Standing in the foyer outside my grandparents’ front door on a Friday afternoon, Mom was visibly shaken. She had dreaded this day but delaying the inevitable was like trying to keep a lid over a boiling pot. Mom lifted her hand and knocked on the door. Daniel stood next to her, his head bowed, hands in his pockets. He looked very handsome sporting a new pair of jeans, a clean shirt, and a secondhand jacket. As usual I dressed in black feet to neck, I stood in between them and slightly behind, eager to witness the coming reactions that would reveal information about my family’s past.
Grandma opened the door and upon seeing Daniel, her carefree smile quickly contorted into a look of surprise. Before a single word was spoken, Mom’s demeanor was seething with defensiveness. She became a she-bear, ready to annihilate anyone who would dare to hurt her young.
“Come in,” Grandma beckoned, strange ambivalence in her voice. The kitchen was all steamed up with the food percolating on the stove. Grandpa sat in a chair at the table and looked directly at us. But, contrary to his spouse, his face did not betray even a hint of stupefaction. It seemed as if he was expecting Daniel’s arrival. He stood up and to my surprise, approached Daniel and embraced him with open arms. In that very moment, Mom broke down and Grandma turned to her daughter to serve as a shoulder for her to cry on. “It’s okay now, it’s okay,” she kept patting Mom’s shoulder.
Despite the outpouring of affection, the atmosphere in the kitchen seemed charged. Everything within me protested as I watched Daniel sway in Grandpa’s arms and Mom receive her consolation. I felt angry, unable to accept the fact that years of unfathomable anguish could be pacified so easily with a hug and a few pats on the back.
“Why did you deny meeting Daniel in the hospital?” I asked Grandpa. Grandma looked at me, as if I had just accused her husband of killing someone, but I only called Grandpa out on one of his untruths.
He released Daniel and looked at me, his eyebrows drawn. “I didn’t deny anything,” he said coolly. “You asked me why I cried and I answered, ‘children.’ Remember?”
In that moment, I knew I would not be staying for dinner. “You keep covering up the truth! You wept because you felt guilty. You knew he had found you.”
“Evelina!” Grandma shouted, but I ignored her.
“Even after you came home you didn’t tell us about Daniel. You kept it a secret from us, silently denying his existence.”
“What? Is that true?” Mom asked.
“Mom! Can’t you see this family has been brewing in a cauldron of lies? No wonder it has fallen apart.”
“This is not as simple as you think,” Grandpa said in a waspish tone.
I looked at Mom. “This is the true reason Dad had left. He couldn’t take this anymore, or your constant self-loathing.”
“Evelina, stop!” Grandpa roared, his post-surgical voice shaking the windowpanes. The kitchen fell silent before he spoke again. “You wanted the truth, you got it,” he said, a long wheeze following. “Give it a rest now. Everyone has suffered enough.”
Daniel looked like he could faint at any moment, the storm raging in the kitchen too volatile for his battered soul.
But inside me a volcano was about to burst. Weeks of stifled questions and pent up frustration had reached a saturation point. I forced myself to speak calmly.
“I will give it a rest once I understand why you left Daniel.” I looked at all the faces around me. Daniel was shaking his head, as if asking me to stop before things went too far. But I couldn’t stop now. I needed to drive it to the end. “And why all these years you have hidden from your own daughter his father’s true identity.”
“Evelina, compose yourself right now!” Grandma intervened, but I continued.
“All I want—all I’ve ever wanted—was for you to tell me the truth,” I said through tears. “But I keep feeling like you are constantly hiding something and I can’t understand why. Is it so bad to want to know?”
At that point, I didn’t even care about what he would say. Seeing Daniel’s pleading eyes not to say anymore, I felt alone and inept. I wanted to get out of that place and run away as far as I could, and straight into Sariel’s arms.
“Sit down, Evelina,” Grandpa ordered with thunder, and I did as he said. His stature seemed to double in size and he exuded a power I rarely witnessed. “I wanted to teach you, tell you everything I could, in time. But you’ve been moving at your own speed. While I do believe that there is a time and place for a man to interfere with the order of nature, more often things are better left to the command of higher powers much more intelligent than we can ever be.”
“It sounds like you’d prefer we lived in perpetual ignorance,” I said quietly.
“You know you’ve crossed a line, young lady, and I don’t only mean the demeanor in which you speak.”
To everyone’s surprise, I stood up and faced my grandfather, pointing my finger straight at his chest. “You are right. I have crossed the line. And I am glad I did. Because he is the only one left who cares about how I feel. He had found me and I will not turn away from his call.”
“They are not what you think,” I saw lightning in
Grandpa’s wary eyes. “And you don’t realize what you have done. This will trail you for the rest of your life.”
“Because they are hunters. Destroyers of youth and innocence.”
“Jesus! God! Help us,” Grandpa called toward the ceiling. Daniel was pacing nervously until he stopped by the window and stood there looking out and balling his fists. Mom was standing with her arms folded over her chest, a horrified look on her face. Every few words, her hand would travel to her forehead, as if experiencing flashes of remembrance.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“I know, and that fact should suffice. I don’t want to hear another word.”
“That is not enough of an answer,” I said, moving closer to the door. Grandma was moaning.
“Don’t do this,” Grandpa said. Lightning was crackling inside of his irises. I could see a powerful energy well up within him and did not want to be a recipient of the coming thunder. I placed my hand on the doorknob. “He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Not what you think,” Grandpa added.
“I don’t believe you,” I said, and stepped into the foyer. “I know there is more you are not telling me. And since you deny me the truth, I’ll just have to ask him directly,” I shut the doors, and fled down the stairs and onto the streets, Sariel’s name on my lips.