The package, wrapped in brown paper, lies on the porch, uncaring of its surroundings.
I wrap my sweater tighter around my body and walk out of the house to be greeted by the characteristic chill of October morning air.
Picking up the package, I examine it, noting that it’s slightly heavy.
I go back to the house, my feet immediately cold at contact with the floor.
Sitting on the couch, I carefully open it, to find a box filled to the brim with letters written in an unfamiliar handwriting, all addressed to me.
I open the first envelope and am immediately engulfed in a familiar scent, though I can’t remember where it’s from.
If you’re reading this letter, it means that I’m dead. If you don’t know who I am at this point, it means I have failed, as a person and as a father.
As a father?
Wait, does that mean that he’s my –?
Yes, I’m your father. I know that you are confused and angry right now, but I will try to explain it to you to the best of my ability.
I left your mother because I was incapable of being a good father. I was a coward. I thought that being there would make things worse than they were.
My marriage with your mother was slowly crumbling when we found out that she was pregnant with you. I began to believe that you would save our relationship.
But I was wrong. It was no fault of yours, this one was on me.
Then why does it feel like my fault?
After you came, your mother spent day and night with you, and never trusted me to do anything. I was sick and tired of it, and one day I just lost it completely. I packed up and left the house at two in the morning. I visited your room before I left, and you were sound asleep, hugging your favourite bunny. I wish I could have touched you one time before leaving, but I knew that I wouldn’t leave if I did so.
What a jerk.
I left a note for your mother, explaining everything to her. Immediately after this I moved out of a city and got a new job.
I didn’t get married again. I didn’t find anyone as incredible as your mother.
Then why did you leave?
You could have come back.
I might have even accepted you back.
I’m sorry that she died. I can’t imagine how much of a toll it would have taken on you, a seven-year-old kid.
I don’t know if you remember, but after your mother’s death, I was the one who took you to a social worker for your adoption.
If you want any gratitude or brownie points for your charity, you’re not getting it.
Nothing you did after that would ever make that okay.
I knew about your mother’s death because I kept in touch with her regularly. I convinced her to send me a photograph of you on each of your birthdays and on holidays, and she kept that promise till her death.
After you got adopted, I started a regular correspondence with your foster parents. I have a whole box of just your photographs and their letters.
I told them not to tell you about me. I knew you would be angry and probably would refuse to talk to me.
But you should have tried.
Maybe I would have agreed.
I came to your graduation. I made myself scarce. You looked beautiful, smiling widely as you received your diploma. I’ve framed the photograph of you laughing with your friends after graduating, and it’s in front of me as I write this. I imagine that I’m talking to you through it.
I don’t think you have forgiven me. Maybe you never will. I certainly haven’t forgiven myself for what I did.
But the reason you’re reading this at all is because I’m not there to tell you in person.
I am dead.
After finishing this letter, I will be instructing my lawyer to give this to you, in the box with all the letters that I wrote to you in the past, but never had the courage to actually send. I will also include the photographs and letters sent by your mother and your foster parents.
I hope that these letters will help you find peace in what can only be described as an unimaginably confusing time. I hope that you find it in your heart to forgive me someday.
I have also left you some inheritance. It is however of great value to me, and I will not be sending it in the same package. You will have to come to the address written below to collect it.
I check the address.
This is the house address for the place me and my mother lived in till her death.
After your mother died and you got adopted, I went back to my old room and removed a loose floorboard next to the bed. I kept an empty box there, and came back every year, adding something new to it. I thought that the day I found the courage to meet you, I could give it to you, and we could have some sort of understanding.
However, I know myself. I know that the box still lies hidden under the wood, dusty and worn. You need to go and get it to receive your inheritance. My lawyer’s number is below this letter, please call him if you have any questions.
I’m sorry Jasmine. I’m sorry that I wasn’t alive to say this to you.
I’m possessed by an urge to rip the letter in half.
But I stop myself and instead just fling the piece of paper across the room.
My hands are shaking.
My father is dead.
I hate him.
He died before I even knew him.
A stranger died, leaving me an inheritance.
He left, breaking my heart and breaking my mother forever.
And now he comes back, saying that he’s been getting photographs and letters about me from my parents.
But the catch still being that he’s dead.
I can’t go back to that house.
Couldn’t he have left some inheritance in the normal way?
Why do I have to go back there?
Some part of me knows why.
He just wants me to suffer further.
He knows that going back to the place which reeks of death and is filled with my mother’s ghost is the best torture he can give me from beyond.
I didn’t think it was possible, but you just broke me further.
I pull up next to the familiar house and park the car.
I’m not ready for this.
Not even a little bit.
Maybe I should just drive back and forget about this.
I have incredible foster parents who raised me and gave me a home when my own birth parents were incapable.
I feel like I’m betraying them by even obeying the man who left the second he got the chance.
But I need to know.
I get out, the package I received in my hands.
After I get my inheritance, I plan to peruse these letters.
And what better place to do it than the house where it all began?
Thankfully, the house has remained unoccupied since we left.
I guess ‘a woman died in here’ doesn’t have a ring to it.
Opening the door, I’m immediately engulfed in the stench of death.
You would think that it would go away after these years.
But it smells just like all those years ago, when I found Mom hanging from the ceiling fan, her eyes rolling back and her body blue, matching the scarf she used to do it.
I push the windows open, trying to get rid of the reeking odour.
Going up the rickety stairs, I’m hit again by the realization that I’m so unprepared for whatever is to come.
What could he have possibly left for me, the daughter he was too chicken to reach out to?
I go to his old room, its walls stripped bare, although I can’t remember if there was anything on the walls in the first place.
Getting on my knees, I start feeling around for the loose floorboard he mentioned in his letter, and when my fingers find it, my heartbeat immediately multiplies.
I don’t know when I got up and sat on the bed, tears flowing down my face.
Why am I crying for this man?
He did nothing for me.
But he is – was my father.
And I wish I’d known him.
Actually known him.
I wish I’d had the chance to talk to him in person.
But he still wanted to reach out.
Maybe I should let him.
I remove the floorboard, and as promised, a box coated with dust comes in view.
I pull it out and keep the box and the package I received in the morning on the bed.
Opening the box which apparently contains my inheritance, I’m hit again by the maddeningly familiar scent.
Looking through it, I find a necklace with an emerald in the centre which looks pretty legit.
Emerald is my birthstone.
A few feathers, pebbles and rare coins litter the bottom of the box.
I find photographs of me, my mother and my father a few days after I was born.
A letter with details of a mansion that he passes on to me, and a fund that he has been maintaining since he left.
Maybe it’s the dust, maybe the perfume that I now am sure that he used to wear, but I start tearing up again.
I hold the photograph of our short-lived happy family moment close to my heart.
I begin to take out the letters which I had received in the morning, opening the first one and making a mental note to call that lawyer.
A sad smile plays on my lips as I read the first letter my mother had written back to him, attaching a picture of me.
Even though he left, he always made sure that I was taken care of.
He did leave, and I didn’t know when I could ever let go of that.
But right now, at this very moment, I feel something for my father.
And that is enough.