Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Six

“Not that I knew much about being a dad,” Rob continued. He looked at his hands, his wife, his children, his hands. “I was …pretty freaked out about the whole idea but I knew I couldn’t have someone out there…” He paused. Cynthia leaned a little closer to her husband and squeezed his arm.

Rob breathed in deeply, the air sounding ragged at the edges. He released the breath slowly through his nose. “I just… thought I couldn’t let a kid, out there, had made be …well, be killed -or, to think another guy was raising my kid.”

Wil sat back upon her ankles, stunned. “People,” she said in a hoarse whisper, “people kill their babies?”

Jakob responded first. “Duh, Nina. Happens all the time.”

Cynthia cleared her throat carefully. “While I don’t know what you’ve heard or learned, Jakob, I think that’s a bit exaggerated to say it ‘happens all the time.'”

Shrugging again, he settled back to his original position of half-closed eyes and slouched posture. “Seems like it.”

“So Gwen- my moth- the woman who actually had me wanted to get rid of me?!” Wil asked, her voice rising in anxiety and pitch. “Like, permanently?!” Tears pooled in her wide eyes and she felt them run down her cheeks. Of course I won’t respond to Guinevere Greene! she resolved. Who would do that to her own child -to me?!

“Wil,” Cynthia said in a beckoning tone. “Wil; come here, Sweetheart.”

Wil complied; how could she not? Rising and stumbling over Jakob’s feet, she walked to her parents and sat at the available edge of couch to the side of her mother. With a gentle, loving touch, Cynthia brushed Wil’s loose strands of hair away from her tear-streaked face. Wil turned to face the mother she knew and loved. She sniffed dramatically and Cynthia bit back an amused smile.

“Wil… Guinevere, your mother, did want you.” Her mother paused, stroked at Wil’s hair, took Wil’s hand beneath her own. “Your father was only trying to explain his thinking at the time.”

“Then why,” Jakob, the statue, asked, “Didn’t this Guinevere keep Meanie?”

Wil closed her open mouth, surprised that her stepbrother had voiced the question before she had.

Now was Rob’s turn to clear his throat. “Erm, well, you see…. she wasn’t trying to get rid of you, Wil.” He rubbed at the back of his neck. “I think she just was a bit upset at things at the time and felt… well, maybe she felt like she would have to try to take care of you all by herself and just …um, well, maybe didn’t know how to do that.” He faced Wil and gave her a sheepish smile. “I lov- I liked Gwen a lot at the time we …were dating; but, honestly, she was a bit much for me to understand.” He coughed a nervous laugh. “Now that I’m older and can look back, I think she didn’t really understand herself either.”

They all paused to consider this, though Jakob may have been considering someone else of similar temperament.

“Anyway,” Rob said with more confidence, “I was saying that I told Gwen I would take care of you.” He sat up and smiled. “I didn’t quite know how to do that, and that’s when I went to the truck stop, and saw-” pausing, he caught Wil’s eye. His own eyes were twinkling with an unusual humor. She smiled, catching on.

Together, he and Wil chorused, “…The ugliest and scariest person I’d/you’d ever seen.”

 

Continued from Seventy-Five.
Keep reading to Seventy-Seven.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Five

Breakfast and cleanup passed without incident or smoke alarm, although the whole family kept eyeing Rob as if he might break out into spots.

“I suppose,” Rob began, once they settled in the living room, “I thought I could start by telling you all the truth, Wil. And you, Jakob …but I always told you the truth about your mom -my sister-” He seemed flustered, rubbing at his cheek enough to make it red, and blinking around at his attentive family.

“Not that your mother didn’t love you, of course, Jakob -” Cynthia added.

“S’okay, Mom,” Jakob said. “I’m over it.” He shrugged from his leaning posture against the armchair and looked bored.

Rob cleared his throat. “Hm.” He frowned as he studied his stepson, then turned back to his daughter. “Wil, you like hearing the story of how I met your -I mean, of how I met Cynthia.”

Wil nodded, and then realization flashed in her eyes. “Oh!” She sat up from her kneel upon the floor. “That -that -that’s how you met Mom, I mean- Cynthia, but then you, you…” She faltered; looking up at her father, then back to the woman she’d thought of as mother, then to her father again.

That story is true,” he said slowly. “But I don’t tell you a few things.” He paused. “Like, how I was out of work because I …well, I didn’t plan on needing to work so early in life.”

Jakob laughed, which startled Wil. “Were you f***ing around?”

Jakob Clair!” their mother exclaimed.

Jakob stopped smiling and looked down at his clasped hands. “Sorry, Mom,” he mumbled. After a pause, he added, “Sorry, Wil.”

Their father cleared his throat again. “The point is, I …hmm. Well, Jakob’s point is accurate in a way..”

Cynthia placed a hand on his arm. “Maybe you could just say that you were overwhelmed with some responsibilities you weren’t expecting.”

Rob smiled gratefully and sheepishly up at his wife. “Yes. That sounds good.”

“What do you mean?” Wil asked, her confusion coming across in her tone.

Her father met her gaze and gave her a half-smile. “How about I just tell you the story you know, with a few additions?”

Wil smiled in return; hers a full face-lighting that, unbeknownst to her, unearthed his memories of her birth mother like a sudden slap.

“Wee-e-ell,” he began, and composed himself. “I had just started a new job, at the factory I work at today. Just the day before I went to the truck stop, I had learned that I had …that I was a father.” No one even dared breathe to fill the silence. “But Gwen didn’t want to be a mother and wondered if I wanted to keep you.”

His eyes met Wil’s again. “I told her, ‘yes.'”

 

Continued from Seventy-Four.
Keep reading to Seventy-Six.

Open Book

Message_1500849950052At the time we meet a person, we have caught him mid-story -perhaps on page 322, paragraph 5. He has read all that came before because it is his life, but you have not. You are only looking at that page, and mentally writing your own thoughts entirely for pages 1-321. You’ve even supplied your own prologue, prequels, and alternate series set in the same world.

I recommend this approach for someone who will likely take advantage of you. You may be three hundred pages in; but know, from other stories of scowling street stalkers, that caution would be wise.

That aside, let’s remember that a new person is a new chance for both in the encounter. He and we are perusing people, and the future has not been written yet.