I couldn’t believe my eyes. This couldn’t be. I actually pinched myself because I thought I was dreaming. He was dead. I know because I was there when he died. But, this man across the street looks just like him. He even has the same smile as him. I ran against the light, dodging cars to get to him. I had to see him close up. I had to touch him and to hug him.
In my rush to get to him I lost him. I ran as fast as I could across the street and even pushed people out the way, something I never ever do, to get to him. But, where is he? Where did he go that quickly. My eyes darted up and down the block. I didn’t see him on the street. Maybe he went into one of these stores. But which one? There had to be at least 15 stores on this block not counting the street vendors. I have to find him. I had to think. If it was him where would he go? I got it. I ran to the men’s shoe store about half a block from where I was standing. He had to be in there if that was him. He loved shoes almost as much as she did. So, he had to be there. He brought a new pair of shoes twice a month. Finally, I got to the store. By this time I was out of breath. I was thinking that I should have gotten back into shape after the baby. I am feeling it now. I looked inside the store trying to catch my breath at the same time.
Okay, shoes, running shoes, I will start there. But, where are the running shoes? I quickly walked over to a sales associate and asked. She pointed me to the yellow sign that said “Men’s sports shoes.” I was glad this store had air conditioning because I was as hot as “a cat on a hot tin roof” as my granny used to say. I couldn’t get over there fast enough. I didn’t have to look for long because there he was. He was standing there at the cash register paying for his shoes. I wiped the sweat off of my forehead and swallowed hard as I walked to where he was standing.
“Stephan, is that you?” I managed to say still in shock that he was alive.
“Excuse me? My name is not Stephan. You must have mistaken me for someone else.”
“No, you have to be Stephan. You look just like him. “
“Look, Lady, I don’t know who this Stephan is but I am not him. You are mistaken for me with someone else like I said. Now, if you will excuse me.”
“No, I won’t excuse you. You are Stephan. Why are you playing these games? I thought you died but I guess you didn’t die cause you are standing right here. I don’t know how it is possible that you didn’t die but here you are.”
“Lady, I don’t know what you are babbling about but I can assure you I am not this Stephan you are talking about. My name is Jacob. Now, if you will get out of the way so I can pass. I have things to do.”
“You have to be him. You are my husband. You didn’t die.”
“If you don’t move I am going to call a cop. I told you I am not him. I am not your husband. I am not Stephan. Please for the last time move.”
I had no choice but to move but I knew that he had to be Stephan. I waited a few seconds as he left the store and I followed him. Thankfully, he didn’t notice that I was a few feet behind him and thankfully he was walking. He walked for what felt like ten miles but actually it was only ten blocks. He stopped and bought some flowers from a vendor selling red, white and yellow roses. He chose the yellow ones. Stephen always chose yellow too. Who was his buying these flowers for and how did he not die? We were both in the car. He was driving and we were going to his best friend’s Dave’s New Year’s Party and from nowhere a truck ran the light and crashed right into us. The next thing I remembered was the fire department pulling me out of the car. I wanted to yell for Stephan but I couldn’t. Something was wrong with my voice. Later, I learned that I was unconscious and in a coma for six days. When I woke up my throat was sore and dry. I had some tubes inside my mouth. I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. A few minutes later I saw my mom standing over me crying. I couldn’t speak but I needed to know what was wrong. Why was she crying and where was I and most of all where was Stephan. Someone I never saw before, a doctor, came in the room and took the tube out of my mouth. I still really couldn’t speak well but I didn’t need to. He asked me some questions about if I had pain and I shook my head no. I just wanted to know where I was and where Stephan was.
After the doctor left the room and my mom stopped crying long enough to talk she broke the bad news that Stephan hadn’t survived the accident. He died instantly. I didn’t believe her. I managed to let out something between a scream and a cry out of my body. I shook my head no because he couldn’t be dead. But, he was. The memorial service was held three days after I got out of the hospital. I don’t know how I survived the days, the weeks, the months since he died. If it weren’t for our son, Dilon, I wouldn’t have. Dillon is only a year old and he looked almost exactly like Stephan.
Stephan turned the corner from the flower stand and walked a half block and stopped in front of this older apartment building. The paint was fading on the outside of the building and there was a big black security screen in the front. He took out his keys and unlocked the screen and proceeded to walk up the stairs. I had to know what was going on? Why was he pretending not to be dead? Did he have a secret life? Maybe a whole other family? I didn’t know but I knew that some of my answers were behind that screen door. I decided that there was nothing I could do at that moment. The door banged shut and he was gone. I wrote down the address and hoped that he lived there and stayed all night in that spot. I decided to go home and get my car. I was going to come back and have my own stake-out. If I had to kidnap him to find out who he was I would.
I left Dilon with my mom and I drove the couple of miles back to where I last saw him. There was a light in an upstairs window and I guessed that is where he was. I couldn’t see very well even with the binoculars I brought along with me. I know that was sort of old school but I was old school. The curtains were not open enough for me to actually see anything. I only saw that light and a shadow of a table or something which I guessed was right in front of the window. The light didn’t go off until after midnight. It was a good thing I was a night owl and had a thermos of coffee with me.
At 6 am sharp he left the apartment. He was carrying what I call a “man bag” and an umbrella. I guess he thought it was going to rain. He walked a half a block and got into a sliver SUV. I made note of the plates. He then drove to the other side of town and parked in front of another building. It looked like an office building but more than one office inside the building. He got out and entered the building. I felt like I was in a bad detective movie as I followed him inside the building. I was glad that once again he didn’t notice me. He got on the elevator. I let a few people walk in front of me and I got on the elevator too. I was trying not to be seen. He got off on the 12th floor. I got off on the 12th floor too. The 12th floor was the floor of doctor Williams. There was a sign that said “Doctor Jacob Williams.”
Wait, what? He's a doctor? Stephan wasn’t a doctor. Stephan was an attorney. When did he become a doctor? I paused until I saw him go inside the door and he disappeared into a side room once he got inside the office. There was a girl at the reception desk with blue hair and green scrubs on. She glanced up and saw me and asked if I had an appointment. I lied and said yes. She asked if this was my first time there and I said yes. She didn’t bother to ask my name; she just handed me a clipboard with a bunch of forms and a pen. She told me to fill them out and return them to her when I was done.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew that once he saw me he would probably call the cops for stalking or something if he wasn’t Stephan which he said he wasn’t. But, how could it not be? I sat down and scribbled a fake name on the forms and had to think of a reason why I was there to write in the box. I scribbled something illegible and gave the form back to the girl. She looked at the form and then back at me. She entered the information in a computer and a few minutes later she led me to a room and told me to wait there that the doctor would be in soon.
This was crazy. I knew that I was taking a big chance by being there but I had to know why Stephan wasn’t dead and why he was pretending to be a doctor and why he claimed his name was Jacob.
The girl came back in the room where I was waiting and told me that the doctor was behind but should be in shortly. I smiled and nodded. Then I noticed it. There was a white medical coat on a chair across the room. Maybe this was Stephan’s coat. I picked it up to examine it more closely. Yes, indeed it was. His name was sewn on the front pocket. I checked the pockets and viola! There was a small comb inside the pocket. Stephan was always vain and had a thing about his hair. He always carried a small comb everywhere he went to keep his hair in place. Thankfully, the comb had a few hairs in it. I pulled out a small sandwich bag from my purse and put the comb inside. I had watched enough crime shows to know that I could possibly get some DNA from the hairs in the comb and I could figure out if this was my husband or not. Now, I had to get out of there. I grabbed my purse and quickly and quietly walked out.
Fortunately, I had saved Stephan’s toothbrush and his hairbrush. I can use these to see if the DNA matches and find out if Stephan is Stephan. I called my friend, Mary who worked in a lab at the hospital. She was the lab manager and had done hundreds of tests. She said that it was unethical and against the law to steal someone’s DNA. I told her that I had to know but didn’t want to get her into trouble either. I had to think of something. I had the answer. I had to do it myself and send it to the lab. I knew nothing about how to do it but I had my ways of finding out.
It took a long time for the results to come back but when they did I had my answer. It said it was a match. I yelled and yelled that I knew it. I went back to the doctor’s office and demanded to see this Jacob person. He came out and rolled his eyes when he saw me.
“I know you are my husband. Why are you lying to me?”
“Look, lady, I am not your husband for the last time.”
“Yes, you are. I did a DNA test and found out that you are.”
“You did what?”
“I had to know.”
“How did you get my DNA?”
“That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are my husband.”
“No, I am not your husband. But, let’s talk.”
“Meet me at the cafe around the corner in ten minutes.” I told him.
He walked in and looked madder than a wet hen. He sat down at the table across from me and looked me directly in the eye. The waiter came over and asked us what we wanted. We both said coffee and a blueberry scone.
“Ok lady. Explain how you got my DNA and how you think this makes me your dead husband?”
“ I can’t tell you how I got your DNA but believe me you're him. I don’t know why everyone told me you were dead but you’re not.”
“Ok, usually I don’t tell my business to strangers but to get you to leave me alone here goes. My name is Jacob Williams. I was born on October 4th, 1976. I grew up in a small city in California and was an only child. I was never married and don’t have any children. My dad passed away when I was 18. My mom had a stroke and lives with me now. The flowers you saw me buy when you were staking out my house were for my mom.”
“You knew I was there?”
“Yes, I did. I knew you followed and have been following me since you saw me in the shoe store. I was hoping that you would just go away. But, I see that you didn’t.”
“I am sorry to hear about your mom. Is it possible for me to talk to your mom?”
“If that will get you to leave me alone you can come over at 7 to the apartment. I am sure you know the address. Now, if you will excuse me I have to get back to work. I have patients to see.”
He got up from the table and laid down two $5 bills for the food and tip and walked out.
“Mrs. Williams? My name is Kate. You don’t know me but can I ask you a few questions about your son?”
“Jacob, who is this woman? “
“She’s a friend, Mom she just wants to talk to you for a minute.”
“I think that Jacob is my husband Stephan. I did a DNA test and it matched my husband and him.”
“Oh, Jacob. I guess it is time for me to tell you something.”
“Mom, you don’t have to explain anything to this woman if you don’t want to.”
“No, I need to talk to you and she might as well hear it too. The reason that your DNA matched her dead husband’s DNA is because you and he are related. You are adopted. I was going to tell you when you turned 18 but your dad died and I didn’t have the heart to tell you right then. See, e and your dad couldn’t have kids. We tried and tried for almost ten years after we got married and we were getting used to the idea that it wasn’t going to happen. That it just wasn’t met to be. But then something happened. A young woman at the church confided to me that she was pregnant and wanted to give the baby up for adoption. She was young, probably in her early 20’s and she said that she knew that she couldn’t give the baby a good life. She was young, didn’t have a job and was trying to finish school. So, she asked if I knew anyone who could adopt her baby. I thought this was a sign and a few months later she went into labor early. Me and your dad took her to the hospital. Well, a few hours later the doctor came out and told us that she had triplets. The babies were very small and would have to stay in the hospital for a while. You were the biggest baby and you weighed 4 pounds. Your brothers were 2-3 pounds. They didn’t even know if you or your brothers would make it. But, you all did make it. Me and your dad wanted to adopt all of the babies but we couldn’t. We adopted you and the other two babies got adopted by other members of the church. About a year after we adopted you we moved to Albany where you grew up. So, your DNA matched her husband’s because he was your brother.”
My face dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and neither could Jacob. We were both in a state of shock.
“Mom, that is a lot to process. I don’t know what to say.”
“Son, I am sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.”
“Do you know where my brothers are?”
“Yes, all the information is in my safety deposit box at the bank. I will get it tomorrow.”