“Free, A Novella”
by Felicia Denise
Lennie’s vision began to blur, but it wasn’t until a lone tear fell onto the letter that she realized she was crying. Her mind raced as she tried to get a handle on her emotions before continuing. Evidently, her aunt had written this letter the day after Lennie and the boys had ended their vacation and returned home. Obviously, Auntie had hidden her feelings quite well as Lennie never suspected a thing.
And the two sisters had talked about this. Lennie’s jaws tightened as she pictured her mother and aunt sitting around discussing her life! What gave them the right? She knew both women loved her unconditionally, but that didn’t mean they knew what was best for her. Second guessing her decisions? As though she were an errant child? Lennie fumed at the disrespect! They didn’t understand. No one did. Ranard was far from perfect, but the sacrifices she made were to build him up; to strengthen his confidence; make him worthy in his father’s eyes.
Falling back against the sofa, Lennie’s body sagged under the weight of reality. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she realized all her love, support, and efforts to help Ranard believe in himself and become a success had been an exercise in futility. While Ranard was moving up in the chemical research and development world, his self-esteem was still as low as the day they met in college. He had just grown better at masking it from everyone, except Lennie. The loving gratitude Ranard used to show Lennie, and the special times they spent together were also gone. Replaced by hurtful words, biting remarks and constant judgement whenever they were together. Ranard had become Gilbert Porter – his father – and Lennie had become his favorite target.
Laying the letter aside, Lennie stood and walked to the window. Closing her eyes, Lennie leaned her forehead against the glass. She’d had such hopes and dreams for their future together. When had it all gone so wrong? They had been so happy after they were married. Duncan had been a total surprise with Lennie finding out she was pregnant a few short weeks after their June wedding. But Ranard had been thrilled, and anxious to have his own family. He yearned to give his children the love and attention his father never gave him. However, the birth of Myron two short years later saw a different Ranard Porter. Still friendly and affable with co-workers and friends, at home, Ranard was cynical and cruel. Lennie never knew when he would verbally lash out, and was grateful his time away from home seemed to increase. Her heart broke for her boys. Duncan had only had his father’s attention until he began to walk, and Ranard had only held infant Myron a scant few times.
Looking back at the letter on the sofa, Lennie wiped the tears from her face. The people who knew her best…and loved her most, were right. They had long ago seen the things she’d refuse to admit to herself. Marrying Ranard had been a mistake. She had mistaken his devotion and gratitude for her tutoring and moral support…for love, and maybe while it wasn’t a smoldering, all-consuming love, Lennie felt they were good together. Love would come and grow with time. When Ranard, nervous but excited, knelt on one knee before Lennie in their favorite restaurant and proposed, she was over the moon. The next day, Lennie purchased a leather-bound journal and began plotting their future together.
Her family was not as excited as she had expected, but she assumed it was because they felt as though they were losing her even more than when she went off to college. Lennie knew they would share her happiness once they started planning her wedding. Her Mom and aunt would go over-board with decorations, and her dad would wear the world’s biggest grin as he walked her down the aisle.
She had only gotten a shadow of that “happy day.” And now, she knew why. Now it made sense why during the biggest event of her life, her family wore smiles that didn’t reach to their eyes.
Lennie had no idea what more her aunt could have written that would rattle her any more than she was, but steeling herself, she quickly walked to the sofa and retrieved the letter. Pacing slowly around the room…she read.
It is truly difficult to accept the choices of someone you love, Lennie, when you feel you know them so very well…and they make decisions that are so out of character.
I was speechless when I first saw your new home. It was so elegant and grand…and so not you. The house was far too pretentious for you. When I saw your face as Ranard walked us from room to room, boasting over the cost of the house, I knew then whose house it truly was. It also confirmed my suspicions that Ranard Porter was a foolish, impractical man, more interested in boasting and showing off than labors of love. You appeared to wince, Lennie, each time he mentioned the price of the house. He was living above his means…and yours. Two weeks later, your mother called to tell me about Ranard buying two new cars and to share her concerns for you and the boys. While he made good money, your husband was spending it faster than he was earning it. My sister and I were almost certain you were not consulted on any of his purchases. But, again Lennie, you allowed it. You wouldn’t speak up on your own behalf, and you didn’t speak up for your children.
Lennie abruptly stopped pacing and reading. Realizing her aunt AND her parents knew her shame – jeopardizing the boys’ future by not trying to reign in Ranard’s endless spending – caused Lennie’s chest to tighten. Ranard was a foolish man, and he was getting worse, not better. But she was determined to make her marriage work. She had to.
She leaned against the desk to finish the letter.
Like your parents, Lennie, I have only wanted the best for you. When you were younger and I could assist Linda and Burt, I did. When you married Ranard, I wanted to gift you the down payment for your first home, but Burt asked me to wait. When Duncan was born, I at least wanted to start a college fund for him, but providence stopped me. After the house and the cars, and then you launching your lunchtime catering business, my mind was made up.
While you were here a few months ago with the boys…and distracted with their baths…I asked you to sign some documents, medical advanced directives. You thought you were signing on only as a backup for your mom. Forgive me, my sweet girl, but that was not the truth. The documents you signed were to add you as co-owner of all my bank accounts and property. When my attorney, Bernard, visits you (if he hasn’t already), he will have an itemized list and inform you of the total value. He’ll arrange for you to come to his office to receive all of the information and documentation regarding my estate, and that’s when you will see the documents you signed, Lennie.
Please do not be angry with me for my deception, nor your parents. They were not aware at the time of my plans and played no part in them. I wanted to make this transition as easy as possible for you, Lennie, while insuring some stability for your children’s future.
Everything is yours, Lennie…no conditions or ultimatums. I do, however, have one request. Please consider not telling Ranard about your inheritance. I know it’s wrong of me, but this I do not apologize for. Yes, he has shown that he’s capable of making a good living, but when it comes to being a true provider, his actions prove him lacking. Like you, I want Duncan and Myron to have a bright future, money for college, and stable roots. I feel if Ranard has access to your assets, he’ll selfishly blow right through them without thought to you and the boys. I don’t want you living on “what could have been”, not when there is something I could do to avoid that.
Of course, the decision is solely yours, Lennie Penny. Your parents will not interfere. I do apologize for being too much of a coward to discuss this with you face-to-face, but the hurt and mistrust I knew I’d see in your eyes would break me.
Continue to raise those boys as you are – with excitement and enthusiasm. Show them the joys of life, and find your joy, Lennie. Re-capture YOU.
Thank you for so many years of love, fun, and friendship, my sweet girl. Thank you for making me feel needed, and thank you for giving me a reason to live life when I felt I had no reason to go on.
Be happy, Lennie. BE HAPPY.
I love you,
Her silent tears had turned to sobs before Lennie realized the sounds she heard were coming from her. A floodgate of emotions opened, and the weight was simply too much for Lennie to bear. The letter slipped from her hands as she slid to the floor and continued to cry.
Part II Part IV
©Felicia Denise, 2016