I awake suddenly, with my left hand placed firmly below my left breast. I don't quite know the symptoms of a heart attack but I feel I'm not so far from one. I've been experiencing these feelings more frequently for the past four months. I manage to lie back on the bed with just my body while my mind stands at attention like a gallant soldier, trapped in its repetitive and ultimately self-defeating thought arcs.
Tom sent me a mail to inform me that he was going to call me up today before coming over. We haven't really met and today is supposed to be the first meeting. So you can excuse my anxiety
It's already 9AM. Breakfast is set, house is cleaned thoroughly enough to pass the first impression test effortlessly. My mobile phone has been tucked into the rear pocket of my jeans all morning so I won't miss his call. It's very significant. I sit on the dinning facing the window that's opened to the street. My mind begins to play it's prank on me.
Don't worry, he'll soon show up at your door steps.
Before it proceeds with it's baseless fantasy, my heart whispers sharply but sternly. There's always a war of words between them.
Don't be stupid girl, stop listening to your mind.
It can be very blunt when it has to, at least to keep it's rival in check.
Oh! I'm sorry.
I return my gaze to the assorted food I've displayed on the table, pretending to be in charge. I fumble again with my phone checking it for the umpteenth time even when the ring volume is set at maximum. I try to distract myself by grabbing one of my favorite books from the shelf. It's a compendium of short stories, a 100 of them.
I flip through the pages like a pack of cards and stop unintentionally on page 191 and there it is, the short story I will forever not want to see today - "The Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker. I cover the page as fast as I can and shut my eyes tightly. But my naughty mind has already seen the first few lines. I struggle to suffocate them by placing a pillow over them like a little boy would do to make his baby sister keep quiet. The harder I try, the weaker my efforts become until I hear from my lips.
"Dear God, please let him call me now. I..."
Oh no! It can't be me. I can't be anxious, I can't be the lady in Dorothy's story.
"Maybe if I don't think about it, he'll call."
There you go again, stop doing this to yourself, my little checker cautions.
Ok. Ok, I hear. I promise I'll be calm. I quickly put the book away and go to take a shower to ease the tension. In the shower, it sounds like I hear a door bell chime. I stand still with lather-filled face tilting towards the door to be sure I heard or not. Ok, I didn't hear anything. I adjust and continue, taking my mind off it as the water rushes down my face. There's a sound again at the door. This time I'm double sure. I rush out unconsciously and...
Take it easy, you're naked. It's my heart again.
Uhh! Putting both palms around my bikini, I hunch back into the bedroom to cover up.
"Hold on please, I'll be there shortly."
But I told you he'll come. My mind is at it again.
Oh my God! I rush to open the door with the widest grin ever.
"Hello," an old woman greets frighteningly.
"Hello," I respond disappointedly without hiding my countenance.
"Oh! S... sorry, I...am here to see the Roberts but...it seems I have m... missed my way," she stammers.
"Exactly. Just go further, the 3rd Apartment by your left." I turn to shut the door.
It's 5PM. My phone rings finally. I jump and grab it with shaky hands mistakingly pressing the answer button.
"What's the meaning of this, why are you doing this to me, you want me to have a heart attack?" I spit into the phone.
"Don't Martha me. Why can't you just keep your word? I..."
"Martha!" The voice from the other end yells.
"Oh my God! Dad I'm sorry, I...."
"Are you ok?"
"I'm coming over right away."
"No, no, Dad, please don't bother, I'm fine."
We've been a very happy family until recently, about four months ago.
In one of our routine eating out nights, my uncle, Dad's younger brother behaved like a drunk and started spilling nonsense. One of it was that I wasn't Dad's biological daughter. We felt it was an April Fool prank but Mum affirmed it was a possibility. That my Dad and I survived that day without a stroke was purely a miracle. Weeks later, Dad decided to challenge it in a Paternity Court.
" These results were prepared by DNA Diagnostics and they read as follows: In the case of Peterson vs Peterson pertaining to 21 year old Martha Peterson, it has been determined by this court that....Mr. Peterson, you are NOT the father. So sorry this wasn't the outcome everyone expected. But it's the reality."
The court room was turned into a mourning house. We had to be excused to take some air outside. After we returned, the Judge continued, facing Mum this time.
"Mrs. Peterson, do you know who Martha's biological father is?"
"Yes." She whispers with tear-fill eyes.
"Do you know how to contact him?"
"Not really but I'll try."
Dad vowed he wasn't going to let any stranger have me because he's my father and has been there the whole time for these twenty one years. I understand with Dad, who wouldn't. But I have a different opinion and feeling. Time will tell.
Everything seemingly returned to normal after that period but not with me.
Tomorrow is March 20th, my birthday. One thing that makes it so special is that it falls on the onset of Spring. A time when everything breathes fresh air and blossoms, a time of rebirth and clean up. It's perfect for me.
It's 7PM. My phone rings again. This time, I pick it up reluctantly. It's a strange number. Maybe it's him.
"Hello, my dear, I'm by your street."
"Ok. 2nd Apartment to your right."
I don't know what to think. What does he look like? What does he like? What....
I open the door and my jaw drops, letting my mouth hang open, completely lost for words. I have mixed feelings now.
The birthday party is almost over and almost everyone is giving the I want to go sign of stretching and yawning. I excuse them and kneel before my Dad with an epiphany of apologies.
"Why this, Sweetheart, I don't get it."
"I know you wouldn't ever expect this, but Dad I just need to do this. It's a promise I made to myself." I say, beckoning on Tom.
"Dad, I want to introduce to you and everyone present, Mr. Tom Hale, my biological father. I'm... sorry Dad but..."
"Oh! Sweetheart,... it's ok but... it's just that I never saw this co... coming and...I...I..." The words hang as he drifts slowly towards the floor.
"Dad, no oooo!"
Tom calls 911.
Those feelings are up again, this time very intense and I'm sure now I know the symptoms. They should expect more than one patient.
The clock ticks away unconcerned.