Okay dear readers, here is the much anticipated part three (a girl can dream), I hope it really surprises you because it’s a different direction than even my closest friends imagined this story going! Please, please take a moment to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments, I love the feedback and your involvement and continued support is of course what drives everything I create.
If you missed the beginning of the Mac’s Journey series please start here!
Herculean, Missouri was a small, dusty, off the radar town in southern Missouri. This wasn’t the kind of place Mac would visit, except for one reason. Mac’s father lived here.
Mac maneuvered his rental car expertly through the narrow, pothole ridden, tree-lined roads until he reached a farm. He knew without even checking the address that he was in the right place. Maybe it was the faint memory of his father telling about the farm in the one or two letters he sent before the correspondence, and the relationship, trailed off. Or maybe it was the uneasy vibe that Mac got as he veered his car over to the side of the road and slipped it into park.
Or maybe, just maybe, it was the man who stood, tall like Mac, in the fields, surveying the land and then, thoughtfully, knelt down to check out something in the soil. Mac watched him as he straightened himself. The years had slowed him a little, but as he pulled himself upright, he could tell it was him, still proud. Mac wasn’t sure what he’d expected. It had been fifteen years since he’d last seen this man. Time passed like smoke through a keyhole, and he wasn’t at all sure where it went. But he knew that at some point he’d let his father drift off into his own life in this small farming town.
Mac slipped the car back into drive and headed toward the long driveway that led to the farm. The man he’d just observed headed in from the fields. He’d seen Mac, of course he had. Likely he didn’t have a lot of visitors. Off in the distance Mac saw a house with a wide front porch and a swing. It was large, painted green with white trim. From this distance Mac could tell the paint had faded slightly. He saw a woman standing on the porch, shaking out a rug. The older man was closer now. Mac could see him clearly. The years had turned his once jet-black hair to grey but his eyes, a bright cobalt blue, were still as penetrating as they ever were. Mac parked the car and could see a shade of recognition slip across the man’s face, stopping him in his tracks. As he stepped out he said:
“Hello, son. Nice to see you again.”
Mac leaned on the roof of the car, keys dangling in his hand, close enough to make a quick getaway if things got too dicey, which they often did when it came to Trenton Ellis.
“Dad.” Mac said simply as his father continued to walk toward him. He was tall and didn’t at all look his nearly seventy-five years. They shared the same blue eyes, same impossibly good looks and same, ageless build. It was like looking into the future.
“What brings you here?” There was a slight hesitation in his father’s voice, Trenton Ellis stopped at the fencing that edged his property. His demeanor was casual, if not a bit surprised. Though in true Trenton Ellis fashion, he tried not to show it show it.
Mac stood up, and walked around the car to face the man he’d written off years before.
“Son,” Trenton asked again, “is everything ok?”
Mac didn’t blink but said, “I’m not sure why I’m here. I was heading home, back to New York, and then I wasn’t.”
They kept their distance. There was no hug, no warm greeting. Not even a smile from either of them.
They both remembered how it ended last time. There was no need to pretend everything was ok.
“I heard from Danny, he says Carolyn is doing good. I’m glad to hear it.”
“She is.” Mac said, not wanting to offer more detail.
“Son, if you don’t mind me asking. What’s going on? Are you in trouble?”
Mac thought about the question and then said, “You could say that.”
The elder Ellis stood a bit straighter, concern filled his eyes, “What’s wrong?”
Mac took a deep breath and said, “I’m afraid I’ve become you.”
Trenton’s lips became a tight line, “If you’re here to throw barbs you can turn around and leave, we’ve had enough of that.”
Mac looked away, across the fields and said, “I’m not here to pick a fight, I’m just here to understand. I need to understand what made you do it. To mom?”
Trenton kicked something on the ground, “Can we just let that finally rest, it was ages ago, it happened. I’m not proud of it but it happened.”
“My mother died of a broken heart because of it.” Mac’s voice cut through the air. His mother had in fact died. The coroner said it was a heart attack, took her in her sleep. She hadn’t suffered, Mac should be grateful for that. But Mac wasn’t grateful because he knew that the heart attack, or whatever the coroner was attributing her death to, had been brought on by one thing: his father cheating on her. It had broken her heart, and broken her. She had never been the same since the day she found out Trenton Ellis no longer loved her, and to add insult to serious injury, he left her for a much younger version.
“Again, if you’re here to just throw a fit, you can leave.” Trenton stuffed his hands into his pockets, “I hoped that one day you’d want to get to know me again, and my wife, and your sister.”
Half-sister, Mac said in his head. The half that had been conceived during the illicit affair with the woman he was now married to. Mac had never met his father’s new wife, and he was no more interested in meeting his step-sister. The product of the affair that had killed his mother. A final stab in the back. Yes, I’m leaving you, and oh, by the way, I knocked her up.
“I have become you.” Mac said quietly, “I’ve become the person I’ve spent a good deal of my life loathing.”
“I’m done with this bullshit.” Trenton began to walk away when Mac said:
“Dad. I need to know, what drove you and how to stop it. I hurt everyone I meet.”
His son’s words hit him like a freight train. Slowly he turned.
“You cheated on Carolyn?”
“And then I met Kate, who was…is the most amazing woman, and I cheated on her. And I’m trying to understand, to figure out the pattern so I can break it.”
Trenton walked back towards the fence and stared at his son, “You don’t break it, son. It’s always in you, this desire to be your own worst enemy, but one day you just realize that the road you’re on will only wind up leaving you alone.”
When Mac didn’t respond, his father continued: “For what it’s worth I loved your mother and it killed me to break her heart.” He realized his poor choice of words and added, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”
But Mac, clearly lost in his own pain didn’t react to his father’s retraction and said, “I hate myself for this, I just. I don’t get it.”
“And you were hoping that going to the source, me apparently, would make you understand why you do this?”
Mac jammed a hand through his hair, “I swore I’d never be like you. I promised myself I would be different, that I would never hurt another person like you hurt mom and then…I did…”
A silence fell between them and then Trenton said, “I haven’t cheated on Maribelle, not one time since we’ve been together. I made a decision to be better, and then I was.” He added, “It wasn’t always easy.”
Mac let out a small laugh, “You’re telling me that’s the cure? To just decide to be better, and poof, you are? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?”
The senior Ellis leaned back onto the fence and said, “I get that you may not want to believe it, or accept it, but you have control over whatever it is that you do. I hurt your mother, you think I killed her. Ok then, I did all of that, and I have to live with it. But one day I just realized that I could no longer be the reason that someone was hurting. Maybe to you with your New York City attitude, and overcomplicated way of dealing with things, that seems pretty simpleton but sometimes it’s just a decision. A decision to try to be better and then the will to follow it up with something more than a whiff of good intention.”
“Is that why you moved out here, so things would be simple and you’d be away from, temptation.” Mac added an emphasis to the last word that sounded a bit sarcastic, even to him.
“I moved out here, son,” his father continued, ignoring the obvious insult, “because Maribelle had always dreamed of living on a farm and she wanted to raise Nicole somewhere other than the city.”
Nicole. The evidence. She would be almost twenty now, or maybe older. Mac didn’t keep track.
Trenton Ellis headed through a small gate and walked over to his son, “Come inside, I want you to meet my family.”
Mac steeled himself against the tidal wave of emotions. First seeing his father for the first time in a dozen or more years and then being reminded of a family he never knew. His father’s family. He had judged his father his entire life, vilifying his actions. Only to commit them himself. Maybe it was time he let go of his resentment.
“Maybe next time.” Mac offered.
“You telling me there will be a next time?”
Mac paused for a moment, “The boys would love to see you again.”
Trenton nodded, “I’d love to see them, too.” Then he reached a hopeful hand out. Mac looked at it for a moment and then took it. His father pulled him in for a hug.
“Forgiveness is a gift I hope someday you’ll grant me,” he said, “but you owe it to yourself first.”