Title: The Secret of the Faceless Man
Summary: A young women meets the father she thought had abandoned her forever.
Notes: This story is related to the Pebbles stories only in the fact Kelly was the person I planned to become Pebbles best friend when I was conceiving of a way to novelize Pebbles journey. Most of the stories in-between baby Pebbles and this point in Pebbles life stayed in notes and were never fully conceptualized.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Not intended to represent any real persons, places, events, or things. This story is copyright Dawn Kelley and all rights to these characters belong to me.
Kelly couldn’t believe she was again arguing with Pebbles like a school girl, it was hard to believe the two were twenty years old and still communicated this way. The maturity everyone prided her on dropped three levels whenever she and her cousin were in the same room. Kelly tried to keep her cousin on track, but Pebbles had the attention span of a five-year-old. She couldn’t help it, Kelly thought blaming her upbringing. Kelly however, had always had a steady home life. Her mother was a rock and Kelly only hoped to be as strong as her.
“Hello, I’m trying to study,” Kelly said clicking off the TV for the fifth time.
Pebbles stuck up her middle finger and clicked the TV back on. Annoyed by this immature play, Kelly walked over to the TV and pulled the plug out the wall.
“What the fuck you do that for?” Pebbles yelled.
“I thought I told you, I’m trying to STU – DY. Pebbles, when are you gonna grow–”
RING! The phone went off, cutting Kelly’s speech short. Angry, she stomped off into the kitchen to answer the phone. As she picked up the receiver, she saw Pebbles plug the TV back in and click it on. That girl was really plucking her nerves today. It reflected in her voice as she answered the phone.
“Hello!” she shouted.
“Hi, may I speak to Kelly,” A masculine voice said on the other end.
“Speaking,” Kelly said, wondering why the distinguished sounding voice wanted her.
“Hello honey, this is da–Samuel Stevens.”
Kelly froze. She knew the faceless name as well as her own. Her mother often said, his face was her own. But she could never be sure, because he had no face. She’d cursed the sperm donor when she was six and for her own benefit, forgot him. Every once in awhile, she was reminded that he existed, but not as a face. Just as the name on her birth certificate, Samuel Dwight Stevens.
“Are you still there?” Samuel asked from the other end.
“Yes, I’m here Samuel,” Kelly finally answered. Her lips were operating, but not listening to the head as it shouted: hang up. “So what brings you back from the dead,” Kelly asked so calm, it sounded like a joke. He laughed, but this was no time to be laughing Kelly thought.
“Funny girl, your mom didn’t say you had such a sense of humor. . . “
Mom? You mean she let this man surprise me, how could she not warn me so I could get properly angry say what I’m feeling. Prepare a speech about the last eighteen years.
“Listen I was wondering if we could meet someplace, eat, get to know each other. I have a lot to say. . . “
So do I, but I don’t want to see you, her loud mind tried to communicate to her silent lips. They listened, but did not speak.
“So how about it?”
‘Say No’, her mind emphasized. ‘We don’t want to see him, we don’t want to talk to him, he doesn’t exist. Hang up.’ But her lips would still not comply with her mind’s anger.
“I don’t know Mr. Stevens. I’m kind of busy,” Kelly said to the faceless man on the other line. There were no pictures of him among the family and friends that decorated her living room, because he didn’t belong there. He wasn’t family or friend, why should she have a meal with him like he was a part of it. I mean damn, she wouldn’t know the man if he walked up and slapped her in the face. He meant as much to her as the guy she’d bought her junk food from. Why couldn’t she hang up, just shout at him and hang up.
“Oh come on, we haven’t see each other in . . ..”
There he was again, acting like they were friends.
“You can sure find some time for your old dad,”
Dad? Dad didn’t exist in her vocabulary and on most occasions neither did the name Samuel Stevens. It was like a reference book of X or Z words, only used when reminded the letters existed in the alphabetic cluster. It wasn’t like A and S that were automatic parts of the language, they dangled at the end and were sometimes forced into the big picture, but rarely focused on individually.
“I’ll bring your favorite strawberry ice cream,” the mystery man said as if he knew her.
“I don’t like strawberry”
“Oh really, you use to love it.”
“Yea, well my mom says my taste are fickle, they change every year.”
He laughed, again fueling the buried anger. ‘Why can’t you hang up? ‘Her mind asked. This was no time to be laughing. Hang up invisible man, I don’t know you and don’t want to know you.
“Tell you what,” the voice said. “I know you were a little shocked to hear from me, so I’ll call back tomorrow and we can make plans to meet.”
‘Say no, N-O, very simple,’ her mind instructed, but her stupid lips formed the wrong letters.
“Okay sweetheart,” the voice said as it hung up. Never was she so happy to hear a dial tone. She was like a zombie as she entered the room, filled with all the anger she was unable to filter to the faceless voice on the phone. But can one get mad at a ghost, a formless, faceless, name? Even his voice began to fade from memory, leaving only the words he’d spoken. He was going to call again tomorrow. Why now, after eighteen years? After her mother’s struggle to raise her and buy this small house, and get a decent job. Why, after she had already grown up with the word Dad erased from her vocabulary. Now she was ready to scream.
Kelly stared at her cousin Pebbles, snacking as she watched the evening cartoons. They were suppose to be studying. Again Kelly ripped the cord from the wall, almost breaking the cord and the electrical outlet.
“It’s time to STUDY!” Kelly stated.
“Fuck this, I go to Belinda’s house and watch TV,” Pebbles said as she gathered her stuff.
Kelly sat down and tried to read her book, but her mind kept slipping back to Samuel Stevens, Samuel Dwight Stevens. She picked up her book and slammed it against the nearby wall. Pebbles stopped short and looked at her cousin.
“Yo, Kel, What up?” Pebbles said. “I know you ain’t angry over no TV. You know I be trippin.”
“It ain’t the TV, it’s the phone.”
“What, was somebody threatening you, cause you know I—”
“No, they didn’t threaten me, except with dinner. It was Samuel Stevens.”
“Who’s that? Some new dude or something?”
“No, it’s my father,” Kelly said sadly.
“Damn,” Pebbles said sliding on the couch beside Kelly. Kelly had been her ears a thousand times. Now, she supposed, it was her turn. “So, hit me wit it. What’s up with you and your dad?”
“I need some air,” Kelly said and walked out the door. Pebbles followed. “I need to be alone for awhile,” Kelly said turning toward her.
“Alright,” Pebbles said returning to the house.
It was about two hours later when Kelly’s mother, Wendy and, her sister, Belinda, entered the living room where Pebbles sat watching TV. The two women were struggling with the large grocery bags. Pebbles glanced at them, but didn’t move from the couch. Belinda glared at her.
“You could help us Pebbles,” Belinda said. Pebbles got up from the couch and grabbed the bags. “If you gonna dress like a man, might as well behave like a gentleman.”
“Hah, Hah,” Pebbles mock laughed. She laid the bags on the kitchen counter. “Wendy, Kel’s dad called.”
CRASH, CRICKLE, CRACK; Pebbles turned around and saw Wendy standing above the bag of shattered eggs in shock.
“I never knew he would actually call. Damn I broke the eggs.”
Wendy knelt down to pick of the shattered eggs. Belinda rushed over to her and took over the task. Both women were very flustered by her announcement. It was as if Wendy couldn’t operate anymore. A meticulous woman, she hardly ever made mistakes, and when she did they were quickly cleaned up.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll go get some more eggs.”
“Good, I need to sit down,” Wendy said grabbing the couch. “Where is she, where’s Kelly?” Wendy looked around the house for her daughter.
“I don’t know, said she needed some air.”
“Pebbles, come help me get some eggs,” Belinda said grabbing her keys.
“It takes two people to get eggs?”
“It does when I say it does.”
Grumbling, Pebbles followed Belinda out the door. She acted like she was her real mother, when she was only her foster daughter. Or use to be, technically, that ended when she was eighteen.
“You sure Sam called here?” Belinda asked when they got outside. Her fingers were twitching nervously.
“Yea, She said Samuel Stevens.”
“What did he want?”
“To meet Kel. Why?”
“Poor Kelly, well I suppose it’s time she knew the truth.”
“The truth about what, Belinda you ain’t making no sense.”
“The truth about why he left and his other family.”
“Please don’t tell Kelly, it’s Sam’s place to do so.”
Pebbles shrugged and followed Belinda to the car. What could she tell Kelly? She didn’t know what Belinda was talking about.
Kelly had walked around for hours trying to figure out how she was going to face tomorrow. There had been passing times when she was curious about the man who had fathered her, but she had never even asked about her parents relationship. How had they met and had her? She didn’t know his likes or dislikes, how tall he was. And though a handful of pictures of him were buried in old photo albums, his face eluded her when the book closed. She never asked about the early years, because it was easier to forget them. After hearing the complaints of kids with part-time fathers, she decided that if you couldn’t have everything, nothing was better.
She’d finally made it back to her door. The house was silent inside, except for the soft strum of violin, the house was empty. She heard her Aunt Belinda and her mother talking on the back porch. They probably knew about the call. Pebbles must have told them. Good, cause she didn’t want to talk about it. Let them talk to each other.
Pebbles was playing the gentle music coming from her room. The sound was so soothing. Pebbles was right, it did make you feel like you were floating on clouds. She wished she had something like that to filter her troubles into. To bad Pebbles couldn’t see the blessing she’d been given, despite everything else. Kelly didn’t know why she hid the sound of that beautiful violin from the rest of the world. She opened her bedroom door, and Pebbles immediately stopped playing.
“You alright Kelly?”
“Yea, I guess,” Kelly said sliding on the bed. “You know, I never wondered about him. I refused to because it was easier. And when I was reminded that fathers exist, that he existed, I felt like I would be betraying my mother if I asked about him. I saw what went on in other families. It was just so easy to forget.”
“Wasn’t easy for me. Renee always said things would be different if Dad stayed around. Some days I want to believe it, but then how can you trust the words of a crack head. She said it so much, its like I can’t stop thinking about how shit could have been different.”
“How can you just call your mom Renee like that, I mean I feel funny calling my father by his first name or Mr. Stevens, but father or dad doesn’t seem to fit either.”
“I do it cause Renee don’t deserve no respect. She was a stupid crack whore bitch. I ain’t gonna make no excuses for her, every bad thing that happened before she abandoned me is her fault. All the shit that happened after is her fault, cause she bought me in this world and then she abandoned me. At least your dad knew you was someplace safe, my mom ain’t care. She left me in an empty apartment with a dead body for like four days, at seven year old. It’s the biggest–”
“Pebbles, your wallowing again.”
“I ain’t wallowing in shit. Just trying to show you something. You all tensed up over this, but my dad walked away before I was even born. And maybe I was better off, cause what kind of stupid ass man would get involved with somebody like my moms. I got worse case scenario, you just got a little piece of dysfunctional. I got the truck load of shit, you got a little puppy accident on your rug. I’m only saying this cause you my girl and I know you hurting right now, but what you dealing with ain’t no big thing. Don’t tell her this, but I wish Belinda had been my moms when I was little. I wish I could call her mom now, but it’s to late for all that. I appreciate what she then did for me though. I mean, I’m a twenty year old HIGH SCHOOL senior. She could have put me out two years ago, but she didn’t. Maybe you’ll never be daddy’s little girl, but he here to give you some kind of explanation. Least you can do is listen. If you don’t like his explanation, what have you lost? Ain’t like you had some angel image of him. Youse a lucky mutha fucker compared to me, yours moms is excellent. And no matter what happens with this dude, you still got her for a shoulder.”
“You deep sometimes cousin.”
“Well you know I’m a young genius,” Pebbles said primping her collar.
Kelly laughed at her, heightening the glee level in the room a centimeter. The door opened and the laughter stopped. Wendy’s eyes were red with the wash away of recent tears and her usually manicured hand had nails bitten to bits. Kelly had never seen her so uneasy, like she said the woman had been a virtual rock all these years.
“Pebbles, I need to talk to Kelly.”
Pebbles said good-bye to Kelly and gave her a hug. Which was uncommon for Pebbles.
Wendy sat down beside her daughter and her shakey voice told the tale of how she’d met Kelly’s father at a college party when she was sixteen, not knowing he was on the rebound. She never thought, when her big sister invited her to the frat party at her school, that she’d fall for Sam. He was her first love, the first guy that she had dated ever. They’d rushed into sex and had Kelly. But the rebounded relationship returned for it’s lost member. Sam left the picture completely for this other relationship. Her mother had avoided specifics, but Kelly got a general idea of what happened. She wouldn’t push her mother for more information, not in this state of mind. Her mom had never dated before dad and she couldn’t remember her dating after he left. She must have really loved her father, she must still love him.
He would call again tomorrow. She wondered, when he finally became material would she be able to get angry. Would she find the voice that wanted to shout at him for disappearing and then returning only to disrupt her life. She wondered what had made him call in the first place.
She once knew a girl who lost her father when she was six. Like her father, he just disappeared. Remembering him clearly, she hated him for leaving. But when she saw him she was overcome with so much emotion she broke down and cried in his arms. Would that happen with her? No, she was different. She wasn’t filled with anger. Maybe a little curiosity and a lot of fear, but no real burning anger. How can a person get mad at someone they don’t know? Pebbles was right, she was the worse case scenario. Her problem was small potatoes.
The next day she chickened out anyway. Pebbles answered the phone and arranged the meeting. She told him Kelly was busy and told her to find out the where and when. She mouthed the word “coward” to Kelly as she listened, but it was more to lighten the mood than to tease her. The meeting was arranged for the next night. She begged Pebbles to come along, but she had to baby-sit her godson that day.
Kelly couldn’t concentrate the following day. The coming evening had her emotions switching from left to right and back again. She was up then she was down, she was looking forward to it, then she wasn’t. She was happy, then she was sad. There was no middle road, only extreme fear and anticipation. She spent hours getting dressed, than asked herself why she should try to please him. She couldn’t go casual, she had to somehow show him what he had missed in his absence. Luckily she found an outfit fit the middle road between casual and fancy. Kelly still wished Pebbles, her mother, or her Aunt Belinda were coming along.
Kelly got in her car, ready to go. But she couldn’t move. Suddenly she saw Pebbles hanging out on the porch with her god-son. Worse case scenario maybe, but she didn’t come out of it to bad. She loved that kid more than anything. She’d once said she’d never become a mother, because we usually turn into our mothers. But Pebbles would make a great mother if she ever got grounded. Being a parent was about being there, not blood relations. Blood was technically thicker than water, but it meant nothing in the actual method of things. Their were siblings who hated each other more than some strangers. There as many twins who ripped each other’s hair out as there were twins who loved each other. This man may have been known to her mother, but he was a stranger to her. This whole tangle of emotions wasn’t necessary, but she might need to be reminded. She got out the car to get Pebbles.
Pebbles left her god-son with his cousin. She figured this trip with Kelly wouldn’t take to long.
Kelly and Pebbles arrived at the mall. They went to stand outside Long John Silver’s. Pebbles was hungry, so she went inside saying she’d only be a little while.
Kelly saw a black car drive up. It reminder her of a black panther, sneaking on the lot like a cat. This tall distinguished looking man emerged. He went around to side of the car and lifted a baby from the seat.
“Could it be him? Mom said he had a new family,” Kelly said to herself. Where was Pebbles, how long could it take to get some food?
“Excuse me,” a voice said from behind her.
She turned and saw a short, skinny, guy with glasses on eye level with herself.
“Are you Kelly? I’m Samuel Stevens.”
She supposed he was average in looks, but compared to the guy she’d just seen, this guy was mediocre. Then again, what did it matter? For the first time Samuel Stevens was in front of her, and he wasn’t as half commanding or scary as the mystery man on the phone. She still didn’t see a resemblance between them.
“Yes, I’m Kelly. So, why did you want to see me?”
“Does a man need a reason to see his little girl?”
“Little girl, I’m sorry sir.”
“Well I don’t know what to call you. I mean I don’t know you.”
Pebbles came out the store. She looked at the man standing beside Kelly. “You must be Sam.”
“Yes, you must be Pebbles, Belinda’s daughter.”
“Belinda doesn’t have a daughter,” Pebbles replied. “He do look like you Kel.”
“I didn’t know we were gonna have company,” the man said nervously.
“I’m just support.”
“Fine,” Sam said. “I guess it isn’t anything to be embarrassed about anymore. We might as well find a seat.”
The group walked into the mall. They found a table so Rhyme could eat his food. Pebbles offered some food to Samuel and Kelly, but neither was hungry.
“I guess I shouldn’t beat around the bush on this. You want answers, as you should. Um, Kelly when I was in college, before I met your mom.”
“Mom already told me you went with her on the rebound.”
“I know, I talked to her, but she left this part to me.”
“You see, before your mother I had this friend in college, who perhaps I was always attracted to, but I couldn’t do anything about it. One night I got drunk, and so did Ga-my friend, and we slept together. I was so scared that I, I don’t know. You see my friend was, well his name’s Gavon.”
Kelly sat their shocked, staring at her father. Pebbles looked up from her place, also shocked. Her mother had never dated another man, and if she had she’d never told her about it. She’d lost her virginity and her heart to the man that now sat in front of her. How hard it must have been for her mother to hear those words.
“After that night, me and Gavon swore to tell no one what happened. We both thought we had to reclaim our manhood after that, and we both did much the same thing, pick out the first easy woman.”
“Are you saying my mother was easy.”
“Not in the sense of being promiscuous, she was shy and innocent. She didn’t know about guys and their con games. And she fell for mine. Gavon did the same thing. I learned to care about your mother, but I could not truly love her and that’s why I left. I also know the hurt my presence would have bought to your house. I thought it better to stay away.”
“Sam, this is bull. All you did was avoid the problem again. Ok, your gay, I can deal with that, but you created me, you created a family, and then you walked out.” Tears began to form in Kelly’s eyes. She looked at Pebbles. “Pebbles is more my family than you are. And believe me it ain’t been easy, but we there for each other every day of every month, of every year. Don’t give me your excuses about being gay and how it hurt you. Mom already told me you have other kids.”
“Their Gavon’s kids. His wife died. He had one set of twins girls and a little son. I’ve raised them from little tots almost.”
“But you had no time for me. You think that’s a viable excuse.”
“Yo Kelly, don’t get all hype,” Pebbles interrupted for the first time since the beginning of the conversation.
“No, you don’t give me your worst case scenario. It’s much worse when a competent man ignores his child and raises somebody else’s, than for a sick parent to walk away. “
“We had no choice with Gavon’s children.”
“Don’t give me that, Samuel Stevens, there are always choices. And you choose to raise this Gavon guy’s children as a couple, and have nothing to do with me.”
“I can’t express how sorry I am for that, but I would like a chance to make up for it.”
“Kelly,” Pebbles interceded again. “It ain’t that bad. I ain’t saying I’d jump at the chance to be buddy buddy with my moms or my dad, but he ain’t like my moms or dad. He screwed up, so what, I screw up everyday and you forgive me. Forgive him, or at least try to.”
Kelly looked at her friend. It’s always easier to believe in other people’s reunions than it is to believe in your own. She’d say the same thing if one of Pebbles’ parents were sitting here and she’d be right.
“Fine Sam, I’ll try, but not today. I need time to think.”
“Okay, I understand,” Sam removed. “I gave your mom my number. Call me when your ready.”
With his head hung, Sam left the mall. Pebbles embraced her friend. Somehow, the thought that he had raised someone else’s children had hurt more than thinking he’d had more of his own. She didn’t know how to feel about the early events that created her. But here she sat today, with Pebbles. The worse case scenario.