One Night

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Chapter Twenty-Two

ALEX

Though I didn’t show it, every day my heart breaks a little more. Coming home to an empty house sounds like a dream come true for most kids, but at the end of the day most of em’ had at least one parent that came home. Me? I had no one. And every day when school let out I was reminded of that cold reality.

The place looked barely lived in aside from the pizza boxes and Chinese takeout containers I left on the kitchen counter. I’d get to ‘em later. Without a care in the world, I dropped my bag to the floor in the living room and made my way upstairs. I thought I wanted to go to my room but my feet dragged me to the shut door of my parents’ bedroom.

I hadn’t been inside since I was maybe fourteen. When I turned the cold brass knob, my heart sank. The bedsheets were wrinkle free. No drawers were cracked open. Not even a dirty cup was left behind on the nightstand from a previous night. The room was spotless.

Again, seeming to not have much control over my body, I found myself being pulled toward the closet. There had to be a sweater or a pair of my dad’s ugly brown pants he loved so much. He couldn’t have taken everything, right?

One flick of my wrist was all it took to completely knock the wind out of me.

Empty.

The closet was empty. It’s like my parents had no intention of coming back at all. This all felt like a messed up dream. When was I going to wake up? I didn’t even realize I was crying until I felt a thick tear roll down my cheek and splatter down onto the stupidly white carpet below me. I felt numb. The hole that was left in my heart only grew bigger. Hopeless, I sank to my knees.

What felt like hours had passed before I wiped my face. Through my eyelashes that stuck together, I saw a box poking out from the corner of the closet. Huh, wonder why this wasn’t cleared out too.

Scooting further, I reached for it. The book looked fairly old which only piqued my curiosity that much more.

Inside, I expected there to be objects but there were nothing but papers and documents. As I rummaged through them, there was a certain stack of papers that caught my attention. Federal documents they were, my father’s scratchy handwriting and signatures here and there.

I set aside those papers and dug deeper into the box to grab a photo I spotted on the way bottom. It was a photo of my father and a woman looking a little more than friendly. But she didn’t look like my mother, Molly; if her brunette to Molly’s unnatural blonde was anything to go by. What made me even more uneasy was that this woman was holding a child. Did my dad cheat? Was that his child?

I needed answers and I needed to know who this woman was. My hands plucked at every piece of paper in that box. Thankfully, there were two more photos of her. In one she was holding her child, smiling down at it as if it were the only thing that mattered in the world. I flipped to the back of the photo hoping for a date, a written note, anything. And a note is what I found... and then some.

“2-6-2001

My sweet angel, Alex. From this day on I promise to give you everything I’ve got. You, my little girl, are the rightful owner to this heart and every ounce of love in it. It’s all yours.”

What?!

My head was reeling. There were no other papers or photos to look through. I ran back into the closet desperately searching for anything I could use to make sense of this. There had to be more. To my luck, I managed to find a thin manilla folder on the very top shelf next to a pile of hangers. I clutched the stack with my life, but I wasn’t prepared to face the contents. Still, I feel that even a few more minutes wouldn’t have been enough to prepare me.

"Aaron Johnson....Jolene Torres....mother and father to Alex Johnson." After I confirmed the sheet of paper was my birth certificate, I flipped a couple of pages.

“Child welfare... Birthmother’s Adoption Agency... Wide Horizons Foster Home.”

“What the fuck,” I uttered numbly.

This didn’t make any sense. Jolene Torres was my birth mother, that much I could put together. But I had no idea what the adoption papers meant. I couldn’t even feel my heart beating as the weight of this information began to cripple me. I was gasping for air. My heart started thumping again as a fresh downpour of tears came.

Angry. Confused. Hurt. Lonely. Empty is how I felt. My state of mind was far from a healthy one when I decided I wanted to ring up the man who mangled my heart. With blurry eyes, I raced downstairs on the search for my phone. It was deep at the bottom of my bag left by the couch. With trembling fingers, I dialed my father’s number. Like a miracle, he finally answered.

“Alex? Hello?”

“Hello, Dad,” I spat out.

“I was waiting for a call when I sent you the car, but —”

At that moment I couldn’t care less about what he had to say. I damn sure didn’t care if he was hurt about thanking him for a car I didn’t want; especially after not hearing from him for months.

“My entire life with you has been a lie and ironically enough, all the shit I needed to know was sitting in your closet all along.”

“Alex, hon —”

“I don’t care if you ever come back home because this empty house would be more comforting than living with a liar. Make sure you pass my message along to my mother too.”

In a fit of rage I hung up and launched my phone across the kitchen. It shattered against the refrigerator.

“God dammit! Why?!”

I don’t think I’d ever felt so much pain in my life. I stomped over to the cabinets above the kitchen counter and I smashed every single plate and bowl letting it shatter against the expensive Italian tile flooring.

My chest hurt from the screams and guttural cries that ripped from inside of me as tears rained down from my eyes. I was truly alone... and the empty house echoing my curses to the world reminded me of it.

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