By David H. Werrett
Dakota walked down the hallway between the rows of office cubicles. Stopping at my office door, she tensed up, prepared to confront the man who might be her natural father.
“Are you keeping a secret?” Dakota asked, standing in the doorway of my cubical, arms crossed in front of her chest, gripping her elbows with fierce determination. I was not familiar with that pose or her tone of voice.
“Not deliberately,” The best move I ever made was to be truthful with myself. I put aside the ever-present self-doubts and answered, “What do you want to know?”
“About my mother?”
I had two reactions when Dakota said those words, a recollection of that afternoon with Julia in my arms – the afternoon when I got her pregnant – and the sudden realization Dakota may have stumbled on to the fact that I was her father.
I was formulating my reply before Dakota could finish her question. Truth is always the best policy, so I was prepared to answer all her questions candidly.
In any case, me being me, sometimes the best way to buy time is to answer the question with a question. “How is your mom?” I replied.
That bought me time to scan my memories of the young girl who sat one row ahead of me and two seats to the right in high school. I had a thing for Julia alright. She became an obsession. I dreamt about her night and day for over a year. I made every effort to be around her at school. Julia was very popular. I didn’t stand a chance. I wasn’t exciting enough. I didn’t play sports or wasn’t involved in extracurricular activities.
Julia went on without me – on to marry the football quarterback. I moved on myself. Years later I happened to meet her by chance. She was the first to introduce herself. “Hi, I’m Julia, we went to high school together, remember me?”
As they say, “first comes the talk, then the bed.” So it was with Julia and me. The very last time we were able to see each other, she was pregnant with our twins.
I tried to recall her time line.
It took four years for her first marriage to fall apart. That seems to be the average time that love lasts. She divorced the quarterback. He was self-absorbed and ran around on her after their marriage. Then she went on to marry the dentist. Julia needed the security and status her dentist husband brought her. The dentist was a control freak. House on a corner lot, lawn service, pool service, housekeeping service, doggy day care, dinner out on Friday night, sex on Saturday night. Julia was ready for an affair. Our final parting was incredibly emotional for both of us.
I have my ways which enabled me to keep track of Julia. I stayed reasonably well-informed about our children, the twins, Dakota and Dalton. I thought it was an extraordinary coincidence that I should end up working for them at the Cause, a non-profit staffed by dedicated volunteers and a small paid staff.
So, here I sit in front of my daughter Dakota, and I hate to say it, but I am hoping the fact that I am her natural father won’t compromise the Cause’s plan — to find and save children and adults caught up in the net of trafficking.
“About my mother?” Dakota repeated, seeing I was a little slow in answering. “My mom is going to the high school reunion this fall. Do you have plans to go?”
I could tell by the tone of her voice and the position of her body that hadn’t changed one iota – Dakota was definitely on to something. The jig was up.
“I am your natural father,” I said quietly. “I was hoping you would never have to hear that. It seems the Universe had a plan for me from the very beginning. The plan to save the children is not for me to control. The Cause, you and Dalton have been part of that plan from the time I arrived on earth.”
Angel stood behind me, I could hear her fake crying. “Oh, merciful god of flat-footed fools,” she proclaimed loudly in my ear. “Sniff, what a story.”
You see, the Universe also arranged for me to be protected by an Angel during my stay here on earth.
I ignored my hidden wing-mate who must be suffering from OCD – obsessive chatter disorder. Smiling my best imitation of Al Bundy, the greatest father ever(!), I said, “You will have to talk to Dalton and decide if this revelation compromises the Cause. You really don’t know me, and I am sure you haven’t considered me to be the man you would wish to have as a father. Good at what I do, yes, save the trafficked children, yes, but I was so preoccupied by my work I never took time to master loving relationships.
“Who’s Dakota? She’s the other woman, isn’t she, the one who’s is stealing your attention, isn’t she? You are just like all the other guys. You have been stringing me along. You have another woman while I am at work. I hate you!”
These were the words tossed at me this morning from the one woman who decided she could handle my dedication to my work, and my difficulties handling intimate relationships.
Divulging the secret, that I was Dakota’s father was bad enough, but I could not afford to lose this woman.
“Looks like I have two women who hate me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dakota hates me, Dakota is my daughter.”
“Oh god, a big secret. What else?”
“I have a son, Dalton. Dakota and Dalton are twins. Dakota hates me because she just found out I am her natural father. She told Dalton – I expect to hear from him soon.”
“She is really angry, she confronted her mother, it didn’t go well. It has been a life of lies for them, I understand her anger.”
“What do you mean a life of lies for them. Haven’t you been living a life of lies along with them?”
“I didn’t know they were my children until recently.”
“What!” Lydia exclaimed. “You never intended to tell me?”
“I had an affair with their mom, Julia. She ended our relationship suddenly. It didn’t seem right, I thought she loved me. I had a crush on Julia in high school, she flirted with me. I wasn’t good enough for her. She wanted a bigger fish. She wanted more, the big house, the pool, fancy cars, domestic help, the whole nine yards of materialism. I couldn’t offer that. I was too poor, from the wrong part of town.”
“Were you so naive as to think you wouldn’t knock her up?”
“She told me she was on the pill.”
“Your story better be good.” Lydia said, the very hurt expression couldn’t mask the tears welling up in her eyes.
“After graduation Julia married the high school quarterback. Their marriage didn’t last. Too many young women wanted him. To top it off, he was gay. Their marriage couldn’t survive. In those days being gay wasn’t acceptable. I guess he wanted to be accepted so badly that marriage was his ticket to a respectable life, maybe he thought being in a straight relationship could change his persuasion. Then he met just the right guy, so they left for California where they could fit in.
“Julia quickly found another man. He was a catch, from a wealthy family, a professional. The only hitch was they couldn’t produce children. Julia needed that to live her dream, big house on the big lot, two kids, you know.”
“When did you get together with her?” Lydia said, this time with softness in her voice.
“Forty-two years ago.”
“That’s a long time ago. They didn’t know, you didn’t know? Do you see Julia now? Were you seeing Julia while sleeping with me?”
“Whoa, that’s a lot of questions. Let me take it from the beginning for you.”
“I found a job working at a marina on the lake. Julia’s parents had a place up there. Julia would come up in the summer and stay there. Her second husband would join her on the weekends. They belonged to the yacht club, very prestigious, exclusive, expensive. One day she appeared at the marina to get gas in her runabout. I was pumping gas then. I was twenty-four. She began to come around more often. She asked me where I was staying, so I told her, in a cabin on a secluded cove on the other side of the lake. She knew where it was. One day she showed up. She must have found out when I would be off, she just showed up.”
“That’s when you started an affair with her? You knew she was married right. Why did you do that?”
“Actually, I didn’t know much about her after I left high school. I never went to the class reunions, I only saw her in town from time to time, I just didn’t follow her life. I knew she was married to the quarterback. I didn’t know about the divorce and her new husband till a few years after. By then they were always in the papers.
“So, she shows up and you just tumble into bed with her, is that it.”
“Yes. That’s the way it was. I knew initially she was in it for the sex, I still had the hots for her, and I thought I could turn it into love.”
“When she broke it off, did she give you any reason?”
“She leveled with me. Some of her other friends were having affairs and she wanted to be like them. She figured I was safe enough, not in the mainstream of her social status. I was devastated to hear that. I thought for once in my life I might be good enough.”
“You expect me to believe she just dumped you and went back to her husband? You expect me to believe you just forgot about her for forty-two years?”
“Oh, I never forgot her. Most men don’t. I followed her alright, from a distance, of course”.
“She told me she was the one that couldn’t make kids. She said she was getting off the pill and going on fertility drugs. She was leaving me because the fertility process required sex at just the right time. She had to be around, so she could call him at the right time for his services. She wanted kids with him not me. I was just a toy, a diversion. I didn’t know she had already acted on her fertility plan – I was the plan. It was the dentist who wasn’t fertile, she dreamed up a way of convincing him it was her problem.”
“She told me to stay away. So, I did. I followed the news about them, about them having twins, it made the society page.”
“I saw the children excel in all their activities, sport, studies, awards and scholarships. I had secretly wished they were mine, I wanted to have children like them. I know now, for many their lives are not what they seem on the surface. The two of them excelled alright but that came at a cost. Neither one of them married or had children. I never saw anything in the papers indicating they had any relationships, other than their passion for saving abused children. My childhood was bad, I admired them for what they were doing. I wished someone could have helped me when I was a child. I followed them in the papers because of my own interest in missing children.”
“You mean you have been involved with missing children for years. It wasn’t just the recent girl you talked about, it’s been going on for some time. Why didn’t you tell me before this?”
“I have been involved tracking lost children for years since I got out of high school.”
“One of our classmates went missing, she turned up a few months later when she could escape her captor, it made the news. She tried to get her life back, it wasn’t working. She went after the man who used her, first legally, then to get revenge. The system wasn’t kind to her. I took her in, kind of a foster home, she was screwed up. I didn’t have an intimate relationship with her, she couldn’t, and I couldn’t, I just offered her a place to stay and some money until she could recover from her trauma, (I stopped here to catch my breath, worn out on the topic). The rest of the story is she killed her abuser, and then committed suicide. Her suicide changed me.”
Lydia stared at me intently. Using a very measured tone of voice, Lydia began a series of questions.
“Is this the reason for your aloofness, your chip-on-your-shoulder attitude, the reason you keep your distance from me? The reason you have so many secrets? It’s about your guilt of not being able to save her?”
Lydia continued on. “If this isn’t enough, the police are looking for you, what have you gotten yourself into?”
“What, the police! Did they come to your home?”
“No, to the ER. The security men and the head of the department were with them. They showed me a picture of you. Only it wasn’t you. I told them I didn’t know the man in the picture. They asked me if I knew you, I couldn’t lie, I told them I did, but the man in the picture wasn’t you. They thanked me and left. I don’t know you, do I? Who are you? God, why do I love someone I don’t even know?”
“You love me?”
“Stay on the subject. What trouble are you in?”
“I got tangled up in the murder, you know, they tried to prosecute me as an accomplice. The young woman testified that I wasn’t involved, and I knew nothing of the plans. The problem was the man that abducted that young woman was a cop. Even now the police are trying to deflect attention from some of the sex crimes that officers are involved in.”
“The local police may know my name, but nothing else about me. It doesn’t surprise me they had the wrong photograph, after all these years they are looking to blame someone else.”
“I should never have allowed us to get this involved. I’m truly sorry that I have caused this distress for you.” I said.
I could feel the emotion boiling up inside me. All my past seemed to be arriving at once. I couldn’t breathe. I remembered the exercises I practice when my emotions get out of control. Plant feet firmly on the ground, take measured deep breaths, breathe in from your nose and exhale from your mouth slowly.
Lydia shrugged her shoulders and let out a big sigh. “I should just walk away from you, I should forget I ever met you, I should forget we ever slept together, I just can’t get you out of my mind, I can’t stop loving you, now I am the one who is sick.”
“You saw the news in the paper today, the news of the missing young woman. They killed her you know, they killed her in a very brutal way.”
“What do you mean they killed her?” Lydia said. “Is that what is caused your nightmare? Who was she, who are they, why are you involved?”
“I didn’t know her. She was just like the other girls and women who get trafficked. They meet people on line, bad people, bad men and women who make friends with them. The young girls like the attention and the lure of adventure, the older women need the money. They are told stories that they want to hear. They meet up with the traffickers, Things go well at first, a few photos of the girls a few well-paying escort jobs for the women. Then the drugs start, the threats to the girls that their families will be told, the threats to the women that they will be beaten if they try to get out or go to the authorities. The girls are abducted, the women get hooked on the drugs, it is a vicious circle of abuse.”
“And then there are the boys, there is a big market for the photos and services of young boys. The boys are recruited the same way, they are told they like it and they want it. Eventually some of them try to escape that world. The lucky ones find my friend, the PI. He arranges a new identity for them. Sometimes he’s paid a bounty by the parents or the loved ones of the trafficked, sometimes he does out of the goodness of his heart.”
“Isn’t this a matter for the police or the FBI? How did you get involved?”
“I have a gift, or a better explanation, a curse. I read about the accounts of abducted children and follow the investigations while the authorities try to find them. Somehow my intuition allows me to put the pieces together and often I come up with who abducted them and where they are. I stake out the place the kids may be at. The abductors make mistakes, just enough for me to give anonymous tips to the police. The parents of the missing children have rewards for their recovery. That’s how I make my living. Sometimes I do it for free.
“You want me to believe you are in touch with these missing children? That’s crazy. Are you suffering from a delusion, a mental illness? Should I be afraid of you?”
“I imagined you would think like that when we first met. That is why I wanted our relationship to be a platonic. I got a hard-on for you and it changed everything, we went away for that weekend, I took the chance it could be different between us. I stayed away from the news, then I heard the voices calling again. I had another nightmare. You saw that when we were sleeping together. Then I knew it was too good to be true, eventually you would find out. I thought I could just ignore the screams of the children, I can’t.”
“I fell hard for you, too hard. I violated one of my rules. The rule that I would never get intimate with another woman after Julia. So now I have created a terrible thing for you. You should leave me now, let me be, to be what I have become. Let me play out this role. There is not going to be a good ending for me. The best I will be able to do is change my identity and disappear. I thought everything was done, completed and I would regain a normal life. No one, not even you, would know. Then the little girl was murdered before I could save her.
I was abused when I was very little. The abuse went on for years. I don’t remember much of the part when I was very young, I remember much more of it after age five. My initial memories are blocked to protect me from my past. It was then that I began to hear the children’s voices in my mind crying for help.”
“I talked with a social worker I know, who said it wasn’t unusual for the abused to have a sense of things that happen to others in the past, and premonitions of events about to occur in the future.”
“Now I have to face my children and face you and hope that you and they will accept me for the man I am and love me and let me continue my work.”
Dakota and Dalton
“We’ve been talking.” Dakota said, her voice was beginning to crack.
“We had an idea something was wrong concerning our natural father.” Dalton said trying to deflect the pain.
“We had our DNA analyzed; something doesn’t match up.” Dakota squeaked out. “I realized my initial reaction accused you unfairly. It would be a relief to both of us if we could understand who our natural father really is. Would you be willing to give a DNA sample? It would make us both feel better to gain some certainty.”
“That went well!” Angel said smugly. “I thought you did pretty well, owning up to your secrets Big Boy. One of these days you’ll get the hang of it.”
What!” I stammered back. “You don’t think revealing secrets of that magnitude is a big deal.”
“Yeah, well, you aren’t the only one with big secrets you know.” Angel retorted, in her all too knowing tone of voice.
It is painful dealing with my Angel sometimes. She is right, everyone has secrets.
The Cause went on to a big win in court. It seems my research had uncovered a child trafficking ring of major proportion. A raid by the authorities in several states resulted in the finding and the release of hundreds of trafficked individuals. For the law that made for an ending, for the survivors of trafficking their rescue and recovery was only beginning.
And for me, well, I was relieved my life of living the big `Secret` was over.
Lydia and I were married, Dakota and Dalton came to the ceremony to support us.
We danced all night.
David H. [d. h.] Werrett, a former professional pilot and businessman, successfully incorporates both skills in his writing, but with quirky twists. David has self-published two fiction adventure novels available on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords. A third book of selected poems and short-stories will be available in the fall of 2019.
David has this to say about his writing career, “As a young child I was always conjuring up stories and filling them with colorful characters, sharing them with anyone who would listen. Since then, I’ve progressed quite a bit to formulating longer and more complex stories and sharing them with much larger audiences. As a professional storyteller, I’m adept at using my imaginative and creative flair to bring my stories to life in engaging and entertaining ways.” Visit Dave Werrett, http://www.angelchroniclestories.com/