The day after Alexandra Rousseau-Linus received her acceptance letter from Yale, she went into the kitchen where her father was carefully following Julia Child's recipe for boeuf bourguignon and put her chin on his shoulder.
"I want to know the truth now."
Her mom, sitting at the kitchen table doing bills, looked up and stared at them. Her dad turned away from stirring his mirepoix to look at her. "Have you been remembering?"
"As long as I can remember, I've been having flashes and dreams. I could probably construct the whole story from them. But I think you're supposed to tell me."
His face went white and pinched. "Yes, I can see the—the logic in that."
"No, Danielle. She's right. It's a cruel logic, but very apt." He turned off the burner and put the cubed beef back in the refrigerator, sat down at the table. Alex sat between her parents.
"Once, a very, very long time ago, I lived on an Island. I not only lived on the Island but I lived for the Island. I also lived for myself. I knew that no one would love me or like me or give me anything on their own, so I would have to force them to, and if I couldn't force them to love me, at least I could force them to follow and obey me. I learned I could make nearly anyone do nearly anything I wanted—except love me, of course. Though I never did stop trying, and when people failed, there were terrible consequences. I thought I was doing it all for the Island, but really I was doing it all for me.
"I killed my father, who never loved me. I banished a great leader, who never liked me. I helped kill a whole settlement of people, who never accepted me. I kidnapped a woman and tried to make her love me and had her branded when she turned against me.
"And then one day I met a woman who had a baby. I was supposed to kill the woman, who was insane, but when I saw she had a baby, I stole the baby instead. I told myself she would die if she was left in the jungle with this crazy woman. I told myself that here, at last, was someone I could teach to love me. And for a while she did. She was the most beautiful child. She was clever and quick-witted and vivacious, and for ten or twelve years she was everything to me and I was her hero and her best friend. For a long time she never saw that I was a hard, manipulative liar and despot. She only saw that I was her daddy.
"But she grew up, my little girl. She was too clever to be deceived for long about who I was. It was easy enough to control her in the days when she was sweet and little, but she learned to have her own mind when she was a teenager, and I couldn't afford that. It seemed like overnight our companionship turned into outright war. Suddenly she saw straight through me, and she hated what she saw. She turned against me and wounded me deeply. She was just like everyone else, it seemed.
"I—I wanted to punish her and protect her at the same time. In the end all I only ended up punishing her for all my failings and all my mistakes and my crimes. She paid for what I had done. She—she was murdered right in front of me, and I might have been the one pulling the trigger. The last words that she heard me say were 'She's not my daughter. I stole her as a baby from an insane woman. She's a pawn, nothing more. She means nothing to me.' I didn't mean them. I thought I could protect her by saying them, but ultimately I was just trying to protect myself, and she died with those words in her ears.
"Nothing I did after that mattered. It was the end of my life."
Alex was crying. She saw her mom reach over and take her dad's hand.
"The—the woman you stole the baby from—that was my mom."
"And the baby—that was me."
"Yes, Alex," he said softly.
"Then I'm—I'm dead. I'm the one you let him kill."
"Then what is this?" she cried. "We're sitting at a kitchen table, and you're making boeuf bourguignon, and you're my history teacher, and you married my mom!"
"This is my chance to do it right. Since that moment, the only thing I have ever wanted to do was rush out to the man holding my daughter hostage and say, 'Leave my daughter alone. She's the only thing that matters to me. Kill me instead.' Or at least to be able to tell her, 'It's not true. Those were just words. I'm a liar, and I was lying. You're my little girl, and I'll always love you.' I never, ever thought I'd get the chance."
"Then say it, Dad! Please say it!" she sobbed.
He reached out and took her face in his hands and said slowly, "You're my little girl, Alex, and I'll always love you." Then he held her close and let her cry, and she understood why her mom had looked so radiant before. Her mom was holding her hand and crying and still looking radiant.
When she had stopped crying, she said into her dad's shoulder, "Does this mean I'm not going to Yale?"
He laughed a little. "You can do whatever you want. Go to Yale. Be wonderful. Your mom and I will wait here with you and for you as long as you need."
She shook her head. "I don't need to go to Yale anymore. I never did. I only needed this, Dad. But, before we go, can we finish the boeuf bourguignon?"