Shattered Hearts(3)By: Marissa Farrar
“He prefers to remain anonymous,” I replied. “And I’ll respect his decisions by not answering any more questions about him.”
Unlike me, my brother changed his name. He’d done everything within his power not to be associated with the man who was our father. We ended up being brought up by my aunt, my mother’s sister, and he was able to take her name, and then the moment he turned eighteen, he moved far away. He was only a couple of years younger than I was when it all came out, but he still remembered it all. He was taunted mercilessly at school when what our father had done hit the news. Our perfect lives were shattered overnight, and we had worse to come.
I finished up the questions and thanked everyone for their time. The psychology professor, who’d been my tutor for the past four years, came on from the sideline.
“That was great, Jolie,” he told me with a smile and a nod. “You came across really well. Eloquent and thoughtful. I’m sure you’ve given everyone a lot to think about.”
I returned his smile. “Thanks.”
This would go toward the credit for my bachelor’s degree and I hoped would give me an edge when I went on to do my master’s for clinical and mental health counseling.
People began to stand from their seats, gathering their belongings. I didn’t know why, but I found my gaze drawn toward the spot where the man with the sharp green gaze, the same one who’d asked me if I ever felt guilty, had been sitting. The seat was already empty, and a strange churning of emotion stirred inside me. Had I wanted him to stay behind? Perhaps try to come and speak to me afterward, even though we’d said I wouldn’t be answering further questions after my presentation had ended?
I glanced toward the exit, wondering if I might see him there, but the doorway was already filled with the backs of people leaving.
Whoever the man was, he’d already gone.
I left the university hall, tugging my coat tighter around my body, trying to process how I felt now I’d purged myself of all the thoughts and feelings I’d been keeping inside me all this time. It was no longer a secret. Sure, I’d said all of this stuff to numerous therapists over the years, but I’d still gone through my day-to-day life with people not really knowing who I was. It certainly wasn’t something I brought up or talked about to people, not like I had tonight.
There was a chill in the New York City air. We’d left summer behind now, and fall was well on its way. I didn’t mind. The summertime was when everything had blown up, and now the season was tainted for me. Trouble was, I didn’t much like any of the other holidays either—Thanksgiving and Christmas had all been ruined in my childhood. The ones after, with just me, my brother, and aunt had been somber affairs, despite my aunt’s best efforts. And the happier ones before that were now ruined with the knowledge that it had all been a lie.
I was currently living on campus. I was lucky in that my roommate Hannah had also become my best friend. I’d been terrified when I’d first confessed to her about who my father was, thinking she wouldn’t want me as a roomie, worried she’d think the apple never fell far from the tree and that she’d wake up in the night with me trying to strangle her. But, to my surprise, the first thing she did when I told her was put her arms around me and give me the biggest hug I thought I’d had since before my mother died.
That had been the start of our friendship. She’d wanted to be at the lecture theatre tonight, but she’d been offered a gig of her own—for her band, not for confessing all about her serial killer father—and I’d told her she had to go.
The streets were busy. Streetlights, headlights of cars, electronic billboards, and shop windows all served to illuminate the city. That was good. I might be twenty-two years old, but I hated the dark.
Hannah was playing bass guitar in her band The Furies in a small, underground bar within walking distance. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be surrounded by loud crowds of people right now, but I didn’t want to be on my own either. It was still early—barely nine in the evening—and the idea of sitting back in my room, with only my thoughts and memories churning through my head, didn’t appeal. Besides, I wanted to support Hannah.