When Tara and her in-laws arrived home, Tara went upstairs to her room to open the envelope in privacy. She withdrew a letter from the envelope, written by Jaime’s hand:
My Dearest Tara,
I know that I have not always been the best husband. If you are reading this letter, it is because I have passed away at a fairly young age, quite possibly with my secrets still unbeknownst to you. I never meant to keep secrets from you, but I didn’t know that I had a son when I married you. I didn’t meet Hunter until he was six years old. As you know, I take my responsibilities seriously and I couldn’t ignore Hunter or his needs.
I don’t think I ever really loved his mother, and I certainly knew she wasn’t the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I have always been my own person and have always been unwilling to compromise my spiritual beliefs, my morals, my standards. I couldn’t give up my dreams to become her father’s lackey and live under his constant demands and scrutiny, let alone the demands Melody, herself, tried to place upon me.
You truly are the love of my life. I just couldn’t figure out how to balance everything — my job, my wife and my son and the complications that came with him. I am sorry for neglecting you. I didn’t mean to. I sincerely hope that I found a way to spend time with you and build wonderful memories with you before you received this letter. If not, I am sorrier than you will ever know.
I want you to be happy, Tara. So, since I have left life on earth with you before old age, I want you to know that I want you to be happy. You deserve to be treasured, loved, and valued by someone, and you deserve to be happy. You deserve someone who will never neglect you as I have. So, please don’t spend too much time mourning for me. I will see you again, one day, in heaven.
With Love and Regrets,
Tara sat clutching the letter, tears streaming down her face for quite some time. She wished, more than ever, that she and Jaime would have had the time to work things out and to build more wonderful memories.
Later in the afternoon, the doorbell rang. It was Hunter. Tara ushered him into the sitting room.
“I came to say good-bye.”
“Good-bye? Where are you going?”
“Mom and Grandpa have decided that we need to get back home to the city. We leave tomorrow morning, and they have also decided that boarding school is where I need to be right now. They think I will learn to appreciate what I have and learn how to be a true Fleming, if I attend boarding school. I will leave for Madison Prep School a week after our return to the city. Here is the address and my room number, so that you can write to me. I will write to you often.” He handed her a slip of paper.
“Oh, Hunter, I am so sorry. I will look forward to your letters and will write to you often as well. I promise to share stories about your father and how we met and what a wonderful man he was. Would you like some milk and cookies or something?”
“I would love some. I’d like to hear how you and my father met before I leave.”
Tara went to the kitchen and returned shortly with two tall glasses of milk and a plateful of chocolate chip cookies that Eva had baked earlier that afternoon. She sat and told Hunter about how she and Jaime had met. When she had finished, Hunter said, “I know I took a lot of Dad’s time away from you. I’m sorry that the last months of time you had with him were lonely and unhappy. But, you have to believe me when I say that he talked about you a lot. I know he loved you. Nothing would have made him happier than for the three of us to be a family.”
Tara smiled while her eyes brimmed with tears.
“I better be going. I really wish I could spend more time with you before I leave, but I can’t.”
“I understand. I hope you will like the prep school and that you will make at least one really good friend. It has been a pleasure to meet you.”
They stood and Hunter wrapped his arms around Tara’s waist and hung onto her for several minutes. “I wish you could’ve been my mom.” And with that, he left, and Tara stood with tears streaming down her face.
So much of her heart and been taken from her over the past few weeks, in her loss of Jaime, and now watching his son, so much like him, walk away feeling so lost and unhappy.
Tara, Allen and Eva had a quiet dinner that evening. Then Tara went to her art studio. She sat for a long time staring at a blank canvas, but she could find no desire or inspiration to begin to paint anything on it. She returned to her room, took a shower and went to bed. It had been a very emotionally draining day.