(WP) Things My Father Never Told Me

(WP) Things My Father Never Told Me

               My
father passed away on a rainy October night, and the following week, we held a
funeral for him.

               The service
had been lovely, understated and populated by those who had loved him. I knew
he would’ve approved.

               After
the wake and the meal prepared by the men and women of our family, my mother
and I made plans to go through the rest of my father’s belongings, to box them
up so they could be distributed, per his will.

               The
meal was somber and slow, and we bid goodbye to the rest of the family. Before
we departed, I gave my siblings, Frida and Nathan, hugs.

               Frida
was still crying, her eyes red-rimmed and her normally sleek, brunette hair
disheveled. She wore a black sheath that hugged her hips and crimson flowers
along the neckline. She held me tightly, and I was enveloped by the scent of
her perfume, sweet and floral.

               “Come
see me when you’re done sorting through Daddy’s stuff?” She whispered in my
ear, and I nodded.

               Nathan
wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me close to him, and I hugged him, burying
my face in my older brother’s neck. I could smell his aftershave, and I sighed.

               We’d
grown apart after growing up, from our parents and each other. Sometimes, I
think we were so focused on having independence of our own that we had lost sight
of what was really important: family.

               **

               I
wrapped a hand around my mother’s arm and escorted her out, feeling as though I
were in an old Hollywood movie, as if I was watching this all transpire outside
of myself.

               She
looked as if she had aged ten years since the death of my father. Her rich
brown hair had become lank and greasy, and the bags under her eyes made me
realize that she hadn’t slept very much.

               “Are
you going to be okay, Ma?” I asked, and she blinked, shaking her head as if
surfacing from a daydream. Or a nightmare.

               “Would
anyone be okay if their spouse passed on?” She quipped, and I bit my lip to hide
an inappropriate grin.

               “Fair
enough.”

               “Come
along, Scarlet. We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us.”

               **

               Without
my father’s big belly laughs and jovial voice to fill them, the walls of the
house seemed empty. Abandoned. Too quiet.

Mom and I split up, with her taking
the lower story and me taking the upper.

The first place I started to clean
was Dad’s bedroom; there was no way my mother would want to go in here. It held
too many memories, as sharp-tipped as daggers.

I started moving his clothes from
the wardrobe to give to Goodwill, neatly folding them and putting them on the
bed.

I was putting his shoes in pairs at
the foot of the bed when I noticed a metal box glinting faintly behind some discarded
shirts. It looked like someone had put it there on purpose.

Forgetting about the shoes, I
reached for the box and found it locked. I frowned, looking around.

If I was my father, where were I
hide a key to something secret?

Driven by an impulse I couldn’t
quite understand, I looked inside his best pair of dress shoes, the ones he
almost never wore. I reached inside and found something cold, hard, and smooth
at the toe.

When I pulled it out, it was a
small, tiny key, hardly bigger than my fingernail.

I put it in the lock and turned it;
with a soft click, the lid burst open.

Letters, photographs, grade cards,
and child’s drawings all lay in haphazard stacks inside of the box. I began to
dig through it, and flinched when my fingers found a gold band, studded with
garnets and rubies that shone like congealed blood.

The picture that caught my eye was
my dad with his arms wrapped around a woman I’d never seen before: she was tall
and lean, with long, strawberry blonde curls and laughing green eyes.

What secrets had my father been
keeping before his death?

**