She nodded slowing, walking to the room. She sat in the chair across from me. “That’s what she said, too.”
“What do you mean, that’s what she said?”
“Um, I wanted you to read this.” She lay the envelope down on my desk. “It’s from Eleanor. She wrote it to me the night she left and slipped it under my door. I didn’t read it until last night, and I think you should read it, too.”
She sat back in her chair, patiently waiting as I opened the envelope. Inside was a letter and photograph that I couldn’t take my eyes away from.
It was Eleanor and me, the night of the homecoming dance. We both looked so young and completely unaware of where our lives would take us. We were so happy, so free.
“That was an ugly suit,” Karla mentioned, making me snicker.
“Yeah, well, back in my day, it was pretty dope.”
She groaned. “Dad, people don’t say dope anymore.”
“What are we saying nowadays? Fly? Hip? Happenin’? Groovy?” I mocked.
She rolled her eyes. “Just read the letter already.”
I placed the picture down and unfolded the sheet of paper. As my eyes darted across the page, I was reminded of every single thing I loved about Eleanor Gable.
I feel like there are not enough words in the universe for me to express how sorry I am for how everything unfolded, but I am going to try my best to do exactly that. I guess the best way to approach this is to go back to the beginning.
I was in high school when I lost my mother to cancer. I was young, lost, and broken. That was exactly when your father came into my life. He showed up during my darkest days and brought me his light.
He knew of my hurting, and he called my scars beautiful.
He was my first love, but it wasn’t simply a romantic thing. He wasn’t even my boyfriend, and I could count on two fingers the number of times we kissed in our youth.
He was just him, I was me, and we were us.
Your father saved me. Without him, I’m certain I would’ve drowned.
Losing a mother is a unique kind of loss.
A mother understands your heartbeats when you cannot even interpret their sounds. They see you as magnificent even when you feel like you’re so unworthy of love. They calm the doubts that wreak havoc on your soul. They show you what unconditional love is from the day you take your first breath.
Sometimes it feels like they know you better than you’ll ever know yourself, and then, one day, they are gone.
You feel cheated. Cheated on the things that they haven’t yet taught. Cheated on the lessons you still needed to learn. Cheated out of laughter, and smiles, and comfort, and love.
But what I’ve learned with time is that my mother is still around me. I see her in everything. Whenever there is beauty, that is where my mother exists.
I know she’s never gone, no matter what reality tries to tell me, because my heart is crafted from her love, and as long as it beats, she lives on.
So, that heart of yours? The one you think is damaged and bruised and unworthy of existing? That heart is perfect, and it cannot wait to show you how much love is waiting for you in this world. And whenever you need that reminder, place your hands over your chest, and feel your mother’s love in every single beat.
You’re going to be okay, Karla.
You’re going to be more than okay.
But I need to ask you to do one thing for me: watch after your father. The truth is, he’s going to need you more than you need him. Because he doesn’t have her heartbeats in his chest. No, his reminder of Nicole lives in your eyes. In your smile. In your love.
You are saving your father. Without you, I’m certain he would drown.
So, even if you never forgive me…even if you continue to hate me…even if I never cross your mind again…I want you to know that I am here for you. Day or night. Night or day. Whenever you need me, I’ll be there, Karla, because you mean that much to me. Not just as Greyson’s daughter, but as another human being who just needs to know they aren’t alone.
I’m one phone call away, and I will always answer.
I’m still here.
P.S. I know you’re hurting, but your scars are so beautiful.
I placed the letter down on the table and sat back a bit, stunned. “Wow.”
Karla nodded. “Yeah.” She raced her hands through her hair and then leaned toward me. “So…when are we going to go get her?”
“Eleanor. When is she coming back?” I raised an eyebrow, and she gave me a dramatic sigh. “Dad, are you kidding me?! Didn’t you just read that letter?”
“Yes, and it was perfect, but that doesn’t mean Eleanor is coming back.”
“What? Of course, it does.”
I wanted to agree with her. I wanted to rush out of the house and run to Eleanor to tell her we were ready. Yet, I couldn’t do that. Not yet. “Karla, we’ve been through a lot these past few months, and we still have a long way to go to heal. My concern is you and your sister. If Eleanor and I are meant to be, it will work its way out down the line. But for now, it’s just the three of us against the world.”
“Look, I know things haven’t been easy for us, and I know I’ve made them even tougher sometimes, but you deserve to be happy, Dad. I know it’s been hard for us all, but that’s the truth. I’m sure you think I deserve to be happy, and if I deserve it, you do, too.”
I gave her a smile. “I am happy. I have you.”
She groaned, slapping her hand to her face. “Why do you have to be so corny sometimes?”
“I’m a father. Being corny is part of a father’s job.”
She stood from the chair and started walking away, but I called after her.
“Yeah?” she asked.
“What made you open the letter today?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Maybe it was just Mom whispering in my ear.”
She walked off, and I picked up the letter and read it over and over again.
“Thank you, Nicole,” I whispered into the wind, and I did as Lorelai instructed me to do.
I believed to my core that Nicole could hear me.
“So, I received a call from Karla saying you were being stubborn,” Claire mentioned during our Tuesday lunch date.
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. She said you had a good thing in Eleanor and were tossing it to the side because you were a chicken shit—her words, not mine.”
I smirked. “Sounds like my daughter.”
“So, why aren’t you going to get in touch with Eleanor? Wasn’t the main reason you were keeping your distance because of Karla, and now with her blessing…” Claire’s words trailed off.
“It’s more complicated than that,” I argued. “It’s a long story.”
“Well, luckily I get an hour of your time every Tuesday. Unless you want me to start singing Journey songs again.”
I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose. ‘I made a huge mistake when I was drunk… Eleanor and I were involved, and I accidentally called her by Nicole’s name. It was stupid. It was a huge mistake, and I don’t think I can really come back from that slip.”
She nodded slowly, in understanding. “When I first started dating Jack, I was terrified. I’d been married to my husband for forty years before Jack had come into my life, and I was certain I’d never love again. There was no way I could love someone the way I loved my husband, and in a way, I was right. My love for that man was its own creation. It was our special thing.
“Then when Jack showed up…” Claire’s eyes watered over with so much hope, I almost began to tear up. “Jack taught me how to trust again. He taught me that I didn’t have to be perfect, I just had to be me, scars and all. He taught me that being myself was all that I ever had to do. Truthfully, I didn’t think my heart could beat for another man, but I was wrong. What I learned was that hearts are resilient. They always remember how to beat again. We just have to be willing to give them something to beat for. And the only way to do that is to let go of fear.”
“But my mistake…” I whispered.
She smiled. “I called Jack by Randy’s name a handful of times. It wasn’t on purpose. I remember being horrified, and certain that I was going to run him off forever. But do you know what happened?”
“He stayed, and oh, boy, please believe that I gave him a million reasons to run, but he wouldn’t. He stayed.” She crossed her arms and kept grinning my way, as if she knew something that I hadn’t known. “What happened after you said it? Did she run away after you two talked it through?”
“No, she didn’t. She talked me through it. She listened to my pain. She stayed.”
“Then sweetheart…” Claire placed a comforting hand on my shoulder and shook her head. “Why are you running?”
I wanted to stop running. I wanted to call Eleanor and ask her to come back to me. But then I thought of my girls and all of the healing we still had to find.
“It’s too soon,” I said, shaking my head. “I just need more time.”
“I get that, son, I do. Just be careful to not let the time in the sand glass run out. Our lives are short, and tomorrow isn’t promised. If there is one thing we all deserve, it’s the right to be happy. Perhaps you deserve that even more than most, Greyson.”
That’s all I ever wanted, and I was sure I’d get it someday.
Just not now.
Two days later, the doorbell rang, and I stood from the living room couch to go answer it. The moment the door opened, confusion hit me. Eleanor stood there with eyes full of worry.
“Ellie, what are you—”
“Is she okay?” she asked, her voice shaky.
I raised an eyebrow. “Is who okay?”
“Karla. She sent me a text message saying she was in trouble and needed my help. I came over as soon as I could.”