Darren had always believed his parents were the perfect couple. They had been happily married for thirty years, and there had never been the slightest sign of a major problem in their relationship until an accidental discovery led Darren to discover his lies one day.
“Happy birthday!” declared Marc as he presented Anna with a small rectangular gift.
Anna opened the box and gasped when she saw the small rose-gold bracelet nestled in satin. “It’s beautiful! Help me put it on.”
“Thirty years of marriage deserves a special gift.” Marc smiled at Anna. He removed the bracelet and fastened it to her wrist.
“I thought we were going to vacation in Hawaii,” Anna said. “Just you and me.”
Marc frowned. “I’d love to, honey, but you know the company needs me to watch the office regularly. I can’t take more than one long weekend off.”
“Then we’ll make the most of this long weekend. Please, Mark.”
Mark sighed. “I think I can talk to my boss about it, but don’t get your hopes up.”
Over the next few weeks, Anna tried to discuss travel plans with Marc again, but he seemed tense and distracted whenever he wasn’t slipping away to take business calls. Anna began to worry about him.
One day, as she watched Marc pacing up and down the porch while having an animated conversation with his boss, Darren, their youngest child, came downstairs.
He’d been working as an intern at his father’s company until he entered college. Darren stopped in the living room and noticed his mother watching his father through the windows.
“It doesn’t seem like things are going well with Dad’s work lately.”
“I think it’s my fault. I pushed him to ask for a vacation so we could travel.” Anna heaved a deep sigh and took her head in her hands.
“What if he loses his job over this? I’m sure he’ll leave me. Right now, he avoids talking about anything with me.”
Darren leaned over to place a hand on his mother’s shoulder. Her words worried him. He decided to talk to his father to find out what was going on.
Darren called his father later that day, but his father reassured him that it was work issues that were causing his distant behavior and stress.
“We have a manufacturing issue at the Columbus plant,” the father said. “This could mean we have to do a statewide product recall. It’s very hush-hush right now, so don’t tell anyone.”
Although Darren was relieved to learn that his father’s problems had nothing to do with his mother and therefore wouldn’t cause dissension within the family, he now realized the incredible pressure his father was facing.
“You’ve played us all for fools, but now you’re going to get what you deserve.”
So he decided to bring his father some lunch to cheer him up. He grabbed a hamburger to go, his father`s favorite, and headed to his office. Since his dad wasn’t there, Darren decided to write a note. While looking for paper, he accidentally knocked over a briefcase. Pages of children’s drawings then spread across the desk.
“This is weird.” Darren lifted one and laughed when he recognized the drawing of a car he’d done as a child. “Did Dad keep all his old drawings in his desk?”
Darren lifted another drawing and a shiver ran down his spine.
“To Grandpa Marc,” read the crayon drawing of a fish.
Darren had no children, and neither did his older sister Maria. Did Dad have another family somewhere?
“Boy, what are you doing here?”
Darren turned and showed him the drawing. His father’s eyes widened. He rushed over, took the drawing and put it back in the briefcase.
“You shouldn’t touch those,” he said. “They’re from the children’s drawing competition the company held at Christmas.”
“And who drew that fish for you, Grandpa?” asked Darren. He could feel his face turning hot with anger.
“For me?” His father frowned and shook his head.
“You think I’m the only person in this company named ‘Marc’?”
Darren stared at his father. He was right, but something wasn’t right. He knew the company often held family events, so a drawing contest wasn’t too strange, but Christmas had already passed over a month ago.
Darren thought no more of the incident until the day his father rushed off to work and forgot his laptop at home. Darren was off work that morning and was in the kitchen when he heard his father’s laptop ring. His father received a video call.
It must have been one of Dad’s colleagues trying to reach him. Darren opened the laptop to answer the call. A woman with a young child on her lap appeared on the screen.
“Wave to Grandpa,” the woman said to her child. “Dad, turn on your video so Shelly can see you.”
Darren stared at the woman and her child. Grandpa… the word echoed in his head. He remembered the drawing in his father’s study and had a strange feeling that something was wrong.
“Are you there, Dad?” The woman smiled uncertainly as she leaned closer to the screen. “Why are you so quiet?”
It was now or never to unravel this mystery. Darren settled down in front of the laptop and turned on the video.
“All those business trips to Indianapolis…,” the woman said, shaking her head.
“I know.” Darren ran his fingers through his hair. He’d just spent an hour or more explaining to this woman, who turned out to be his half-sister Emma, that their father was leading a double life.
“We can’t tell our mothers.”
Emma glared at the webcam. “At least not right away. It would devastate them.”
“I agree, but we have to do something. But I don’t know what,” Darren said.
“Give me your number.” Emma picked up her phone. “We’ll talk and figure something out.”
After Emma and Darren exchanged numbers, Emma ended the call. Darren stood for a moment in shock. He couldn’t believe how much his life had changed in one morning. He realized something else and ran out of the house to his father’s office.
Darren knew the only way to spare Mom the heartache of her father’s betrayal was to confront him before Emma spoke to him. If he could convince Dad to choose Mom over his other family, then she would never need to know about any of this.
But her father’s office was empty when Darren burst in to see him. IN asked his assistant where he was, but the assistant didn’t know.
“He was very annoyed earlier because I hadn’t been able to get him a flight to Columbus on short notice. Maybe he decided to drive there,” the assistant said with a shrug.
Rage filled Darren at the thought that his father might be on his way to see his second family. The magnitude of his father’s actions finally dawned on him. He screamed as he got into his car, but the anger was still in his veins when he arrived home.
A family photo taken when Darren was ten hung just opposite the front door. He ripped it off the wall and threw it into the hallway. It then smashed against the wall.
“What’s going on?” his mother said, coming out of the kitchen door. “Darren, is something wrong?”
“Dad betrayed our family,” he shouted.
“That’s not possible,” her mother replied with a smile and a dismissive wave of her hand. Thirty minutes of explanation later, she still didn’t believe Darren. “I don’t know why that woman you spoke to would joke about something like that, but that’s clearly all it is, a joke.”
“I wish it were, Mom, but it’s not.” Darren pulled out his phone and pressed the button to video call Emma.
“Talk to her yourself, you’ll see that what I told you is true.”
Darren was heartbroken to see his mother crumble under the weight of Emma’s evidence. There were family photos, videos and, most heartbreaking of all, the moment when Darren held up a family photo and Emma’s daughter pointed at it and said, “Grandpa.”
“How could he do this to me?” her mother sobbed.
Darren looked at Emma on his phone screen while hugging his mother. In that moment, he knew they understood each other.
“What are we going to do?” asked Darren.
“I’ve got an idea,” Emma said with a smile.
When Marc returned home that evening, he told Darren and Anna that he would be flying to Columbus the next day for business and would be away for a week. Anna and Darren drove him to the airport. After seeing him off, they went to wait in another area.
A few hours later, Emma received a phone call.
“Where are you, peanut?” asked Marc. “I’m at your house, but no one’s there.”
“We’re at your favorite house, Dad.” Emma lifted her phone so Marc could see her, Darren and their mothers, gathered in the living room of Darren’s house.
“As you can see, the whole family’s here.
Mark’s heart leapt with joy: she had forgiven him at last!
Mark turned pale, “What… how?”
“Your lies have finally caught up with you,” Anna said, leaning in front of the camera. “Don’t you dare set foot in this house again!”
“And don’t think we’ll welcome you either,” says Emma’s mother. “You played us all for fools and now you’re going to get what you deserve.”
Marc tried to contact his wives and families for weeks, but no one would take his calls. They all refused to see him. Anna even filed for divorce. And in the courtroom, the full story was finally revealed.
“I met Emma’s mother, Lydia, on a business trip,” Marc told the judge. “We had an affair, but I never wanted it to go any further. When I found out she was pregnant, everything changed.”
“I couldn’t confess to Anna because I knew she’d leave me, so I ended up leading a double life,” Marc recounted, bowing his head.
“I know what I did was wrong, but I love both my families. I don’t want to lose either one.”
The court awarded Anna compensation. Encouraged by her success, Lydia also filed for divorce and settlement. Lydia also sued for divorce and settlement. She was also successful. Mark was left with nothing.
Meanwhile, Lydia and Anna’s children were getting to know each other better. Although the relationship got off to a rocky start, the siblings soon realized that they got along well. Lydia and Anna also forged an unlikely friendship by consoling each other.
Six months later, Darren and Anna helped Emma and Lydia move into a house down the street. The two families had come together to form a bond and had decided to live closer to each other. They would get together for family barbecues at weekends, and Darren was always happy to babysit his young niece.
Later, when Darren married and had a daughter of his own, Emma returned the favor. Anna had now remarried, and she and her husband took advantage of their retirement to travel the world. They phoned home every day to share their adventures with their family.
Darren and Emma’s daughters became good friends despite their age difference. They loved to play together and spent many afternoons on the living room floor doing drawings or puzzles.
Marc has become a distant memory for the family. There are no photos of him on display, and he is almost never mentioned in conversation. When new friends visited the family and asked about their unusual situation, they were told it was a long story.
Only Anna kept track of Marc. She told no one that she knew where he lived, or that he sometimes sent her messages to which she never replied.
Mark never got used to the lonely silence of his small apartment. He never stopped missing the love of his wives and children, even though he ended up blaming them for all his ills.
“If they hadn’t stuck their noses in my business, everything would have gone back to normal,” he muttered, looking at the children on the playground near his apartment.
“If they hadn’t made such a fuss over a simple mistake, I’d never have lost my job,” he grumbled every time he saw a newspaper article about the company he worked for.
One day, he received a letter from Anna. Marc’s heart leapt with joy: she had forgiven him at last! He tore open the envelope. Children’s drawings slid across the table, accompanied by a note.
“Drawings by Darren’s daughter,” Anna had written in the note.
“Look what you’ve lost.”
Pain shot through Marc’s arm as he lifted a drawing depicting several people together. His heart began to beat rapidly in his chest. Mark tried to stand up but fell onto the table. The pain intensified for a moment, but all subsided as Mark drew his last breath.