Sara’s story

As told to Eric and Zinovy:

“When I was growing up, neither my grandparents nor my guardian ever talked with me about my father. They obviously knew something about him—who he was and even where he was and what he was doing—but when I asked questions, their answers were always vague. And so I created my own vision of him,” she said.

Both men were still, and she went on. “Naturally, I imagined he was a wonderful man. I was lonely. I wanted a good father. I just assumed my parents had been married, and he had loved my mother very much. It didn’t seem odd to me, at that age, that he would have loved her. She was my mother. I saw her as normal. I loved her and I assumed he had loved her too.”

Sara sighed. “I was sure he loved me too. He didn’t want to be away all the time, but he was a great man, doing something extremely important—so important that he couldn’t be with us. He had made this great sacrifice, see—for a great cause. Some day, when his mission was accomplished, he would come to me, explain how hard it had been for him to leave me alone for so long, and take me away to live with him forever.

“I will never forget the day I learned the truth about my father,” she went on. “It was my fourteenth birthday. I always thought about him on my birthday. He would know, and he would think, ‘Sara’s birthday would be a good day to surprise her. I’ll come to her on her birthday.’”

It was a sultry afternoon. She’d taken refuge from the heat in the cooler recesses of the library. She’d turned her favorite chair toward the window and settled down with a book, looking out now and then, watching the road.

Her grandfather’s lawyer was visiting that day. He’d come into the library with Akiva, the guardian, on their way to the study. They hadn’t seen her curled up in the chair, and they were talking.

“So he’s come down again. He’s gotten quite bold. He knows the statute of limitations has run out,” said the lawyer.

“It’s been nearly fifteen years. What can he want down here after all that time?”

“Some kind of reunion. I don’t know anything more. I’ve had a man following him. No way we can prosecute, but I want to keep an eye on him. The least little slip up and we’ll get him on something else.”

They had reached the study then. She heard the chair creak as one of them sat behind the desk. It was Akiva. She could hear his voice plainly now. He was speaking toward the open study door, where the lawyer must have been standing.

“But can we? There’s no way we can touch him in his position. I think you’re wasting time and money on this. It’s become a vendetta with you. Why can’t you just let it go?”

“It’s not my vendetta. I told you, Jakov made me promise to do this. He doesn’t care how much it costs. He wants the man to pay for what he did to his daughter.”

At first Sara thought they were talking about someone she didn’t know, but for some reason she began to be afraid. She shrank into the chair cushions.

The lawyer went on. “Don’t you feel any anger at him, yourself? I mean, the man raped Rachel. He did it while his frat buddies watched. While the neighbor boy watched, hiding in the bushes. Left her with child. There are a lot of people who should be angry at this man. Personally, I’m not opposed to doing anything I can to make his life miserable.”

Akiva spoke: “Of course. I’m angry too. I watched her suffer through the confusion and pain. I just know anger doesn’t resolve anything. After a while people need to move on.”

By this time Sara was frozen to her seat. She remembered staring out the window at the limp willows hanging listlessly in the heavy air. The men had continued to talk. “Well, at least Sara hasn’t been affected. It was good you kept the facts from her. She has no reason to know.”

They closed the door to the study then, and Sara escaped to her room. She needed time to think—to adjust to the awful truth. A week later she went to Akiva, told him of her presence in the library on that day, and demanded to know everything. Realizing it was too late to shield her, Akiva gave in.

In time, she’d adjusted, a process that involved a deep, deep sense of loss and the beginning of her anger.