I stared at Rachel until I couldn’t stare any longer. My anger was at an all-time high.
“I’m outta here.” I’d almost made my escape before she spoke again.
“You need to hear this.” Rachel remained in her spot. Arms folded looking at me like she had some top-secret information that she was itching to share.
“I don’t know what information you have, but you can keep it.” I stepped back in the room so she could clearly hear what I had to say. “You don’t have the right to say his name. You don’t even have the right to utter the initials of his name.” I smelled the scent of her expensive perfume flowing through my nostrils.
“Then why’d you turn around?” Rachel questioned.
“To remind you to keep my father’s name off your lips. Using him to lure me back in your life won’t work.”
“First of all, I never mentioned your father’s name. Second, luring you back in my life was never my intention. Do I want a relationship with my daughter, yes…of course I do, but not like this.” She wagged her finger between the two of us. “I want you when you want to be back.”
“That’ll never happen. You had the chance to be a mother and you blew it.”
Rachel’s eyes watered. “If you only knew the truth. If you only knew the lengths I went to in order to protect you. I’m not the enemy. The man you’ve spent your life grieving over is.”
I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember lifting my arm, opening my hand, and connecting with her face, but the sting of my palm indicated that I’d done just that. I slapped my mother.
Rachel’s hand flew to her left cheek. Her wide eyes and opened mouth were aimed in my direction.
“That made you feel better? Doing what you’ve been wanting to do all these years?”
I thought it would. I’d dreamed of the day I could inflict pain on her. I wanted her to feel what I felt all those years ago, but surprisingly I didn’t feel good at all. I didn’t feel anything actually. The hurt was still there. Guess there’s no passing it on to someone else no matter how hard you try.
“I hope you do because that’s your one and only pass. The next time you strike me I will strike back.” Her red eyes showed she meant business.
“You don’t scare me. I’m not the same little girl you used to lock in the room for hours at a time and dare me to make a sound or else. She’s long gone.” I assured her.
Rachel tilted her head to the side and glared at me. “You think you know so much about what went on back then, but you don’t. You have no idea the hell I went through living in that house. Yes, I locked you in the room and dared you to make a sound because I wanted to protect you from his wrath. I knew when it was going to be one of those days and I didn’t want you to get pulled in. When Wesley had an episode, no one was safe.”
“You’re talking about him like he was some kind of animal? He was nothing like that and you know it!” I felt the tightness of my fist. I wanted to show respect, because after all she is my mother, but I couldn’t help what I was feeling on the inside. She’d pushed every button to get me riled up. This is the very reason I’ve stayed away all these years. Grandma Hazel preached over and over again how I’d cut my life short by dishonoring my parents, mainly my mother being that my dad was no longer here. Though life was rough, I still wanted to live it for as long as I could. I was doing good until this very moment.
“You were blessed to see him at his best. I shielded you from seeing the true Wesley. I risked my life for yours and the thanks I got was disrespect. I could’ve been trifling and allowed him to do the same to you. Let him use you as a punching bag when he was drunk or had lost all his money gambling.”
“If things were that bad why’d you stay? You seemed to be really happy when he was buying you clothes and jewelry and cars. Was he a monster then?” I asked waiting for her to admit that he was good to her.
“Yes he was. Those things didn’t mean nothing to me. What I wanted more than anything was out of that house. Out of his life, but I was stuck. There was no way out until…”
“Until John shot him. Is that why you refused to testify against him? You were happy he was dead. Did John kill my dad for you?” My heart raced and no amount of deep breathing would calm it down.
“You sound foolish. I don’t rejoice over someone’s death, not even someone who treated me like trash.”
I didn’t believe one word she spoke. She had plenty of time to cook up these lies to win me over, but I wasn’t as gullible as she must’ve thought.
“Was it your idea for John to go there that night? Did you set him up?” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know the answer, but I needed to know. I had to know the truth.
“What? Hell no! Why would I do something like that?”
“People go to great lengths for freedom. Listening to you just now put a whole new spin on this mystery I’ve been trying to solve all these years. I know my dad wasn’t the most liked man in Bayou, but I’d never heard anyone hate him enough to want him dead… until now.”
“You sound ridiculous.” She laughed nervously.
“Do I? For the first time since his death I think I’m finally getting the answers I needed.” I stepped within inches of her face. “I know you had something to do with this and you better believe I won’t stop until I get to the truth.”
Rachel took a deep breath. “Go ahead. Get to the bottom, but be prepared for what you discover once you get there. I’m telling you I had nothing to do with what happened that night.”
“Y’all ironed out all ya differences yet?” Grandma Hazel walked past us and sat in her recliner.
“If only it were that easy.” Rachel spoke barely above a whisper.
“Doll, someone’s at the door for ya.” Grandma Hazel announced with a smirk.
I happily made my escape from Rachel. I couldn’t stand hearing her defame my father’s name another minute. The man I knew and loved, the man I still love, was nothing like the person she’d described. My dad gave me the world, even when Rachel protested that I didn’t need anything else. He made it his business to keep a smile on my face and after his death she successfully wiped it away.
I opened the door hoping to see Tasha or Tony standing on the other side, but Grandma Haze’s pleasant look told me it wasn’t.
“Surprise!” Robert wrapped his arms around me as soon as I walked onto the porch. “My grandmother told me you were in town so I decided to stop by and see ya.” He stepped back and licked his lips as he scanned every curve of my body.
I moved away from his embrace. “What do you want Robert?”
“Ah, baby girl. What kind of greeting is that for the man you love.” One side of his mouth lifted into a sly smile.
“I would hardly call it love.” I leaned against the wall and crossed my arms.
“Really, because I have papers that proves otherwise.” He closed the space that I’d intentionally placed between us.
“You need to go.” I pointed to his car..
“You need to grow the hell up and stop playing these childish games. How long did you think it would be before I found you?”
“I wasn’t hiding.”
“So, you changed your number and left in the middle of the night because you wanted me to find you?” He questioned. “I’ve searched for months. Wondering if you were okay. If you’d come home, but you never did. Thank God my grandmother talks a lot, otherwise I’d never known you were back here. Honestly, this was the last place I thought to look. You vowed you’d never step foot in this town again.”
“Which shows how much you really know about me. I may not like Bayou, but I love my grandmother and it’ll take more than some bad memories to keep me away from her.”
I heard a noise and looked behind me to make sure no one was listening. There was no sign of Rachel or Grandma Hazel. I needed to get Robert away from here. What I didn’t need right now was advice about my life from Grandma Hazel.
“Still haven’t told your family.” He shook his head.
“Neither have you. If you had I’m sure your grandmother would’ve been ready to share it.”
“I was allowing you to take the lead, but since I see your leading gets us nowhere, I guess it’s time for me to take over. You can join me or I can do it alone, but before I leave here your family will know the truth about what happened in the woods and everything else you’ve excluded them from.”