Friday, May 17, 2013
Friday Fiction Challenge ~ A lie begets a lie
The world seemed to start spinning all of a sudden as I realized instantly that whatever she was about to say would inevitably change my life. I could feel my heart racing until I could hear the rhythmic pounding in my head. I tried the best I could to clear everything else from my mind, to stop my brain from trailing off, imagining what she might say.
I needed to be sure that I was hearing it all, whatever it was.
She sat there in her chair, all prim and proper, which seemed strange to me. Here, we'd just walked in the house moments earlier after she was discharged from the hospital. She was weak and exhausted, though slightly less dehydrated than she had been before she'd ended up lost and in the hospital.
It all was so terribly inconsistent and off. I knew that her mind was failing, that I'd soon have to take over and that eventually I would have to help her do everything, and yet here she sat, dictating how I breathed and how my hands were folded on my lap still. She was still mother, and seemed determined to hang on to whatever control she could for as long as she could, even if the only thing she could control right now was me.
She urged her body upright, kept a stone face devoid of emotion or expression and cleared her throat.
Anna, you have a sister. Technically, she is your half sister. Her name is Abigail. She is sixteen years old. She lives on the other side of town.
She continued speaking, as though she was just reciting facts that held no significance in my life. She just kept talking, and I sat there. Trying to absorb everything she was saying, though my mind and my heart told me that she was lying, that it wasn't true, that there was no way that this was happening right now.
My lips parted to try and ask her a question, but I caught the words before they came out. She seemed determined to unload all of this. Right here. Right now.
Your father had an affair. Technically, he had another family. A separate life. He fell in love with that woman and she got pregnant. I found out when she was pregnant, I threatened to leave and take you and run away forever. He told me that he understood, that he didn't love me anymore, but that he loved you.
She looked at me. Her eyes dug into my soul, ripped it out, then smashed it to pieces. She barely even took breaths between statements.
He told me that he would stay. We would stay married and our life wouldn't change, and that he would just be gone sometimes. With her. With them.
To leave would have been difficult. I had never worked. I felt like I didn't have a choice, so I stayed, though I gave him one condition - that no one was to know. He could have his secret family, his secret woman, his secret life, but no one here could know.
Her eyes wandered the room and her long, spindly finger pointed randomly around.
And no one did, really, until he got sick. The girl, she was only eight at the time, and that woman began to worry about what would happen if and when he died. She started to get paranoid about money and such.
As you may know, your father inherited money from his family. He set up trusts for her. For them. The girl gets money every month until she turns 18. Then, if she goes to school, she gets money for that. Whenever she gets cut off, you get the rest.
Her hand waved at the air dismissively.
If I have what this doctor said I have, if my mind is failing and you will have to help me with my finances and such, I didn't want you to find out from the lawyer.
Her face remained expressionless.
Mine, surely was not so. It all seemed surreal, like this wasn't really happening. I tried to tell myself that she was just losing her mind and that she was just making this all up and that she was just trying to villify my father because she was angry and scared.
I knew otherwise, though.
In truth, I'd suspected that something was going on for a long time.
It didn't ever make sense that he'd be gone for business trips during the weekends, but I just accepted that it did because he was my father and I believed everything he said. He became more and more distant over my adolescence, though I had always attributed it to him just not understanding me. He missed all those school events, but he always apologized.
In fact, he said sorry all the time.
God. Was it really possible that what she was saying was true?
She sat there, still and proper, then cleared her throat again. Expecting some kind of response from me, she was. Instead, I sat there, motionless and frozen in shock. I had no idea what to say, but I knew that I had to say something. I knew that this admission couldn't go without some response.
All I could choke out was, are you sure, mother?
Her lips pressed together, so hard and so firm that they almost disappeared. Her face weakened a little, and I could tell that she was on the verge of showing some kind of emotion, except that to do so wasn't in her. For the last ten years of my father's life, she had shared him with another woman, knowing that he didn't love her anymore. Knowing that he stayed out of obligation. Knowing that he loved me, but not her.
She had pushed this away so far for so long that she was immune to it.
Rather than confront any of the emotions she had to be feeling, she chose to react the way she always did.
Of course I am sure. Don't be such a ridiculous and naive child, Anna.
I'm only telling you this now because of the money.
She got up and left the room without any showing of love or compassion. She'd just told me that my family was fake, that my father was a liar, that he only stayed because of me.
I sat on the couch, in the house I grew up in, and wondered what, if anything, I remembered was true.
This post is a part of a collaborative project including many writers from different backgrounds, all writing on the same prompt each week. After taking a break from the challenge, I am back (and hope to stay a while). The first post in this story can be found here, the second here. Please check out the pieces written by the others in the group. I will add their links as they post.
This week's prompt was:
"Liars need to have good memories"
~ Algernon Sidney
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