Castle Roland

Forever 1 - Beginnings

by Jack Schaeffer


Chapter 5

Published: 1 Jan 15

FOREVER 1 - Beginnings
By Jack Schaeffer
Copyright © 2014 - 2015. All rights reserved.

_"A beginning is a very delicate time."_
from Dune (1984) by Frank Herbert, David Lynch

I could barely hear voices shouting around me, but couldn't make out what they were saying. Anyway, it hurt to concentrate so I drifted back to the darkness. It was a comfort.

My next awareness was of being carried, bouncing a little in someone's very strong arms. I think I heard someone say, "Lay him down there on the couch," but I couldn't be sure. Then I was falling, and I felt a soft leather surface catch me. I heard no more after that for a while.

What I assumed was much later, but could have been only five minutes, I could hear voices again. I was aware of the sun beating down on me, on my face. It felt good. Really good. I tried to move a little, but everything hurt, especially my left shoulder. I kept my eyes closed. Maybe if I don't look no one can see me either and I can just disappear from the nightmare my life had suddenly become.

I lay there as I listened to the voices, this time recognizing Sharon's determined tone. "I'm telling you both, that's enough for today. No more. The boy's had more than he can handle, and I won't have you two overwhelming him with any more money talk or anything else for that matter. Larry, go home. Clyde, go home. You won't get any more work done today anyway, and you know it. I'll call Shirley and tell her you'll be home a little early and for her to fix you a nice drink and your favorite dinner. You both can try again tomorrow. That is, if he's up to it."

Apparently they knew better than to argue with her, as I heard a couple of grumbled comments and the sound of receding feet from the room. I could feel Sharon's eyes on me.

"Alright, you can open your eyes now, Jack. Everyone's gone." How did she know I was awake and listening? I didn't want to wake up. I wanted to die – of embarrassment if nothing else.

Sharon was pacing and was muttering to herself. "Two grown men, don't have the sense God gave a buzzard. Useless…utterly useless in a crisis." I assumed she was talking about Larry and Clyde. I wanted to defend them, to say I was the one causing all the trouble, not them. But to do so I would have to acknowledge I heard her, and I was afraid. She sounded mad and I was afraid she was mad at me, too.

Sensing my reluctance to come out of it, she walked over to me and gently said, "Jack, baby. It's okay. Everything's gonna be alright. You can wake up now. It's just me here. Don't be afraid, Jack. It's alright, baby." She had her kind voice going again, and it gave me the courage to crack open my eyes and look up at her. The sunlight was shining behind her head, and I swear she looked like an angel again. My angel. My emotional rescuer.

"There you are. You gave us a bit of a scare there, Jack. Are you alright?"

I tried to sit up and got some shooting pains in my left shoulder for my trouble. I pushed up with my other arm and got myself upright, rubbing my sore arm.

"I guess so. What happened? Is everybody mad at me? I screwed up, didn't I?"

"No, no, no, Jack. You didn't do anything wrong. You've just had way too much thrown at you for one day, and you fainted. It happens. I had no idea that Clyde and Larry were gonna get into the money with you today, or I would have stopped them. Any fool could know you wouldn't be able to handle that on top of everything else. There's plenty of time to figure it all out later."

"Why'd she do it, Sharon? Why would Amanda leave me all her money? What am I supposed to do with it? I don't know the first thing about high finance. I mean, I do basic accounting and bookkeeping, so if you need an invoice typed or an invoice paid, I'm your man. But millions of dollars? I don't have a clue about what to do." I was getting myself worked up again, and Sharon was patting my hands in hers, trying to keep me calm.

"Jack, baby, don't you worry about any of that right now. Larry and his folks over at the bank have it all well under control. Amanda never did anything with it directly, either, as far as I know. She and Phillip left it up to Larry and the team to handle it and you can, too."

That made me feel a little better. Took some of the pressure off. I'd never had five hundred dollars to my name at one time, let alone 500 million. It was incomprehensible. I decided right then and there to leave it alone. Just try to ignore it for a while. It wasn't real. I had no knowledge of what to do anyway, so I guess I would take the same approach as Amanda and leave it to Clyde and Larry.

"Looks like you're gettin' your color back, Jack. Feel like standing up?" Sharon stood up from where she had been sitting next to me on the couch and held out a helping hand.

I held on to her hands and managed to pull myself to my feet, still a little shaky but I didn't think I would fall down again. My arm hurt but other than that I was in one piece. I took a couple of steps and then realized I didn't recognize the room we were in.

"Where are we?"

"Oh, I had Billy move you into this empty office next to Clyde's. Since the founding partner retired a few years ago, we've never used it for anything but storage. I knew we had this nice couch in here, and I thought this was better than the conference room floor. After all, what was I gonna say if someone saw I had a dead-looking young man layin' under my conference room table?"

We both chuckled. So Billy was who had picked me up and carried me. I could still vaguely remember being in his arms, his big strong arms. It was a comforting thought. Kind of a sexy thought, too. Maybe I was going to be alright like Sharon said.

We stepped out of the unused office and were standing right behind Sharon's work area. Clyde's office door was to my right, so now I had it worked out as to where I was. Then I saw the conference room on my left, and my previous embarrassment and emotional horror returned.

"Oh, Sharon. I'm so sorry. I ruined your trash can. I'm so, so sorry. I'll replace it, I promise. You'll have to let me know how much and I'll figure something out." I could feel the heat of my blood rushing to my face in a flush. I was mortified as I relived my worst moment so far in my life.

Sharon laughed. "Jack, it's already been taken care of. Brian from maintenance came up and took care of it straight away. Don't give it another thought. They've had to clean up a lot worse than a dirty trash can after the annual Christmas parties around here, I can tell you. And Jack, I don't think after today finding a way to pay for things is going to be difficult for you."

She was smiling, trying to make light of it, I know, but the anxiety started to rise up again. She must have seen signs of it on my face – she was really starting to read me well – and grabbed my hand quickly.

"Jack, never mind about all that. Leave it to tomorrow, or whenever. Whadda ya say we get you back to your hotel, you can get some dinner if you want, and have the rest of the evening to yourself with no more lawyers and bankers messin' with that cute head of yours?" I nodded quickly, as her idea sounded wonderful to me, and I relaxed considerably. Did she just say I was cute? I grinned.

I came to Denver with one mother I had known all my life. I gained another who had given me life. And I was fast gaining yet another who felt like she was saving my life. I'm not sure I could have put into words at that moment how special Sharon Adams had become to me in one short day. Billy better be careful – I think I wanted his mama for my own.

Sharon gave me a great big hug, then said she was going to call Billy to come get me. I sat down in one of the chairs in front of her desk – I didn't want to go back into the conference room – and waited for him. I was strangely excited about seeing Billy again. Sure, he had his magnificent ass, and he had carried me confidently in his big, strong arms. That was hot! But, I decided, it was his presence I enjoyed the most. His relaxed, happy demeanor was a needed respite from the tensions of the day, and I was looking forward to the ride back to the hotel, with him smiling at the wheel.

Billy arrived just a few minutes later, still smiling. "Feeling better, Jack?" he asked.

"Yes, much. Thank you for your help. Your mother told me what you did. I appreciate it."

"No biggie, Jack. You don't weigh very much." I thought I weighed plenty, but looking at his arms again, I doubt it took much effort for him to move me.

He kissed his mama's cheek again, they exchanged two fabulous Adams' smiles, and we were off.

"Let's roll, Jack. I gotta get home. Jerome is cookin' us up a special dinner tonight for our anniversary." He started walking towards the office entrance.

I turned for a second to look at Sharon's face. I can't imagine the look on mine. Did Billy just say he and his business partner Jerome were a couple? Sharon looked at me and chuckled, shaking her head. "Good night, Jack. Call me in the morning when you want to come back in. Get some sleep."

I turned back around and trotted to catch up with the fast-moving Billy. I followed him out the door, down the elevator, and back to the car, the whole time looking at his ass and thinking about anniversaries and a whole lot of other jumbled thoughts. I wondered if I would ever have an anniversary with a guy who made me dinner. It sounded wonderful.

Billy got me back to the hotel in record time. He was clearly intent on getting home to Jerome. He opened my door and helped me out.

"You gonna be okay tonight, Jack?"

"Yep. I am, Billy. Have a great dinner with Jerome." I smiled as I said it, hoping he knew I was sincere and not making fun of him.

"Guaranteed, Jack. And hey, I just want to tell you, you are one of the cutest guys I've ever met. It's been great getting to spend some time with you today. I hope you find the man of your dreams someday. I know my ass belongs to Jerome forever." He smiled hugely and gave me a big hug, then went back around the car to the driver's door. He winked at me with a grin and then drove away, leaving me standing there paralyzed, wondering just what had happened.

He knew. Billy knew I was gay. And he didn't hate me. He didn't hurt me. He had spent his whole day helping me, taking care of me. He had to have known I was gay when he carried me to the couch after I fainted. He didn't tell his mama, "I don't take care of fags. Let him rot on the floor where he is." No, he picked me up and laid me gently down on the couch. Now that I thought about it, he had been watching out for me all day, noticing when I wasn't feeling good, or needed some rest. Advising me to take a nap, get some sleep.

Maybe he was nice to me because he was gay, too, so he understood. I wasn't a freak to him – I was just like him. Well, I could never be just like him. The man was huge, built like a tank and gentle as a feather. But I was gay like him. And I had a heart that wanted true love, like he and Jerome shared. And Billy somehow knew this about me. I suddenly felt all warm and mushy inside. It was the best I had felt all day.

I saw myself smiling in the shiny walls of the elevator heading up to my room. I was now feeling much better, and looking forward to an evening by myself. I liked being alone.

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Alone could be a good thing – and tonight it was definitely a good thing for me. No more people telling me stories, freaking me out with huge numbers, generally rearranging my life. Tonight I was going to relax, maybe take a walk, watch some TV, even get some dinner, if I thought my stomach could handle it. So far things were quiet down there since I gave up my lunch, so maybe I shouldn't tempt fate right now.

I keyed into my room and the first thing I did was put Amanda's letter on the desk in the living room. I still wasn't sure when I was going to be ready to read her words. Definitely not this minute. I still wanted some mental and emotional distance from the whole saga.

I hung up my suit, threw my shirt on the floor in the bathroom – it needed some washing out from the vomit experience – and finished getting naked. I turned on the hot water in the shower to warm up, then went over to the sink and looked at the man in the mirror. My physical appearance was unchanged from what I was used to seeing – dark brown hair little too long and needing a trim, slight five o'clock shadow popping through, green eyes which sometimes changed to a rusty brown color, a nose and mouth both unremarkable in their normality. My teeth were fairly straight – I had been spared the teenage horror of braces – and I had no piercings or tattoos altering my body. The rest of me was hopelessly average, I thought. Not fat, not skinny. Not tall, not short. Feet, size 11. Just…average. Even my dick was average…I think. I hadn't ever compared myself to anyone in real life, and I was pretty sure porn star guys were off the scale, so yeah…average.

For the most part I was okay with how I looked. As I said before, I tried not to make a bad impression. And there was nothing about me that screamed "freak" from a physical perspective. I suspected I pretty much blended into the crowd, which was fine with me. I had no desire to stick out and invite unwanted attention, which from my experience was a negative more than a positive. Even in school when you might win a scholastic award or a medal in a band or choral competition, other students could always find a way to make your success seem like the worst thing you could have done socially.

Unless you excelled at sports – then you were golden. No one would accuse me of being good at sports, nor did I have a body which could be described as athletic. I had the normal muscles of any guy, they just weren't toned and defined. I had a flat stomach, but I couldn't discern any ab muscles – no six pack here.

Standing there looking in the mirror, physically I looked the same as always, but I knew underneath the skin and muscles and sinew, I was a changed man. Emotionally and mentally I was altered by today's events. And these were things I couldn't really rollback. I was going to have to find a way to move forward with the changes, whether I liked them or not. How to do it was the 580 million dollar question…

I broke my narcissistic reverie and stepped into the steaming shower. The heat on my skin was wonderful. Bvlgari shampoo was a wonder all in itself. I followed the instructions on the bottle and shampooed, rinsed, and repeated, just to experience it all twice. One of the best things about hotels is they never run out of hot water. You can stay in there as long as you want. I soaped myself thoroughly, hoping to rid myself of remnants of vomit and regrets from the day's troubles. It was working.

I thought about jacking off there in the shower – it was one of my favorite places to indulge in my favorite pastime – but I realized I wasn't in the mood. So I finally reluctantly turned the water off before I pruned up too much and dried off with a bath towel twice the size and thickness of mine at home. For a second I thought about trying to fit a couple of those in my duffle bag for keepsakes, but then thought better of it. I would enjoy the Ritz life while I was here, then leave it behind.

Back at the sink, I brushed my hair out of my eyes, did a quick teeth brushing as well, then got dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. Just getting clean and putting on comfortable clothes went a long way in helping me relax.

I flopped on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV, flipping channels. I watched a weather forecast for Denver on a local news program – thankfully it was forecast to be sunny and warmer tomorrow. I might even skip the jacket. The rest of the news was boring as always and I tuned it out. I kept seeing Amanda's letter sitting on the desk across the room. I tried to ignore it, but after a while it was like it had a voice of its own calling me.

I still wasn't ready to read it, so I needed a distraction. I decided on food. When in doubt, eat something. A growing boy's mantra for life and happiness.

I hoped I was dressed okay for the restaurant downstairs. I called the front desk and asked about the dress code; I was assured casual was fine. I rode the elevator to the lobby and walked into Elway's, the main restaurant. It smelled of spices and wood burning fires. I was quickly seated in a curved booth along the side wall, which I liked because there was nothing behind me and I could look out at the entire room. There was a bar at the front near the entrance, with several patrons. The wall behind the bar was covered in alcohol bottles glowing with multi-colored lights. It was pretty in an artsy kind of way – I tried not to think about the dangerous power of the liquid inside those bottles in the hands of an alcoholic.

My waiter was a black-haired hunk. Trevor was about my age and eager to please. He was a true natural at serving. Relaxed, humorous, real skill at telling me the specials and explaining menu options. I was so busy listening and watching him, I lost my concentration and had to ask him to repeat part of it. He didn't seem to mind. Thankfully the restaurant was not yet crowded as it was a Thursday night and maybe a tad early for dinner for most. But I was hungry.

Trevor brought me a glass of water and some bread and butter with a smile and twinkling eyes. In the darker mood lighting of the restaurant his blue eyes radiated amusement and his grin told me he was enjoying himself. Ah, to have a job you love. When he returned for my order, I asked a couple more questions just to listen to the sound of his voice. I hoped he didn't notice I ordered something completely different than what I had asked about.

My Caesar salad, rib eye, bone-in steak, and Elway's fried rice were superb. I ate a few of the green beans, but I am not a vegetable guy, so I didn't finish them. When Trevor came back to clear my table, he asked me if there was anything else I would like this evening. I thought about saying, yes, I would like him for the evening, but chickened out. It was never going to happen anyway. As he went to place my order for Crème Brulee for desert, I watch his retreating ass and thought about what Billy had said to me earlier. Would I find my true love soon? Would my ass ever belong to someone forever? I sure hoped so.

I finished my desert – it reminded me of a vanilla version of chocolate mousse – and waited for the check. Trevor had gotten a little busier as the restaurant started to fill up with diners. The bar was filled with people waiting to be seated. He finally brought me my check in one of those leather folios. When he tried to hand it to me, I miscalculated – I swear it was an accident – and I grabbed his hand instead of the folio. Instead of pulling back annoyed, he held it there, smiling at me. I let my hand linger for two seconds, then let go.

"Sorry about that. You'd think I'd been drinking, wouldn't you?" I tried to make light of it, but I think we both liked the touching.

"No problem. It was a pleasure serving you this evening, Mr. Schaeffer. I hope to see you in Elway's again sometime soon." He smiled again and left me to attend to a nearby patron who had some issue with his steak being not done enough or too done or something. I wanted to go over there and tell the guy to leave Trevor alone. He didn't cook the damn food – he just served it. But Trevor was a pro and the offending meat was swiftly dispatched to the kitchen for correction.

I signed my name and room number and surrendered my booth to the next happy customers in line. I passed Trevor as I made my way towards the exit, and he winked at me. I was pretty sure it was all just flirtatious between us – neither expected it to go anywhere. But I decided flirting with a guy wasn't as dangerous as I had one time feared. Besides, if the other guy gets offended, I could always say he must have mistaken my intentions.

I was going to go for a walk, but it was now dark outside and I didn't really know the area at all. I would hate to get lost in a dangerous part of town. So I opted to return to my room. I was getting tired anyway, and my heavy meal was pulling on my energy reserves as well.

I grabbed two water bottles from the Club lounge – I skipped any more chocolate mousse – and headed back to my room. I kicked off my shoes and tried the TV again. I watched some mindless sitcom which cleared my head nicely. I laughed out loud a couple of times and it felt good. But then another news program came on, and I couldn't find anything else of interest. Amanda's letter started calling me from the desk again.

I got up and retrieved it and carried it to the nightstand. I used the bathroom, undressed, turned out all but the nightstand lights, and went to bed. Propped up against the headboard surrounded by all the pillows, I reached for Amanda's letter. It was time to hear from my birth mother, the only words she would ever say to me.

The envelope was so beautiful. I opened the seal as carefully as I could. Thankfully I didn't rip it. Inside were many pages folded together. Apparently she had much to tell me. I hoped I was ready to hear it.

     To my son,

     If you are reading this letter, then Clyde has found you and my hoped upon plan succeeded. You are a young man by now. I hope you look like your father. I am sure you have a million questions for me, and I have some, but not allDelete comma of the answers. I thought long and hard about whether it was appropriate to prepare this letter, but a friend of mine encouraged me that it was the right thing to do.

     As you probably now know, my name is Amanda Franklin, and I am your birth mother. I gave you up for adoption on your birthday. If I allow myself, I believe I can still smell your smell as I held you for a short while after the delivery. You were so cute, my beautiful baby boy. I don't remember anything about my pregnancy or delivery. I guess I blocked all of it out of my mind. But you I remember.

     I tried to forget for the last 24 years. I tried to forget everything about that time in my life. There was so much pain, so much hurt. But there was also you.

     Please forgive a sick woman – I'm rambling a bit. I'll start at the beginning.

     I was born Amanda Wilding in San Diego, California, 53 years ago. I was the only child of a doctor and a school teacher. My childhood was unremarkable and completely normal. All the usual life events, nothing tragic or traumatic. I graduated high school and went to UCLA where I earned my bachelor's degree in biochemistry. I got my dream job with ACON Laboratories in San Diego, working in medical research. There I met my first love, Patrick.

     Patrick was two years older than me and so handsome. And smart. He had the darkest brown hair, almost black, with the deepest green eyes that held my heart from the moment I met him. We were inseparable. We were married quickly – I was 24, he was 26. We rented a small bungalow house near the beach and did everything together. We worked in the same lab together, worked on the same research teams, everything. We didn't have much money but we didn't care. We were young and in love.

     Our research teams made big progress in diabetes medicine. We helped put together better instruments for measuring blood glucose for patients among other things. It was extremely rewarding work. I was so proud of what we were doing together, Patrick and I.

     I had just turned 29 when I got pregnant. At first I was not happy, as I had never wanted children. I guess I was one of those rare women whose work was her life and fulfillment. But Patrick was over the moon. He was so excited. He wanted to make a nursery out of our spare bedroom the first week. I made him wait.

     My pregnancy was uneventful as it progressed normally. I went through all the normal stages, gained the right amount of weight, passed all the tests. Sometime in those first few months, as you grew inside of me, my thinking all changed, and I wanted you more than I wanted anything else in life. I couldn't stop thinking about holding you and feeding you and taking care of you. I fantasized about you and your father and me running our own research company and curing diseases together. That was our dream.

     But dreams don't always come true. Patrick and I were driving in a rain storm to my parents' house for a dinner party. I didn't want to go – I was getting tired easily in my sixth month. But Patrick said we should go, so we went. I don't remember anything but what they told me afterwards. A semi-truck driven by a drunk man crossed the center lane and hit our little pickup truck head on. Patrick was instantly killed and me nearly so.

     I was in the hospital for two weeks before they brought me out of a medically induced coma. I had a broken arm, broken leg, and broken ribs. I had various cuts and stitches on my head, neck, and torso from flying glass. I was lucky to be alive. So were you. My doctor in the hospital said he couldn't understand how you didn't die. All their tests showed you were fine despite all my injuries.

     They nursed my body back to health, but they couldn't fix my mind or my broken heart. Patrick had been my life, my everything, even more than my work. More than you. My parents took me home to live with them and I had to see a psychologist for depression. They couldn't give me any drugs for it because they might harm you.

     As the days got closer to my due date, I knew I had to decide what to do. I could try to go on as a single mother without Patrick, but I had to be honest with myself. I wasn't prepared to do that. Not in any way. I lost my job, our house by the beach. I lost everything. And I wasn't sure I even wanted to live anymore. I couldn't imagine bringing a baby into my nightmare. It wasn't fair.

     I made some calls and found out I could have my baby adopted through the county social services department. I had no money and no means of support so they helped me with the last month's doctor bills. On May 17th I started labor. My father got me to the county hospital and you were born the following morning.

     I don't know what your name is now, but for the time I held you in my arms you were named Patrick John Watson, II. That's what I told the nurse your name was. I think I signed a paper for your birth certificate but I'm sure it was changed later. I named you after your father, you see. Even then I had a glimmer of hope maybe you could carry on some part of him even if I knew I no longer could. Selfish of me, I can see that now.

     I came home from the hospital totally lost. I slid deeper into depression. This time they gave me drugs but they made me sick. Then came the news my mother was ill. She had breast cancer. I did my best to try to take care of her – it helped my depression but I couldn't save her. She mercifully died six months later, her pain-ravaged body an empty shell.

     My father was beyond despair. Like me, he loved totally and completely. We didn't know any other way. But it leaves you utterly empty inside when the one you love is gone. My father committed suicide one month later. No one, least of all me, expected him to do that.

     I was now completely alone in the world. Everything I had ever known and loved was now a horrible reminder of the tragedies of that year. I needed to work – it was the one thing which had always grounded me. I tried to find a job in California, but realized I needed to get away and start a new life, away from all the memories.

     I landed a job at Franklin Pharmaceuticals in Denver doing what I loved – medical research. I moved into an apartment and threw myself into the work. I slowly came alive again. That's when I met Phillip.

     Phillip was like no man I had ever known, even Patrick. Phillip was the owner's son, the heir apparent to the family company, and he wanted no part of running it. He wanted to do research, same as me. We met for the first time at a company holiday party. He worked on another research team in a different building so our paths had never crossed. We spent that evening comparing theories for splicing genes to introduce mutations into viruses. He was fascinating, a truly brilliant mind. I was hooked.

     We got married a few months later, and we had a wonderful life together. Thankfully Phillip's father kept running the company so he and I could continue doing research together. We were proud of our advancements in diabetes medicines and we were starting research into some new promising cancer treatments when his father died of a heart attack during a board meeting.

     Phillip really did not want to run the company. It just wasn't his thing. But he wanted the research we were doing to continue. We tried to do both for a couple of years, but it became too much. Thankfully another pharmaceutical company made an offer to purchase Franklin Pharma and Phillip got the board to cut a deal.

     After the transition was completed a year later, Phillip and I decided to retire from research work. It was better left to younger minds than ours. We now had money, more money than we could ever spend, and we started to travel and enjoy the spoils of our work. Phillip especially like the ocean, so we spent time in Florida and the Caribbean.

     Retirement was fine. I missed the work and the sense we were helping people, but I appreciated my time with Phillip. I fell in love with him more and more every day. He more than anyone had helped heal the loss of Patrick, you and my parents.

     I never told Phillip about you. Or Patrick. I told him a little about my parents. About my childhood and that my parents were dead. At first I just didn't know what to say. It was such a sad chapter of my life I couldn't think about it without getting seriously depressed, so I stayed away from it. I realize now it was unfair to the memory of the people I had loved so very much. But I can't go back and fix it now. I kept a secret from the man I loved and I regret it so much now.

     Phillip died in a skiing accident almost three years ago. I miss him every day. After he died I got involved in charity work to keep myself from depression. It helped. I needed a sense I was helping people, making a difference in someone else's life. It was always the driving force of my life, my purpose, my reason for being.

     When I got the diagnosis of cancer, I was prepared for it. I think I even half expected it. My mother's cancer was the same kind, and it was believed to be genetic. So I knew my odds straight away. But I'm a medical researcher at heart so I endured the chemotherapy and the radiation so they could run tests and do chemical comparisons. Anything to help find a way to ultimately beat the beast that is cancer. I am hopeful I helped in some way.

     My fight is nearly over. I suspect I have days at most, not the weeks my doctor keeps trying to encourage me with. And I'm ready.

     But there is the unfinished matter of you, my son. I feel the need to apologize to you. Not for giving you up – I still think that was the most loving thing I could have done at the time for you. But for denying your existence to my Phillip and my friends. Even to myself, really. For that I am truly sorry. It was never my intention to cause you harm.

     In the past few months I have been thinking about a way in which I can acknowledge you and maybe help you in some way. I know that I may appear to be selfish waiting until I'm gone to do this, but I feel it's for the best. We have no chance for a relationship of any kind now, and I would never want to burden you with such a thing at this point in our lives. But I do care about you in my own way, and I have to do something.

     What I have is money. A lot of money. I don't really know how much. I leave that to the bankers and lawyers. But Patrick and Phillip both taught me one important lesson about money – it's a tool for either doing good or doing evil. I am choosing to believe you will be an agent for good. If there is any truth to genetic inheritance, I have to believe your father's passion for doing good for others will have crossed over to you. I sincerely hope so. He believed the best life was one lived helping his fellow man. Do that, young man. Live your life to help others. The rewards are beyond your imagination.

     The other thing I want to leave to you is two words of advice. These come from lessons I have learned the hard way. The first is this – when you love someone, love them with all your heart. With everything that you are. Totally and completely. Hold nothing back. Yes, you may get hurt. You probably will in some way. I lost two men who were the great loves of my life, but I don't regret for a second loving them with everything I had in me. I promise you that a life lived fully loving is a life well lived.

     The other is this – do not let fear rule your life. There is much to be afraid of in this world. Circumstances, people, things beyond our control. I let fear rule me after Patrick died, and it led to deep depression and difficult, regretful decisions. Do not be afraid of life. Do not be afraid of others. Be who you are and who you believe you were called to be, and forget the rest. If someone doesn't agree or doesn't like you for it, then they don't appreciate you for who you are. So move on. Get on with your life and don't hold back. If you have to, do it afraid. But do it.

     In my heart I know you are alive. I can feel it. Patrick and I did some great work in the lab together, but you are the best thing to ever come from us. Please take the gift that I am giving you as just that, a gift to do something great for others. I pray it is not a burden, but a blessing to you.

     With a hopeful heart,

I don't know when I had done it, but I was holding the edge of a bed sheet in my hands and it was soaking wet from my tears. At one point I must have used it so my crying would not ruin the beautiful paper. My face was a mess.

My heart broke for her. So much tragedy. So much pain. I was grateful she no longer suffered.

I didn't know what I felt for me. There was gratitude for giving me up – I could totally understand her state of mind and agreed with her she did the right thing at that point in her life. Besides, my adoption had worked out okay for me for the most part.

She had answered the question about my birth father. He too, was dead. I had lost both my birth father and birth mother in one day. More tears started to fall, for the lost opportunities to know them as they were. I only had brief summaries of their lives. Nothing of the true substance of them.

The money was on a shelf in my mind for now. The numbers were incomprehensible. But at least I knew why she did it. Why she left it to me. A blessing, maybe. A burden, most certainly.

But as I reread her last words I saw that she had given me some guidance. Love fully, do it afraid, do good for other people. And she seemed to think I could carry on a legacy of sorts – a legacy of Patrick, Amanda and Phillip. To help people have better lives. It sounded wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.

I was a bookkeeper in a small company who lived in a tiny apartment and drove an old used car. I had 170 dollars in my checking account. I wasn't a medical researcher discovering new cures for diseases. How could I change the world and make it better for other people? I wanted to. I was onboard with the vision. I could feel myself being energized with just the thought of it. I wanted that to be me. Making a difference. But how to do it?

I figured the money was supposed to be part of it. She had called money a tool. I never thought about money that way before. A tool, like a shovel for digging a hole, or a hammer for a nail. A way to get something done, something necessary accomplished. A way to right a wrong maybe, or change a life for the better.

Sitting there on my luxurious hotel bed, ideas starting percolating. I felt like I instantly had some secret insight into who I was and who I was supposed to be. I was Jack Schaeffer, not Patrick John Watson, but I had parts of Patrick and Amanda in me. I came from good people, people who made a difference. People who changed things for the better. I wanted to be like that - for them. I wanted to be the legacy they never knew they had.

But I also knew I had a lot to learn. A lot was going to have to change. My thinking needed to expand. I needed to get outside myself more, think beyond the horizon I could see once in a while. Live for something more than the moment now.

I knew one other thing with an absolute certainty – I could no longer be afraid of life. I was going to be me. No matter what. It was time to do it, even if I had to do it afraid!

Author's Note: If you are enjoying this story, please take a moment to comment in the Forum on CastleRoland – you can click the link labelled "Forum Discussion" just under the story synopsis at the top of this page. Or, if you prefer, send me an email to I would love to hear your thoughts about the story.

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