Reluctantly, she invited the lawyer in. She might have happily dismissed someone who came to her door on another day and at another time, but she was stunned by the fact that the person who came was her father’s lawyer. Even though the lawyer said thank you and walked in, Beatrice remained at the door. The lawyer also stood in the hall for a while, wondering whether to enter the house with shoes on or not.
“Ma’am?” said the lawyer.
The call had woken Beatrice, as it should have. For a moment, she didn’t know what to say or do. But after a short babbling, it occurred to her to lie down in the closet. She reached into the closet, took slippers for the lawyer, and placed them in front of him.
“Come in. I’m sorry, what did you say? I didn’t understand. Who… Whose lawyer did you say?” Beatrice asked confusedly.
“First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Jacobs. I am the lawyer of your father, Rudy James. I’m not exactly his lawyer, actually. A bit complicated. Please, let me explain to you.”
Beatrice made the of course sign with her hand and admitted him into the living room, but her head was reeling. Hearing the word “father” was strange to her. She didn’t have a father. Was he still alive? Beatrice remained in place as the lawyer made his way to the corner with two seats opposite each other by the window. She was supposed to ask a question, but she was still confused. Beatrice stayed in her spot and watched him, trying to remember the question she had to ask as the lawyer settled into the chair and rummaged through his bag. And she finally remembered.
“Something… Well. Do you want to drink something?” said while stammering.
“A glass of water would be great. I had a hard time finding you,” replied the lawyer.
What he said confused her.
“I live close to the downtown but…”
“No, not like this. I’ve been looking for you for months. Please let me explain,” the lawyer invited her to the table.
Beatrice made the minute signal and went into the kitchen. Taking a deep breath instead of pouring water, she tried to decipher the meaning of the word father she had heard. Then drank the water she had poured for the lawyer, and she had to take out a new glass. After a few seconds, she walked over to the lawyer with the water trembling in her hand, handed it to him, and sat opposite him.
“I’m listening to you,” she said.
The lawyer took the speaking position after collecting his documents.
“A few years ago, your father reached out to me. He paid me a large sum of money. He asked me to find you. It wouldn’t be a lie if I said I spent years trying to find you. He gave me a task. He said if you find my daughter, do not contact her, wait to hear from me. The news came last week.”
Beatrice was listening intently, but everything he said was foreign to her. “What news?” she asked.
“I’m sorry to say, but your father passed away,” said the lawyer, and pursed his lips to show his sadness.
“I didn’t even know he was alive,” Beatrice said quietly.
“I know. Your father told me everything,” said the lawyer.
Beatrice had nothing to say against this condolence. Everything she was still listening to was meaningless to her.
“He sent me a cargo before he passed away. He asked me to deliver this parcel to you,” said the lawyer and set the medium-sized box on the table. Then he pulled out a yellowish letter from among his files and handed it to Beatrice.
“He wrote this to you too,” he said, handing her the letter.
Beatrice took the letter timidly from the lawyer’s hand. She looked around the letter to see if there was any writing or stamps around it. There was none. The flavescent letter gave her the impression that the letter had been written long ago. After turning the letter couple turns in her hand, she asked the lawyer, “What should I do now?”
“Read, ma’am. I can read it for you if you want. It’s a testament, as I understand it,” said the lawyer.
Beatrice thanked him in a low voice and looked at the letter again. She was torn between reading it or not. Because she was sure that if she read this letter, her life would change completely. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to risk it. But she was also succumbing to her curiosity. She had received a will from a man she did not know. What could he have said? He didn’t know her as well as Beatrice didn’t know him. How could he find any common ground between them?
She couldn’t stand it and tore open the letter. It has 3 pages, all handwritten. She looked at the individual pages and glanced at his handwriting. His writing was beautiful. After holding the letters for a while, she looked at the lawyer. Seeing the lawyer’s supportive hand gesture, she decided to read. She was on a path of no return. And she read the first line.
“My dear daughter,” she said aloud. She thought she was reading to herself, but she was actually reading aloud. The lawyer didn’t warn her either, and he sat back and listened.
“I was born into a poor family. They gave me life, but they couldn’t give me life. My childhood was muddy in the cold corners of the house. I thought the job of a street lamp was not to burn. I searched for identity in the farm fields. I can’t say I found it, unfortunately. The countryside is full of shadows looking for an identity. I was no different from them. But luckily, we had a small radio in our house. It was the only thing that made me believe there was a life away from the farm. Every day when the broadcast started, I was there. The things I listened to affected me so much that I came to the conclusion that the life I live should not be limited to this. Because none of what was told on the radio was in my strange town. There were other lives, obviously, somewhere far away. One day, despite my young age, I made a bold and radical decision. I decided I needed to be saved and fled, abandoning my family. In the back of a pickup truck, I set off for one of the big cities. I loved the journey I took that day so much that I promised myself I would never stop again. But life is very complicated and unpredictable. I had to forget the promises I made to myself. Because I met your mother.”
Beatrice hesitated when she saw mention of her mother. A tear appeared in her eye, gliding quickly down her cheek, and landed on the bottom of the letter she was holding in her hand. The life she spent with her mother came and passed before her eyes. How dare he talk about her mother. She was now inwardly pissed off. But she continued to read with a mixture of anger and curiosity.
“The city has given me many opportunities. I have become a success story. I freed myself from bricks, manure, mud, and I read. I got lucky. Beautiful people gave me a hand. I cannot say that I achieved the life I dreamed of because I did not have a dream in the village. As doors opened for me, I got the chance to get to know lives I had never known before. One of them was your mother.”
Again Beatrice hesitated. It troubled her to see her mother from the pen of a stranger. She took a breath and thought for a moment, then continued reading.
“We met at university. We were both young people studying in different lectures. I fell in love when I saw her. Again, I got lucky because she wasn’t idle toward me either. Our distant glances turned into friendship, and in time, into a sensual love. When I was with your mother, I even forgot myself. I just wanted to be with her, live her, and spend time with her. So much so that the love of both of us ended in a wedding table. I was so caught up in her that I abandoned all my dreams and married her. Your mother was a cultured person. But she didn’t have dreams as big as mine. She was ready to devote herself to the nuclear family structure. I, on the other hand, could not take kindly to this idea, but still, due to my love for your mother, I continued to live each step of the relationship with her in turn. But the next step scared me. When your mother told me she was pregnant, my dreams suddenly melted before my eyes. I couldn’t bear to see myself as someone who commutes to work every day, rotting his life between the walls.”
The first page was finished. Her mother had never told Beatrice anything about her father. She didn’t know how they had met. She had even learned today that she was in love. Although the anger in her heart told her to tear up all the pages, she continued and changed the pages out of curiosity for the facts she could learn next.
“I was interested in photography when I was studying. Photography introduced me to cultures I did not know or even heard of. I also loved watching movies. In our time, films were a fascinating experience. After watching Roman Holiday in the cinema, I had the idea to go and travel the world, but I always kept it from the depths of my mind because of your mother. But when I found out about you, I got scared. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to live my dreams. Because I had to live. I should have felt. And for that reason, I left suddenly one night.”
Beatrice stopped again. She was out of breath. Even though the idea of crumpling the letter was still on her mind, her curiosity was overcome by the sequel.
“Sorry, ma’am,” said the lawyer. Only then did Beatrice realize that she was reading the letter aloud. But it was too late now. He had already learned everything. She took a short breath before she continued to read.
“I’ve seen every color that exists, my daughter. In Africa, I’ve seen children dying in their mother’s arms. I met people with dark faces working in mines in South America. I saw every shade of red at the tomato festival in Spain. I had a fight in a pub in Ireland, they broke my tooth. I cried for peace in America. I have seen revolutions, overthrows, good and evil. I watched great movies in packed halls, whose names no one remembers now. I am one of the attendees of Rocky Horror Picture Show’s 300th show in Elgin. I watched Elvis, Jackson, and Led Zeppelin live on stage. I walked the streets for King and Mandela. I got beat up. My heart was pounding when I met Andy Warhol.”
As she read these parts of the letter, an involuntary smile came to Beatrice’s face. Although she did not know most of the people or names he counted or had never heard of the movie he was talking about, the excitement in the lines penetrated her heart. Her anger was slowly giving way to just curiosity.
“I have seen and experienced so much that I should have had enough. But I was never satisfied. As I ate, my stomach grew, and I wanted more. I tried to live more. I traveled from country to country, from city to city, until life stopped for me. I became part of a new adventure every day. I’ve never had a home. I didn’t have a car either. Because all the houses and cars were mine. The world was mine. As long as I had the roads with my camera in hand, I wandered until the end of life. If you are reading this letter today, it means that life has stopped for me, my dear daughter. Roads don’t end, but lives do. So many lives are gone, gone before my eyes. I was one of the people who attended John Lennon’s funeral. Even my adventure to attend that funeral is a story in itself.”
Beatrice was sure her father was laughing as he wrote the last sentence. Anger had now given way to curiosity and pity. Breathing was also improved. She was already on the last page. That page was only half full. That’s why she kept reading.
“If this letter has reached you, my daughter, it means my relationship with life is cut off. They probably found me in the corner of a poor town or in a noisy city hotel room. I have no idea. Only God knows where I am. I am writing this letter first to apologize to God and then to you. God won’t forgive me, but maybe you will. Sorry. I chose to live the world over you. I’m sorry, I left you alone. I’m sorry, but I don’t regret it. And again, I’m sorry because I wanted to live. Forgive me, my daughter. I may never have met you, but I want to dedicate my life to you.”
The lawyer, who had the opportunity to have Beatrice read the letter aloud, opened the box on the table with her last sentence. Beatrice looked at the box in surprise and continued reading.
“I have nothing but what I have been through. All yours. I am all about my photos. Maybe they will have value to you. Maybe one day, you can say, my father, whom I never knew, lived. Maybe you can understand me. It’s okay if you don’t understand, my daughter. You’re right. Forgive me, again.”
Just below the last sentence of the letter was his father’s signature. His signature was beautiful, as was his handwriting. She stared at the signature for a while.
“I understand you’ve never met your father,” the lawyer said.
“No. All I know is that he left the house one day and never came back. I wasn’t even born when he left. We had no idea what he was doing or where he was. Until now.”
The lawyer pulled out another letter from his files.
“He has a letter for your mother, too,” said the lawyer.
But Beatrice didn’t hold out her hand this time.
“Burn it. I can’t read that to her. My mother died, forgetting him. I don’t want her to remember him in her grave.”
The lawyer pointed at the box, saying, “These photos are all yours. I have a few more boxes like this in my car.”
Beatrice picked up one of the photos from the box. In the photo, 4 people were posing, hugging each other, and laughing. She thought for a moment, maybe one of the people in this photo was her father. She didn’t even know what he looked like.
“I don’t know how to feel. I can’t be mad at a man who never was. He’s not even in the photos. There are always others. Maybe this is him, I don’t know. Maybe he’s one of them. But at least he had a great life, didn’t he?”
Beatrice was flipping through the photos as she asked the question, but the lawyer kept silent.
“There are people who will die for what he did. He didn’t want to spend his life with 2 people in a narrow house. How could we be enough when even the whole world wasn’t enough for him?”
“What do you want me to do? Shall I bring the other boxes?” said the lawyer.
Beatrice took another photograph. It was a photo taken on a ferry in America. The Statue of Liberty was in the background. In the photograph, a man was leaning against the railing and watching the view. There was excitement on his face. “Maybe this is my father,” thought Beatrice with a smile on her face.
“I don’t know. I have no idea.”