Who Are You?bygriart©
Just a snapshot of a family in turmoil. Comments and feedback are most welcome.
Daddy looked so frail with all the tubes sticking into him, as he lay on the hospital bed. He wasn't too badly hurt, but the doctor wanted him to stay overnight in the hospital, just to be safe. Daddy did mention it was a little difficult to breathe, but I suppose cracked ribs would do that to you. His left eye was almost swollen shut, and I could only guess as to what the bruises looked like underneath his hospital gown.
Mom was outside somewhere in the hallway; I thought that she might be talking to the doctor, but I could be wrong. For all I know, she was probably on the phone with her gossip mates, or feeding coins in the vending machine, or talking to her lover. She didn't say much about how or why Daddy wound up in the hospital, or why he was beaten up so badly, but I'm sure she'll tell me sooner or later. Not that I care to hear any more of her lies, but I do enjoy hearing her spin her stories as she continued to play the victim of this current tragedy; it was just so entertaining.
"Stephanie?" his voice was so weak as he called my name.
"I'm right here, Daddy. Do you need me to call the nurse or the doctor?"
"No, don't. I just... wanted to make sure... you're okay," I couldn't help but smile as he asked me that.
"I'm okay, Daddy. Don't worry about me, I'm a strong girl, remember? Right now, you concentrate on getting your rest and getting better."
"I will... sweetheart. By the way... did you get...?" I didn't have to wait to hear the whole question before I answered him.
"Of course I got in, Daddy. You really helped me out on those college applications," I said, smiling broadly as I squeezed his hand.
"That's my girl," he whispered, smiling at me just as widely.
"I'm always your girl, Daddy," I whispered back. His good eye closed, a small smile playing on his lips. "Daddy?"
He slowly sat up, and looked at me through half-opened eyes. "Yes, sweetheart?"
"What happened? How did you end up here? I could ask Mom, but if I wanted to hear some made-up cock-and-bull story, I'd watch C-SPAN on TV."
I could sense that he was about to answer me, but then his eyes looked up and behind me, and when I turned around I saw Mom and her lover standing in the doorway.
Her lover. The man that cuckolded Daddy.
I had to hand it to Mom; she could really pick a winner. For a middle-aged man, he was ruggedly handsome, his brown hair touched with grey at the temples. Broad-shouldered, he looked to be about just shy of 6' tall. And judging by the cut of his suit and the quality of his leather shoes, he could be just this side of a millionaire. Then I saw that his eyes were blue. Just like mine.
Mom and Daddy have brown eyes.
"He happened. He put me here," I heard Daddy whisper.
"You wouldn't be here if you were willing to listen to reason, Mike," Mom's lover said. Mom just stood beside him quietly, looking down at her shoes. And I could see him put his hand on her back, as if propping her to stand up.
As if he felt that his hand deserved to be there.
I could feel Daddy bristle; there was a sudden surge of cold electric energy that made me shudder, and I knew that Daddy wasn't comfortable with Mom bringing this man into his presence. The silence in the room was punctuated by the beeps of Daddy's heart monitor, a steady pulse beating a dull tattoo in the air.
Mom finally broke the silence, and said, "Mike, it doesn't have to be like this. Stephen just wants to meet Stephanie..."
Stephen. Mom's lover had a name.
"NO!" Even laid up in bed, Daddy could still be stubborn.
"Mike, please! There isn't an earthly reason why he shouldn't meet Stephanie! After all, he's her..."
"I said... no! He doesn't deserve... to be in... her life! Where was he... when she was... growing up? Where was he... for the past... eighteen years? He's not here... to meet her! He's here to claim her! Just like he's... claimed you!"
I whirled around and looked at Daddy, gripping his hand tighter. "Daddy, you have to calm down, please! Please! You need rest. Okay? Please. Please..." I tried to soothe him down. His heart rate was up, and Mom standing beside Stephen was getting him too worked up.
"Daddy, it's alright," I whispered, stroking his forehead. "You lie still. Lie still. I'll get the nurse, and she'll give you a sedative." Daddy and I looked at each other, and I kissed his hand.
I stood up and said, "Mom, I'll meet Stephen, but not here. Not in front of Daddy. Outside." I brushed past Mom and Stephen, between them, and waited by the elevators, just past the nurse's station. I looked up at the wall clock and saw that it was just past ten o'clock.
One of the nurses at the desk nodded at me as I whispered, "Could you give my Daddy something, like a sedative? He's kind of agitated, and he needs his rest."
I turned my attention back to Mom and Stephen.
As they walked towards me, I saw Stephen resting his hand on Mom's shoulder. I crossed my own hands and looked him square in his blue eyes. In my blue eyes.
"You wanted to meet me. You have ten minutes. Go."
Mom balked at me and said, "Stephanie, there's no need to be rude! You should give him a chance to..."
"I AM giving him a chance, Mom!" I interrupted her. "He beat Daddy up, he put him in the hospital; he wanted to meet me, and I'm giving him ten minutes. So, Mr. Stephen Sperm-Donor, here I am. Who are you? What do you want? Nine minutes, forty seconds left."
"It's alright, Elaine. She's just nervous about meeting her real dad. Give us some time to warm up to each other, it's alright," he said with a smug smile on his handsome face.
"You're not my dad. My dad is Michael Nichols, and you put him in the hospital," I said, still looking hard at him, into him, through him. I could hear the other nurses get up from their seats and walk a little farther away, still within earshot but far enough away to allow the illusion of privacy.
"Stephanie, honey..." he started to say.
"Don't 'honey' me, Mr. Sperm-Donor. Just because Mom spread her legs for you over and over again for the past eighteen years while still being married to Daddy doesn't give you the right to 'honey' me."
Mom's eyes blazed with anger and embarrassment; if her cheeks were any redder, tomatoes would have to call themselves cucumbers.
He took a small step towards me, and I took two steps back, bumping into the edge of the nurse's station. Some files fell to the ground, and papers scattered across the floor. And I kept looking this stranger in the eyes.
He took a deep breath and tried again. "Stephanie, I can guess that this is no longer a shock to you, but I'm your biological father. I don't have any excuse as to why we haven't met each other before this time, but I do want us to at least get to know each other. I do want to be a part of your life, especially now that you'll be going off to college..."
He kept going on and on about not wanting to come between me and "Michael and Elaine", since they were doing such a great job of raising me, not wanting to complicate my life or causing unnecessary stress. I had to stop him right there; he was pushing the seven-minute mark.
"Is this the same speech you give to all your other illegitimate children, or just the ones whose fathers you cuckolded?"
"Mom, I know what my name is! Or are you just repeating it so Mr. Sperm-Donor here can remember it?"
Stephen seemed uncomfortable, as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "I'm not just a sperm donor, Stephanie. I truly do want to get to know you, my biological daughter..."
I held up my hand and stopped him mid-sentence. Again.
"Your ten minutes are almost up, and you look like you're about to run out of things to say. So let's just get to it. I only have two questions for you," I said, lowering my hand and softening my tone.
"Okay," he answered, his lips pursed in a thin, unfriendly smile. Mom just stood fidgeting next to him, her hands tightly clasped.
"Since you're my real father, I'm sure you know the answer to this: what's my favorite color?"
"Stephanie, that's not fair! He wouldn't know the answer to that question!" Mom wailed, her eyes looking at her lover with pity and sadness.
"Exactly my point, Mom. My real father would know my favorite color. And since Stephen here says he's my real father, it stands to logical reason he would know. So, Stephen, what's my favorite color?"
His eyes blinked in uncertainty. His ten minutes were almost up.
"I don't know," he answered quietly.
"Time's up. And that leads me to my second question, and I think I already asked you this earlier: who are you?" I said, doing my best to hold on to my anger.
There was no answer. There wasn't any need to answer; he got the point.
"Excuse me. I have to go and see to Daddy," I said, walking past them, between them, again. Neither made an attempt to follow me.
At the doorway, I turned and loudly said to them, "On the off-chance that you're the slightest bit interested, Mr. Sperm-Donor, my favorite color is blue."
The nurses sat back down at their stations with smiles on their faces, as I turned and walked back towards Daddy.