The truth hurts.
The Forest: Part 3
Amelia was always the more adventurous child. For one thing, she’s three years older, and left home straight after school. She ended up becoming an event planner in Washington D.C., organising everything from fundraising dinners to weddings. Her signature decoration at any event, unless if a client specifically asked against it, was red chrysanthemum’s, like the bunch on my bedside table.
After breakfast, it took a while for the cardiologist to find me.
‘As you know your cholesterol is high. I will have to recommend some cholesterol lowering drugs in the short term. Other than this is the usual, diet and exercise are very important for your health going forward. I’ll also schedule a cardiac stress test so we have some more information to work with.’
‘What about my head?’
‘I’ve been told that you’re to stay for at least another night. Hopefully you’ll be discharged tomorrow, but it depends if we can get all the testing done by then. I’ll let you know as soon as I know.’
The afternoon blurred into the drone of television and intermittent naps.
Someone shook me awake. A bit dazed, I looked up to find Amelia’s face looking over me.
‘Amelia. I knew you’d be around soon. I got your chrysanthemums!’
‘The least I could do when I heard about your accident.’
‘What brought you back?’ I asked.
‘I’ve been away for a while. Hearing about you I thought it’d be an excuse to escape back home to see Mum and you. How are you doing?’
‘Mostly fine. I still don’t really get what happened out there. They want to keep me in for a few tests, I have high cholesterol so they’re just playing it safe.
‘Hopefully you get the all clear. Alan, I have something to tell you. I can’t hold it in any longer.’
‘What?’ I said, expecting news that she was engaged or expecting a child.
The reply was shattering.
‘Dad never died. He’s man who you saw at work and crashed his car into the tree.’
‘You’re joking! That can’t be true. How?’ I shouted.
The commotion caught the attention of a nurse in the hallway.
‘Ma’am, I’m going to have to kindly ask you to leave. The patient needs his rest and visiting hours are nearly over.’
Ann nodded politely and walked towards the door. Amelia turned back.
‘I’ll explain everything soon. Please keep this to yourself Alan. Mum doesn’t know and I think it would be best if we told her together.’
My mind races. Even if Amelia were telling the truth, how could this be possible? Why would Dad put us through this?
I call Amelia first thing and ask her to come as soon as visiting hours open.
As soon as she arrives, I get right into it.
‘Explain everything to me. I just don’t get it.’
‘We all knew Dad was dying from heart disease. It was just a matter of time before he died of heart failure. The heart transplant was his only hope but he was going to die by the time he reached the top of the list. He confided in me a plan. It was outrageous, but I couldn’t just stand back and watch him die.’
‘What did he want to do?’
‘You know how Dad wanted to be cryogenically frozen?’
‘Yeah. Don’t they start freezing him as soon as the heart stops?’
Amelia nodded. ‘He organised a fake preservation team and paid off a doctor to pronounce him dead. As soon as he ‘died’ the preservation team took over to start freezing him and transport him to the storage facility. They actually transported him away to start a new life. He had a second life insurance policy that Mum didn’t know off.’
‘So he did have a heart transplant?’
‘In Thailand. I know it’s not the most ethical thing to do, but he assured me that the donor died from natural causes, and no organ trafficking was involved.’
‘What did he do after that?’
‘He’s mostly been staying in Asia. It’s a lot cheaper to live there and easier to hide out. He’s been doing okay health-wise since the transplant. But he’s scared that he would never get to see you and Mum again. That’s why he came back and went in to see you at work before the crash.’
‘That was Dad?’
‘The operation has taken its toll. He needs anti-rejection drugs constantly. I barely recognised him when I first saw him after the transplant.’
I could barely believe what I was hearing. It was like a far-fetched conspiracy theory let alone a part of my life.
‘Why tell me now? What about Mum?’
‘Dad’s health is failing. The transplant bought him a few more years, but that could end any time. Mum doesn’t know a thing. She’d be heartbroken. Dad only wanted me to know. He thought the less people who knew, the better.’
I clenched my fist. I didn’t know how to feel. On one hand it was euphoric to know that Dad was alive, the other was anger at the lies and grief we went through.
‘Please leave Amelia. I need some time to think this through. I hope you understand.’
My mind was conflicted. The longer I thought the more anger began to build up. How could I forgive Amelia and Dad for what they’ve done?
The sun set outside casting darkness over everything.
I only knew that I had to be strong. When Mum finds out the real damage will be done.