Standing next to the lamp post outside his favourite pub, he alternately kept checking his phone and watch, every minute. She was late, he grumbled, fully aware that it was he who was early. First dates were always difficult for him as he was always either too early ending up looking like a needy and clingy person or late, turning off the woman. Today’s woman in question was not exactly a date; he was having dinner with his step sister. A sister who he didn’t even know existed until a week ago, right after his father passed away. As if it wasn’t difficult enough for his mother to lose her husband of over 40 years, now the woman was going to know that her loving husband had an affair and has a mistress and a 22 years old daughter tucked away in a life that didn’t include her or her two sons.
When he received the email, he had laughed it off as a hoax at first. Obviously, someone was trying to milk them for money; it wasn’t uncommon knowledge that their father had made quite a fortune in trade. But a couple of pictures and after exchanging three more emails, it was apparent that the woman was telling the truth. She had the familiar eyes, the distinct haughty look that he and his younger brother were always teased to have inherited from their father. He knew it had to be handled quietly, they couldn’t afford a scandal of any sorts. More importantly, he couldn’t let his mother know about it. He had to protect them all.
“Excuse me. Hi! I believe you are waiting for me?” a tiny voice asked. Turning around, he faced the woman of his nightmares. She stood there, barely reaching his shoulder, with familiar almond shaped green eyes and the all too recognisable features. His father was hidden there, somewhere. Her eyes widened as she appraised him, head to toe. “You look exactly like him. I mean, I was prepared for this but you are so much more intimidating in person; it is uncanny how…” her voice trailed away as his eyebrows rose in amusement. Staring pointedly at his watch, he cleared his throat, “I have been waiting for a long time. Anyway, now that you are here, tell me. What do you want?”
She smirked, “Wow. You are a lot like my dead father. Let’s go in, shall we? You promised me lunch. I am starving.” And with that, she turned around and headed inside. He stared after her, in utter disbelief. Never before had a woman dismissed him so well. It was good he never had a sister. If they were this disrespectful on the very first day they met, he didn’t know what would familiarity feel like. Shrugging and accepting defeat, he followed her in, marveling over the fact that his father had successfully transferred his pigheadedness solely through genes into this tiny woman. She had already placed her order before he could slide into his chair. Taking a sip of her water, she glanced at him and he could finally see some vulnerability in her eyes as if the situation was just sinking in. She looked tired, drawn and had dark circles around her eyes. He silently agreed that it was a good thing she came in to eat; she looked like she needed to be fed. Badly.
After what seemed like an eternity, she squared her shoulders, looked straight into his eyes and declared without a single shred of emotion, “My mother died two days before our father; she had been battling cancer for about a year. Father had no idea because she had ended their relationship years ago. Although he and I were in touch, I was sworn to secrecy by her. Now I know why you don’t want me to suddenly crop up in your lives and that you are protecting your mother. Believe me, I don’t want your money but my mother left a bunch of letters she had written for your mother. And before dying, she made me promise that I’d deliver them. At the time, I hadn’t anticipated that our father would pass away too and hence agreed. I sit before you with just one request. Would you let me meet your mother? I am supposed to deliver the letters myself.”
He stared at her, stunned and speechless as she looked at him with hope and expectations brimming in her eyes. Suddenly, their perfect family had a bigger stain that he had no means to hide or wipe down discreetly.