Chapter 14 – Confrontations

When Brian’s plane landed in Greensboro, the first thing he did was rent a car.  Then using the directions Jeremy had given him he drove to the Richardson’s home in Asheboro.  He had hoped that he would have time to compose his speech in his head but the distance to the house was not long enough.  Brian knew that no matter what was said here today he would be leaving with some much needed answers.

As Brian drove up the drive he noticed a very elegant lady standing by the door.  He had seen her somewhere before and he would have recognized her anywhere.  The resemblance to Emily was uncanny.  Brian knew without a doubt that he was looking at Emily’s mother.

“Can I help you young man?”

“Yes, Mrs. Richardson, I am Brian Douglas.  I am going to marry your daughter.  I have some questions I want to ask you and your husband concerning Emily.”

“Ah yes, Emily’s friend.  Do come in and tell me, how is my youngest daughter doing?  I’m afraid that my husband is out of town just now so you’ll have to wait to talk with him.  He had to go to Rome quite unexpectedly.”

Brian looked at her wondering why this woman was not surprised to see him.  He couldn’t understand why someone who so obviously cared about her daughter and knew about her life had kept her silence and distance all this time.  The news about the Rome trip shocked Brian and he took a few minutes to absorb the information.

“You obviously know who I am.  Why have you maintained your silence for so long Mrs. Richardson?”

“Straight as an arrow shoots and directly to the point aren’t you?  If we are going to do this you might as well call me Amelia while we do.  It is a long story, are you ready to stay a while?”

“I can stay as long as it is necessary to get the information I need.  Now, why the silence?  I have seen you at the premiers Emily has put on for the last three years.  It is quite clear that you love your daughter, why the silence?”

“Let me start at the beginning when Emily was 17.  At first I kept the silence because I was very angry, about a lot of things.  You see Emily did the one thing in her life I never took a chance on.  She followed her dreams.  She never let her father or I talk her out of them.  We are very similar in a lot of respects my daughter and I.  We have the same likes and dislikes, the same type of personalities, and very similar looks as you can see.  We even like the same types of food, music and clothing.”  She paused for a moment.

“Yes, go on.”

“We even named her after me in a way.  Our interests are so similar that even you would not believe them.”

“Okay, why don’t you try me?”  Brian asked with curiosity.

“Would you believe that I wanted to be an actress when I was younger?”  Brian looked at her with shock.  She continued “No, I can see that you wouldn’t.  It’s those dreams again.  I’ve never told anyone about them especially my family.  I told you Emily stood up to her father and me and followed her dreams.  I didn’t, I let my parents talk me into following in my father’s footsteps.  He was one of the best doctors around during his time.  And I became quite a good surgeon.  I have had a good life.  But I never followed my dreams.  I was never angry with Emily, as I am sure she believes I was angry with myself.  In some respects I have been acting my entire adult life.”

“I’m beginning to understand a little bit now.  But, why continue the silence for so long?”

“You sure are in a hurry to learn things aren’t you?  Let me tell things my way, and then you will understand the silence.”

“Pardon me, please go ahead.”

“Would you like something to drink before we do?  I make a mean mint julep ice tea if you are interested.”

Brian could tell that Amelia needed a few minutes to get composed so he agreed to the tea.  While she was in the kitchen preparing the drinks he looked around the room.  That was when he noticed all of the pictures in the room.  There were pictures of Susan and Jeremy and their families.  However, there were also pictures of Emily that were taken during the time that she had not spoken to her family.  They showed her while she was pregnant and healing from her accident, while she was holding her baby, and they also showed her sadness after the adoption.  There were also some more frequent photos that showed Emily with him and even some of her with Christy during a few of the premiers.  That is when Brian realized that Amelia had returned to the room.

“You know don’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, I have known all along about Emily being pregnant.  How do you think the adoption was so easy?  Megan was my best friend’s daughter.  I knew that she would make a wonderful mother.”

“How did you know that Emily would give her baby up for adoption?”

“I didn’t.  I could see through the pictures that Emily was slowly losing control.  See look there at that one.  While she is never one to give up under any circumstances, I knew that she would never contact us for help.  So I asked Megan to be standing by just in case.”

“I see.  Could you go on with your story now?  I am still very interested in understanding why the silence especially after seeing all of these photos.”

“Now let me see, we were talking about my being angry.  Emily believes that I was because I said some very hurtful things to her when she told me what she planned to study at the university.  Her father did too but for reasons of his own.  You will have to ask him about those.  When Emily left home she was 17 years old.  I did not think that she was old enough to decide what she wanted to do much less go to college.  So I tried rather forcefully to make her change her mind on the career she wanted.  We had a very strong verbal confrontation quite unlike anything we had had before.

When Emily left, she told me that if I could not support her in her career choices then she would be very grateful if I did not contact her.  Emily was only 17 but I took her at her word.  I did not contact her.  She sent us a change of address card when she moved and a few post cards along the way.  With the one exception of one letter Emily has maintained her silence as well.  I honestly never thought that the silence would last this long.  I followed her education and career path through the pictures her father provided me through the years.  I don’t know how he got them.”

“Did you know about Jack?”

“I only knew that things did not work out between them around the time that Emily had her baby.  I never knew the details of my husband’s involvement with Jack until three years ago.  I was cleaning out some old boxes in the garage when I found the information about Jack.  When I realized what it was I was devastated.  I had been married for 42 years and I never knew that my husband could do something so underhanded.  I mailed the information to Jeremy anonymously hoping that he would figure out a way to use it.  So far I don’t know what he has done with the information.”

Brian’s emotions were numb.  He knew that if he was feeling that way then Amelia had to be feeling some of it too.  So he decided to take a break and just get to know about Amelia.  She was a remarkable lady.  While she did not think that she had been true to her dreams Brian needed to help her realize that sometimes dreams change.

“Do you know why a zebra has stripes? Or a spider has eight legs?”

“No, what does that have to do with anything we are talking about?”

“I’ll get to that.  Now do you know how to diagnose an ailment that has everyone else confused?  Or treat a patient like he is your best friend?  Do you know how to show compassion when you know that there is nothing more that you can do?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with Emily?”

“Don’t you see you have been following your dreams?  You just have not realized it yet.  You did not have to remain in the medical field, I’m sure you have heard about career changes.  You chose to stay there.  When I asked you those questions a few minutes ago your eyes lit up.  You did not give up your dreams, you changed them.”

“Well done young man.”

Both Brian and Amelia looked around with shock.  There in the doorway was Emily’s father.  How long he had been there they had no way of knowing.  They could only assume that he had been there for a while.  Brian began to wonder just how much of Amelia’s story he had heard.  Glancing at her he could see that she was wondering the same thing.

Upon seeing the shock on their faces Emily’s father said, “Okay, ladies and gentlemen I will let you off the hook.  I was just returning from my trip and had parked my car in the garage when I saw you go to the front door.  Amelia did not know that I had returned so I hid where you would not notice me.  She also had no idea how long I would be gone or why I went.  She just knew that a client needed me in Rome under very short notice.”

“So you have heard the whole story.  You know that your wife mailed an old file about Jack to your son about three years ago?” Brian demanded.

“Yes, I had hoped that Amelia would find the file sooner than she did.  I know how she hates to keep any type of clutter around.  I put the file in that box years ago hoping that she would find it within weeks.  Instead my dear, you took years.”

“But that was your box.  Why would you think that I would go through it?”  Amelia was confused.

“Well dear, you see I am not quite the monster that you, Brian and our son think I am.  I thought that you would look because I never brought my work home.  What better way was there to have you find the information that I wanted you to find?  I think that now it is time to tell my side of the story and then maybe we can get our family back on track.  This is something we should have done long ago.”

“Would you like for me to leave, Sir?  I will understand if you want to talk to Amelia alone first.  I can return later if you would like.”

“No, son, I also heard your opening comments.  If you are going to marry my daughter I see no reason for you not to hear this.  By the way just like Amelia, you might as well call me Jeremiah.  Yes, Jeremy was named after me.  Still don’t know where we got Susan’s name.”  He checked his watch and noticed that the time was getting close to dinnertime.  “What would you say to going for a bite to eat before we get down to business?  My side of the story may take some time and I would like to tell it after we have had a chance to get to know you better Brian.  After all if you are going to be my son-in-law I want to know more about you personally then what my private investigator (PI) has been telling me over the years.”

After dinner Brian, Amelia, and Jeremiah went back to the Richardson’s home.  They spent the evening discussing Jeremiah’s involvement with Emily, Jack, and her life choices.

“I think it is time for me to finish my side of the story isn’t it?”  Jeremiah said with some austerity.

Both Brian and Amelia agreed that they would like to know what had happened all those years ago.  Brian wished that Emily had been here to hear it.  He did not feel right learning all this information with her not knowing.

“Well dear, I have spent the last three years with you wondering why you would do something so cruel to your own daughter.  I would like to know if I am still living with the man I fell in love with 45 years ago or if it has all been for nothing.  While I have not forced the issue between Emily and myself, I never thought that you would take things so far.”  Amelia looked at her husband with questions in her eyes.

Brian just listened to the exchange.  He knew that the air between them had to be cleared as well before answers could be forthcoming for him.  While he waited Brian took a closer look at the pictures that surrounded the room.  He studied the family closeness as the children were growing up and wondered once again why they let things go on as they had for so long.  Then Brian noticed an old picture of Jeremiah.  It showed Jeremiah’s graduating class from Harvard Law, in the picture was Brian’s father.  They were standing close together posing for the camera.  It was one of the few pictures Brian had seen of his father in a while.  When he glanced back at Jeremiah, he noticed that Jeremiah had been watching him.

“Your father and I were quite good friends long ago.  In fact our families go back quite a ways.  We spent summers together down on the South Carolina Coast while we were boys and we became blood brothers when we were eight.  When it came time to go to college we both knew that we would become lawyers.  We maintained our friendship right up until the day your father passed away.  I kept in touch with your Grandfather, which is how Megan came to be a client of yours.”

“So this whole thing had been planned from the get go?  Emily and I were both pawns in your crazy plan?”

“No, my plan did not go as I had intended for it to go.  It is time now for you to hear my side of the story I think.”

Amelia had been listening to the exchange and realized that she needed to hear why her husband had acted like he did.  “Go on dear, let us get this behind us and go on.”

Jeremiah glanced at Amelia and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek then with a sigh he began his story.

“Emily was the baby of the family.  She was my little princess.  I would do anything for her and with her.  We went swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter.  We would play imaginary pretend games and I watched, as this little girl became anything that she wanted to be.  While Emily was busy developing her love of acting I was busy imagining her using that talent in a courtroom.  When I realized that Emily had planned her high school years so that she would be graduating early I took it into my own hands to apply to Harvard for her.  I never asked if she wanted to go that route.  I just assumed that I knew what was best for her and went ahead and planned her life for her.

Emily in the meantime was planning her own life.  She had been applying to colleges and universities as well as basically growing up into a mature young woman.  When she graduated I gave her the Harvard acceptance letter as a present.  I never thought that she would turn it down.  When she did that I felt like she was turning me down.  My little princess did not need me anymore.  I told her that if she did not comply with my wishes then she would not be welcome in my home.”

“You didn’t!”  Amelia gasped.

“Please dear, let me finish this.”

“So basically you and I both told our 17 year old daughter that she was on her own.  No wonder she has only sent change of address post cards this whole time.  Okay, let’s hear the rest.”

“Emily went off to UNC, Greensboro.  She graduated in three years, Magna cum Laude with a 4.0 average.  I watched her walk down the aisle.  She didn’t know I was there.”

“Neither did I, where exactly did you hide yourself so that neither Emily nor I saw you?”  At her husband’s glance of surprise Amelia blushed.  “Yes, I was there also.  I hid way up at the top.  I wore that old black hat that I won’t ever let you get rid of.  Clever disguise, Emily had never seen it and neither had you I am guessing.”

“I did not hide I was right out in plain sight.  I guess I sat on the opposite side as you.  However, you saw how crowded it was, it was very easy to blend in and not get noticed.”

“Let me get this straight, you both went to Emily’s graduation and never told her?  She has told me over and over again how much of a disappointment she is to you.  Do you realize that most of the trauma that Emily has been through was caused by you?” Brian demanded angrily.

“Yes.”  They answered in unison.

“That’s it. ‘Yes.’  That’s all you have to say about it?”

“Well not quite,” replied Jeremiah.  “I still need to finish my story don’t you think?”  When Brian nodded he went on.  “The talent that my little girl possessed was amazing.  She could just look at you sometimes and make you laugh, and then five minutes later she would look at you and make you cry.  She was such a good actress.  While at UNC she met this boy, Jack McCann.  They graduated together and then they went to New York together.  I never thought that they would stay together as long as they did.  I had a PI tailing them during those years and once when they had first moved to New York, he reported to me that Jack had proposed marriage.”

“You never told me that Jeremiah.  You led me to believe that they were just good friends.”  Amelia said in disbelief.

“Please dear, may I continue?” At Amelia’s nod Jeremiah went on.  “I had seen boys like him around before.  I had pictures of him with other women, also taken by the PI.  These pictures were not ones that you would want to send home to your parents.  So without Emily’s knowledge, I approached Jack and made him an offer I had hoped he would refuse.  I offered to pay him $25,000 to get out of Emily’s life.”

“$25,000!  Is that all our daughter was worth to you?”

“He came back with $50,000?  So I paid him off.”

“He took $50,000?  How could Emily mean so little to him?”

“Yes, he took the $50,000.  I also made him sign an agreement that he would never contact Emily again and that every year I would pay him $25,000 more.  I thought I would just nip the idea of blackmail in the bud, if you know what I mean.  I never thought he would accept a payoff.  I really had hoped that deep down he did love our daughter and would tell me to kiss off.  Instead they had that accident and he disappeared.”

“You didn’t cause the accident as well did you?”

“No, I would never do that to Emily.  I did, and still do, love my daughter.  I did not know about the baby.  If I did I would never have interfered like I did.  My daughter did not deserve to have that happen to her.”

Brian listened to the story finally beginning to understand how Jeremiah had wanted to help his daughter.  While he had gone about it wrong the concern was still there.  There was just one more question that he needed answered before he went home to Abilene.

“Why did you go to Rome?”

“Ah, the most important question of all.  You see I know that Jeremy showed you the newspaper article about Jack McCann passing away.  Therefore, I am reasonably sure that you also know why I went to Rome.”

“Jack died?”  Amelia was puzzled.  “How is it that you would know this?”

“I kept in touch with him.  You see Jack was injured in the accident.  Everyone thought that he had just walked away without a second thought.  That just is not so.  He became paralyzed from the waist down and knew that he also would not be able to work again on Broadway.  Especially when I found out that he had friends tell Emily that he was dead.”

“Emily thought he was dead?  This whole time while Jack was gallivanting off in Europe and she was miserable here mourning her losses she thought he was dead?”  Amelia was outraged.  “How could he do this to my daughter?”

“She still thinks he is dead.”  Brian interrupted.

“Please let me finish this story so that we can begin to deal with the aspect of Emily.  Jack moved to Rome.  He never married.  He began investing the money that I sent him.  Every year he would keep just enough to live off and put the rest away in real-estate adventures.  He actually became quite adept at making money.  During this time we became friends.  I would fly over to Rome twice a year just to visit with him.  I never told him where Emily was or about his baby and he never asked.  I think that he really did love our daughter though.”

“How could you say that?” Amelia demanded.  “He took the money and ran.”

“Wouldn’t you?  If you were in an accident that caused the life of another person, almost caused the life of your fiance, and caused you to become paralyzed for life, wouldn’t you run also?”

“I wouldn’t know I guess.  I have never thought about it.”

“Brian, could you please show Amelia the newspaper article?  Yes I know you have it.  Jeremy called me on my cell phone and told me you took it with you after your meeting.”

As Amelia read the article Brian could see that she was in shock.  While he knew that she was learning much of this story herself tonight he still felt that she should have done more for her daughter.  Brian knew that life as he knew it would never be the same after hearing Amelia’s and Jeremiah’s stories.  He also knew that when they were finished here tonight he had to go home to Emily.  The discussions of that night were ones that Brian knew he would have to live with.  He just hoped that Emily would forgive him for the decision he was about the make.

“Amelia and Jeremiah, we have a dilemma here.  You see, I cannot tell Emily this story.  I was Megan and Michael’s attorney therefore I have to keep the Attorney-Client privilege about the information on Christy.  Jack left his daughter an enormous amount of money.  We have to decide tonight if you are going to tell Emily and Christy the truth or if you are going to let things run their course and let fate take over.  As, I am sure, you know Emily became Christy’s foster mother just a few days ago.  They are beginning to forge a bond that started taking place years ago.  Will telling them now hurt that bond?”

Brian watched as Amelia and Jeremiah looked at one another and come to a mutual decision.  No one would tell Emily the truth yet.  This was another secret Brian would be keeping from Emily.

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