Gia was only 15 years old when she looked into the eyes of Cody for the first time. It took less than a minute for her soul to recognize him. Then without saying a word he turned and walked away from her. The sharp sting her heart felt never went away although he did. One day he just didn’t come to school. Someone told her that he had moved away suddenly. She regretted not speaking to him.
Gia married Henry Jackson Broussard in the summer after she graduated from college. She had plans to become a teacher but her plans changed after she married Henry and had three kids in almost as many years. She spent the next 20 years raising kids and raising Henry. She had no regrets though. Raising her kids was the best job she could have had but raising Henry was a different story. Most days after work Henry would sit in his chair in the living room and read a book about fishing or some other sport. He would barely even look at her as she raced around the house doing things for the kids and trying to cook dinner for everyone. He would moan and groan when one of the kids would ask him for something and direct them back to her for their needs and wants. Gia would cook and clean and put the kids to bed all while Henry read his books, and mumbled a few words to her here and there during the evening. It went on like this for over 40 years.
Henry passed away after 43 years of marriage. Gia had a small memorial service for him as he requested. Small was all she could have since Henry only had few friends and fewer relatives. People gathered at the church said a few words and gave Gia and her kids their condolences and that was the end. Gia went back home and sorted out the knitting she could never finish while Henry was alive. She was just about to start when she got a knock on the door. Henry’s lawyer was standing there with a large manila envelope. He held it out for Gia to take and she did.
“What’s this?” She asked.
“Henry wanted me to give it to you after the service. I think it is very private so you might want to open it after the people from the service leave the house.” He answered.
“No worries there. There aren’t any people here. They all went home after the service.” Gia took the envelope and closed the door.
She studied the envelope which only had her name on the front written in Henry’s sloppy handwriting. She really didn’t want to open it since Henry was not a man of nice words or many words. What could he possibly want her to read and should she even bother reading it. You didn’t have to read something from a dead person right? Gia tossed the envelope on the coffee table in front of the sofa. She picked up her knitting needles and proceeded to try to finish knitting the scarf she had started months ago for her oldest son.
The envelope was a distraction though. She gazed at it a few times while knitting and decided to pick it up again. Perhaps it was a letter thanking her for over 40 years of cleaning, cooking, raising kids, waiting on him hand and foot, giving up her dreams for his. Maybe it said that he appreciated everything she had done over all those years and how much he truly loved her and the kids. Maybe it said all the stuff he never told her in life and now he was telling her in death.
She picked up the envelope and looked at it once more unopened and she opened it. It was pages and pages of Henry’s sloppy handwriting. She didn’t know what he would have to say in all these pages but she was about to find out.
My dearest Gia,
If you are reading this I am probably dead and buried. I told my lawyer, Steve, not to give this to you until both of those things had taken place. Now, my dear, I can tell you what I could not tell you in life. I am going to tell you something that will shake you and I can only hope that you forgive me. I tried to tell you several times when I was here with you but I just couldn’t find the words. How could I tell you something that would bring you so much pain and so much anger? I could not. I made a promise to you father that I would never tell you. Yes, dear, he also knew this secret. He was the one who actually started this whole chain of events over 40 years ago. I am not sure even now how to tell you. But, Gia, please find a quiet spot in the house when you finish reading this, away from everyone. If the kids are there please wait until they leave. If anyone is there please wait untl they are gone. After you read this until the end your reaction will not be good and you will not want to have anyone around you. Trust and believe that.
My love, it all started the summer before I met you. I was working for your father in his law office. I was still in law school at the time and was trying to get a mentor, someone to show me the ropes so to say. As you know your father was a strong willed man and wanted the best for you and all of his kids. He rarely took no for an answer and it was his way or the highway. I was working there for about 6 months before he even said one word to me. He was a watcher. He watched me all those months. He wanted to know how I handled myself in all kinds of situations and he tested me without me knowing. Than one day he came over to my desk and he asked me what my goals were in life. I told him that I wanted to be a successful lawyer like he was. I told him eventually I wanted a wife and kids and to live in the suburbs in a house I owned. He grilled me further about my family, my character, my religion, everything he could think of. We talked that day for hours and the next day after for months. I didn’t know why at the time. I didn’t understand all the questions. I just thought well, maybe he wanted to know me better. Maybe he took a liking to me. Both of those things were true but that was not the real reason.
He told me about you. He said he had an older daughter who wanted to be a teacher. He told me your name was Gia and you were like him more than his other children. You were ambitious like him and were a no nonsense type of person. He said that I would make the right husband for you. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I asked him if you shouldn’t be the one to choose your husband and not him. He looked at me with a fire in his eyes, a fire I have never seen before in anyone’s eyes since and he told me in no uncertain terms that he was the head of his family and he knew what was best for you. And what was not best for you was that boy as he called him. He said that he came from the wrong side of the tracks and that he hated his tattoo of that stupid lady bug that he had on his arm. Every time he looked at that thing it made him sick. I was shaken with fear. I didn’t know what to do next so I just sat there waiting for him to say something or to dismiss me like a school boy. I had the feeling that nobody was really good enough for you in his world but I would do.
He later told me more about that boy that he thought you were infatuated with. He never used the word love when he talked about him. He kept saying that he would never be good enough for his daughter and that you being 15 when you met him was reason enough for him breaking up that relationship before it started. He knew that boy was going to be trouble. I wasn’t sure what kind of trouble he met or trouble for whom. But, I got the feeling he was talking about himself as much as he was talking about you.
When I met you I thought you were just like your father described you to me. You were very pretty, ambitious, outgoing and didn’t take anything from anyone and you had the most steely blue eyes I had ever seen. I was amazed that you liked me too. For years I thought that you would see right through me and the lie I held secret all these years. I thought you would find out that me and your father manipulated you into marrying me. That the love of your life was still out there probably just as confused as you were as to what happened, why he had to move in the middle of the school year and not tell you or anyone else.
But, I tried to give you a happy life. I know that when I got older I was a miserable old man. I wanted to tell you when I found out this miserable old man was dying. I kept that a secret too. I didn’t want you to fuss over me any more than you already did. I wanted to at least give you that. I feel so badly about taking the love of your life or the potential of love from you. I know that you never got the chance to find out if he was the one for you. I know that it was wrong and I know that I should not have gone along with your father’s plans. But, I was a kid at the time. I wanted to practice law more than I wanted to breathe it seemed. He told me that if I didn’t go along with his plans for me and you to marry that he would make sure I never practiced law anywhere in the world. And you know he had the power to make that happen.
I am so sorry. I know that saying sorry is not enough. Reading the words isn't enough. I can imagine the pain in your heart right now and I am sorry that I am the one who caused it. Please forgive me. I hope that you will over time. Please know that I did love and respect you and I thank you for all the years you stood by me as my wife and my partner in life. I love and adore you more than words can ever say.
Gia put the letter back in the envelope and put it on the coffee table. She didn’t know what to think or even what to feel. She was numb. She sat there on the couch in her same spot that she had sat for many years. The same spot across from Henry while he read his books. She looked at Henry’s chair and the imprint of his head in the fabric and worn seat and for a brief moment she could have sworn she saw Henry sitting there reading his books like he always did. She shook her head at the ghostly image. “Henry, you old fool. If you only knew how much I loved you too and that I had figured out that secret a long time ago. Father did in fact ruin that potential relationship but he didn’t know that he gave me so much more. I was sure at 15 Cody was my soul but when I met you I was sure that you were my soul and the sabotage that my father did worked not against me but for me. Rest in Peace Henry until we meet again.”