6. The Perfect Stranger
I threw on some clothes, not bothering to worry over what I looked like.. I was still snifling so I brought a few packets of tissues with me. My Aunt and I had just arrived at the lawyer's office, where we'd discuss the details of Mum's will with a lawyer. I was anxious and fidgety. Thank God Niall agreed to come with me. The other boys were at their own flats since Niall had told them to go back to their own places because he knew they'd just make a mess out of the flat. It was already messy as it was anyway. Niall held my hand, drawing soothing circles on my palm with his thumb. I rested my head on his shoulder, listening to the thrum of his heartbeat.
No on else was here except Niall, Aunt Gertrude,myself and a man in uniform. He looked like a soldier but he didn't seem to be from around here since his uniform looked like the one soldiers in America wore. I knew this from the videos of soldiers surprising their loved ones with an early homecoming that I watched on YouTube to occupy my time. I've always wondered what that feeling would be like. To wait for someone you love to come back home after a long time apart. I looked up at Niall, who smiled crookedly back at me. My eyes glanced past the soldiers' eyes and I noticed he'd been staring at me an awful lot. I pretended not to notice. Just then, the pretty lady at the reception desk beckoned me over. She seemed friendly.
''Right. Well, will you please proceed into Mr.Watson's office,'' she told me politely,gesturing to the door. I was still holding Niall's hand because I wanted him to come along-he was like family,anyway. Aunt Gertrude had chosen to stay behind-she said it was something I had to do alone.
''Alone,'' the receptionist stated sternly but ironically, did it with a smile.
Niall nodded at me and let go of my hand. As I turned around to walk into the office, I caught a glimpse of the soldier again. He was still staring at me. I looked down at myself. Was something wrong with what I was wearing? I shrugged and placed my hand on the doorknob. I turned it and pushed the door open, which was when I felt an itch in my nose.
''Oh,bless you,'' a bespectacled man sitting behind a large,mahogany desk said as I stepped into his office. He rose from his chair and waited as I closed the door softly and walked to shake his hand that he had outstretched. He had a firm grip, I realised as he let go of my hand.
''Please,take a seat, Ms.Sullivan,'' he offered.
''Thank you,'' I replied politely. As I scanned his suit, I realised I was terribly underdressed. Everything was so..formal here. So...serious. Oblivious to my discomfort, Mr.Watson,looking smart in his crisp suit and tie, folded his hands and rested them on the table.
He took a deep breath. ''I'm terribly sorry for your loss,'' he started, his thick eyebrows drooping. His hair had streaks of grey but he was still dashingly handsome. I wondered how long he'd been working as a lawyer.
''Thank you,'' I whispered, averting my gaze.
''Now, this is all the usual procedure so please, bare with me,'' he said as he read me some official matters that I should've been listening to. Instead, I was studying how he had placed his things on his table. How the stationery was on one side while his documents were filed neatly in the other. ''I think that's all for now,'' he murmured, flipping a page and quickly scanning the contents. Then, he placed the stack of papers by his side and took out a letter from his drawer.
''Now,before I procceed, I have to remind you to keep in mind that whatever you read or receive today are all from your mother,'' he tells me as he hands me the plain enveloped. I turned it over in my hands. On the front, there was my mum's handwriting. Neat and cursive, like how she used to write my name on my belongings when I was younger to make sure no one took them at school. I swallowed the lump in my throat. I missed her. So much.
''Alright then. I'll leave you for a moment. I have some matters to settle. I'll be back soon,'' he informs me. I nod in understanding,curious to read the contents. What was so important that I had to actually come down here to read?
As soon as the door closed behind him, I tore open the letter and took the two thin sheets of paper out. On them was my mum's handwriting. The first one was telling me that she loved me and to take care of my sisters. She told me that she didn't have much money to give my sisters and I. But that was understandable. And I didnt care anyway. But the second page was when it got interesting;
Jamie, my dear daughter. You know that I love you and nothing will ever change that. I hope what I'm about to tell you now won't change the way you feel about me...or your sisters. The reason I've never told you this was because I didn't know HOW to tell you. This is hard for me to tell you as it is hard for you to hear about it only now. I wanted to tell you when you hit your twentieth birthday but looks like I didn't have the chance.
You see, when I was a teenager, around 17, I met this charming man and his name was Smith. We met in a pub where I was working as a waitress to support myself.He was an American soldier. We fell in love instantly. We were so young and naive and so in love with each other to think about the consequences of our actions. And so, the night before he had to leave for America, to serve his country, we spent the it together. Your grandparents had already gone by then and I was so lost and lonely without him. Somewhere along the way,I met Sullivan. We started dating and I lost contact with Damon. And I fell hopelessly in love with Sullivan, the man you know as your father. Sullivan and I got married soon after because I was so intent on getting married quickly. But the real reason behind why I wanted to marry him so quickly was because I needed help. I needed help to raise you,Jamie. I found out I was pregnant a week before I met Sullivan. And he had a stable job and I thought the money would help. I understand if you're angry with me and hate me. But I need to tell you the truth. Sullivan isn't your biological father. I'm sorry for keeping this from you for so long. The only other person who knows about Damon is your Aunt Gertrude. I hope you understand. All I wanted to do, all I've ever wanted to do, is protect you from getting hurt. Don't ever, EVER think that big fight we had before I was admitted into the hospital was your fault. When I found out about the tumour, I told Sullivan about Damon...but Jamie, my darling, please, ALWAYS remember that I've always loved you. Please be safe. I love you.
She ended the letter with ''Forgive Me, Mum.''
I couldn't think properly. All this time....i wiped the tears that had run down my face. Everything makes sense now. I hear a knock on the door so I wipe my eyes and nose with the sleeve of my shirt. I wrapped my arms around myself, not looking over my shoulder.
''Ms Sullivan? Have you read the letter?'' Mr.Watson asked.
I nodded my head quickly.
''Good. You know everything then. Ms Sullivan?'' he called. I stood up slowly and cleared my throat, slowly turning around to see the soldier I saw staring at me in the waiting area standing right here in front of me, his hat in his hand.
On the front of his unifrom, he had the name 'Smith' sewn in. My eyes widened and I couldn't move. I was barely breathing.
''Ms. Sullivan,'' he said for the hundredth time. ''This is your biological father, Mr.Damon Smith.''