Though it seemed like hours to her, less than fifteen minutes passed before Roy’s truck came barreling down the road. She watched as it got closer and closer, butterflies multiplying in her stomach as it did. When he stepped out of the truck, slamming the door behind him, she stood.
“Thank you for coming back and saving me from him.” She turned and motioned in the direction of another howl.
“He’s a long way away, looking for the rest of his pack. You were safe. At least until dark. And I didn’t come back to save you. I came back to wring your skinny little neck!” He gritted his teeth as he made the choking motion with his hands. She involuntarily reached up and touched her neck as he continued.
“How could you do that to me?! How could you not tell me I had a daughter? How could you let another man raise my child? How could you let him think she was his when you knew she was mine? Damn you for that, Charlie! Damn you!”
Her eyes welled with tears. “I’m sorry, Roy. I know it was wrong. I know it was unfair to you. But I already told you why. Andrew never asked, though I always felt he knew. But he loved Alexandra, and was a good father to her—”
“And I wouldn’t have been?” He yelled the words, causing her to shudder.
“That’s not what I meant. I know you would have been a good father to her. And I know I cheated you out of that for the first eleven years of her life. I know it was wrong, and I am sorry. Hate me for it all you want; you have every right to, but please don’t turn your back on our daughter. She needs you, Roy, and I believe you need her just as much.”
“You’re damn right I have every right to hate you!” He wiped his face as he turned away from her as if to calm himself. Turning back to face her, hands on his hips, he continued, his voice lower, his eyes filled with hurt.
“You know, Charlie, not only did you break my heart when you married Andrew, you took away every dream I had for a future, a future with you. You were all I ever wanted, a life with you, a family with you. But I could forgive you, not for the way you did it, but for the reasons why. I understood that he could give you so much that I couldn’t. I understood your need to get away from here. But this—”
He took a deep breath as he looked up at the sky. He shook his head repeatedly as he took in another deep breath. He seemed unable to find the right words to continue.
“I want to see her. I want to meet her.”
“And you will, in time.”
“What do you mean, in time? I want to meet her now.”
“It’s not that simple. I need time—”
“No, Charlie! You’ve had time. You’ve had eleven damn years! Your time is up.”
“I get that. I plan to tell Alex as soon as I get back home. But you’ve got to understand. She’s not going to accept it just like that. She’s going to hate me—”
“Yeah, well, she’s going to have to get in line for that. She’s my daughter, and I deserve to see her.”
“Of course you do. I’m not disputing that. But put yourself in Alex’s place. Do you think she’s just going to say Oh cool? Can’t wait to meet him? She adored Andrew. She will be devastated to learn that he was not her birth father. She’ll refuse to believe it, she’ll hate me for it, and she will hate you as well.”
“Why me? I didn’t do this?”
She rolled her eyes. “Seriously, Roy?”
“Okay, fine. I get it. I realize it won’t be easy for her.” He blew out air as he ran his hand over his head. “So what? How much time are we talking about here before I can meet her?”
“I don’t know. I can’t even begin to say how long it will take Alex to accept it. But, Thanksgiving school break is a month away. I’m hoping she will be at least agree to meet you by then. I think she and I could come during her break, spend time with you, so the two of you can start to get to know each other. And if that works out, we can come back Christmas. We’ll just have to take it one day at a time.”
“One month. But that’s all you get, Charlie.”
The lone coyote howled. Others joined in.
“Sounds like he found his pack.”
“Yep. Time to head back before it gets dark.”
“You mean you’re not going to leave me out here. Feed me to the wolves?”
“Don’t tempt me, Charlie.”
She caught his eyes with her own. “I am sorry, Roy. I know it doesn’t help, and it doesn’t change things, but I am sorry, and I do love you. I hope someday you can forgive me. For everything.”
He offered no response but held her gaze. The anger she’d seen in his eyes earlier was gone. She saw promise in that.
She started toward his truck but stopped and turned back to check out the view one more time.
The sun spreading its beautiful rays of red, yellow, and orange across the horizon mixed in with the blue, partly-clouded sky was breathtaking.
She saw promise in that as well.