I wrote today! I worked on The Death Effect. And I worked on it yesterday and the day before. I wrote a whole chapter and beginning of another one.
I need to post it. It probably sucks because it’s a first draft, but here you go:
Chapter Thirty-Five: The Girl Who Died
What did the world do before Google? After learning my biological father’s name, I got on the Internet and looked him up. There were fifty-four possible John or Johnnie or Johnny Fosters in the state and it took a couple of days to narrow the possibilities down. Only three of them were the right age to be the Johnnie Foster who went to high school with Mary Freemont. More research gave me the following:
John Foster Number One was the manager of a bank in a small town three hours away.
John Foster Number Two was a librarian in a city an hour away.
John Foster Number Three was a convicted sex offender in the next town over.
I was really praying for Number One or Number Two. Number One was on Facebook, but his picture was fuzzy and I couldn’t tell if it was the same boy who took Mary to the Homecoming Dance. Number Two didn’t appear to be interested in social networking, I couldn’t find him on Facebook, My Space, or Twitter.
The next weekday I had off, I drove the hour to find him. I’m not sure why it was easy to drive the sixty minutes to him but not the ten to my biological mother. Maybe because I was going to his job, not his home. He might not be working. And even if he was, I didn’t have to say anything to him, I wouldn’t have to explain who I was or what I was doing there, not unless I wanted to.
Or maybe it was easier because there was the possibility it wouldn’t be the right guy. After all, Johnnie Foster could have moved out of state or out of the country. Or died. Or had a sex-change operation and be going by the name Aurora Rose for all I knew. And I hadn’t eliminated the other two possibilities, yet.
Maybe that’s why it was easier, but I didn’t really think so. Because I had a hunch, I felt like I was on the right track. Number Two was a librarian, surrounded by books all the time. Didn’t that fit with what the high school librarian told me? Maybe I got my love of books from him. So many maybes.
For a public library, it was gigantic. Five floors with rows and rows of shelves and small wooden tables and chairs grouped together in sets of four for easy studying. I wandered around the books, occasionally pulling one from its place and flipping through the pages. I didn’t know how to go about finding him, I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. I passed a reference desk on each floor, but didn’t want to ask for him by name- how could I explain why I wanted to meet him?
Three hours later, after perusing the last section on the fifth floor, feeling defeated and foolish, I decided to give up and head home. Then as I reached the top of the stairs to return to the ground floor, there he was, coming up on the right, one hand on the railing, one balancing a short stack of books. It was the same boy from the yearbook, but he was a man now, an inch taller with broader shoulders and a thicker waist. A few strands of grey mingled in with dark hair and I could make out the beginnings of crow’s feet around his eyes, but he still looked too young to be my father, even if he had been only sixteen or seventeen when I was conceived.
I stopped, waiting for him to approach me, wondering if he’d say anything to me, if he’d recognize me, if he even knew I existed. If he felt or saw me staring at him, he didn’t acknowledge it, he walked right past me without even a glance. I didn’t have the courage to say anything and he kept walking, shifting the weight of the books into his other hand.
“Can I help you?” a female voice from behind stole my attention and I turned to find a thirty-something woman with short black hair and glasses coming up the stairs.
“Oh no. I’m just heading out. But thank you, it’s a beautiful library.” I rushed past her down the steps, wanting nothing more than to be back at home in my parents’ house, listening to my dad tell my mom how good dinner was.
Why did I come here? What was I hoping for? This was the most idiotic thing I’ve ever done!
My thoughts were so full, I didn’t pay attention to my feet and kept trying to go downwards when I reached the landing at the fourth floor. My left foot turned and I crashed to the floor as pain raced through my ankle and up into my leg.
“John! Come help me, someone fell, I think she’s hurt,” the woman yelled as she flew down the stairs and knelt at my side. “Are you okay? Can you put any weight on your foot?”
“I don’t think so.” I tried to lift myself, but more pain ripped through my leg.
“She can’t stand on it, it’s already starting to swell. We need to get some ice on it.” He had arrived and examined my ankle in just seconds. When he lifted me, I started to cry.
“Don’t worry, we’ve got a first aid kit, I’ll wrap it and ice it and you should be on your feet in a few days. I didn’t feel a break.”
I bit my lip, nodded and tightened my hold around his neck. My father was taking care of me and he didn’t even know it. I wanted to stop crying, but I couldn’t. He carried me slowly down to the third floor and across the stacks of books to a room behind the reference desk. He set me gently on a couch and moved behind a desk, opening drawers and rummaging through them. A few minutes later the woman came in with an ice pack.
“Here you are. How does that feel?”
“I’m Marie, John and I run the library.”
John smiled as he came towards us with the first aid kit. When he removed the ice pack from my ankle and began wrapping it with the gauze bandage, I noticed his gold wedding band matched Marie’s.
“Thank you. I’m such a clutz.”
“Me too, that’s why I keep the first aid kit in my office.” We both chuckled and he glanced up from his task, really looking at my face for the first time. An inaudible gasp formed on his mouth and his eyes widened for a second before he refocused on my injury.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, suddenly brave, wanting to believe he just had a spark of recognition.
He laughed again. “No. You just look a lot like a girl I went to high school with. If you weren’t so young, I’d think you were her sister.”
“Maybe I’m her daughter.” I paused to gauge his reaction, but he continued staring at my foot and seemed intent on hiding his face from me. “What’s her name?”
“I think you’re probably to old to be her daughter. How old are you?”
“Yeah, she would have had to have been fifteen or sixteen…” his voice trailed off and I wondered if he realized that’s exactly what happened or if he regretted bringing the subject up for other reasons, whatever they might be.
“What was her name, honey? Maybe Lisa knows her.”
“Actually, she doesn’t look that much like her. It must have been the light. How does that feel, Lisa?” He finished the wrap and secured the bandage with two safety pins; Marie replaced the ice pack.
“We have to get back to work, will you be okay here for a little bit?”
“I don’t want to be in the way, I’ll just head out.”
“No, you should really rest that foot for awhile. I’ll help you out to your car in an hour or two when it’s feeling better.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course,” Marie jumped in, “I’ll get you a book or a magazine while you’re resting. What would you like?”
“That’s so sweet, thank you, but you don’t have to go to so much trouble. I’m the dingbat who fell and am causing all kinds of inconvenience.”
“It’s no inconvenience, really. We have thousands of books at your disposal. What would you like?”
“Anything by Dickens. He’s my favorite.”
“John’s too! See, no trouble at all, he’s got the whole collection right here!” She bounced to the bookshelves behind John’s desk and pulled three books down. I hardly knew what to say when she handed them to me. My parents and Taylor hated Dickens.
“Do you have a favorite novel?” John’s voice was quiet, distant, like he was speaking over a bad phone connection.
“Bleak House, usually, though sometimes it’s A Tale of Two Cities.”
“Wow, it’s like fate. You and John have a lot in common, Lisa.” Marie patted his shoulder as she left the office and he looked at me, one final, almost-longing look before following after her. My eyes were too full of tears to read and when he came back to help me to my car two hours later, I hadn’t scanned a single page.
I never told him I was his daughter and I never saw him again.