“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.”
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…”
“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.”
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.