“Mom?” I called out after pretty much searching the whole house.
It had been three days since the funeral and my mom had been even sketchier than usual. I looked in the kitchen, living room, knocked on the bathroom door and even checked the garage to see if her car was still there. It was. There was no sign of her. I thought she had gone out for a walk, but she left her keys and the door was still locked. I decided to call her phone, hoping that it would lead me to her or that at least if she answered it, I would have a better idea about where she was. It rang a couple of times on my end, before I heard the ringtone go off in the house, I followed it upstairs and into her bedroom, where I had previously checked.
“Hello…?” she answered, sounding muffled and far away.
“Mom? Where are you?” I walked into her bedroom slowly, my eyebrows raised slightly.
“I’m in my closet.” The rustling sound behind the door, confirmed that she was indeed where she said she was.
I chuckled in relief, “Why are you in the closet?” I opened the door to the closet and hung up the phone. Excuse me for panicking a little bit. My dad’s soul was basically taken so my boyfriend could remain living. I think I’m allowed to panic.
She looked up at me with tear stained cheeks and puffy eyes, still holding the phone to her ear. “I’m going through my photo albums. I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“Again? Mom, maybe you should see somebody.”
“No,” she shook her head and continued mindlessly flipping through the large photo book in her lap, “I’m fine.”
“Mom. Look at me,” I touched her arm, “You aren’t sleeping. You’re crying all the time. You’re not fine. You need to talk to somebody. Anybody. Even if, it’s not me. Please? I’m worried about you.”
“I’ll be okay, Kai. I’m grieving. It’s normal,” she said, the hurt reflecting in her eyes, “How are you taking this so well?”
“I’m not, mom. I swear,” It was true. The guilt was eating me alive. I felt tormented by my thoughts and conflicted by my emotions, but I didn’t know how to tell her.
“Oh, Kai. He’s really gone,” mom wailed, leaning against me as I wrapped my arms around her while she sobbed.
I held her. Whether it was for minutes or hours, I can’t say for certain. Time held no meaning when you were in mourning. I rubbed over her back, trying to comfort her the same way she had when I was little and home sick from school. Her breathing returned to normal after a while and her tears slowed. She sniffled a few times, hugged me hard and sat back up.
“It will be alright mom,” I spoke softly, unsure of my own words as I nibbled my lower lip.
“I know. I just feel so guilty…” she croaked through a fresh round of tears that she refused to let fall.
My eyebrows rose up and then together, making a crease in my forehead, “What do you have to feel guilty about?”
“I was so mean to him.”
“When?” I asked curiously. I couldn’t remember a time where my mom was ever less than supportive of him, aside from when I had my accident of course. Was that what she meant? “Do you mean in the hospital when you were talking about him after the accident?”
“No.” She reached for the box of tissues I hadn’t noticed on the floor beside her, and blew her nose. “I went to see him in jail after that.”
“What?” I was actually surprised, “Why?”
“To tell him off,” she whispered, looking down at her tissue in shame. “I told him how much I hated him and that I never wanted to see him again.”
“Wow,” I said and ran my hands through my unruly hair. It was all I could think to say. She was not the type of person to say those things, at least she wasn’t before my dad turned out to be such a failure at life.
“Are you disappointed in me, Kai? I’m so upset with myself. That’s the last time I ever spoke to him and it was to tell him that I hated him,” she sobbed, breaking down into tears once more.
“I’m sure he knew you didn’t mean it…” I started.
She breathed deeply before responding, “But I did, in the moment. Later I regretted it and I called him, but he didn’t want to talk to me. I left him a message at the jail to call me about something mundane, a bill I think. It was basically our code when we were fighting before. But he never called. Why didn’t he call?” She shook her head and pressed her hands against her face.
I inhaled sharply and squeezed my eyes shut, “Oh my god, mom. I think I made a terrible mistake…”
She blew her nose again, loudly this time and eyed me warily, “What do you mean?”
“He...he did call, mom,” I admitted softly, daring to look at her, “I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault…I didn’t know you were waiting for his call.”
Unshed tears filled her eyes and she shook her head and smiled, “Oh honey, no. I’m so relieved.”
“What? But I said such mean things to him. Why are you relieved?”
“Don’t you see? He called. He still cared. He knew why I called.” She held me and kissed the top of my head as I finally let loose, it was my turn to cry, “It wasn’t your fault, sweetheart.”
My “episode” didn’t last long. I’d like to say that I was really manly about it, but the truth is that I sobbed like a baby. Guess I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. When it was done, my mom smiled at me and reassured me that it was just what she needed to hear. She said she was glad she had me to get through it with. Together we forgave ourselves a little for hurting him before he died. We really would be okay, eventually. I truly believed it.
“All right, Ms. Bishop. And Kai,” Mr. Candella said as he pulled out my dad’s file, “Are you ready to hear Mr. Bishop’s Last Will and Testament?”
“Yes,” my mom said quietly, her hands sitting awkwardly in her lap.
“I didn’t even know dad had one of those things.”
“Me either, hun,” she smiled vacantly, patting my knee.
“Not that Dad had much to leave. I’m pretty sure he drank most of it away.”
“Actually, he had a few assets he wanted me to discuss with you if he ever passed away. Shall we get into it?”
My mom and I exchanged a look of mild surprise as the lawyer cleared his throat, shuffling through some papers in the file.
“You ready?” We nodded and he smiled, “Okay. The first order of business is the house, which he has awarded to you Ms. Bishop. As you probably already know, the mortgage has been paid off...”
“I didn’t know…” My mom interjected, trailing off.
“Well, it has and he already had a buyer lined up for the sale if you don’t wish to keep it. All you have to do is sign the documents and any money made will be yours. The buyers have waived the closing costs.” Mom looked like she was about to hyperventilate. Mr. Candella offered her a warm smile and that seemed to calm her for the moment. “I think you’ll find their offer more than fair.”
“Wait. He already had a buyer? Did he know he was going to die?” Mom asked with wide, shocked eyes.
Mr. Candella pursed his lips and shook his head, “No. He uh...he was planning on moving here to be near you all. To start over, he said. He was supposed to sign the documents on Monday morning.”
“What?” I choked out, surprised.
“Keep going, please,” my mom requested, her hand fluttering at the base of her throat.
“As you wish. The next order of business, is a college fund for, Kai here. It is a very generous amount, as you can see.” He wrote a number on a sticky note and handed it to my mom.
My mom grabbed the piece of paper and widened her eyes, sliding it over to me. I grabbed it and looked back up at the lawyer in surprise. He smiled broadly.
“That’s a lot of zeros,” I exclaimed, knowing that this would for sure cover at least four year of college if not more. “Where did he get this kind of money? We were always broke.”
He chuckled then nodded, “Mostly through investments. He started the fund when you were born, Kai. He was a very dear friend of mine and had me handle this discreetly. Every paycheck he got, he deposited money into your college fund. Sometimes he only had ten dollars to spare, other times it was as much as fifty. It all depended on the job he got.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I mumbled, looking over at my mom who seemed to be in shock.
“You can’t access this until you’re eighteen and graduate high school, but after that, it’s all yours. He put no stipulations on it other than that. And the fact that it was to be used exclusively for college and college related items like textbooks or dorms. Do you understand that?”
“Here is the offer for the house. Do you wish to accept it now or would you like to think about it?” the lawyer asked respectfully, handing my mom another slip of paper with a six figure number on it.
She coughed, and looked at me for help, I nodded and she parted her lips to speak, “We accept.”
“Great!” He clapped his hands together and handed her the papers to sign, which she did. He was a notary, so he signed the papers as well, with his secretary as witness, “Well now. Since that’s done, it leaves me with the last thing on my list. Here you go.”
Mom and I reached out to each accept a red envelope. When I started to open mine, he waved his hand at me, halting my movements.
“He expressly wished that you would open the next Christmas after his passing. He wasn’t sure when that would occur. So, it was hard for him to put pen to paper, but I insisted. Sometimes a personal note is all that you need to move on. Lucky you that Christmas is in two days, this Saturday. Any questions so far?”
We both our heads no. He offered his condolences. Then gave us his card, saying that we could call him anytime to discuss the will or anything else we needed. After a firm hug and well wishes, we were on our way. Neither of us spoke on the way home, lost in thought after everything we had heard.
“I can’t believe it’s finally Christmas,” Preston said with an excited smile. “I’ve been looking forward to spending it with my best friend, the same as we did every year.”
“I know, I’m excited too. Sucks that you have to leave after tomorrow though,” I said with a frown.
“Actually…” Preston chuckled, “I’m here to stay. For real.”
“In our house? Really Mom?”
“No.” My mom stated firmly, eyeing Preston.
“What?” I dropped my jaw in disappointment.
Preston laughed, “No, not here. I meant in town. I’m here to stay in town. I told my parents how much I loved it here and my parents bought a house! Merry Christmas, bro!”
Kayla whooped, then slapped a hand over her mouth, sinking down in her seat. Her cheeks heated to an intense pink. Me and my mom giggled. Preston blushed as well, sneaking sly peeks over at Kayla and biting his lip.
“That’s great, buddy. Maybe you’ll grow on me,” Jude grinned and squeezed my hand. He hadn’t let go of it since he arrived for dinner over an hour ago. It was delicious. The food I mean. Not the hand-holding. Well, I mean, I guess that was great, too.
“Yeah, sure. You too,” Preston joked back with a small smile. They’re going to be good friends. At least I hope they will be.
“Thank you for dinner, Ms. Bishop. It was amazing,” Jude smiled over at her, then squeezed my hand again as the others echoed their sentiments.
“You’re very welcome, Jude. You’re welcome here anytime. All of you are,” my mom smiled, looking wistful, yet happy, “I hope you enjoy the presents as well. It was nice to be able to afford things again. It’s been awhile.”
Everyone murmured their thanks, beaming from ear to ear.
“I’m sorry that Delia couldn’t make it, Kayla. I was really looking forward to seeing her again. She is such a nice girl,” my mom smiled and the rest of us tried to hide our snickers.
“Thanks Hannah. She refuses to come here because she thinks your house is haunted.” Kayla snuck a peek at Jude and smiled.
“Well, maybe she’ll feel differently once we move into our new house. It was just build a year ago and it’s so spacious.”
“Maybe,” Kayla smiled, then shared a knowing look with me.
“Can we open the cards now mom?” I asked, my voice full of hope.
“You sure you want to do this in front of everyone?” my mom asked. I nodded as she stood, setting down her eggnog and going into the kitchen. When she returned, she was holding the two red envelopes, “You go first.”
“Okay. It says:
“My Dearest Kai,
If you’re reading this letter, it means that I have met my maker. I’m sorry for that, son and I’m sorry for so much more than you know. I’m sorry that I was never there for you, like I should have been. There’s no excuse for that, so I’m not going to waste your time trying to explain myself. The truth is, I screwed up royally. You and your mom deserved better than someone like me. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I made my bed and I’ve had to deal with it since you all had enough sense to leave. Good on you for that. It was the right thing to do.
Please take care of your mom. I know she might be hurting right now, even if she doesn’t show it. Just know that I’ve always been proud of you, my boy. You are a wonderful human being. My only regret in life is that I didn’t express that in the right way, in a loving way. That and messing it up with your mom. Guess that makes two things. I love you, my sweet boy.
Your biggest fan (Dad)
I sniffled and closed the letter, tears trickling down my cheeks. I swiped at them with my hoodie sleeve and looked down, asking, “What’s in yours?”
“Well, let’s see,” my mom sniffed once, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, then smiled, showing it to me. It simply read:
I’m sorry and I love you. Please forgive me.
Ps. I paid the bill. :)
My mom and I laughed while the others looked puzzled, “Well, that’s very... Dad.”
“That it is, kiddo. That it is.”
As, the afternoon progressed into evening, I took a moment to really look at everyone. I was so thankful for everyone and everything. I felt truly blessed. We laughed and shared stories well into the night. As the night fell, and people began to yawn, they dispersed to their designated sleeping places. The shadows seemed to dance, pulling me under. It was a full house. I smiled and closed my eyes. Settling down onto the couch next to Jude, happiness wrapping its arms around me and filling me with warmth.
Nothing could ruin this, I thought as I started to fall asleep.
My eyes popped open as a voice whispered in the darkness.
“Kaaaiiii…. Come find me….”
Guess I was wrong.
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