April 7, 2011
I am a runaway, lost at sea.
I am a broken bird, yearning to fly free.
I am a sinner, unworthy and unholy.
I am a rose, wilting slowly.
I am a raindrop, touching your cheek.
I am a child who plays hide and seek.
I am nothing, and yet I am everything.
I am contradiction and complexities.
I am a face with a hundred entities.
I am love and I am hate.
I am the voice that cannot communicate.
I am a melody, haunting and sad.
I am a soul that has slowly gone mad.
I am death in a living body.
I am a dangerous opium poppy.
I am rage, running through my veins.
I am pain, bound in chains.
I am isolation, imprisoned in my mind.
I am abandoned and left behind.
I am tenderness, soft and kind.
I am trust, naïve and blind.
I am remorse, shattered and frozen.
I am the path I have not chosen.
I am sadness, drowning in an ocean
I am faith, yearning for devotion
I am madness, rebellious and wild.
I am sanity, safely filed.
I am wisdom, cursed and blessed.
I am a name that will burn in your chest.
I am a journey, destination unknown.
I am a heart turned to stone.
I am forever alone …
… Forever alone.
One last tear drop smudged her diary before she closed it shut, and turned out the lamp.
When I tell people how old my parents are, they usually end up laughing, thinking that I’m joking or pulling their leg. And when I tell them I’m not, I get the following reaction: “Oh … okay …” and then an awkward silence. Everything feels uncomfortable afterward, like I have to explain how that happened.
My mom and dad were young when they had me—sixteen, to be exact. Most people would ask themselves, “What the hell were they thinking having sex at that age? What kind of households were they raised in?” Well, when you’re a horny, hormonal teenager and not practicing safe sex, pregnancy can happen no matter your upbringing.
Emily Rose Miller and Noah Mason Hunter welcomed their first-born child to the world on April 6, 1995: a healthy baby girl who had her father’s ocean eyes and a head full of dark brown hair. They named her Aria Sophia Hunter. And that little girl … was me.
For the first four years of my life, I lived with my maternal grandparents. My father came from a very wealthy family, and they were against the pregnancy from the moment they found out about it. They offered my mom’s parents a great deal of money to persuade my mother to get an abortion. But that didn’t happen because Grams and Granddad were strict, God-fearing Catholics. And although they were disappointed in their daughter, they weren’t going to let her abort me, regardless of the extra figures that were added on those personal checks.
The plan was to give me up for adoption after I was born, but as soon as my grandma held me in her arms, she fell in love. I was raised by my grandparents for a while and rarely ever saw my mom … never saw my dad either. Emily was too busy being a teenager instead of taking responsibility and caring for me. Gran always had to remind me that she wasn’t my “mommy,” because I had picked up the habit of thinking that she was.
When my father finally turned eighteen, he separated himself from his family and decided to step up to the plate and marry my mother. But she refused his proposal since she was already engaged to somebody else; my drunken, abusive stepdad, Robert Mitchell. Of course, I didn’t know all of this at the time. I was too young to even understand how the world works. Rob, Mom, and I ended up moving into a grungy old apartment in New York back in ’99. We made the big move from New Hampshire because Mom wanted to pursue her dreams as a designer in the fashion industry. Rob made her all these promises that he never managed to keep, and she wound up working in retail while my stepdad held down a job as a mechanic. His rundown garage was near the rough side of Manhattan.
Life was depressing to say the least. I grew up having to take care of my two half-siblings, and Mom and Rob constantly fought over money, his drinking, his failed promises, and his extreme forms of discipline. To be straightforward, I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents. My stepdad pretty much treated me as if I didn’t exist, and when I did get noticed by his radar, it was usually because he was pissed at me for not doing my chores properly. According to him, I was a constant fuck-up, and he made sure to drill that into my head on a daily basis.
I knew nothing of my biological father. All my life I was raised to believe that he didn’t want me. It wasn’t until the beginning of my senior year that I discovered the truth. My life drastically changed after that, and everything I ever knew about the rules of attraction went right out the window.
It was a cold and rainy autumn evening, and I was curled up in a blanket on the living-room sofa. The radiator was broken, so I was wearing two woolen sweaters and a pair of sheepskin Ugg boots. The apartment was freezing, which made it difficult to concentrate on my schoolwork. Terry and Tiffany were oddly quiet—probably because they were glued to the television, watching cartoons. My siblings were fraternal twins, seven years younger than me. I loved them to bits, but they definitely got on my nerves when they wanted to.
The math homework that was sitting on my lap wasn’t going to complete itself, so I blew on my hands and rubbed them together before I picked up my pencil to finish the equations. That’s when the telephone rang. I was expecting it to be my Grams because she usually called on Thursday evenings to check up on me. But it wasn’t her. An unfamiliar voice that belonged to a man was on the other end of the line. He was asking to speak with me. When I told him who I was, there was the longest pause before he answered, “Aria … I’m your father, Noah.”
Needless to say, I was in shock. Throughout all seventeen years of my life, I’d believed that my father had never loved me and had deliberately abandoned me and my mom. It didn’t help that my grandparents always trash-talked him and his family. I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to have a conversation with him. So I hung up.
Ten seconds later, the phone rang again. My heart was racing a mile a minute and my hands were shaking.
Mustering up all the courage that I could find, I braced myself for confrontation and picked up the phone.
“Stop calling me! I don’t want to talk to you! I don’t even know you!” There were tears in my eyes and I felt so stupid for getting emotional.
“Aria, wait! Don’t hang up, please hear me out, I—”
“No!” I wiped my angry tears and looked out the window. “You waited all this time to realize that I existed? You’re seventeen years too late!”
“I just …”
But I didn’t want to hear his excuses. I told him off before disconnecting again. How was this happening? Why was this happening? What did he want from me? The only information my mother had ever given me about my father was that he was her high school sweetheart, knocked her up at sixteen, and avoided taking responsibility like he should have done.
I couldn’t study anymore. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything. I needed Mom to get home so that I could put phase one of Operation Truth Serum in action. She had all the answers to my questions, and I deserved honesty. Why was Noah Hunter suddenly looking me up out of the blue? I couldn’t figure it out on my own. I had to wait for Mom.
Well, I waited … and waited, constantly staring up at the ugly bird clock Rob had got my mother about ten Christmases earlier. I was sitting in a chair across our small dining table, attempting to finish my homework, when the front door unlocked. It was seven o’clock, which meant that Rob wouldn’t be home for another three hours.
My nerves were getting the best of me, but I tried to remain calm as my mother walked in. She was only an inch shorter than me, thin framed, and her eyes were blue, fading to alabaster gray. Unlike my long, dark locks, her hair was short and wavy, and she had dyed it ashy blonde. The roots needed some retouching. Her skin was very pale, but that was to be expected during the winter season in New York. Her best feature was her face. Regardless of the wrinkles that were starting to crease her forehead, she looked beautiful. My mother was the kind of woman who didn’t need makeup to turn heads. I really couldn’t understand what she saw in my stepdad. He wasn’t the most attractive-looking man—a bit overweight, probably because of all that beer he drank every day, and he had lost a lot of his hair (which explained the big bald spot). His eyes were brown, his face was clean shaven, and he had a raspy voice when he spoke. Rob had a gambling addiction. He was also an alcoholic in denial.
“Hey, sweetheart, can you help me with these grocery bags?”
I said nothing and rose to my feet, grabbed a brown paper bag, and followed my mom into our claustrophobic kitchen.
“I’m making fettuccine Alfredo tonight. How does that sound?” She was chipper. However, I certainly wasn’t.
“Yeah, that’s fine.” I didn’t want to beat around the bush. “Mom, I need to talk to you.”
“What’s up?” She started putting some groceries away in the fridge.
“It’s about Noah.”
Might as well get straight to the point, I thought.
“You know I don’t like to discuss your father,” she said.
“He called earlier.”
The eggs suddenly dropped and cracked around my mother’s feet.
“Shoot! I didn’t mean to do that!” She looked at me with a worried expression on her face. “Could you pass me a rag?”
I could feel this awkward tension creeping up on us, and it was making me uneasy.
“I want to know exactly what happened between you two,” I said as I crouched down to the floor and helped her gather the broken eggshells.
“Aria, I told you, we were a couple of crazy teens in love. I got pregnant with you, and he ran away from his responsibilities.” She wiped the laminate floor, cleaning the egg yolk before standing.
“You didn’t tell me why.”
“Why?” Mom repeated. “How should I know? Probably because of his psychotic family.”
“How come you never talk about them?”
“Because it’s a painful part of my past, and you were way too young to sit down and have a discussion about it.”
“I’m not ‘way too young’ anymore. I’m seventeen and mature enough to know the truth.”
“What did he want? How did he get this number?”
“I don’t know—I was too angry to let him speak. I pretty much told him to go to hell.”
“Good. I would’ve done the same.” She rinsed the towel in the sink and washed her hands.
“Obviously he wanted to get in touch with me.” I folded my arms in my chest and leaned my weight against the counter.
“I think it’s time to get that landline changed. I’ll speak with Rob about it tonight.”
“Why do I feel like there’s so much more you’re not telling me?” I relentlessly asked.
“I’ve told you everything you need to know, sweetheart.” Mom turned off the tap and met my gaze.
“Then why do you want to change our home number?”
I wasn’t sure why I was so bothered by that.
“So that he won’t call and harass you further.”
“He wasn’t harassing me, I just …”
Okay, I wasn’t defending the guy, but it felt like I was. And that was seriously screwing with my head.
“Aria, I’m just trying to protect you.”
My temper got the best of me as I shouted, “From who? From what?”
“What did he do, Mom?”
“What did he not do?” she scoffed. “The last thing I want is to have Noah show up out of nowhere, looking like the knight in shining armor who’s come to save the day when in reality, that image of him is an illusion. There are no happy endings in the Hunter family. Mark my words.”
“First of all, I’m not a damsel in distress, so please stop projecting your personal feelings toward him on me. You’re not related to the guy. I am. I have his last name, after all—not to mention half of his genes!”
“We moved to New York for a reason. A fresh start, new beginnings.”
Yeah, and look how great that turned out, Mom.
“Stop treating me like some little kid and just tell me what happened between you two! I deserve to know!”
My mother stopped putting the groceries away in the pantry and looked at me.
“You want to know the truth?”
I stayed silent and waited.
“Fine. Here it is …” She took a deep breath, and then spoke in the iciest tone ever. “Olivia Hunter is a conniving, manipulative bitch who constantly interfered in my relationship with Noah. She gets off on destroying lives, and she’s responsible for ruining mine. Your father attempted to get shared custody of you when you were younger, but he always failed the court-ordered drug tests.”
I couldn’t believe it. It stung to hear those last five words. “How long ago was this?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Mom answered.
“It does to me!”
She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “You were five years old.”
“And you kept this from me?”
“What kind of mother would sit down with her toddler and tell them that their father can’t be in their life because he has a cocaine dependency? It wasn’t like a month-long custody battle, Aria. He had a terrible addiction for years! God only knows if he still does.”
“It would have made a world of a difference!” I yelled. “Because at least I would have known he tried! At least I wouldn’t have grown up believing that he never loved me and didn’t want me!” My tears streaked down my cheeks as I stormed out of the kitchen.
“Sweetheart, come back!” Mom shouted after me, but I was too upset to continue the conversation.
I locked myself up in my room and tried to calm down. This was way too much information at once. My mind was reeling. Impulsively, I marched out the door, picked up the phone in the living room, and tried to retrace the call. I needed to hear his side of the story. I was tired of being lied to.
Adding to my unfortunate luck in life, the number was blocked, so I resorted to different resources and immediately hopped online. My sole intention was to hunt him down. But my efforts were fruitless. He didn’t have a Facebook account or Instagram. Nothing.
“Aria,” said Mom, stroking my hair. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I was just trying to protect you. I’m your mother, and I love you. You have to believe that.”
I got up from my chair and noticed that she had tears in her eyes too. It pained me to see her sad like that, so I stepped over my anger and gave her a hug.
“Your father never abandoned you, Mom. You never grew up believing he doesn’t love you. That’s why it hurts so much—because he hasn’t been there for me.” I quietly sobbed on her shoulder.
“I know, darling, I know. I’m so sorry.” She rubbed my back and kissed the side of my head, comforting me through the hurt.
As the days passed on, I had hoped and prayed that Noah would contact me again. But there were no more phone calls. I knew nothing about him other than the few details my mom had shared with me. I had no idea what his profession was, where he was living, and whether he was still battling an addiction or not. All I had was a long list of questions that needed answers.
It wasn’t until a week later that my mother got served with legal documents from Noah’s lawyer. Noah was taking her to court to get custody of me. By the time we sat down at dinner the following evening, the subject of my father had become a trending Twitter hashtag: #DeadbeatDad.
“Why the hell is he trying to get custody now, after all these years?” asked Rob, slicing his chargrilled steak with a knife.
“It’s pointless if you ask me,” Mom replied, pouring some soda in her cup. “Aria will be eighteen in April. By then she’ll be a legal adult. He’s wasting his time.” She paused. “Although, I’m not surprised. He’s just trying to prove a point, that’s why he’s taking this to trial.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be so bad having the kid dumped off at his place for a year,” my stepdad answered with a mouthful of meat.
“That’s not funny.” She smacked his arm. “He was only joking, sweetheart,” Mom said, reassuring me with what seemed like a comforting smile. But I knew better. Rob didn’t give a crap about me.
“Chances are,” Mom continued, “the judge will rule in our favor due to Noah’s history with drug abuse. So I’m not worried.” She grabbed the tongs and served some salad onto Terry’s plate.
I made no commentary and listened. The whole situation had me confused. All I knew was that my thoughts and feelings were important when it came to ruling a decision in the courtroom, and I honestly had no idea what to expect next.
It was a gloomy, Monday afternoon on November 5, 2012, when I stepped inside New York City Family Court and came face to face with my father. I swear I didn’t even recognize him, but I assumed he was the man with dark curly hair dressed in a blue suit and tie. He was sitting next to his younger looking lawyer. They both stood up and faced us when we walked inside. My father hardly gave me a second glance, while his lawyer just stared at me; he was dressed in a dark gray suit, and had short brown hair that looked freshly cut. I noticed that he had a very masculine jaw, with the most intense blue eyes I had ever seen. There was a flawless symmetry in his face, and he was quite tall, approximately six foot two. For a man of the law, he was extremely handsome and could’ve passed for a model. I felt myself blushing when his eyes followed me to my seat.
Why isn’t my father looking at me? From what I could see, he appeared to have not aged so well compared to my mother, and had a bit of a paunch.
“Aria, I’m so sorry,” the lawyer said with tears in his eyes, and I couldn’t understand why or make any sense of it.
Why would he be sorry? Is he a close friend of my father? I asked myself.
“Noah, sit down,” the other man said. “Remember what I advised earlier? You’ll get to talk to your daughter in due time. I promise.”
Oh. My. God. The man with the curly hair and potbelly wasn’t my dad. He was the lawyer representing Noah—the youthful man with the ocean eyes. How could I have not recognized him? True, I had never seen a photo of my dad before … but still! Mom hadn’t kept any pictures of him, so I had no idea what he looked like. Those eyes should’ve been a dead giveaway. How could I have missed such a crucial detail? If I made a comparison between my parents, Mom definitely looked a lot older. I guess the hard times in life had aged her.
My estranged father kept glancing at me, while I kept blushing like an idiot. For some reason, I couldn’t hold his gaze longer than two seconds. He looked way too young to be in his thirties.
The court proceeding was long and tiresome, as both lawyers kept negotiating back and forth, each defending his own client. When I finally took the stand, the judge asked me to truthfully express what I wanted. Personally, I wanted to tell her that I didn’t feel safe at home, that my stepdad was always drunk and had a history of hitting me. But my mother had made me swear not to say anything, which is why I kept my mouth shut.
These past few weeks had given me an opportunity to think about what I wanted with my father. I was prepared to tell the judge that I didn’t want to see him or live with him. But everything changed when I saw the way Noah stared at me. There was so much pain in his eyes … regret. It was as if he knew me, but I had no idea who he was.
Much to my own astonishment, I had a complete change of heart. I told the judge that I always wanted to meet my dad and have a chance to get to know him. I also expressed that I preferred both my parents to share custody of me.
And so it was ruled: my father (who I had never met before) had finally obtained joint custody of his long-lost daughter. Noah Hunter was going to be in my life. A shooting star had fallen from the sky and landed in front of me in the form of a man. He was handsome. He was too flawless to be real. He made me feel something that I shouldn’t feel.
Author’s Note: Want to read the rest of this story? Click on my profile for a link, or search for it on Amazon, you won’t regret it! 🙂
Copyright © 2013 by Mina Alexia (SweetestSins)
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