Millions of reasons for Gayla’s tears raced through my mind as I sped toward her house. She seemed unconcerned with the men in her life the last time we spoke so I don’t think it could be something caused by the opposite sex. Her new business voyage left her overjoyed so I was going in that direction. At the same time it could be a number of things including her mom or her home. Mostly I spent the ride praying that she is physically okay and whatever is wrong I can help.
Gayla opens the door with red puffy eyes, no make-up dressed in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms.
“Oh sweetie,” I say stepping in hugging her.
Gayla is my very best friend. I absolutely don’t know what I would do without her. She is the sweetest, most giving and understanding person in my world. To think that someone hurt her enough to make her cry brought tears to my eyes. To see her strength dissolved like this hurts me. She doesn’t say anything just turns us arm and arm to head to her kitchen in silence. I don’t say anything; I want her to begin naturally, when she’s ready.
Gayla’s house is large and glamorous. If I ever had to leave my home, God forbid, this would be the way to go two car garage, foyer, den and pool. She has a roomy layout with large spacious rooms and little to no walls or doors. Her home is modern with marble flooring and granite counter tops. Single level, with basement, that stretched on forever. There were three bedrooms one used as guest room another made into an office. Her master suite has an in room bath which housed a Jacuzzi tub, stand up shower and double vanity. In her kitchen all of her black and silver appliances gleamed from the work of her weekly cleaning lady. There is a double door refrigerator with bottom freezer, double oven, and a six range stove with a microwave fixed atop. Her kitchen is something only someone any cook would desire, but I would pass. Gayla though uses all of the appliances for entertaining as well as for lazy days home.
As I put the bag on the counter Gayla goes to her fridge and pulls out a bottle of wine. Comes back in a zombie like state to grab a glass from the rack hanging above the island and pours me a full glass while refilling hers. She does all this with no words. From the puffiness around her eyes and face in general I can tell she has been raked with sobs. Though she isn’t crying now dried tears are visible on her cheeks, her nose red from blowing.
She continues to move about me as if I am not there. If it wasn’t for the full glass of wine she has just handed me I would have sworn she had forgotten that I am here. The suspense is about to kill me when she turns and says, “My dad came into the shop today.” My mouth drops open and I don’t know what to say.
Should have known it was the one thing that could have her like this. I always knew him leaving hurt her even when she wouldn’t say so. After he left she buried herself into her school work and then college. When Gram got sick Gayla became her home health aide, while in her senior year of college. Said she didn’t want anyone else caring for her, she wouldn’t trust it. She never wanted to talk about him. At first I asked all the time and even when she said she was fine I knew she wasn’t. But she wouldn’t talk. Eventually I stopped asking because I didn’t want to pressure her if it wasn’t what she wanted. Her life didn’t suffer from it, she seemed to just pick up and move on, didn’t want my constant asking to spark any feelings that weren’t there. So I just sat back and hoped one day she would talk about it, just not like this.
Gayla raises her hand and closes my mouth, “My reaction exactly.”
“Well what the hell did he want,” I ask? Before she can speak I grab her hand and my glass, I pull her towards her sitting room, “Let’s sit.”
“Yes I need something much more comfortable than bar stools.”
Seated in the corner of her grey sectional comforted by her cream and black pillows Gayla’s eyes begin to tear up, “I was locking the door after Toni, since the store closes early on Sunday’s I decided to use the extra daylight hours to plan out more catering jobs and prepping for the next day. It wasn’t the first Sunday I’ve been doing it for a few weeks…
It was like a dream. Being this close and seeing this face. Gayla could not believe who stood before her. She didn’t know if she should scream, cry or curse. It had been more than fifteen years. Closer to twenty. But there was no doubt who this was just like there was no doubt in the parking lot that day. The Asian girl pregnant flashed in full color through Gayla’s mind.
Gayla stood not knowing if she should lock the door or let him in. She wanted to shut him out like he had shut her out. Hurt him like he had hurt her and her mother. How he hurt his own mother. Gram. That caused a tear and a new hurt for the moment. Then she wanted to let him in and hear him say he was sorry. Say that he shouldn’t have left and wants to get to know her. Is that why he is here? She needed to know that.
So she stepped back and let him in. Her dad. The man who put together her three story doll house. Her dad who taught her to skate and ride a bike. She remembered his bedtime stories and nightly tuck ins. All this going through her mind as he shyly walks in, appearing smaller than she remembered him. But that was so many years ago, Gayla had grown tall the years that he had been absent.
The father who abandoned her and her mother. The father who while they were at school and work he packed his things and never looked back. The father who when she last saw him wanted to pretend they didn’t know each other. New tears sprung to her eyes.
“Why are you here,” burst out of her mouth from the breath she had no idea she was holding.
“I'm sorry,” he says humbly, “I don’t mean to bother you. I just wanted to see if you had a minute to talk about something.” About ‘something’ makes her hurt more. Why is he so formal?
“Why are you here?” she asks again with a little more restraint.
“Can we sit?”
Gayla pulls herself together and points to the closest table while locking the door she was still holding open. When she sits to join him he looks only mildly concerned with her tears, nothing like a father. All she kept thinking was what could he possibly have to ask her. Does he want to know if she hates him? She doesn’t, don’t know if she could or if she should; what good would that do? Did he want to know how she was doing? Great accept a few daddy issues popping up here and there. Then he breaks her thoughts.
With his head down, “I’ll get right to it. I need a surgery that cost me more than I have. On top of that because of my illness I haven’t worked in a few months and my house is going into foreclosure.”
“What!?!” she screams, dizzy from the pain. The hurt in her chest was unmistakably her heart breaking. This is why he is here. And this is how he starts the conversation. Straight to the point, she doesn’t even get to know what the illness is.
How the hell could he want anything from her? She didn’t get what she wanted from him. Then he seems to misunderstand her tears as sorrow for him in some way and continues his story, “My wife can’t work. Never had to so never had any experience. Our oldest daughter is going to college this fall on full scholarship so that’s a relief,” he pauses and smiles to himself like a proud papa, “but the smallest needs her school tuition paid…” and he just goes on and on with his problems. At some point turning his attention back to his fingers. Telling Gayla his problems like she was some friend and not his eldest daughter. Her heart breaks more as he just disowns her, he wasn’t concerned about her college tuition, no concern of her living situations or if her mother would lose their house. He just went on and on looking up at Gayla sparingly. Not ashamed of anything he’ss saying to her or the manner in which he says it. Not ashamed that he left a daughter behind to find what he thought was the better life. Not ashamed of running out on them at all.
“Stop!” she screams standing suddenly knocking over her chair. Causing a ruckus in the quiet place, “Are you serious? Is this for real?”
“What do you mean?”
Now Gayla’s chest is heaving, “You come in here after all these years and the first thing out of your face is can I have some money?”
“That’s not what I said.”
She wanted to scream, ‘Oh yeah you sugar coated asking me to pay the way for you, who abandoned me for your Geisha wife and those bastard children.’ But instead she said, “Who cares about the exact words. Don’t you think you should have seen me before this about other things? Before you come and ask me for some money. Couldn’t you have at least pretended to care about me not only as a person but as your daughter? And news flash I'm your oldest daughter,” jabbing her finger to her chest. “That’s the only reason you’re here isn’t it? So selfish.” She says the last part to herself as she turns away from him wiping her eyes, the audacity of this man.
“It was my mother’s money who afforded you all of this,” he states matter of factly.
She turns and is back at the table swiftly, “The mother you abandoned with the rest of your family. Maybe had you man upped and stayed around she would have left you something. You didn’t even have the decency to show up when she became ill or for her funeral and you have the nerve to come here and set claim”
“She wouldn’t come. I told her what was happening,” sounding humble looking at his fingers again. “But she wouldn’t come,” he states again and it’s the first time Gayla sees a reaction from him. He seems sad and she almost pitied him.
“Wouldn’t come? You shouldn’t have been leaving. Daddy you abandoned us,” the word daddy ingfeeling foreign out of her mouth, leaving a bad taste, her eyes produce more tears.
“Your mother and I were arguing always. I felt suffocated in my own home. I was too young a man to have been feeling that way. I felt as if I wasn’t living in a life that I wanted or that was even mine. The arguing and constant let down of the relationship was over bearing. You have no idea what it’s like living in a life that doesn’t feel like yours. Your mother’s a very strong willed woman she never wanted to do as a woman should.” The with a clear disdain for her mother he states, “Working too damn much. Trying to be this new millennium woman. Men don’t like that we like to feel needed, to be able to take care of you. Your mother didn’t need that. Yu loved me from the moment we met. Besides your mother didn’t think we could work it out either.”
“Yeah, after you left, what choice did she have?”
“No before I left. Some nights we didn’t even sleep in the same room. When we did I felt like I shouldn’t be next to her. There was no intimacy, just us trying too damn hard. Loving someone should never feel forced.”
Hearing this made Gayla wonder. It didn’t match any of her childhood memories. There wasn’t nothing wrong with her family in her eyes, everyone loved each other at least that’s what she saw.
“If that’s true why did you sneak out like a snake?” Gayla’s tears were drying up. She wasn’t going to let him talk down about her mom or her Gram any longer. Maybe they were having problems. Maybe it was exactly how he said, but she knew her mother had no idea he was leaving. Her shock and concern were not forced.
“Look I just figured you don’t need all that money, why not help your family out.”
FAMILY! Gayla could picture herself jumping on him at any minute. Maybe a pounding would put some since into him because he had surely bumped his head at some point. The whole conversation was so inappropriate and so different from what she thought he was here for. Gayla had no idea who this man was. But what she did know is he wasn’t the man who put her doll house together or read her bedtime stories. When he left that day he really left. Then the tears were back. She would never have him back.
Yet she couldn’t help asking, “Even if things were bad between you and mom I was your daughter. Your flesh and blood. You said I was your princess and that you loved me,” crying, “how could you leave. Not watch me grow.”
“Yu didn’t want another kid around we would have to explain. It was just easier.”
All of his answers were so simple, so direct. He had absolutely no regret.
“So no one you know in this new life knows you had a daughter or a mother. And being someone else for someone else made you feel better than being with your daughter.”
He doesn’t give any more answers, just sits across from her looking helpless and pissed. He doesn’t care about anything she is saying. It’s like talking to a brick wall. All the answers she wanted are coming to her wrong. None of them are the answers she expected. He will never say that he missed her or that it was hard being away from her because it wasn’t. He had new princesses. And the lies he has to tell to live that life doesn’t matter. The hurt he has caused her doesn’t matter. Not even his mother mattered.
“Get out!” she goes to the door and opens it for his departure. He looks like he wants to say more but doesn’t. Her anger is taking the place of all that pain. He looks defeated but Gayla doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about her pain so she won’t care about his.
“Get the hell out,” she screams again fighting the urge to drag him out. He isn’t leaving fast enough, Taking slow tedious steps to the door trying to find new words.
After he is gone Gayla spends the next hour not working but crying out all she has held in for the last seventeen years. Wishing he would have stayed gone. Settling on the fact that she doesn’t have a father. Hasn’t had one for a long time now. All she had were memories and at that moment she really wished she didn’t have those.
Blinking Gayla breaks her stare from the floor and brings her eyes to mine, “Anything I may have felt might have been salvageable between us is gone. I mean this man walked in from out of nowhere after years missing years of my life and asks me for money. And I know he felt no wrong in anyway.” Shaking her head she takes a big gulp from her glass.
Stunned from her story, the audacity of her father I don’t know what to say to her. That’s a lot to take in, I cant help but wonder if she would have been better if she had never spoke to him again.
After many minutes of silence Gayla states her truth, “One of the reasons I never talked about him was because I never wanted to speak ill of him. If I didn’t say it there was a chance the relationship would somehow get better. That he could show up at any time say he was sorry and we could move on.” As she wipes her eyes I wipe mine. I couldn’t begin to imagine what she is going through, especially growing up with a bitch friend like me who had a wonderful father, a father who actually treated her best friend as if she were his own. A best friend who kept company with married men.
“I'm really sorry Gayla,” giving her hand a squeeze.
“Me too, I won’t tell momma about this.”
“Why not,” I question shocked. “She should know.”
“I don’t want to hurt her or have her relive it up close like I just did.”
“Gayla I think your mom is stronger than you think.” Shit from what I saw she didn’t break stride.
“I don’t know you didn’t see her like I did. She hid it well, the same as I did. If it wasn’t for Gram staying and helping her I don’t know how things would have gone.”
“I'm sure it did affect her. But neither of you have talked to the other about it. It could be a healing process for the both of you.”
“Umph, yes it was definitely an eye opener for me. To look at him and to hear that he really just didn’t and doesn’t care enough about any of us was just too much. There is nothing to look forward to. And to be honest it’s more of a relief. Its like he was missing and we needed to hear they found his body.” She gives a slight laugh, “I guess that’s exactly what its like. Now I can mourn the death of the father who was.”
After a pause she says, “Tomorrow I'm gone go talk to momma after I talk to your dad.”
“My dad,” I ask surprised.
“Yeah while I was waiting on you I had time to think about what I want to do.” I don’t say anything because I already know Gayla and her heart.
“How much?” is all I wanted to know.
“I was thinking a million, but I think seven hundred fifty should be sufficient and if it isn’t oh well. I'm only concerned about his surgery and home. That girl private school tuition is not my problem like my tuition wasn’t his.”
“That’s really big of you. I know a lot of people, me included, who wouldn’t care.”
Yeah it was a hard conclusion to come to but I know Gram would want me to and that’s the only reason. Which is why I'm going to see your dad, I need some contracts behind this. I want him to understand he can never contact me or ask me for anything else in his life or mine. One contract will be exactly that, you’re taking this money in saying you understand that. The other is to sign away his parental rights.”
“What? Aren’t you a little too old for that?”
“Probably but it’s the principal of the matter. I also don’t want him to have any of my money or life earnings if I leave this life before him. These things need to be absolutely understood, you don’t want me as a daughter let’s make it legal because I don’t want you as a father.”
Her tears are restarting and I don’t know how to make her feel better about this whole situation. I am glad that she is talking about it and hopes the fact that I'm here helps.
“I’ll see my mom tomorrow after I see your dad. I have my mind made up and I don’t want whatever happens over there to change it in any way.”
“I'm in need of more wine and I know you are.”
“Yes please,” she laughs looking a little more settled than when I got here. I don’t know if she will ever be completely over it, how could anyone, but I am happy that she is coming to some type of closure. She had to go through a bad encounter with the one man who most girls are taught will always love us. Then to learn he had other little girls he adored had to hurt. Maybe it would have stung less if he had little boys.
We spend the rest of the evening drinking wine while eating the large pasta from Syberg’s, which goes well with the bread I took from Jerome’s basket and the salad Gayla put together. She doesn’t talk anymore about her dad and I don’t ask her. She wants to talk about my life so I told her in full detail my decision to stop seeing Jerome. How I didn’t care if Dwayne ever called again and hoping Christopher would work out.
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