J.J.’s Journal: Part Ten

 J.J. chronicles her close call with her father and the one with her mother.

 Thursday, August 16

7:51 P.M.

I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately. I don’t know why, but I have. I actually phoned Pa yesterday. Normally he calls and checks on me, but for some reason I felt compelled to call and talk with him. He’s my only grandparent, my only direct link to the past beyond my parents. There’s Aunt Sabrina, but she’s my great-aunt. Although she’s my late grandmother’s twin, which makes her a very exceptional relative, she’s not exactly a direct link like Pa is to me or my grandmother would have been.

I believe I called him because he’s getting on in years, and so am I. It’s becoming real to me that he’s not going to be around forever. He’s always seemed old to me. When I born, he was sixty-four, and to a little kid that’s pretty old. Now he’s eighty, and I think in anybody’s book, that can be classified as fairly aged. His health isn’t all that great, but he’s still got his sharp mind. That’s what really matters, I guess. But then, maybe that makes it worse because he’s got the presence of mind to recall all the things he used to be able to do that he can’t do any more. At any rate, I need to make the most of the days we have together. He’s a storehouse of family history, and I’d like to get as much from him as I can while I can.

When my grandmother was killed, Pa was thirty-seven, and he’s been a widower ever since. That’s a long time for a man to be single. He said he traveled so much after losing her to keep himself busy.  Because of that traveling, he knows people all over the world. I don’t know if he had a special lady friend or not, but I hope he at least had some lovers in that time. I can say that in here without having to worry about somebody checking me for being too outspoken or for being too grown. That’s the thing I like most about keeping a journal. I can say whatever I want out loud.

I know enough about biology to understand that people naturally have sexual urges. I don’t feel that a person has to be married to satisfy those urges, at least I don’t feel that I have to be. While the institution works for some people, I believe that originally marriage is something that men came up with to keep women in line, like we’re their property or something. That’s why men, back in the day, could have more than one wife, but the wives could only have one husband. I think, on the down low, some men still feel that way. Polygamy is still practiced in some cultures and religions. I don’t know why the women involved go for it.

I also feel that monogamy is also a manmade concept. A lot of guys, girls too, aren’t cut out for monogamy. If you think about it, it has to get boring being stuck with the same person day in and day out for your whole life. Most animals aren’t monogamous. I know humans are supposed to be more highly evolved, but there are some basic things that aren’t overcome by evolution. That’s why people’s feelings get hurt when things happen in relationships that are actually just nature taking its course.

When I say stuff like this to people (I don’t talk about it a lot to just anybody.), they think it’s odd that I would feel the way I do, taking into account who and how my parents are. All I can say to that is, 1.) Both my parents come from unusual circumstances, and 2.)It obviously works for some people. I’m just not so sure it would for me.

When you’re grown and single, like Pa was and is, it’s probably good to have someone you trust enough to be an intimate friend. I wonder if he and Dean Marchand were friends like that at one time? Why would he move her onto his property like he did if he wasn’t more than a bit fond of her?

I often wonder what he and my grandmother were or would have been like together. I think about that a lot. I wish she was still alive so that I could have experienced them together as a couple. I’d give almost anything to be able to call her up on the phone or to be able to say to my friends that I was going away to visit my grandmother and my grandfather.

When Pa was young, he was handsome in a British sort of way. He’s bald now, but he used to have a lot of wavy black hair and those eyes that make you notice them, the ones he passed down to my mother. He was elegant and poised, which he still is. He smoked a pipe, had style, “breeding”, and everything that a lot of women might find attractive. I wonder why he didn’t marry again? When my grandmother died, he was young and wealthy enough to have remarried and had a whole other family, if he had so chosen. But he didn’t choose.

Is being truly in love with someone so powerful that you stop living when they do?

Anyway, he was surprised that I called him, and I could tell that he was pleased that I did. That made me feel good, too. He told me that he’s getting out and walking a lot more these days, which is good for his legs and his heart. He goes to the guest house to see the Dean and her sister. Sometimes they come to the main house to see him, and he walks them back. I’m glad Dean Marchand and Miss Smythe are there with him to keep him company. Before they moved in, I used to wonder if he was lonely in that big house with all those rooms and on all that land, essentially all by himself. Walter and Rosa live there in the house with him, but they’re married and kind of live their own lives even though they do their best to see to Pa.

Pa asked me if I was being good to my mother and father. He always asks me that, and I always tell him that I’m trying to be. I do try. I mean, it’s not like I go around making myself be a pain on purpose, but things do happen every now and then. I tend to not mention those things when my grandfather and I speak with each other. His asking me that today made me wonder a little if my mother was disappointed that I didn’t want to go with her to San Diego rather than coming here with Daddy to the ranch. She wanted me with her, but I opted out. I’m pretty comfortable that she, of all people, would understand that I prefer riding horses and hanging in the open spaces here to being cooped up in a house or office building with her and Aunt Marcia. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy both their company. When they’re together, they can be a lot of fun, but being here beats San Diego any day.

Getting back to family, talking to Pa got me to wondering about my father’s father. I don’t know why, but out of my three missing grandparents, I wonder most about my mother’s mother and my father’s father. My father’s mother, for some reason, isn’t as important to me. I’ve looked at it from every angle, and I don’t know the reason why that is, but that’s how it is.

I don’t feel as far removed from my maternal grandmother as I do to my paternal grandfather. Grandmama Suzanne, even though I’ve never met her, I can feel. Since that last trip to Briarwood, it seems that feeling is stronger than ever. Sometimes I see her in my dreams. It’s weird, but I know for sure that she’s with me, watching over me. They say I look like her. Pa says I have some of her ways. She and I share a private bond of sorts that I can definitely sense. It’s even stronger at times than what I have with Pa.

But I don’t have any of that with my other grandfather.

I look at Daddy sometimes, and I wonder if he looks like his father. I wonder if his father would have been to him like my father is to me. Is Daddy like his father in his ways? Did my grandfather have blue eyes, too?

It’s murder not knowing what the man even looked like. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel close to him. If I had a picture, I could at least form something for the outer him in my mind.

Was he as laid back a guy as Daddy? Could he tell a good joke, wicked ones like Daddy tells sometimes? Could he play golf real well like Daddy? Was he athletic and that’s where we get it from? Did he gamble? If so, was he lucky? Could he fly? Was he good with numbers? Did we inherit that from him, too? How proud would my grandfather have been of his son’s success?

It’s not fair that we don’t know him. It’s not fair that Daddy didn’t get to have a father to be proud of him. I know what that feels like, and he definitely got ripped off in that department. I love my father, and it feels so good to know that he loves me. One of the best things about doing well at something, for me, is the look on my father’s face when he’s proud of me.

I would also like to know exactly what happened to my paternal grandfather that took him away from us. I’m willing to place a heavy, heavy bet that something bad happened to both my father’s parents, and that’s how he became an orphan. In my gut I feel that his parents didn’t just walk away and leave him. For my father, it’ll never be one of those things like you see on “Unsolved Mysteries”, that TV program where on some episodes they tell the orphan kid’s story, and somebody sees it, phones in, and then there’s an update show where the brothers and sisters and parents come out of the woodworks to reunite with each other. My father’s parents are dead. I’m sure of it. They’re dead, they’ve been dead most of his life, and that’s the reason why he landed at Mission Street Orphanage.

But why Mission Street specifically?

I’ve been doing some thinking about that, too. See, kids don’t just end up at Mission Street. It’s a Catholic orphanage. That makes it kind of like a private institution. Catholic kids are placed there to be adopted by Catholic families. Somebody had to know that Daddy was Catholic, and somebody had to have placed him there. Who was that somebody? And then, why wasn’t Daddy ever adopted? Even in the time that I’ve been alive and was old enough to notice, very few of the little kids stay there for very long. Most of the older kids that come, move on as well. Some are adopted. Some go into foster homes to stay until they’re old enough to be independent. I don’t think I know of even one who stayed as long as Daddy did without being adopted or fostered out. He was healthy, smart, cute, a boy, and face the fact-white; why wouldn’t someone want him? Why wasn’t he at least fostered out?

My most recent theory is somebody did want him. She fostered him in, and that’s why she wouldn’t let go of him until she couldn’t do anything else. Then, when she did let him go, she released him to who she wanted to have him. Why else would Sister Anastasia let a young teenaged boy go off with to live with a grown, single man? I’m sure they had pedophiles back then, too. Sister A. had to have known Max, and she had to have known him really well to allow him have and keep Daddy like that. If I don’t know anything else, I know that my father is and always has been very dear to her. Nobody has said anything to that effect about Sister A. and Max to me. It’s never even been suggested. But nothing else makes sense in my mind. I’ve done the math, and that’s how it all adds up to me.

I can only think about these things, though. There isn’t anyone to talk to them about. Daddy doesn’t like to, and my mother doesn’t encourage my speculations on the subject. She doesn’t shut me down, but she seems uncomfortable with the topic, so I don’t bring it to her too much any more- well, not unless I just have to know something. She’ll discuss things with me, if I ask. I just get the feeling that I shouldn’t ask. I don’t know if her reaction has something to do with her own situation with losing her mother, or if it’s out of her concern for Daddy’s feelings and his privacy. She’s big on that kind of thing. I guess I am, too. I asked Aunt Pat about it once, but she said that neither of my parents seemed to want to discuss it, so over the years she left it alone, as well. Whatever the case, I just don’t bother anybody any more with my views or questions on the matter.

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it. It won’t stop me from looking into it on my own down the line, either. When I’m eighteen and away from home, that’s exactly what I plan to do. There’s nothing wrong with me finding out about my own grandparents, I don’t think. I just won’t say anything to anybody about what I learn.

I think I’m thinking too much right now about things I can’t do anything with at the moment, so I’m going to ride back up to the house and see what’s happening in my real, immediate world.

J.

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Thurs., August 16

11:35 P.M.

It’s a cool night, kind of rainy, and we have the windows open. I love the sound and the smell of rain and sleeping with the windows open. A natural breeze is way better than air conditioning any day. The lawn got cut the afternoon, and the scent of it mixed with the rain is coming through, sweet and fresh. There is nothing like good, clean, country air. I’m in the bed, but I felt like I wanted to write some more before I went to sleep.

Today was wonderful. Nothing special. Just one of those good, free, don’t-have-to-do-anything days where it’s not too hot and not too cool, that when it ends, it feels like it was worth living through, and you’re glad to be alive wherever you are.

I talked to my mother earlier. She said that she and Aunt Marcia were making good progress, and that she’ll be home on Saturday. She said she should be there when we get there. I need to talk to her. I want to have a back-to-school get-together of some kind at the house for a few of my friends next weekend, before school goes back for everybody, but I’ll have to ask her about that in person. She doesn’t like when I ask her things like that on the phone or by email. I guess she can try to say no to me better when we’re face-to-face. I’d ask Daddy, but he’ll just say, “Ask your mother.”, so why even bother with the middleman? I really have been pretty good lately. I don’t think I’ve been on her nerves, so I can’t see how she can say “no” to me about it.

Unless, of course, she remembers my last sleepover, when everybody sneaked in and Nikki fell into the pond. That time, it was only supposed to be a few people, too. That wasn’t totally my fault that it happened like that, but try convincing my mother of it.

Good thing I have tonight and tomorrow to get my argument together about that, should she bring it up. I know she’ll try it, and I’ll need to have a good rebuttal in the bag.

But then, too, I have to hope she doesn’t find out that I didn’t remember to bring my vitamins with me on this trip, and that I kind of missed taking them a few days in the last couple of weeks, too. I don’t mean to forget; it just happens.

It probably happens because I hate taking them. I detest having to take pills, but when I get cramps, I take them without complaint. I get the worst cramps when I don’t do the right things. I’m probably going to have a bad time this month. I’ll know by Sunday or so.

Marnie called me and said that she and Chance are thinking about going together. She wanted to know what I thought. I told her if she had to ask me what I thought, that must mean she isn’t sure. I must not have said what she wanted to hear because she told me I make her sick, and that she had to go. I let her. It’s not a fight between us or anything. That’s just how we are. Tomorrow we’ll be right back where we were, if not later on tonight or tomorrow morning.

The two of them are so weird. He likes her, for sure. I don’t know for sure how much she really likes him. It’s hard to tell with Marnie. I don’t think she likes boys on the same level that they like her. They like her because she’s fun and she’s cute. She likes ALL of them because they’re boys. Marnie can be very superficial about that.

Marnie is into looks and material things when it comes to boys. She’s also into how much attention they pay to her. The boy’s personality doesn’t seem to matter as much to her as those first two things. Not to say that she’ll go out with any boy who looks good and has access to the finer things. She won’t. The guy has to have certain elements to his personality. But if he doesn’t fit into those first two categories, no matter what else he might have going for him, he can forget about getting with her. He doesn’t stand a chance. Marnie is high maintenance, and she’s proud of it. She isn’t sleeping with anybody yet, but she says that when she does have sex, she doesn’t want to be waking up in the morning to find herself on a mattress with no sheets, staring at a naked light bulb hanging from a frayed cord over her head, and then rolling over, looking Frankenstein in the face. Chance Barnett fits her bill totally. He’s cute, he has money, a lot of personality and style, and most of all, he absolutely adores her.

I think this is the first time that I’ll be mad at Marnie if she hurts a boy. Usually I don’t really care. As far as I’m concerned, most boys are only after one thing, and once they find out they aren’t going to get it from one girl, they move on to the next, so they deserve whatever drama they get from us. Guys are ruled by their hormones, and because of that, they sometimes don’t care who they hurt in their pursuit of release. That’s why I don’t hold the group in much regard.

But Chance is a friend, and if she’s going to go with him, she’d better be right about it. I think when I get through writing, I’m going to give her a call to that effect before I go to sleep. After all, she did ask me. That’s what I should have said to her when she asked me what I thought about it. I hate when I do that; think of what I should have said after I didn’t say it.

All of that really doesn’t matter anyway. In a minute, we’ll all be back in school and into our different social lives. The twins go to private school and Marnie and I go to school in the city. All of us get so wrapped up in our classes and activities that we see little of each other until weekends or our breaks. None of us will have a good break until Thanksgiving, and during that time this year Marnie and I will be in Maryland for Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill’s wedding.

Then, too, when school goes back, Marnie is bound to find some cute guy, probably a new student, to cozy up to just for the sake of making him worship at her altar. Then, in doing that, she’ll be cheating on Chance, and I’ll have to be mad at her. She and Chance should probably just be friends and leave that other stuff alone for now. Marnie isn’t going to act right.

Daddy spent a large part of the day today in his room, busy on the phone, or at the dining table going over papers. He said he had a lot of proposals to look over when I asked him if he wanted to go riding, so I should go on without him. Before we left Los Angeles, at work he was in a lot of meetings for a couple of days, so I guess he had a bunch of follow-up stuff to do, and he wanted to get it out of the way. It wore him out. A couple of times I saw him just sitting there on the couch with his head back and his eyes closed.

He got a call from Graham Steiner on the house phone this afternoon. I happened to be inside, so I picked up and then put Daddy on. I was on my way back up to my room to change into my running shoes when I heard Daddy mention Wesley’s name. Daddy getting a call from his personal lawyer and Wesley being the subject of the conversation got my immediate attention. I’m not supposed to eavesdrop; I know it’s wrong, but I’ve accepted that’s just who I am. I’m not in denial about my personal shortcomings. I managed to get something about Wesley not being allowed to go back to school in Massachusetts, and then Daddy got up and moved off the couch, so I couldn’t hear anything else from the head of the stairs where I was crouched down on the floor, listening.

I know that Wes is scheduled to start at MIT in a week or two, although that’s probably on hold now that he’s sick and in trouble with the law (I think). MIT has been sending me and my parents a lot of literature trying to interest me in considering going to college there. I think Daddy would like for me to go there. He says it’s the best school in the nation and elsewhere for technology. My mother says that she doesn’t really care where I choose to go as long as it’s a good school and I stay on campus. She says people need time to live on their own in order to learn who and what they are. She always tells me that when I’m eighteen, I can do what I want.

What if what I want is to not go to college? I’ll bet nobody will be offering me that option.

I wonder if Daddy is fixing it so that there is no possibility that Wes and I might end up at the same school? I wish I could ask Daddy what the deal is, but he’s made it clear that I’m not to ask him about that. He does not wish to discuss Wesley with me at all. He didn’t come out and say it like that, but I could tell from what he did say to me that he’s deep down through with Wes. My father doesn’t get mad a lot, but when he does, and he goes quiet about it, everybody on earth needs to look out. He’s a nice man most of the time, but cross him and he’ll tear a person a new one. Not exactly physically, although I wouldn’t put it past him to duke it out with someone if he had to. He goes for the jugular in other ways, smashing them square in the place it would hurt the most. I’ve seen him do it to people. I’m not really supposed to know about it, but I do. He did it with that man who tried to kidnap my mother that time, that Seagren guy, and he did it to Alan Baker, Jr. over me. When I say did it, I mean he DID it. It was brutally cold, but I believe Daddy was totally justified in doing what he did. Especially with Seagren.

An eye for an eye. It’s in the Bible.

Marnie and I were talking about the thing with Wesley. That’s what we call it now, “The Thing With Wesley”, and we were wondering if he’d always be messed up after what he’s done to himself. Marnie and the girls say he’s got it bad for me. I say, “Whatever” to that and to him. I do not have it for him or for any boy. Not even for Teddy. Not like that, anyway. I admit to being very attracted to Teddy, but I don’t feel the need to be all up on him every hour of the day. In fact, I’m kind of glad that he lives so far away, and that he isn’t pressing me about being, “his girl”. I don’t want to be anybody’s girl. I only want to belong to me.

When I left home, Wesley was still “away”, and it’s real hush-hush about what’s up with him. We all know he’s in the hospital, but it’s not quite clear if it’s rehab or still medical. It’s pretty hard to keep a thing like that quiet around home, but the lock seems to have been put on that information pretty tightly. The grown-ups know, but they aren’t saying a word about it to us kids. They know that if even one of us gets so much as a drop of the story, we’ll all know what’s up with him.

Marnie not too long ago asked me if I was going to change my mind about considering MIT since Wesley was going there. I told her I was not. Despite his crazy behavior, I’m not scared of him; I just want him to leave me alone. Besides, by the time I got to MIT, if I go, he’ll probably have moved on to someone else, some college girl. Even if I did decide upon MIT, I’m not about to change or adjust my plans for him or anybody. I go where I choose.

But I guess with Daddy in the picture, Wesley might not be something I have to worry about. Not in Massachusetts, anyway.

Not like I ever really worried about it in the first place. I can hold my own. Anytime and anywhere, and I haven’t committed to MIT, Massachusetts, or even college, for that matter.

Well, I’m tired, and I still have to call Marnie, so I’m going to say good night.

J.J.

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Friday, August 17

11:27 P.M.

Late tomorrow morning, we’ll be leaving for home.

We’ve had a good visit, but things have been a little strange. I might be concerned about nothing, but I think something might be wrong with Daddy. We’ve been here at the ranch since yesterday, and even though we came so that he could see the horses he bought, he’s only been out on the paddock two or three times, and he hasn’t done much with them other than check them over. He let me do most of the work with Fleet, the best of the lot, (that’s what I named him). Daddy was most impressed with him. He didn’t say he was, but I think he’s going to give him to my mother. When I was out there, Daddy just stood there at the fence, watching us.

He’s finished with his paperwork, and he’s been doing most of what else he normally does when we’re here, but I get the feeling he’s pushing it. He’s sort of slowing down. Like, for example, today he fell asleep on the porch hammock instead of going riding with me. He’ll lie on the hammock sometimes to rest or to read, but he never goes completely to sleep like that. He didn’t sleep all that long after I got back. Then when he did get up, he said he felt like he had indigestion. I get the feeling it was more than that.

We did have hoagies with banana peppers and Cajun fries last night. We both love banana peppers on our sandwiches. Tonight he made chili for us. He makes the best chili in the world, as far as I’m concerned. I think as far as he’s concerned, too. So spicy and hot. The combination, two nights in a row, might have been too much for his system. Just like he’s subject to catching head colds, he’s prone to problems with his digestive system.

Roxie and the guys came up and had dinner with us tonight. We all ended up playing cards until it got late. I won $35. Even though Daddy ate two bowls of the chili and seemed to be having a good time, Roxie must have noticed something in him, too. She commented on Daddy’s color (or lack thereof) and asked if he was feeling all right. He laughed it off, called her a busybody, and said that she worries too much. I didn’t say anything, but I had noticed it and was wondering about it, too. Am I worrying too much?

Maybe he just misses my mother. They’ve been apart three days now, and even though they’ve spoken by phone, for them, that’s a while. At times, I get the feeling that they would be perfectly fine if they were the only two people in the world. If I believed in fairy tales, they would be one happily ever after couple for real. They’ve been married for a long, long time, but they don’t ever seem sick of or bored with each other like some of my friends’ parents.  If I believed in magic, they would be my visual aide in trying to describe the concept to someone else.

She’s supposed to be home when we get there tomorrow. I talked to her twice today myself, but I didn’t say anything to her about Daddy not looking well. I didn’t want to worry her, especially if there isn’t anything to it. If it is, she’ll know what to do for him to fix him back up when he gets to her.

I talked to Teddy tonight. He’s in Virginia visiting with his mother and his sisters. He’s been there a couple of days, and he says he’s ready to call his father to come get him and take him back to Boston. The whole time he’s been there, his mother and sisters have been bugging him about me. They know that he was here visiting me, and that we’ve been talking and writing to each other. He says he hates that they’re doing that.

I know how he feels. I don’t like it when people try to get too far into my personal business. I’m glad I have the kind of parents I have. I don’t think Daddy really wants to know a whole lot about that part of my life, so he leaves it to my mother. My mother says she trusts my judgment, so she just says what she has to say and doesn’t probe too much into my end of it. In fact, I often wind up taking things to her. Even my friends know not to ask me too much about my personal affairs. I could tell they wanted to last weekend when Teddy was here, but nobody did.

I’m so glad Teddy lives out east. It’s weird. I like him a lot- a whole lot. In fact, I’m more attracted to him than I’ve ever been to a boy, but I don’t want to be all lovey-dovey, all hemmed up, like some people. I have no desire to be a “couple”. For a little while, I used to secretly wonder if I was going to gay because I wasn’t all hot like a lot of my friends. Now I think I feel like I do because I know myself a little better than most people my age. I have my mother to thank for that. She’s always been honest and fairly blunt about sex, love, relationships, and what’s to be expected. She never makes me feel like there’s something wrong with the things I might feel or think, but she’s consistent in impressing upon me how important it is to take my time.

In my opinion, we’re too young to be too hooked up. If Teddy was here with me all the time, or if I was there with him, he might try to be closer to me. I don’t know if I would want to do more, but I might be tempted to go farther with him physically than I am with him being on the other side of the country and away from me most of the time. It’s nice to fantasize about going farther, but I don’t think I’m ready for reality yet. Even kissing makes me nervous sometimes. It’s like I want to do more, but I’m scared to get in too deep because I don’t want him to get the wrong idea. Or to give my body the wrong idea. I’m starting to be very conscious of the signals I send out. I don’t want to be misinterpreted, then lose control of the situation, and wind up doing something on impulse that I might be sorry about when it’s over.

Aunt Sabrina says that there’s nothing wrong with having strong feelings along those lines, but that a woman has to be smart and fairly private about the things she does because if she isn’t, men and society will take advantage of her. She says that the bottom line is, women aren’t men; we can’t get away with doing what they do or doing things the way that they do. Society won’t let us.

I hate that it’s like that, but it is. I don’t want to be as predatory, callous, inconsiderate, and unfeeling as some guys are, but I feel I should be able to be, if I so choose, without being categorized as being weird, an ice princess, or some kind of a slut for it. The double standards that exist in society have bothered me for a long time, but I’ve finally accepted that what’s real is real. Those things were in place long before I made the scene. The rules are just different for girls. And just like in the animal kingdom, males are different from females in their approach to life and to the opposite sex. I like to bend rules when I can, but for right now, I think I’m going to stay inside the lines until I’m more confident about stepping over them. When I am, though, all bets will be off.

I’m only sixteen, and even though I don’t talk about them a whole lot, I already have these strong feelings and urges. I don’t understand a lot of it, and truth told, I don’t want to deal with that kind of stuff right now. I think Aunt Sabrina lays it out there for me like she does because she notices how the boys come around when I’m there with her, and she wants me to understand myself. What she doesn’t understand is I don’t really like boys in general. They might like me, but I’m not boy-crazy, like say, Marnie who is attracted to anything she suspects has a penis and more than a couple of bucks in his pocket. I just like the person a boy might be, if that makes sense. I do notice when a guy looks good or is especially nice, but that doesn’t mean I want to run out and jump his bones just because of  it.

I’ll be glad when my mother gets home, and we’re back together. I wanted to come here with Daddy rather than go to Aunt Marcia’s with her, but lately (I’d never say this to anyone out loud), I feel more secure when I know she’s somewhere close by. I have spells like that sometimes. How babyish is that? I can’t even believe I wrote that, and I can’t erase it. When you journal, you write exactly what you think and erasing is not allowed, even if you spell something wrong.

I’d better stop and get to sleep. I have to get my rest because I’m flying out tomorrow.

Good night,

J.J.

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Sunday, August 19

1:31 A.M.

Daddy’s sick and in the hospital. My mother is tripping and in a bad place of her own. I’m a nervous, pissed-off wreck.

Tried swimming, but it didn’t help. Now my hair is wet, and it’s so cold in here.

Good night, morning, whatever,

J.J.

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Sunday, August 19

3:57 P.M.

I have really done it now. There’s no turning back, but I wouldn’t even if I could. Let the chips fall where they may.

I’m on a plane that’s just lifted off for Reno, and nobody knows where I am except me. I didn’t ask if I could go or tell anyone I was leaving. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I just had to get out of Vegas. My father is sick, my mother makes me sick, and I don’t know what to do about anything. I’m all confused and mad and it seems like my head is going to explode. I told my mother off at the hospital and walked out before I really lost it with her or she could wring my neck. I had already said too much. I went back to the villa, booked this flight, and called a cab. When it came, I lit out for the airport, and just left.

Jennifer Hart is going to put the hit out on me for real when she finds out what I’ve done, but I don’t care. I’ll deal with that when it goes down. She’ll have to get to me first.

I’ll be mad, too, so she might not want to go there with me when she does get to me.

The hell with it.

The hell with her.

I sure hope Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill are still home when I get there. If not, Clara will be. I hope. I need somebody to come get me from the airport, but I guess I could get a taxi to the house, if they aren’t there.

Whatever.

The hell with all of it.

J.

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August 19

6:48 P.M.

I’m in Reno with Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill. Everything is a mess.

My life is a mess. I can’t stop crying. I feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m in more trouble than I’ve ever been in my whole life, and that’s saying something. I know Aunt Pat has called my mother to tell her that I’m here and okay so that she wouldn’t be freaking out when she found out I was gone. I’m sorry if she’s freaking, but I’m not sorry I took off like I did. I had to. Uncle Bill tried to talk to me and make it better, but he couldn’t. Nobody can.

I don’t really feel like it, but I have to get all this stuff down while the details are fresh in my mind. Sometimes it’s better to write when you’re not feeling good. You’re raw and you write exactly what you feel because you’re too tired to skirt around things. However things turn out for Daddy, I have to get it down on paper the way it happened for us. It’s not like I can do anything about anything right now, or like there’s anything else I can do for him except to say what happened, which is something only he and I know. It was just the two of us, and whatever happens with him, one day someone else may want to know how it was for us yesterday.

Daddy and I left the ranch yesterday morning. I knew he was sick when we left, but he kept playing it off, and I let him. Roxie tried to get him to stay up at the ranch house and let her call a doctor to check him out, but he blew her off and said he’d be okay. He usually knows what he’s talking about, so I made myself believe him. I know to follow my own mind, and I should have, but he’s my father. I’m not supposed to be telling him what to do. He’s supposed to know better than me, but this time he didn’t. He really didn’t.

I was flying us home; he was riding shotgun. About twenty minutes or so into the flight, I notice that he’s over there next to me kind of shaking, trying not to show it. I asked him if something was wrong.

At first he said, “Nothing.” but I knew he was lying.

A couple minutes later, I asked him again, and he told me to keep my eye on what I was doing, so I went back to it. Then, he all of a sudden grabbed his left arm. I knew something bad was up. I looked at him and he had his face kind of turned from me so that I wouldn’t be able to see him real well, but I still could see enough to know that he was grimacing. He was in pain and trying to hide it. I asked him if he was okay, and he sort of yelled at me to keep my mind on what I was doing. By this time, I can see that he’s sweating and turning colors. He had perspiration across his nose and it was popping out on his temple. I tried to concentrate on just getting us home, but almost right away, I knew in my heart that we weren’t going to make it.

Finally, after a few more minutes, he sits back, holding his chest, gasping, “Baby, I think I’m in trouble.”

Heart attack, I was certain of it, so at that point, I was like, “The hell with trying to get home.”

I asked him what exactly hurt, and he admitted that it was his chest and his neck and his left arm and hand. He could hardly talk.

I had some aspirin in the console for my cramps. Sometimes they get worse when I’m flying, so I keep some onboard because I never know when I’m going to be caught up there, on, with nothing to help me out. I hate medicine, except when I’m on. I swear my cramps can be so bad sometimes that I’d take heroin and chase it with crack with a hit of meth if I thought it would rid me of them. I got the aspirin out and reached over to push one up to Daddy’s mouth. I told him to take it and hold it under his tongue. That’s supposed to help the flow of blood to the heart. I could feel that he was hot, like a fever or something. Then I radioed an emergency so that I could get us down as soon as possible.

It’s funny. Even though I was worried sick about my father, I never once had the thought that, as far as the flying went, we weren’t going to make it down safely. I was like on automatic with what I had to do with that. All the things my father had ever taught me came right to me, and I was able to execute them without any problem. Daddy is thorough. When he teaches something, he teaches it from every angle, including worse case scenarios. He says that anything can happen, it usually does, and that you have to be ready for it when it does. We had rehearsed for something like this more than once, so I was totally prepared.

But I was a little worried about flying into an airport. I’m not supposed to be operating a jet, and I didn’t want Daddy to get into trouble over it. My max is only supposed to be the larger twin engine prop. Daddy’s philosophy is that life isn’t meant to be lived by any rule book. We both know I’m a born jet pilot, just like him, and he said there was no sense putting my education off. Since the jet is his, he figured we could keep it between us that I was flying it when we went up. But, there I was, at the controls, talking to the tower and coming down, flying him and me into Las Vegas International Airport, which was where I got clearance to land.

Daddy, by this time, was in pretty bad shape. I was shaking like crazy, but I still had to call Uncle Marcus right away. As I didn’t know what was going to happen with Daddy, I had to transfer to Uncle Marcus his proxy. I didn’t want to think about my father not making it, but the reality of it all was despite what all was going on, business was still business. Daddy told me that his CEO proxy had to be turned over to Uncle Marcus if he ever became incapacitated. He charged me with that responsibility in the event that he couldn’t do it himself. Over at Hart, they rushed to put me on conference with the significant board members, and we got that done in a quick-fast hurry.

I fought to stay focused. I don’t know what I was feeling, but I’ve never felt like that before in my life. I kept going, but I was almost sick with it. I didn’t want Daddy to die. I didn’t want to think about him dying, but he looked so bad, and there was so much more I had to get done.

I had to get all his stuff off him before the medical people got there. That was another thing he taught me. I had to keep who we were on the low, which meant that I had to get all of his identification off of him. We couldn’t be sure of the level of security the hospital would have, so his identity was best kept as quiet as possible, and then there’s the matter of who on the staff might have theft or souvenir issues.

He was so heavy. I never realized before that how solid he is. Since he was in pain, he couldn’t help me much. He tried, but he could barely move or breathe. By this time, he was scary gray and his lips were going blue. I got all his jewelry off and took out the things he had in his pockets. He was sitting on his wallet, so I had to practically push him over to get to that. He weighs a ton, and it must have hurt him to move because he groaned real loud when I had to move him. I thought I was going to die when he did that. But I did ask him if he was wearing clean underwear, and he managed to smile a little.

Then, just as the technicians were rolling up in the ambulance, I remembered that his real name was sewn inside his jacket, so I had to struggle with him to get him out of that. By the time I opened the door to let them in, I was sweating bullets and was ready for them to put me on a stretcher, too.

They took us by ambulance to the hospital. The techs were rushing around, doing everything to him, sticking him, taking his blood pressure and temperature, poking him, snatching open his clothes. Some of it, I knew what they were doing, but when I didn’t, I asked. I wanted to be able to say what they did to him, should something go wrong or bad. They acted like I was getting on their nerves, but I didn’t care. If they stuck my father with something, they were going to tell me why. If they gave him something to take, they were going to tell me what it was. I needed to know. He couldn’t advocate for himself, so I had to do it. It was my duty as his daughter to look out for him. They tried asking me things that didn’t have anything to do with him and what was happening with him, I think, to get me to leave them alone and to keep me otherwise occupied, but I wasn’t having it. I kept my eyes and the focus of my conversation on my father and on what they were doing to him. The rest was not their concern, or mine.

At the hospital, they took him into the back right away, and I had to sit with the nurse/clerk person who needed to get his medical and personal information. I had his wallet with his insurance cards and all of that, so I was able to take care of his business for him. She was asking me all these questions, talking down to me, trying to get personal on the sly because of who I was and who my father was. I kept to what had happened with Daddy, which was all she needed to know. People kill me with that, always wanting to get up into your business. I guess she thought because I was young that she could take me there, but she had the wrong one. I’m Jonathan Hart’s daughter. Nobody gets over on me like that.

Right in front of her, I pulled out my cell and called Dr. Michaels, my father’s personal physician in Los Angeles, to let him know what was going on, AND to let her know that I was no little kid, nor was I anybody’s joke. I knew what I was supposed to be about. She needed to be about hers.

Aunt Pat’s at the door, calling me now to come eat. I’m not really hungry, but I guess I’d better try. I don’t think it would be wise to press my luck with her. She hasn’t said a whole lot to me about taking it on the lam like I did, but I know she’ll go deeper sooner or later. I sure hope it’s later. My emotional state is too fragile at the moment. Right now, I don’t think I could take one of her tongue-lashings. Even when I’m at my very best, she’s hard for me to take when she’s mad.

Be back later.

J.

______________________________________________________________

Sunday, August 19

7:52 P.M.

I didn’t eat much. I tried, but I couldn’t. When I’m going through something, food doesn’t taste all that good to me, and I’m definitely going through something.

Aunt Pat didn’t say much at dinner tonight. Neither did Uncle Bill. I was all right with that. I didn’t feel much like talking anyway. She tried to get me to eat, but Uncle Bill overrode her and said I could be excused if I wanted to go back to my room. I took him up on it. No sense in their meal being ruined because of me. It’s bad enough that I’m here, imposing upon them like I am.

Back to my story.

After I got through with taking care of Daddy’s immediate business, and with him being properly seen to, I then had to get my mother from San Diego to Vegas. Even though I’d called Hart, I knew that none of them would call my mother, not even Liz, without calling me first to see if I’d taken care of it or getting the okay from me to do it. Sure enough, when I phoned her, Liz was waiting for me to tell her where to send the car for my mother. They were already getting a plane ready to go get her. They had left telling my mother up to me, unless I wanted it otherwise. I didn’t. It was my job to do that.

Calling my mother was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I didn’t really know how much to tell her over the phone. No matter what I said, I knew it would freak her out that Daddy was sick enough to be taken to the hospital. She’s been sick a couple of times before, and he and I dealt with that, but he’s never been sick to the point that he had to be hospitalized, leaving her and me to deal with it.

When I spoke to her, I tried telling her just enough. I said about Daddy being sick, and about how we had to make the emergency landing. I talked fast, not giving her time to respond a whole lot. I needed her to tell me where to send the car so that she could get to him as quickly as possible. When I put it to her like that, she left off the fussing I could hear she was getting geared up to do, but then she asked me if Daddy was flying the plane while he was sick.

At that point, I was forced to tell her- in a roundabout way- that it was me who was flying. That revelation was delivered to her on top of him being sick, the emergency landing, and everything else. I ended the call right after telling her that it wasn’t Daddy at the controls. I didn’t even say goodbye or anything. I did have to get back to Liz, but I also didn’t want to hear my mother go off. I wasn’t in the mood, and it wasn’t something she had time to do at that moment.

Then I called Sister Anastasia.

I might not like her that much, but she loves my Daddy, and she’s a nun. Been one forever, so with all that sacrifice I figure she’s built up some serious credits, and she’s an expert at how to pray. When your back is up against the wall like mine was, the only thing left to do, I figure, is to pray. I was praying hard in my head, and I knew my mother was too. Sister Anastasia has the direct number to God’s red phone. I put her on the case to make sure that Daddy had full coverage with a zero deductible. (He taught me about deductibles-and electrical currents- that time when I fried the outdoor house speaker system in one of my first attempts to enhance the sound.)

After I hung up from her, it dawned on me that because of all the electronic and wireless machinery used, I probably shouldn’t be using a wireless cell phone in the hospital. They can sometimes cause interference. I didn’t turn it off, just in case somebody was trying to get back in touch with me, but I didn’t use it to call out again. The nurse who took Daddy’s info from me, had me taken to a private waiting room by security. She said it was because she didn’t know how long it would be before they knew anything. But I know she did it because of whose kid I am The hospital didn’t want the liability of having J.J. Hart out there in the open like that. It didn’t help that I’m also technically a minor. I felt even more alone, by myself in that little room, just sitting there. I think I would rather have stayed out in the public area and just fended for myself.

While I was waiting, I went through my father’s stuff to make sure I had it all together in a secure place and organized. I had more or less just been stuffing things in my pockets when I was taking them off of him on the plane. As I looked his stuff over, it occurred to me how the impersonal assorted items a person acquires come to represent that person for who he or she is in your mind. I had my father’s leather bomber jacket, his phone, his wallet, his rings, his ID bracelet, his watch, his money, and his neck chain.

In spite of being Jonathan Hart like he is, my father carries an embarrassingly small amount of cash, just plastic. Often, he has to get cash money from me or from my mother for parking meters, parking lot fees, tips, etc. Altogether, he had less than twenty dollars in his pockets and his wallet.

His wallet has a zipper section, so I put his wedding ring in there for safekeeping. It’s just a plain white gold band. Once when I asked her about it, my mother told me that was all he wanted when they got married; he didn’t want any stones at all. But inside of it there’s an inscription: “Hart to Hart Forever”, the year  they were married, and their entwined hearts insignia. She must have done that for him. Yesterday was the first time I’d ever seen that because for all of my life, that ring has always been on his finger. He got her that elaborate set of white gold and diamond rings, while he just wanted a plain band. Their wedding rings are very symbolic of the type of people that they are, especially of who they are together.

I strung Daddy’s other ring, the signet, on his neck chain. Those were two other things that I’ve never seen off of him. I put them both on me, down inside my shirt to keep us Hart to Hart, too.

I’m nosy, but I didn’t want to be going all through my father’s wallet. I did look at the pictures he keeps in there. He has several pictures of me and my mother. There’s one of Max with his cigar and Freeway, Sr., but he also has one of Sister Anastasia and him together. I’d never seen that picture before. They were both way younger. It must have been taken while he was in the service because he was dressed in his Navy pilot uniform. I was kind of surprised that he’d carry a picture of Sister A. in his wallet, although I don’t know why I should have been. She raised him, and to this day, they are still good friends, almost like family, as much as it pains me to say that. For some reason, his keeping her picture in his wallet like that just hit me as odd.

It didn’t surprise me that Daddy got admitted to the hospital. I had no thought that he would be released that same day. His doctor came and got me to take me to another room to wait for my mother to come. He wouldn’t tell me what was wrong with Daddy when I asked him, but he did inform me that they were taking Daddy to the Coronary Care Unit. That positively confirmed for me that his problem was with his heart. I felt so sick. All I could think is, “I’m only sixteen.”

But then, my mother was twelve, and Daddy was about two or three.

When Dr. Solomon said that Daddy wasn’t being real cooperative with them, I felt a little better. I would have worried more if Dr. Solomon said that he wasn’t resisting. I told Dr. Solomon that Daddy wasn’t going to act right until my mother got there. Being sick is scary. I’ve never been, not like that, but I know how sick and frightened it made me when my mother was. It’s probably real scary for somebody like my father, who is never knocked-down sick. He doesn’t know how to be.

Plus, he’s a guy, and guys can be such crybabies.

J.

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August 19

10:57 P.M.

I stopped for a bit to take a shower, wash my hair, and to get ready for bed. I’m not at all sleepy, but Aunt Pat will be fussing over me if I don’t act like I’m going to bed. She came up here to bring me  a sandwich and some milk because I didn’t eat dinner. I’m still not hungry, but I don’t want to worry her any more than I have. When she came in to check on me, I asked if she had spoken to my mother. She said that she had, that my mother had called, Daddy was resting, but that’s all she said.

It looks like I’m getting the silent treatment. My mother didn’t ask to speak to me when she called, but she did say that Daddy was resting. I’m glad of that. I so hate getting the silent treatment. However, it’s obvious from all the other calls I’ve been getting that I’m at least being discussed.

Marie phoned and let me have it for running off. She fussed at me about letting my bad temper get the best of me once again.

Pa called. He said my mother had phoned him  about Daddy being sick, and that she told about me flying the plane during the emergency. I didn’t know how much else she might have said to him, and I didn’t want to wait for him to slice into me over it, so I went ahead and told him where I was and what I had done.

He said that he was surprised about my flying, but that he should have expected that I could, considering who my father is. Then he got onto me pretty tough about taking off without permission and making my mother worry while she had my father to be concerned about. I didn’t try to explain. I couldn’t, and it wouldn’t have done any good if I had. He wouldn’t have been hearing it. All he knew was that I had run away, and as far as he was concerned, that was all there was to it. He said he was disappointed in me. I don’t like disappointing the people I love. I felt like crying all over again, but I didn’t.

I talked to Marnie. She and Chase had seen about Daddy getting ill and my flying him in on the news. So much for keeping things on the down low. I told her where I currently was. Of course, since my behavior was completely wrong, defiant, and out of line, Marnie was all over it, talking about how she was proud of me for flying on sly, getting my father down safely, and for having the nerve to take off on a plane without permission. But my best friend was quick to remind me that I was going to get my butt kicked by my mother when she caught up to me, and that for once, it was just me on my own. (Normally, it’s two for one.) She said that the Duchess was probably going to kick Daddy’s butt, too, when it was all said and done. She probably will down the line. We- me and my father- have truly done some things to try her nerves this time.

I called Teddy to tell him what was going on. I wish Teddy was here, so he could hold my hand and say in person the things he said to me. He told me that he wished he was here with me, but I think maybe it’s best that he isn’t. My guard is down. He kissed me through the phone, and I kissed him back. I like/love kissing him. That was enough for me. If he was closer, it might not be. Talking to him made me cry again. But that was after I hung up from him.

By that time, I had done too much non-productive talking about everything.

I wish Tommy was home or that I could get in touch with him. That’s who I really need to talk to. Tommy’s a boy, but male/female stuff doesn’t get in the way when it’s me and him, and things get deep. We can talk without the biological pretense. He knows and loves Daddy. He knows how me and Daddy are.

Aside from being angry and in trouble, I don’t know why I feel so badly. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I’ve tried, but I’m nervous, jittery, and irritable. I’ve been this way since last night. I thought the shower would help, but it didn’t. At least I’m not still crying like some little sissy-punk girl.

I have to finish telling.

My mother finally arrived at the hospital. It seemed like it took forever for her to get there, but it actually took about the amount of time I estimated it would. She blows in like she does, the grand belle of the ball, and all eyes were on Mrs. Jonathan Hart. To be fair, it isn’t totally her fault. She is hard to not notice. Even if you aren’t really looking, something about her draws the attention. It’s just how she is, how she looks, her hair, how well she dresses, how she carries herself. She oozes “it”. At school, everybody knows right off when my mother’s in the house. People who don’t even know me all that well, so they can’t be sure she’s my mother, figure she is my mother when they see her and they come to warn me she’s there. (She’s not above spot checking and dropping in on occasion; I believe my maintaining my academic status is as important to her as it is to me.) I’m usually proud to say she’s my mother, but yesterday, I had other things on my mind, and I didn’t feel like hearing how I look so much like her and all of that.

Hospital security was with her when she came onto the ward, which made her even more conspicuous. I happened to be out in the hallway, stretching my legs, when she got off the elevator. Like I said, everybody looked up and went right into carrying on and making out over her. It got on my nerves. I don’t know why it did. It happens all the time, and I should be used to it, but for some reason, yesterday it grated on every nerve I had. Even though I saw her, and she saw me, I went back into the room and waited for her to come in there. I didn’t want her asking me anything and/or maybe fussing at me in public. Normally she doesn’t embarrass me out in the open, but this situation wasn’t exactly normal. She came into the room with me, but she told the security people to wait outside to give us some privacy.

Now I hadn’t seen her in three days. I’d been with Daddy all that time. He got sick, I got him to the hospital and took care of all of his affairs, but instead of her asking me what happened, how I was feeling, or saying that I did a good job or that I didn’t, she goes right into what did we eat the night before. She wants to know what crazy things did we do at the ranch. Before we left LA? Had Daddy done or eaten something he shouldn’t have, and then she threatened me, saying that I better not be covering for him when I answered her.

Her attitude caught me off guard, but I figured she had to be kind of wired, given the circumstances of us being there.

I told her some of what we ate, and I guess she could hear my hesitation. She right away called me on it, talking about she could tell I was holding back. So I went ahead and let on about the hoagies and the chili. I did not tell her about those two chili dog/ milk shake runs we made, or the praline and cream sodas at the DQ before he and I left LA, though. To me, whatever was wrong with Daddy was way more than his usual indigestion. I didn’t believe that it had anything much to do with what he ate. Even if it did, what difference would her knowing about it make?

I told her what he did, which wasn’t all that much. I left out about him not looking well. That wasn’t intentional. It just didn’t occur to me to mention it at the time. I was more focused upon how I resented her coming at me like she had. You see, I’ve been raised to be respectful, so I didn’t light into her like I might have if she had been someone else, but I really didn’t appreciate how she was talking to me. There were a couple of moments there when I had to remind myself that she was my mother.

Dr. Solomon came in, introduced himself, and asked to speak with her. Then they went back outside the door to talk to cut me off from what was being said. That made me even angrier. I had been there all day. I had been the one to get my father there. It was because of me that there was somebody for the two of them to discuss, but I was being excluded from hearing what was wrong with him like I was some snot nosed little kid. Then, to make matters worse, she came back in and told me that the doctor thought it would be best if I stayed there in the room and let her go to see Daddy by herself. He could only have visitors for fifteen minutes on the hour, and he thought Daddy shouldn’t talk much or get too excited.

If she hadn’t pissed me off before that, I might have accepted being shut out in that manner. After all, they probably had a lot they had to say to one another. But she had already messed up and gotten on my nerves with it.

I wanted SO badly to say to her and to Dr. Solomon that I’m not the one who excites him. If that was the case, then she should have been the last somebody who was allowed in that room with him. SHE should have been the one made to stay back. I can still feel the teeth marks in my tongue where I bit down to keep from saying anything.

I could not believe it. I had been there all day, waiting to see Daddy, and they weren’t going to let me. I’d been sitting there all that time, by myself, with nobody telling me what was wrong or if he was going to be okay, only to be shut out. And my mother was going along with it. I could not believe that she was letting that happen to me. She usually doesn’t hide things from me or keep seriously important things from me, but there she was doing all of that, and over MY father. I wanted to scream, absolutely just open my mouth and scream out loud. I wanted to lie in the floor and have a temper tantrum- something, but I couldn’t. I’m too big and too old for that now. I haven’t had a falling-down, outright tantrum in years, and even then, they never got me what I wanted. They never got me anything or anywhere except lockdown.

The longer I sat there in that room by myself, the angrier I became. The angrier I became, the less I was able to just sit there. I started pacing, trying to walk it off. Finally, when I couldn’t take it any more, I made up my mind to go to Daddy anyway.

When I want to be, I can be a real sneak, and that’s just what I did. I snuck around to the area I knew Daddy’s room was in, and I saw him on my own.

I hid and waited until I my mother came out into the hall. She stopped just outside the door, and I could tell she was bent out of shape over Daddy, but I didn’t care. I waited until she walked off. Then that bald headed doctor come out of the room with that nurse trailing all close behind him, grinning and carrying on at him. I bet she’s probably his mistress or something else low down on the sly. They looked mighty cozy to me. Then, when they went in the back, I slid right on up into that room that I saw them come out of.

They didn’t know who they were fooling with, telling me to stay put as if I were seven or something. They all underestimated me. Nobody cuts J.J. Hart off from her folks. No-bod-y. Not even Jennifer Edwards Hart. She should have known better than to try to do that to me. Nobody could cut me off from her if the situation was like that.

Daddy was awake, and he wasn’t surprised to see me. He said that my mother told him what the doctor said about keeping me away, but that he knew all the time that I was coming anyway. He didn’t even fuss at me for being hardheaded. It’s probably exactly what he would have done if the situation had been reversed. I ratted my mother out to him. I didn’t do it for the sake of just ratting her out; I just had to say something to somebody before I exploded with it. I felt a little bad about laying that on him like I did, but it just rushed up out of me. Maybe it was because I know Daddy understands that part of me, which made me feel like I could open up to him. He must have understood what I was saying and feeling because he kissed me and told me to just take it easy; that it was tough on all of us, which I knew full well that it was.

Him saying, “take it easy” to me, in his voice and in his way, took some of the edge off that part of it for me.

I only stayed with him a little bit. I didn’t want to make him tired, and if I was gone too long, my mother would have figured out where I was, and come after me. Just being with him for those few minutes did me some good, even though looking at him made me nervous. They had him hooked up to all these machines to check his heart, his pressure, and who knows what else. He still had the IV stuck in his arm. They even had a bag hooked to him to collect his urine. It had to be embarrassing for him to have me see him like that. I wanted to stay and check out those big machines some more, but I couldn’t. I made sure to wash my hands before I left, so that I wouldn’t have to lie about where I had been when I met back up with my mother.

I snuck back out, and when I got back around there with her, sure enough, she asked me where I had been. I was able to say that I went to wash my hands.

See, not quite a whole, entire fib.

My mother didn’t bother to tell me that we weren’t going to Daddy’s suite on the Strip. It wasn’t until I noticed we were riding in a private car and that were headed away from the city that I asked, and she let me know we were going to be staying at their friend, Mr. Beckett’s villa.

At first I was a little disappointed that we wouldn’t be in Vegas. I love Vegas, but the villa turned out to be very nice. There’s a computer system, a pool, and also horses, all of which Mr. Beckett left word that I could have access to if I wanted or needed. He and his wife are in New York, but they let my mother and me stay there. Their housekeepers, Mathilda and Simon saw to us.

Simon picked us up from the hospital. He had already gone to the airport to get my and Daddy’s luggage off the plane. He must have met my mother’s chopper because he unloaded her things from the trunk when we arrived to the villa. When she and I got there, Mathilda, Simon’s wife, saw to us getting settled in and being comfortable. She had dinner ready, but neither of us ate very much. We didn’t say very much to each other either while we sat there with the food in front of us. I didn’t want to talk. My mother was just very quiet. I said I was going to swim before going to bed. She told me that I needed to forgo the swim and just go to bed. She said I needed to rest so I could get up in the morning to go see my father.

By the time she walked me to my bedroom door and left me there, I was fiery mad at her.

It’s awful to be mad at somebody with whom you can’t fight or argue. My mother can make me so mad sometimes that I could spit nails a mile. But she doesn’t tolerate shows of anger or backtalk. Never has. I’m totally trained to not do that with her or with any adult- in most cases.

And then, too, to disrespect her in any way brings Daddy into the picture. No matter if he is sick, he’d get up out of that hospital bed, disconnect himself from all that stuff, and catch a cab here to get with me if he found out I had done something like that to her. He does not allow me to be insolent or disrespectful to any adult, but I really better not be with his wife.

But I was so mad, angry, mad, mad, irate, MAD at her. I was smoky mad and irritated about everything.

I was so worked up and agitated that at first I thought I was going into one of those panic things I sometimes have, so I lie down across the bed and concentrated on breathing evenly. The attack didn’t materialize, but I noticed that I still couldn’t quite relax. My hands were all damp and shaky. My legs were jittery. It felt like somebody had shook a whole box of itching powder over every inch of my body. I was going hot and cold and sticky with nervous perspiration. I kept seeing Daddy in my head and hearing him tell me that he was in trouble.

After trying all my usual relaxation techniques, I found myself still in an extreme state of unrest. When it’s like that, which it isn’t very often, I can go to either of my parents, depending upon the nature of the problem, but last night I couldn’t. He was gone, and she was part of why I was agitated. Although I love and respect my mother, sometimes she drives me crazy with her attitudes and how she tries to keep me so like a child. This time, it felt like she was taking it to a whole other level.

Maybe she was being like that because I didn’t tell her about the flying. I knew she would be mad about that when she found out. If she is, I wish she would have said something and gotten it over with. Maybe she’s upset because I am a child, and she feels that’s yet one more thing she has to worry over. Truthfully, Daddy’s being sick would probably be easier for her to take if I wasn’t in the picture. She always thinks I’m so unable to cope. I bet she was thinking that if she didn’t have me, then she would only have to deal with Daddy.

Well, I fixed that for her. I’m not there any more.

Tired of being restless and tired, I resorted to my last trick in the bag. Despite her telling me not to, I went swimming anyway. I do it at home sometimes when I’m wound up about something. I go out when I’m sure she and Daddy are asleep (or whatever). A quick swim almost always works to help me get to sleep after.

It felt kind of crazy, my doing that. Both of our rooms had doors that led out to the pool/patio area. I knew she would hear or see me out there. If she did, then she would be even madder at me for disobeying her. Even so, and even though I was highly upset with her,  it was like I still needed her attention. I didn’t want her, per se, but I wanted her to see me. I wanted to witness her seeing me. I know that sounds foolhardy, but that’s the only way I can put it. I belly flopped into the water to make sure the splash was loud.

When I swam down to her end, sure enough, she was standing there in the sliding glass door of her bedroom, watching me. But she didn’t come outside and get with me like I thought she would. It was a strange sort of let down that she didn’t.

The swim didn’t work, so I tried to start writing in my journal. I couldn’t. I then tried to read, but that really wasn’t happening. I kept seeing Daddy, all gray and sitting next to me.

I don’t know when I finally dropped off, but it was daylight when I woke up. I slept a lot later this morning than usual, and by the time I finally got up and dressed, my mother was gone. She had gotten up early and gone on to the hospital without coming to wake me up. She left me behind, telling Simon he could bring me when I woke up.

She went to the hospital without me, leaving me behind. That said it all.

She tried to tell me later that she did it to let me sleep, but I know that she just didn’t want me with her, and that’s all that was. She was getting back at me for disobeying her and going swimming. She was fixing me for flying with Daddy and not telling her. That truly was not the way to do that- to get back at me, I mean.

It was on.

Simon dropped me off at the hospital. So, distracted by my anger, I wasn’t thinking or checking out my surroundings, and I got ambushed by some reporters that were hanging around the lobby. I hate being rushed like that. I don’t handle being startled all that well. It shocks, then it angers me. I’m usually with my parents in those kinds of situations, and it usually isn’t me reporters and photographers are trying to get to. My mother and father protect me from that and they usually play the part of buffer between me and intrusions on my life like that. This time, however, I was alone. I let my guard down because I was already so angry, and that’s why it happened. Suddenly two men were on both sides of me, asking me all these questions. Luckily, this doctor that I had run into when I was sneaking out of Daddy’s room last night, happened to be down there. He pulled me away from the reporters and escorted me around to the elevators while security took care of the reporters.

The doctor, even though I didn’t know him, knew right away who I was last night. He told me he was Daddy’s night doctor, and he was laughing about me sneaking into Daddy’s room, saying that he was on my side about being allowed to see him. I guess because he’s seen my mother, he recognized who I was. I was in a hurry last night, so I didn’t do it then, but I formally introduced myself to him today in thanks for getting me the hell away from those people. Then Mr. Lamb showed up and took me to Daddy’s floor.

Once I got upstairs, though, the madness continued.

I stop at the desk- strictly out of courtesy- and they tell me that I can’t see Daddy because my mother’s already in there with him. By this time, my nerves were on fry. My mother had bossed me around, left to go see Daddy without me, now the nurses were cutting me off from him. By the time my mother came into that waiting room and started talking, all of my home training had flown right out of that window I was standing in front of.

I was so mad that all I could see was red and then black. When I got through saying what I had to say, telling her off about what she’d done to me, I could see that I had overstepped myself. I have never spoken to my mother like that, but I was so, so angry. It had been pent up inside me far too long that when I opened the tap, it just all gushed out. I just couldn’t take any more- of anything. When I got through, though, I was actually more scared of her than I was angry. I was afraid of what her reaction to my behavior might be.

When I first started talking, she was sitting down. By the time I got finished, she was standing up, and I could tell that she was as angry as I was. She had warned me twice to stop talking, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I don’t even remember everything that I said, except that I clearly recall telling her that if it wasn’t for me she wouldn’t have a husband now.

I shouldn’t have said that.

I felt so bad after I said that to her. What you say to someone is something you can’t take back once you let it go. When I said that about her not having a husband, my mother gasped as if my words had slapped her across her face and/or sucker punched her in the stomach, knocking the wind clean out of her. What I said hurt and shocked her, and I know for sure that I deeply angered her. I get my bad temper from her, only hers isn’t as easy to trigger as mine. She’s older, and as such, I guess she’s gotten a better handle on hers.

It was when she made that gasping noise that I got scared of her. She was looking at me like she wanted to rip my head off with her bare hands. There haven’t been a whole lot of times in my life that I can recall her looking at me like that, so I knew it was time for her and I to part company.

I pulled out my cell, phoned Simon to ask him to come back for me, and I made sure that I didn’t go anywhere near her as eased my way around the edge of that room, making a break for the door. I was determined to leave, but I kind of wanted to do it on my own, not be carried out by the coroner’s boys in a body bag. If my mother could have gotten to me, that would have been the most likely end result. I think the only thing that kept her from coming after me was she was so shocked that I went off on her like I did.

I made it out, and Simon brought me back to the villa. Straightaway, I called Aunt Pat to confirm that she was still in Reno. I didn’t tell her I was coming. I didn’t want her to be trying to reason with me or talking me out of doing what I had made up my mind to do. I had to go. I had to get out of there. I packed, used my American Express to pay online for the flight ticket, and called a cab. Then I wrote my mother a note and left it in her room. I told her I was sorry for talking so nasty to her, but that I meant what I said about not being sorry about Daddy teaching me to fly. Even though the truth may hurt, it’s real that if he hadn’t taught me, both of us might be without him today.

I didn’t say in the note, and I didn’t say it to her at the hospital, but she might not have either of us today if it hadn’t been for him teaching me. Whatever the case, I would have been with him when he got sick.

Maybe me, she wouldn’t have cared so much about losing. In light of how my being okay and still there with her turned out, that’s probably a logical supposition right now.

I’m glad that I left, but I hate that I said those ugly things to her. I hate that I let my temper get the best of me, especially with her. It’s for the best that I’m not with her. She doesn’t need me there. She has enough to deal with, and so do I.

I’ve really messed up, but I don’t care. It’s for the best that I’m far away from her, from them, from all of it.

Good night.

J.

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Monday, August 20

10:45 A.M.

I’m outside on the deck now with Duke, Uncle Bill’s German Shepherd. He’s such a good dog. He has the thickest, shiniest coat and the best brown eyes. Whenever I come here, he stays right with me the whole time. I love dogs. They always know when you don’t feel good, and they seem to know all the right things to communicate to you to bring you comfort. He and I took a long walk together earlier. I didn’t sleep well at all last night, so I was up and out first thing. On top of everything else, I think I’m going to be real sick this time. I’m already having twinges in the lower part of my stomach.

When we got back to the house, Clara had breakfast ready. She made everything I like, a real lumberjack breakfast, but I still couldn’t eat very much. I had a slight headache, and the food tasted like, for lack of a better description, dirt. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve eaten dirt; I only did it on purpose once, but it’s a taste you don’t ever forget.

Clara would have my head if she could see what I just wrote about her food. She’s an excellent cook. It wasn’t anything she did. It was just me.

She’s also very wise. I love how she speaks; she’s Caribbean and her voice, her words sound like music. They stroke your ears and your emotions even when she’s telling you off. They mellow you, like good jazz. It’s called patois. She asked me if I showed my mother my “ugly face”. How much better can that be put? Then said that I took my mother’s joy and I made her heart heavy. She told me that my mother is scared, and that I made her be alone with her fear when I left her.

I hadn’t considered that.

I don’t want to right now. Too heavy a guilt trip for one so frail.

Aunt Pat was very quiet at breakfast, but I could feel her sneaking to look at me, kind of like my mother does when she thinks something is up with me. Uncle Bill never says a whole lot in the mornings, but he and I had already talked. It was when he caught me coming in with Duke from taking a swim way early this morning while it was still dark out. We didn’t know that Uncle Bill had come down to the den to watch TV. He wasn’t mad at me, although I did startle him a little. Uncle Bill understands. He’s the type of person who doesn’t have to use a whole lot of words to let you know that he cares about what’s happening with you.

I’ve been crying so much since I’ve been here. It started from the time Aunt Pat got out of the car and came toward me at the airport, and it keeps happening. I absolutely detest crying, but I simply cannot get it together. The sun is out; it’s a beautiful Nevada day, but you couldn’t tell it by how I feel. Inside me, everything is dreary and dismal. I don’t feel all that good physically, and every time I think about Daddy, I have to fight with myself not to cry.

When I think about my mother, I feel like I want to fight, and then I cry some more. It’s not her fault; it’s mine.

J.

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Monday, August 20

3:45 P.M.

I remember the very first time that Daddy let me fly. I was eleven. It was the weekend before I was to start junior high school, and I was so excited. I was going to be attending a special gifted and talented program at a public charter school. Before that, I had always gone to that private academy in Bel Air. I wasn’t going to have to wear a uniform at my new school, so I had to have all new school clothes. My mother had taken me shopping the week before, but she made me get things she liked, preppy stuff: skirts, blouses, matching sweaters and street shoes. She didn’t know. She’s only ever gone to private, prep schools.

Since I didn’t want to show up looking like some little snotty geek, I asked Daddy, on the low, to take me shopping. He told my mother that he was taking me with him up to the ranch to check on some things, but in actuality, he was taking me to Colorado to buy some jeans, boots, gym shoes and the kinds of things he knew I liked and would need.

We took the prop he had at the time, and he sat me on his lap. I was little and really skinny then, so both of us could fit into his seat like that. He didn’t have to do anything for me, and he hardly had to tell me anything. I had been studying planes and my pilot father all of my life. While other girls were playing with dolls and tea sets and junk, I had toy planes and helicopters. As I got older, I graduated to stomp rockets, remote controlled planes, gas jets, and such. If it could take flight, I had one. So, that first time getting us off the ground in the Piper was just like breathing to me, a natural process.

I can’t write the words to say what it felt like, what it feels like, to be in control of all that power. I can’t adequately articulate in writing what flying feels like because I’m not that adept at expressing myself when it comes to that. For me, it’s something beyond exhilarating. The best I can say about it is when I have to go long stretches without flying, I can feel it way down deep, all inside my bones. I get anxious and irritated, as if something important and essential is missing from my life. Flying is  definitely part of who I am.

It’s a big part of who my father is, too. If he has heart trouble, he may not be able to fly any more. FAA rules forbid that. God, I hope that whatever is wrong with him won’t prohibit him from what he loves so much to do. I don’t know how he’d handle that. I don’t know how I’d handle that.

I’m reminded of something he once said to me when I was little. I had to say it to him that night I saw him in the hospital, and he was telling me that he didn’t want to hear what the doctors had to say to him; he just wanted to get out of there. I had to tell him that the message doesn’t change just because you choose not to listen.

When I was little, I was kind of bad. I had a lot more nerve than I do now, and my temper was a lot worse. I wanted everything to be my way. I used to get into it with my mother all the time because she was the one I spent most of my time with during the day. It was she who insisted that I not be selfish and learn to share. Before school, it was just me. I never had to share anything with anybody. We traveled a lot, so I didn’t have a lot of exposure to other kids. I had to be taught to interact with people my age.

She insisted that I clean up behind myself, do things the right way, that I have good manners, be respectful and obedient, and that I not be so willful and ornery. Being with her seemed at the time to be the exact opposite of being with Daddy, and that would get on my nerves. (Later, I figured how he had been teaching me most of the same things. His approach was just different.) I got into the short-lived habit of covering up my ears when my mother was talking to me. It would make her so mad, and that would be funny to me until she would make me go to my room and stay until Daddy got home from work. She would rat me out to him, and then he would come to my room and talk to me about what I had done to her. He wouldn’t be mad, but I could tell that he didn’t like for me to upset her.

The last time he talked to me about it, he told me that covering up my ears didn’t change what she was telling me; she had said what she meant for me to do, and that didn’t change because I made the choice to cover up my ears to keep from hearing it. I was still going to be expected to do what she said because she was my mother, and he was always going to uphold her in that. What she was teaching me, he said, were things I was going to need in order to grow into a fine lady one day. He also told me that it was disrespectful, and he was not going to have me being disrespectful to my mother. Then he threatened to put me over his knee if I ever did it again.

I never covered up my ears to her again. But I did disrespect and not hear her yesterday, and I know she’s told on me.

I’m praying my father gets better even if it means going over his knee.

Aunt Pat and I just came in from having lunch. She took me out to eat, but I think she did it more so that she and I could talk. She made me tell her what happened, specifically what I said. It hurt so bad to say it out loud to her and to myself. Too much so to write down right now.

I wish to God I could get in that jet I came in on, and fly right on back out of here. I’d take it up and never, ever come down again.

J.

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Monday, August 20

6:18 P.M.

It’s been properly moved and seconded that I’m getting the silent treatment. I’ve called my mother more than once, and she hasn’t called me back. Even though I didn’t leave a message, she has to know it’s me. My number shows up in her display. When I call her, and she doesn’t pick up right away, it isn’t ever real long before she hits me back. It’s been all day. She never leaves me hanging like this. On Saturday, I broke rule number one in the worst way: don’t leave without letting her know. Not only did I leave without permission, I flew four hundred miles away. So, what more can I expect from her?

I hate this.

I didn’t want to go to lunch with Aunt Pat this afternoon. I didn’t feel all that good, I was irritable, and I wasn’t the least bit hungry, but I didn’t want to tell her that. Besides, I figured she had more than eating on her agenda. It turned out I figured right.

She grilled me. Well, I shouldn’t say grilled. I guess it was more like sautéed me in sizzling hot butter over what went down between me and my mother. I thought at first she was upset with me, and that was why she had been being so quiet. It turns out that she was getting her inquisition together. By the time she got around to doing me, she had figured it out that I had snuck to see my father that first night. She’s knows Daddy and me real well, and she’s very good at breaking me down and making me admit when I’m wrong. I wonder if she can do Daddy like that, too. She made me tell her the things I’d said to my mother in anger, and she was appalled by my having said to my mother that she wouldn’t have a husband now if it hadn’t been for me.

I could sympathize. It made me sick to hear it, too.

But Aunt Pat, even though she was mad about what I said, helped me to see that this- whatever it is I’m going through- is more than anger. It’s not about my mother and what I think she’s done to me. It’s far more than that. What it is, of that, I’m not quite sure yet.

But I didn’t come out here to the back forty to bitch and moan about things. I’ve had a pretty decent day, so far, considering.

I got an email from Tommy. Finally. I just read it, and somehow I feel so much better even though he talked to me any kind of way in it. I guess he thought he could get away with that since he was doing it in a letter and not face to face. He’d heard about Daddy through his grandmother when she called home to make arrangements to be picked up from the airport when she arrived back in LA. He didn’t say a whole lot about it, that’s his way, but he did tell me to tell Daddy that he asked after him. Daddy will like that. Tommy is worried about Daddy, just like me, but like Tommy, I, too am sure that Daddy’s going to pull out of this. I just hope he’s the same once it’s over.

Tommy says he likes Barcelona. I’m glad for him. I’m sure his artistic spirit is being fed plenty. I just hope he doesn’t like it too much, and he decides to stay and not come back home. He also said that the uncle he went to meet and live with, is his grandmother’s twin. There’s been at least one set of twins in his family for generations. He had the nerve to crack that he might have a set one day. As big as Tommy is, and his father’s people seem to be, I pity the poor girl he knocks up with a set of twins for him. She’d better pray for a C-section. Her cat will never be the same. Talk about something being stretched out.

I miss him. I sure wish he was going to be home waiting for me whenever I get back there.

I love Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill together. If you didn’t know them and weren’t aware that they were hooked up, you wouldn’t really think of them as a couple. Apart, they don’t quite match as people, but together, when I’m with them, it’s as if they’re already married, and have been for a long time. I guess that’s because they’ve been a couple for so much longer than anybody knew. It’s obvious that they’re very good friends, and that they greatly enjoy each other’s company. They seem to calm each other without smothering. They can both be agitated and restless sorts, but when you see them with each other, they aren’t like that.

They have a different sort of relationship than my parents. It’s more low key, not as obviously physical. You don’t see them holding hands a lot or kissing, but you can feel that they’re very fond of each other. He’s not all over her all the time, and she doesn’t hang onto him at all. They don’t have to do things together a lot. They just seem happy to be in the same place. Sometimes, he gets on his horse and just takes off into the hills without her and is gone for long stretches of time. When you ask her where he is, Aunt Pat just shrugs and says, “He’s out on that horse, doing his thing.” She never seems to mind his being gone.

When she’s on her phone on business, like she very often is or she goes off on business because Nevada is an important publishing hub, he never acts all neglected or bothered like some men might. He just goes and watches TV or finds something else to do until she’s finished with what she has to do. Uncle Bill isn’t as deeply into McDowell Aviation as he used to be; he’s left that to his son, Peter, so he doesn’t spend as much time on business as he used to. He’s semi-retired, he says. She’s not retired at all, but I can see that she’s pulling away some from Hamilton House.

Even though Aunt Pat is bourbon and caviar, and he’s more like beer and pretzels, they somehow meet in the middle and compliment each other. I haven’t been with them in New York at Aunt Pat’s place to see how they do there, but I’m willing to bet that it’s more of the same.

Peter and Donna, his wife, already call Aunt Pat, “Mom” and their four boys all call her “Grandma”. She loves it, and it’s so nice to watch her on the phone with them or talking about them. I think she’s really happy being a part of their family. With Uncle Bill, she got the whole package.

I don’t know why they’re bothering to get married; I like them just as they are- lovers. I asked her that exact question: why get married? If they’re happy, why not stay lovers as they are? She told me that she’s getting married because Uncle Bill wants it, and she wants Uncle Bill, that one thing doesn’t have to preclude the other. I don’t have any hands-on experience with either, so I can’t say, but I guess at their age, when you find somebody good, it’s probably best to lock the deal up like that.

I’m glad I came here. I don’t know what staying in Vegas would have been like, being up close to everything like I was. Now I’m removed from it all, but I’m liking the distance. I’m better able to think. It’s been a few hours now since I’ve cried, the longest stretch I’ve gone lately. I’m glad of that, too. I was tired of it.

I need to email Tommy back, and update him on Daddy. He’ll be wanting to know. I can at least make him feel a little better. It’s also probably getting close to time for dinner. They eat late around here, but Clara doesn’t like it when somebody is late making it to the table.

Until bedtime,

J.

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Monday, August 20

11:39 P.M.

I said earlier about my mother being the disciplinarian in our house. Well, I also have to say that she’s also been a very good teacher, as well. While Daddy instructs me on many different things in my life, my mother teaches me about handling my life. Let me see if I can make that make sense.

When I was about ten, I was diagnosed as being gifted. I don’t care for the tag, but I guess everything has to have some kind of label to identify it. That came about because I had to be tested to get into the program at the school in which I’m currently enrolled. My mother told me then that gifts are given because someone wanted you to have them, not because you are entitled to them. Because of that, they’re meant to be cherished and taken care of. In other words, she didn’t make a big deal out of my being smart; instead, she went the route of, “Since I know you’re not stupid, I’m expecting big things from you.” Then she set the bar real high, and made sure that I did what I had to do to clear it. Then, when I did, she’d raise it some more, all the time making out like it was normal and natural, which in time it came to be. I’m first in my class right now, but you never see her grin or hear her brag about it to anybody.

At first, when I won the Merit Awards for math those two years, I was a little disappointed when she didn’t make as big a deal out of it as Daddy and everybody else. I was thinking to myself, “She’s never satisfied. What do I have to do?” But then it dawned on me, that was her way of teaching me that I was only doing what I was supposed to do, which was use the gifts I’d been given. It really wasn’t that big a deal. She never makes out over any of that. As far as she’s concerned, it’s just par for the course.

Daddy says that it was she who first noticed that I was unusually bright. He said he thought I was just smart and quick, like her. But she would notice other small things about me from the time I was an infant that she thought bore watching. One of them was that I’ve always liked music, but that it was more than just liking it. She noticed that I paid close attention to rhythms and beats.

Both my parents love music. She leans more to easy listening and classical. Daddy loves jazz and rhythm and blues. When my mother is stressed out with her writing sometimes, she’ll stop and play the piano as a diversionary tactic. She often uses the metronome to keep time and to pace herself. Daddy said that when I was a little baby, she noticed that when she would play, with me seated on her lap, I would rock- not to what she was playing- but to the beat of the metronome. No matter how fast or how slow she set it, she said I could keep time with my body, whether she was playing or not. She told Daddy that she noticed I was watching the wand and was doing what it did. After a while, once I was big enough to climb up there on my own, I would get up on the piano bench, set the metronome myself, and just sit there, rocking and watching it like I was in a trance or something.

Daddy said I wasn’t quite a year old, but I would find ways to climb up and turn on the radio all by myself to hear the music. I learned to operate the stereo and the VCR before I was two. I wasn’t allowed to watch much real TV, (I was home with my mother, and she doesn’t watch TV a lot.) but I would turn on the Sesame Street tapes, and sing or dance to the music. I would dance and sing along to the stereo, and I only had to hear a song a couple of times before I had the words memorized. I know the words to all kinds of songs now. (Some of them get me into hot water when I sing them too loud.) Daddy said that was the only time that I would stay in one place, when there was music playing that I liked, and I seemed to like all kinds of music.

I remember going into the board room at Hart one day with Daddy and hearing music coming from the windows. I was very small, but I remember that first time I noticed it. When I told him I could hear it, and asked him why that was, Daddy took me in his arms and swung me around. He kissed me and told me that it was to keep the bad people from listening in on him when he didn’t want them to, and only very special people, like he and I could hear it. He seemed so happy that I could hear things like he could. I’ve never forgotten how special I felt that day. I liked being like my Daddy.

But I think I get this gifted thing from my mother. She’s extremely smart, but she says that one has to be humble in it. It’s the same with her looks. She’s always been pretty, but she said that it can be, and has been, trouble for her. As soon as she thought I might start getting boobs and a period, she told me that I was going to be pretty, but that it was more important to be smart. And she kept saying it. She still says it, and I believe it.

Totally.

I say all of that to say that of all the gifts I’ve been given, it’s my love of music and my ability to work with sound for which I am most grateful, and most humble. Of all my blessings, that’s the one I truly see as a gift because it brings me nothing but happiness. Music takes me places that are light years away from my every day world and any problems I might be having. In fact, my teacher at school, the fabulous Mr. Washington, a former professional musician himself, says that when I’m involved with my music, he can see me go to some whole other level, up and away from the rest of the class.

Mr. Washington has been my music teacher/mentor since the middle of the ninth grade, when I got kicked out of Orchestra and put in the Jazz band. (Maestro said I didn’t fit in orchestra, and I  agreed.) He is the best. A pianist and keyboardist, himself, he’s played with and for some of the finest musicians in the world. He still does consultant work and sits in on occasion for studio sessions with major recording artists.

He’s introduced me to so much. Like, for example, the Motown sound. I’ve always liked older R& B, back when the music was pure and there wasn’t so much digitalization, but before him, I hadn’t really studied any of that to any large extent. He turned me on to Motown, Barry White, Billy Paul, Stevie Wonder, and so many other pianists whose sound I have come to admire. I’ve always loved the Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel, Michael McDonald, Richard Carpenter, but there were so many others to whom I hadn’t been exposed until I met Mr. Washington. Through Daddy, I knew about Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, the big bands, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, heck- even Liberace. Mr. Washington was astonished by how much of the old stuff I knew, and he was amazed by how easily I could play back and make my own what I heard. Give me a tape or a CD, some headphones, and a keyboard of some kind, and I’ll make that sucker mine.

I like rap, not so much the lyrics a lot of times, but the tracks. I’m discovering that a lot of those same tracks are taken from old R&B. Mr. Washington says that’s proof positive that the old stuff is the best. There’s no disputing that.

I love music. I love playing music. I love how you can blend and manipulate individual sounds and make something beautiful out of the mix. I love the way I feel when music is flowing through me. At Hector and Philly’s father’s studio, I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. The people I’ve met there, the things I’ve heard and done; it’s truly amazing.  One day, I want my own sound studio where musicians can come and work. It would be state of the art, my equipment would produce the purest tones, and I’d live inside of it.

Like my mother, when I’m stressed, I hit the keys. Tonight, I started out running scales down on the piano in the living room that Uncle Bill says he keeps tuned for me and for his grandson, Donovan, who also plays. Before I knew it, I had slipped off to somewhere else. When I floated back in, I was playing “Let it Be”, and I was singing to it. When I opened my eyes, Uncle Bill and Aunt Pat were standing on the stairs, watching me.

I was so embarrassed. I must have looked so crazy to them, sitting there singing to myself like that. I sort of get carried away when I get into it like I was.

They tried to make me feel better about getting caught out like that. Uncle Bill said that he didn’t know I could play so well. Aunt Pat said I had a beautiful voice, that I sounded a lot like my mother used to sound when she sang in high school and college. Then she asked me how I knew a song that old. I told her I love the Beatles’ stuff, and that cut is pure piano. I didn’t tell her that the lyrics somehow speak to my soul. They did from the very first time I heard it.

I didn’t explain any of it to them. In my embarrassment, I didn’t know what to say. I usually don’t do that in front of anybody, sing like that, except  maybe my parents sometimes, and of course the people at school who do the same thing. All I managed to get out was, “Thank you.”

Then I stopped playing and came upstairs. I was back on earth, and I no longer felt like going on. I let it be.

I don’t know why it bothered me so much to have them hear me sing and play, but it did. It’s not like they don’t know me. Maybe if I hadn’t been singing that song. After all, they knowme.

I don’t know why I sang that particular song tonight. I do like it the music of it a lot, I love the lyrics, but it isn’t as if it’s right there in the front of my mind or on my regular play list or anything.

I still haven’t heard a peep from my mother. I don’t know how she can ignore me like this. I wouldn’t do my kid like this, no matter what she did to me. I’d at least call her up and cuss her out. If I knew where she was, I would come and get her, or get with her. Even if I just came to kick her butt, I’d at least be letting her know that I care enough about her to do that.

What if I was sort of insecure, and not sure how my mother felt about me? I know my mother cares about me, but sometimes she can be sort of ruthless with it, like now. Sometimes I think she plays games with my head. I know I’ve been bad, but come on now.

Maybe she’s letting me be.

I’m tired, but I’m not sleepy. I’m too wired and edgy. On top of everything else, I have PMS, and it’s going to be bad this time. It kicked in late yesterday and has been escalating in intensity ever since. I should have been taking those vitamins all month, but it’s too late to worry about that now. I’m due to check in tomorrow or the next day, and it’s going to be bad, I can tell. When I ball my fists, I can feel my fingers are swollen, my feet were a little tight in my gym shoes this afternoon, and I’m dragging. When I was running earlier, I flagged long before I should have.

I don’t know why I don’t act right and just do what I know I’m supposed to do.

J.

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Tuesday, August 21

8:49 A.M.

I’m going back.

I’ve made up my mind. It’s the right thing to do. I made this mess, now I have to fix it. I heard Uncle Bill up and moving about earlier, and I was going to ask him to help me get back to Vegas, but by the time I got showered and dressed, he was gone. Clara said he took off. She didn’t know where he went or when he’d be back, but Aunt Pat is still here, though.

When she wakes up and comes down, I’m going to ask her to send me back. I hope she doesn’t fight me on it and make me defy her.

I will if she does. I did it once, and I’ll do it again. I’m not afraid. If I took off on my mother, I’ll certainly do it to her. I flew here by myself, and I can go back the same way. I’m less scared of Aunt Pat than I am stressed by being on the outs with her best friend.

I need to go back and make things right between my mother and me. I miss her, and I hate how all of this feels. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. It isn’t right, and it isn’t going to be right until I make it so.

I wonder if she misses me at all. Probably not. She’s got her Jonathan, and he seems to be coming back this way. But she has a daughter, too, whether she’s upset with her or not. I’m going back.

Wish me luck.

J.

(By the way, my father is crazy, and Aunt Pat isn’t far behind him, but I love them both so much.)

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Wednesday, August 22

3:46 P.M.

I saw my father today for the first time since last Saturday night. He looks so much better now than he did then.  Almost like himself. No tubes or machines, and he can get up and go to the bathroom by himself. He’s in his own room, and if it weren’t for the fact that he’s in the hospital, you wouldn’t even know that he was sick. But I know; I was there.

I was so happy to see him. I didn’t realize how much I missed him until I actually saw him again. It was like when I was little and he’d go away on business for a few days. It would seem like eternity while he was gone, and when he’d come home, I’d run to him so that he could pick me up and hug me. I hugged him today, just like back when I was six. I love my father. He has the best eyes and the greatest smile. What happened to him last Saturday messed with my head and my heart so badly.

He tried to fuss at me about what all I had done, but he couldn’t do it very well. Too much time had gone by, and he wasn’t angry any more. Besides, my mother and I had worked everything out by then. He was as glad to see us back together as I was to see him. All he could do was kiss me and tell me not to do anything like that again. She didn’t think I saw it, but I saw my mother call him “putty”. That’s what she always calls him when it comes to me. She just doesn’t know. He can be scary too, under the right circumstances.

My mother got me up this morning so that we could go and see him. It wasn’t all that early, but I guess because of all I’ve been through and not having slept or eaten like I should, I’m way anemic this month. I wound up falling asleep in the big chair in Daddy’s room not long after we got there. My mother brought me back here, had lunch brought in to us, made me take the vitamin in front of her, eat with her in here looking at me, and then she made me go to bed. That was around 12:30.

I just woke back up. What woke me was the phone. It was her saying that Daddy wanted to see me this evening, so I should be ready when she comes back here for me around five. We’re to have dinner at the hospital with him. I have a little time to write, and then I need to get up and get dressed. I’m so happy to be talking to her again. She can boss me around if she likes. For now anyway.

So much happened yesterday after I wrote that last time, that I haven’t had the opportunity to get any of it down until now. If you knew like I know, you’d see how I’m lucky to still be here to write it.

I’ll start off where Aunt Pat left me here to go the hospital to meet my mother, once we flew in from Reno.

I finished unpacking and putting my things away, but I didn’t feel all that good. I had cramps, and I had taken too much pain medicine. On top of that, or maybe because of it, I was still restless and fidgety. I called down and asked Mathilda how I went about getting a horse to ride. She took care of it for me.

Something about riding makes me feel better when I’m sick like that. I don’t know if it’s the movement of the horse, being outside like that, or what, but it relaxes me. I nearly fell asleep on the horse’s back. Instead, I did that on the ground underneath some trees on the back end of the grounds. I love the smell of grass and earth. It’s comforting. That’s where my mother finally caught up to me.

She found me asleep on the ground, When she rolled me over and woke me, she scared me. I was sick, and I wasn’t prepared for her being up on me like that. I wanted to see her, but when I woke up with her over me so close in that way, it did something to me. I don’t know what, but the only way to explain it is, I wasn’t ready to talk to her. For once, I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t say one word. I had to hide being sick from her so that she wouldn’t know what I had and hadn’t done. She was looking at me so strange. I knew I looked bad to her, but it was like she wasn’t so much concerned with my appearance. It was more than that, and I could only imagine what it was. I knew she was mad at me, but what I got from her wasn’t quite anger. In fact, I want to say she was scared.

She got me up and we rode back to the house. I was so sick. When she offered to take my horse in while I went ahead and got ready for dinner, I let her do it. I almost didn’t make it to my bathroom before I threw up. I took a shower, threw up again, and was so shaky and weak after, all I could do was lie down across the bed. The next thing I knew, I was waking up and the room was pitch black.

In the dark, I lie there thinking about Daddy, and about how he phoned me way early that morning. It had to have been somewhere around three or four in the morning when he called. It was right after Aunt Pat left me from where she’d brought me to my room after she caught me outside swimming. Aunt Pat brought me back inside, gave me rum and coke to steady my nerves, (She said it was to relax me, but I know better now.) and then she lit into me about being selfish and self-centered.

She asked me how I felt about getting the silent treatment from my mother, so, silly me, I told her that I thought it was selfish of my mother to do that to me. That she should at least talk to me. How could I fix what was wrong if she wouldn’t even pick up the phone when I called? Well, Aunt Pat wasn’t hearing that. She said that my problem was that I was spoiled. I was scared that my cushy world was being rocked, and that I had left my mother alone, just like other people who said they loved her had done. She was so mean, so cut and dry and cold that she made me cry. I think she did it on purpose. How can somebody be mean to you and then turn around and hug and kiss you so tenderly afterward? How can a person be expected to hold it in after something like that? My Aunt Pat is something else.

Then Daddy called me up and got on me. He had snuck out of his room in the middle of the night to phone me. Of course, he didn’t have any money for the pay phone, which he had to use because I took his cell and gave it to my mother, and he can’t have a phone in his room. So, he had to bill and route the call through the house phone in LA, and then have it sent to me. He must have really been wanting to get to me bad, so I guess, as soon as he got a shot, he took it .

At that time, he was madder then than he was this morning. He told me to fix the problem with my mother. He didn’t care how I did it, but he wanted it done ASAP. Then he said I had it coming from him when we got back together. It wasn’t because of his call that I decided to come back here from Reno. I simply felt it was time. But even if I hadn’t been ready to do so, his telling me to get it done would have facilitated that. He doesn’t make too many direct demands of me, but when he does, he means for it to happen and to happen just like he said, ASAP.

Aunt Pat, liquoring me up and telling me off. Daddy sneaking around a hospital in the middle of the night, looking for a phone to call me up and let me have it. They’re both crazy, but they both must love my mother and me a lot. It bothers both of them to no end when she and I are at each other. It’s never been as bad as this, so I guess they were working overtime on fix-up duty. Even Uncle Bill got into the picture.

After I lie there for a while, thinking about Aunt Pat and Daddy, I got up from my nap and went looking for my mother. I first checked her room, but she wasn’t in there. I was on my way to the front, when I could hear Aunt Pat talking to Uncle Bill. It didn’t dawn on me until later that Uncle Bill’s being there was out of the ordinary. Aunt Pat had come to Vegas with me, but where had Uncle Bill come from?

It turned out that when he left the house yesterday morning, he came here to see my mother. He came without telling anyone, so it wasn’t until Aunt Pat got here that she realized he was here, as well.

Anyway, before I could get to them, I heard them mention something about Dr. Philips, my father’s night doctor, and something about them being concerned about his being assigned to Daddy. At that point, you know I had to eavesdrop on them. There was no way that I was turning around and not staying to listen to something like that. Uncle Bill said he didn’t trust Dr. Philips. They mentioned that he had changed his name, that he had come out the villa and had seen me riding, and that for the first nine years of his life, he thought he was Daddy’s son.

Daddy’s son?

I saw the truck, at least I’m pretty sure I saw it. Somebody riding by the fence last night noticeably slowed down while they were going past while I was out there on Ajax. It was the only truck I saw pass by while I was out there. I heard all of that, and then I snuck back to my room to keep from getting caught listening and to try to sort things out.

Daddy’s son? It’s been driving me crazy ever since.

Could my father have another child? Does he know it? He’s always told me that I was his only one. Is he hiding the boy? If so, from whom? My mother? Me? Both of us? Daddy wouldn’t hide having a kid? Would he?

I know he probably got more than his share when he was younger. I’ve seen pictures of him. He was way cute. I’d say sexy if he wasn’t my father. He didn’t get married until he was thirty-five. That’s a long time to be doing it and not hit “tilt” at least once. I don’t know his business like I know some of my mother’s. I only know for sure about him and Miss Nikki in Monte Carlo, but I know there were lots of others. Had to be.

Maybe he does have another child. If he does and he knows, how come he hasn’t said anything? That doesn’t seem like him.

All of that was going through my mind last night. It still is. But there’s nobody to check it out with. I couldn’t ask Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill without telling on myself. I couldn’t ask my mother when I was with her last night. First of all, she wasn’t speaking to me, and then when she was, I still couldn’t. What if she didn’t know? I wasn’t letting that cat out of the bag. It wasn’t my bag to be opening. No way was I going to ask Daddy about something like that this morning. It’s eating me up on the inside, though. I want to know so badly.

It’s been one thing after another ever since Daddy and I left home last Thursday. We Harts certainly know how to pack a whole lot of stuff into just a few days. Never in all my days have I been so overwhelmed.

Back to my story.

I was thinking so much that thought I was going to throw up again, so I lay back down. The next thing I knew, my own number had come up.

I said back to the story, but I’d better stop here. I need to get up and get dressed.

I’ll finish up later.

J.

______________________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 22

7:46 P.M.

I only have a minute. I raced in here to write this little bit because I could not wait to get this down. I didn’t even stop to change out of my clothes.

Mystery solved.

Close, but no cigar. There used to be a Jonathan Hart, Jr., but he isn’t my brother. Daddy told me all about it himself. What a story! I was about to bust a gut riding in the car with my mother, going down there to Daddy, wondering how I was going to look both of them in the eye with that secret stuck in my head. It had been murder on me doing that this morning.

It turned out that was why he wanted me to come to the hospital tonight. He said that he wanted me to hear the story from him before it trickled down to me from somewhere else. He wanted to be sure that I had the facts. Of course, I didn’t let on that I already had a lead.

As far as we know, it’s still just Daddy and me sharing blood, the only true Harts. It’s kind of selfish, I know, but I am very proud of that fact. Been proud of it and alone in it too long to share that place with anyone else. I’m his only child, his daughter, and he will live on through me. Just me, Justine J. Hart.

Poor Daddy. That had to have been a hellish moment for him when it happened. He must have felt so confused and embarrassed when that little boy told him that he was his son. My mother had to have been a rock through that. I wanted to ask her about it this morning when we were all together, but at the time it seemed to be an A/B conversation. He was talking to me, but she wasn’t saying anything at all. But then again, it was his story. I imagine that she probably didn’t give him much flack about it at the time. She knew what her husband was about, and that if the boy had been his, he wouldn’t have left him if he knew of him. She wouldn’t have faulted him for not knowing. Dr. Philips simply got gypped.

I do wonder, though, what she would have done or how she would have reacted if the child had been Daddy’s. I wish I could have been there somehow- as a silent, invisible observer, not as me. If I had been there, she would have sent me to my room, away from the action.

That poor little boy, believing all that time that Daddy was his father and then finding out that he had been lied to all of his life. His name was even a lie. No wonder he changed it. If I were to find out that Jonathan Hart wasn’t really my father, that my name wasn’t really Hart- I can’t even begin to imagine. I’m my mother’s only child, too, but that’s somehow very different than how it is between Daddy and me.

Not until I heard that story did I realize what a huge target my father constantly is for all sorts of scams. In the back of my mind, I understood it, but I always thought about it in terms of my being a liability to him. That’s how my parents have always presented it to me. I never thought about something like some woman saying that Daddy had fathered her child. It’s a good thing my father’s such a straight arrow.

Or that he covers/ covered his tracks (or his whatever) so well.

God, I’m glad I have this book to confide in so honestly. I can say anything I want, however I want, without threat of censure.

I’ll sleep a lot better tonight with that mystery behind me.

All I can say for Daddy is, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

I have to go and get changed. My mother asked me if I felt up to going riding with her, and I said I did. I still have cramps, but maybe that will make me feel better. She and I haven’t ridden together in a while. It feels like forever that we’ve been apart. It’s so good to be back.

I’ll continue for posterity later, as promised.

J.J.

______________________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 22

11:17 P.M.

I’m back.

Jennifer Edwards Hart truly missed her calling. She should have been a cop, a narc, or a private eye or something like that. It seems like nothing gets past her.

We get outside, and we’ve been riding along the fence at a nice little clip when she comes up right next to me, close enough to me to pull at my hair to get my attention and say, “You knew all the time didn’t you?”

I’m like, “About what?” Although right off I pretty much knew where she was going.

You see, I’d caught the funny look she was giving me all the while Daddy was telling me about it.

“About John and your father.”

I decide to be cagey about it, so I go, “What makes you say that?”

She pulls up, and makes me pull up and stop, too. She gets down off her horse and makes me get down. Then she puts that arm around my shoulders the way she does when she’s moving in for the kill, and starts walking me off, going, “Because you asked me that question last night about if your father had a child before he met me, would I have married him. That’s how I know that you knew all along. That question didn’t just come out of the blue.”

I tried to plead the Fifth, but she wasn’t having it.

She broke me down and made me tell about having inadvertently come by the information. There was no use trying to hold out, and after all, it wasn’t as if I sought it out. It just about came and tapped ME on the shoulder. The only thing I was guilty of was not walking away from it when it did. But then I asked her what she would have done in my situation. Would she have walked away? She cops out by saying that we weren’t talking about her and what she would have done.

But, since she opened the door, I did seize that opportunity to get her take on that whole thing. When we were talking last night, I asked if Daddy had a child when she met him, would she have married him.

But before I get too far into that, maybe I should back up a bit, and go back to last night itself. Then I can fill in this evening from there.

I had gone to sleep for the second time, after I heard Uncle Bill and Aunt Pat talking about Dr. Philips. It started out as a nap, but I think it was working its way into being an all-nighter, even though it was relatively early when I went. It was that kind of black, heavy sleep, where you’re too worn out to even dream.

Suddenly, somebody switched on the light. It was my mother, telling me to get up. She told me to meet her in her bedroom. Like I said earlier, I knew my number had come up, and I was finally being called on the carpet. It makes me fighting mad when somebody wakes me up from a good sleep, and I still wasn’t feeling all that well, but none of that made any difference. If my mother, the one who believes in allowing me to rest when she knows I’m tired, was telling me to get up and come to her room, it meant I was finished.

I knew I had done wrong, and that I had it coming, but I was determined to not be a whining, whipped sissy punk about it. Even though I felt bad about what I’d done, I think part of me still felt like she deserved some of it. I told myself that Jennifer Hart was not going to see me, J.J. Hart, sweat.

When I got to her room, I was trying to be all cool and hard, but she was cooler and harder than me. I don’t know why I try to beat her at that game. I never win.

I sensed her checking me out as I passed by her when she let me in. Before I left my room, I had gone to the bathroom and in the mirror, I could see how pale and washed-out looking I had become. I was sure that she had made note of it. She knows my monthlies and how they do me as well or better than I do. Plus I figured Aunt Pat had most likely filled her in on how I was doing and acting while I was in Reno with her. They do an awful lot of talking about me behind my back.

There was some food on the table, and my mother wanted me to eat, but the sight of it was making me sick. It was all I could do to play it off and not turn green in front of her. Even if I had been hungry, I was too nervous to eat, anyway. She asked me about if I had been taking the vitamins. I avoided answering that one. Then she asked me about the pain medication. I really didn’t want to tell her about taking too much of that, and that I had been throwing up behind it, but she already knew the answers to all of it. She went off on me about it, and called me irresponsible. I hate to be called that. Call me anything but that. In light of the previous Saturday, I didn’t feel I deserved to be called that.

It made me mad, and I didn’t make much of an effort to hide it, but she was past letting me to get to her. Instead, she ordered me over into her bed. Then she made sure to tell me that I need not get too comfortable when I got there.

I was a goner at that point. When we lie down to have a talk, the subject is either really deep, or things are really bad. In this situation, being what it was, I was being laid out flat- like a fish on a cutting board- for gutting. On top of that, I was in what amounted to her bed. We never lie in her bed to talk, or to do anything for that matter. All the other times, it’s been mine.

At least Daddy hadn’t been in that one with her yet. Most of the time when I’m in their room at home, I don’t care to even sit on their bed. In fact, I don’t really like to be in their room at all. I never have. There’s just something about it.

Hell, this is my book. I can say whatever I want, so let’s just be for real here. My parents do it- a lot, I think, and I don’t want to be where they do it. Who wants to know their parents do it?

I have the kind of parents that if they’re somewhere off by themselves, and they’ve gone quiet, I don’t go anywhere near where they are. You’d think they were the teenagers. They think I don’t know what they do in the pool house. I’ve seen them go in there together when they think I’m sleeping. Why else would the Jacuzzi be located in there, out of sight?  They are two of the biggest freaks I know. Fooling around with them all these years, I ought to be good and scarred. Don’t you get too old for that kind of thing after a while? Perhaps not, though. There is Aunt Sabrina to consider. I don’t think she’s slowed up any, and she’s seventy-something years old. She’s another one whose bed I stay out of. And if I’m using Aunt Sabrina to go by, does that mean if my grandmother (her identical twin) were still living, that she and Pa-

Gives me the creeps to even consider it. There now, I’ve said my piece on that subject. Let’s push on.

I got into that bed with my mother, but way over on the edge, as far away from her as I could get. I knew she wasn’t all that happy with me, and I didn’t know where she would be coming from or how. I quickly plotted out an escape route and I would need a bit of a lead, should I have to use it.

She didn’t waste any time starting in on me. asking me about the flying first. How long had I been flying, did I have my pilot’s license yet, and did I think it was right that Daddy and I did that behind her back?

I told her that it wasn’t right that we snuck behind her back, but that I thought it was right for us to not say anything to her about it. I could tell she wasn’t expecting that answer, but that’s how I felt and how I really do feel. If she knew half the things Daddy has taught me and/or let me do, she would never have consented to my learning any of them, and I wouldn’t know how to do any of it now. I wouldn’t be anywhere near as knowledgeable as I am about things. (I wouldn’t be able to say that I’ve bungee jumped from the top of a tower in Vegas. Daddy is the man.)

By nature, she’s more cautious than Daddy. In the past, she has accused him of “pushing the envelope” with me. It isn’t that Daddy is foolhardy with me. He just has a stronger trust in my range of abilities and a better understanding for the things that interest me. He’s not scared to do things, and neither am I. My interests have never been for things traditionally assigned to girls, so he and I have always enjoyed doing the same kinds of things. He likes that I’m game, and that I can do a lot of stuff. My mother isn’t at all sedentary, and she isn’t scary for herself; she’ll take on just about anything or anybody, if she has to. She’s only leery like that when it comes to me. It’s the protective mother in her; I understand that, but shehas to understand. I am not a baby any more. Sometimes I don’t think I ever really was one.

She nice-nasty thanked me for getting her husband and “my daddy” down and to the hospital safely. Then she checked me for emphasizing to her, in the note that I left her, that he was my father. Of course, she had the note right there, waving it around, using it like some kind of visual aid. She said that I do that a lot, emphasize that Jonathan Hart is my father, and she wanted to know why I didn’t see our relationship, hers and mine, in the same light since I’m her only child, too.

It kind of got me that she saw it like that. I didn’t think my feelings toward, my deep pride in my connection to my father were that obvious to other people. For a moment, I felt kind of bad at my own mother being able to see it. Not kind of bad, I felt really bad. I realized that it bothered and maybe even hurt her. I didn’t know how long she had been seeing that in me and hadn’t said anything about it. What if it’s been my whole life, and she’s been silent on it? I certainly don’t love her any less than Daddy. What I feel for her is different than what I have with Daddy;  at times, especially lately, my relationship with my mother is even deeper in some ways. It’s just that my last name is Hart, and I got that from him. It’s just him and me, the only ones. I love that. I’m damned proud of it.

But it truly doesn’t make my mother any less special to me. I tried to explain that to her, but I don’t think I did a very good job of it. I was feeling small, bad, boxed-in, and I was frustrated at not being able to express myself adequately to her. I wanted to stop talking at that point, but she wouldn’t let me. That’s when she started pushing. She wanted to know why I thought I was more important to my father than I was to her. I hadn’t said that, but I guess that’s what she read into it. Then she demanded to know why I left her like I did.

I tried to clarify that it wasn’t her that I left, it was the situation, but she wasn’t buying it. I was too angry, she said, for it to have been just the situation, plus she could tell that I was mad at her. I was, but I didn’t know why, so I didn’t want to try to say.

I told her I didn’t know, but she just kept pushing and pushing. It was like she had me in her grip, wouldn’t let me go. and in holding me there, she was squeezing me hard around the waist. I still had cramps, was extremely edgy and irritable, and her persistence wasn’t helping any of that. I said that to her, about the cramps, but she didn’t care about that at all.

I finally admitted to her that I was upset with her for making me feel like I was in the way. She came back at me saying I was copping out and making excuses. I was avoiding the truth, she told me, and she started making out like I was trying being a coward.

Now nobody calls me a coward. I don’t ever want it intimated that I’m trying to be one. I don’t even want my mother saying that to me. I saw red, but she kept messing with me, goading me and egging me on. It wasn’t like her, and it was making me so mad that I told her to just forget it to keep from going off on her. I felt it would be better if I just got up and left until we could both cool off, so I started to get up and leave.

Well, I thought I was going to get up and leave, but I was quite wrong.

Ever been pinned by your mother?

When she yanked me back to that bed and held me down, I was shocked, then I got mad. I was so incensed by her doing that, for a second, the crazy thought crossed my mind that I might be able to take her. We’re about the same height; she has a slight weight advantage, but I had youth on my side. That foolish idea only lasted a second, though. When I looked up into her face, and saw how hazelish gray her eyes had gone, I left off that thinking, figuring if she so much as sensed what I was considering,  I would be the one to get taken.

It was almost like we were two sisters tussling on that bed, but she was the bigger, older sister, and our mother had told me that I had to defer to her because she was the oldest.

Jen had me down, and it made me soooooo mad that I couldn’t fight her back or try to get away from her like I wanted to. I was beyond furious, but I was scared as hell, too. I had gotten myself into a situation that I had never been in with her before in my life. It was worse than the running away to go to Marnie’s sleepover incident back when I was fourteen. She has never gone after me like that, but we’d never been in that place that we were in that night. She kept repeating that I knew why I left, I knew why I was angry with her, and that I should just spit it out and be done with it. Then she told me that I’d better tell her what was on my mind, or we were going to fight for real.

When we got started with all of it, while we were still over at the table, she told me that she didn’t care if it took all night, we were going to work everything out, no matter what it took. Being held down by her on that bed, I could see that she had been totally serious when she said that to me.

I could not believe that my own mother had me down and was threatening to fight me. When I tried to turn my face away and not look at her, she held my chin and made me look. The worst part of it was that even though I was smoky mad at her for being on top of me like she was and holding me down, if I had raised so much as a finger to her, I’m pretty sure she would have kicked the crap out of me. She was as hot under the collar as I was. We were both so mad we were shaking with it.

Finally I blurted out that I did it because I felt she didn’t want me there; she only wanted Daddy. Then, I don’t know where it came from; I thought I was through with it and had put it behind me, but I told her that I knew she never wanted me in the first place. I told her that I felt like I was in her way when she pushed me to the side at the hospital, and when she left me at the villa that morning. I must be in her way all the time, I said. So that was why I left her and went to Reno.

My initial purpose had been to be so nasty it would shock her so that she would let me go. But I didn’t mean to say that part about knowing that she didn’t want to have me. Nobody was supposed to know about my knowing that, least of all her. I told Marnie once about having read my mother’s journal and knowing that was how she felt about having me, but I’ve never said anything to anyone else about it, ever. Marnie is my girl. She doesn’t tell my business, so I trusted her with it. I thought the secret had been safely hidden away, and after all the junk I’ve been in this year, with my mother standing right by me and helping me through everything, I thought I had gotten over it. I don’t know what made me say that to her. I didn’t mean to say it, but I did. It was like I threw up again, just like I had been doing with all the other bad stuff inside me that night.

I could have just died right there and then. If I had, landing in Hell, like I know I would have, would have been all right.

She made me tell her just how it was that I knew what she wanted or didn’t want. She forced me to admit out loud to what I had done. It was awful.

But just like always, my mother already knew about it. She said she’s known it all along.

And still she didn’t let me go, not when  did it and not that night in the room with her.

We both cried. I don’t know how she knew, but she did. She told me when I did it. I couldn’t tell her enough times how sorry I was. I would die for real if somebody read my journals. They are the one place where I can say exactly what I think and feel without having to worry about anybody else, if I’m hurting someone’s feelings, or what somebody might think of me for what I say or feel. She should have been able to do that, too. I was little. I didn’t understand about that then.

But you know, I did that back when I was twelve. It was right after she gave me my first journal, and I was having trouble trying to figure out what I was supposed to be writing. All my life I’d seen my mother writing in hers, and she had so many old books stored on those shelves in the loft. I was curious about how she had so much to write. That might have been why I did what I did, but still, it was wrong. It was dead wrong.

My mother said that she knew, but she never said anything to me because she  could see the guilt written all over me. My conscience really did whip me; I remember that. I remember wishing that I’d never read that about her and me. Up until then, I was just a kid who never once wondered if my mother loved me or not. It was a given that she did. Mothers are supposed to love their kids, aren’t they? Aside from being so strict, she’d never given me reason to believe she didn’t. After I read that, for a long time, I was confused about it. Daddy calls it my “bad patch”, but between the ages of twelve and like late fourteen, it seemed as if I stayed in trouble all the time. I remember being angry a lot for no real reason. I wonder if I was “acting out”, as my mother calls it when people don’t say something’s wrong, they may not even realize that something is, but it comes out anyway in what they do.

She told me that she knew I had read that book, but that she and I had come so far since then, that she had totally forgotten about my having done that until something I said to her in my sleep yesterday when she found me under the tree. I don’t recall saying it, but she told me I said that she didn’t care about me, she only cared about Daddy. That was what made her recognize what I was going through.

Even I didn’t know that, and I was the one going through it. But it made sense. People do have a way of putting unpleasant things away in their minds. They assume that they’re gone, but they’re just stored away, waiting to be unpacked again or to unpack themselves when an opportunity presents itself. I guess that’s what happened to me when Daddy got sick, and I thought we might lose him. I had put the thought of my mother not wanting me up, but it hadn’t gone away. It was just waiting for that opportune moment to bring it back out to me, so that I could deal with it for real.

It got dealt with, all right.

My mother told me the truth about us. It was a painful, but honest story, one she hadn’t told me before. She admitted to me that she wasn’t crazy about the idea of having kids even though she knew Daddy wanted them. She liked her life as it was, just her, Daddy, Max, Freeway, and them being able to do whatever they wanted without having to worry about caring for a child. When she found out she was pregnant, she was afraid of the changes a child would bring to their lives. I came to them late in their lives, after they had established a pattern of living that suited them.

She told me she was scared throughout the entire time I was inside her. It was her secret, though. She didn’t tell Daddy she was afraid because she knew how much he wanted a baby. But she said when she held me the first time, all that changed. I was no longer an anonymous someone who had taken over her body. I was her daughter, and she was my mother. It wasn’t me she didn’t want, it was the thought of having to face change. She and Aunt Pat wanted a girl, and she said that even though I’m not quite the girl she envisioned, she’s never regretted having had me. She called me her tomboy-would-be-harlot.

Whatever. The apple doesn’t land far from the tree, even if it rolls a bit.

But she also said I was an adventure for her. That’s a good thing. My globetrotting, writer mother loves and thrives on adventure. Pa told me. So did Daddy, and I know that to be true for myself.

She and I talked for a long time about a lot of things. I was able to see that even though I tend to think I’m more like Daddy, besides just my looks, I take a lot of my traits from her. The best thing she said to me during our talk was that the part she likes most about me is the part that’s not like her or Daddy. She loves the part that’s just me.

I told her that I want to have kids one day, and she seemed a little surprised that I want to have more than one. I like being an only child, but I don’t think I want to have one. I want my kids to grow up having each other to share that time with, and I’m going to have them a lot younger than my parents had me. I don’t want them to have to worry about me not living long enough to be a grandparent, like I do with my mother and father. I secretly worry about running out of time. This thing with Daddy really hammered that home to me. I don’t want my kids to grow up like me. Out of four possible grandparents, I’ve only ever had one. My kids will only have two to start out with. If I wait too long, their odds will be worse than mine. I want my parents to not be too old for their grandchildren to know, appreciate, and enjoy them or for them to enjoy their grandchildren.

Since we talked about it, I’ve been thinking things over. Daddy wanted kids, but from what she told me, they had a spot of trouble having one. She said she went five years without doing anything to prevent having a baby, but still they didn’t get one. She wasn’t really going out of her way to have a baby, no tests, treatments, or any of that. She said she just decided that if she got pregnant, it would be okay. If things with them then were like they are now, it seems mighty strange to me that they didn’t conceive.

Maybe if you do it a lot, it lowers the odds. I’ll have to look into that. Maybe Daddy has a low sperm count. That would explain how he didn’t knock anybody up before he met my mother. Maybe she only had one egg. That would explain her situation.

I love this book.

But that kind of makes how I came to them all that much more special and mysterious. It took five years, that one encounter, and that one tiny sperm to hook up with that one good egg, for them to finally make me. By the time that happened, in her mind, she had moved past the idea of having a baby. Then, all of sudden, there I was, growing inside her, and she didn’t even know it. She thought I was depression or the flu, although I wonder why she didn’t go to the doctor for a flu that lasted two months.

I came to them right after Max left. My mother said they made me on the St Lawrence cruise that Max set up for them in his will, and that I came to them at a point in their lives when they were more settled and their relationship was solidly established. But with Max gone, there was a void that needed filling, and it was the perfect time for that kind of change. It seems to me like someone purposely set it up to be that way.

Anyway, that’s the point where I asked her, in a roundabout way, that question about John. I first asked her if she and Daddy would have eventually adopted if she hadn’t gotten pregnant. She answered that she didn’t think so. She said she didn’t want a child bad enough to seek one out to take in.

Then I asked her what she would have done if Daddy already had a child by someone else when she met him. I asked her if she would still have married him, feeling the way she did about having children at that time. She didn’t have an answer for that, but that was where I tipped my hand to her The investigator in her came out, and it’s where I started this part of the story.

While Daddy was telling me about him and John, she was over there putting that question together with what Daddy was saying to me. That’s how she figured I had to know more than I was letting on. That was why she pulled my hair and hemmed me up out on the back end this evening. She figured, why else would I have asked her that question out of the blue like I did?

The resulting conversation under the trees was interesting and enlightening, but one she said had to stay between her and me. Once again, I’m glad I have this book in which I can confide.

She told me that she never thought that John was Daddy’s child. At first she was stunned by the boy saying that he was Jonathan Hart, Jr., but then she didn’t feel the connection. She and Daddy are soul mates, and they feel the same things, she said. If the boy had been Daddy’s child, she would have known it; she would have felt it. Because Daddy didn’t feel it, neither did she.

She said if he had been Daddy’s child, she would have loved him because he was a part of Daddy, but in all honesty, she couldn’t be sure that she would have wanted to raise him. The boy had a mother, and that would have made John’s mother have to be a part of my mother and father’s lives together. My mother said she never wanted to be involved in that kind of drama. That he’d never been married before and didn’t have children was yet another thing that made my Daddy so attractive to her. She liked the fact that he’d lead a rather neat and tidy life in that respect. He was decent, responsible, and honorable; qualities she feels are important in a mate.

Me, too.

How the boy came to them was a scam. His real parents weren’t married. His father, who left his mother when she told him she was pregnant, was a career criminal who was in and out of jail. His mother wanted her son to have a father to whom he could look up and respect. She was a nurse, and it just happened that the year before she became pregnant, she assisted when Daddy had an operation to have his appendix removed. After a couple of casual conversations with Daddy as he recovered from his surgery, she decided she liked and admired him, and it didn’t hurt that he was young, handsome, and wealthy. When she got pregnant and found herself alone, she hatched her plan.

When she had the baby, she named Daddy as his father, and then named him for Daddy. Then as the child got older and could understand, she continued the ruse, telling the boy all about his wonderful, important, very busy father who lived in California. She would write letters and send cards and presents at birthday and Christmas and say they were from Daddy. The kid believed all of that.

But when the boy’s real father resurfaced, that was when the plot to put the squeeze on Daddy started. The real father was the one who came up with the extortion plan. Vince blackmailed Connie, the boy’s mother, into dropping the boy off with Daddy. Then he kidnapped the kid from Daddy to get ransom money from him. To make a long story short, Daddy paid part of the money, got the boy back, and his mother was too scared to come back for him, so John nee Jonathan, Jr. stayed with my parents.

My mother says that Daddy wanted to keep him even though he knew John wasn’t his son. She confided in me that although she didn’t tell it to Daddy, she wasn’t so sure that she wanted to keep John. Daddy wanted a child, and she wanted him to be happy, but she didn’t think that was the way it was supposed to go for them. John had a living, breathing mother, and my mother didn’t think she could or that she wanted to try to take Connie’s place. She just didn’t feel it, and she didn’t think it was right. She felt that despite what she’d done, Connie really did love her child; she just got boxed in. She didn’t deserve to lose her child over it. Maybe my mother would have felt differently if John’s mother had been deceased or something, but she wasn’t.

My mother said she was happy when John admitted that he’d miss his mother if he stayed. She was glad that the boy didn’t harbor any ill feelings about what his mother had done to him, and secretly she was glad that she didn’t have to make any impromptu adjustments in her life along those lines. At that time, she wasn’t ready, and she didn’t want to hurt Daddy by telling him that keeping John wasn’t something she wanted to do.

She’d said it to me before when were making up, but she said it again to me today; raising me is different because I’m hers. She wouldn’t have wanted to be a mother any other way. The fact that I’m Daddy’s child with her makes me even more precious to her. Before him, she doubts that she would have had a child for anyone else. She says she can see him in me as well as see herself, but it’s me she loves.

Before I came into her life, she said she could take kids or leave them, but mostly she could leave them because she hadn’t had much experience with them. Once I was there with her, she didn’t have a choice. I was hers. We belonged to each other. It was natural, and obviously what was supposed to be. She’s always been into nature and natural. Right off, she said she committed herself to making my life with my mother everything that hers had been with her mother. She said that while she had her, she had a good mother, and to this day, she still misses her own mother so much. She wishes my grandmother could have met me; she thinks she and I would have been best buds. I do, too.

In a way, I think we are, but I didn’t say that out loud.

My mother told me that the very first time she held me, she promised me that she would take very good care of herself and stop putting herself out there so much, so that having a mother would last longer for me than it did for her. If it was in her power, she intended to stay around long enough to at least see me grow up.

I’m glad that so far it’s worked out the way she wanted. I’d be even more of a mess if it hadn’t. Can you imagine?

Aunt Pat says that I take for granted things that other people wish for and pray that they could have. I believe when she says that to me, (She’s said it more than once or twice.) the people she’s referring to are herself and my mother. Growing up without their mothers had to have been so hard for them.

Last night I slept with my mother in her bed. Last night, I needed my Mommy. I think my Mommy needed me, too. Daddy’s doing much better. I’m glad it wasn’t his heart and that his virus is something that can be gotten rid of. It’s almost all over. Even so, he’ll need to rest for a while so that he can get his strength back.

It might seem like I do sometimes, but I don’t take what I have for granted at all. I know I have a good mother, and I have an excellent father. I have good family all around me. But, I’m a kid. I fuss about being smothered and stifled, about not being able to do what I want to do, and about feeling like I’m being treated like a baby. I make mistakes sometimes, but despite all that,  I always know how blessed I am.

Good night,

J.J.

______________________________________________________________

Thursday, August 23

7:14 A.M.

I just woke up. My feet haven’t even touched the floor yet, but I wanted to get this down while I still remember it. I don’t normally remember my dreams real well, but this one was a doozy.

I dreamt that I was at home in my room doing my homework when Daddy all of a sudden busted up into my room. He didn’t even bother to knock. He just flung open the door and came in.

He was as mad as hell, red as a tomato, yelling at me that I had a lot of explaining to do. I jumped up off the bed because he startled me, coming at me like he was. I’m awake now, but my stomach is still jumping. I’d never seen him so angry, especially not with me. I had no idea what I’d done to make him so mad.

I could see there was something in his hand. He held it out and told me to tell him what that was all about. It was a box from an EPT kit, an early pregnancy test. Stunned, I told him that I didn’t know anything about it. To my horror and surprise, he started accusing me of taking a pregnancy test, fussing about me and my mother keeping things from him.

I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked and outraged at the same time. Aside from maybe a few relatively intense kisses, I haven’t had anything like sex. I’ve never been felt up, nor have I given or received a hand job. Nobody’s putting anything in my mouth or putting their mouth anywhere below my chin. I’m like a nun compared to a lot of my friends; I haven’t done anything along the afore mentioned lines, but there he was accusing me of testing myself for being pregnant. My name is Justine, not Mary. I could not believe it.

I started yelling back at him, telling him it wasn’t mine, and if it was, he would never have found the box. If it was me, I would have had sense enough to get rid of the evidence after I was finished doing what I had to do. Then, too, if I thought I was pregnant, I would have gone straight to my mother, and he was right. He never would have known anything about it then because both of us know he can’t handle any aspect of that part of my life, and that’s why he gets left out of it. I told him that if I so much as thought I was pregnant, I wouldn’t be wasting time with a stupid home test anyway. I’d be running right up into that bedroom I don’t like to go into, baring my soul to her, and nobody would know anything about it except me, my mother, the doctor, and God. We might be Catholic, but I’m only sixteen. Life isn’t meant to be lived by somebody else’s rules. I hope to God, I never get myself into a position where I’d have to make a decision like that, but at sixteen…

I could tell he was shocked by what I said, but it seemed like he didn’t believe me. He insisted that even though the box was in the trash in his bedroom, it had to be me. Who else in the house, besides me, would need to be taking a pregnancy test?

We both turned toward the door when we heard my mother’s voice say, “I did.”

She was standing there in the doorway, white as a sheet, with this shell shocked expression on her face. Daddy looked to her, then back at me, and then back to her. Suddenly he was the one who didn’t know what to say, and neither did I.

She told us that the test was positive. She was pregnant.

My chin hit the floor. My mother is fifty-five. My daddy is sixty. All kinds of thoughts ran through my mind. What in the hell were they going to do with a little baby? What in the hell was I going to tell my friends? Marnie was going to have a field day with this one. I could just see her in my mind, telling me it was going to be okay while she laughed at my total embarrassment.

Why were they even still doing it?

Daddy tried to tell me he was sorry, but I wasn’t hearing it. I was fiery mad at him. I felt he should have trusted me and just come to me and asked instead of assuming and going off. I was disappointed and hurt that he didn’t trust me. He trusts me with everything else, but he didn’t with that.

And I was just plain disgusted with my mother. I was thinking, “Hell, just say no to him sometimes.”

I wasn’t going to be my father’s only child any more. I was most furious about that. I put them both out of my room and slammed the door behind them. I threw myself on the bed and had a grand mal tantrum.

Then, out of the blue, Aunt Pat popped in, sitting on the side of my bed, looking at me like I was crazy. She shook me until she made my brain rattle, called me a spoiled brat, and told me that I needed to grow up and go to my parents. I told her I wasn’t speaking to Daddy ever again after what he did to me.

She goes, “Oh, yes you are. You go in there and you tell him off about not trusting you, if you want. But then you forgive him like he does you over all the crazy shit you do.”

She said it had to be a stressful thing for them, far more stressful than it was for me. They’d want the baby because it was theirs, but they were too old to be having and trying to raise another child. My father wouldn’t have sense enough to try to talk my mother out of having it. My mother would go ahead and try to have it because it was his.

And I’m figuring it would be probably be a boy, and then where would we be?

I tried to tell Aunt Pat that my mother wouldn’t want like me getting into her business in a personal matter like that,

But Aunt Pat just said, “The hell with her and what she wants. She’s caught up, and she needs you. You’re a big girl now. You have a good mind and strong, logical opinions and convictions. You go in there to her, when it’s just you and her, and you talk with her. You see how she really feels about it, and whatever she says, you stand by her no matter what. She’s stood by your little narrow, hardheaded ass all this time.”

Aunt Pat cusses like a sailor, but she has a heart of gold. She definitely believes in family sticking together.

I woke up at that point.

I don’t know what that dream was supposed to be about, but I sure am glad it was only a dream. I’m too old to be sister to a rugrat, especially a boy. I’d end up raising him, like Marnie with Kyle. At least Kyle is kind of big and somewhat self-sufficient. He can go to the toilet on his own, he dresses himself and can make his own sandwich. He can even bring you one, if you tell him to, or you bribe him good enough.

Let me get up and go to my mother’s room to say good morning. I can pretend I have to use it, and that will give me an opportunity to check out her trash can. I know it’s not physically possible, but life has been kind of surreal of late. I had that dream for a reason, and I’d like to rule out the obvious before I start speculating on subconscious messages, metaphors, hidden meanings, and/or whatnot.

Later,

J.J., who is reasonably sure that she’s an only child, but leaving nothing to chance.

______________________________________________________________

Thursday, August 23

9:39 P.M.

When I was at the hospital visiting Daddy earlier, I was kind of hoping that Dr. Philips might show up. He works evenings, but I thought maybe he might drop in. He didn’t yesterday or today. I’d really like to talk with him. My mother said that she’s seen him there during the day sometimes. Maybe, since the story is out now, he’s avoiding us for some reason. You never can tell about people. He might be embarrassed about the circumstances of his past and of how he got discovered digging in Daddy’s business.

Seems like I’ve been on the phone all day. I’ve talked to everybody. It’s funny how quickly you can fall out of the loop when there’s something more pressing going on in your personal life. I had to thank my friends for sending Daddy all those flowers and notes. That was really nice of them to think of doing that. He was so tickled. Even Tommy sent him flowers and that note. It was so him and Daddy.

Aunt Sabrina called me this afternoon. She was laughing about me running away and then dragging back with my tail between my legs like a bad puppy. She said her sister would have gotten a big kick out of me and my mother and the things that go on between the two of us. I was surprised. It’s rare that Aunt Sabrina mentions my grandmother.

Then she said that Sebastian had come by again with his father, and he asked after me.

Sebastian is the son of one of her friends (the Eccentrics) who comes to visit her in the evenings. I met him when he came with his father while I was there. He’s only twenty-four, but he co-owns a jazz club in Toulouse. He’s very smart business-wise, and very knowledgeable about the music industry. We talked music all that evening while I took him on a walk along the shore beneath Aunt Sabrina’s house. I love it down there. That’s where I was headed when he showed up, so he offered to accompany me to keep me from having to change my plans.

Aunt Sabrina said Sebastian seemed very taken with me. He told her that for a young girl, I knew a lot about music and how to make it. There was something in her voice, and I didn’t know where she was going, so I let her talk. I think she might have been reading something else into Sebastian’s asking after me, and she was feeling me out on my end. She need not worry. He’s way too old for me to looking at, or for him to be looking at me, although he was quite tall, dark, and handsome- just like I like them. My Daddy would kill him; he’s already on edge, and my mother would have me high, high up in the Swiss Alps.

When I didn’t pick up the thread of her conversation, Aunt Sabrina left off Sebastian, and she asked after Daddy. That was the end of that, but my antenna is still up about what station she had hers tuned in to. Aunt Sabrina usually doesn’t flake out like that about guys asking about me. Usually, she’s amused. She didn’t seem real amused about this.

I also talked to Pa. Apparently he’s been speaking regularly with my mother about me. He said he was glad that I came back on my own, and that I’d made amends and was currently behaving. He didn’t preach, though. I was glad of that. I think he knows I’ve learned a lot of lessons in all of this, so all of that nagging wasn’t necessary. He called me a good girl. That means a lot coming from him.

Then, out of no where, Uncle Marcus phoned me. Now that was really a first.

I see him most of the time down at Hart. He’s often in and out of our house. We visit his condo quite regularly. We’ve traveled together a lot. I’ve known him all my life, and he’s been a constant, like family, but he’s never personally phoned me.

He said he was calling to see how I was doing behind everything. He’s been so busy lately that it wasn’t until he had time to slow down and think that it dawned on him that he hadn’t taken the time to do that. He wanted to tell me how proud he was of me for handling things with my father so well. He said he admired how I kept a clear head and got the job done properly. He says I’m an executive in the making. I’m not so sure about all of that. If he only knew. I can take care of impersonal issues fairly well. It’s the personal ones that give me trouble.

I thanked him for the compliments, and told him what I’ve told everyone else: I only did what I’ve been taught to do, which (I didn’t say this part to him.) includes not asking intrusive questions, such as who would he be spending the upcoming weekend with? Was he going to take time out from business to be with her? I wanted to ask so badly, but I didn’t. This is yet another thing I’ve stumbled up on that I’m having to keep silent about. But I’m sure he and Tommy’s mother have something up. I can feel it in my bones.

I think Daddy’s going to be discharged tomorrow. His temp has been normal for almost twenty-four hours and his strength is coming back. Today, he was up and walking around some. Dr. Samuels says if his temp stays down during the night tonight, he’ll release him in the morning. I wonder if Daddy has been putting the screws to Dr. Samuels to let him out of there? Dr. Samuels didn’t sound completely sold on the idea when he proposed it this afternoon, but Daddy looked right over to my mother and said, “You can bring my clothes back in the morning.” as if his getting discharged was already a sure thing.

I’m sure she took all his street clothes home in the first place to keep him from sneaking out of the hospital. I don’t think she knows about him easing out of bed without permission and calling me that morning. She hasn’t said or asked me anything about it. Since she hasn’t brought it up, neither have I. If Daddy had his clothes that morning, it’s likely that he might have shown up in Reno, rather than just been on the phone. He’s used to having his way. This is probably the longest he’s had to go in forever where he had to be almost completely under someone else’s rule.

When my mother had to go out of the room to make a phone call, as soon as he was sure she was gone, he told me to hand him his robe. Sensing trouble of some sort, I asked him for what. He told me to just do it, so I did. He put it on, and we made a break for the outside patio. I asked him if he was supposed to be walking outside on his own like that, but he told me to just come on. All the other patients were out there in wheelchairs, but not him. He, just as bold as you please, walked himself out there and took a seat. He tried to play if off, but I could tell that walking all that way winded him some.

What was I supposed to say? He’s my father. I do what I’m told. I sat down with him and acted like I couldn’t see him getting himself back together.

He asked me how I’d been doing. When I said I was fine, he cut me off before I could get to the -ne in the word fine. He told me to tell him the truth about what all happened with me in the days that we didn’t see each other. He wanted to know what I was feeling and thinking. I honestly didn’t know where to start. So much water had passed under the bridge, but the thing of it was, it had passed, I’d let it go and I was done with it. I really didn’t know what to tell him, so that’s exactly what I said.

Then he asked me of all the things I did feel, what do I remember the most. I hated admitting it. I always do, but I thought he probably had a reason for asking the questions he was asking of me. So I told him. I mostly remember being scared. I was so scared.

His face never changed. He just kept looking at me. Then he asked, “Of what?”

“Everything.” was what I said.

He shook his head and told me to narrow it down to one thing. So smart.

There was only one thing. I was scared of losing him. To lose him would be to lose everything. He and I, tend to feel that it’s my mother who holds it all together with us, but I’ve been going over it a lot these past few days, and the truth of the matter is, it’s him who does that. He is the reason WE are. If she hadn’t met him, there’d be no me. If something happened to him, that would change her, and that, in turn, would change me. She and I wouldn’t be what we are to each other. She and I are how we are because of our bouncing off of him, if that makes any sense.

I told my Daddy that the only thing that scared me that day was that I was going to lose him. I wasn’t scared of crashing the plane. I had that under control. I wasn’t scared of messing up his business. I’d taken care of that. All the things I could control, I did. His condition and what was going to happen with him were the only things I had no control over, and that scared the hell out of me. I wasn’t ready to lose him. I’ll never be.

He checked me for saying, “Hell”, like he always does, but he reached out and squeezed my hand. He said that the control thing is the biggest part of me that’s like him. We like to think we run everything, and it gets on our nerves when we have to face the fact that we don’t. He said that’s why I fall out with my mother from time to time. I can’t run over her like I do everybody else in life, and it eats at my craw. Then he admitted that he’s always had a hard time getting past her, too. I told him that’s only because she won’t let us.

He hugged me and assured me that he doesn’t plan on checking out any time soon. He said God isn’t ready to be bothered with him buying up heavenly stock and lobbying to be elected to the board up there, so that he could have a hand in running things. Or, if it didn’t quite work out that way, the Devil doesn’t want to be bothered with him down there, starting a coup to usurp the CEO’s position, trying to install air conditioning and showers, alarm systems, Roulette wheels, Poker, Blackjack, and Crap tables, as well as a few slots for the suckers that show up.

We both fell out laughing. Daddy is totally irreverent, and he’s crazy to boot.

He asked me what all I had to do to make up to my mother, and I just was about to fill him in when she showed up outside at the table with the wheelchair, fussing at him about not following the rules and doing things his way. She made him get in it, and she took him back inside, telling him that if he was planning on getting out of there in the morning, he’d better behave tonight. When she put it to him like that, he went along without arguing.

I’m not supposed to think along these lines, but it’s hard not to do when you’re around these two. I bet he decided to go along quietly because he’s probably already got plans made. It’s that biology kicking in; it’s been a while. He can’t even breathe all that well yet, she knows it, but I’m telling you, they’re still just straight up freaky. I saw him looking at her legs, and she didn’t wear that particular skirt for nothing.

Personally, I’ve got a hot bubble bath waiting for me to climb over into it, and I need to call Teddy back. With hands-free, I can take care of both things at one time.

Back in a bit.

J.

______________________________________________________________

Thursday, August 23

11:51 P.M.

My mother just left. She wanted to see how I felt about going home to Los Angeles tomorrow, regardless of whether or not Daddy got released. I was kind of surprised that she would propose it. I had been thinking about it, but in light of everything that’s happened, I didn’t think it would be right to ask. I hesitated to answer her, and she was real quick to let me know that she wasn’t trying to get rid of me. It’s just that there’s only a few days before school starts back, and she was thinking that I might want to spend some time with my friends. That was the same thing I had been thinking. It became obvious to both of us that we were both trying not to step on each other’s toes. When we realized that we had been thinking the same thing but were nervous about saying it, all we could do was laugh.

Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill left Reno and went to LA to wait for me to come home. My mother said that whenever Daddy gets released, she isn’t bringing him straight home. He won’t relax at the house. He’ll be on the phone, people will be coming by, he’ll be sending and receiving faxes and text messages on the sly, and eventually she’ll be having to fight with him about slipping off, going off to the club or back to work. To avoid all of that, she says she’s taking him away while I go back home and get back into my regular routine. I think that’s a very good plan. She’s right about him. He’s not going to act right if he’s anywhere close to home. He does need some down time to get back to himself. They both do. She looks tired, too.

I get the feeling that she’s been holding back on going off on him like she did with me. If she was that upset with me, she has to be really bent out of shape with him. Because he’s been sick, she hasn’t been able to get with him like she might want to. I know she’s going to give him what for about the flying thing. I don’t get the impression that they’ve talked a whole lot about it, if at all. Also, he doesn’t look after his diet like he should. She’s always on him about that, so he’s got that coming from her as well. It’s also just dawned on me that we were flying the jet, not one of the props. In all the time that we’ve been here, it hasn’t occurred to me to ask if our plane got picked up or not. I’m assuming it’s still at the airport, and that’s how we’re getting home. I sure hope by that time he’s warmed her up for that. If not, he can start frosting his own cake; he’s done. I’m glad I won’t be there with them, wherever “there” happens to be. I don’t even want to know. I’m going home to LA and be a kid again for a while

I hope they stay gone until at least Tuesday. School starts back on Wednesday for all of us that go to Gifted and Talented or any west LA public or parochial school. The Academy kids go back the next Monday, but they have registration and orientations on Thursday and Friday. The twins and the other boarding school kids leave out next weekend. If I get home tomorrow, Marnie and I can have my get-together set up for Monday afternoon. Aunt Pat will let me. She won’t be nearly as hard to break down as my mother would be. My mother wouldn’t fall for the “just a few friends” bit. I honestly only want to have a small picnic at the pond, but should word leak out, and a few other people happen to find out about it…

I talked to Marnie earlier. She called to say that she whined her way off lockdown. Three days into a week’s punishment for curfew violation, she and the car got early parole after she made herself cry in front of her father. He can’t stand to see her cry. She made out to him that she was sorry for staying out late, and promised that she would abide by her curfew. She said she even threw in that she’d try harder to get along with her stepmother. Mr. Benson should have seen clear through that last thing for the outright lie that it was. All of that will last about a week, and then it’ll be back to business as usual for Marn.

No disrespect intended, but Mr. Benson is so easy. All Marnie has to do is pout, and he rolls right over, all fours in the air, soft underbelly completely exposed. She acts up, he calls himself putting the hammer down by punishing her, then she whines and moans and mopes around, and he just caves. I should have it so good. I get put on punishment, and all whining and pouting get me is more time in the hole. Daddy might come by and slip me some cookies or some candy, a magazine or something, but he isn’t letting me out. His position is, if my mother locked me down, she must have had a good reason, and he’s not going against her and risking getting caught up in her wrath along with me. You know, come to think of it, Daddy’s never put me on punishment for anything. He’s just the enforcer.

Since she’s off lockdown now, I think I’ll invite Marnie to stay with me until my parents get back. Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill will probably stay out in the guesthouse, which will give Marnie and me the run of the house once Marie turns in for the night. And we’ll have the car as well as the weekend. Issy’s having a party tomorrow night. If I’m home in time, we’re going even if Issy doesn’t like me. She’ll probably want to know more about Russell, so she’ll pretend to be my friend; she knows I know him, and that he works for my father. I’ll pretend to be her friend and string her along, but I won’t tell her fast behind a thing she can use. I might not be fond of Issy, but I have to give it to her. She does give the bomb parties.

When my mother came in here, I was in the tub, still on the phone with Teddy. She knocked and called for me, so I got off and got out when she said that she wanted to speak with me. When I came out of the bathroom, she was sitting in the bedroom, looking at a magazine I had left in the chair. Right out of the blue, just like that, she called me a future Jezebel.

I’m like, “What?”

I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. Granted I wasn’t wearing underwear, but the gown reached to the floor, and I was going to bed- alone. Why waste a clean pair of panties on that? I wasn’t wearing a robe, but it was only the two of us in the room.

She asks me if I thought it was proper to be talking to a boy on the phone while I was taking a bath. Catching her implications, I gave her the hand and quickly explained to her that I was simply multi-tasking, and that was all there was to it.

She goes, “Yeah, right.” and says for me not to be doing that any more, at least not before I’m eighteen.

I wanted to ask her what the big deal was, just to see what she would say, but I didn’t. I left it alone. That would have been pointing out to her that she was the one with the dirty mind, not me. I was completely innocent in it. It wasn’t like I told Teddy where I was at the time or what I was doing. I was on hands-free, so it wasn’t like I had to ask him to hold on while I washed one of my good parts or something. It wasn’t as if I was taking and forwarding him pictures of myself. Things like that hadn’t even crossed my mind, until she took it there. She is such a trip. And then, how in the world did she know who I was talking to?

Now that I think about it, I can see that I got played, She called my bluff, and like some little rube, I tipped my own hand. With a straight face, she assumed. I went for it and confirmed. She is so good. Only my mother can trip me up the way she does.

I bet she used to talk to men on the phone while she was taking a bath. She wasn’t just talking, and that’s how she’s so familiar with the sleazier aspect of it. See how her mind went right to that? I hadn’t even thought about it. And back in her day, they didn’t even have hands-free. Listening in on me like she was, she was probably having flashbacks.

Flashbacks, my foot. She probably still does it with Daddy. And her cell takes pictures, too.

Tonight I sincerely wasn’t trying to be a Jezebel or the harlot I’m usually accused of being, but now that she put it out there for me like that, I can clearly see how it could be worked that way.

I think I’m going to have to file that one for future reference. Thanks, Jen.

Goodnight,

Jennifer’s daughter, the little harlot/ future Jezebel in training

______________________________________________________________

Saturday, August 25

12:57 A.M.

When my mother finally does come home, I’ll definitely have to see her about getting another book. I want one to match this one, so that it can be Vol. II or something. She gave me this one when I turned sixteen last May. It’s only August, but I’m already running out of pages. Either I’m going to have to learn to write less, or so much stuff needs to stop happening to me.

Since neither of those things if likely to happen, I guess it might be wise to maybe go ahead and put in a request for two books to finish this year out, just in case.

While we were gone, I had Chase put $20. on Lightfoot for me and another $20. for Daddy through his hookup at Santa Anita. Chase wasn’t so sure about my pick, but I told him it was a sure thing. I had done my homework. We cleaned up.

He had my harvest for me when he met Marnie and me at the DQ tonight, plus he gave me a cut of his for tipping him off. I told Daddy I put his envelope in his desk for him when I talked to him on the phone this evening. I’ll be so glad when Chase and I can cut out the middle man. It’ll be straight profit, then.

I hope to God the Duchess doesn’t find out about this little bit of business. I just got myself out of the deep and murky with her, and here I go, testing the water levels again. My mother is fully aware that I have serious gaming issues like my father, and I know that she knows, but I keep taking chances, hoping I don’t get caught. One would think I’d learn.

She must still be holding onto Daddy’s cell. I couldn’t get through to him directly, on his phone, so I finally had to call her phone and ask to speak to him. I guess she’s positioning herself between the two of us again, but that’s one middleman I won’t be able to do anything with. That’s her man, not mine. He’s just my Daddy. She’s made it pretty clear over the years that she calls the shots on that.

Poor Daddy. He’s out there, somewhere, on his own- with her, and I’m pretty sure that she’s good and mad at him. But he’s a big boy, and he can take her if she goes there with him. But he probably won’t. Too much of a gentleman, and if either one of them is putty, it’s him when it comes to her.

I’m finally back in LA, in my own room, and in my own bed. It feels so good. There really is no place like home.

When she found out that Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill had come to stay, Marnie was moved in before I could even get home. When I arrived, she was all set up in “her” room, and Chance was here, out on the patio with her. Uncle Bill was hovering in the kitchen, trying to be inconspicuous about it, but keeping an eye on them.

Marnie’s only staying over until Tuesday morning, but with all the stuff she brought, you’d think she was going to be here a lifetime. That girl is so funny. She always over-packs when she travels, no matter where she goes or for how long she’s going to be. She does that because she doesn’t want to be caught short. She wouldn’t ever be, regardless. My best friend’s a shop-a-holic in need of a serious twelve-step plan, so wherever she is, she’s going to buy more stuff anyway. As long as there’s somebody accepting Visa and American Express, Marnie Elaine will never be caught short.

Philly, Hector, and Hector’s boys came over shortly after Marnie called to tell them I was home. Big Percy was with them. I hadn’t seen him all summer. I can’t wait for football season to start back; Percy’s our star linebacker. He says he’s ready. So am I- to work the stands and the books. Ten percent off the top; I can pay off my lunch account for the year, and I won’t have to go into my own pocket for that.

I think the boys being here drove Uncle Bill to distraction. He had a drink in his hand every time I saw him. He didn’t go back out the guesthouse until the gate closed behind Hector and Philly’s truck.

I just finished reading my second email from Tommy. He’s was in Sitges then, but by now he’s sailing the Mediterranean with his cousins and his tutor/friend, Domenec. I envy him. Boys get to do everything. They’re allowed so much freedom. No way would my parents let me to do what he’s doing at seventeen. If I was a boy, I bet they would. Tommy is living the life.

He sent me a picture this time, him with his cousins and his tutor. Genetics is such an amazing thing. He looks right at home in the middle of all those tall, dark, Spaniard cousins of his that he just met. He looks more like his father’s mother, Ms. Fee, than he does his own mother. He never even met his father, for whom he is almost a dead ringer. When I saw the pictures of Tommy’s father, I saw Tommy as a grown man. Biology doesn’t lie. DNA brings it home every time.

I don’t think I’m going to show Marnie the picture when I let her read the email. She’ll be drooling and everything on it since the guys were all in bathing suits. They are all good-looking, Tommy included. He always did have those dimples and that seriously good body, and he’s letting his hair grow all the way out. When she sees that, she’ll be starting up with me about how I shouldn’t have let Tommy go.

Like I had a say in it.

Tommy is his own person, and we are just friends. He wouldn’t be able to tell me not to go if the shoe had been on the other foot. If I were in his place, looking for myself as he seems to be lately, I probably would have done the same thing. I was mad at him at first, but now I realize I was only upset because of how he sprung it on me at the last minute.

Tommy needed to do this. It isn’t just to have the experience of going to Europe or of living somewhere else for a while. He’s been going through something ever since he found out about his father knowing of him, but not getting to know him. It’s subtle, but I can feel the anger in him. I hear it sometimes in things he says. He harbors some resentment toward his mother, as well, even though I doubt that he’d ever admit to that out loud. He has to work through all of that. His grandmother is trying to help him. She, and I guess Tommy’s mother, felt he needed to go to his family, the one he never knew he had, the family who didn’t know about him either. If they are accepting of him, which it seems they are, then he needed to get to know them.

I wish I could do that with my father’s family. I’d take off in a heartbeat if they were to suddenly turn up and say they wanted to meet me, like Tommy’s family did with him.

I just hope he doesn’t get too happy and decide to stay there in Spain. It’s a beautiful place, and it’s right up his architectural alley, but I hope he doesn’t get so comfortable there that he forgets about us here in the States. His people are into construction and renovation, which is totally his thing. He seems to have fallen right in with his uncle and the rest of the family, and he’s doing things he’s never been able to do before and probably wouldn’t be doing to that extent here. I can easily see where Tommy might get sucked in.

I hate that he isn’t going to be with us for our Junior year, but he simply has to come back for our Senior term, next year. We’ve been together since Junior High. I always thought our crew would all graduate together. He said in the email that he wished I was there to experience some of it with him. He said he missed his friends here, but he didn’t say anything about missing LA. I hope that’s not a bad sign.

Got an email from the Duchess tonight, too. I figured I would. Even though she’d said the same thing to me at the airport before we parted ways, she had to repeat herself for emphasis, I guess. She’s supposed to be somewhere resting, but she cannot leave off being my mother. She wrote to tell me- again, to behave, take my vitamins, not to eat crap or drink more Coke than water, and to put on sunscreen when I’m hanging out. As if she could see the expression on my face or hear what I was thinking, she reminded me that she had the right to nag at me because she’s my mother. I guess I have to give her that.

I’ll do all she said, but Aunt Pat’s in charge of what happens this weekend, and she has her own style.

I have had some day, today. It started with Dr. Solomon allowing Daddy to go home.

Daddy called us early to say his temp was still normal. He hadn’t even talked to the doctor yet, but he was telling my mother to come on and bring his clothes. Since he hadn’t talked to the doctor to confirm that he was being discharged, she took her time going to him. She showered, blew dry her hair, ate, put on her face, talked on the phone, and then got dressed. When we finally got there, he was pacing the hall, waiting for us. As soon as the nurse saw us get off the elevator, she ran out from behind the counter to meet my mother, cutting Daddy off from getting to us.

The nurse was fussing, saying that he hadn’t done a thing anybody asked him to do all morning. Daddy didn’t even try to deny it. He just politely stepped around her, kissed my mother and me on the cheek, took the clothes bag from her and the bag with his shoes from me, and walked away from all of us females. He was leaving that hospital, and he didn’t care what anybody had to say about it or about him. Jonathan Charles Hart was ouuuuuuuuut.

Dr. Solomon came up about then, so I went to the waiting room while my mother went with Daddy to his room to talk to the doctor one last time about what Daddy needed to do when he got released. I guess there was no question about if. The hospital staff was probably as sick of Daddy as he was of them. It was while I was in the waiting room that I got to meet up again with my almost- big brother, and this time we got to sit down and talk.

Dr. John Philips, formerly known as Jonathan Hart, Jr. came down the hospital expressly to see and talk with me. I thought that was so special of him. We only spoke a short time, but I have a feel for people. If I had a big brother, he would have been ideal in that spot. We both like black and white movies, chocolate chip cookies, and Jonathan Hart, Sr.

From the time I first heard about him, and especially since I was filled in about his circumstances, John has been on my mind a lot. When we got together today, there was so much I wanted to ask him, and he let me. He seemed to want to talk about it to somebody. Maybe in his mind, he felt I was the ideal person, being that he was Daddy’s first child- for a few days, anyway, and I was the baby. It felt like he was as interested in me as I was in him.

In a way, since I learned of him, I’ve been kind of jealous of him. He got to know my parents before me. He was with them and knew them when they were first together. He lived in the old house with them. He got to spend time with Max, whom he recalled smoking a cigar like a gangster, having a gruff voice, but being a “really nice guy”. If only for a few days, Max was his uncle. He was gone before he could be mine a moment. John remembered everything, and as we talked, he shared it all with me. Anything I asked of him, he was willing to answer. What he told me was fascinating and at the same time, so very sad. I understand why his mother lied to him about who his father was, but playing it out to the degree that she did- I thought that was cruel.

It kind of reminded me of the time when Marnie found out there really wasn’t a Santa Claus. We were about six or seven when I told her. I never believed in all that stuff, myself, and I got sick of her being excited over it, trying to be good in December, at the last minute every year, like she was. She didn’t believe me at first, so I had to break it down for her. None of it ever made sense to me.

Who can come down a chimney like that? Santa was definitely too fat for that kind action. We have three chimneys at our house. Her mother’s house had two. How did Santa know which one was the right one? What about the people who don’t have chimneys on their houses? People who live in apartments, do they not have Christmas? In those cases, does he use the window? What about kids who don’t live in houses or apartments? What if you lived in a hut or an igloo? And what do the reindeers do in the meantime, wait for him on the roof, or do they come down the chimney or through the window with him? How come you don’t hear their hooves or the sleigh bells? How did Santa and the reindeer get to everybody’s house in the whole world in one night? And how could he know everybody who had been naughty or nice? How could he possibly keep track of everybody all the time?

I told Marnie that grownups had made up Santa as a way to trick kids into being good during the year. Everybody I knew got toys for Christmas, whether they were good all year or not. I knew plenty of kids who were bad, but Santa didn’t overlook them at Christmastime. If anybody should have gotten a lump of coal in their stocking, Marnie should have. J.J. Hart, too, for that matter. Even as a little kid, Marnie cursed like a sailor, was beyond hardheaded, got in trouble all the time, and did everything the opposite of how she was told, yet she loaded up every year. I stayed in trouble all the time with the Duchess for one thing or another, but my house never got missed.

When Marnie could see that I was making sense, she was devastated. She cried like I had stuck her with something. In fact, at first, my mother thought I had. Later, when I came off the mini lockdown I got put on for running my mouth too much, my mother said I shouldn’t have told her. She said that I should have let Marnie continue to believe. But I just couldn’t take it any more that my friend was living a lie and making a fool out of herself. It was going to come out eventually, anyway. Why shouldn’t she have heard it from a friend, someone who loved her?

That’s how John said it was for him when he figured out that my father wasn’t really his father, and that he had been lied to. He said it was like finding out that there was no Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. His explanation for how he came to that conclusion was much like how I never believed in Santa; it didn’t make sense. Once he met Daddy and got to know him, he realized that there was no way that Jonathan Hart would have had a son in the world that he didn’t know about or personally acknowledge.

I wish I could have been there to see Daddy with him. They must have really gotten along, and John must have bonded with him. I could tell that it still hurt him that Daddy wasn’t his real father.

In a way, his situation was much worse than the Santa Claus thing. Santa is a fictional character. Jonathan Hart is a real, flesh and blood person about whom John had been told all of his life. Then he actually met him. He’d shaken his hand, kissed and hugged him, lived in his house with him, ate at his table, and came to love him and admire him for who he really was, only to realize on his own that he didn’t belong to the man after all.

I would just die.

Family is everything. I don’t know how John made it through something like that. They say when things happen to you when you’re young, you got over them more quickly. But he remembered everything so clearly, I’m thinking it must have been pretty bad for him. He told me that even though he changed his name, he continued to pretend to himself that Daddy was his father to help himself cope. He must have one heck of an imagination. I can’t do that kind of pretending. I never have been able to lie to myself or fool myself like that about important things. I know I would just die if something like that happened to me.

My father is the man. He’s just about everything I respect in a person. I love him so much. I know exactly what John saw in him as a father-figure. I get to see it every day. I can only imagine how let down he must have been when things didn’t pan out. In words, I can’t adequately convey what’s in my heart, except to say that I am all Hart, and I’m happy about it.

He didn’t come right out with it, but I could tell from what he said that my mother had been somewhat distant with him. I tried to clean it up some by saying that she wanted him to be with his mother, which she probably did. But having gotten her side of the story before talking to him, I understood where her head had been at the time. I wonder what would really have happened if he had decided to stay? If they had kept John, would they have had me? My mother told me that when she got pregnant with me, she wasn’t on the pill because she thought she couldn’t have a baby. If John was their child, would she have stayed on the pill? Maybe Daddy would still have wanted his own flesh and blood child. Since they already had a kid, would she have done that for him?

They say everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen, so I guess that was all how it was supposed to be, as well. He ended up going back to his mother, and now he has a brother and sister that he’s helping to raise. His mother and father never got together. His mother married, unsuccessfully, a couple of times, but John kept my father in his head as his father. Using Daddy as a role model, he went on to become a heart surgeon. John did well for himself despite it all, and I got to come into the world.

I enjoyed talking with John today. He’s good people. I hope he liked me, too. Somehow, that’s important to me. He’s getting married. Right before we left the hospital, his fiancée, Sheila came down, so we got to meet her, too. She’s very pretty, lots of long, dark hair that’s very becoming to her blue eyes. John introduced her to my mother, and told her that Sheila was studying to be a travel writer. They hit it right off, going off into a corner to talk shop.

I’ve noticed that my mother seems to take to females more quickly than she does males. Even among my friends, the ones she interacts with the most are female. She seems to understand girls, and she likes to help girls and young women get a leg up. The boys in my crew are crazy about my father, but they say that my mother makes them nervous. Tommy is scared of her, period. I wonder what that’s all about? Is it a signal she’s sending off that makes the boys back up? Does she see herself in the girls, and therefore understands what they need? She said she wanted a girl when she had me. I’m glad of that, but what if I had been a boy?

Anyway. My mother invited John and Sheila to come visit us next month, once Daddy’s back on his feet. They said that they’d like that. Daddy told them to let him know when they were coming so that he could send the jet for them. He wants his “son and daughter-in-law” to travel in style, he said.

I am so glad that Daddy pulled through this health crisis he had. I even called Sister Anastasia to thank her for praying for Daddy. I figured if I could call her to ask her to do it, the least I could do is thank her for following through, even though he’s her boy, he was hers before he was ours, and she would have done that anyway. She actually paid me a compliment- after she tried to go off on me and Daddy for flying and not telling my mother. I took up for him, though. Nobody dogs my daddy, not even her.

This must have been some sort of test for all of us. With Daddy out of the picture for a little bit, it seemed like my mother and I were headed for that same bad place that she and Pa fell into after her mother died. But then again, thinking on it, I don’t think she would have l

et that happen with us. As soon as she could get to me, she hemmed me up in that room, and she wouldn’t let me out until I talked to her. She says I keep things bottled up inside too much, and she wasn’t having it this time. I’m glad she refused to have it. I needed to let go of that.

Pa shouldn’t have had it with her, either. She was his daughter, too, not just her mother’s. Maybe if she and Pa had been able to talk, they wouldn’t have wasted so many years not talking, and she wouldn’t have had such a hard time growing up. She’s never really come right out and admitted that, but I get that strong feeling that she didn’t have it so easy.

I bet my mother isn’t having it out of Daddy. He closes up, too. I bet the real reason she took him away was so that she could break him down in private. She took him someplace where they could be alone, and he couldn’t make any excuses about having something else to do. She’s going to get through to him. He has issues. I know it, and my mother knows it. If anybody can get through to him and make him talk, she’s the one.

Family is everything. I don’t know what I’d do without mine.

Aunt Pat let Marnie and me go out this evening. She didn’t give us a curfew; she said for us to use our judgment. Yeah, right.

Even though Marnie didn’t, I saw all through that right away. Aunt Pat knows our normal curfew is midnight. She was trying to see if and/or how hard we would push. Now I may act crazy at times, but I know how far to take a thing. If we came in at a decent time, no problem. But if we hung out as if we didn’t have any sense, showing up way into the next day, we weren’t ever getting out again on her watch. We went down to the DQ, to Issy’s party, which was off the hook, to a couple of other places, back to Issy’s, and still we made it in by twelve-thirty-ish. That was a bit past the normal time, but not crazy-late. We made sure to blow that horn, just like she said, as we passed the guest house, to let her and Uncle Bill know we were back- as if when the gate opens the gate-light doesn’t go off on the console in the guest house.

But we could have had somebody in the trunk, and they would have been none the wiser. It’s a good thing I’m not swift and fast like some of our friends. Marie was off tonight, so she went to her sister’s. We’re here in the house by ourselves. Marnie and I could have been doing anything with anybody up in here if we were into that sort of thing.

However, I’m trying to have my picnic here on the pond on Monday, and I’m not handing anybody a reason to tell me I can’t. I’ll be walking the straight and narrow all this weekend. And so will Marnie, whether she wants to or not.

Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy, and in my own bed. You know, grownups call themselves putting curfews and constraints on you, but a conscientious girl can still fit a whole lot of living inside whatever parameters.

Enough said about that.

I could say a lot more about today, but it’ll definitely have to wait until tomorrow.

Good night,

J.J.

______________________________________________________________

Saturday, August 26

7:02 P.M.

I just came up from downstairs. I spent most of the day inputting names and addresses into a new database that I set up for my mother for the flowers, cards, and calls my father has been receiving. I returned some of the personal calls from their friends which were on the answering machine, inquiring about Daddy’s status. By the time I got home yesterday, the great room looked like a florist’s shop, and the message light on the machine was blinking like crazy. More bouquets and vases have been arriving from all over the world all day, and I’ve been at my mother’s desk, taking and writing down in her book the calls that have come in this afternoon. Daddy knows people from everywhere, and from all indications, people care a lot about him and his welfare.

Most women in my mother’s social and professional position have secretaries. Not my mother. She insists on taking care of her business herself. Thank you notes, return calls, and correspondence of that nature have always fallen to her, and I have to say she skillfully handles them. I say she doesn’t have a secretary, but I guess I should put it that she doesn’t have a formal one. Lately, she has been increasingly pressing me into service, so much so, that it’s beginning to come naturally. The phone rang late this morning as I was coming through the room. I took the call at her desk, got started with her computer, and ended up staying. Marnie helped me gather the names from the cards and notes that were here and that I brought home in my bag from the hospital.

Marnie contacted the printer my mother uses to see what format I should use to set up the list with the names and addresses so that all my mother will have to do is take him the disc and pick out the style of notes she wants. Then all we’ll have to do from there is put the stamps on the envelopes and send them out. My mother has a master address disk from which she normally works, but we are always missing an entry for somebody new and having to stop and put it in, or we’re dealing with an address change, or some other glitch. I made this database be strictly for this situation. It will make things a lot easier for her (me and, probably Marnie).

This afternoon, Marnie and Aunt Pat wanted to go shopping. I don’t like to shop, and I definitely didn’t feel like tagging along with two power shoppers like them. I begged off and stayed here to continue taking my mother’s calls and talk to Teddy in between. Kyle and his father had come by earlier to have brunch with us so that Kyle could meet Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill. Mr. Benson, who’s in real estate, was talking to Uncle Bill about acquiring some property, maybe a condo, somewhere out east, close to where Kyle will be going to school. He said he wanted to have a place of his own in which to stay when he visited Kyle, and he wanted to know the best areas in which he should look.

When we went upstairs so that Marnie could get ready to go with Aunt Pat, Marnie said that she thinks her father is trying to hook up a bachelor pad on the other side of the country. I asked her if she thought that meant her father and step-mother were going to split up, or that her father was planning on moving out. She said she didn’t know, but things weren’t looking so good.

As calm as you please, Marnie said she wouldn’t be surprised if her father just had a mistress or something out east that he was setting up house with. Her stepmother’s still getting drunk, and her father has been unusually distant and  unsympathetic toward her. Karen did look pretty frail and bad when I was over there yesterday. Marnie said her father’s been staying home a lot, working out of the house, keeping Brett and Mikey with him or the nannies, but away from their mother when she’s sloshed. Marnie and Kyle have been hanging out together a lot since she’s been living there with them. She thinks her father is worried about Karen’s condition having a bad effect on the boys and on her. Marnie, of course, denies that her stepmother’s behavior bothers her in any way.

I have to give Mr. Benson his due. He may be shady when it come to his dealings with women, but he does seem to care a lot about the kids he makes. If he does leave, I bet he takes Brett, Mikey, and their nannies with him. Marnie will probably stay with him, too.

I told Marnie I don’t know how she does it. I’d be a nervous wreck if I thought my parents might split up or that my father was slipping around. She says it’s been like that most of her life, so she’s used to it. Karen isn’t her mother, so Marnie says she doesn’t care if her father cheats on her. Then she turned around and said to me she didn’t know how I did it; flew jet planes without telling anybody. She said she would have been scared to death to learn, and if she had, she would have busted a gut trying to keep secret something like that. I guess that’s the difference in people, even in people as close as we are.

Despite the fact that she claims to be used to her parents’ crap, she did say that she’s looking forward to Kyle going away to school and to leaving home herself when high school is over. She and her natural mother are on the serious outs again, and Marnie says she’s sick of the fighting with her all the time. Unlike me, she is definite about going away to college right after she graduates. She used to say she was going to attend UCLA in Berkley, but I believe she’s now considering going farther away than that. This morning, right after we came in from getting our hair and nails done, (we had early, early appointments today) she was doing a search on the computer in my room, and I happened to notice she was looking at schools out east. But she hasn’t said anything to me along those lines, so I didn’t ask her why or if she had changed her mind about UCLA. I was supposed to be straightening up. I didn’t want her to think I was snooping, even though I was.

Uncle Bill and Mr. Benson left and took Kyle with them a little while ago. I don’t know where they were headed. Kyle seemed to like Uncle Bill a lot. Kyle’s not so bad, for a little kid. In fact, he’s pretty funny. He’s a lot like Marnie, tough as nails on the outside, but if you know them, soft as cotton on the inside. He cusses, too, and he’ll say anything. He notices everything going on around him, but hasn’t learned yet that he can’t say everything that crosses his mind. He’ll be okay after a little time in prep school.

I’m glad that Teddy will be Kyle’s mentor, and that he’ll be there to help him get acclimated. I imagine Kyle will be spending a good deal of his free time with Uncle Bill at his and Aunt Pat’s new place in Maryland when they’re there. Kyle was fascinated that Uncle Bill is a pilot, and that he owns his own aviation company. Uncle Bill promised to take him to Nevada to see the facility. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we didn’t get yet another young pilot in the family out of this.

When she gets back, Marnie and I are going down to hang at the pier with the twins at their boat with some of the others tonight. Chase and Chance are having a small cookout, making burgers for everyone. We’ll probably play cards or skate or something, unless/until something better comes up. Tiff and Britt are having people over, legitimately for once, tomorrow for a pool party. Marnie and I cleared it with Aunt Pat, and we’re having our picnic here Monday, on the grounds. While I was manning the phone this afternoon, between calls, I got that all set up. Marnie’s handling the publicity. If I know my friend, her cell should be on fire by now.

I haven’t heard from my parents at all today. I hope that’s a sign that they’ve made up. He wasn’t mad, but I could tell she was. It was bad enough that it got confirmed that I was flying, but I really don’t think she anticipated that I could be flying jets. I guess that’s another conversation I have coming.

At the Las Vegas airport, when the car drove out onto the tarmac, I peeked over and, for the briefest moment, I saw it when her eyes widened as she recognized it was Daddy’s “baby” jet that we were pulling up to. I saw her doing the math, adding it up, and after that she went quiet. On the flight home, she didn’t say hardly anything. I knew she was smoky mad. Daddy was sitting with her, but he kept looking over at me as if I had a clue what was up with her. I did, but I was taking her advice for once- staying out of grown people’s business.

Apparently, she hadn’t shared with him that he wasn’t going straight home. There were two cars waiting for us when we arrived here in LA, and when he asked her about it, that was when she told him I was going home, but they weren’t. He tried to act irritated, but she cut him off before he could get started, talking about he’d had things his way, now it was her turn. Sick or not, the soft ride was over for him. Jennifer Hart’s sympathy train had come to a full stop. I love Daddy, but I had already been through it with her. Like she said, it was his turn.

It was so funny. I actually think he was a little afraid to get in that other car with her. He kept hanging around me, lingering, as if he was trying to draw it out as long as he could. When she kissed me, I could tell from how stiff she was that she was mad. But it wasn’t at me; it was Daddy. After she walked away from us, I almost didn’t even want her to see him talking to me. He was all leaned into my car, pumping me for information about where they were headed. I honestly didn’t know, so I couldn’t help him out.

When my car drove off,  we left him standing there, his wife waaaaaaaiting for him in the back seat of that other car. My mother can be a real one when she wants to be. Even she admitted to it that night she went off on Mrs. Singleton. When my parents have disagreements, it’s usually her who’s mad at him for something. He rarely gets angry enough with her about anything that works them into an argument. I don’t like when they don’t get along. It’s not often, but things do happen from time to time. Fortunately, flare-ups between them usually don’t last too long. Maybe I haven’t heard from them because they’ve made up, and they’re enjoying themselves. At least I hope that’s what it is.

I would call them and feel it out for myself, but, in the event that it isn’t over, I don’t need to hear any bad news. It’s a two to one shot. If I don’t call, the odds are more in my favor that I won’t be carrying around worry all night.

It’s not my concern.

What is my concern is I need to get up and get dressed. Marnie and Aunt Pat should be back soon. Aunt Pat has one rule that lines up with my mother’s; if you haven’t left the house by 9:00 P.M., you might as well plan on staying home. It’s Saturday, the last Saturday of the summer. No way am I staying home. Marnie can mess around out there shopping, be late getting back, and get hemmed in here if she wants to. Even if I have to call somebody else to come get me, before 9:00 rolls around, I’m out.

Later,

J.J.

______________________________________________________________

Sunday, August 27

3:03 A.M.

Another dream, and again I’m up with it. Two in very recent memory that I clearly remember upon them waking me up. That’s not like me. Somebody is definitely trying to tell me something.

In this one, Dr. Philips was my brother, but my mother and father weren’t married. While I was dreaming, it wasn’t clear if they’d been married and had split up, or if they had ever been married at all, but it was apparent that Daddy and John didn’t live here. I lived here on Willow Pond with just my mother, and John lived elsewhere with my father.

But based on what I remember my mother telling me when we talked, I figure now that in my dream, they’d never been married, but that they’d somehow worked up on me anyway.

It came out in the dream that my mother wasn’t John’s mother. His mother was Connie, but she didn’t show up in the dream. It was just the four of us. John wasn’t as old in the dream as he is for real, and neither was I. He might have been like twenty or in his late teens, something like that and I was maybe twelve or so. My mother was different in the dream than from how she normally is; she was very stern and uptight, rigid almost. In the dream, she never smiled. Strangely, she  reminded me a lot of how Pa used to seem to me. Daddy wasn’t himself either. He appeared older. His hair had more gray, and I got the strong impression that he was sad and lonely, maybe even frustrated.

When the dream started, I was in my room, getting dressed. My mother was with me, but she was rushing me, telling me to hurry up because my father was coming. I hate for someone to be standing around, rushing me to do something. I always try to give myself plenty of time to get things done when I know ahead of time that I have to do them. It’s part of my not liking to be pushed to do things.

John and Daddy were coming over to get me, and my mother was angry about it. She didn’t want me to go with them, but it was like she didn’t have a choice. She’d found out that Daddy was letting me fly the plane and she was upset about it because nobody asked her if it was okay or told her that was what we were doing. She must have gotten it out of me in some way, because she was fussing at me about it. That part must have happened before the dream started, and of course, I tuned in just in time for the fussing.

The gate buzzer sounded, and we went downstairs, me following behind her. When she opened the door to let them in, she said hello to John and let him come past her, but she pushed Daddy back out the door, onto the porch, and closed the door behind her.  John and I looked at each other and just shook our heads. We could hear them arguing.

Apparently, even though we had different mothers, John and I were close. I said to him that I didn’t like it that they fought all the time, and that I wished they could find a way to get along. He took me by the hand and led me into the great room where he sat me down. Like a good big brother, he was concerned, so he talked to me. He told me that he thought it was his fault that they didn’t. He said that Daddy loved and wanted to be with my mother, but my mother wouldn’t agree to it because of his mother, Connie, still being in the picture. John said that if it weren’t for him, my parents would probably be together. They loved each other, but he was what stood in the way of it.

In my sleep, I wondered if that meant that Daddy was still in contact with Connie? That didn’t come out in the dream, but if she was John’s mother, then that would mean that he’d have to be. At several points in the dream, it was as if I was an onlooker rather than a participant.

Even though I was asleep, I remember feeling profoundly sad for John. I was thinking he shouldn’t feel that way, and I wanted to say that to him, but I didn’t. He was older than me, so I didn’t think he would listen to a kid sister telling him something like that. I wanted to tell him if it wasn’t for Connie, then there would be no John. It took her and my father getting together to make him, just like it took my mother and father getting together to make me. That’s how biology and genetics works. I understood why he might have felt the way he did, but I didn’t want him to feel like that.

My parents came back into the house. She went straight upstairs without saying anything else to me or to any one of us. Daddy stood there in the foyer for a minute as if she might turn back around to him, but she didn’t. Then he told us to come on. When we went to him, he put his arms around both of us and took us to the door to go out.

That was where I woke up feeling so sad and confused that I was hot and sticky with it, the way I get when my parents fight (argue) in real life. Then I was so, so, so relieved when I came to the realization it had only been a dream.

I got up and took a quick shower to get right again. While I was in there, I couldn’t stop thinking about what things might have been like if John had really been Daddy’s son. Knowing that everything happens how it’s supposed to happen, it had me wondering would my parents have met, become lovers, and made me anyway, but not gotten married? After all, my mother told me that she and Daddy are soul mates.

I could see Daddy loving both his children, even if they weren’t both with my mother. He loves kids, and he would have paid attention to and been active in the lives of all his kids, even if he had twenty of them. I could see him loving my mother, and being sick with not being able to get her to marry him. I could also see my mother loving him, but stubbornly holding out on not getting involved in “baby-mama-drama” although she had her own with having had me. She wouldn’t want to complicate things any more than they were. Not marrying him would have been her way of keeping her life as neat and tidy as possible with me in it.

It was such a weird dream, and it left me with a bunch questions. They’re squirming and twisting around in my mind like a basket of newborn puppies.

My mother and Daddy selected Willow Pond to be their home when they got married. How did she and I end up living there alone in the dream? Why? Was that symbolic of something else, something that I can’t see? Would he have set it up for her and me to live like this? Did he hook up John’s mother in the same way, or just my mother and me?  In real life, did he buy this house mostly for her because it was how she was used to living? Before he met her, even though he had already made his fortune, Daddy and Max lived in a corporate apartment. It seemed like that was good enough for him. So, did he buy this estate because that’s what Pa would have expected him to provide for her, and Daddy knew it? Was that kind of similar to what I noticed about their rings?

My Daddy can talk people into doing anything. My mother always says he could sell snow in Siberia. Well, how come he couldn’t talk his way into her life in that dream? It plainly looked to me like she wasn’t letting him in. She can be awfully stubborn, but then, he can be very persistent.

And why was everybody acting so differently in the dream? Even I didn’t feel like myself until I woke up. In the dream, I wasn’t the least bit happy. I felt dull, not quite sad but definitely not happy. I was unsure and nervous, as if a dark cloud was looming over my head, threatening to cut loose a storm at any moment.

The one thing that stands out above and beyond everything else in my mind about that dream was the fact that my mother had me. She gave birth to me even though she and Daddy weren’t married, and she clearly could have done otherwise. Jennifer Hart nee Edwards was/is a very independent, forward-thinking woman. Since they weren’t married, he might never have known about me being inside of her if she hadn’t told him, and telling him, as well as going through with having me, wasn’t something she had to do.

When we were talking about it, my mother told me that she wouldn’t have wanted to marry a man who already had a child with someone else. If my father knew about John being his when he met her, he wouldn’t have lied to her about having a kid, and he would have known if he had a kid. But then, knowing that, why would she get involved with him anyway and then have a baby by a man who already had a child?

Because she loved him, that’s why. Then they had this kid because that’s how it was supposed to be.

I do think love must be that powerful.

I wonder if she cried behind that closed door once she got upstairs and out of our sight?

In the dream, Daddy had John living with him, not with his mother. It was just the two of them. When we were together talking last Friday morning, John said that his mother had married a couple of times after she had him. Maybe Daddy had John living with him because he didn’t want another man raising his son. I could definitely see him doing that. I could see him having a problem with that over me if they ever split up and my mother were to marry again. But he wouldn’t have to worry about that with me. I’d handle that myself.

Daddy had John living with him, yet I remained with my mother. I’m thinking that was because I was a girl, and that part of me was hers to raise. In real life, even my Daddy can’t come between that fact with her. She’s backed him up to the wall about that a couple of times that I’m aware of. As much as she loves him, if by some stretch of the imagination something were to happen between them, and my father were foolish enough to take her on, I could just see her in courtroom, surrounded by her lawyers, fighting him tooth and nail over trying to take me from her. In her mind, I think she believes that a girl, at least this girl, should be with her mother. In fact, I know that’s what she believes. She told me that she wouldn’t have had a baby with anyone else except my Daddy. She didn’t really want kids until she actually, physically had me here with her as part of her world. She married at twenty-nine, and in her entire life, she’s only had one kid, my Daddy’s child. In the dream, even though they weren’t married, she still had me, but then she kept me with her.

I’m left wondering how that might have panned out in real life. What if she had a kid when he met her? That probably wouldn’t have made him any difference, considering his own background. He would have scooped the kid up and made it his anyway. That’s a big difference in those two people. Maybe she would have felt differently about raising it if the kid who turned up claiming to be Daddy’s was a girl.

My mother loves my father. He loves her. It’s evident in real life, and even though she was angry with him, it was all over their faces in that dream. When she went up those stairs, he watched her until she closed the bedroom door on him. He looked as if he wanted to cry when she did that. Watching him, I felt like doing it. I was thinking that closed out was what he must have felt like a lot in his life.

Such crazy, crazy dreams I’m having.

I think the message in all this for me was I might be Daddy’s, I might be a lot like him and do things like him, we may be awfully close, but I’m my mother’s child, too. She really did want me, and she loves me. She’s good for me and the kind of girl I am. She got after me the other night about saying to her too often that I was my Daddy’s only child. I think I must have hurt her feelings with that, and in the back of my mind, I believe that’s been eating at me without my knowing it. I wouldn’t do anything purposely to hurt her.

I also think it was a glimpse of what things might have been like for us if my parents hadn’t gotten married or if things had been different. My parents might have been lovers, they might have even eventually ended up with me, but they wouldn’t have been happy if they hadn’t married and stayed together. If John had been Daddy’s before they met, maybe they wouldn’t have gotten together in the way that they did. If they found out about him after, maybe they wouldn’t have stayed together. But on some level, they still would have been, which means I still would have been, but the bottom line is they were meant to be man and wife. For them, it works.

I think all the what-ifs that have come up since I found out about John might have been eating at me, too. I tend to think too much. I’m thinking about stuff even when I don’t know I’m thinking about it.

Maybe the catalyst for this particular dream was my dwelling so much on Marnie’s situation, the latest developments with her father and stepmother, and how she copes with it. All of that must have had my subconscious mind going wild. Her stuff does bother me. I wish she didn’t have to go through all that turmoil all the time, but then, on the flip side, that’s what’s made/ makes her who she is. She doesn’t see it as turmoil like I do. All of us are made up of and shaped by our environment and our experiences.

My parents never did call yesterday. I hope that means everything’s okay now. It probably is. One of them would have called to check on me if they weren’t otherwise occupied. They know I’m in good hands, so if they’re back to normal, they can fully concentrate on themselves.

Like Martha Stewart says with that fake smile of hers, that’s a good thing. I mean it when I say it, though.

I’m going to try to turn off this overused mind of mine now and attempt to get back to sleep. I sure hope my dream machine is turned off, too, or at least tuned down.

Until later on,

J.J.

______________________________________________________________

Sunday, August 27

6: 37 A.M.

I’m up again; I couldn’t back to sleep, but this is my favorite time of day, so I don’t mind. I’ve already had my run and a shower. Now I’m outside, downstairs on the patio.

I like to get up early like this. It’s so quiet and peaceful. Everything smell so good. The sun and the birds are up with me, but the mountains are still sleeping, wrapped in their thin blankets of crystalline fog. So pretty when I actually stop to take notice. When I was little, I liked to get up early enough to catch Daddy before he went to work. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t see him until the evening. Then I would only have a few hours with him before I had to go to bed. He taught me to love the dawn. It’s his favorite time of day, too. The Duchess lets us have that to ourselves. She prefers to sleep in when she can.

I wonder how he’s feeling this morning. I wonder if he’s awake and watching the sun come up. Aunt Pat said they’re at the beach house. Maybe he’s down, taking a morning stroll, building himself backup. I sure hope it doesn’t take him long to get back to himself.

Marie is already in the kitchen, but she understands that I like my space at this time of day. I always have.

I appreciate houseguests like Marnie. I don’t have to change my habits to accommodate her, and she doesn’t have a problem with being on her own or seeing to herself when she’s here. We operate more like sisters than friends; she does her thing. I do mine. We don’t have to be all up on each other all the time. She’s around so much that everybody here treats her like one of the family. That’s why she can find herself put on punishment by the Duchess if she ventures too far out of line and gets caught at it. No differences made by my mother. It’s her house, and it’s two for one.

That girl won’t surface until she smells breakfast, and maybe not even then. Marie will just hold it for her, if so. She knows Marnie and how she is.

Once I woke up this morning, after I wrote about my dream, I tried to go back to sleep, but the effort was futile. I wasn’t able to sleep very well at all. Just bits and pieces of twilight sleep, which are a complete waste of time. You wake up from that more tired than if you never tried to sleep at all. Friday night was the same way. I had that first dream, then Daddy and Tommy were on my mind. Last night it was Chase.

You never know about people. We wear all these masks and costumes to keep others from seeing through us to how we really are. Last night. Chase took his stuff off and bared himself to me. Not his behind, mind you, I’ve told him enough times about that. Last night it was his heart.

We were down on the Barnett’s’, boat, and we had all eaten; the food was delicious. The twins are excellent cooks to be so young. They both work in the kitchen at their school, and Chance is studying culinary arts. We had burgers, bratwurst, three kinds of salad and baked beans that Mrs. Barnett sent down to us. She puts pineapples, brown sugar, and cloves in hers. Sounds odd, perhaps, but goes down so good. After dinner, people were either playing cards, skating, kicking around the soccer ball, or if you were Chance and Marnie, courting- but cleanly and out in the open, for once.

I won my hand, collected the pot, and uncharacteristically got up from the table with my winnings, much to the distress of all the patsies I was leaving behind. That was when Chase got off the rail I could see him sitting on at the stern, and he came down to where I was. I could tell from the way he kept looking at me that he’d been waiting for me to get finished. I thought it was odd that he wasn’t in the game, and I suspected that something was up. He said he needed to talk to someone, and he thought I was the best person with whom to kick around what he had to say.

I was sure he had knocked somebody up. He’s the type that you won’t know his personal business. You never really know what or  who he’s doing, but you can tell that he’s getting some from somewhere. He never has a steady girlfriend, but he’s friendly with a lot of the locals. I can tell a boy virgin, and he’s not one. Even though I don’t talk with Chase like I do Tommy about that sort of thing, we’re still pretty tight. Within our group, other than Tommy, Chase is probably the only other guy, I’m close to that I positively consider to be on the level with me, and not on the make.

He walked me down to the end of the slip where we sat to talk, away from everyone else. Even if we had stayed with the group, nobody would have bothered us if they saw us talking together. Chase and I often go off into our own world together, and the others know not to come in until they’re invited.

The problem turned out to be nothing like what I was thinking. I must have babies, getting hemmed up, and that sort of thing on the brain. What’s happening is Chase and Chance are going to be seniors this year. They have to make a decision about what college they’ll be attending because they have to make application. The thing of it is, Chase doesn’t think he wants to go to college, and he doesn’t know how to tell his father.

He said that all of his life, that’s what his dad has been on them about: getting good grades so that they could get into a good school after they graduate. Both the boys are pretty smart. Chance is more inclined to study and do well on his own than Chase. Chase has to be bribed and threatened into doing his best. He doesn’t like school. In all the time that I’ve known him, he never has. He goes because he’s made to go. If he had his way, he’d spend all of his time on a boat. He’d grow up to be like Manuel in Captain’s Courageous.

I asked him what he thought he wanted to do instead of going to college, and what he told me surprised me. He wants to go into the Navy with Tommy. Aside from a couple of other obstacles I could immediately see, such as Mr. and Mrs. Barnett, the main one is that Tommy doesn’t graduate until the year after next, which means that there will be a year that Chase would be sitting idle, waiting for Tommy to finish. That’s provided that his parents even entertain the idea.

I’m sure the Barnetts have their hearts set on both boys being college graduates and for them, well at least Chase, to go into Mr. Barnett’s marina sales business with him. Chase thinks he isn’t cut out for collegiate life, but he does want to work with boats and be on the water. He wouldn’t mind going into business of some kind, but he wants to go ahead and get on with it, not spend four more years in school.

I wanted to know why he felt the Navy was the way to go. It seemed so unlike him to make that a choice. Chase is a free spirit, never latching onto anyone or anything. He can be right next to you, yet be a thousand miles away. He’s always off doing his own thing. Sometimes I’m with him on it. I wondered about the regimentation. Did he really want that?”

He answered me saying he lacks discipline, which is why school plagues him so. He and Chance board at a prep school. It’s here in California, so they come home a lot of weekends and every holiday. He says that’s the only way he could make it there. He told me that he’s never had the discipline that Chance has, and he fears it’s going to be his downfall if he doesn’t get some direction going. Last year, he and his buddies got into some sneak drinking, spiking their water bottles with vodka and stuff, and he liked it a bit too much. It was when his grades started slipping and his father came up to see him that he cut it out. Mr. Barnett knew what was up and had an intervention with him. That’s when they made the bet that led to him getting the bike. He said that helped him to stop. He’d never told me that story before. I always thought they came to the half and half agreement on the bike so Chase could stay out of detention.

Chance was doing it, too, the drinking, but Mr. Barnett never found out about him. Chase didn’t rat him out to their father, and after Chase got called on it, Chance quit on his own. Chase feels that Chance has better internal controls than he does, and he’s come to the conclusion that he wouldn’t do well on his own at college where everything is wide open. He doesn’t think he’s going to handle well that kind of freedom, and he doesn’t want to waste his parent’s money. Bottom line, his heart isn’t in it. He thinks the Navy is more the answer for him. He could get the discipline he feels he needs, he can travel which is what he wants, and he can do it on the boats and the water that he loves.

“College isn’t for everybody.” is what he said to me. Where had I heard that before?

Tommy.

Chase and Tommy had been hanging out together kind of tough before Tommy left for Spain. The two of them met through me, and they took right to each other. I can see why and how they became friends, even though they come from different worlds. Chase has a certain smooth style and seems pretty self-sufficient. Tommy is rugged, and appears confident and secure. They’re both adventurous in their own way, and want to be men in their own right. Both of them have probably seen in each other qualities that the other one would like to have.

I can see right through both of them to the insecure boys underneath.

I wonder if they can see through me?

We’re all frauds, just little kids right now, attempting to look like we have it all together while trying to make sense out of life and things.

On the day my father became ill, Chase said he’d decided to come to see him to talk over his decision. Since Daddy had been in the Navy, he thought he could get some help with talking to his own father about it. Of course, that didn’t happen. He said it scared the crap out of him when he heard what happened to us. At first, the word was that Daddy had a heart attack. Like everyone else, it seems, Chase told me he wasn’t surprised that I could fly, but he was impressed that I could do it so well. He said he should have known since I had my father teaching me. Chase admires Daddy a lot. In my eyes, sometimes I think Chase is a lot like my Daddy was as a kid and that’s why they get on so well.

Chase worried that my father had pushed himself too hard and was stressed out over the situation that had gone down between him and Wesley. He said that he and Chance had noticed a change in him when they saw him around after that night, and when they were with their father and mine at the club the last time. Daddy seemed preoccupied and he hadn’t played his holes as well as he normally does. I told him I’d noticed something, too, but I just didn’t put it all together that he was sick. Chase said if something had happened to Daddy, he would have found out where they were keeping Wesley, gone there on his own and finished what Ollie started. I believe he would have.

I’m not the only one who thinks the thing with Wesley had something to do with what happened to Daddy.

Then Chase goes, “But I should have known that if anybody could kick death’s ass, it would be your old man.”

We both had a good laugh at that.

Then he said I had it good. That I knew where I was headed. My future was mapped out for me, and I was lucky because all I had to do was walk the path that was laid out for me.

I asked him how so? I don’t even know what I want to do. Sure I have a few options, but I don’t know if those are the ones I want to take. I’m not sure of where I’m headed. That’s what I told him. Then I confessed my own doubts over attending college, and at first he didn’t believe me. He thought I was just saying that because he’d said it to me. When I explained to him that I felt a lot like he did, that I just wanted to get on with it and skip that college thing, he just grinned and put his arm around me to hug me, talking about that’s why I’m his girl, that he couldn’t believe a genius like me just wants to bum around, finding herself.

I don’t know about the genius thing or the bumming around, but I’d like to ‘find myself’ somewhere other than in college, I think.

When he hugged me, I pushed him off, but Chase is my boy. We think a lot alike, and we operate a lot alike. Both of us could go into our family’s business. It’s probably where we’ll both eventually end up, but there’s so much else that could be done before that, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in school.

At least he has the Navy option open to him. I’m pretty sure I can scratch that one off the list for me. I could just see my mother. She’s invested all this time and energy in me and my education only to have me enlist as opposed to going to MIT or somewhere. Jennifer would be the one covering her ears, trying not to hear what’s being said to her. Jonathan, too, which would be fine with me because I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. There are some things that I personally feel are better left to men. The Armed Forces is one of those things.

I finally suggested to Chase that he be honest with his father and tell him how he feels. If it’s the case that he isn’t totally sure just now, maybe he should hold off for a bit and maybe talk to Daddy once he gets home and gets settled. I happen to know that Daddy has a soft spot for Chase. He’d want to do that for him. I didn’t want Tommy to go to the Navy at first, but he has his heart set on it. I guess I’d feel better about it if it could be worked out that Chase went in with him. It didn’t hurt Daddy. I bet that’s why Tommy chose the Navy in the first place. Now there’s Chase.

What I’m sitting here thinking is that my Daddy has a whole lot of kids using him as a role model, other than John and of course, me. There’s enough of that Hart to share, I guess, as long as they know to give him back when they’re finished.

There is a reason why everything happens the way that it does. There’s a purpose for everything, no matter how little sense it seems to make to us on the surface. Daddy may not have had parents, but he’s made up for it in the kids who look up to him and count on him. I’m so glad he was given back to us for right now. We still need him here with us.

Marie just stuck her head out and said it’s time for breakfast. I can hear Uncle Bill in the kitchen. I’ll bet he’s left Aunt Pat in the guest house. He always gets up early, but, like my mother and Marnie, she likes to sleep in when the opportunity arises. I guess I’ll quit this right here. Uncle Bill will be looking for me once Marie tells him where I am, and I can’t write with other people around. Just the threat of someone saying something to me interferes with my flow. I’ll be back tonight when I’m by myself again.

J.

______________________________________________________________

Sunday, August 27

7:14 P.M.

I’m getting ready to go out in a while. We have Tiff and Britt’s party tonight, but I thought I’d stop in for a little bit before I do.

I was working at my mother’s desk this afternoon, inputting some more names and addresses into her computer and taking her calls. I was on the phone with Mrs. Barnett, thinking how it was funny that Chase had been on my mind most of the day, and there I was talking to his mother, who had called to check on me. I swiveled around in the chair to the bookshelf, and I noticed a book I hadn’t seen before. It’s probably been there all the time, but my mother has so many books there on those shelves that there are, no doubt, tons of them that I’ve never paid any attention to. Why this one stood out for me today, I don’t know, but I took it off the shelf to look at it. It was called Love Letters. Daddy had given it to her.

I knew that Khalil Gibran is a poet, and normally I’m no great lover of poetry. Usually I find the genre too abstract, flowery, or overly sentimental for my taste. I like for writing and writers to get to the point quicker than most poets do, but I haven’t been able to put this book down. I think it might be an invasion of my mother’s space; Daddy had written her a love note inside the cover, but once I got started reading, I went ahead and risked it. It wasn’t really poetry. It was excerpts taken from letters that Gibran wrote to Mary Haskell, which she had recorded in her journal. The words and the emotion they convey are so beautiful. Someone had highlighted certain lines, and I’m guessing maybe it was Daddy, directing them to my mother. Maybe they read the book together and highlighted the stuff as they went. I could see them doing that. I am hooked and so absolutely fascinated.

One of the lines that was highlighted said, “Among intelligent people the surest basis for marriage is friendship- the sharing of real interests- the ability to fight out ideas together and understand each other’s thoughts and dreams.”

If that isn’t my parents, I don’t know what is. Looking at it like that, I can see why marriage works for them.

When I read this, “Demonstrations of love are small, compared with the great thing that is back of them.” I thought about all the stuff that’s happened in the past week.

I thought of the interactions between all of us in this crisis with Daddy; my mother and me, my going to Uncle Bill and Aunt Pat and them tolerating me. I thought about my calling Pa and Sister Anastasia. I recalled Aunt Sabrina calling me. Then there’s Teddy, Tommy, Chase, Marnie, the flowers and cards that Daddy got sent from his friends, my friends. And then there’s my fathers’ son, my brother, John.

The text messages I got today.

One from Daddy that said, “Still breathing. Thinking about you.”

And the three from my mother: “Take your vitamin”, “Behave”, “Yes- I’m nagging.”, and the great thing that is back of every bit of all of that.

It’s a good thing. A great, awesome thing.

Then I read, “What is there in a storm that moves me so? Why am I so much better and stronger and more certain of life when a  storm is passing, I do not know, and yet I love a storm more, far more, than anything in nature.”

That wasn’t highlighted, but I think that’s me, totally. I’m good at crunch-time, but I fall apart after. However, I learn so much from the storms and going through them. For me, it’s like life wouldn’t be worth living if it weren’t for the occasional storm.

I like when a book is so good that I can’t put it down.

When she gets home, I’ll tell my mother I read this one. She says she can tell when I’ve been in her stuff, and I don’t want her to think I was sneaking to read it. Even though it was intended to be personal, I don’t think she’ll mind that I read it if I got something out of the experience.

J.

______________________________________________________________

Tuesday, August 29

1:37 A.M.

I need to be asleep, but I can’t go just yet.

I haven’t had enough of a good gap in which to stop to write since that last time on Sunday, and it eats at me when I don’t. It’s as if I fill up, and it has to get out of me before I burst with it.

My parents are finally home again. They came back yesterday. I wasn’t expecting them until later today, but the Duchess must have had her antenna up. Her radar started beeping to her that I might be having too good a time, and she needed to get home. They pulled in right as my picnic was at its peak.

About thirty people had showed up. We weren’t doing anything bad or being real loud or wild or anything; I’m just sure that my parents weren’t expecting to come home to a lawn full of us, hanging out. The limo pulled in right behind Chase on his bike, who was behind the pizza truck which was delivering what I’d ordered. Chase had hit me up on the cell from the gate to give me the heads up that they were coming in, but there wasn’t anything to be done about it. Aside from not expecting them, I didn’t have anything to hide.

Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill were out there with us at the time, but they were up on the bridge. Aunt Pat made Uncle Bill pay for the food. Marnie and I were going to take care of it ourselves and then make everybody ante up, but Aunt Pat said we’d been so good that they, meaning Uncle Bill, would pick up the tab. Of course, we didn’t argue that.

We really had been decent. We hung pretty tough all weekend but we took care of our appointments and responsibilities, as well as my mother’s affairs. We went to several different places when we were hanging out at night, but we managed to make it back home at a decent hour. We didn’t sneak anybody into the house, and we stayed out of the liquor cabinet. Even though Marnie and Chance have decided to become a couple, she doesn’t have one hickey on her anywhere. In fact, he kept trying to get her to leave and go for ride with him alone in the Corvette while we were at Tiff and Britt’s last night, but she wouldn’t go.

On the way home, I asked her why she didn’t take Chance up on his offer. She said she just didn’t feel like it, but I know better. Marn and Chance have the raging hots for each other, and she didn’t want to get hemmed up. If they had gotten somewhere alone, things might have gotten out of hand. She didn’t want to admit as much to me, but I already know that’s why she didn’t go off by herself with him.

I think our little girl is growing up.

There was a time when she’d have left with him in a heartbeat. Maybe this is the real thing with her, for once. They’ve been playing cat and mouse for a long time. I know that they both like each other, and that they have for a while. I told her since she’s committed herself to this thing, she’d better treat him right. I’d already said the same thing to him.

I didn’t realize it until just a little while ago that even though I’ve been back home and feeling pretty good, I haven’t quite been myself. I could feel that I wasn’t really in tune with everything going on around me. I mean, I was there, but I wasn’t exactly a part of everything. It was like some invisible force field was all around me, keeping me from completely enjoying myself. I thought it was a by-product of my recent anemic episode, but I found out yesterday afternoon that it wasn’t.

When my father got out of the car, everyone surrounded him like he was a celebrity or something. They were genuinely happy to see him back and that he was okay. I let them have him. I knew that when they were all gone home, I’d have him to myself. I went to my mother instead. I needed to see her more than I needed to see Daddy right then, anyway. I can be such a baby, but I don’t care. I missed my mommy. She was still in the car, so that’s where I headed. I thought she was going to fuss at me about all the people, but she didn’t. Then Marnie came, too. When Marnie showed her that she didn’t have any hickeys anywhere, my mother teased her about getting them in hidden places instead. At first Marnie thought she was serious, and then when she realized she was being teased, she turned red. Marnie isn’t a blusher under most circumstances. I think Marnie missed having my mother around, as well.

My mother got out to join Daddy, Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill on the bridge while Marnie and I went back to the picnic. I was playing cards when that  invisible barrier I talked about lifted. I happened to look up, and I saw my father looking down on all of us from the bridge.

Daddy was home, and he was okay. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized just how much that scenario didn’t have to be. I could have looked up to that bridge and not have had anything there except the memory of him. He looks so good, like he’d never been sick. Nothing like he did on the plane that day or that night I went to see him at the hospital.

Daddy was home, finally. The peaceful look on his face at that moment told me that he was thinking the same thing I was; it didn’t have to be, but he was grateful that it worked out that way.

While he was standing there, I saw my mother come over and kiss him on the cheek. Then she gave him back his wedding ring. They were pretty far away, but I could see that was what she was doing. She was probably tuned in on the same wavelength as Daddy and me; we’re still a family. Marnie, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Pat being here with us made it even more complete.

But my parents got me so late. They’re healthy and vital right now, but I worry that time is going to run out on me. I thought it had for a minute there.

I’ve got a lot of living to do in not a lot of time.

Just like my mother seems to know all the wrong things I do, she also anticipates my wants and needs. This is my last entry in Book I, Year Sixteen. My mother brought me back as a gift, two new journals. She came to my room and gave them to me tonight, saying that she figured with all that’s happened to me since my birthday, I was probably running low on pages.

“It’s like that some years.” she said.

We talked for a long time about me taking care of my health and about what’s been going on with me while she was away. I told her about the emails from Tommy, about Ms. Fee being home, and about Teddy being in Virginia. Then we talked about school. She asked me about how I planned to handle all of my extra-curricular school activities and what were my expectations for the upcoming academic school year. The woman is big on health and school. I think, too, she’s glad I’m going to have my mind tied up with that stuff for a while.

Those dreams I’d had were still bothering me, so I told her about not being able to sleep real well lately, and then I told her about the dreams themselves. She laughed about the one where she was pregnant. It was absurd, and I guess she was picturing my reactions, as well as Daddy’s, to the different exchanges. She didn’t laugh at the other one, though, and for a moment, I wasn’t quite sure that I should have told her about that. For a few minutes after I finished describing it to her, she didn’t say anything. She just lie there next to me with her eyes closed. Finally she said she thinks it has to do with the fact that I love my father and it bothers me that he’s an orphan.

I told her that I couldn’t see the correlation. She said that’s why I make such a big deal out of being his child. I really am all he has that’s totally his, and I’m mature enough to see that for what it is, but it’s also a burden to me.

She’d lost me again.

Her explanation for that let me see just how smart she really is. She said that although I revel in it, I also see being my father’s only anything as a huge responsibility. Subconsciously, there are things I don’t allow myself to do that I might do if it weren’t for the fact that it would reflect on him. I press myself to keep him proud of me. I push the envelope to keep up with him. She said that in my mind, I feel that he’s been let down enough in life, so as his only, I try to fill in gaps that I didn’t make. All of the things that have been happening lately have been threatening the reason why I am who I am. That threat manifested itself in my confusing anger and in those crazy dreams, both of which were essentially about having my position in his life challenged. That, to me, made a lot of sense. The bad stuff has to go someplace. You either deal with it then, or it will deal with you later.

Bottom line, she said, is that I’m spoiled, and it’s Daddy’s fault. When my mouth fell open, she laughed.

I wonder if she could see the stuff I saw about her and me in those dreams. I bet she could, but she just didn’t say. That’s not something she would say out loud. With her, it shows up in the things she does.

I told her about having found the Gibran book while I was working at her desk. I told her I read it, and that I hoped she didn’t mind my doing that. I explained how it was so intriguingly beautiful that I couldn’t put it down, even though I realized it was a gift to her from Daddy. She smiled this almost strange smile and then, to my surprise, she recited a line from part of it to me.

“I care about your happiness just as you care about mine. I could not be at peace if you were not.”

Then she said it was fine that I’d read it, and she was happy that I appreciated it. It surprised her, she said, that I did. She seemed genuinely pleased that I did.

It’s funny. Even though I only read it once, there’s so much of it I remember by heart. It was like I could apply almost every excerpt to some part of or person in my life. I like romantic things, but I don’t claim that aloud very often. I think my mother was pleased to hear me admit, for once, to having a soft place in me.

She said I could call the driving school tomorrow and set up my driver’s training classes. I don’t really need classes, but I didn’t say that to her. If that’s what it’s going to take to get my driver’s license, I’m keeping my trap shut, playing dumb, and attending the sessions. She told me I could go ahead and apply for my pilot’s license, too. In light of what’s been revealed to her, she didn’t see any reason for putting that off any longer either. I took a shot at that point and asked her again if it would be pressing to ask if I could have a car, now, too.

Still pressing, it turned out. She stuck to seventeen for the car.

Even though I had all those kids here when she got home, she never said one negative word about it, nor did she say anything negative to me about flying the jet. When she didn’t bring it up, for sure, I didn’t. We just talked, like mother and daughter. I like that we can do that. I love that we don’t constantly have drama and turmoil between us. I couldn’t take that if it was an on-going thing.

Before she left me, she told me again how proud she was of me and how grateful she was to me for taking care of Daddy like I did for her. I just said thanks, and let it go at that. I didn’t want to talk about any of that any more. It’s done. Over. I’m ready to move on.

I was getting ready to check my email before going to bed this evening, and I decided I needed a pen to jot down who I needed to get back to first. When I opened my desk drawer, I found an envelope with my name on it. Upon opening it, I discovered it was a letter, handwritten, from my father.

I could not believe it. Daddy isn’t one for writing too much of anything. He’s the CEO of Hart Industries. He’s Jennifer’s husband. J.J.’s father. He talks, and somebody else writes, types, or word processes what he says. But for me, he took the time to sit down and write his own thoughts out.

His words made me cry. I can’t say all that he said in it, but essentially what he told me was that should it ever come to pass that something happened to him to take him away from us, I am to take care of my mother- for him. I will be the part of him that he leaves with her. He called me his legacy, and as such, I am charged with that responsibility. Maybe I have been successful in filling in some of those gaps in his life that my mother said I didn’t make. When I thought about how I handled things this time with my mother, his wife, I just lost it. He said I make him smile when he thinks about me. I want it to always be that way for us.

It was a beautiful letter, one I’ll treasure all of my life, but it was a very hard thing to read. My father has given me many things during my lifetime, but never anything this precious. He said things that he’s not ever said to me before. It seems my father sees in me things that I have yet to recognize in myself. I have some huge shoes to fill, but apparently, he feels I have big enough feet to do it.

I’ve placed the letter behind the last page of this book. When I’m done, I’ll put this book down inside my keep box which stays under my bed. It’s where I store the other journals that came before it, along with the other private treasures from my life.

This thing with Daddy was one of those storms that while I was going through it, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. But now that it’s passed, I feel stronger and wiser for having survived it. I can also now see that others have been watching me come through it, and they’ve seen me persevere. They, too, now know something of my strength and my endurance.

The relation between you and me is the most beautiful thing in my life. It is eternal.

That’s Gibran, too. That’s my mother and me. And my father and me.

I read that this afternoon, and it’s so appropriate. In my heart, I know it was somebody who recognized that I needed to find peace that took my hand and placed it on that book. My grandmother is dead, but her spirit is eternal. Even though Daddy doesn’t know his father, and we can’t be certain that his father knew of him, the connection between the two of them is eternal, as well. Genetics, if nothing else, dictates that.

One day, I’m going to find out the truth about who my other grandfather was. The truth doesn’t go away just because somebody chose hide it from you. It’s still there and it will be, eternally.

I am my father’s daughter. I’m my mother’s child, too, her sweet girl, and she is mine.

But my last name is Hart. It always will be.

Good nignt,

J

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