This is Part 4 of my serial, A Man Called Truth. You can read the previous installments here: Stories
Six-year old Andrea Rosenthal sat on a blue blanket beneath the skimpy shade of a palm tree and rearranged the dolls. Her friend, Michelle Delgado from next door, sat opposite her and busied herself erasing the marks from the handheld chalkboard. Andrea’s father eyed them as he walked to the detached garage, musing on the fact that Andrea hated school.
“Now, Don…” Andrea addressed the male doll that was sitting propped against a box of Legos, pointing a stubby finger at him. “I better not catch you pulling Sherry’s hair anymore.” She picked up the Barbie doll and smoothed down her blond hair.
“That’s a Ken doll, I’ve told you a hun’red times,” Michelle said.
“And I said his name is Don because Mommy says he looks like Don Johnson from Miami Vice!”
“I’m not allowed to watch Miami Vice. My mom says it’s dirty,” Michelle pouted.
Andrea wasn’t allowed to watch the show, either, but she neglected to tell her friend that. Michelle thought Andrea was cool, so Andrea tried to act the part. She had plenty of practice observing the older kids at the academy. She sighed and flipped her long, black hair back over her shoulder, in imitation of one of the girls at the academy. She stifled a smug smile when she saw Michelle flip her own brown hair back.
“We’re going to be doing addition facts,” said Andrea. She pointed at her brand new Cabbage Patch doll. “Lee Ann, what is two-plus-four?”
A dark shadow passed over the two girls. Michelle Delgado looked up and shrieked, dropped the chalkboard down on the blanket and hid her face in her hands.
Andrea looked up at the tall, dark-haired man standing there. Their eyes met. Both pair were dark, almost black: one pair had a brooding look, the other…almost lifeless. Almost…
Two girls. A hammer. A cold, torch-lit tunnel. A lie…a terrible lie. Conflict. Anger. Ill-used! A breach of the requirement!
Michelle was sobbing quietly into her hands.
“It’s only Emet,” Andrea said, looking at her friend. “He lives in our garage sometimes.”
Michelle looked up into those steady eyes. “I don’t like him,” she said.
“He won’t hurt you,” Andrea said. “He works for Daddy.”
At that moment, Andrea’s dad walked around the hulking goliath.
“You girls go into the back-yard and play now, okay? I’ve got some business to take care of in the house and I won’t be able to watch you out here.”
Andrea’s mom was at work, so her father was watching her. The girls got up; gathering dolls, toys and blanket up into their arms. Andrea’s father gestured Emet toward the house.
Andrea stopped suddenly and stared at him. “Emet…You’re bleeding.”
Emet reached up and touched his forehead. As he pulled his finger away from the small cut, both girls gasped.
“Your blood is silver!” Andrea exclaimed.
“Run along, you two,” Andrea’s father said impatiently.
They wandered into the backyard where they dumped everything on the ground, and headed over to swing on the jungle gym.
“My dad’s been mad at everybody lately,” said Andrea. She swung higher and higher, trying to outpace Michelle.
“Why does Emet live in your garage?” Michelle asked.
“It’s a secret,” Andrea said. “My daddy said tell no one. And that means you.”
“Why’s your daddy mad?”
“He’s having business problems, Mommy said. They fight all the time.”
Andrea had never known a time when her parents didn’t fight. Daddy accused Mommy of spending too much money…then Mommy would cry and tell Daddy he didn’t love her…that he still loved his other wife…the one that died. Then Daddy would leave…stomp out and slam the door. Sometimes he’d take his car and drive away for awhile. Other times she would lie in her bed and hear the garage door slam and know Daddy was in there, locked in with his memories.
Sometimes he took her to the garage. He showed her the boxes and boxes and files and files of family history, going back since “time out of mind” he said. He told her that one day, if she never had a brother, it would be her job to take care of the family files. They were very important, he said. They had to be taken care of so future generations would know and learn from the past. What they would know and learn, he wouldn’t tell her. He promised he would tell her everything one day, when she was old enough.
He would never tell her.
That night, as the Rosenthal family lay sleeping, it was supposed that a faulty wire in the kitchen started the blaze. Andrea’s room was closest to the front door, so the firemen reached her first. She was taken to County Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
Harold J. Rosenthal, and his wife, Sharon, perished.
A few days later, the executor of her father’s estate, a kindly white-haired gentleman, visited her at County. He told her that she’d be sent to an orphanage. No one in her father’s family could (or would) take her in.
Andrea cried and wailed in pain. Her Mommy and Daddy were gone and they were never coming back! And nobody else wanted her. She lost everything…all of her dollies died in the fire, too. The kind man held her hand and patted her head until she stopped crying.
When she’d quieted down, he handed her a box with a lock on the side.
“This is very important,” he said. “You have to take care of this box and what’s inside it. It passes from your father to you, now. This is your inheritance.”
He opened the box with a key that he later put on a chain for her to wear around her neck.
Inside the box was a doll made of stone.