Journals of the Secret Keeper (16 page)

"Willetta child, don't worry about us. We
too old to be duckin and dodgin," Mr. Ricky said.
It was too late. Willetta had already seen the
worry on his face. He and Martha held on to each
other a little more than necessary as they slowly
made their way to the car. Under different
circumstances it would have been comical how
quiet they were in the back seat. Not a sound
passed their lips on the ride from the country into
Clarksdale, Mississippi.
#
The party room had been reserved for the
family luncheon. At least ten small tables were
already filled with people by the time Willetta,
Andrik, Martha, and Mr. Ricky arrived. As soon as
they entered the room, Martha practically dragged
Mr. Ricky across the room as far away from Andrik
as possible.
Andrik had been quiet. He was
uncomfortable and tense.
Willetta could feel it.
She herself was nervous and pensive. She didn't
know what the evening would bring. The unknown
had grown out of control and was shadowing her
every move. No one could relax under these type
circumstances. She didn't even try to conjure up
words of comfort for Andrik.
Gwenneth and Samuel wanted Andrik and
Willetta at their table. Besides the four of them
there was a young boy at the table as well. Willetta
smiled at him and he smiled back.
Gwenneth introduced him, "This is Chance,"
she said.
"Hi, Chance," Andrik said and reached his
hand across the table. The boy shook it with
another big smile on his face. "Did you get bored
on the drive down here?"
"No, I like traveling. I like to read too," he
said. "I brought some books to read. So, nope, I
didn't get bored."
"Did you guys have another baby," Willetta
asked incredulously.
"No, we did not," Gwenneth said
indignantly, before laughing. "Chance belongs to
another family member. It's so many of us here. I
have to introduce you to everyone, Willetta."
Andrik was staring at the child with a frown
on his face. "He looks like you Willetta," he said.
"Well, we're all relatives," Samuel cut in.
Andrik still stared. "But he looks just like,
Willetta. Smile again Chance. I know I'm not
crazy," he insisted.
Willetta looked at the child again. She
looked very closely at him. She turned her head
sideways searching for something and then she
found it. The fingers of ice that wrapped around her
ankles and slowly made their way up her body
seemed intent on squeezing the life out of her. She
was immobilized.
Samuel and Gwenneth wasted no time.
They sent Chance to another table and asked Andrik
to help Willetta out of the chair.
"There is not to be a scene," Samuel said
firmly. "We weren't expecting her to find out this
soon. I'm a lawyer and Mama Jean has retained me
to handle some very delicate issues regarding
Willetta," he said by way of explanation.
Andrik had no idea what was going on, but
he knew Willetta was going through some sort of
trauma. Sweat was pouring off of her and she was
gasping for air. Her legs were like wood as he led
her out of the restaurant. He couldn't pick her up,
because that would cause a scene.
"Get in," Samuel said, as he held open one
of the back doors to his black Suburban. Gwenneth
had already climbed into the front seat.
"Where are we going," Andrik said after he
had lifted Willetta into the SUV.
"She's probably going into shock. We're
going to the hospital just in case," Samuel said.
Andrik looked at Willetta and his heart
almost stopped. She was staring straight ahead.
She wouldn't look at him. Tears were rolling from
the corners of her eyes.
"Willetta," he whispered.
His words fell on deaf ears. Andrik pulled
her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her.
Her whole body trembled. With a slow and heartstopping dawning, Andrik realized Chance must be
her son. She'd told him she had a miscarriage.
Andrik wondered what really happened at the
hospital and how much Mama Jean was involved.
He liked Chance. Chance was like him, the
product of a rape, but he was happy. Willetta was
fifteen when she gave him away. She was just a
little girl and Andrik knew that was probably the
best decision to have made. He felt sympathy for
both Willetta and Chance. If Chance didn't know
she was his mother, it would probably be best if he
never knew unless Willetta was willing to fully
accept him.
He leaned back against the seat with
Willetta in his arms and felt that all things in his life
had come full circle.

CHAPTER 40
Volume 3, pg.2 (February 1989):
"Maureen asked
me to take care of Willetta. The cancer is eating
her up and she ain't gone last much longer.
Willetta know her momma is sick, but she ain't
saying a word about it. It's what she ain't saying
that's scaring me. Stanley done seen this child and
still don't see that she his. He think I done got a
foster child. "

#
"What did the doctor say," Samuel asked
anxiously when Andrik came back through the
lobby doors of the emergency room.

"He gave her a sedative and they're going to
let her go home to sleep it off," he said. Andrik was
beginning to understand why Mama Jean really
wanted him to watch over Willetta. She had
planned for Willetta and Chance to be reunited. It
would take all his skill and a good portion of his
soul to deal with this situation.

"We can't leave until Mama Jean's will is
executed," Samuel said. "The rest of the family can
go home, but Chance and I will have to stay."

"I'm staying too," Gwenneth said.
"What do you need me to do," Andrik asked.
His main concern was Willetta. He didn't care
much about whatever else Mama Jean had planned.
As far as he was concerned, there was no will.
Mama Jean didn't have anything anyway and all her
secret revelations were doing was tearing people
apart and opening old wounds.
Samuel must have sensed his distaste for the
whole situation, because he said, "Andrik, I would
not be here unless there was something very
important to be resolved. Chance's future and a
huge sum of money are involved in this case.
There's a legal battle going on that Willetta knows
nothing about, but she has to be told and then she
has to make a decision regarding her son. Mama
Jean said you are a psychologist. I need you to get
her ready to make those decisions."
"Man, we don’t' even know what's going on.
How in the world can she get ready for something
like this? She's been blind sided," he said angrily.
Samuel remained calm and looked Andrik
directly in the eyes, "You two have not read the
journals, I see. You've had plenty of time to at least
get started. I suggest you do that immediately."
#
It was decided that Samuel would take
Andrik and Willetta back out to the house. Andrik
turned his keys over to Samuel and left it to him and
Gwenneth to get Martha, Mr. Ricky and his car
back home.
Samuel, Gwenneth and Chance would
stay with Andrik and Willetta at Thompson Estates
until Willetta was well enough to meet her son and
talk with Samuel.
When they arrived back at Thompson
Estate, Andrik gingerly gathered a sleeping Willetta
into his arms and carried her into the house. He
took her upstairs and laid her on her bed. He
slipped her shoes off her feet and eased her out of
her jacket. She murmured something and then
turned into the fetal position and went back to sleep.
He laid a sheet over her and sat on the edge of the
bed to watch her.
Andrik sat there on the side of her bed like a
statue for hours. Time passed and he still sat there.
His thoughts were deeply meditative. He wondered
how much control any man or woman had over
their own lives. Maybe it was a privilege to have
someone care enough to manage things for you
rather than let them spiral out of control. Mama
Jean had acted out of love. She'd been given a
second chance so-to-speak to help a child of
unfortunate circumstances. Instead of leaving
Chance in the situation, she'd rescued him. She'd
given Willetta time to grow into maturity. In his
case, he'd been left with a traumatized mother and
an unwilling father figure. The combination had
wrought devastation and unlimited pain for all of
them.
Mama Jean must have realized her mistake
and tried to make up for it. She'd been loyal to
Andrik all her days. Anything he ever needed
emotionally or physically she willingly provided
without a moment's hesitation.
"She loved me," Andrik said. His shoulders
began to shake and tears spilled out of his eyes. He
slid off the bed and onto the floor, his body racked
with sobs. Even though he was her husband's child
by another woman, she had bravely breached those
interminable boundaries to love him with all her
heart. "I love you too, Mama Jean," he whispered.
After a while, Andrik composed himself and
got up off the floor. The evening was late and there
was little light left in the room. Willetta was still
softly snoring. He looked down at her and touched
her hair. Then he lit a candle and turned his
attention to the suitcase of journals in the corner of
the room.
#
Within hours Andrik had found out about
Martha and Mr. Ricky. He read about how in love
his mother was with Richard. It no longer
devastated him to read about his mom's apathy
toward him. Once he understood how she felt about
Richard, he understood how having Richard's
father's baby must have destroyed her. He was
beginning to get a really good sense of how much
Mama Jean loved him when he heard knocking
downstairs.
He let Gwenneth, Samuel, and Chance in.
The boy looked extremely tired, but he still had a
smile for Andrik when he came through the door.
Samuel and Gwenneth asked about Willetta with
their eyes.
"She's still sleep," Andrik said.
Samuel nodded. "Where to, Andrik? I'm
beat. This has been a long day. You know I had to
demand Martha and Mr. Ricky get out at the old
house down the road. They were determined to
come check on Willetta for themselves," he said.
"They were very upset," Gwenneth said.
"Samuel had to tell them a little about what's going
on."
Samuel glanced down at Chance and said,
"Where can this little fellow sleep tonight?"
"I want to see her before I go to bed," he
said.
"See who," Samuel asked.
"My momma," he said. He wasn't smiling
anymore.
No one said a word.
CHAPTER 41
Volume 5, pg.1 (August 1989):
"Maureen's
funeral was today. I don't agree with how she did
this. Willetta don't know nothing. She don't even
know her momma is dead. Maureen told me to
leave her out of it. She want Willetta to remember
her being alive and well, not sick and dying. Today
is just another day to the child, but we all know
Maureen done lost the fight. "
#
Andrik had not forgotten how seriously and
deeply emotions could run even in a small boy.
The expression on Chance's face tore at his heart
and brought the memories rushing back. He could
see fear in the child's eyes and Andrik knew what
kind of fear it was. It was the fear of rejection.
"Come on. You can see her, but she's still
sleeping," he said gently.
Gwenneth and Samuel stood to the side and
let Andrik lead Chance up the stairs. Mama Jean
had convinced them that he was capable of
mediating the reunion between Willetta and
Chance.
The situation was emotionally
burdensome, but not impossible.
Willetta had been
their main concern when she had come to them at
age fifteen, but now Chance's well-being was
paramount in the situation. They could not allow
anyone, not even Willetta, to hurt him.
Andrik sensed Samuel's watchfulness and
was glad the boy had so much support. He knew he
had fallen in love with Willetta, but this smiling,
gangly, preteen little person had him solidly on his
side. One wrong move on Willetta's part and
Andrik knew he'd be forced to deal with her and
probably unkindly. His interest was, quite
understandably, personal.
He pushed the door open to Willetta's room
and gently pushed Chance forward. The candles
were still burning and the room was cast in
shadows. Yellow light cascaded across Willetta's
bed and they could see her clearly.
They approached her bed and looked down
at her. She was sleeping peacefully. Her hair
spread across the pillow as she lay on her back. Her
lips were slightly parted and she looked very young
and very pretty to Andrik. Chance must have felt
the same.
"She's so beautiful," he whispered. His eyes
devoured the woman who had given birth to him.
"My biological father hurt her," he said sadly.
It was then that Andrik realized Chance had
been given the whole truth about what happened to
his mother and how his birth came about. All he
needed was to put faces to the names. Now he had
the face of his mother before him and the whole
truth would take on a new and deeper meaning.
Andrik put his hand gently on Chance's shoulder.
"Yes, he did," he said simply.
Chance reached his hand out tentatively. It
hovered above Willetta's hair. Then he lowered it
and touched it. He lifted a strand and just looked at
it. "Can I kiss her," he asked quietly without once
looking away from the strand of her hair he held in
his hand.
Andrik shifted uncomfortably on his feet.
For the second time in a day, he wanted to cry. He
knew it would probably scare the child if he saw
him crying. He was still strange to the boy. So, he
took a deep breath and nodded.
Andrik watched as Chance leaned over the
mother he'd recognized all on his own; the mother
he'd been alienated from all his life. His lips
touched her cheek almost reverently and Andrik felt
some of what the child was feeling. This was
probably as close as he would ever get to Willetta.
It made Andrik sad.
But one minute the situation was controlled
and the next it wasn't. Andrik watched in disbelief
as Chance wrapped his arms around Willetta's neck
and pulled her in for a hug. She instantly began to
waken. Andrik was immobilized.
"W…what is going on," Willetta said
groggily. She looked into the eyes of the little boy
holding on to her and instinctively began patting
him on the back. Tears were running out the child's
eyes as he held on to her tightly. Her eyes lifted to
Andrik. He shrugged and fastened his eyes on
Chance's back.
"It's okay, sweetheart. Don't cry. Just let
me sit up," she whispered. Willetta's heart
hammered in her chest. His thin body was pressed
tightly against hers. She could feel his heart beating
and smell the strange scent that was his. This was
the child she'd spurned.
When she had looked across the table and
seen the freckles across the bridge of his nose, the
bottom had fallen out of her. Orlando Jr. and Olivia
both inherited the trait from Aunt Octavia. She
remembered those freckles on Orlando's flushed-red
and hateful face as he panted above her. She
squeezed her eyes shut as she still loosely held the
child of that violent union in her arms.
Andrik's voice suddenly flowed over her
like milk and honey, "Willetta, take it easy. One
step at a time. This is Chance. He knows you're his
mother and he wanted to see you before he went to
sleep. He thinks you're beautiful. Come on
Chance, move back and let her sit up. She's been
sleeping off some strong medicine. Let's give her a
chance to shake it off."
He gently moved Chance out of her arms
and gave her a warning look over the child's head.
Willetta understood the look and knew she was to
do nothing to make Chance uncomfortable. She had
to get herself together quickly. It was hard when
she was falling apart all over again. The memory of
the rape was washing over her in waves and she
wanted to throw up. When she looked at Chance,
she saw Orlando more than she saw herself.
He was also a reminder of how vulnerable
she had been. He was a reminder that her life
wasn't as complete as she thought it was. Here was
the child of her very own womb who had been
living apart from her for over a decade. He
symbolized everything wrong in her life and every
deficiency of her character. She was a runner. She
didn't know how to stay and deal with problems.
Her body weakly submitted to the onslaught
of emotions and she cried. It was a pitiful keening
cry of a wounded animal. She had no strength to
stop its flow. Andrik and Chance watched silently
as she struggled.
"It's okay to cry," Chance said. His voice
was breathless with burgeoning panic and stilted
with deep sadness. "He hurt you and I know I
remind you of what happened. I saw him and I look
like him, but I'm not like him.
Even though I'm
glad to be alive, I would give my life back to keep it
from happening to you."
Andrik's eyes narrowed upon Willetta and
he waited. He should have taken Chance and run
with him the minute her eyes opened. This was not
going well. Chance's words evoked a rage in him
that came from deep within the recesses of his
terrible past. No child should ever feel they
shouldn't have been born. It didn't matter how that
birth had come about. Andrik rose to his full height
and put one hand firmly on Chance's shoulder with
the intention of ushering him out of the room away
from Willetta and her destructive self-pity.
"I'm glad you're alive too, Chance and I
know you are not like him," she said gently.
Willetta wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
She threw the cover from her legs and put her feet
on the floor. She looked into Chance's face and
said, "I want you to tell me who took you to see
that horrible man and why."
It was spoken like a true mother. Andrik's
heart soared. His girl was back and now the real
show was about to begin.
CHAPTER 42
Volume 5, pg.5 (August 1989):
"Maureen lived
poor, but she left a fortune for Willetta. It's in a
trust and it will be some years before she can touch
it, but it’s a doozy. The lawyer said it's a life
insurance policy. He said it'll be a whole lot more
when she can get her hands on it. I wonder if I can
get one like that?"
#
Vivica Townsend had spent the majority of
her adult life reeling from the effects of a bad
marriage. At fifty-two she was wise from hindsight
and satisfied with her single self. She had one goal
and it involved her grandson, Chance. She wanted
him to be hers and hers alone. He was the one sure
fire beam of light in her life and it was time she
made him her own.
Jean Myers had contacted her eleven years
earlier with the not so shocking news that she was a
grandmother.
Her only child, Orlando Jr., was
serving a prison term for rape and assault. She'd
heard about his ruthless escapades through
television and newspaper. It had been shocking
though to find that the baby was the result of an
entirely different rape and that she was to keep the
child as a grandparent and nothing else. There was
to be no adoption.
Even if the terms were unethical and a bit
strange, curiosity won over and she agreed to at
least see the child. It had been love at first sight.
Chance was not the Neanderthal his father and
grandfather were. He was happy, sensitive, and
intuitive. Vivica poured every ounce of wisdom she
had into him and lent him to cultural exposures that
could mold him further into the promising
intelligent young man he seemed to be becoming.
She now lay in a substandard hotel in
Clarksdale, Mississippi. The bitter taste in her
mouth had nothing to do with the mediocre meal of
meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy she had eaten.
She was worried about Chance. This was the day
he'd finally meet his mother; the young woman
Orlando had assaulted when she was only fifteen.

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