Evander makes plans with Janet, after school. Once she gets home, he invites her to go for a ride.
They drove to the bluff south of town. It was one of Janet’s favorite places. They parked the car and headed to the hiking path. Her father handed her a hat and a canteen. Janet remembered they always used to hike together. Her father was adventurous, like she.
“Remember the rattlesnake?”
“I remember being scared white you’d get bit,” he replied. “That took courage, baby girl.”
“But I killed it.”
“And he was mighty tasty too.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell Mama?”
“About the snake?”
She gave him a patient look. Evander sighed heavily.
“There was never a good time. She was ecstatic about you. I was too. And I thought maybe—because there was so much white blood. It wouldn’t matter…. Your mother couldn’t forgive me.”
“She’s blamed me for years,” Janet snapped. “All my life, I’ve carried your guilt because you didn’t have the balls to tell her! Do you know what that’s done to us? Do you have any idea?” She wanted to hit him, but refrained.
“I tried apologizing. How does a man atone for a lie like that?”
“And it wasn’t because you were black. It was the lie! Five years we tried to live like a family and you finally gave up.”
“I did,” he admitted sadly. “I told her if she couldn’t forgive me, she could leave.”
“Why didn’t you leave?”
“Because it had to be her decision, not mine. I laid the line, she had to cross it or back away. It broke my heart when she chose to leave.”
“You never called. You didn’t write!”
“I did! I swear. Every birthday, every Christmas—I sent cards and gifts. They came back unopened. I tried to see you. I begged. The last ten years have been torture without my girls.”
“Where does Sookie fit into all this?”
“Sookie fits in like you.”
“What do you mean?”
“What Mom’s telling her right now, is that I’m her daddy, too.”
“What?” Janet was shocked, she stepped back, nearly going off the edge of the path.
Evander grabbed her, saving her from a long, drop down a steep hill. He held her to him, trembling. “Let’s head down,” he suggested.
Janet agreed. Suddenly tired, she leaned on him as the descended.
“We tried to put it back together like it was. I did my best to convince your mother…. The night she decided, it was a week after our anniversary. That was a good night. We were happy and I thought it would be better. A week later, she left me. She was pregnant, and we didn’t know.”
“What about Braden?”
“He was an old friend. They knew each other from her visits here. He let people think Sookie was his. He stepped in like a father, helping out. He’s a good man.”
“Why didn’t she marry him?” They were back at the car.
“We aren’t divorced. I love your mother, and I always hoped we’d get back together.”
“Now we are.”
“And what happens next? You can’t keep making that drive, spend a few days and go home.”
“That I can’t.”
“Can you get a job here?”
“I own a restaurant in Texas. I’m the chef. They can manage a few days with my sous chef.”
“But you have to go back?’
©2020 Dellani Oakes