Alternate Family: Part Three

Dennis, 

Here’s the check.  I’m sorry I argued with you about it.  Obviously I should have sent it right away.  I got confused as to when Jason’s 18th birthday was.  Now that he’s 18, this settles it, right?  My lawyer thought so, but I wanted to be sure we were on the same page.

I also wanted to ask you if I could attend his graduation.  That’s this spring, isn’t it?  I figured after all this time, it’d be nice if we could both be there for him on the big day.  I know I haven’t been around, but that is what you wanted.  I’ve tried to respect your wishes.  I still want to be his mother, and I just want this little thing.  If you would let me know when and where, I’ll be there.

I think we can work something out about his college.  I know I said no earlier, but that was just the anger talking.  Maybe we could talk about it at his graduation?  That way Jason could give us his input.  We don’t need the lawyers for this, right?  Just turn the page and get a fresh start, okay?

I mean, I know you’re still upset, but I want to make up for it.  I think if we could just talk, be together as a family again.  We can work it all out.  Right?  You’ll see, it will be different.  One more chance.  That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Okay, I should go.  Just let me know.

Katherine

*    *    *

Folded in the letter was a check from a law firm for a few hundred dollars.  Why hadn’t his father opened it?  He must never have known she asked to come to Jason’s graduation.  But she had wanted to.  That was something.  The fact that she hadn’t had the chance made him a bit sad.

He dug around a bit more, but found no other letters.  Maybe his father had forgotten about this one.  Should he take it or put it back?  If it had gone unopened all this time, he decided his father wouldn’t notice it missing.  And if he did, he would have to admit to Jason he knew where his mother was.  Jason put the letter in his pocket.

Part of him wanted to rush out to the address on the envelope.  But feeling some apprehension, he decided to wait.  This was all moving so quickly.  And he still didn’t know what had happened at their old house earlier.  Today he’d just do laundry and have dinner with his father. He could go tomorrow and see his mother.

Alternate Family: Part Two

“I forget, do you take cream in your coffee?”

“Dad, it’s only been a couple of months since I last visited.  Do you really not remember?”

Jason’s dad smirked.  “Well it seems like forever.”  He brought two cups over to the table and put one down in front of his son.  Then he took the seat to Jason’s right.

“Well, I’ve been trying to finish up before graduation.  I’m sorry I haven’t been home more.”

“I know, I know.  So how is school?”

“Same as always.  Should be done next month.”

“Good.”

Jason looked down, staring at his cup.  “Dad, I drove past our old house today.”

“Oh yeah?  How does the place look?”

“The same.”  He still didn’t lift his gaze up from his coffee.  “Look, Dad, I know you don’t like talking about this, but do you know where mom is?”

His dad became very still and stared at nothing.  The silence dared Jason to ask the question again.  But his experience at the house drove him.  “I don’t want it to be a big deal.  I was just…”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.  Graduation is coming up and it just seemed like a good time to…”

“No.  It isn’t.  It will never be.  I haven’t been keeping you from her all these years.  She left us.  And she hasn’t tried to get in touch with you.  She doesn’t…”  He cut himself off.  “I don’t want to talk about this any more.”

“Dad, I know she hurt you, but I just need to know.  For my own sake.  I’m an adult now; I don’t need you to keep protecting me from this.”

“Why do you need to know?  Haven’t I…?”

“Dad, I swear, this isn’t about you.  I just need to see for myself.”

“I just don’t understand why now.  After all this time.”

“I don’t know.  I just do.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter.  I don’t know where she is anyway.  When she left and cut off contact, I lost track of her.  She could be in China for all I know.”

It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but Jason still found it disappointing.  “Oh.”

His father relaxed just a bit.  “Yeah.  I’m sorry.”

Jason shook his head.  “It’s not your fault.  I don’t blame you for this.”

They sat quietly for awhile just sipping their coffee.  Jason still had questions he wanted to ask, but whatever courage he had mustered to broach the subject had abandoned him now.  He didn’t know where else to look for answers.

Finally, his father put his cup down.  “Well, I’m meeting up with some friends this afternoon.  Watching the game at the bar.  You’re welcome to join us.”

“That sounds like fun, but I have some laundry I was going to do.”

His dad smiled.  “I knew there was a reason you came to visit.  Well if you finish early, or just change your mind, you know where we’ll be.  Are you staying for dinner, at least?”

“Yep.  I’ll be here.”

“Good.”

Jason retrieved his laundry basket from his trunk and waved goodbye as his father drove off.  After putting a load into the washing machine, he went into his father’s bedroom.

It had been years since he last snooped around in his father’s stuff.  The hiding places hadn’t changed, but it still took him awhile to remember where they all were.  Eventually, he found something.  A letter, postmarked almost four years ago, had his mother’s name in the return address.  The envelope was unopened.

His heart racing, Jason sat staring at it, wondering what answers it might hold.

Alternate Family: Part One

Jason did not realize that he was different for many years, but the first indications began when he was six.  His parents had fought and his mother had left her son and husband.  Yet Jason continued to see her.  She came home just like she always did, made dinner, and kissed his father.  What made Jason different is that no one else could see her.

His father both stopped to kiss her and walked right through her.  He sat down in the living room, while the version that walked through her went to the kitchen to make another dinner.  Both came and read him bedtime stories, but neither seemed to notice that they were talking over each other.

Jason knew that he didn’t understand everything about adults, and his father – the one who made him dinner – got upset whenever he talked about his mother.  So he tried to pretend he didn’t see her, either.  But this seemed to make her sad.

Before long, Jason’s father decided to sell the house and move.  He tried to explain that he thought it would help both of them move on.  Jason only knew that it meant he wouldn’t see his mother any more.  She cried the day they left.  Jason’s father had to drag Jason away, telling him that he needed to quit pretending she was still there, that this is why they had to move.

Life returned to normal after that.  Taken away from his mother and the house they had all shared, he slowly forgot about seeing her when his father didn’t.  Details of what she looked like faded, and she began to occupy that magical space in memory where truth and imagination blended together.

Thus it was an unconscious impulse that sent Jason back to his early childhood home when he was home from college one summer.  He thought it might be fun to see his old house once more, to see how it matched his memory of it.  At the time, he chalked it up to nostalgia and nothing more.

He just intended to drive by, to see if it still looked the same.  As soon as he saw the house, however, he stopped.  There were two cars parked in the driveway, but rather than being parked one behind the other, they appeared to be overlapping, one superimposed over the other.  If he focused his attention on one car, the other blurred to almost nothing.

Even stranger, two men walked out of the house towards the cars.  They were so close, they should have tripped over one another, but instead seemed oblivious to each other.  As one of them got into one of the cars and drove away, the other stopped when a woman on the porch called after him.

“Jason, don’t forget to stop by the store on your way back!”

“I won’t, Mom.”

There he was.  Jason was staring at himself getting into the other car, his mother – older now, but definitely her – going back into the house.  The sight was disorienting, and the light-headedness he felt nearly overwhelmed him.  Steadying himself, he considered following the other Jason, but his mother was in that house.  He needed to see her.

She answered the door with a confused look.  “You’re back?  Did you forget…”  She stopped herself and looked at him closely.  Her eyes widened and she clasped a hand over her mouth.  “It’s you, isn’t it?”

The question confused him.  “Mom?  What is going on?”

“I…  I think you better come in.  Have a seat on the couch over there.”

He followed her into the living room and sat where she indicated.  “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t think I do, either.”

“You left.  I remember that.  Dad won’t talk about it, but you left.  Then we left.  But now you’re back?  And who was that other Jason?”

She was quivering a little.  “I’ll tell you what I know, but I don’t think I have answers to your questions.  I don’t have answers to my own.”

“What do you know?”

“Years ago, you must have been about six, you started acting a little…  I don’t know.  I thought you had an overactive imagination.  An imaginary friend, even.  But it was like there were two of you.  One of you carried on just like always, but the other one…  You began talking about me as though your dad and I had fought and I had left.  Most of what you said didn’t make sense.  Then one evening, you came up to me and said you were leaving.  You were so sad.  But I couldn’t stop you.  When I woke the next morning, you were still here, so I thought it must have been a dream.  The odd behavior stopped after that.  I had just about forgotten about all of that.  Seeing you now, it all came back to me.  There really were two of you, weren’t there?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t remember two of me.  How could there be two of me?  And why couldn’t Dad see you?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t understand this, either.”

“Is he my brother?”

“No.  I only had one child.  I thought…”

“So what do we do?”

She frowned.  “I don’t know.  But Jason will be home soon.  Maybe you should…”

Right then the door opened, and the other Jason walked into the living room.  “Are you talking to someone, Mom?”  He walked over to the couch and sat down right where Jason was sitting.  It looked like a ghost returning to its body.  His mother gasped and fainted.  As one, they leapt up and sprung over to her, both yelling “Mom!” as they did so.

The other Jason did not notice him.  He was so flustered by all of this that he broke from the other and ran out the door.  He quickly got into his car and drove away, stopping only after he had put some distance between himself and the house.

The shock of seeing the two of them overlap must have been too much for his mother.  It had been almost too much for him.  What was he to do?  His copy did not know about him, could not see him?  His dad hadn’t been able to see this Mom.  Was there another one of her somewhere?  If so, how could he find her?  And how was any of this possible?

He made up his mind to talk to his father.  There was nothing else he could think of to do.  If he could find his mother, maybe she could help him make sense of it all.

The Others: Discovery

The club, as always, was dim and loud with music.  Just like the last time he was here, Thomas could not fully enjoy himself.  Making his way through the mass of people, he found Marcus, sitting in the chair he himself usually occupied.

“You asked to meet.  Here I am.”

Marcus waved at a chair on the other side of a small table from where he sat.  “Thank you for coming.”

Thomas sat.  “Hmm.  Last time we were here, you threatened to kill me.”

“I did, didn’t I?”

“Yes.  But now she’s gone.  And here we are.”  That caused Marcus to wince slightly.  Thomas wanted to see what level of animosity remained.  To judge the danger.

“She’s not gone.”  His voice was slow, almost halting.  It was taking him effort to keep his emotions under control.  “You killed her.”

“As you know, she gave us no other choice.  I hope you didn’t ask me here just to rehash an argument that no longer has any purpose.”

“No.  Now I’m stuck living this life alone, thanks to you.”

“You are always free to end yourself.”

“Hah.  I know that’s what you hope.  But I have found another way to occupy myself.”  His grin was unnerving.

“Indeed?”

“Oh yes.”  Marcus pointed a finger.  “Do you see that girl over there?  Black hair in a pony tail?  White blouse?”

“Very nice.  You found someone new.  Can we get on with this, whatever it is?  I don’t care who you bed.”

Marcus shook his head.  “Nothing like that.  Take another look at her.  A good look.”

Thomas did so.  She remained a stranger, nothing different about her than all the other people dancing.  Still, there was something oddly familiar about her.  “Who…?”

“That, my old friend, is your granddaughter.”  The grin became a wicked smile as all manner of evil innuendo was packed into the words.

“My…  granddaughter?  I have no…”

“Do not bother.  It took a lot of digging.  You kept that part of your life well hidden.  Your wife is long dead.  Your son – her father – also died some time ago.  Perhaps he never told you about her?  But that is your granddaughter.”

“What…”

“Am I going to do?  I haven’t decided yet.  But she is not one of us.  No rules govern how we should treat one of them.  Now you’ve seen her.  Why don’t you get to know her?  It will make all of this so much more satisfying for me in the end.”

“Do not…”

“No!” Marcus cut him off.  “You don’t threaten me.  I have lost everything because of you.  But I have broken no rule.  You have no claim on me.  Justify your past actions all you will.  It will not save her.” With that, he stood and threw a twenty dollar bill down on the small table between them.  “Enjoy a drink on me.  You don’t have to thank me for finding her.”  He began to walk away.  “I wonder how she’d feel, knowing that what’s about to happen was caused by her long-lost grandfather?”  Marcus disappeared into the crowd.

What should he do?  What could he do?  Thomas stared at the girl and chewed his lip as the future nagged at him.