My heart stopped. Dad? After twenty years? I sat on the edge of my bed, staring at the message. Part of me wanted to delete it and forget, but curiosity won. I called the number back.

“Alice, it’s me. I… I don’t have much time.”

“Why are you calling now?” My voice was harsher than I intended.

There it was, the same secrecy that defined my childhood. “What do you want?”

He took a shaky breath. “I left because your grandfather, Harold, paid me to disappear. He hated me, thought I was a failure. He found someone else for your mom, someone better.”


I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Grandpa? He did that?”

“Yes. I was struggling back then. Addictions, bad decisions. Your grandfather saw a chance to get rid of me, and I took the money.”

“So you just left us for money?” Anger bubbled up.

“I know it sounds awful. But I invested that money, built a business. It was all for you, Alice. To secure your future.”

“Part of the deal. I couldn’t approach you or your mom. But I was there, watching. I saw your graduation, your volleyball games. I was always there, just… from a distance.”

I felt like my world was tilting. “Why didn’t Mom ever tell me?”

An old man in a hospital bed talking on a cell phone | Source: Midjourney

“I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t want you to hate him. Or maybe she thought she was protecting you.”

“What do you want now?” I asked, my voice trembling.