Nic wandered down a once familiar path, each step suffocating him to the point of unbearable as he relived each and every moment of those last few minutes. The same blue sky was hanging above. The same dew drifting down the green leaves as the early morning sun hit it, creating sparkling effects. The shadows of the past dancing back and forth vividly in the background as he stopped by the rail leading into the woods. Letting out a sigh, he continued down the path and toward the pavilion. The gentle breeze reached his face – just like it once did that day when he was there with her. He settled comfortably on the steps before taking out the letter that had arrived for him, requesting his signature in the afternoon. He opened the envelope with much caution, even taking his time with smoothing the paper before actually reading it. The letter read:
I told you I couldn’t keep the promise. But I know you could keep yours, so promise me you’ll stay strong and move on. Forgive me for not telling you, but I know it would never make any difference anyway. Why subject everyone to the pain of waiting for that day when I could be spending it with everyone and cherishing every moment? Thanks for being there when you didn’t even know. You don’t have to worry anymore because I’ll be with my mom in Heaven now. Or if I don’t even get access to Heaven because of my past mischief, at least I get a little pass to visit her from time to time, right? I don’t think they would rob me of that right to see my own mother.
Nic didn’t want to cry but he couldn’t help it. He knew she didn’t want him to blame himself yet he didn’t know who to blame.
Like Nic, the rest of the Wang family also received a letter in the mail from Cynthia – with signature confirmation. Cyndi was in her room when she heard her father calling her. Yes, she had moved back to her father’s house with her mother. Her mother was actually staying at one of the guest rooms since no one dared to step upstairs. Despite Ms. Shen’s previous fierceness, she did not dare to violate that rule either.
The mailman had requested for both signatures from father and daughter, not allowing Mr. Wang to sign off for Cyndi. They thanked the mailman after their letters were delivered before shutting the door and opening the letters, each person at their own corner. The reason why Ms. Shen wasn’t around was because she had gone home to check on mails and others since her moving back to the Wang resident was a temporary one. One more incident that happened, adding to the already chaotic atmosphere was Ms. Shen breaking up with Dr. Lu. Ms. Shen didn’t provide the reason but Dr. Lu seemed to get it because of how she had moved back into the Wang resident.
Of the two letters, Cyndi’s contained:
I wasn’t pregnant in the first place, you silly girl. What do you take me for? Am I that easily conned by men? Yeah, I overheard you guys talking one day when I was late to a meeting. And I’m sorry I let you believe just that all these times. But it was the only way to conceal the secret until the end. The reason I was throwing up was because the new meds didn’t agree with me and the old meds just didn’t work anymore. Don’t feel guilty because you were misled. It just so happened there were two Cynthia Wangs coming in that day to see the doctor. I finally remembered when I overheard your conversation regarding some pregnancy. Even I was surprised when they called my name yet it wasn’t really my name since I was sure I signed in as Wang Xin Ru. But perhaps it was someone out there helping me to conceal this secret a little longer. Don’t be sad, okay? It’s going to happen sooner or later, whether you want it or not. Better take care of Mom and Dad. And my shop too. And don’t neglect that Jiro. He’s a bit silly but he loves you.
On the other hand, Mr. Wang’s letter was a bit more serious than Cyndi’s:
Let me call you ‘Dad’ for the last time because I won’t be able to anymore. Don’t be sad, you knew what happened to my mother, right? So of course it had to happen with me. I can’t escape it. At least it finally explains why. Although you should have told Auntie a long time ago about the whole thing. Then it wouldn’t be so complicated. You just wasted all these years getting mad at each other over nothing. Please don’t be stubborn anymore. I can tell all these years that Auntie still cares for you very much, even if she doesn’t say anything about it. I know it would be hard to start telling a story that has been buried so deep already, but I will help you for the last time. Depending on if the mail service cooperates, it will happen within several days or less. Take this as a gift from me, my last gift to you.
While the pair of father and daughter was reading their letters, Ms. Shen was also at her resident reading hers. The contents were a bit ambiguous yet Ms. Shen read on anyway, which contained the following:
Please forgive Dad for what he had done. It’s just that he was never good at expressing himself. And he was wrong to have hid the truth from you all of these years. But it is not because you’re not important to him, but it is because he hasn’t gotten past his demons yet. He’s still hurting because of losing my mother, and now he’s losing me too. This is a big blow for him because the past has repeated itself. But I know you can help him get past this. Please be patient and wait. It will be over in the coming days.
Just like Cynthia promised in her letters, news came several days later. It was delivered by the PI who Cynthia had hired about two months ago. He had come to the Wang resident, requesting to speak with everyone in the Wang family, including Nic and Jiro. He was following Cynthia’s request – or last request. Like last time – among all the meetings they had these past days, they were gathered in the living room.
“I already handed the information over to Ms. Wang more than a month back,” The PI explained after his initial introduction – and why he was there. “But she had asked me to talk to everyone in person today. I didn’t know why but agreed to her request anyway, thinking that she wanted more credibility with me speaking up rather than her telling you directly. However, after receiving her letter in the mail last night, I understand now.”
“What you want to say, we already know,” Cyndi spoke up for the others. “We know she’s Vicki Wang’s daughter.”
The PI nodded. “But that’s just part of it.”
“Don’t say it anymore,” Mr. Wang interrupted, putting a hand up for emphasis. “It’s the past now. Let it go.”
The PI turned to Mr. Wang then. “It is Miss Wang’s last request and she said it was a gift for you and your wife.”
“Ex-wife,” Ms. Shen corrected the PI.
“Technically, ma’am,” The PI continued, not threatened by Ms. Shen’s presence. “You’re not divorced yet, just separated.”
Cyndi, Jiro, and Nic turned to look at Mr. Wang and Ms. Shen then, waiting for the answer.
“They never finalized the paperwork,” The PI explained for both parties. “Anyway, the other thing I have to clarify with everyone – according to Ms. Wang’s request is…”
Cyndi looked anxious as the PI paused. Jiro reached a hand over to her, patting her shoulder.
“Cynthia is your niece, not daughter,” The PI continued, looking at Mr. Wang.
“What?” Ms. Shen and Cyndi exclaimed at the same time.
“Vicki Wang,” The PI went on, not caring for the pair of mother and daughter’s reaction. “…is actually Mr. Wang’s younger sister. But you, Mr. Wang, took Cynthia in as your own daughter when her mother passed away.”
There were traces of grief visible on Mr. Wang’s face. It was also then that Ms. Shen turned to her husband with a look of shock. Cynthia’s words echoed in her mind as she was about to speak up.
“So Dad wasn’t cheating,” Cyndi blurted out.
“No, Miss,” The PI answered when no else did. “Your father wasn’t cheating, he was only afraid that his niece didn’t have anyone to protect her. He even lowered Cynthia’s age so it was closer to yours.”
“How did Auntie Wang die then?”
“The same virus that killed Cynthia. Vicki passed the virus onto her daughter.”
“It’s my fault,” Mr. Wang said suddenly. “I thought Cynthia could escape it. I didn’t take good care of her.”
“How could she conceal her health from the rest of us so easily?” Cyndi asked, wanting to get to the bottom of the matter. “I meant there are signs, not…” Then she stopped because Cynthia had always been so secretive about her life, even her obliviousness was a mask to disguise it all. “But she…”
“It’s a strange virus,” The PI answered, still maintaining his patience – possibly because he wanted to fulfill Cynthia’s last request. “It’s always stable with meds but near the end, it will strike really hard and then killing the victim.”
“What I want to know is…” Cyndi hesitated because she didn’t know how to get it out without offending everyone present. She stared at her father first and then her mother. Then she made up her mind that the PI could just not know. There was no harm. She turned to give the PI her attention again. “Who’s Cynthia’s father?”
The PI had to look down at his notes at that point, even turning the pages of the stack of papers. It was an important matter and needed accuracy so they didn’t mind waiting for him to find the correct page. After few more minutes, he looked up at them, the correct page in his hand.
“Wang Dong Cheng,” The PI rattled off without any special reaction.
The others turned to Jiro, feeling strange of the similarity in names, causing Jiro to tense up.
“Senior,” The PI finished.
“What?” Jiro asked, jumping up from his seat.
The PI seemed prepared because he undid the paperclip that held two pages together and handed a piece of paper to Jiro. The flower stationary matched the letters that the others had received in the mail previously. Jiro looked at the others real quick before looking down at the letter itself.
Hey, Little Bro,
Should I say this is a small world? Who knew, right? It was nice knowing you all the same. Don’t blame Dad because he didn’t know that my mom was already pregnant with me when they separated. Perhaps she knew her time was short so she didn’t want to burden him. Whatever it was, it was her decision – just like I had chosen mine, regardless of how silly our pair of mother and daughter both was. Stay strong and never change. Take good care of her, you hear? You know who I’m talking about.
After Jiro was done with the letter, he settled down on the sofa next to Cyndi again, still lost in thoughts. It seemed though that the PI wasn’t done because he pulled out another stack of papers from his folder and handed it to Jiro.
“It’s for your mother if she finds out,” The PI explained.
Jiro nodded, understanding – and taking the stack from the man.
“The information is all in here,” The PI said, tapping on the remaining contents in the folder and closing the folder up. “If you are in doubt of anything, just contact me and I’ll investigate further, no charge because I had promised Cynthia.”
The PI left after that, leaving them all numbed, still mulling over all the information they just received.
© Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011