The doorbell rings but you weren’t expecting company. In fact, in the week since you were rescued, you’ve barely had any contact with the outside world. This has not been your doing, of course. Even at a time like this, there’s nothing you crave more than human interaction. It was your father—fresh off the plane from Kingston—who made it clear to your colleagues and the press that you weren’t to be disturbed. Your seclusion has been orchestrated. You’re a recluse by design.
Beyond the occasional “thinking of you” text and voicemail, most have complied. So it comes as a shock to you that standing on the opposite side of your peephole is none other than Thaddeus Rogers.
Thaddeus may be top brass at the network but he’s not very polished. You made the mistake of screwing him last year and when you refused to make it a regular thing, he got angry. Called you frigid. Stiff. Said if he wanted to sleep with a corpse he’d exhume his late wife. It was hurtful of course and you should have responded in kind. Should have thrown his iPad in the toilet. Should have told him the nickname you gave his dick, “Limp Biscuit.” But instead you did nothing. Played dead.
“Stacy-Ann,” he says when you open the door. “I’ve been worried sick about you.”
If he had said this while not simultaneously texting someone, you might have believed him.
“What do you want, Thaddeus?” you ask, closing the door behind you to join him on the porch.
“You’re not going to invite me in?”
“My father’s inside, taking a nap,” you inform him.
You’ve never been much for small talk and so for the few moments of silence that fall between you, you stare awkwardly at his gingham shirt and monogrammed cufflinks.
“Have you listened to any of my messages?” he asks, concerned.
That’s when your heart sinks. You think back to the roadblock in Aleppo where the kidnappers stopped your car, to the M16 pointed at your head. You think back to those weeks in captivity, to the blindfolding and the groping, the torture and mind games. And you remember that this awful thing has not only happened to you.
“Is this about Tsegaye?” you ask like a frightened child. “Has he been found?” The look of terror in his bottle-brown eyes still keeps you up at night.
“No,” Thaddeus says, shaking his head. “But we’re working on it.”
“So you’re going to pay the ransom?
Thaddeaus shuffles his feet and sighs. “We’ve been advised by Homeland Security …”
“Not this ‘we-don’t-negotiate-with-terrorists’ bullshit.”
“They said it only emboldens them.”
“They’re higglers in a market,” you say. “And we’re just merchandise to them. Like bloody produce. But they can be bargained with, you know? Everybody has a price.”
Thaddeus stares at the cast on your arm and frowns. “We have to weigh our options.”
“Just pay them the money.”
“Some of us don’t have the luxury of being a prime minister’s daughter,” he says.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m saying there’re laws against this. Not everyone has diplomatic immunity. And even if that weren’t the case, I’m not sure we could afford to pay. We’re not CNN, Stacy-Ann. Hell, we’re not even Al Jazeera.”
You look away at the dark clouds gathering like military formations.
“I keep playing it over in my head,” you say. “I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but I’m pretty sure they took us west.” You close your eyes for a moment and remember the sound of waves crashing in the distance and the way the sea salt clung to the air. “We were definitely taken to a coastal village.”
“I think maybe the Latakia district …”
“It’s a stronghold for many of Assad’s loyalists.”
Thaddeus hasn’t called you that in a long time and it stops you cold.
“We’re working with one of the best security firms in the world. Don’t worry, we’ll find him.”
His confidence buoys you for a moment.
“Listen,” Thaddeus says. “I actually came here to talk about getting you back on air.”
“The network wants you to tell your story. I’ve met with several producers in the prime time slot. And we could air portions on the morning and evening shows.”
“Just in time for November sweeps,” you say. “Did you even come here to see how I was doing?”
“Of course I did.”
“It’s always business with you.”
You open the door to head back inside.
“Just say you’ll think about it,” he says, before you disappear.
Hours later, the floorboard above your head squeaks. From the landing, your father announces that he’s going to the supermarket and asks if you want anything.
“Sunflower seeds,” you yell back.
When he descends the staircase, you see that he’s wearing a jacket and his signature tinted glasses. When he reaches the living room, he nods toward the television and kisses his teeth. The Walking Dead is on marathon. You tuned in for the first few episodes, but now it’s just background noise.
“I don’t know why you like to watch these duppy movies,” he says. “Life nuh scary enough?”
“My mortgage, my cable,” you say.
“Can’t you watch something more edifying?”
You hand your father the remote and he immediately switches to Fox News. He’s been with you for a week and already knows each cable channel by heart.
You roll your eyes. “What could be more edifying than this?”
“You must always keep an eye on your competitor,” he says, but it’s not long before he starts shaking his head. “In America, the sky is red and the sun is green.”
It dawns on you that his age may have finally caught up to him. “What on earth are you talking about?”
“All day long it’s the same lie over and over.”
“Repeat it enough and it becomes truth.”
“They all read from the same script.”
“There’s no greater sideshow than politics, Daddy. You know this firsthand.”
“You think we could go on with anything like this in Jamaica?”
There are several ways you can respond, but the instant you see the grainy photo of Tsegaye, bloodied and bruised, flash across the screen, you’re at a loss for words. The headline blaring: NEW VIDEO OF ABDUCTED JOURNALIST.
“Isn’t that your friend?” your father asks, and you begin to weep. He scrambles for the remote to turn off the television and then stares at you for some time, unsure of what to do. “Gal pickney,” you can hear him say.
You assure him you’re not upset. You’re just happy Tsegaye’s still alive.
“One of the VPs from the network came by earlier,” you say, folding yourself up on the couch.
You nod. “They want to do a special on the kidnapping.”
Your father begins examining the grocery list in his hand. “Are you going to do it?” he asks without looking up.
You want to tell him that for a brief moment you actually considered it, even thought of a few good sound bites. Maybe you’d tell them that a split lip tastes like a mouth full of copper pennies, or the different ways the skin tingles depending on where the barrel of a gun is placed.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” you say. “The attention shouldn’t be on me with Tsegaye still out there. And I don’t want to go on national television as ‘Stacy-Ann Glover: Victim Journalist.’ It’ll turn into an episode of Dr. Phil.”
Your father is a man of many words but not the sentimental kind. Even when he first saw your broken arm, the fat lip, and the purple half-moons adorning each of your eyes, the right words failed him. Now, instead of trying to comfort you, he begins a sermon on the thirty-second president of the United States. Not New-Deal-FDR but Polio-Stricken-And-Suffering-From-Bouts-of-Paralysis-FDR. He tells you that photos of the man in a wheelchair are rarer than Ted Cruz telling the truth; that he was always sure to be seen standing even if it was with the help of a cane or one of his sons. Your father tells you that FDR convinced the nation he was fit to lead by controlling his image.
“This is what you must do,” he says.
You scratch your head. “It sounds very Wizard of Oz to me. Too many illusions. I wouldn’t be able to keep up that kind of front.”
Your father sweeps his palm across the salt-and-pepper hairs of his chin. “Let me ask you a question,” he says. “How many foreign correspondents in your field are women?”
You shrug. “Maybe five.”
“And how many are black?”
You breathe deep. “Just me.”
Your father shakes his head. “I can’t begin to fathom what you’ve been through. And I understand if you don’t want anyone to see you in this state. But this is a crucial moment in history. You’re a jewel of Jamaica paving the way for black women in America and around the world. You have a duty, you understand? And if you were a man, no one would think twice if you were back at work already. Don’t let them think you’re weak. You’ve worked too hard to get where you are.”
“So you think I should do it?”
“I’m saying do what you need to on your own terms, and everyone will see you, not as a victim, but as someone who’s vulnerable, yet strong.”
“Like you were at election time?”
Your father doesn’t like to talk about it, but he was also a victim of political violence. In the 1980s, he was involved in a long and exhausting battle for prime minister with his rival, Radcliffe Small. Each party controlled sections of Kingston and by default the gangs that inhabited them. As Election Day approached, your father was ahead in the polls. He finally appeared to be besting his opponent. But at a campaign stop in Tel Aviv, a garrison controlled by Small, a gunman shot your father in the head. Feared dead, members of your father’s party blamed Small. Then, the day before the election, your father slipped out of the hospital and returned to Tel Aviv to give a speech. The only evidence of his injury was a bandage wrapped around his head and a patch over his left eye. It was a landslide victory.
“You ever think about how close you came to dying?”
“No,” he says matter-of-factly.
“You don’t ever feel like you cheated death?”
“This is morbid, Stacy-Ann.”
“To acknowledge your own mortality? I came face-to-face with it, Daddy.”
“The fear alone will change you, make you do things you never thought you were capable of. The things I said, the things I did. I just want to know what it felt like when it happened to you.”
Your father is visibly uncomfortable. “I can’t remember,” he says. “It was long ago.”
Dusk has settled. Your father zips his jacket and you walk over to hand him an umbrella. You want him to hug you, to pat you on your back with his stubby hands and tell you everything will be okay. But your father has never touched you. Not to help you cross the road. Not even to spank you. What he lacked in affection he felt he could compensate with political discussions. Like the time when you were 11 and got your period for the first time. Your mother was in the hospital battling stage four cancer so you went to him with your stained underwear, afraid that you too were dying. Instead of putting you at ease about your body, he compared your uterus to the Thirty Years’ War because, as he put it, there would be “bloodshed for decades to come.”
No, your father does not comfort you. Instead he brings up the rash of burglaries in your neighborhood and suggests you set the security alarm after he leaves. He says this as if you and terror aren’t already acquainted.
Stark Odom is late to the taping and your producer, Jessica, can’t get a hold of him on his cell. You took your father’s advice and told Thaddeus you’d return on your terms. There would be no special on the kidnapping until after Tsegaye was found—an incentive you hoped would make the network pay the ransom. In the meantime, you’d go back to doing interviews. He didn’t argue with you, of course. Just your presence alone would boost ratings.
The walls of your dressing room are lined with photos of you in Humvees and flak jackets. You try going over notes but your legs won’t stop shaking and your right hand keeps giving your thigh the Vulcan death pinch. Jessica notices how nervous you are and finally asks, “You sure about this?” It’s been the refrain since you stepped into the studio. Everyone either coddles you or avoids you completely. They mean well, but it’s a little unnerving when they examine the whites of your eyes to see if you’ve been crying or the bags under them to see if you’ve been getting any sleep. Someone went so far as to point out all the worry lines on your face. This is what you are now—an Etch-a-Sketch of pain.
The cameraman navigates over a maze of black cords and blue electric tape to hand you the mic pack when Stark walks in, followed by his attorney. Stark is embroiled in a legal battle with his in-laws over prolonging life support for his wife, Meryl, who’s lying in a vegetative state. You were hoping to be assigned something more high profile, but it could be worse. You could be covering the government shutdown.
The expression on Stark’s face is strangely comforting. He looks the way you feel these days. He is furrowed brows and full-sleeve tattoos. He smells like a pack of menthols that have just smoked a pack of menthols.
“Thank you for coming,” you say.
Stark and his attorney take their places. The studio grows quiet and the cameras begin to roll.
“Mr. Odom,” you start. “Your case received national attention after Senator Ellen Waters mentioned you in a campaign speech. She later spearheaded Meryl’s Law, which was passed by the Virginia legislature, some say knowing it would later be declared unconstitutional. Her critics believe it was nothing more than political grandstanding. What are your thoughts?”
“I don’t pay attention to the naysayers. This is my life. I’ve been fighting for Meryl for four years. Call it what you want, I’m just happy Senator Waters saw what this was really about.”
“You were dealt a major blow this week when the appellate court reached a unanimous decision to overturn Meryl’s Law. What are your hopes now?”
“I’m prepared to take this all the way to the top.”
“To the U.S. Supreme Court.”
“Mr. Odom, you called this a right-to-life issue. Yet Meryl’s parents maintain that it would be her wish to end life support.”
“That’s not true,” Stark protests. “If you knew the kind of person she was … is. She would never…There’re experimental treatments out there. She just needs time.”
“Her parents believe she’s already been through a type of death.”
His laugh comes off as a throaty grunt. “You’re either dead or alive. Her condition’s not a death sentence and it’s certainly not an excuse for murder either.”
You want to tell Stark that it is possible to be living dead, to be conscious and breathing, yet life as one has known it has ceased to exist. But this is not an opinion piece. Tsegaye suddenly runs across your mind. Like Meryl, he too is straddling life and death, his fate in the hands of his kidnappers and those negotiating his release.
“When I enter the room, Meryl follows me with her eyes,” Stark says. “When she’s tired, she yawns.”
“Her doctors say she’s unresponsive.”
Stark remains defiant. “She responds to my touch.”
“Could it be involuntary movement—a reflex?”
The tension in his face eases enough for you to detect a smile. “When I put my hand in hers, she moves it away. It’s the kind of thing she used to do before the accident. She never did like holding hands.”
It is this revelation that reminds you of something. You put on your reading glasses and take a brief moment to look through your notes. It takes you a while but when you finally find it, you notice Stark is questioning you with his eyes.
“Were you aware that your wife filed for divorce just prior to her accident?”
Before Stark has a chance to answer, his attorney advises him not to.
“Mr. Odom, we reached out to Meryl’s parents, who’ve declined to comment. However, they did release email messages in which Meryl called you manipulative and controlling. Is that the case here?”
“Are you trying to control her now the way you did in your marriage?”
Stark really laughs this time. “Are you the type of woman that could be controlled?”
The question stuns you and you frantically scan the studio for your producer, but Jessica’s off camera getting the kind of news that makes her clasp both hands over her mouth.
Stark nervously lights another cigarette. “Meryl was terrified of highways,” he says suddenly as smoke billows around the room. “She was driving to the shop to give me the divorce papers when she slammed into that median. I can’t help but think if we had just stayed together.” His voice trails off. “Does that answer your question?”
As far as you’re concerned, the interview has ended. You propel yourself out of your seat and make a beeline for Jessica.
“Oh, sweetie,” she says, turning to face you.
“Did they find Tsegaye?”
Jessica nods, and tears dart from her eyes. “Last night on the Turkish border.”
“My God. Why didn’t anyone tell me? When is he coming home?”
Jessica places a hand on your shoulder. “I don’t think you understand. They just identified the body. We’re holding off on reporting anything until we can get hold of Miriam.”
“The body?” you ask.
Tsegaye is the flash of white teeth. He’s wild gestures making up for a halting lilt. He’s quick wit and dry humor. He’s long fingertips pulling on a thick beard. Years ago, while helping him lug camera equipment through customs in Addis Ababa, he confided that it was the first time he’d been back home since he was seven. He told you how his father once carried him on his shoulders for four days to escape the civil war; that when he entered the belly of the cargo plane that would take them to Tel Aviv, he felt like Jonah inside the whale.
Jessica tries to console you, but like the aftermath of a bomb blast, the only thing you hear is ringing in your ears.
Thaddeus stands before a black cloth at the entrance of the newsroom. Everyone gathers around. You are amazed. Not by the number of people who have come to remember Tsegaye, but by the distance many have traveled—from Italy and Taiwan, from Lagos and Perth. Just thinking about the void he’s left the world over makes you want to leap out of your skin.
Thaddeus begins talking about Tsegaye’s integrity and courage while embedded in war zones around the world. “His focus was always on the victims of state terror. He wanted to capture the humanity behind the conflict.”
Tsegaye’s wife, Miriam, breaks down and is comforted by their eldest daughter, while the younger one clings to her chest. They are pretty little things in frilly purple dresses, their hair a nest of black bed springs. Everyone begins to count down from three and the cloth is removed. Above the doors is a gleaming gold plaque bearing the words: TSEGAYE LEMMA STUDIOS.
Around the room, friends and colleagues trade stories of their “lasts” like baseball cards. The last time they saw Tsegaye. The last time they spoke. It is a ritual no one dares to include you in. And so you are often left alone, in the corner, to nurse on your honey wine.
Later, when the unbearable weight of it all tightens your chest, you escape to the bathroom to wait things out. You splash water on your face, then rush for a paper towel when you remember you had put mascara on earlier. You jump at the sound of one of the stall doors unlocking and see Miriam head to the sink. She is much thinner than you remember. This is your first encounter with her since Tsegaye’s death. You can feel her eyes on you from her reflection in the mirror.
“How long?” she suddenly asks, pointing at the cast on your arm.
“The doctor says a few more weeks.”
She nods her head. “You getting any rest?”
You want to tell her that you’ve finally stopped seeing him when you close your eyes at night. Instead you say, “That’s very sweet of you to ask.”
“I just wonder how you sleep at night,” she says.
Her tone confuses you. You can’t tell if she’s being thoughtful or facetious.
Time passes without words and you grow suspicious. You wonder what she knows. You get the sudden urge to flee but she’s standing between you and the door.
“I should have reached out,” you say.
“But you didn’t.”
You hang your head. “Listen, if there’s anything I can do for you and the girls.”
Miriam scoffs. “That’s just it, Stacy-Ann. You did absolutely nothing. Just left him behind to live the rest of his days like some goddamn slave on auction. You get to walk around free, but that freedom comes with a price. I hope you know the only thing that separates your black ass from Tsegaye’s is your daddy’s money.”
She’s right of course. When have you ever been without that safety net? It dawns on you that you don’t even know what you were sold for. You don’t even know what you’re worth.
“There is one thing I do want,” Miriam says. “I want to know why they said he was a spy.”
She’s referring to the video the kidnappers released after Tsegaye’s death. Your heart feels like it’s trying to bore a hole through your chest.
“They accused him of spying for Israel. Why would they say that?”
You’ve dodged sniper fire and narrowly missed a roadside bomb, but beyond the weeks you spent in captivity, this is the most frightened you’ve ever been. There is almost a moment of panic but then you remember the Hebrew inked on his skin. You whisper something and Miriam asks you to repeat it.
“Maybe they saw his tattoo,” you say, louder this time.
Miriam winces. “How do you know about it?” She says this as if her husband’s chest were on the most intimate part of his body.
“When we were filming in London last year, I got caught in a rainstorm. He took the shirt off his back so I would have something to wear.”
Miriam appears to consider your answer. “Yeah, he would do that,” she finally says. “I was so angry when he got it. I didn’t speak to him for a week. Seems so petty now.”
“What did it say?” you ask.
Miriam looks up and her face is stained with tears. “A false balance is an abomination to HaShem, but a just weight is His delight.”
“A scripture verse?”
She nods. “After they made aliyah, Tsegaye and his dad thought they had finally been delivered. But everywhere they went, they were treated like dogs. No school wanted to enroll Tsegaye. Landlords would turn them away. When his dad finally saved enough money to buy his own home, someone spray painted ‘Falasha’ everywhere—even the driveway. This went on for years. It wasn’t until Tsegaye’s best friend needed a transplant and the hospital refused to take his blood that he realized it didn’t matter what good he did or how righteous he lived, his color would always outweigh that.”
You feel weak. “I had no idea.”
“And those bastards killed him for what? To spite Israel?”
You arrive home to find your father packing his bags in the guest room. You wave hello then head straight for the trunk in your bedroom closet that holds the family photo albums. You sit on the floor and flip through decades worth of images—portraits of your father graduating from university and playing cricket at Sabina Park. Wedding photos. Your christening. Photos of your father’s swearing in.
You’re not sure what you’re looking for but you seem to gravitate toward the images of your parents, young and bell-bottomed in bliss. You almost feel sorry for them. Some time passes before your father walks in on you.
“Taking a trip down memory lane?” he asks.
“I was wondering where all these photos of your mother went.”
“Sorry,” you say. “I took a bunch with me when I moved.” You hold up a photo booth picture of the two of them. “How old were you guys here?”
Your father puts his glasses on and takes a moment to analyze it. After a few seconds, he shrugs. “Eighteen, nineteen maybe.”
“When you first started dating?”
“Had you fallen in love by that point?”
Your father fidgets. “I don’t know.”
“Well, when did you know she was the one you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?”
He cracks his knuckles and looks away. “Those are intimate things, Stacy-Ann.”
“Pretend I’m not your daughter,” you say.
Your father laughs. “I’m not one of your subjects.”
“I’m not interviewing you.”
“Why do you want to know then?”
“Because you never tell me anything. If I didn’t read The Gleaner growing up I wouldn’t know anything about you.”
Your father seems taken aback.
“If not for Mommy and politics we’d have nothing to talk about.”
“That’s not true,” he says.
“No? When have we ever talked openly? I mean really sat down and expressed ourselves; told each other about our hopes and fears?”
Your father laughs. “Express ourselves? You’ve been living in America too long.”
“Well, in America I learned what’s hidden in the dark will eventually come to light.”
“What you mean by that?” he asks.
“Tell me why you stepped down as prime minister.”
Your father is annoyed. He gathers several of your mother’s photos and begins to walk toward the door.
“I want to know why,” you call after him.
He turns back. “You know why.”
“I know only what you want me to.”
Your father begins to tell a story about King Edward’s abdication but you stop him halfway through.
“This is not the time for one of your anecdotes. I want to know why you left office.”
“Your mother was sick,” he says. “It wouldn’t have been fair to put her through the rigors of another campaign.”
“So you did it for Mommy?”
“I did it for the good of the country. What use would I have been at half-staff?” Your father kisses his teeth. “Why do you want to know these things?”
“Because I want to tell you something.”
“Then tell me, nuh.”
“I resigned today.”
Your father takes a few moments to process this information. “Because of what happened to your friend?”
“Because of my part, Daddy. When it came down to it, I measured a man’s life against my own.”
“What are you saying?”
“You always taught me to use things to my advantage—my money, my name, my gender. Well, when they took me each of those things became a liability.”
Your father waves his arms in front of his face. “I don’t want to hear any more.”
“Daddy, I tipped the scale in my favor.”
Your father is about to say something but stops before doing so. It’s as if he knows that whatever comes next will change everything.
“There were two in particular that would come to my cell every night. I just wanted them to stop. So I told them a lie about Tsegaye. Just to distract them.”
“Anyone in your position would have done the same.”
You shake your head. “Tsegaye wouldn’t have.”
“No? You’re a fool if you think that. I’m just glad it was him and not you.” Even when he sees the tears streaming down your face, all he can think to add is, “You saw a chance and you took it.”
His words are so cold and you finally see your father for what he is.
“Like you and Errol Williams,” you say.
He squints, trying to recall the name. Suddenly the fog of his memory clears and his face droops.
“I know everything.”
Since your father is fond of stories you tell him one about a young journalist investigating police corruption in Jamaica. There had been case files on low-ranking constables all the way up to the assistant commissioner, Errol Williams. He was charged with bribery, excessive force, and falsifying documents. In exchange for a lighter sentence, Errol revealed names. If he was going down, he had no problem taking others with him. There were so many pages in his file that you almost skipped over the few regarding your father. There, in black and white, were the full details behind his shooting.
Your father sits on the bed and appears to brace himself for what is to come.
“You hired him to do that to you?”
He bends forward and places his hands over his head. “It wasn’t supposed to go that far.”
“But why?” you ask. “You were going to win anyway.”
Your father raises his head and stares at you as though your question is absurd. “In politics,” he says, “one can always use a little leverage.”
Your cab pulls up in front of a modest, one-story home in Richmond. Stark Odom is in his front yard, clad in an undershirt and jeans. He’s using a shovel to dig a hole the size of a small inflatable pool. His street is tree-lined. Quiet. Neighbors catch up with one another in their driveways. He doesn’t see you at first; he’s too busy trying to set a tree with burlapped roots into the hole.
“You wasted a plane ticket, lady,” he says when he finally catches sight of you. “I’m not speaking to the press.”
“I’m not press,” you say. “Not anymore.”
Stark leaves you on the walkway and heads to the house. Just as he opens the screen door, he stops and turns to face you. He gives you the once over. “What do you want?”
“I came to tell you how sorry I was about the court ruling.”
He clenches his jaw and rolls a piece of gravel around with his shoe. While holding the door ajar, he makes a motion for you to enter the house. His home is larger than it appears on the outside. Traces of Meryl can still be found everywhere—kitten figurines, a pink bible, a sewing machine. You join him in the kitchen, where he pours you a glass of water.
“It’s warm,” he warns, pointing to the empty ice tray on the counter.
“No worries,” you say as you look out toward the lawn. “That’s a lovely tree you’ve got there.”
Stark chugs back an entire glass and throws the plastic cup in the sink. “Mexican Elder,” he says, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “It was Meryl’s favorite.”
You spy a framed yearbook photo of her on the wall. “She was beautiful.”
“And she knew it. Guys would hit on her right in front of me. Drove me nuts.”
He stares down at his feet. “I used to pick out her flaws. I thought if I pointed out all of hers she wouldn’t see any of mine. I don’t blame her for wanting a divorce.”
“I feel bad for having brought that up.”
“It was your job,” Stark says.
“No, I was just trying to prove something.”
“Well, in a way, I guess I should thank you.”
“For what?” you ask, bewildered.
“As difficult as the interview was, you did take the time to talk to me and I appreciate that. I didn’t know all the damage I had done until you asked if I had been controlling her.”
“You did right by her in the end,” you say.
“You think so?”
“You fought for her. You put her well-being before your own.”
“There were times I wondered if I did enough to save her.”
“Truth is, not many in your place would’ve done what you did.”
He looks down and smiles. “Meryl gave me purpose,” he says. “I spent four years caring for her, and another year in and out of court. It feels so strange for it to be all over. I’ve got so much time now, I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“I know the feeling.”
Some time passes before he asks, “Why aren’t you a reporter anymore?”
You search for an answer. “I want to say that I lost my way. But I’m not sure I was ever on the right path to begin with.”
“And you being here, is this the right path?”
“It’s a start,” you say. You look up at the clock hanging over the stove, and walk over to the kitchen table to pick up your handbag. “I should get going. It was really good seeing you.”
You extend your arm but Stark embraces you instead.
“Why did you do that?”
“You looked like you needed one,” he said. “And I needed one too.”
Before you leave, you ask if he still has his tattoo shop.
“Yeah,” he responds. “Today’s my day off though. Why, you had something in mind?”
You retrieve a slip of paper from your purse and reveal a drawing of an unbalanced scale.
“I could do that in my sleep,” he says.
Stark grabs his keys and ushers you out of the house to the car waiting in his driveway. And as you both make your way down the street, you wonder if you’ll ever do enough to tip the scale back where it belongs.