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It had never really bothered me, not having a father. My mother loved me enough and there didn’t seem to be a void that needed filling. Nothing really was missing. Of course I always wondered who he was, and where he lived, what he did, and who he knew. I would imagine my perfect father arriving home one day ready to shower me with presents but that was just a day dream, nothing too real.
One time I really truly wished my father was here. It was in the first grade and we were making family trees. After filling out all the categories I could (my mother, myself and my pet cat). I went to the teacher so I could start drawing the tree. I vividly remember the teacher’s hawk like face peering down at me through a thick pair of lenses.
“Why don’t you have your father’s name on this?” she inquired.
“I don’t know his name.” I replied sheepishly.
Her eyebrows raised in alarm and suspicion.
“Oh.” She reached over to a stack of papers and scribbled a note onto one.
“Bring this to your mother.” She stated and I, being young and foolish did what she asked.
When I got home I handed over the note sticky from childhood snacks to my mother who unfolded it smiling. Once she read its contents her smile quickly began to fade, her face fell into sadness and tears threatened to spill from her eyes.
That family tree consisting of only two people hung upon a wall in my hallway for several years, but only when I was older and a teenager did I realize its significance in my life.
Middle school girls can be extremely mean especially when they have long memories. Rumors began circulating about my existence, something I myself knew limited information about and about my family, primarily, my mother. Boys taunted me in the hallways and people stopped talking to me. Words like shrapnel bit into my skin leaving me pitted with cuts and pain. S***. B******. W****. Parents began saying I was bad news and my few friends became distant and then non-existant.
It was soon that I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to know. One night I gathered all of the courage I possessed and confronted my mother.
“I want to know who my father is,” I demanded.
She looked down and couldn’t meet my eyes when she said “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Why not? So all of these rumors are true. It’s true what they say about you and me.”
“No it isn’t! Let me explain to you. I knew I’d have to tell you one day but I didn’t want to cause you pain.”
“One day I was walking home from work. It was dark out and the streets were empty but I was confident that I knew where I was going. I got lost and turned into an alley. There someone jumped on me and threatened me with a gun. I was raped. A few months later I found out that I was pregnant. I didn’t want to get an abortion even though everyone suggested it. I didn’t want to kill something innocent. But the older you got and the bigger you grew the more I began to love you. “ By the end tears were streaming down our faces.
“To this day they never found him,” she finished.
I moved the remaining few feet closer to her and hugged her.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.