Daddy Not So Dearest
Mercy pulls up to a serene lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains and fir trees. It's the very lake she and Alex were married at so many years ago, and the very lake she spread her mother's ashes.
Her mother is the reason she's back today. Her very memory has been tested in the past month. All that Mercy knew to be true, all that Sandy had told her was true, turned out to only be half-truths.
Mercy cuts the engine to the car and climbs out. She's angry, hurt, and tired. She needs closure and this is the only way she could think of to get it.
All she can think of is that in some way, Sandy betrayed her in an almost unforgivable manner. The memory she had of her mother has been tainted by the truth she kept from her. The truth she took to her grave.
Mercy takes off her shoes and walks barefoot up the gravelly shore to the water line. She looks out onto the water with tears in her eyes, taking a moment to remember the events that lead her to this place.
The events that started with a call...
Two months before.
"Mercy, you don't know me, but I'm your father," the voice over the phone said.
"What?" Mercy's heart raced and her hearing muffled before her legs gave out beneath her.
The phone fell from her hand as she collapsed. Henry raced to catch her before she hit the ground.
"Mercy! Are you okay?" Henry held her crumpled body tightly against his.
She looked up with tears shimmering in her eyes. "The man on the phone..." her voice was barely a whisper, "he says he's my dad."
"What?" Henry nearly shouted.
Aiden picked up the phone and growled angrily into the receiver, "Who is this and how did you get this number?"
The man on the phone said, "My name is Jaime Perez. I'm Mercy's father. I got her number through a private investigator I hired."
Before Aiden could ask another question, Alex entered the room and saw Mercy shuddering and crying in Henry's arms.
"What the fuck is going on?" he asked as he rushed towards them.
Mercy couldn't speak. Henry stroked and kissed her head. "Some prick is on the phone claiming to be Mercy's father," he replied.
"What?" Alex asked in disbelief.
Joyce, startled by all the yelling, came downstairs from where she had been putting the kids to bed.
"What's going on? Is everything all right?" she asked.
"Someone is on the phone claiming to be Mercy's father," Aiden replied.
"That's impossible!" Joyce said, scurrying over to Mercy on the floor.
She knelt down next to her and Henry.
"It has to be a lie, baby girl," Joyce said, wiping a tear from Mercy's eye.
"Joyce..." Mercy said before wrapping her arms around Joyce's neck and continuing to cry.
"Joyce, please take Mercy to her room. We're going to get to the bottom of this," Alex said sternly.
"Come on, baby girl." Joyce helped Mercy to her feet and guided her up the stairs to her room.
When she was out of sight, Alex grabbed the phone from Aiden's hand.
"I don't know who the hell you are, but you need to explain yourself right the fuck now," Alex growled.
He walked towards the study. Henry and Aiden followed, closing the door behind them. Alex put Mercy's phone on speaker.
"Like I've already told someone, my name is Jaime Perez. I'm Mercy's father. I hired a private investigator to get me contact information," Jaime explained once more.
"Why? Why the fuck do you care all of the sudden and how do we know you aren't lying about who you are?" Alex asked.
"I can prove who I am. I know Joyce. I met Sandra at a club when we were nineteen. Joyce was her best friend. Sandy's mother's name was Antonia Lopez and her father was Miguel de la Cruz. Miguel never met Mercy. He was dead before she was even conceived. Antonia died when Mercy was still a baby. Sandy was an only child. Should I continue?" Jaime asked.
Henry and Aiden looked at Alex. They knew he must be telling the truth or at the very least he did know Sandy personally. No one could have gleaned those details without knowing her.
"Okay. So maybe you knew Sandy. That doesn't mean you're Mercy's dad," Alex replied.
"You can ask Joyce if you don't believe me. How many people know who I am or my name? How would I be able to make that up?" Jaime countered.
"Maybe you got a hold of her birth certificate somehow?" Alex said.
"I never signed her birth certificate and Sandy never listed anyone as Mercy's father," Jaime replied.
"Fine. For the sake of moving this bloody conversation along, let's say you are her father. Why are you contacting her now?" Henry asked.
"I started reading she was sick. The rumors were she had cancer. I know her mom died of cancer. I got worried. I needed to talk to her. I need her to know my side. I need her to know I love her," Jaime said.
"You love her?" Aiden scowled in disbelief. "If you love her, where were you her entire life?"
"I wanted to be there for her, but Sandy wouldn't allow me to. She was so angry and hurt. She didn't want anything to do with me and she didn't want me to have anything to do with Mercy," Jaime explained.
"You're a liar! Sandy said you left her. That you wanted nothing to do with them. That you turned your back on them and never looked back. That's what she told Mercy," Alex said, his patience wearing thin.
"She lied," Jaime replied.
"You're a fucking piece of shit! Accusing a dead woman of lying when she isn't here to defend herself?" Alex's face turned red with anger.
"I have proof. I have letters I sent to Mercy until she was five, that Sandy returned to me without opening. After that, I gave up. I've followed her life through the media though. I even took my daughter to one of her concerts once."
"Mercy doesn't have cancer. She is sick though and she doesn't need this type of stress aggravating her condition," Henry replied.
"Is it money you want? Because you'll get nothing from us," Aiden added.
Jaime chuckled. "That's exactly the reason why I've never reached out until now. I knew everyone would think I was just after something from Mercy because of her success. I don't want anything from her. Only a chance to tell her the truth and perhaps build a small relationship with her and get to know her."
"What if she doesn't want that? It's fucking selfish of you to come out of nowhere after all these year sprouting these accusations!" Alex was about to fly off the handle.
He couldn't believe this was happening. Things with Mercy were just settling after her cancer scare. She was finally getting a handle on her Lupus diagnosis. He knew this was going to send her into a flare-up.
"Look, I get you're trying to protect her. I knew this wasn't going to be easy. Especially going up against the three of you. It would be bad enough contending with one protective husband, let alone three. Can you just talk to her for me? Let her make the decision. I promise not to contact her again. I'll give you my contact information so the ball's in her court."
"I don't know. Even if what you say is true, Sandra had a reason for keeping you from Mercy," Aiden replied. He had never met Sandy, but he knew she wouldn't have kept Jaime out of Mercy's life simply because he had dumped her.
"She did have her reasons, but I'd rather discuss that with Mercy directly if she wants to talk to me," Jaime said, hoping the curiosity would aid in Mercy giving him a chance to explain why he was never around.
Alex couldn't respond. He was too pissed off. He looked at Henry and Aiden. Aiden nodded, knowing Alex needed him to take over the conversation.
"Jaime, we have a lot to discuss as a family with Mercy. This is Aiden by the way. Let me take your details, then we must be off for now."
Jaime gave Aiden his information and Aiden jotted it all down. He hung up the phone.
Alex paced the floor, running his hands through his hair in frustration. Henry stood with his arms crossed and his brow furrowed.
"The nerve of him! Mercy is just beginning to feel normal again. Now this?" Henry finally said after a few moments of silence.
"We need to talk to her. She's probably a wreck up there," Alex said.
"Yes. We do need to speak with her, but we must all calm down. She doesn't need us going up there worked up when she herself is in distress," Aiden replied.
Alex and Henry knew Aiden was right. Going up to Mercy in a rage wasn't going to help her.
"Do you guys think he's telling the truth?" Alex asked.
"The only way to know for sure is to confirm some of what he said with Joyce and perhaps letting him prove who he is. Joyce is the only link to that time. If she saw him, she could tell us if he is who he says he is," Henry sighed.
"Does Mercy have a photograph of him?" Aiden asked Alex.
"No. Mercy told me her mom never showed her a photo of him. It's like Sandy wiped him completely from her life. That's why I'm hesitant to have him anywhere near Mercy. Sandra would not have done this for any small reason. Maybe he's dangerous." Alex was calming down and his anger was being replaced with worry.
"Shall we go look in on her?" Henry asked.
"Yeah. I think I'm calm enough. Let's go," Alex replied.
They all left the study and went upstairs to Mercy's bedroom. As they walked in they saw Joyce cuddled with Mercy in bed. Mercy was still crying, her face blotchy. Their hearts collectively broke at the sight of her.
"What happened?" Joyce asked.
"Well, he claims a lot of things," Aiden replied.
"Maybe we should discuss this in the morning. After we've all had some sleep," Aiden suggested.
"What did he say?" Mercy finally spoke.
"Baby, you need to calm down before we talk about everything. Aiden is right. It's better if we wait until morning," Alex said.
"No. I need to know something or I won't be able to sleep," she said.
"He says he can prove he's your father. Do you have a picture of him, Joyce?" Alex asked.
"No. Sandy burned all his photos. She found out he was cheating on her. She was three months pregnant and she found out he had a least one side piece that she knew of, but she suspected there were more. She said when she told him she was pregnant he left and she never heard from him again. She moved in with me shortly after Mercy was born," Joyce replied.
"That's the same story she told me," Mercy said.
"You'd probably be able to recognize him though. Right, Joyce?" Alex said as he took a seat on Mercy's opposite side.
She had stopped crying, but sat now sniffling. He pulled her into a tight embrace. It made Mercy feel safe and she could feel her heartbeat begin to slow.
"Yeah, definitely. If I saw him, I'd know him." It had been a long time, but he couldn't have changed so much that he wouldn't be recognizable. After all, it was apparent Mercy took after him when it came to looks more than she took after her mother.
Sandy had brown hair and light brown eyes while Mercy's features are dark like her father's. He was a handsome man. Sexy, if Joyce was being honest. He had bad news written all over him.
A guy like him, screamed player from across the room. But Sandy hadn't listened to her warnings. She fell hard and fast for Jaime. And Jaime turned out to be all the trouble Joyce had predicted he would be.
Because of that, Joyce hated him and they never really got along. He was always pissed off she was pointing out signs of his infidelity to Sandra. If only Sandy had listened and wasn't so blinded by love. Then again, that situation lead Joyce to believe everything happens for a reason.
The result of Sandy's mistake, was Mercy. And no one who knew Mercy, let alone Joyce, could ever think her existence was a mistake. She had become Joyce's single most source of joy. While Joyce had now long past the point of having children of her own, she never regretted it.
Mercy had become her daughter and her children, her grandchildren. She loved them like nothing else in the world. Mercy was the best daughter she could ever imagine having. Joyce had never wanted or needed for anything since Mercy hit it big. Mercy had always made sure she was taken care of.
"Please, love. You need rest. Let's all sit and discuss this tomorrow," Aiden said.
Mercy frowned but didn't protest.
"I'll leave you guys. We'll talk in the morning." Joyce hugged Mercy once more, got up, and headed to her room to sleep.
Aiden and Henry joined Mercy on her bed. Aiden pulled Mercy's face towards him and kissed her forehead. He looked into her eyes, "We'll get to the bottom of this, love. I promise."
She nodded and kissed him.
Henry pulled her in next and held her tight. "Are you feeling, okay? Did you take your medicine?" he asked.
"No, not yet," she replied.
"I'll get it for you." Henry stood up and walked into Mercy's bathroom. He collected the pills she had to take from the various bottles and brought her a glass of water.
He handed it all to Mercy and she quickly drank them down.
"Thank you," she said as she kissed him.
Alex took the glass from her hand and placed it on her side table.
"I'm sorry. That was a real a mood killer." Mercy sighed.
Before the phone call had come through she, Aiden, and Henry had been playfully fooling around while Alex was on his business call. Now everything was so serious and somber.
"We should go to sleep, love. Tomorrow's another day." Aiden smiled at her and stroked her cheek.
"Aiden's right, Kitten. I'll see you in the morning, yes? Get some sleep." Henry kissed her once more before standing.
"Okay. Good night. I love you both."
"We love you too, dear," Aiden answered for both he and Henry.
Henry and Aiden headed off to their rooms and left Mercy and Alex alone.