Delayed Disclosure (Fiction)

The house I grew up in has been vacant for over two years now. It was in May, my senior year at Long Beach State University in California when I received the call from the Phoenix Police Department. They regretted to inform me that my mother, Erin Lewis had been killed in an auto accident that morning. My mother was gone. Some inner strength, I had no idea was within me, pushed me through my inability to breathe to pack a bag and drive home that same day two years ago.

It was in the evening when I pulled into the driveway of our home. I had made the six hour drive in five but couldn't get out of the car once I had arrived. The dark windows conveyed the unaccepted truth I fought on my race to get here, my haven, my dearest and best friend, my mother, didn't live here anymore.  I don't recall how long I sat there replaying the memories of the life and joy she brought to our home when a soft knock on my car door brought me back. I turned slowly to find my Aunt Linda her eyes red and swollen extending her arms to me. I got out of the car and pulled her into and embrace.

 "Ben, I'm so sorry for you," she managed to say through deep sobs.

"How is it possible …" my own flood of tears and emotion chocked my words. We held each other silently for at least fifteen minutes but it could have just as easily been an hour.

"Do you want me to stay here tonight?" she asked softly.

"No, Aunt Linda. I'll see you tomorrow. I need to be alone with her tonight." I released my hold and  she slipped from my embrace.

"We love you Ben," she said and I watched my Aunt cross the street back to her home. Linda was my mother's dearest and lifelong friend and my Aunt through love not the family tree.

When I finally opened the front door and turned on the light her perfume surrounded me.  I almost called out, "Mom, I'm home!" Even that felt strange as she always met me in the driveway when she knew I was coming home to visit.  She called me her world and in my twenty one years I never doubted it. Standing there with that thought brought a sharp pain to my chest as I wondered did she know that she was my world also. It felt as if I was standing in the middle of snow-covered field and suddenly my warm heavy coat was ripped from me by a bitter frigid gust of wind. I was lost with no sense of direction in the moonless dark night surrounding me.

 I closed the front door and for whatever reason ran through the house turning every light on. It didn't help fill the void but rather illuminated the walk in photo album we called our home. These walls and any surface large enough held a specific time and place locked forever in a photograph, our shared world. I fought the realization there would be no more and spent hours reliving each of those windows to our past. She gave me a smile when I held my favorite one. I never knew my father. He left us when I was around two years old. The man in that photo wearing a suit with the dark brown mustache and her long blond hair tucked under a hat for the father and son dinner was my mom.  

Exhaustion over came me at three in the morning and I headed toward my bedroom. I needed to be closer to her and that night went to her room, kicked off my shoes slept between the sheets she had touched, then the day before.

I left a week later after my mother's body was laid to rest. Her soul with God and her spirit along with every photo in the house went with me. I remember when pulling the front door closed that I could never live here, raise my own family here without feeling this overwhelming void within these walls.

It took me all of those two years to come back and pack up this house to sell it. Knowing what it had been for me, I had mentioned to the realtor that a happy, young, loving family would have no problem getting a better price from me and mom. The Charity trucks left an hour earlier taking everything I hadn't put in my truck over the last few days. I stayed across the street with Aunt Linda this time while packing up. I did a final walk through which only solidified my decision to sell it.

I was walking through the garage when I spotted some flat boxes in the ceiling rafters. I had to back my truck up to stand on the tail gate so I could bring them down. They were covered with twenty years of dust. The first box held two paintings. I was amazed to find a beautiful two by three foot portrait of my mother twenty years younger holding a new born baby in her arms. Her smile was captured so wonderfully that I felt her happiness and joy as her eyes were drawn to the bundle in her arms. Her long flowing blond hair was longer than I ever remembered on her. The love I had seen in her eyes my whole life was so real it produced a lump in my throat.

The second painting, the same size was of me. I was captured with a grin displaying both boldness and fear as I was letting go of a coffee table on unstable legs, daring my first steps. I was in one of those silly sailor outfits and laughed thinking I probably emulated that proverbial drunken sailor in my first steps. I leaned both paintings against the garage wall and was very eager to open the other box. It contained a second box inside that was heavily taped. I had to pull my box knife from the truck to slice through it. Inside was another painting but not framed as the first two had been. I pulled the canvas out and was instantly very confused.

The painting was far from the maternal feelings in the first two. A young, slender woman, mid twenties on her stomach was lying on a bed facing me. She had short black hair and was not unattractive but fell short of beautiful. Desire was in her eyes and a seductive smile on her lips. Clearly with panties dangling from her foot, she was naked behind that head of black hair. A bottle of Champagne on a tray beside her suggested a celebration of maybe pre maternal passion or at the very least a stimulus for actions leading to that possibly.  I studied her facial features and realized I had seen this woman before. Never spoke to her but, more than once at a glance and always in the distance. I put the painting with her face to the wall and was looking again at my mother's portrait.

"How's it going Ben? You weren't going to leave without a good bye I hope?" Linda said entering the garage.

"You know better than that. I will come visit you," I said turning to face her. "Look what I found! I didn't know my mother ever painted."

Linda moved into the garage and saw the two paintings against the wall. "Your father painted those, Ben. He was very talented."

"Mom never mentioned him. She answered my questions with someday so I stopped asking," I said. Then I felt a flash on anger. "That explains this other one." I walked over and turned the dark haired woman around to show her. "I know I 've seen this woman. Is she the woman that he left us for?"

"OH my God," she gasped. "I've never seen that painting before."

"So you do know her. Is she the woman he left us to be with?"

"No Ben, that’s the woman your father left you and your mother to become."

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