Well, Diary (Journal, I mean), I’m going to continue where I left off last time. If you remember, I was running, I broke the heel of my shoe off and I was totally out of breath. On top of it all, I was also lost. With fear and desperation welling in my chest, I realized I didn’t have my cell phone or purse.
How stupid could I have been? I wiped my sweaty face on my arm and tried to see if I recognized anything in this neighborhood that might direct me home. Still panting for air, I forced myself forward. At the end of the street I saw the grocery store. Just a little further and I’d be home.
As soon as I finally got there, however, I passed out cold. Of course, I don’t remember passing out. I only remember my front door and the porch light and wishing I could drink an entire river of water.
So, I’ll piece this part together as best I can from the various accounts that were told to me…
Liev and Garret were there also. Apparently, after I had run off, Garret’s mother had ordered him to find and retrieve me. He got in his car and logically assumed I’d gone home.
Now, Liev, for reasons unknown to me at the time, had tailed Garret to my house. He hadn’t seen me run off from the Covingtons’ summer cottage.
I didn’t see her, but when I ran up to the house, Keniesha was covering up the tables in our garage sale. She saw me pass out and tried to revive me. Meanwhile, Liev was beating the snot out of Garret. (I really, really wish I’d seen that! The word “disappointment” does not even begin to cover how I feel about this.)
It was during this time, I think, that Keniesha thought I was dead. Liev said she was howling like a basset hound fresh on the trail of a rabbit, and she claims she doesn’t know what he’s talking about; she was as cool as a cucumber. I choose to believe Liev in this case because it makes me smirk imagining it.
After Garret was sufficiently subdued, Liev called for an ambulance and the police (Keniesha instructed him to say that an officer was down; she said they’d get there faster).
As I was coming around, thanks to the EMT’s, the sun was just coming up and Garret was sitting on the ground like a spoiled child. My eyes widened when I realized Liev was standing next to him with a weapon drawn.
The EMT’s said I’d collapsed from dehydration and running in the heat. They asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital but I told them no.
When I was finally restored, Liev showed me a badge. “I’m a P.I.,” he explained. “I came here because of a letter I got.”
“What?” I asked dumbly.
“I’ll tell you everything I know when you’re feeling a little better. There are some things I need answers to as well.”
I felt tears welling up and spilling over my cheeks again. “You’re a private investigator?”
He nodded as he spoke, “Don’t cry, you’re dehydrated.”
I just stood there, unable to pull any thoughts or words together.
He pulled me into his arms and whispered in my ear, “It’s going to be okay now, I promise.”
Over Liev’s shoulder, I could see Keniesha grinning at us like the Cheshire Cat. I ignored her and embraced him, too.
“This will all make sense in time. We’ll have all the answers and everything will go back to normal.”
His voice and embrace were soothing so I let him hold me, taking comfort in his reassurances.
When I finally pulled away, I was shocked. “You’re hurt.”
“Nah,” he said with a smile. “Garret looks a lot worse than me, I can tell you that.”
More seriously, he said, “Memphis, I’m sorry that I lied to you. I hope when you understand, you’ll forgive me.”
To be honest, I hadn’t really had time yet to absorb any of this, so I just nodded.
A few days later, Keniesha and I met with our family attorney. Liev was invited to join us as he still needed some answers, too. I was feeling a little put out that he hadn’t explained anything at all to us. But he said he’d rather put it all together with the attorney.
I wore my navy dress because it made me feel somehow like I was being myself instead of listening to Garret about what I should wear.
Arthur Benedict was retired now after serving his clients for the better part of thirty-five years. Even though he wasn’t taking on any cases, he had told us that he would always be there for us should we need him.
After we’d been seated, he started right in.
“I’m so sorry you girls have had to go through this. I know you want some answers immediately and, as you know, I don’t like to beat around the bush, so let’s begin.” He cleared his throat and added, “Please don’t interrupt me. You can ask me anything you want when I’m finished.”
I glanced uncertainly at Keniesha and she gave me a reassuring smile. She wasn’t worried at all, apparently. Just calm down, I ordered myself, willing my heart to stop beating so hard.
“Many years ago, there was a brilliant man. His name was Prescott Day. He was a scientist working on a groundbreaking vaccine. It had the potential to cure millions of people of Fading Finger Disease which, as you know, was a serious problem that was transmitted through mosquitoes.”
“But Fading Finger Disease has been eradicated,” I mumbled.
Arthur cleared his throat again. “Yes, now let me continue. Prescott had an assistant who worked very closely with him. A man by the name of Don Covington. Don was brilliant, too, but he couldn’t hold a candle to the kind of smarts Prescott possessed. I met with Prescott many times during the development of this new miracle. I warned him that if anyone found out about it, they would try to steal it. He pooh-poohed me; didn’t take me seriously enough.” Arthur came up for air long enough for a sip of water, then continued, “Not long before Prescott had finished the trial experiments, he began to get uneasy. He told me there had been a series of unexplained accidents and that he thought someone was trying to hurt him. He was especially worried because his wife was about to have their first baby.” He looked pointedly at me and I felt my hands beginning to shake. “That baby was you, Memphis.”
His words echoed in my head. I had so many questions all at once but instead of asking anything intelligent, my throat started to constrict and my mouth felt like I’d eaten handfuls of sand. “What?” I managed to squeak.
Arthur nodded. “Yes… now, I started to dig around; I took Prescott’s feelings very seriously because he was not one to overreact or exaggerate. I hired your father, Liev, and what he found out chilled me to the core. Your father, Thom, discovered that Don Covington had hired someone to get rid of the Days’ and had been syphoning money from Prescott’s company, too. His intention was to rid himself of not only Prescott and steal the vaccine, but also of anyone who could lay claim to the company Prescott had built. I knew that your parents were in danger and as a result, so were you, Memphis. But Thom couldn’t find the evidence to directly link Don Covington to this plot.”
I couldn’t sit still any longer. “So what happened?”
Arthur also stood up and stretched. “I wanted to protect them, of course, but Prescott was mainly concerned about you. After you were born, I made arrangements to have you placed temporarily in foster care under the assumed name of Memphis, no last name. Even Prescott and your mother didn’t know where you were. It was for your safety.”
“Then what?” I asked, finding my voice again.
“Not long after I secured your safety, your parents were killed in a car crash. I have always believed Don Covington was responsible for that accident but I could never prove it. Thom worked night and day on it and he always came up empty. Anyway, I had promised your folks that I’d make sure you ended up with a good family if they were unable to retrieve you.”
“Did you know my parents?” Keniesha asked.
Arthur nodded. “I knew your parents very well and I’m responsible for … well… interfering in their plans to adopt. They never knew any of this; they believed it was just a mix up. And, that’s what I wanted them to think. It was safer for them that way, too. You couldn’t have had better parents, Memphis. Some might say I took a gamble on sending you there, but I knew their character; I believed with my entire being they would keep you. I believed they would love you dearly.”
“They did,” I said quietly. “So Don Covington claimed my father’s vaccine as his own and stole his company.”
“Yes. When the vaccine was ready and approved, he told everyone he was your father’s partner. He became so wealthy, his grandchildren’s grandchildren could never spend it all.”
“They must have figured out who Memphis is,” Keniesha said.
“I believe they have had their own team of P.I.’s and attorneys working on this for years. I’ve always been able to keep an eye on you but I became more concerned when Don’s widow, Veronica Covington bought that house here in Sunlit Tides. It’s so far away from where they usually vacation, I knew they must have figured it out. I heard that Thom had recently died, so I sent a letter to Liev. Thom was the best P.I. I ever knew, so I was hoping Liev would be a chip off the block.” He looked at Liev and said, “And you are, son.”
“They tried to get Garret to marry me so they could claim everything legally if any of this came to light.”
“Yes, Memphis. And you narrowly escaped. Liev came here as soon as he got the letter and he has been investigating the Covington family. He was able to gather enough evidence to have Garret arrested at your house. I’m afraid the days of that family ruling everything is over.” He smiled at me; a wide, genuine smile. “You are going to have quite an inheritance, young lady, when everything is said and done.”
“Arthur, what was my mother’s name?”
“Your parents were Prescott and Jillian Day.”
I let that sink in for a moment before I asked my next question. “And what did they name me?”
He smiled. “You were named Grace Marie Day. And you were conceived in Memphis.”
Arthur promised to keep us updated. He said it could be a long time before I saw an inheritance as it would take quite a bit of time to have Veronica and Garret tried and convicted. But I didn’t really care about an inheritance; not as much as I cared about justice being served.
I stared at Liev feeling ashamed and greedy. If I was being honest with myself, I would have to admit that I’d only really dated Garret because I thought maybe eventually I might fall in love with him. Then the money problems Keniesha and I were facing would be over. I know that contradicts what I just said about not caring about an inheritance… Maybe I’m starting to figure out what’s really important.
Liev didn’t notice my stare. He was too busy talking to Keniesha.
“So do you even play guitar?” she asked.
“Ummm…. yeah. Sometime I’ll play for you.”
“Well all right,” she grinned.
Liev turned his attention to me and I could feel my cheeks turning bright red.
“Are you mad at me for lying? I’m really sorry about that.”
I smiled a little. “No.”
“And what happened to your piercings?” Keniesha demanded. “Your eyebrow, your lip…”
He touched his face. “Oh, those. They were fake.”
Keniesha laughed loudly. She was really enjoying this. “You had me fooled!”
Liev and I talked some more. We didn’t even notice when Keniesha sneaked out. I think she knew Liev and I were on a whole new level now.
“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked.
“I’d like to go to the park.”
Fresh air always did me good, I gotta say. We made it to the park in record time. For the first moment since everything had gone down, I felt like I could breathe.
Liev regarded me seriously. “I really would like to play guitar for you sometime.”
As I smiled and agreed that that would be very nice, I looked down to see he was holding my hands. And I didn’t even feel nervous! It felt … right.
When I didn’t pull away, he encircled me in a warm embrace. I touched his face. It felt like the natural thing to do. I breathed in deeply. He smelled like mints and soap, and I liked it.
As dusk began to fall on another day, I found that I was no longer worrying about the future or what was going to happen with this move. We sat in the grass together. I ran my hands lightly over the softness of it and took another deep breath. I didn’t even care that he was watching my every move.
Why hadn’t I ever noticed how comfortable I was with him? I blushed and smiled again.
We talked easily, laughing and telling funny childhood stories. The conversation was pleasant and I was completely at ease.
And there were moments we sat in complete silence, too. Not an awkward kind of silence like you might imagine, but a really laid back kind of quiet.
We were looking up at the sky when I pointed out a shooting star.
“Make a wish,” he exclaimed.
And I did.
“What did you wish for?”
I smiled and leaned against his shoulder. “If I tell you, it won’t come true.”
But it did come true. That night, I kissed someone for the very first time in my life, right there in the park, under the soft glow of a streetlamp.