After Christmas the cold weather continued and indoor play was mostly the rule. Many times there were twice as many children as usual crowded around the small dining table. When his mother was busy with Rocky or household duties she allowed Heath to microwave leftovers for his sisters and their friends. Comfort food like grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers or spaghetti were popular along with that most favored of children's meals; macaroni and cheese. Tina Traveler, Ryan Blackford and Christopher Cooke were three frequent guests, sometimes on the same day.
One fairly quiet afternoon when the kids and their friends had eaten and were upstairs in their playroom, Brian asked Meadow to sit down with him. He had something he wanted to discuss with her and now was the time while Rocky was napping.
He looked so serious that Meadow became a bit apprehensive. Brian was almost always laid back and joking, although he was quick to action when it was necessary.
"Do you remember years ago, in school, hearing about 'the Ottomas twins' curse'?" he asked quietly as he sat down at their dining table, "I know you must have heard the rumors."
Meadow nodded, then shrugged,
"Yes, I heard, but they were so ridiculous I just dismissed them as a bunch of crap spread by people who were jealous."
He smiled a little,
"Yes, mostly that's what they were, but almost every rumor has a basis in fact. I've never told you this story before because, well, one, I hoped I wouldn't have to; I hoped you'd tell Heath about his father without me prodding you further--"
Meadow frowned and started to interrupt him,
"Sweetheart, hear me out. I understand your reluctance if anyone does. The second reason I didn't tell you was that it's not really my secret to tell. I've checked with Momma though and she said I could proceed at my own discretion."
By now Meadow was totally bewildered. What could Brian possibly be talking about?
"Momma has a secret?"
Meadow had loved Brian's mother ever since the beginning and with her own mother now only a painful memory she easily called Samantha "Momma" as Brian did.
He didn't answer directly, just began his story,
"When Momma and Daddy moved the family to Pleasantview from Crystal Creek Dylan was in high school, Sharla was in elementary and Tommy was only two. Our grandmother still lived with us--this was before all her plastic surgery and her military career, but that's another story for another day. They lived in that big house that's still empty over on Chalfont; the one you and I took a look at last year."
"The real reason the family moved was that Momma had an affair in Crystal Creek. She ended it but then she found out she was pregnant--with Bridget and me. Pete is not our biological father. Momma went to Daddy and confessed and begged his forgiveness. He agreed that they should start anew; that he could love the baby she would have and raise it as his. Of course he did not not know he'd be getting two for the price of one, but he kept his promise and was a real father to Bridget and me--but, of course, you know that. The man in question still lived near Crystal Creek then so Momma and Daddy wanted to relocate to Pleasantview."
All during this Brian's voice and his eyes were calm as he watched Meadow's face to gauge her reaction. She was speechless. Samantha was so devoted to Pete and to her children that it was hard to imagine her ever caring for another man. Her mother-in-law and father-in-law had moved to their current house when Brian's younger brother Damon was still in grade school and Meadow and Brian were first married. She remembered Samantha bustling around her kitchen with her pert blond ponytail swinging. Now of course, Damon had gone on to University. The role of fallen woman just didn't fit. Especially now that she and Pete were seniors with silver hair.
"I know what you're probably thinking. She did love Daddy, but he was working all kinds of hours then and when he wasn't working he was out. It wasn't that he was running around with women, but he bowled on two different leagues, coached little league and always seemed to have activities going on that excluded her. Actually he recently told me that, looking back, he realized he was having a hard time accepting the responsibilities of parenting three kids and just avoided the reality whenever he could. He figured then that he worked hard, his mother helped Momma with the kids and household chores, so he ought to be able to have fun with his free time. Basically he neglected her. That doesn't make what she did right, but I guess it makes it a little more understandable. And then, there's the fact that the guy she fell for was evidently a charmer who cut a wide swath through Crystal Creek," he said this last part sarcastically and then paused and looked down at the table. Whether he was gathering his thoughts or gathering his courage Meadow was not sure.
She naturally wanted to ask "who was he?" but she did not. She just leaned toward Brian and put her hand over his. He looked up again,
"You know how I told you once that I was distantly related to Bobbi Jo Broke? Well, her name is Cooke now, but do you remember?"
"I guess you did say something to that effect but you never explained it and I forgot about it."
"My biological father was Frank Newbie, he was a cousin to Bobbi Jo and related to a ton of people in the tri-county area. Since they were first cousins I suppose it's not that surprising they looked so much alike."
He pulled out an envelope and began taking a few candid photographs out of it. Old photographs.
"My mother took these two pictures one of the last times she saw Frank at his apartment. And the other one is an ID photo she actually ripped off out of his wallet."
He handed them to Meadow who set them down on the table to look closely. She was fascinated. Frank looked just like the kind of guy who would charm women. Brian then pulled his weather-beaten wallet from his back pocket and fished out his driver's license; throwing it down next to the ID photo of Frank Newbie. Right after that he put wallet photos of Samantha and his sister Bridget,
"I look a lot like him, Momma says. I don't know...maybe, except for my big jaw. Bridget looks just like Momma, but she has his black hair and grey-blue eye color; we both do."
Frank Newbie Samantha Ottomas
Brian and Bridget Ottomas:
"You really do look like--" Meadow started to say then glanced at Brian's ripped up and bulging wallet, "Oh, Brian. For heaven's sake. Why are you still carrying that horrible thing around? You need to start using the new wallet I got you for Christmas!"
"I keep forgetting..."
Meadow returned to the subject,
"Well, you really do look like him--it's amazing. Does that...does that bother you?"
"It used to, but not any more. Anyway, somewhere along the line someone noticed we looked nothing like Pete and that I didn't look much like Momma either and there were whispers from people who knew Frank and guessed about the affair and that Bridget and I were the possible outcome. So 'something is not right about the Ottomas Twins' began to circulate and then eventually became 'the Ottomas Twins Curse', I guess.
But the point that I'm coming to is this: Momma didn't want to tell us either, she was ashamed and she was very afraid Frank would find out. She never told him even though Pete said she could do so. When she finally got around to telling us, we were in high school. Bridget cried but seemed to bounce back right away, but I was really torn up about it. I adored Pete and I didn't want some other guy to be my father. But part of me wanted to know Frank. To see if some of the things about me were from him. Momma said my love of music definitely came from him. Anyway, she said she would try to find out from his family where he was. He'd been gone from Crystal Creek for years by that time. I was angry with her, I was angry at Pete--like any of it was his fault--and I was angry at Frank for not trying to find us even though, as far as we know, he was completely unaware that we existed. And then I found out I could never see Frank, never talk to him. He was dead."
"Yeah. Probably if I'd met him I would have found out he was a jerk; he might not even have wanted to see me. But I'll never know. I guess he moved around a lot once he left Crystal Creek and was in trouble with the law from time to time. He mostly hung around taverns and dives, gambling and drinking," the corner of Brian's mouth went down, "He died in a stupid barroom brawl over some woman. He was pretty good at taking care of himself, Momma said, he was black belt karate and could throw a knife across a room so fast it looked like an illusion. But you've heard the old saying 'he brought a knife to a gunfight', well, evidently that's exactly what happened. He was shot to death. Turns out he'd been dead about a year when Momma tried to find him. His family told her that they'd thought of contacting her, but didn't know what to do; he'd kept a photo of her in his wallet. After all those years."
"Remember when we were in Three Lakes I told you I'd stayed at the campground with Nicky Ferguson and Adam Brecht?"
"That's right. You said you'd tell me about it when we got home."
"I was so upset when I found out Frank was dead I didn't know what to do. I had to make some sort of gesture to show my hurt and anger. So I stormed out of the house and called Nicky and Adam--Adam had an old car he'd just finished working on that we could use and we headed for the mountains and we didn't tell anyone that we were going and certainly not where. We didn't have much money; just enough for gas and we stocked up on soft drinks and junk food at a 7 Eleven along the way. We knew we could stay at the campground for free. Nicky brought along survivalist stuff he always kept stashed away, just to be "ready for the revolution", so we thought we had all bases covered.
Even though I'd left angry, I knew Momma and Daddy would just think I was hanging out at Sam's Snappy Service with friends. They didn't get really worried until it was morning and I was still not home. The cops caught up with us the second night we were at the campground," he had to smile a little, "We were pretty scared that our parents had sent them after us. We actually thought we could forget about school and our homes, get jobs in Three Lakes and live full time at the campground. That was our plan. We had the nerve to be surprised when our parents arrived there, worried and angry."
"I'm so sorry, babe," she was holding his hand by now and he placed his other hand over hers. She knew it was only three years later that he was in the terrible accident where his girlfriend died. It made more sense now that with Corinne's death he ran away even farther and for longer.
"I'm not telling you this for myself," Brian said, "I'm telling it as a cautionary tale for you and for Heath. Don't wait. When he hits his teens his hormones will be in overdrive and his reaction--whatever it is--will be that much stronger. Please work up your courage and tell him and be prepared for the fact that he may ask to meet his father."
Suddenly, holding hands with her husband, Meadow felt calm and sure. She knew what she had to do and she knew somehow she could do it.
"You are his father, Brian. You are. But, I know you're right, I've been such a coward. I will tell him and I will let him meet Lonnie if he asks to do so. Of course, that means I would finally have to tell Lonnie. But I want to talk to Heath first. When I do it will you stay nearby in case he asks to talk to you? I'll tell him alone, but I need you to be available."
"You know I'll do whatever you want."
So it was decided. She would tell Heath and deal with whatever happened. They would both let Heath know they were there for him and always would be no matter what might happen in life.
Next blog update: Brian Ottomas Ch. 14 Heath