Brady’s truck tires screeched as he took the corner into his sister’s subdivision a little too fast. He wasn’t sure why he was so angry. He had no idea if Lexi’s crazy questions had any root in reality, but the uneasiness in his gut made him feel sick. He had learned over the years that, more often than not, his gut feeling was usually right.
There had been something about the way Lexi asked who Dalton’s daddy was that immediately set Brady’s teeth on edge. She looked both frightened and resigned, as if she already knew the answer and she didn’t like it. When Brady told her he didn’t know the answer, she started to cry. Then it all came pouring out.
“Dalton looks exactly like my brother did at that age,” Lexi had explained. “I know it sounds crazy. I really do. But the moment he walked into my classroom, I just had this feeling. I can’t explain it, and I’ve not been able to shake it.”
Brady had sat back in his chair, and tried to wrap his head around what she was saying. “Who is your brother? Did you ask him about it?”
“My brother is Kyle Anderson,” Lexi answered. When Brady looked confused, she added, “He’s my half-brother . . . different dads. He’s a couple years older than me.”
Brady shook his head, and said, “I don’t remember him.”
When Lexi stared into her coffee cup without saying anything more, Brady asked again, “Did you ask him about it?”
“I can’t.” Lexi shrugged her shoulders and sighed. “I’ve not seen him in seven years. I don’t know where he is or how to get in touch with him.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I said,” Lexi’s voice was calm. “He just left one day. He left my mom a note telling her not to worry, he was fine, and he just had some things he wanted to do.”
Brady looked perplexed. “He never came back?”
Lexi shook her head. “He called Mom occasionally. Maybe once or twice a year . . . if that. He sent her birthday cards sometimes. For the most part, though, he just disappeared.”
“And you really think he’s Dalton’s dad?”
“I don’t know what to think,” Lexi’s eyes filled with tears. “He looks just like Kyle, Brady. I mean, just like him. He’s the right age.” She paused for a moment and then said, “And my brother is a lot older than your sister, so . . .”
“So he didn’t want to go to jail,” Brady finished her thought.
Again, Lexi had shrugged as a tear slid down her face. “I don’t know. This all seems kind of far-fetched, but I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe your sister knows where my brother is.”
Brady emerged from his thoughts as he slowly pulled into his sister’s drive, and waved to the kids. Dalton and his little sister, Bella, were playing with an assortment of toy trucks and excavators in the front yard.
“Uncle Brady!” Bella squealed as he got out of his truck.
“Hey, there, Bella Boo.” Brady picked the little girl up and hugged her tight. “Where’s your mama?”
“She’s cooking dinner,” Dalton answered for his sister.
“Alright,” Brady set Bella down and walked toward the door, “I need to talk to her, but I’ll be back to play with you in a few minutes. Okay?”
“Okay,” Dalton replied, already working the levers to his excavator.
Brady knocked twice on the front door and let himself in. “It’s me!” he called out. “Anybody home?”
“In the kitchen,” his sister called back.
Brady found her standing at the stove, staring at her phone, as she absently stirred a pot of soup. “What’s up?” Brittany asked, not even looking at her brother. His unannounced visits were an almost daily occurrence. Brady and Brittany were five years apart, but they had always been close.
“Is Justin home?” Brady inquired about his brother-in-law.
“No.” Brittany finally looked up from her phone. “He’s not got home from work yet. Why?”
“I need to talk to you.”
“About what?” Brittany put her phone away and was giving her brother her full attention. Brady was rarely serious. “Is it Dad?”
“No,” Brady shook his head, and sat on a bar stool. “Dad’s fine. It’s Dalton.”
“Dalton?” Brittany looked confused. “He’s playing in the yard with Bella. Isn’t he?” She suddenly looked alarmed.
“He’s fine.” Brady waved a hand at her look of alarm. “I want to talk about his father.”
Brittany shook her head. “I’m not talking about that, Brady.”
Brady sighed. When his sister got pregnant her senior year of high school, their whole family was shocked. She hadn’t been dating anyone that they knew of, and, even after she told them she was pregnant, she refused to tell them who the father was. She just said he wasn’t in the picture anymore and she wanted to forget about him. Their mom hadn’t spoken to her for a week, but Brittany had stuck to her guns. When she married Justin Moore three years later, he adopted Dalton, and no one ever thought about the fact he wasn’t his biological father.
Brittany stared at her brother for a moment, before asking, “Why are you even bringing that up? Its ancient history, and it doesn’t matter anymore. Justin’s his daddy.”
Brady chewed his bottom lip and finally asked, “Is Kyle Anderson his father?”
As he watched the color drain from his sister’s face, he knew the answer was ‘yes.’
Rachel Holbrook writes from her home in Knoxville, TN. She is the author of the syndicated serial, Little River, Volumes 1 & 2. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, *82 Review, Ink in Thirds, Akitsu Quarterly, The Avalon Literary Review, The Society of Classical Poets, and various other literary journals. She recently won an Honorable Mention for her short story “A Slow Burn” at the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society’s annual convention. She also received the Springs of Helicon Award for Poetry, awarded by Tennessee Wesleyan University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys going on literal and literary adventures with her husband and six children.