A Shock for Moses
Moses opened the door and for the first time in her life, since he was taken from her before she even saw him as a newborn baby, she looked at the face of her child, now a grown man. He was taller than she thought he would be. And his skin was lighter, although she thought – it was only the most fleeting of thoughts, yet she was aware of it and it stirred some deep wound in her – he would not be as dark as she was, and it was likely that some of the father’s blood would have mixed to create a lighter skin tone. What she felt was neither shame nor anger, but a kind of sadness that this had not been her choice of a father for her only son.
He had broad shoulders and stood with dignity and self-assurance. She could see no trace of arrogance in his demeanor and for that she was grateful, for this had been her greatest fear, that he would have inherited from whichever of those boys had fathered him some of the bully, the sense of entitlement, the notion that taking was his right. But she saw none of it. Only a man who had responsibilities as he stood in front of her not knowing what to expect. He had, she realized, the look of someone who could handle himself in any situation. This gave her a sense of relief, for Alva had troubled over what this news would do to him for so long that in her mind she had created someone who could be compromised by her news.
He invited her in. They exchanged the usual pleasantries. She asked after his son, who had fallen on the porch. She heard giggling from the dining room and heard Cecilia telling the children to go upstairs and make sure they were well prepared for school tomorrow. Alva heard them tromping up the wooden steps, teasing each other, a girl’s voice chiding them for their play. She heard dishes being stacked and the sound of running water coming from the kitchen.
“My wife said you had something to talk to me about,” Moses began as he ushered Alva into the living room and motioned for her to sit on the couch while he took a large wing chair to her side.
It was the same spot where Alva had sat earlier in the day. She felt a wave of heat spread up from her chest to her neck and spread through her face so that she felt flushed. She shrugged out of her coat and held her handbag on her lap for something to steady herself.
“Yes,” Alva said. “I got something to tell you and I’m afraid it might be causin’ you some shock after all these years.” She watched his face but he was either unaware of the reason for her visit or he was the kind of person who doesn’t react right away. In any case, Alva felt she must push ahead, so she said, “It’s about … well, it’s about when you … when you was born.” After she got it out she sat back against the couch and took a breath. Her grip on her purse loosened.
“Have you come to tell me who my parents were?” Moses asked and then said, “because if you have, my parents were Vaneeta and Joseph Freeman.”
“I know that,” Alva said. “And I know that they were good parents and loved you.”
“Yes, they were. And yes, they did. And I loved them. And now they’re gone, I’m not going to do anything to disturb their memory,” he said.
“Then perhaps I should go,” Alva said, hoping he would stop her, hoping he would relent.
But he did not. He was polite, even cordial. He showed her to the door and thanked her for coming.