His reaction sets me off. I stand up and my chair scoots back with a screech. “Let me tell you what I think, Dad.” I take a step away from the table and point at him. “You’ve ruined a lot of lives. You thought money could take the place of your responsibilities. Your choices drove my mother to drinking. You left your own daughters with nothing, not even a role model in their lives. Not to mention all the people you swindled money from in your company. And you blame everyone else. Because you’re a really shitty human. And an even shittier father!” I say. “I don’t know Charlie and Janette very well, but I think they deserve better.”
I turn and walk away, tossing a couple of final words over my shoulder. “Goodbye, Brett! Have a nice life!”
I’m sitting cross-legged on the hood of the car, leaning against the windshield and writing down notes when she returns. She was in there for more than an hour, so I did what she said and came to wait out here to keep an eye on our siblings. I sit up straight when I see her. I don’t ask her if she found out anything; I just wait for her to say something. She doesn’t look like she wants to be spoken to at this point.
She’s heading straight for the car. She makes brief eye contact with me as she passes me. I turn my head and watch her as she walks swiftly to the rear of the car and then back to the front again. Then to the rear. Back to the front.
Her hands are clenched in fists at her side. Janette opens the front door and steps out of the car.
“What’d the world’s greatest prison-dad have to say?”
Charlie stops in her tracks. “Did you know about Cora?”
Janette pulls her neck back and shakes her head. “Cora? Who?”
“The Shrimp!” Charlie says loudly. “Did you know he’s her father?”
Janette’s mouth drops open and I immediately jump off the hood of the car.
“Wait. What?” I say, walking toward Charlie.
She pulls her hands up and rubs them over her face, then makes her fingers into a steeple as she breathes in slowly. “Silas, I think you were right. This isn’t a dream.”
I can see the fear in every part of her. The fear that hasn’t settled in since she lost her memories again several hours ago. It’s all just now hitting her.
I take a slow step forward and reach my hand out. “Charlie. It’s okay. We’ll figure this out.”
She takes a quick step back and begins shaking her head. “What if we don’t? What if it keeps happening?” She begins pacing again, this time with her hands locked behind her head. “What if it happens over and over until our lives waste away!” Her chest begins to heave in and out with the deep breaths she’s taking.
“What’s wrong with you?” Janette asks. She directs her next question at me. “What am I missing?”
Landon is standing next to me now, so I turn to him. “I’m taking Charlie for a walk. Will you explain to Janette what’s happening to us?”
Landon presses his lips together and nods. “Yeah. But she’ll think we’re all lying.”
I grab Charlie’s arm and urge her to walk with me. Tears begin streaming down her cheeks and she swipes at them angrily. “He was living a double life,” she says. “How could he do that to her?”
“To who?” I ask. “Janette?”
She stops and says, “No, not Janette. Not Charlie. Not my mother. To Cora. How could he know he fathered a child and refuse to have anything to do with her? He’s an awful person, Silas! How did Charlie not see that?”
She’s worried about The Shrimp? The girl who assisted in holding her captive for an entire day?
“Try to take a breath,” I tell her, grabbing her shoulders and forcing her to face me. “You probably never saw that side of him. He was good to you. You loved him based on the person he pretended to be. And you can’t feel sorry for that girl, Charlie. She helped her mother hold you against your will.”
She begins shaking her head back and forth feverishly. “They never hurt me, Silas. I made it a point to stress that in the letter. She was rude, sure, but I’m the one who broke into their house! I must have followed her there the night I didn’t get in the cab. She thought we were on drugs, because I had no memory of anything, and I don’t blame her! And then I forgot who I was again and I probably started to panic.” She exhales sharply and pauses for a moment. When she looks up at me, she looks calmer. She folds her lips together and moistens them. “I don’t think she had anything to do with what’s happened to us. She’s just a crazy, bitter woman who hates my father and probably wanted some sick revenge for how I treated her daughter. But they got brought into the fold by us. This whole time we’ve been looking at other people...trying to blame other people. But what if…” She exhales a breath, and then, “What if we did this to each other?”