“Faith,” her father said with a wide grin, “we didn’t know you were coming over. Come in, baby.” He kissed her cheek.
“Hi, Dad.” Her mother had married William Alexander when Faith was eight and he had been the only father she’d known. “Where’s Mom?”
“She’s in the family room working on one of those word search puzzles.” He placed a hand on her arm as she passed him. “Everything okay, Faith?”
His concerned gazed roamed over her face. “Well, let’s go talk about it.”
Her mother glanced up from her book when they entered and lowered the recliner. “Hey, sweetheart.”
“We need to talk, Mom.”
Her mother’s brows knit together. “Something wrong?”
Faith dropped the box on her mother’s lap.
Her mother lifted out the envelopes and quickly flipped through them. Her loud gasp pierced the silence. “Where…where did you get these?”
“They were delivered to my house this afternoon. How could you do this to me, Mom?” She paced back and forth across the plush gray carpet.
“What the heck is going on here?” her father asked. “Who are those letters from?”
She stopped pacing and, not taking her eyes off her mother, Faith answered, “My father. The man she told me died while serving in the army.”
His eyes widened and he dragged a hand down his face. “Francis? Is that true?” he asked.
Her mother tossed the letters aside. “You don’t understand,” she snapped.
“You’re right, I don’t.” Faith flopped down onto the sofa. “He’s been alive all this time and trying to contact me,” she murmured, tears gathering in her eyes. “Why, Mom? Why did you lie to me?”
“I was trying to protect you.”
“Protect me? From what?”
“You were too young to know what it was like when he came home that last time—the crying out, the nightmares with him flailing around the bed, the flashbacks. I was worried he’d hurt you and me, and I didn’t want to deal with it every time he came home.” She sniffed. “So I left.”
Faith couldn’t begin to imagine what her father had seen and experienced that would cause such nightmares, but she had a hard time believing that her mom hadn’t even tried to help him. Growing up, she’d always marveled at her mother’s compassionate nature and wanted to grow up to be just like her. Now she was learning that hadn’t always been the case. “That still didn’t give you the right to just erase him from my life.” Faith wiped away her own tears. “And how did you know you would have to deal with it every time?” She paused. “He’s invited me to visit him and I’m going.”
Her mother jumped up from the chair. “Why? It’s been twenty-eight years. What can you possibly gain by going to see him? Just let it be.”
“He’s my father and I’m not going to let it be.” She caught her stepfather’s gaze. “I’m sorry, Dad. You know I love you.” She felt bad because he had always been there for her.
He nodded. “I know, honey. You go do what you have to do. Francis, she has to find her own way.”
The two women engaged in a staredown for a full minute before her mother turned away. She had never been this angry with her mother. Sure, when Faith was a teen, they’d had their disagreements, but nothing like this.
Her mother pointed a finger Faith’s way. “Nothing good can come from this. Nothing. I don’t know why he’s trying to disrupt your life after all these years.”
Faith threw up her hands. “Disrupt my life? How is wanting to know your daughter a disruption?” She snatched up the letters. “He’s been sending letters for twenty-eight years and you sent them back without ever telling me. The only person who’s disrupted my life is you.” She put the letters in the box and stormed past her mother. “I have to get out of here.”
At the door, her stepfather’s voice stopped her.