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Because I Need You
Author: Claire Contreras

 


1

 

 

ISABEL

 

 

The past ten days were a blur. I felt like I’d been struck by a force that was too great for me to bear. It wasn’t just the loss of my father. It was the terrifying way in which it happened. To have him, a force of nature, just collapse in the kitchen right in front of me right after telling a joke. The ride to the hospital was shocking, and leaving without him after being told he was “gone,” even more so. That was how the doctor said it, too, before he gave me a moment alone with my father. “I’m so sorry. He’s gone.” GONE WHERE? I’d demanded. GONE WHERE? I knew it was an impossible question to answer, nearly an impossible thing to consider without delving deep into existentialism and religion, and yet, I’d rather deep dive into both of those than let him go. I wasn’t ready to do that, and I needed an answer. The days that followed had been much muddier than that. Thankfully, Dad had his funeral arrangements all planned out, from the service to the casket to the burial plot. I was grateful for his foresight, because I’d never had to plan one before, and I wouldn’t even have known where to start.

The actual funeral brought more questions, more blurred memories. I’d expected his employees to show up. I hadn’t expected more than fifty men in dark suits to be there. Men who were hard and rough around the edges. I’d only recognized a handful of guys my father employed in his painting company. The rest were just bodies. Each of them squeezed my shoulder as they walked through and said a sentiment. I’d clung onto William the entire time, kept my face mostly buried in the sleeve of his suit jacket, grateful I hadn’t been completely alone. My boyfriend had enough things on his plate, but he set them all aside to be there for me that day.

Later, he asked who all those men were, and I didn’t know how to answer him. I shrugged. I’d never seen them. William said nothing to that, but insisted I go back home to New York with him. I told him I couldn’t, since I had to figure out what to do with my father’s things. I was his only family, after all. If I didn’t do it, who would? Shortly after Will had gone back to New York, I received a call from my father’s attorney — I didn’t even know my father had one — telling me to go to their offices so they could read me his will. Considering my father had a small painting company, and lived in a modest three-bedroom, I couldn’t imagine what he’d left behind. The house, sure. His old red Ford truck, maybe. Both things I did not want. I just wanted my dad to come home. I wanted him to make up for all of the years we’d lost while he was working in Chicago, and I was living with my grandmother in Miami and later New York. So many years compounded into occasional weekend visits instead of the day-to-day presence that I needed. He’d just started making up for it, too. He’d just started visiting me more and asking me to visit him more. I’d been in Chicago for five days when it happened. I’d planned to stay the entire summer while I was on break from teaching. And now he was gone. Just like that. I willed the unshed tears that burned my eyes away.

“Isabel Bonetti.”

I snapped back to the present at the sound of my name and swallowed as I stood up and followed the woman to a conference room. I stood by the door for a moment, assessing the room. There was one man in a suit and one woman, also in a suit. Both were standing on the other end of the room, an odd sympathetic smile on their faces. A fake one, really. Besides teaching middle school, I was dating the current — and youngest — mayor. I was used to being in a room full of assholes. This room, however, felt different. There was a certain uneasy charge to it, as though both of them knew that I was in the dark about whatever they were about to tell me.

“Thank you for coming in, Ms. Bonetti,” the man said, “I’m terribly sorry for your loss.”

I nodded in appreciation. I couldn’t thank one more person verbally for that statement and I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have been here at all. I pushed that feeling back.

“I’m sure this is a lot for you,” the woman said.

“I’m not sure what I’m dealing with, so I can’t say whether or not it’s a lot yet.” I walked over.

“I’m Dave Hunt,” he said. “This is Parker Evans.”

I shook both their hands.

“We’re only here to help and facilitate, answer any questions you may have, and make this as easy and painless as possible,” Dave said, while Parker smiled.

“Help and facilitate what exactly?” I asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs they signaled at.

“Your father’s trust, reading his will, signing a lot of papers. Things like that,” Parker said.

“I can’t imagine what he would have left. My father painted houses for a living.”

“Let’s begin.” Dave cleared his throat, shifting in his seat uncomfortably.

Within the first three minutes, I was told the large sum my father left me. Within ten, I was told about his properties. In the thirty minutes that followed, I was given more papers to look through. I took my time with each one of them, knowing I’d have to either have William do me the favor of looking through them, or hire my own lawyer. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my father’s lawyers, but I’d seen the way Will conducted business and he always had his own at his beck and call, which made me think I should do the same, just in case. It was just too much for me to wrap my head around, let alone understand. He had property everywhere, it seemed. Not just homes, but warehouses, as well. Chicago, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Brooklyn, Miami. I took a deep breath and kept looking at the rest of the papers, pausing when I got to the marriage license. He’d been married? That was news to me. I looked up at Dave, who was chewing on the edge of his pen. Parker stood and excused herself.

“My dad was married?” I asked, confused.

“And divorced. We have those papers as well.”

“Oh.” The marriage license stated he’d been married to a woman whose name I didn’t recognize before I was born. I looked at the divorce date. I would’ve been twelve years old, then. He’d been married to someone I’d never even heard of for twenty-years? My frown deepened. I glanced up again. “This doesn’t make any sense. Was this like, an agreement for a green card or something?”

“No.” Dave shook his head. “This was his actual wife. He was with your mother…you know. I’m sorry.”

My jaw dropped. I looked back at the marriage license and divorce. My mother had been his mistress? That made me, what, his love child? I whispered those words aloud, feeling fresh tears prick my eyes. I swallowed them back. My childhood had been a mess, to say the least, with the back and forth between my parents’ on and off relationship and the moving, but my mother and grandmother made it work for a while. We got to New York when I was fourteen, and I’d been instantly thrust into a fancy state-of-the-art school, rubbing elbows with celebrity kids and politician’s kids. It was where I met Will during our senior year. We weren’t high school sweethearts, though. We weren’t anything until we reconnected a year ago at a teacher luncheon he’d hosted. I’d continuously asked my mother once how we could afford that school, and she’d yelled to stop asking questions and be grateful I could attend — period. So, I didn’t ask any more questions. If I was a love child, surely, my grandmother, who I was with most of the time, would’ve slipped up and told me, especially during one of her rants about how I should’ve never been born. You’d think she would’ve thrown it into those jabs, at least.

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