea of having a steady income to use for her charity. But….could she make enough peace with the past to make this her home?

“Just something to think about,” he pointed out.

She shot him a wry smile. “Like I need more of that.”

He returned the smile. “I”ll see you tomorrow.”

Without another word, he disappeared down the stairs. She looked at the envelope clutched in her hand.

A card.
From her father.
Mouth dry, heart pounding, she broke the seal and pulled the card out with shaking fingers. Opening it, she angled her body so the small amount of light coming from her bedroom fell on the card, highlighting the boldly scrawled words. Holding her breath, she read.

[i]Tomilola,

I’ve composed a dozen notes. All of them from my heart, but most of them were long-winded and did more to appease my conscience than anything else. Now I’ve decided to say only the things that matter.
I’ve missed you. . .more than I can ever tell.
I love you. . .more than you will ever know.
I’ll be watching from above, or perhaps below, doing what I couldn’t in life. . .taking care of you.
Love,
Dad.

She closed her eyes against the words. Words she would have sold her soul as a child to hear. Words that would have made so many dark, scary nights so much more bearable. Words that pierced her heart like a thousand knives, because they’d come so, so late.

Tears sprang to her eyes.

And this time she let them fall.

To Be Continued…

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