eyed best friend of mine.
Why do you sit so still, still shaking?
I stared down into the casket before me. Silent tears trailed down my cheeks as I reached a hand out to stroke my father's cheek. I slowly pushed back the shaggy salt and pepper hair that hung over my father's forehead and absentmindedly stroked the lightning bolt shaped scar that lay there. His round, wire-rimmed glasses were somewhat askew and I gently nudged them further up his nose so that they sat straight.
He looks so handsome, I commented to myself as I let my fingers trace the other scar that stood out on my father's face. This one was not as neat as the one on his forehead. No, this one was jagged and ugly and it ran from the front of his right ear all the way down his neck under his shirt collar. I knew it wasn't the only scar that my father had on his skin. He had many other horrible looking marks all over his body. They criss-crossed over one another and seemed to create some kind of demented looking maze.
To my father those scars were always something to be ashamed of but to me they had been something to be proud of. When I was ten I had begged and pleaded my father to teach me to swim. He tried to change my mind by buying my toys and sweets but in the end he relented and took my out to the small lake near our home. I would never forget the look in his eyes as he took off one of the many long-sleeved t-shirts that he always wore. It had been a look of such sadness and pain that I couldn't stop myself from crying.
"Daddy, what happened?" I sobbed.
"Nothing honey, Daddy just had an accident," he stated and then went to put his shirt back on. I had felt so guilty for making my Daddy sad that I ran up to him and hugged him. I had wrapped my tiny arms right over those scars and hugged my Daddy tight. The only thing I could think to do was to hug him so tight that it would take all of his pain away.
When I asked later about the scars Daddy had told me that when he was younger he had gotten into a lot of fights and had a lot of accidents. He told my not to worry because the scars didn't hurt anymore. Then he took my little fingers in his hands and brought them up to the scar on his face and he said, "See, doesn't hurt a bit."
My father had always tried to be happy when he was with me while I was growing up. Raising me by himself was hard on him. My mother had died during childbirth so I was never able to meet her but father used to sit with me at night and tell my hundreds of stories about how wonderful and beautiful my mother was. He would tell me that even though my hair was black like his and my eyes were the same emerald green as his, everything else was my mother, from my small frame to my high cheekbones.
"Daddy, why did you have to leave me," I whispered as I leaned down to kiss his cheek one final time. As I turned around and gazed at the empty church I couldn't help but tear up once more.
My father had no friends and no family besides myself. The thought of my father being so alone hit me like a punch to the stomach and I couldn't help but think of all the times we had fought and I stopped talking to him. I knew now that those times had hurt him far worse than I ever intended. He had always been a private person but I couldn't imagine being so utterly alone.
"Miss Riddle, may I speak to you for a moment," a deep voice called out from the back of the church. A man carrying a briefcase was walking quickly down the aisle towards me. He stuck a hand out and I reached out in return to give it a gentle shake.
"I'm a bit busy at the moment," I said as I glanced back at my father. The man nodded nervously in return.
"I understand completely Miss Riddle. I am your father's estate lawyer, Mr. Charles Smith and I wanted to let you know the date for the reading of your father's will."
"What?" I asked, "Father had a will?"
"O yes," he nodded nervously again, "I know it sounds strange since you are his only family but the will was written up while you were still underage and your father was quite adamant about where you should be placed if he were to pass away." I ran a hand through my hair as a million questions ran through my head, and then I voiced the loudest one.
"Where was I to be placed? Father had no friends or family," I said in confusion. Mr. Smith looked down at my sadly as he answered.
"I really cannot discuss the terms of the will until the appointed time," he reached into his jacket and pulled out a business card, "Please come to this address on August third for the reading of the will." I took the business card and shoved it into my pocket. It was obvious by the way Mr. Smith was fidgeting that he did not want to stick around and talk so I bid him farewell and turned to stare back at my father.
"Three more days," I said to the empty church, "Just three more days and then maybe I'll get some answers."
THREE DAYS LATER, August 3rd
"I will need a picture ID verifying that you are Jenny Lillian Riddle," Mr. Smith said and then added, "It's merely a formality." I nodded mechanically and handed over my driver's license.
For the last three days I had walked around in a daze. I had taken a month off from my job at the newspaper but now I was wondering if even a month would be enough time to get over my father's death.
Mr. Smith moved around a few papers on his desk and pulled out a thin manila envelope. He pulled a letter opener from his desk and gingerly slit open the top of envelope, reaching in and pulling out the papers inside. He appeared to look over the papers for a small moment before mumbling, "Not much here, shouldn't take long." I didn't know for certain whether he was speaking to me or not so I continued to just sit and stare off into space.
"If you are ready Miss Riddle I will begin," he said and then waited for me to nod my head, "All right then," he said loudly as he cleared his throat to begin.
"I, James Rubeus Riddle, being of sound mind, leave all of my worldly possessions to my daughter, Jenny Lillian Riddle. If Jenny Lillian Riddle is under the age of eighteen at the reading of this will then all cash assets and funds earned from the sale of my properties will be secured in a trust fund which my daughter, Jenny Lillian Riddle, will receive fully at the age of eighteen." Mr. Smith cleared his throat once more and took a sip of water.
"Jenny Lillian Riddle will receive support from the trust fund in the amount of one thousand dollars monthly to use at her discretion. In the event that I should pass away before my daughter, Jenny Lillian Riddle, is a legal adult then I name Ronald and Hermione Weasely as her legal guardians. In the event that Ronald and Hermione Weasely are unable or unwilling to care for my daughter, I name Petunia Dursley as secondary guardian."
Mr. Smith stopped to take another drink of water and I sat stunned in my chair. Who were these people that my father had named as guardians? I had never heard their names mentioned but that wasn't really surprising, my father never mentioned anyone from his past besides my mother. The only thing I knew about my father's past was that he lived in London, was placed with his aunt and uncle when he was one because his parents were killed in a car crash, and then he began going to boarding school at the age of eleven.
I remembered all the times I had fought with him trying to get more information but each time he had said that nothing extraordinary had happened in his life so there wasn't anything to talk about. I had always pressed him that there must be something he could tell me, stories of youthful indiscretions or even teenage puppy love, but he always would say "No!" sternly and then stomp off to his bedroom. Tears began to roll down my cheeks as I thought about all of the times we had been at each other's throats.
"We are almost done Miss Riddle, just a few more things to take care of," Mr. Smith said with remorse. It was obvious that he was as uncomfortable as I was and I wondered briefly why a man who seemed so anxious around grief would choose to be an estate lawyer.
"What else could there be?" I asked.
"Well, when I first met your father when he was twenty," at this I shifted forward in my seat, this was definitely new information, "and he asked me to draw up his will I asked him why a twenty year old, fairly fit man would need a will. He told me that he was getting married and was going to have a child soon. For some reason he seemed to be worried about passing away at a young age and I didn't argue with him, to each his own as I like to say." I fidgeted in my seat and urged him to keep talking.
"Well, on the day we finalized drawing up his first will," at this I interrupted.
"What do you mean first will?" Mr. Smith thought for a moment and leaned back in his chair.
"If I remember correctly your father drew up a new will almost every two years which means this final will was the seventh or eighth. But that's neither here nor there," he said as he waved his hands in front of him, "The point is that he left in my possession a key and an address for a storage garage in New York. I was told that were anything to happen to him I was to give this information to either his wife or his child."
"But why New York, we live in Minneapolis, that doesn't event make sense!?" I yelled in frustration.
"That is precisely what I asked him and he explained to me that when he moved to America he entered the country in New York. Apparently he left many of his belongings there and never went back to retrieve them."
As he held out an envelope to me I couldn't help but jump quickly and snatch it from him. This was what I had been looking for all along. This was a link to my father's past and I decided then and there that I would follow that link until I knew everything about the boy and man my father had been.
"This is excellent," I squealed, "I'm leaving immediately." I waited for a moment to see if Mr. Smith would protest but instead he just nodded his head in agreement.
"I will see to things here until you get back," he said as he stood up to shake my hand, "James was a good man and I always wished that he would've let me get to know him better but I am glad that he let me know him at all. Please give me a call if you end up being gone more than a month won't you?"
I was a bit startled by the odd request until I realized that Charles Smith was the closest thing that my father had ever had to a friend, or at least, that I knew of.