Love & Marriage Across the Hate Barrier
But Addy had decided to keep the child -- a boy, it turned out -- and I was in no position to object. My offer to be there for his birth was emphatically declined. So were my offers of support. It was this independence that had initially attracted me to Addy and ultimately it saved us from marriage. I would have married her had she wanted me to, regardless of her reasons. I am sure many marriages are founded on much less than what I shared with Addy.
I had told none of this to Melissa. The omission seemed especially deceitful because we had quickly come to share other details of the years since high school. As our feelings for each other deepened, this secret loomed ever larger in my conscience. Almost from the first night we spent together, I disliked myself for not having told her. I was afraid that my secret would repulse her. What kind of sleazebag went around fathering children before marriage? I even considered keeping it a permanent secret. What possible repurcussions could there be? In the end I had too much respect for Melissa to win her in deceit.
Knowing that I would have to get the secret off my chest before we could pursue talk of marriage, I had just about made up my mind to tell her. We were soon to start our internships and I sensed that we both longed for a commitment before we were forced to spend long days away from each other.
"What's the matter?" she asked one night as we sat down to dinner. "You look like you just killed someone."
I knew the time had come and I couldn't wait any longer. But before I could start telling her about the child, Melissa blurted, "Before you say anything, there's something I have to tell you." She put her arms around me and squeezed tighter than I had ever felt. "It's about my father."
"Did something happen to him?"
"No. Well, yes. But not anything recent." She closed her eyes and shook her head as though she were trying to remember her lines. "It happened when he was a little boy. He doesn't even have any memory of it, directly. It's just that his father was killed by a Japanese torpedo, and..."
"You told him about us?"
She nodded. Her eyes were brimming with feelings she seemed to have trouble putting into words.
"What did he say?"
"Not a thing. He just listens politely and says nothing." It was obvious that the situation was troubling Melissa deeply. From our conversations I knew that she was unusually close to her father.
"She's happy for me but... She's mainly worried about him." Melissa took both my hands and squared off to gaze into my eyes. "But I want you to know that..."
"No." I stopped her. "We can't say anything more until I've met him."
Even as I spoke those words, I couldn't believe what I was saying. Meeting her father was what I feared more than anything. I felt that the old man had the power to make me vanish into thin air. Consequently, given my perverse psychology, I felt obliged to act as though I welcomed the meeting. For the next several weeks I lived in constant dread as I waited for Melissa to arrange a meeting.
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“I felt that the old man had the power to make me vanish into thin air.”
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