Digging for the Truth
It’s been three and a half hours since Harmony spoke a word. Two hours of that was the car ride from Austin to Houston. She left the café in a fury trailed by Samuel running after her with her purse in tow. He jumped in the front seat as she backed her burnt orange Jeep out the parking lot barreling down the four-lane street en route for their childhood home. Samuel wasn’t worried about the letter he read aloud in the car, as he lay zonked out on the dark sandy fabric sofa.
Harmony sat in a wingback chair, tuning out Wolf Blitzer reporting on the unrest on the Gaza Strip displayed on the flat screen hanging above the fireplace. Her mind was drifting on a backward spiral through what was her childhood. This very house with its redwood floors, five bedrooms, five bathrooms, custom kitchen, and straight run stairs was a hub for most of her childhood memories. She practiced cartwheels in the backyard when she was seven, learned how to bake oatmeal cookies in the kitchen at eight. She had her first driving lesson on their street at fifteen, and broke her leg chasing Samuel down the stairs at sixteen. At eighteen, in the driveway she hugged her dad, kissed him on the cheek and vowed to always be his baby girl before driving off into her life as a college girl.
That was a lie; she wasn’t Henry Monroe’s baby girl. She was Laurent O’ Connor’s but if he knew about her all this time why now. Why did he wait until the eve of her twenty-first birthday to tell her? Why did he wait this long to contact her? Why didn’t Mama tell me, she wondered. Did dad know, she paced along the trail of her racing thoughts? Or was this man lying, if he even was real. This all could be and elaborate hoax thought up by Cairo and executed by Samuel and Trevor. She looked at Samuel sleeping like a fetched out pup. He was too calm after hearing family wreaking news. Maybe it was fake. Or maybe, just maybe, it was true and these were the last moments of her normal, simple Huxtable family life. The tension and doubt was sending her stomach, mind, and heart along a five loop, two hundred drop rollercoaster with every minute that passed and her parents didn’t walk through that door.
She glanced at the brass wall clock; it was 4:20. They’ve been off for seventy-five minutes. That was ample time for her mother to sow up her last patient and her father to check in on his. They should be home by now, unless something happened to them. A patient crashed, a car crash, or maybe Laurent O’ Connor showed up at the hospital and they were arguing in the parking lot. Her Dad telling her mama he wanted a divorce, her mama crying in the car and her dad checking into a hotel.
The front door slammed. Every muscle in Harmony’s body tightened.
“My babies are home!” Her mama cheered. “Look, Henry our babies are home!”
“What’s the matter? Need money?” Henry sat his black leather briefcase on the floor and dropped his keys in the green glass dish on the pine table in the hall. “Something has to be wrong for ya’ll to be here and it’s not a holiday.”
Harmony looked at her father trying to figure out what she inherited from him. She didn’t have his wide nose, his bushy eyebrows or his sturdy, six foot-three frame. His eyes were coal black, her mama’s blacker than night. Harmony’s eyes were copper and her skin was sorrel. Her dad was ebony and her mother was coffee. She was always a shade lighter but she just chalked it up to DNA of a past ancestor. Samuel was the spitting image of their father, six foot-three, mahogany skin, bushy eyebrows that he tamed in the morning, wide nose and a sturdy frame. She had the same hips and a butt the African genes blessed her with like her mama. She was lean, with a button nose, curls for days, and dimples that no one else in her family had.
“Who’s Laurent O’Connor?” It came out Harmony’s mouth like word vomit. It was the question the sat on her brain during the entire ride home.
“How do you know that name?” Henry asked walking into the living room.
“Harmony took the letter out the back pocket of her triple wash jeans, unfolded it and handed the paper to her dad.
As Henry opened the letter Evelyn stood behind him holding her mouth closed, gripping her wrist with her other hand.
“He contacted you?” Henry crumpled the letter in his hand. He turned his head to Evelyn, “He contacted her!”
“You know! You know I’m not your daughter.” Harmony looked at her mama with fiery eyes. “Am I your daughter? Am I adopted?”
Evelyn inched closer to Harmony. “No baby. You’re my daughter.” Evelyn grabbed Henry’s hand. “You’re our daughter.”
Harmony wildly shook her head shaking her curls everywhere. “If I’m your daughter.” She pointed to her mama. Than pointed to her dad, “ And I’m your daughter.” She yanked the letter out her dad’s hand, ripping it at the end. “Why does he say he’s my father!” Harmony erupted all the tension and confession flowing in her body from her mouth.
Samuel sat up squinting his eyes as a quiet fell unto the room.
“Because he’s your father.” Henry softly spoke seeing the confusion on Harmony’s face and the sadness in his daughter’s eyes.
“What?” Samuel shot up. The remote slammed on the ground, the batteries popped out the back.
“Henry!” Evelyn voiced perplexed at what he was saying.
“It’s time. She’s almost twenty-one. It’s the agreement.” Henry reminded his wife.
“He should have come to us first.” Evelyn said.
“Agreement? What’s the agreement?” Harmony asked.
“It’s a long story.” Evelyn stated trying to avoid bringing up her past tryst.
“You had twenty-one years to sum it up.” Harmony harked narrowing her eyes.
“Okay, Okay. Your father and I were going through a rough patch, conflicting schedules, fertility issues so we took a trial separation” Evelyn wrung her hands shattered with anxiety. “One night a guy who celebrated his graduation from law school a little too hard needed stitches to his hand. One thing led to another and we had a one nightstand.” She looked down shrouded in shame. “Two months later when your dad I were talking things out, I found out I was pregnant.” Evelyn reached for Harmony’s hand.
Harmony pulled her hand away, slipped it in her back pocket. She scowled at her mama then her dad. Nausea built in her throat. They’ve been lying to her this whole time.
“So, what was the agreement?” How did you keep the lie hidden for twenty years, eleven months, three-hundred and sixty-two days?” Harmony questioned.
Evelyn shook her head holding her heart and her stomach stricken with guilt and remorse. She didn’t mean for any of this to happen. It was a one nightstand to prove to that she could be alone; get divorced and live to work. She was told she could never get pregnant, she didn’t think about using a condom. Stupid, stupid, mistake. She was pleasantly shocked when her nurse friend reported back that she was pregnant. It was during her first ultrasound that she found out her one nightstand would haunt more than one night of her life. She told Henry immediately. He was furious at first; then he remembered how he spent two nights of their separation and he came up with a plan.
“The agreement is—was, we all wanted the best for you. We were married.” Henry looked at a distraught Evelyn grasping her hand. “Laurent was being shipped off to the Middle East. He didn’t know if he would come back.” Henry paused. He said his name. He said the man’s name that did something he couldn’t do; give his wife the daughter she prayed every night for. The man who gave him a daughter he loved more than life itself. “He didn’t know if he would come back alive and we all wanted you to have a normal happy life. So we decided at twenty-one that if he wanted, he could come back and tell you.”
“Well so much for normal and happy huh.” A tear rolled down Harmony’s cheek as she folded her arms.
“Are you my father?” Samuel asked standing behind Harmony.
“Yes! You are ours.” Henry spoke unaware of what he said.
Harmony bit her bottom lip looking at the family portrait on the back wall behind her parents. A hiker took it two summers ago in Yellowstone. A massive sequoia exploding from the ground was their backdrop. They were hot, sweaty, and sticky as her Mama and Dad stood on each of her sides draping an arm around her as Samuel knelt in front. They were all smiles in cargo pants reeking of Off Deep Woods spray.
A haze of perspiration shield her eyes as she looked at the shattered faces of her parents but she couldn’t think about their hurt because her pain swarmed from her heart through her body like a swarm of angry honeybees.
“I should go.” Harmony walked out the living room.
Evelyn pulled Harmony’s arm as she passed by her. “Wait!”
Harmony pulled away. “I should go before I say something God won’t forgive” Harmony walked out the front door slamming it behind her.
Samuel watched his Mama and Dad embracing each other in tears and shivers.
Samuel opened his wide mouth, “Normalcy is a delusion of the mind. Everyone has something they try to hide from the world. But secrets are the flames that burn the house down. Hopefully, time will put them out. Just give her time. We’ll be back like we once were. It’ll just take time.”
Samuel left them in their house naked from the secret that blanketed them holding onto the memories lies built.