Never look back, p.1
Never Look Back,
Never Look Back
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Copyright ©2014 by Geraldine Solon
All rights reserved
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A misty fog enveloped the sky. After grabbing her thick, wool coat and suitcase, Dana Simmons stepped down from her black Suburban SUV and drew in the cold Alaskan air. A gust of wind swept her long blond hair as she rolled her luggage to her childhood home. Tall pine trees surrounded the two-story waterfront and the old-fashioned mailbox. Opting not to knock at the front door, she headed to the back, ascended to the top of her tree house, and overlooked the frozen lakefront view.
Shutting her eyes, Dana could still hear their laughter while her father and she played hide and seek. How she wished she could run around on her father's back giggling until she was out of breath, but that wouldn't erase the twenty years she lost when her mother disappeared. Blowing out a sigh, Dana opened her eyes, climbed down the tree house, and marched to the front door.
Her father's nurse escorted her inside. "He's in the bedroom waiting for you."
Forcing a smile, Dana set the suitcase aside as she surveyed the popcorn ceiling. The old box TV blasted the famous Wheel of Fortune show she used to watch with her father. Dana slanted her gaze to the mustard wallpaper. Everything seemed like how it was when she left Alaska for the high-paced life in New York and L.A. Being a model was all she ever wanted—an escape from the painful reality that her mother was never coming back.
"How is he?"
The nurse's kept her eyes guarded. "He never ceases to tell me how proud he is of you."
"Thank you for taking care of him."
They shared a tight embrace.
"Happy Birthday, Dana. I'll be back in the morning."
Dana removed her UGGS and set it aside. She tied her golden blond hair in a ponytail. The smell of rubbing alcohol burned her nostrils as she entered into the dark room. Lying down with cheeks sunken, her father forced a smile. His lung cancer had deteriorated since his diagnosis two years ago.
Dana rushed to his side, tears trickling down her face. “Oh, Dad!”
Dad stroked her cheek. “Sweetie, happy birthday. Now, don’t you get all depressed. You're not starving yourself today." He poked her ribs.
Dana sniffed while embracing her dad tight.
“I got your favorite cake.”
She trembled. “Thank you.”
A tradition they shared every year and the only time Dana could eat chocolate. With her mother gone and her father fighting for her life, who did Dana have? Sure, she had a lot of friends and an active social life, but her modeling career was taking a toll on her body. At six feet and a hundred twenty pounds, she had the ideal body, all credit to a strict diet. Not everybody could survive the cruel modeling industry. You had to pay a high price to look glamorous, when deep inside you felt like shit. A lot of fresh younger models were willing to get paid less than what she received. Her clock was ticking, and by next year, she would be over the hill for a modeling career.
Only at her father’s place could Dana eat some carbs and not feel guilty. Nobody here told her that her waistline grew bigger or that she gained a pound.
“Would you help your old man up so I can sing to you?” Dad asked in his raspy voice. His blue eyes still twinkled, revealing how handsome he once was.
After adjusting the pillow behind her father’s back, Dana lit the candles as her father sang Happy Birthday.
“Don’t forget to make a wish.”
So many things she wished for, yet everything seemed to be taken away from her. She closed her eyes then blew thirty candles.
Her father clapped so hard. “Good girl. Now you know the drill.” He fingered the icing and licked his fingers.
Nodding, she lighted the candles again as they sang Happy Birthday to Dana's absent mother.
After savoring some cake, her father drifted into a deep sleep. Dana rose and lurched to the kitchen to wash the dishes.
Moments later, her father called out to her from the room. “Dana, honey..." He coughed.
“Coming, Dad.” She rinsed the soap from the plate and dried the dishes, placing them on the rack before retreating to the room.
“There’s something I need to tell you.”
Her stomach churned as she rested on the chair beside her father’s bed.
Holding her hand tight, he said, “Honey, you know I don’t have much time and—”
“We don’t have to talk about this,” Dana cried.
His breaths turned shallow. “You can’t keep running away from the past. It’s a big part of you.”
Dana sighed. “I didn’t run away. I moved on. While you chose to...” She paused. “You chose to live in the past.” When he didn’t respond, tears flooded her cheeks. “It’s been twenty years, Dad. Do you ever think Mom is out there? She probably has her own family, or she's dead.”
“I will not allow you to say that about your mother.” He coughed between breaths.
She bit her lip. “Let me ask you this: if Mom is alive, what kind of mother leaves her ten-year-old daughter and husband behind?”
Her father stared at the dextrose, watching every drip as if it were a timer.
Emotions unraveled before Dana as she sobbed remembering how her father had been there for her emotionally, but acted like a robot who took care of her as an obligation. "This is why I left, Dad. I couldn’t bear to see you so unhappy, and all I needed was your love and affection."
“That’s not true. I love you.”
“But I needed you to share more than just a chocolate cake. I wanted you to talk to me about life, boys, and let me know how to survive.” Dana covered her face.
With his frail hands, he pulled Dana toward his chest. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I hated for you to see how miserable I felt.”
“You didn’t have to tell me. It was painted all over your face. You became a zombie, decaying like there was nothing left.” She pulled away from him, furious with herself for talking to him like this. Unwilling to face him, she approached the window. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
Drops of snowflakes cascaded to the ground.
Before he could respond, she added, “I thought I could figure it out on my own." She paced around the room. "Which is why I kept myself busy modeling, but my career has left me emptier than I ever was. Nothing you see is real—it’s all phony. All I ever wanted was a deep relationship, a normal family, and a happy home.”
“Honey, listen to me. The doctor said I have a couple days, if I’m lucky.”
“I’ve sold the house.”
“I know you’re not going to live here. I only see you twice a year, three times if I’m lucky. I sold it to Michael Downey. He gave me an offer I can’t refuse. The money is yours. Although you don’t need it, I’m sure you will soon when you figure out what you want to do with your life. I’ve entrusted my attorney to give you the account details.”
The world spun. She clutched her head, hoping this was just a bad dream.
“I have everything in my will.” Her father opened his nightstand drawer and removed a manila envelope. “My lawyer’s contact info is there. You have nothing to worry about. My memorial service has been paid, and I’m ready to go.”
Dana clutched the envelope against her chest. He didn’t deserve this. "I can't lose you, Dad."
“You'll be fine. Do me a favor, will you? Don’t be like your old man. Go get yourself a husband, have a lot of kids, and enjoy what life gives you.” He burst into laughter in between coughs. “Life is about taking risks. I know I should have moved on, but I can't change the past. But you...” He pointed to her. “You have a whole life ahead of you.”
All Dana could do was nod.
“One last thing, please keep the albums. I want you to have them.”
“Of course.” They only had two family albums. Her father stopped taking photos when her mother vanished. She had more photos of her modeling career than she ever had of her childhood, yet those two albums meant more to her than she could imagine.
“I love you, Dana. I always will, my beloved daughter.”
“I love you, Dad. You’re the best dad in the world, you know that?”
He gave a hearty laugh and before long exhaled his last breathe.
All Dana could do was scream, “Don’t go.”
The cathedral bells chimed as a lady dressed in a black velvet dress and high heels stepped inside the church. Her clinking heels echoed as she approached and knelt down on the back pews with head bowed. She made the sign of the cross and prayed as the priest gave the homily.
From a distance, a man wearing a black trench coat greeted the mourners. He eyed the blond woman sitting two rows in front of him then settled into the pew averting his gaze at a tall blond woman delivering her message at the podium.
"Thank you for coming here today. My father was a good citizen. He paid his bills on time, followed the law, and gave generous tithes to the church. But most of all, he was a good father, he took care of me when my mother..." She cleared her throat. "When my mother left. We honor him today for the life he lived and for the goodness in his heart. I want to thank all of you for coming here today and for remembering my father."
Waiting till everyone paid their respect, the man rose mounted from his seat and exited the cathedral. Reaching for his cellphone, he punched in a number and mumbled in a hushed town. "I found them—yep, mother and daughter."
Back in her Manhattan apartment, Dana never felt so alone. She stirred her cup of coffee while reading the morning newspaper. Despite the heater being on full blast, a cold wind managed to slip in the thin walls of her apartment at the fourteenth floor. Everything about Dana's apartment displayed a modern minimalist look with art that matched her ivory leather couch, but each time she gazed at the paintings on her wall, the more it made her mourn.
A knock startled her. Who can it be?
She held the door ajar as John Goodwin, her father's lawyer, greeted her with a smile.
“John, what brings you here? I thought we had finished discussing my father’s will.”
“I’m in town for the holidays. I forgot to give you something from your father.” He rubbed his chin then pulled out a crumpled envelope from his back pocket and handed it to Dana.
“Do you want to come inside?”
“I won’t stay long.”
Raising her eyebrows, she opened the envelope.
“I think you should read it when I’m gone.”
She glanced back at him. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“Oh, no. Personal matters like this are between the family. I’m just the messenger who doesn’t want to be part of any issues.”
She nodded. “I understand. Thanks for being so helpful to us.”
“You take care now, Dana, and if there’s anything you need, you know where to reach me.”
What I need is for my father to come home. I miss you, Dad. He died on her birthday—on her mother’s birthday and twenty years after her mother had disappeared. Birthdays were supposed to be happy, but it seemed that her family was cursed.
She plucked out the letter from the envelope.
By the time you read this, I'm gone, my ashes lost in the woods where I loved to take long walks and explore the outdoors. You know how much I love you, and being gone will not change my love for you. I'm so sorry to add this burden to you, but your mother is still alive. I never dared to look for her because I had to protect her secret that could affect you. Being the coward that I am, I chose to carry this secret to my grave. But you are different, Dana. I know you are bold and brave. I'm no longer here to protect you. Please find her, I know you will, and when you do, please tell her I never stopped loving her.
I love you.
Dana read the letter more than three times. The world rotated, and she sucked in air. A secret?
"How could you keep this from me, Dad?" Why did she have to grow up without a mother? How am I supposed to find Mom?
If only her father had given her a hint.
Dana paced the room when an idea came to her. She fled to her bedroom and grasped the two family albums from her book shelf. The first picture she spotted showed her beautiful mother with long blond hair and blue eyes pushing Dana on the swing. Flipping the pages to find more clues only brought tears to her eyes as pictures of her family building a snowman and birthday parties flashed upon her.
Towards the end of the album, she spotted her mother dressed in a pink fairy costume. She remembered that night. Her parents had just arrived from a party and were arguing. “You know how I hate this place,” her mother had said. “It’s cold and boring, and there's nothing to do.”
“Don’t get so high and mighty," her father had lashed back. "This small town saved you.”
“I used to be an entertainer, a good one too. I made more money in a day than you can make in a month.”
Her father opened his mouth when he had caught Dana standing by the hallway. They tried to cover up the scene, but even back then, Dana understood that couples had disagreements.
She collapsed onto the her bed. What if Mom's here in New York? Thoughts of hiring a private detective dawned on her, but she brushed it aside. Pacing around her bedroom, she wondered where would her mom be. I need to start somewhere. If Mom is like me, she would love The Big Apple.
Outside the window, gray clouds nestled. People flocked the streets, preparing for the Christmas holidays, but all she could think about finding her mother. She flipped through the pages of a magazine that listed a variety of performances, but she didn’t know if her mother was a magician, dancer, singer, gymnast, or comedian. Would Dana even recognize her mother?
Grabbing her cell phone, she punched in Rob’s phone number. Rob wasn’t only her agent and photographer—he was her best friend.
“How’s my favorite girl?” Rob’s cheerful voice brought back her high spirits.
“I don’t think I can go back to work yet.”
“I understand you’re grieving. Maybe we can have lunch soon. Are you still in Alaska?”
“Nope, I’m back home.”
“And you never called?” He lowered his voice. “Don’t tell me you’re trying to drown your emotions. You know that’s not very smart of you."
“No, nothing like that. I'
There was a long pause. “Your mother? Isn't she—”
“She vanished. My father's lawyer just delivered a letter where Dad confessed that Mom's still alive.”
“What? He never told you?”
“He said he was trying to protect me. If you met my father, you'll understand he was a peacemaker.” Deep inside, Dana wished he'd told her. Whatever his reasons were, she couldn’t understand why he didn’t.
“I’m so sorry, but this doesn’t make sense. Why didn’t he look for her?”
“Long story. It's all very confusing for me, but I have to look for her. I have a feeling she’s here—I hope she is.” She drew in a breath.
Rob sighed. “You can always hire a private detective.”
Dana licked her lips. “I thought of that, but I prefer to this myself.”
“I’m worried about you. You have to be careful. You’re an international model, and people can take advantage of you.”
“Don’t you worry about me. I know how to take care of myself. Besides, I have my perfect disguise,” Dana said.
“I hear you. You have your wigs, hat, and sunglasses, right?”
“You know me so well."
“Does this mean you won’t be coming back to work?"
“I don’t know how long this will take. I’m sorry if I have to cancel some of my projects.”
“You'll be missing lots of opportunities.”
“I know, Rob, but she’s still my mother and it involves my life. I hope you understand my priorities.”
“Of course I do. I miss my favorite girl.” Rob’s tender tone comforted her.
Silence crossed between them. Rob often joked that if they didn’t meet anyone special, they should just get married. She could still taste the drunken kiss they shared two years ago at a New Year’s Eve party. She'd always have a soft spot for Rob.
“You'll find twenty-year-olds who can do a better job than me.”
“Not everybody has that sweet smile like you.”
A grin played on her lips. “Thanks for cheering me up. You’re a true friend.”
“I’m your evil twin,” he teased.