My last public chapter:
Halley didn’t understand why people would dream all their lives about living on a boat. The Pacific Sun was pretty enough from the outside, but hardly the size of a walk-in closet on the inside. Speaking of closets, there weren’t any. Since all she had was a suitcase full of clothes, she was okay with the drawer under the one narrow bunk, but it was a tight fit.
Halley pushed aside the tank tops she’d tossed on her bunk earlier and flopped down on the thin mattress. Despite the westerly tradewinds, it was hot and humid, so much so her hair was either a frizzy mop or a sorry, lank mess. Still, she preferred the privacy of her sweltering cabin to the sunbaked deck where anyone within earshot could overhear the conversation she was about to have.
She eyed the cell phone in her hand with reluctance. She really needed to call home and check in with her mother, but she didn’t look forward to their talk. There would be tears, and Halley hated it when her mother cried. She just hoped her sister wasn’t around to answer the phone.
Halley suppressed a sigh. Of course, her sister would answer the phone. She’d probably been at their mother’s house since Halley’s somewhat clandestine departure (with her sister’s passport).
“Jess, it’s Halley.”
“Where are you? Mom has been crying all day. I can’t keep coming over here, you know.”
“I told you I was going on a trip over the holidays.”
“Can I talk to mom now?”
“Where are you?”
“What in God’s name are you doing on Guam? You know how hard it is for mom this time of year. Does this have anything to do with that man?”
“Tell mom I called.” Halley disconnected before her sister had a chance to lecture her. They didn’t see eye to eye on this. Of course, Halley knew how her mother struggled, how she grieved for her husband. Halley had been there when her mother had found the lifeless body of her husband, his head an unrecognizable, bloody mess from the large caliber bullet he’d used to escape his shame. She could still hear her mother’s anguished wails.
And she’d been there every day since, watching her mother’s will to live slip away bit by bit, her pain and spirit dulled by medication, weeping for hours and days. In all fairness, Jessica who had her own family to take of had done her best in the beginning, but eventually her visits became less and less frequent, admitting to Halley that their mother’s depression was too difficult for her to witness.
Then the package had arrived. A small mailer from Guam, addressed to her father, souvenirs inside. The vacationing soldier must not have known that his former supervisor had taken his life the year before. Halley had locked herself away in her closet to open the small box. She’d never looked past the folded newspaper page on top. On it a name and picture. Mason Ward.
She’d shown Jess the article. The paper had glorified his heroism as if he could ever be more than a has-been who’d never washed out of the military for his cowardly lies. Jess hadn’t understood, but Halley knew that it couldn’t have been a coincidence that Mason Ward had taken a bullet on the first anniversary of her father’s death. She’d known right then and there what she needed to do. For her mother’s piece of mind and her father’s honor.
Jess didn’t understand, because she hadn’t seen the spark of life in their mother’s eyes when Halley had promised to bring the man who’d caused their father’s suicide to justice, to expose him once and for all for what he was.