Penny stared at her latte as the rain ran down the window beside her. She barely gave any notice to the chilled breeze that was managing to sneak around the panes of glass even though her arm that was closest to the window was cold.
She looked at her watch then relieved her breath in a defeated sigh. He wasn’t coming. She should have known that he wouldn’t come, what reason was there for him to have come anyhow? She wasn’t anything special, especially to him.
She rested her chin in her hand s she went back to staring at her untouched drink. She no longer wanted it, she didn’t think that she would ever want a latte ever again. She had, after all, only developed a liking for them when she had found out that it was his favorite; it had seemed like it would be something that they could share. Now it only seemed to remind her of how stupid she had been to believe he would want to meet her.
The thunder rumbled, shaking the window panes as if trying to break them. As if shaken loose by the thunder the rain outside seemed to start falling harder. This rain was not going to be letting up anytime soon so there seemed little reason to linger here.
With another sigh Penny stood and left the coffee shop. While everyone else was running from one doorway to the next in a useless attempt to keep dry, or were cowering under umbrellas, she simply started walking down the sidewalk. She no longer had any reason to care about how she looked so she didn’t care that within a few moments her red curls were reduced to a soaked and tangled mess.
What she liked the most about the rain was that no one could tell that she was crying. Rain and tears looked the same as it ran down her face.
Penny ignored the man at first, half hoping that he was trying to get someone else’s attention; then he caught her elbow. When she turned it was to find a man in military dress.
“Are you Penelope Loydes?” The young man had to raise his voice to be heard over the rain.
“Yes, I am, but I don’t know who you are.”
He pulled her under the nearest awning then offered her a small bag, “I was asked to see that this found its way to you. Please, take it.”
“Who is it from?” She looked at the bag though she made no move to take it.
It is from the man who was supposed to meet you at the coffee shop that you just came out of.” When she still did not make a move for the bag he sighed, “Lu would have been here if it was in his power. Meeting you, here, today, have been all that he has talked about for months. Please, take it. Everything is explained inside.”
Penny reluctantly took the bag; there was almost no weight to it at all though she could tell that it was not empty.
The private nodded then ran out to the shelter, taking no more notice of the rain then she had.
More then a little curious about what was in the bag she didn’t bother to see where the private went; instead she shouldered the bag and hurried home.
Once closed into her bedroom and changed into dry clothes, Penny sat in the middle of her bed with the bag in front of her. The green cotton canvas was old, yet it still seemed to be strong. There were only a couple of places where the fabric had been patched.
Reluctantly, Penny opened the bag. To her surprise everything inside was perfectly dry; she had expected everything to at least be damp since the bag itself had seemed soaked.
The first item that she pulled out was a set of dog tags. The name engraved on them was “Lucius Kyle Loydes”, certainly it was the name of the man she had been hoping to meet with. Under the name was a long set of numbers then his blood type; to her amusement it was the same as her own.
Next she pulled a small handful of photos from the bag. She slowly went through them, the ones on top were all of the same man and woman, then there were some with the man and woman and a baby. Through the photos she watched the child age, then suddenly the woman was no longer in the pictures. The last six photos were ones that her foster parents had on the wall down in the family room, they were of her.
She put the photos on the bag with the dog tags then pulled the next item out of the bag, a journal. The journal was old and falling apart, it was being held together by a boot lace. She slid the string off and opened it. There, just inside of the cover, was an envelope—shockingly white against the dingy, yellowed pages of the journal.
The journal joined the other items on the bed then she opened the envelope and pulled out the letter to read it.
If you are reading this then I feel that I must try and tell you how sorry I am—though I know that there is no way I can ever convey how deeply I am sorry through a letter. I had hoped to meet you; I had truly intended to be at that coffee shop and talk with you. Clearly things do not always go as planned.
It has been so long since I last saw you in person, though I had seen many pictures of you through the years. What is all in the bag are my most prized possessions, if the worst has happened then I hope you will be able to get to know me through the journal.
Now, I know that you have questions, and some of them I think I can guess. Let me at least try and give you some answers.
Why did I not meet you today?” Well, if you are reading this letter then I am either dead or in the hospital. My heart has been failing lately. When I realized how bad my condition was I made the arrangements for you to receive this bag just in case I was not able to make our meeting.
Who was the man who delivered the package? His father was my best friend for years; we became close after your mother passed away. Rob is the one who would not let me sign away my parental rights. Looking back now I see that he was right, it would have been a mistake. Young Don is a lot like his father was and I know that I can rely on him to carry out my wishes.
Okay, that gets the easiest of the questions out of the way. Now, lets try for some of the harder ones.
Why would I put you into foster care and why would I even be considering cutting all ties with you?
Before I fully answer these two questions I first need to tell you that there had never been a time when I did not love you. You were, are and always will be my little girl. I need you to believe this.
I put you into foster care after your mother died because I did not know what else to do. Neither I, or your mother, have any family and the only life I have ever known has been the military life. I thought that you would be better if you could grow up in a normal family.
As for the second question, why I would consider cutting ties to you, well that one is a little harder. It took me years to get over the loss of your mother, yet from what I could see in the pictures of you that I was sent, you seemed to have moved on. I had thought that you would be happier if your foster family was your only family.
Why did I rarely write? Well, to be honest, I am a coward. I’m not a coward when it comes to facing death on a battlefield, but when it comes to you… Penny I am only too aware of how many times I have let you down. Besides, as I have told myself many times, what could I possibly say in a letter that would be of interest to a young lady?
Today, as you read this, should be your fifteenth birthday. Happy Birthday, Penelopy. Of all the times I have let you down, this has to be the worst. I am so sorry! If there was a way I would make it up to you, but I do not even know if I am alive as you read this or dead.
Right now the only person who will know why I did not make it to our meeting will be Don. Look again in the bag, you should find a cell phone. Use it to call don, his number is programmed in. You only need to make the call and he will know what you want to know. If you do not want to you will not even have to speak.
If I am dead then I will have died before truly engaging in the most important mission of my life—being a proper father to you.
If I still live it is with the hope that you will forgive me for my years of absence and give me at least a chance to make it all up to you.
With all my love,
Penny wiped her eyes, still staring down at the letter. She had loved her foster parents, but she had mostly enjoyed the few letters that she had received from her father. She had been able to accept that the military was his job and had always hoped that one day, when she was old enough, he would ask her to go live with him.
Now that she thought about it that was the reason she had actually been willing to meet with a man she barely knew. That was why it had hurt so much when he had not shown up. And that was why she still wanted to see him. He was—is—her father, her only real family and because of that she thought she could forgive anything.
With shaking hands she pulled the cell phone out of the bag and flipped it open. The only number in the phone was Don’s; clearly this had all been carefully planned out.
Don’s phone only rang once before he answered with, “He is at the hospital. Ten minutes ago, when I spoke to the doctor, I was told that his condition is stable.”
Penny swallowed hard, still looking at the letter, when suddenly her mind was made up. “Which hospital? I have to see him.”
“I had hoped that you would say that. If you will let me, I will take you to him myself.”
“I would like that. My address is…”
“Its okay. Your father gave it to me. I will be there soon.”
“My father seems to have planned out everything for this.”
“He wanted to be ready just in case. I will be there soon.”
Penny closed the phone then pocketed it as she jumped off of her bed and ran down the steps to wait on the porch, this time grabbing a rain coat on her way past the hall closet. Suddenly all that mattered was that she was going to spend part of her birthday with her real father, it didn’t even matter that it was in the hospital.