“Some things never change.” He smiled.
“I need to speak to you about …” Valerie’s face clouded. She wasn’t sure how to even start the conversation. Shoving a picture frame at her father, she said, “Jake keeps telling me to look at this picture. What … what does he want me to see?”
“What do you see?” he asked and passed the photo back.
“I see you,” Valerie spat the words, “and your … new perfect family.”
“Why … why is that funny?”
“You can be so stubborn,” he said. “That’s why I laughed. It’s right in front of you and you don’t see it. Why is that, Valerie?”
“What am I supposed to see?”
“You and Jake look remarkably alike,” Sam said.
“We look like our mother.” Valerie flipped her hair at him.
“Celia was fair skinned. She had light brown hair until the very end of her life,” Sam said. “You don’t have fair skin or light brown hair. Do you?”
“What are you saying? We’re African-American?” Valerie spit at him.
“My family has been in the West since long before there was a United States. We’re mutts. Dark hair, darker skin, hazelish eyes … African-American, Native-American, Spanish,” Sam Lipson shrugged. “The Lipson’s pass their features to their children.”
Valerie curled her lip at her father. She jerked the photograph to her eyes. Four tiny little blonde bitches … with their tiny blonde whore mother. Trevor’s wicked fiancée and her bitty sister stood next to their mother while her father’s … What? They looked like … She pulled the photo next to her eye.
“Your mother wanted …”
“How dare you blame your slutty behavior on my mother! She was devastated by you!”
“Was she?” Sam asked. “Are you sure?”
Valerie threw the photograph at her father’s feet. Crossing her arms over her heart, she started to walk off.
“I promised Celia that I’d only tell you kids when you asked.”
Valerie swung around to look at him.
“Jake asked about six months after Celia died. But you … What’s it been? Nine years? You were at the lawyers today. You walked in on us the night before your mother died. And still, you don’t ask the question. Just ask me.”
“Fine. Why did you betray my mother?”
“I’ve never betrayed your mother. Never. Not one time in the lifetime of knowing her. She was the very best thing in my life and I miss her like a hole in the very center of me.”
“How can you say that? She gets ill and you’re off … With that horrible woman … and … I thought you had a vasectomy?”
“I did,” Sam said. He smiled at the question. Valerie was finally ready for the truth. “It’s the only time Celia was truly angry with me. She wanted babies so badly, but there are reasons she was the last of the Marlowes. She was lucky to survive carrying Jake. She was determined to have more children. I … I didn’t want to lose her, so I had it done.”
Valerie looked down at the bouquet of roses in her hand. She remembered the fight. It was the only time she ever remembered her parents screaming at each other. They fought for days. She was five or maybe six years old. Jake was a little more than a year old.
“Then how did you get your secretary pregnant?”
“I didn’t,” Sam said.
Valerie shook her head. She almost left again when she realized what she needed to know.
“Dad, what happened?”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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