"Dad, you won't believe what happened to me today? I was called into the principal's office and was told I couldn't use my name. I have to use R. David. It seems as if there already is a Roger Dumont in the school. He is a year ahead of me. What's going on?"
"I have no idea. I'll go into school tomorrow and get it straightened out. Make sure you tell your sister when she gets home."
I knew there were several Dumonts around, even a Richard David, which gave him the same initials when I checked the Internet for surnames that matched mine. My father's name, Damon, of course popped up as did my own of David. My daughter Wendy was there for she was on Face Book. Roger's name was there for he was on the Internet all the time. He had a little entrepreneurial company where he bought and sold items on E-Bay.
There were just the three of us who had moved here a couple of weeks ago. This was midyear and the kids had been out of school two weeks so they could start after New Year and I could assume my new duties at the company I worked for.
This division had been having trouble with their bottom line and I was here to see what I could do. They gave me two years to bring it into line with the rest of the corporation. If I couldn't, it would be closed. I well understood that if I couldn't lift it, I probably would go down with it.
I wasn't too worried about finances for myself because my wife's died a year ago. I was now reasonably well-off. I had spent a week in my new office and I was ready to make changes just as soon as I was sure in what direction I wanted to take this company. It meant I was going to have to terminate a few people. That I dreaded doing, but knew it was necessary.
It was a lonely existence for me. I had loved my wife very much, but was glad in a way when she finally succumbed to the cancer that ate away first her beauty and then left her praying for release from the pain that wracked her. We had a good life together as long as it lasted.
Robin and I met more than seventeen years ago. I was on the rebound from a woman I was all set to marry. This woman, Merriam Styles, had cheated on me just a month before we were to wed. We were engaged and I thought I was set for a wonderful life with her.
Our break up happened on a Wednesday when I was on the other side of town about seven in the evening. Merriam was supposedly visiting a friend for the night that had just had a baby and she was staying over. I saw Merriam's car drive into a motel parking lot. I followed from a distance and saw her enter the office where shortly she came out and went to a room on the second level. A man got out of a car that was nearer the motel than where I was parked and went up the stairs where she was waiting for him. I knew him--a former boyfriend she went with in high school.
I was crushed and I had to let her know I knew that we had no more future together. Two weeks before this we had been to a county fair. She had won a trinket of pot metal that said, "I Love You." It was washed with brass color. She gave it to me and I swore I would wear it as long as we were together.
We weren't together now. I removed it and the chain I had it on from around my neck and snapped it into two pieces, breaking the chain as well. I fished in the glove box and retrieved an envelope. I put these in it and took it to the office. "Five dollars says you put this in room 206's key slot and make sure she gets this envelope when she returns her key."
"Make it ten dollars and I will guarantee it. Is there any message?"
"No, she will understand the message when she opens it."
I had been staying with my folks and it was intended that I would move into Merriam's apartment. "Dad, if Merriam contacts you, just say I don't want to hear from her. I'm leaving. There is nothing left for me here except you and Mom and I'll let you know eventually where I end up." Mom gave me a big argument about not listening to my fiancée, but I was adamant.
Merriam had stayed all night with her lover and I was out of town before she knew we were not to be married. Three weeks later Robin, my future wife, picked me off a bar stool while slumming. She listened to me cry on her shoulder for three days. Then she put me into her father's company and proceeded to fall in love with me. Five months later we were married.
I was not looked on by her father with any degree of fondness, even though I was working for him. "Look David, I don't suppose I have anything against you personally, but Robin is always doing something without thinking it through. You just see that you make her happy and I won't say anything about my feelings toward you."
And he didn't say anything until just before Robin died. "David, I was wrong about you. You two have had a good marriage and I'm so sad it can't continue. For years I have been waiting for you to implode, but you haven't. Seeing how you have stood by Robin through this illness of hers makes me ashamed of how I felt about you earlier. I am pleased to call you son and hope you will forgive me."
"I will, but would you go in and tell Robin how you feel. She needs to know that she wasn't wrong and that you realize it. You can only do that by telling her." There were tears in his eyes when he came out of her room and he hugged me. It was only a week later she gave up and went home to her heavenly Father.
My thoughts returned to my son's problem. It was three in the afternoon before I could get to the school office to see why my son couldn't use his given name. I had to pass by the sports field from the parking lot which of course was uninhabited because of the snow cover. This only because I had gone in on the wrong side of the complex. I paused to watch the many students exiting the buildings. I could see Roger coming down the steps with a girl on each arm. Puzzled, for I knew he was girl shy.
When the student reached me close enough so I could more readily define his features, I could see that it wasn't my Roger. It was a different student, but he looked enough like my son to be his twin. I stopped a student and asked directions to the office. I informed the lady at the desk that I needed to speak to the person in charge about not allowing my son to use his given name. She asked me to wait in a side office while she found the principal.
It was more than fifteen minutes before he appeared and shut the door behind him. "Now Mr. Dumont, we have an unusual situation here. We have two students named exactly the same. In fact they look pretty much identical. I have to say that the older student has been here all through high school, so I have determined that his name takes precedent as far as usage is concerned. I really would like to ascertain if the two boys are related."
"I don't see how they could be. I know for certain that my wife had no children before we were married. That was seventeen years ago and we lived together all of that time."
"How about yourself?"
"No I was never married before and I'm sure that I never sired any children."
"This is a mystery isn't it. They say every person has a double somewhere in the world. This might be the case. Mr. Dumont, let me impress on you, we aren't trying to change your son's name. I just want to adjust things so we can know who we are referring to. I've even gone so far as to look at each one's scholastic records. "There again, that may be a complication in the spring and fall seasons. Both play baseball and football and both excel in those sports. Roger has the remainder of this year and next and your son has this and two more years. You can see my problem can't you?"
"Yes I can. Look, my son has had a pretty rough time in the last year. He lost his mother a year ago and then he had to give up all of his friends when I was transferred here. Could you possibly talk to the other boy's parents to see if he would be the one to give up his name?"
"Well, I will call his mother and see if I can arrange a meeting. I don't think it will do any good. Mrs. Cummings is a widow and has been for several years. Her husband was someone I knew fairly well. Much older than his wife and a fine gentleman. He doted on the boy even though he was her second husband and not the boy's father. I believe her first husband was killed in the military."
"Do see what you can do. If you can't do anything, maybe I will talk to her. It would have to be in the evening as I'm the only parent that Wendy and Roger have near. Their grandparents live about two hundred miles away."
"I will call her and get back to you. May I have your phone number? If I can reach Mrs. Cummings this evening I will call. Mr. Dumont, my condolences on the loss of your wife."
Wendy had dinner started when I arrived home. She was a gem and I guess she worried as much about me as I did her. She had been especially close to her mother and even skipped school to be with Robin several times the last few months. It was as if Wendy had been in training to care for me and Roger when Robin wasn't here to do it herself. Sometimes it was difficult to realize that Wendy was barely fourteen.
I wondered if when I eventually found a new mate, would Wendy relinquish her role as homemaker to her father and brother? There was no hurry as it would be a long time before I would think about replacing Robin.
It was eight p.m. when the principal got back to me. "Mr. Dumont, Merry Cummings has requested that she meet with you. She is on her way to your house right now. For some reason my call has upset her and she said only you could resolve this problem. A problem that she didn't share with me. Would you receive her? I don't want to cause any problems and I couldn't see how to deter her from coming to meet you."
"I'm sure I can handle it. I have no idea why she would be upset either. Thank you for calling ahead of the meeting anyway. I'll let you know what we have decided on names. Good evening."
Fifteen minutes later the doorbell chimed. I had warned Wendy and Roger that I was having a Mrs. Cummings visit concerning Roger's name. I also stated that there seemed some mystery about both the names and the likeness of the two boys named Roger.
When I opened the door the mystery was solved to some extent. Merriam stood there. I was speechless! "May I come in David?"
"Certainly Merriam, come in." I paused and then proceeded to become a host. "May I take your wrap? Join with me, Roger and Wendy in the living room. We have a fire going in the fireplace. We lit it before I knew we were to have a visitor." I was rambling and couldn't seem to stop. Eighteen years since I had seen this woman. I had left her with hate in my heart and this minute I didn't know what I felt.
"Roger and Wendy, this is Mrs. Merriam Cummings. Her maiden name was Styles. I think I have just had a revelation. Would you be the one to explain to my children, Merriam?"
"Yes, of course. First Roger, the boy in school with the same name as yours is your half brother. David is father to both of you. You see I was engaged to your father and about a month before we were to be married I was contacted by an old boyfriend who I had a great deal of affection for at one time. Thinking that I would never be found out, I agreed to meet him in a motel one time for an extended good-bye. Your father evidently found out--I still don't know how.
"In the morning, he had left a token at the front desk for me. I knew at that moment when I saw it that he would never marry me. I didn't blame him and I have never tried to contact him. This is the first time I have seen or spoken to him since we spoke the afternoon before I went to the motel."
"Is your Roger really Dad's son?" This was Wendy asking the question of this woman looking for a definite answer.
"Yes he is. I was going to tell your father that next night when I got home that I was pregnant. If he really wants to know if I knew he can still find a record of when I went to the doctor for verification. That is if the two Rogers aren't evidence enough. David, Roger is out in the car. May I have him come in to meet you? I have lied to him all these many years so this is particularly difficult for me, but it must be done."
"I'll get him." No coat or wrap of any sort, Wendy went charging out to the car in the driveway. We could hear her. "Hurry, it's cold out here. Your Mom wants you in the house."
While this was happening, I was observing the woman who had almost become my wife many years ago. Merriam hadn't aged that well. She was heavier and although she had dressed well to meet with me, she needed her hair done. She turned to me when Roger went out to hold the door for his sister and his half brother. "Have you had a good life without me, David?"
I paused for just a minute. "Yes I have. A wonderful one. It has had some heartbreak in it, but I had the love of a fine woman. I would say I had a very good life. And you?"
"The same. It has been good. I have had to bear the guilt though, that you haven't had, so maybe it hasn't been as good as yours."
"We will have to talk about that sometime."
"You will see me again, then?"
"Yes. I want to get to know my son, if he wishes it. I can't get to know him without seeing you." The three kids came in. There was a subtle difference in the two boys, but the likeness was striking. Wendy was the a-twitter.
Merriam and her Roger were close, I could see that. The boy listened to his mother's explanations. When she confessed she had kept the truth from him, it didn't seem to bother him, but maybe he was well able to mask his feelings.
When she finished, I said, "We have discovered that we are related, by blood. That isn't a problem. We can be close or not, it won't matter, but what are we going to do about the same names? The school has suggested that my Roger shorten his name and go by R. David. Roger doesn't think that he likes that very much. Does anyone have any suggestions?"
"I have. The kids in school have a nickname for me. It is Ger or Gerry which is a takeoff on the last part of Roger. If people called me Gerry, I wouldn't mind at all." I was liking this boy better and better. "Mom, you even call me Ger sometimes."
"Yes, I know, but that is a pet name for you when I'm blue and lonely. I suppose I can live with it though. David, do you have the principal's number? I'll call him before I change my mind." In five minutes it was agreed to by the school principal.
Merriam turned to me. "David, you may wonder why I named my son as I did. Remember the time we discussed having children? We thought Roger was a excellent name. Of course at the time he was born, I was still in love with you. I well understood why I was alone. I named him Roger in remembrance and of course gave him your name."
"And Dumont. Why that?"
"Because he is your blood, I couldn't do different. I thought you would never know."
I didn't say anything for a minute. Then, "I remembered the time we discussed names, as well. Robin knew I liked the name and was agreeable for our son to have it. She knew that it was a name we had chosen together and understood how much I had loved you. It was little things like that about her that finally let me move on and come to love her as deeply as I did."
"What you had for me is all gone now?"
"Yesterday I would have said yes. Tomorrow when I have had time to think about this, I can't say."
I looked away from Merriam. All three young people were watching us. "I guess you will have more explaining to do to your son this evening. If you would call in a few days, we might set up a time to get together. If I'm not here, you may talk to Wendy. She can tell you when that would be possible. I'm very busy spending time both here and at corporate headquarters trying to turn the business around. Wendy always knows my schedule."
"Thank you David for seeing me. I'll try not to bother you too much. It's just that I would like to talk to you. We will leave now. You do have two beautiful children, but I would expect them to be, with you as their father. Goodnight David."
I held the door as Merriam and Gerry went down the walk to their car. They didn't look at the house and I could see them engaged in deep conversation as they drove away. I turned to my own kids.
"Dad, I like my new brother. He is so cute."
"Wendy, look at Roger. He has almost the same features."
"I know, but I know him and I don't know Gerry."
"Well I'm sure we will come into contact with him occasionally."
"We'll see his mother sometimes too won't we? She must have loved you at one time."
"Maybe, but it wasn't enough to keep her from hurting me. I thought I had forgotten her. Now she is back and I'll have to try to forget her all over again."
"If Mom were alive, she wouldn't mind if you started seeing her again. I know she wouldn't. You are still young and Mom didn't expect you to live without love the rest of your life. She told me so."
"She told me the same thing. I'm sure she didn't expect it would be Merriam, though." I did spend a restless night thinking about her. All the hate I felt toward her at one time came rushing back.
Dammit, I couldn't think about personal problems. I had to concentrate on making sure my division in the corporation survived. It was difficult having two children, but they were worth every bit of care they took. What was I going to do when I went out of town. I was going to have to travel to South America for two weeks in February. I should be looking around for an adult to stay here with Roger and Wendy. They both could survive on their own unless there was a crisis of some sort.
My mind swung back to Merriam. She had changed. She wasn't as beautiful as Robin had been and had added a few pounds. I guess you could say she is matronly. Also she never smiled once. Was that because of me or because that is the way she was now?
I did some figuring in my head. Roger--Gerry I mean, must be about seventeen months older than my Roger. He was much like his mother. He didn't smile at all either. They were not at all like Wendy and Roger, who with all of our sadness tried to find something to smile and joke about.
I suppose with Merriam being an unwed mother and having to cope with a pregnancy alone, it would tend to make a person more serious. I know I hated what she did to me, but I would have supported the child if I had known about it. It might have even drawn me back to her and I might have been able to get beyond her cheating.
I was dragging from sleeplessness when I went into the office in the morning.
"I saw Gerry today when I came out of middle school. He had a bunch of girls talking to him. He recognized me and came over to say hi. He called me Wendy and asked me how I was getting along. We talked about school for a few minutes and when he left he said, bye Sis. He is so much like Roger, it is spooky."
"That's nice that he spoke to you. I wondered how he would take all of this. If you see him again, you could invite him over. I'm sure he is curious about you. I know you are curious about him as well."
"Are you going to invite his mother to visit, Dad?"
"No, not while I am so busy. I would have to have her in for dinner and I just don't have time now."
"Dad, you are working seven days a week. Can't you take a day off? Roger and I get lonely."
"I know. Maybe in another week I'll have the weekend. Things are coming together. I'll have to do something about you two when I go to South America next month."
"Roger and I will be fine while you're gone. We don't need anyone."
"No, I'll find a house sitter for you."
I got a call at work the next afternoon. "David this is Merry Cummings." I wasn't used to the shortened version of her name, so it gave me pause.
"Yes Merriam, of course. How are you?"
"I'm fine. I guess I'm kind of sticking my nose in here, but Ger was talking to Wendy yesterday and she said she and Roger are alone everyday for several hours while you are working. Gerry has a car. Would it be possible for the kids to come visit? Ger thinks it great he has a sister and he sees Roger in the hallways. He wants to get to know them."
"I don't mind. Sometime you and I will have to talk about your situation. Also, my father and mother are still alive. They were hurt by you almost as much as I was. They would be interested in finding out that you have a son."
"Would they forgive me?"
"I think so. Look, I'm really busy and I don't mean to cut you off, but my phone is blinking in two places. I'll try to get back to you. Thanks for calling and I think it is great about Gerry wanting to know his half siblings." Merriam said good-bye.
It was eight-thirty before I got home. Wendy had a casserole of macaroni in the oven and put a pork chop on the skillet when she heard me drive in. She sat across from me as I ate. "Boy Dad, have I found out a lot of stuff about your almost-wife. First of all, she was married for about ten years and has been a widow for the last five. Her husband was a high school teacher and died of a heart attack."
"Did she mention me?"
"Not much. All she said was that she made a serious mistake and used terrible judgment that caused you and her to break up. She did add that she was glad that you found Mom and were happy. I took it that her life has been more a matter of survival than happy. The man she married was much older and their marriage was more of convenience than love."
"Where does she live?"
"I think it is an older section of town. The houses are not as nice as ours and a lot smaller. Her parents live with her and Gerry in a little apartment on the back of the house. Merry works at home doing something for some book publishers. I think she said editing. FedEx came while I was there and left some papers."
"What did Gerry and Roger do while you were talking?"
"They went down into the cellar and Ger has some weight equipment. Roger says it isn't very good. It is something someone gave him. Merry invited Roger and me for dinner, but I didn't think we should. He brought us home about five because I said I had to make your dinner. It still spooks me out to have two brothers that look so much alike."
I finished dinner and went into the living room to visit with Roger. "Dad, can we buy some gym stuff. Ger could come over and use it with me. He says it makes you a lot stronger and next fall I want to go out for football."
"Sure, figure out what you need and we'll get it. Wendy do you think there would be a possibility that Merriam would look after you while I'm in South America? You can't really live alone for that time."
"I'm going over there tomorrow. She was so nice, I asked her to show me how to sew on a button and I can find out at that time. You will pay her won't you?"
"Yes, of course."
"Wait until I tell Ger I'm getting a bowflex. Dad, can he come here to use it?"
"Sure. Body building is a boring exercise. Maybe you will keep at it until you get really strong if you work together with it."
The answer to my problem of someone to be there for the kids was of course Merriam. If she was available, should I use her? By using her would I be taking advantage of her? I was so tired all the time. I would think about it when Wendy came home tomorrow.
I had an answer of sorts when I got home the next evening. Wendy had left a message on my voice mail for me to call her at home an hour before I was to arrive. I walked into the house to the smell of pot roast and homemade bread. The table was set for five. "David, I invited myself and Gerry for dinner. In return I helped Wendy make it. I hope you don't mind?"
Merriam had an apron on. It was tied so that it accentuated her ample bust. It also showed that she was not the svelte woman she was when I knew her. She was tall and wore her extra weight well, but still she had many extra pounds. She saw me appraising her.
"I know David, I'm not the loveliest specimen of womanhood. A lot of it is because I haven't cared how I look. However in our respective cases, it shouldn't matter." She removed the apron as we left the kitchen for the dining room.
Wendy had set the table with Robin's finest dishes and silverware. Merriam may not have wanted me to care how she looked, but she certainly had dressed for dinner. "You look lovely, Merriam. I'm really pleased you took the trouble for us. We don't have too many full dinners. I can cook very well, but there never is enough time to prepare one. I'll freshen up and be right with you. Gerry, did Roger tell you about buying some exercise equipment? It came today and is downstairs off the playroom and is supposed to be all set up. I said this over my shoulder as I headed for the bathroom. The boys rushed down to look at it.
After dinner I asked Merriam, "Would it be possible for me to hire you as a house sitter while I am away in South America? Wendy and Roger can take care of themselves, but I would like someone here in case of a problem. I'm going to be leaving in two weeks and will be gone most of the two after that.
"I could get either of their grandparents, but I hate to disrupt them. You could have your days free, but I would want you here at night. The pay would be $600.00 a week and use the house as your own."
"David I will stay if you need me. You won't even have to pay me. My schedule is so loose there will be little I have to adjust."
"No I insist that I pay you. However, if you would like to stay over next Tuesday night, I will be out of town. That will give you an idea what it will be like. Maybe Wednesday night because I won't be in until real late. I would expect Gerry to bunk here with Roger. There are twin beds in his room."
"You won't mind if I come early and work during the day will you? I'll be here when the kids get home."
"That'll work." I flew out Tuesday to Boston as planned.
I finished my business earlier than expected and returned home earlier that afternoon. I could see where Merriam had been doing some work on a manuscript. She wasn't around and I passed through into my bedroom. When I left my coat and briefcase I came out and was passing by the cellar stairs.
Merriam came rushing up the stairs and fell into me, nearly upsetting us both. I grasped her and automatically my arms went around her. Without thinking, I leaned forward and kissed her. She hesitated and then returned the kiss, savoring it just a minute and then pushed me violently away.
"David, let me go! That wasn't supposed to happen. Let me go!" I backed away looking at her. "I'm all sweaty from running on the treadmill and I stink."
"Okay, okay. I didn't mean to upset you. That wasn't planned and I apologize." I went down the hall to the living room and sat on one end of the couch. She came into the room and stood there looking at me.
"David, you made a decision years ago and I made one a day later. I think we should hold to those decisions. It is too late to go back."
"If that is the way you want it, I will abide by it. Truth to tell I think that would be wise. However, I do want to get to know Gerry, so I'm asking you to disregard my advances. I do need you desperately to watch Wendy and Roger when I'm away, which is frequently. I also wish I could get you to come and keep house for us all the time. Would you consider that?"
"Let me think about it. I'll let you know tomorrow night when you come home from work. I have to talk to my parents and see if my moving out is okay. If you'll excuse me, I have to get dinner now."
As Merriam went through to the kitchen, I said after her, "Merriam, you don't ever stink. Sure, sweat made your scent a little sharper, but I found it quite attractive"
The time I was to leave on my South American trip wound down. I took three days away from work so that Wendy and Roger could visit their grandfather. He doted on them, now that Robin wasn't with us anymore. Wendy looked much like her mother did when her age. Sometime tears showed in her grandfather's eyes during our short visit.
When it was explained who Gerry was and how he came to be one I called son, he treated him no different than he did Roger. We spent one night there. Merriam had passed on going with us, but when we turned to my parents, she was anxious to see them again.
My father and mother had liked the woman I had promised to wed so many years ago. Questioned, and to our embarrassment, when we were going to wed now, they were disappointed when we denied it would happen.
I spent one day before my flight preparing Merriam with some paperwork and access to funds while I was out of the country. I gave her my power of attorney to act in any capacity concerning the children. She had both a high balance credit card and debit card for emergencies.