forgive the past with me
 

Chapter 18: I Forgave Your Small Deceptions

August 22, 1957

Dan put the last of his clothes in his duffle bag and zipped it shut. He took another look around the room he, Jim, and Mart had been sharing for nearly two weeks.

"Got everything?" Harvey asked from the doorway.

Dan nodded. "You guys are back already?" The refrigerator Harvey had borrowed from the Armens had been cleaned out and returned to the Armen household with the help of Regan and Jim.

"Yep." Harvey nodded in response. "Let's say goodbye to everyone. They're about ready to leave, so we need to get out of here."

"Yeah, okay." Dan hoisted the bag onto his shoulder and followed Harvey out of the apartment.

Across the hall, the Wheelers' door stood open, bags piled nearby. Judge Armen stood just inside the apartment, talking quietly with Mr. Wheeler.

Dan turned to where Neil was already saying his goodbyes to the Bob-Whites.

"Hi, Dan, Harvey." Jim acknowledged the two boys. "Ready to go back home?"

Dan shrugged one shoulder. "I guess. You?"

"Yeah." Jim gave a half-smile, his customary lopsided grin. "I can't wait to take Jupiter for a ride out in the preserve. These city streets are fine for a visit, but I'm ready to get back to nature."

"Me, too." Honey came up behind him. "I mean, not nature so much as just Sleepyside. Only, I wish you all lived there instead of in Brooklyn. That's the bad part about going home."

Dan managed a small smile. "I'll be coming up for a visit as soon as I can. I know once a month isn't much, but maybe I can arrange it a bit more often. Neil has his driver's license now, so maybe I won't need to take the train or get Pops to drive up."

Neil had been chatting with Brian and Trixie but turned around at the mention of his name. "What am I doing now?"

Harvey smirked. "Driving us to Sleepyside."

Neil regarded him with confusion. "You guys need someone to drive you home? I thought—"

"Not right now. We mean drive the three of you to Sleepyside. Later, like next month sometime." Jim chuckled. "Whenever you guys have a free weekend, you know you're always welcome."

"Thanks." Neil nodded. "We'll be sure to take you up on that."

"So long as you stock up on some kosher food." Harvey grinned.

Honey smiled back at him. "As long as you let us know you're coming, we'll be sure to."

Judge Armen walked up to the group. "Are you boys ready to go?"

Neil and Harvey nodded.

"Hey, where are Mart and Di?" Dan looked around the room but didn't see them.

"They're in the kitchen, I think." Trixie glanced toward the kitchen.

Di popped her head out of the open doorway. "Yes, we're here."

Mart walked past her to join the others. "Just grabbing a quick snack before we hit the road."

The boys finished up their goodbyes and gave their thanks to Mr. Wheeler, Miss Trask, and Regan. Dan glanced back at Honey. He tried to catch her eye but she was whispering something to Di. He wished he could say goodbye to her privately, but judging from the way the adults were pretending not to watch the teens, he decided against it.

"Dan?" Regan pulled Dan aside.

Dan gazed at his uncle. "Yes, Uncle Bill?"

"I'm sorry I wasn't as supportive as you needed me to be. I just ...." Regan's voice trailed off.

"It's okay. You didn't want me to get hurt." Dan smiled reassuringly at him.

"No, I sure don't want you to get hurt. But I think I pushed you away and I don't want that either." Regan frowned slightly. "I'm still not so good at this family stuff. I just want you to know that I do support you, I am here for you, even if I don't always agree with you."

"I know." Dan impulsively reached over and hugged him. "I know. And I'm sorry, too. I love you, Uncle Bill."

"I love you, too, Dan," his uncle said in his ear as he returned the hug.

Dan stepped back, ending the brief contact. "I'll see you in a few weeks, right?"

Regan nodded. "See you soon."

 

Dan waved goodbye to Sam as he followed the judge and his brothers out the door. Judge Armen's car was parked in front of the building, and Judge Armen moved around to the driver's side. Neil and Harvey quickly climbed in, arranging their bags in the back seat. Dan dropped his own duffle bag in the car and then shut the door without getting in.

"What are you doing?" Harvey glanced at him curiously. "Get in."

Dan shook his head, his hand still resting on top of the car door. "There's someplace I need to go first. I'll be home later."

Neil regarded him with interest but didn't say anything.

"Dan?" Judge Moshe questioned.

"I'll be okay. I just ... I need to say goodbye to someone else." Dan looked up the street and then back at Judge Armen.

The judge nodded, appearing to understand. "Stay safe."

"You're letting him go?" Harvey's incredulous gaze looking back at him was the last thing Dan saw as the car started up and the judge maneuvered it into the traffic on Central Park West.

Dan headed toward the subway, eager to be on his way.

 

He walked quickly up West 155th Street and turned into the gates of Trinity Cemetery. A hushed sort of heaviness seemed to permeate the air around him. He ignored the eerie feeling as he made his way along the paths until he was standing in front of his mother's grave. He sat down, gently touching the simple stone marker. "Mom." With just the one word, he started to cry.

He let the memories come in a flood, and every once in a while he'd remember something she said, something she did, that indicated she had this other life she'd kept hidden from him. She had a job, but it wasn't necessarily the A&P. He'd see her get dressed in a nice skirt and high heels, a strand of pearls adorning her neck. That must have been to work at the office, the F.B.I. The thought made him angry again, and he pounded at the ground, letting his fist hit the stone, scraping his knuckles. He wasn't sure who to blame for her death anymore. He hit the stone again, wanting to blame his father and Teddy Hill and Unay Huaman and anyone else he could think of, and—simultaneously—not wanting to blame any of them.

"Hey there, now!" A feminine voice, one with a slight Irish lilt to it, called out to him.

He turned around, half expecting to see a ghost, even though his mom had no accent. The face framed by wavy brown hair looked familiar, but he couldn't place it.

"What have you got against Mrs. Mangan that you have to hit her when she's already dead?" The woman shook her head, anger filling every word she spoke. "There's no reason to be doing that, now."

"Mrs. Mangan." Hearing her name said aloud startled Dan. He looked at the grave marker and then back up at the young woman. "How do you know ... Mrs. Mangan?"

"I should be asking you the same." She gazed at him steadily, studying him.

"Who are you?" Dan was still trying to place her face and then it came back to him. The woman still hadn't answered his question, so he prodded her with what he remembered. "I saw you yesterday. In Inwood."

Her eyes widened. "Yes. Now I remember." She smiled. "You were with that large group of teenagers and that man ...." Her smile turned down into a frown. "Who was he? He looked so much like Mrs. Mangan, but she didn't have any family, outside of her husband and son, anyway."

"You knew her husband and her son?" Dan tried to think if he had met her some other time in the past. Nothing came to him.

"No, not really. I knew of them, but I'd never met them. And then her husband—why am I telling you all this? Who are you?" She stopped her reminiscing rather abruptly.

"Her husband got called off to war and never came home." Dan needed to know who she was and what her connection was with his mom. "The man you saw me with? He's her brother."

"Brother?" She shook her head in amazement. "She never mentioned having a brother. That can't be. He's more my age than hers. Is he really her brother? I thought maybe he was her son, but he seemed too old for that." She paused in her rambling and regarded him steadily. "Her brother?"

Dan nodded. "Who are you, and how do you know Sarah Mangan?" He ground the question out. It didn't matter how pretty she was or how nicely she spoke, he needed her to answer.

She slowly knelt down to the ground, smoothing out her skirt as she sat modestly with her legs folded to the side. "My name's Aibhlinn Patton. Mrs. Mangan—she was a remarkable woman—" she smiled even as her eyes misted over. "She helped me out of a difficult situation." She peered at him. "And you? You know her and her brother. Who are you? Did she help you, too?"

Dan glanced at the stone bearing her name and then at the woman sitting across from him. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain if she could tell him more about his mom's past. "Dan. Dan Mangan."

Her eyes flickered with recognition. "You're her son," she whispered. She smiled at him again. "I can understand now why you might have been angry with her."

He frowned.

She plucked at the ground, pulling small weeds from the grass. "I was angry at first, too."

Dan narrowed his eyes. "Why? Why would you be angry with her?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Well, shocked, first, then angry. I thought I knew her, but she hid it well. I'd no idea that she had a ... problem." She frowned. "I was angry. I blamed her. How dare she throw her life away? How dare she leave us all alone?" She sighed. "How dare she leave her son—you?"

Dan's voice was cold. "She didn't."

"Oh, I suppose you could look at it many ways. She was an addict. She couldn't control herself." Aibhlinn shook her head. "I forgive her, though. The number of people she helped, it outweighed all that."

"Lies!" Dan stood up, angrier than ever. "You don't know her. You know nothing about her."

Aibhlinn looked up at him, a fire burning in her eyes. "She did help people, whether you want to acknowledge that or not. No matter what personal problems she may have had at home, she helped me. She saved me."

"Personal problems?! No. She never used drugs. She wasn't an addict." Dan felt the need to hit something again, to get his anger out. "Don't ever say that about her. It's a lie."

"It's okay, Dan. We're not all perfect. Your mother was beautiful and special and wonderful, but drugs, they—"

"No!" Dan screamed at her, making her stop her speech before she continued down that path. "She didn't use drugs. She wasn't perfect, but she did not use drugs. She didn't die because of some addiction. Just ... just stop."

He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. Once he was calm, he knelt down so he could be face to face with Aibhlinn. He stared into her eyes, willing her to believe him, wishing he could tell her the truth about how she had been killed. But that was a secret he didn't want to reveal, not to anyone he didn't fully trust. "She was not a drug user. She ... there's more to the story than you know."

Aibhlinn stared back at him, at first with a placating expression, but then with a deeper understanding. "There was, wasn't there? There was always more to her story than she'd let us know."

Dan let out a derisive sounding laugh. "Yeah. Apparently."

He'd been feeling like he didn't even know his mother, but Aibhlinn Patton didn't know his mom as well as he did. She knew one side of her, one small aspect, one part of his mom's past that he didn't know. She had helped her somehow, probably related to work, but that was all Aibhlinn knew of her.

His mom was more than that. She wasn't just a woman who had worked for the F.B.I. or who had helped people out of difficult situations. She had interests outside of the home, and she had a job she had hidden from him, but none of what he'd learned could take away the moments he did remember. The moments where she was simply his mother, teaching him manners, making him finish his vegetables or his homework, making him clean up his room.

She was Mom, no matter what else she might have been. And he knew her, the real her. He knew her likes and her dislikes. He knew how she thought, what things made her laugh, what frightened her or made her cry. He knew her.

He reached over to the stone and touched the letters of her name, silently forgiving her any small deceptions, any white lies she may have told him to keep him innocent, to protect him. He traced the S and then the A and then suddenly stopped. "Evleen? Avleen .... How do you spell that?"

Aibhlinn gave him a puzzled look. "A-I-B-H-L-I-N-N."

"A. P." Dan grinned. Then he started laughing. "Aibhlinn Patton. A. P." He turned to the woman. "Did you live in Queens, by any chance? Or work there? Anything?"

She shook her head, confused. "Not in Queens, no, but I used to work at a restaurant called The Queen's Arms. Why?"

Dan laughed again. "A & P in Queens. I wonder if I remembered wrong, or if I just assumed that and she let me ...." He turned back to the grave, shaking his head, but this time with amusement. "Good one, Mom."

"Are you okay?" Aibhlinn asked hesitantly.

"I'm fine." Dan felt a warmth, relaxing and serene, spread over him. "I'm fine. Thank you." He looked up at the sky. "Thank you."

"Maybe I should leave, give you some privacy." Aibhlinn stood up, brushing off her skirt.

He turned his gaze toward her. "I'd really like to hear the whole story about my mom, how she helped you, if that's alright?"

Aibhlinn nodded, still hesitant. "I think about her often. Seeing that man—her brother—yesterday ... I'm glad I came here today and ran into you." She smiled. "You should be proud of your mam."

"I am." I love you, Mom. Dan rose to his feet, hoping she could hear his thoughts.

"I have to head to work now." Aibhlinn pulled a piece of paper and a pen out of her purse. She scribbled something on it and handed it to him. "Here's where you can reach me."

"Thanks. I ... I should be getting home, anyway, before my family starts to worry about me." Dan glanced at the paper and stuck it in his pants pocket. "Thank you."

"Thank you!" Aibhlinn waved at him before turning and walking away.

He turned back around to face his mom's grave again, this time saying the words aloud. "I love you, Mom."


The End