The Mentor (Necessary Lies Book 1)By: Alison Ryan
My father died on a Tuesday.
The day I found out is a recollection I wish I could repress, but it sits on the very front of my memory, always. There’s a distinct split in the timeline of my life. Before I knew, and after I knew.
So before I knew, I was in class at the University of Virginia. Chaucer. It was my second semester studying him and it was proving to be just as arduous as the first semester had been. I sat in the back of the room, looking down, pretending to be furiously writing notes. But I wasn’t writing notes, I was writing plans. Adding up figures, writing down ideas and dreams.
I was ready to graduate, to get out of Charlottesville. I’d turned twenty-one in November and as soon as I had a degree I would also have my trust; the one my mother had set up for me before she passed away from brain cancer when I was thirteen years old.
With that money I would travel the world. I would see things, meet people, have an adventure. My life had been a strange sort of childhood prison up until that point. I had been in boarding school since my mother died, and before that I had been kept in a mansion away from the rest of the world, only seeing my nannies and tutors most days.
My mother was an anxious person, constantly afraid of bad things happening to me. I never understood why and it was never explained, not even in the end. I supposed that the fear she’d held had been her intuition speaking to her. But it wasn’t me she needed to worry about. It ended up being Mom who had the black cloud of fate over her head. She’d been diagnosed a mere six months before her death.
And now my father was gone. Although I didn’t know it yet.
I’d never known him, at least not how most daughters know their fathers. He was practically mythical. I saw him once every few years and received gifts on my birthdays and Christmases without fail. But he was more like a distant uncle than a father. There wasn’t a single photo of us together, just he and I. And now there never would be.
I could hear my iPhone buzzing in my bag which rested against my leg. I glanced up at my professor to make sure he couldn’t hear it, which, fortunately, over the sound of his droning was impossible.
I rarely got texts during class, most of the few friends I had were in classes of their own, so I was curious who it might be.
I feigned needing a restroom break and slipped out of class with my phone in the back pocket of my Levi’s. As soon as I was outside the classroom and down the hallway, I pulled it out and stared at the screen.
It was a text from my Aunt Beth, my mother’s sister. She texted me at least once a week to check up on me but it was always on the weekends, usually Sundays.
Call me ASAP.
I dialed her number, wondering what could be wrong. Aunt Beth didn’t have kids and was going through a messy divorce at the moment. I couldn’t imagine…
“Cami,” she answered on the first ring. “Cami, where are you right now?”
“In class,” I said. “Where else would I be?”
“I didn’t know if you were in your dorm,” she said, her voice flat. “I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’ll just say it. Your father has passed away.”
The news smacked me hard. Despite our lack of a relationship, it was one of those things I always knew was there. I had figured maybe once I was older I would have time to get to know him. But even after losing my mother, I still assumed too much.
“How?” I managed to ask.
“Not sure,” Aunt Beth said. “I only know that he died, I’m sorry I can’t give you more than that. They’ve been trying to get in contact with you, but I requested you hear it from me first and not some strange asshole attorney.”
“Who are they?” I asked. I leaned against the wall and slowly slid down it until I was sitting, my knees pulled to my chest. No tears were coming. I just felt numb.
“His firm,” she said. “They’re in charge of his estate. You’re his only remaining living family member.”
“Oh,” I said. “So what does that mean?”
“It means you might want to take some time off,” she said. “And if you need me, I can come for the funeral, help you with arrangements. I can’t stay gone too long, but I can do whatever I can. There’s going to be estate stuff, probate. It’s going to be overwhelming.”