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Fiction Drama Romance

It was the day before the funeral, Abigail couldn’t bring herself to look over the boxes of photos for her father’s memorial slideshow. It would mark the start of sorting through her parents’ belongings then selling the house. She sat on the attic floor, boxes lay open, she couldn’t decide which one to sort through first.

“Do you need help?” Andrew knelt down beside her with his hand on her shoulder. 

She nodded, her shoulders slumped and her head hung low.

“Let’s start with this.” He picked up the box in front of her and grabbed a handful of photos.

He smiled flipping through them. “It’s their wedding day.”

Abigail took a photo from his hand and held it in front of her. Their mom had a demure smile, posing at an angle with her long white A-line dress with lace flutter sleeves. Their dad wore a rose-coloured tuxedo and sported a restrained grin. It was the 70s, and the style embodied the decade. 

Abigail settled on her dad’s grin, it looked odd. His smile seemed forced and his eyes were languid. She’d seen the photos before, but she never took notice of her father’s expression.

“Does dad look like he’s fake smiling?” She showed the photo to Andrew.

He frowned then shrugged, “Maybe he wasn’t happy about leaving his bachelor life. Mom did say he used to be a ladies’ man.”

“Wonder if he ever cheated on her,” said Abigail.

“I wouldn’t be surprised, and I wouldn’t blame him either.”

Abigail raised an eyebrow at Andrew, lip curled. 

“Oh c’mon. If you had mom as your wife, you’d do the exact same thing,” he said.

He picked up another handful of photos and found a small box at the bottom.

“What’s this?” Abigail picked up the small box. It was open and it had a film roll inside.

Andrew tossed the photos on the floor and took the roll from Abigail’s hand. “It looks like it's been used. I’ll develop it at my studio tonight, see what’s in here.” He put the roll in his pocket.

They continued to go through the boxes of photos picking out ones that they both agreed on for the slideshow. 

---

A torrential thunderstorm greeted the day of the funeral. Dark grey clouds covered the sun, heavy rain and broken water mains flooded the lower roads, and the power outage darkened the streets further; no lights from the houses, no lights from the street lamps, and the intersections were riddled with accidents.

Abigail and Andrew arrived at the funeral home five minutes before the start of the service. They had planned to arrive at least an hour prior, but the chaos of the roads challenged their journey.

“I don’t think people will come,” Andrew said.

“A little rain won’t stop them! Look at us, we’re here!” said Abigail.

“We’re his kids. We’re supposed to be here.”

Abigail asked the pastor if he could delay the start of the service for fifteen minutes, just to give people enough time to arrive and get settled.

Fifteen minutes passed and only ten people had entered the chapel. The pastor looked at Abigail to confirm if he could start the service. She nodded and he approached the pulpit. 

Abigail and Andrew gave their eulogies, it was received with nearly silent tears from the fellow mourners sitting on the pews. The empty room amplified the crying into echoes. Abigail tried not to break into wailing, she contained her sorrow by wiping the droplets of tears from her eyes and holding her breath back. She looked over to Andrew, he was looking at the casket with a distant and empty stare. She couldn't tell whether it was the mourning for their father's death or the disappointment that hardly anyone showed up that was occupying his mind.

When the pastor concluded the service, he gave Abigail and Andrew a hesitant hug. A few people came up to the siblings to give their condolences. In the middle of a reminiscent conversation, Andrew bolted from the small crowd and ran out of the chapel. Abigail excused herself from the group and ran after him.

"Sir, can I talk to you?" Andrew ran to the door yelling.

"Andrew, I'm so sorry about your father." An elderly woman dressed in a grey bouclé skirt suit grabbed his arm.

"Aunt Claire, hold on," he held his palm up to the woman.

"What the fuck is going on, Andrew?" Abigail went up to him with an angry yet restrained voice.

He turned to Abigail then back to the glass entrance.

"Andrew!" Abigail whispered with frustration.

"I...I thought I saw someone."

"Edgar?" Aunt Claire asked.

"You know him?" said Andrew.

"He was a dear friend of your father's."

"Who are we talking about?" Abigail interrupted.

Andrew took out a photo from his suit jacket and showed it to Aunt Claire and Abigail.

"Is this Edgar?" He pointed to a man in the photo who had his arm around their dad.

"I'm sure that's him, dear. He helped your father look after your mother in the hospital," said Aunt Claire.

"This is a little more fucked up than I thought." Andrew scratched his eyebrow then looked at Abigail.

---

They arrived at his photography studio the next day. Andrew unlocked the door then opened it for Abigail. She followed him through the narrow hallway, then entered his darkroom. He switched on the lights.

"There's something I want to show you. Remember that roll of film we found in one of the boxes. Well, here's a few of the pictures." He handed her a pile of 8x11 photos.

Abigail flipped through them, then stopped. She lifted an eyebrow staring at one of the photos. Her mouth opened and she took a slow deep breath then a slow exhale.

She gulped, "I don't understand."

It was a photo of her father and the man Edgar. They were locked in a tight embrace giving each other a kiss on the lips. They looked happy, it confused Abigail.

"But mom..." her voice trailed off.

"Yeah," Andrew nodded. "The box had an expiration date of March 2012. I'm pretty sure dad would've used it before then."

"But mom and dad were still married." 

"No shit." Andrew leaned against the counter, put a hand in his pocket and scratched his forehead. "Do you know if dad still used that rolodex?"

"It's somewhere in his office. You don't think we could find him there, do you?"

Andrew shrugged, "It's worth a try."

---

Abigail and Andrew headed for their parents' house and went straight for their father's office. Abigail searched through their father's large mahogany desk, while Andrew searched in the cabinets under the cherry wood bookshelf.

"It has to be here," Abigail said.

Andrew sat down on the desk, then eyed the blue leather steamer trunk coffee table. He went over to the chesterfield sofa and opened the trunk. There were three tiers of shelving inside, he found the rolodex at the bottom. He took it out, flipped open the plastic case and pulled out the cards from A to K, then handed them to Abigail. 

"Here, look through these," he said.

They scanned each card, discarding the ones that didn't have Edgar written on it. 

"I found two Edgars, how 'bout you?" Andrew asked.

"Three."

"How the hell are we gonna find out which one is him."

"Facebook? Google?"

"Using Edgar?"

Abigail rolled her eyes and got up from the sofa. "Wait, didn't Aunt Claire know who he was? Maybe we can just ask her if she knows his last name."

Andrew took out his cellphone and dialled Aunt Claire’s number. "Hi Auntie Claire, it's Andrew... I'm doing well, how are you?... Yes, I'm with Abby at dad's house... Quick question, do you remember that man from dad's funeral? The one I was trying to call over?... Yeah, Edgar... Do you know his last name?..."

Andrew held out his hand to Abigail to give him the cards. He flipped through them. "Meechum, is that it?" he asked. "Thanks Auntie Claire... Yes, we'll come and visit sometime. I promise." He put the phone back into his pocket.

He tossed the other four cards into the steamer trunk then held up the last card to Abigail. 

"Wanna take a trip to London?” he asked.

---

Abigail and Andrew sat quietly staring at the London tube map at the overhead of the seats in front of them

Victoria Station.

A female robotic English voice came on.

“Are you nervous?” asked Abigail, still staring at the map.

“I’m not really sure how I feel. Not really sure what to expect.” Andrew leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees staring at his feet.

Brixton.

“That’s us.” Abigail stood up and exited the tube, Andrew followed her.

They walked down Brixton Hill towards Lambert and stopped in front of a beige brick house with a bright orange door. They went up the shallow steps, Abigail grabbed his arm, he took a deep breath then rang the doorbell. 

A tall slim woman with short curly red hair opened the door.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“We’re here for Edgar Meechum.” Andrew said.

The red-headed woman turned around, “Dad! There’s someone here to see you.”

A tall balding old man in a grey cardigan and khaki pants came to the door, he nodded at the red-headed woman, then she left.

The old man stared at Abigail and Andrew, frozen, lost for words.

“My name is…” Andrew began.

“Andrew and Abigail,” the old man said. He took a deep breath, “Please, come inside.” He opened the door further to let them in.

Abigail and Andrew sat down on a plaid sofa across from Edgar. He sat in a chocolate leather wingback chair, a wooden coffee table separated them. The red-headed woman came in to the living room carrying a tray with a teapot, three cups and shortbread cookies. She poured tea in the cups and placed it in front of them.

Andrew and Edgar stared at each other, whilst Edgar took a sip from his cup every now and then. Abigail kept the saucer in her hand and didn’t let go of the cup’s handle, even when she drank it empty.

Andrew broke the silence, “How did you know my dad?”

Edgar took a deep breath, “He was the love of my life.”

Andrew pulled his head and shoulders back, Abigail looked up from her teacup towards Edgar. 

“Forgive me, that was a little forward. Let me start from the beginning,” said Edgar.

“It was December 2006. I was in New York to explore the Big Apple, it was the first time I had ever been anywhere by myself. I suppose you could say that the trip was a celebration of my divorce. I was having a mid-afternoon snack at a café in Greenwich Village. That’s when I saw Peter. He walked in wearing a three-piece suit carrying a leather satchel. He ordered an espresso and sat at the bar. I couldn’t help myself, I just kept staring at him. He walked over to my table and introduced himself. We talked for hours that day until the café closed. Little did we know that it would be the start of a long-distance love affair.” Edgar chuckled.

“Did he ever tell you he was married?” Abigail asked.

Edgar smiled, “Yes, and he talked about the two of you a lot.”

“Did he talk about mom?” asked Andrew.

Edgar sighed then met Andrew’s eyes, “Yes.”

The red-headed woman walked in and sat on Edgar’s armrest.

“This is my daughter, Sophie.”

Abigail and Andrew both looked at Sophie, gave her a close-lipped smile then nodded. She returned the gesture. Edgar picked up his teacup from the coffee table, took a sip then placed it back as he continued.

“The day that Peter had wanted to tell your mother about us was the day that your mother had told him that she had lymphoma. He realized that this was probably the worst time he could ever leave his wife, the time that she would need him the most. Of course, I was heartbroken when he told me. He was a good man and it made me love him even more.”

Sophie got up from armrest and poured more tea into Abigail and Andrew’s cups then went back to sit beside her father.

“Did you know him?” Andrew looked at Sophie.

She nodded, “Yes, he was a wonderful man. He always made me laugh, even in my darkest moments.”

There was a brief silence in the room before Edgar continued.

“I told Peter that I wasn’t going to abandon him at his time of need either. When the time came, I would go to New York and help him look after your mother. But that time came sooner than I thought and came and went quicker than I expected. I had planned to stay for a few months, but ended up being there for only a few weeks. After the funeral, I told Peter that when he was ready, he should come to London and live with me.” He glanced at Abigail and focussed back to Andrew, “You both lived so far away from him, he felt lonely. Anyway, after a few months, he told me that he couldn’t leave you. You lost your mother, he couldn’t let you lose him too. But I still loved him. I told him I would be waiting. In the meanwhile, we still made our trips to see each other.”

Edgar took another sip from his cup.

“A couple of months ago, he told me that he was finally ready to tell you about us, about him. I was elated. I said that he didn’t have to do this alone, I would be there by his side, holding his hand. Unfortunately, he had the heart attack. I went to the funeral hoping to tell you about Peter and me, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It wasn’t my place to give you that revelation.” Edgar looked down, his jovial expression changed.

The room fell silent again.

Edgar walked over to the fireplace and picked up the box on top of the white mantle. He took it back with him to his chair and opened it. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Andrew.

“Peter had wanted me to give this to you if something happened to him. I wanted to hand this to you at the funeral, but...” Edgar paused. “I decided that I would just mail it from London…but here you are.”

After another moment of silence, Andrew stuffed the envelope into his jacket pocket and stood up. Abigail followed suit.

“It’s getting late, I think we better head back to the hotel,” he said.

“Of course, let me walk you out,” said Edgar.

At the door, Edgar shook Andrew’s hand and gave Abigail a firm hug.

“I would really love to get to know you, if you let me,” Edgar said.

Abigail and Andrew both smiled then left and made their way back to the Brixton tube station.

---

In their hotel room, they sat across from each other on their respective queen size beds. Andrew pulled out the envelope from his jacket, took the letter out then handed the envelope to Abigail.

He began to read aloud:

Dear Andrew and Abigail,

Like with all death letters, I should be starting this with the standard cliché. If you are reading this, then I am probably gone.

I wish I could’ve told you about the most important part of my life. The part that I have been nagging myself to tell you. But for reasons that I battled with, I just couldn’t find the courage to do it.

His name is Edgar Meechum, and he was the love of my life. 

I’ve loved him since the day that I met him on that serendipitous day in Greenwich Village. I wanted to be with him, but I had duties as a husband and as a father. I loved your mother, but I couldn’t love her in the same way that I loved Edgar.

It wasn’t right of me to have kept this part of my life from you, but every time I tried I was met by external forces and often by internal doubt. I suppose this is my last chance to bring you into the fold of the life that I cherished the most.

When you’re ready, I want you to meet Edgar. I’ve told him everything about you, so much about you that he often feels like you’re already one of his own. I’ve given you his information on the back of the photograph.

I really hope you reach out to him and get to know him. It’s the only way that I can truly share my whole life with you, and you both deserve to know every part of me.

Love Always,

Dad

Abigail pulled out the photo from the envelope and flipped it over to see Edgar’s London address. She sat beside Andrew on his bed and handed him the photo. Their dad had an arm around Edgar and an arm around Sophie. Their wide smiles reached ear to ear, they wore rainbow-rimmed sunglasses, party hats that said PROUD, and confetti floated everywhere around them—it looked like a pride parade. Abigail and Andrew both stared at the photo. Silent.

May 04, 2022 14:34

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