“Laird, I need to talk to you about your sister,” Mr. Pendlebury said. They were in Laird’s flat, sitting at the dining table. Martina wasn’t there. She had gone shopping with her mother.
Laird was really not in the mood to talk about Antonia. “What about her?” he asked dispassionately.
“She’s in a really bad state. Yesterday when she came home, she was hysterical. I tried to get her to tell me what was wrong but she went to her room and locked herself in. I was at my wits end trying to figure out what to do. I didn’t know if to leave her alone and wait for her come to me when she was in a much calmer state or bust her bedroom door down. She didn’t leave her room at all and this morning, she didn’t come down for breakfast. I went to check on her. This time when I knocked, she opened the door. She was in a pretty bad state. I could tell that she had been crying. I tried to get her to tell me what was wrong. At first, she didn’t want to but when I insisted, she broke down and told me that you and she had a terrible row when she came by here to see you.”
Laird grimaced. “Is that what she called it?”
“What really happened, Laird?”
“Brace yourself,” he warned him. “What I’m about tell you is going to be extremely unpleasant.”
Mr. Pendlebury sighed. “Go ahead.”
Laird told him everything, beginning with what happened the night Karson and Antonia announced their engagement and the night of the tragic accident. He ended with what transpired between Antonia and him the previous day when she had stopped by. “I meant every word I said, Dad. I never want to see her again.”
Mr. Pendlebury’s face was very pale. “I can’t believe it,” he muttered. “I can’t believe that she’s capable of such things.”
“I saw the true Antonia that night when she first told me that she was in love with me. I despised her from that moment on and more so on the night that Karson died. When she stood over there telling me that she hated Martina as much as she hated Karson, I was shocked and then my shock turned into disgust. If she hadn’t gotten out when I ordered her to, I would have physically thrown her out.”
“Poor Karson,” Mr. Pendlebury murmured, shaking his head, his face filled with sadness and deep regret. “He loved her.”
“Yes, he did.”
“I understand why you never told us why Karson went out on such a bad night. It would have killed your mother to know the truth.”
“Yes, the ugly truth which I’ve lived with all these years. The only other person who knows about it is Martina.”
“If only Karson could have met a woman like Martina…”
“He would still be alive.”
“What you told me explains a lot of things–Antonia’s behavior when I told her about your engagement and her aloofness towards Martina. I thought that she would have gotten over her feelings for you when she realized that there wasn’t any future with you and that she would grow to love Karson. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Her love for you cost Karson his life. Poor Karson…” he stopped speaking as he got choked up.
Laird got up and went over to him. He put his hand on his shoulder and gently squeezed it. “May I get you something to drink?”
Mr. Pendlebury shook his head. “No, thanks.”
Laird sat in one of the chairs next to him. “I’m really sorry, Dad. I wanted to spare you a very painful truth.”
“I know, Son. Sometimes the truth, no matter how ugly and painful it is, must eventually be told.”
“It hurts after all these years. It hurts that Karson died believing the worst of me, his brother whom he had been so close to. Sometimes, I wish that Mother had never adopted Antonia. If she hadn’t, Karson would still be alive.”
“Your mother wanted a daughter but after she had you, she couldn’t have any more children. We both thought that adopting a little girl was the best thing. If either of us had known what the decision would have cost us in the future, we wouldn’t have go through with it.”
“No one knew. We are all fooled by Antonia. We all thought that she was happy to be engaged to Karson but it was all a charade.”
“We were all so happy that night–Karson, your mother, you and me. I thought Antonia was happy too but clearly I was wrong. What am I going to do now that I know the truth? Confront her?”
“Confront her. If she denies it, tell her that I told you everything–every sordid detail.”
“It’s going to be really difficult for me to relate to her now. She’s not the sweet, angelic person I thought she was. She’s nothing like the sweet and shy little girl who brought so much joy to your mother.”
“That little girl’s dead and a different person, one who’s full of hate has taken her place.”
“In spite of what she has done, I still love her. She’s still my daughter. Maybe I can help her somehow.”
“Only God can help her. She has a spirit in her only He can deal with.”
“I will pray for her and continue to be the loving and caring father she has known all her life. I hope that one day, you will find it in your heart to forgive her.”
“That’s the same thing Martina said even after I told her that Antonia hated her. Martina feels sorry for her and prays for her.”
“I’m not surprised to hear that. Martina is a very special woman.”
“Yes, she is. I’m sorry that she isn’t here. She will be very sorry that she missed you.”
Mr. Pendlebury looked at Laird, his eyes misty. “I’m not sure that I would want her to see me, an old, grizzled man cry.” And with that, he buried his face in his hands and broke down.
Laird didn’t say anything. Instead, he put his hand on his father’s shoulder and just let him have a good cry. This was the third time he had seen his father cry–the other two times were when his mother died and when Karson died. This time it was different–the tears were for all of them–his father, his mother, Karson, Antonia and him. A once happy family which had gone through two losses–one through tragic circumstances and one by natural causes. And all that was left of that once happy family were sorrow, bitterness, hate and unforgiveness.