She sat at the table in the darkest corner of the coffee shop, the spot where the light wouldn’t hit her shabby clothes or showcase the dreariness of her appearance to the world. She was tired, and the caffeine wasn’t doing anything about it, either.

Madeline planned to visit her father next, the man she barely knew but had come to realize was still alive in only the past day. Her mother told her stories, unkind ones albeit but tales nonetheless. These gave Madeline hope that one day she would find him.

Twenty three hours ago, Madeline stopped at the bank to deposit her most recent check, even though the amount was lousy — she needed it to cover the bills. That’s when she heard about her father.

“Madeline Inklebach,” he said. “Interesting last name. Odd, I setup an account for an Inklebach yesterday. I can’t imagine there’s many of you around here. Know the guy?”

“Guy?” Madeline mused. “The only other Inklebach I know of is my mother.”

“No, no — this was a … a Jerry, Jerry Inklebach.”

Madeline’s mind spun, and she suddenly felt lost in time. She was a child, listening to her mother’s stories again, nagging on and on about how useless her father was; how useless Jerry had been to her life.

“Miss, are you OK?” The banker asked.

“I … I haven’t seen my father since I was just a child,” she said. “Jerry Inklebach is back in town.”

“Well, I’d reckon he’s planning to stay if he set up an account,” the banker said. “Wow, I can’t believe this is a long lost relative story. You hear about those in the news, not real life. Hey, I could get you his address?”

The banker disappeared, talked a manager – who hesitated but gave a nod of approval. The banker returned with a small slip of paper, and an address scribbled on it.

218 N. Parker Lane, Edgewood, NJ
(Jerry Inklebach)

Madeline giggled once at the name in parenthesis, as if she would forget. And as she turned to leave the bank, felt a bit frightened.

Jerry Inklebach, Madeline wondered. Why did mom give us his last name?

She went straight to her mom’s house. Of course, Jenna Inklebach reacted with the same disgust that had been obvious in all her tales about Jerry over the years.

“That man is no good, there’s no good reason for him to be back here,” she said. “You don’t need to go see him, you’re better to leave him.”

“Mom,” Madeline stopped her. “He’s my father. I want some answers. And, why do we have the same last name? I thought it was a one-time thing, why would you take his name?”

Jenna stared at her daughter a while, seemingly frustrated by the request to explain herself. Her shabby curls dangled in her face, the gray highlights casting shadows among her once auburn locks. She puffed her lips to blow the dangling pieces from her face.

“Madeline, your dad and I did marry. It wasn’t long, and then he just skipped town,” she said. “It was useless, it was an uneventful wedding. The only good it got me was you. It was your name on your birth certificate, and I couldn’t see having a separate name for myself so — I kept it for us all. We did divorce. I tracked Jerry down and got him to sign. Took a few years. Then he stayed away, never saw him again.”

Mom had nothing good to say after that about Jerry either, and Madeline eventually made an excuse to leave. She promised not to see Jerry that day, but didn’t say anything about tomorrow. She struggled to sleep that night, tossing and turning all the while.

That’s why she found herself with dark eyes and a blurry mind sitting at the coffee shop. She took the last sip of her drink, and set it down slow, tilting the glass on the tabletop to confirm it was empty. Indeed.

She stood, slowly walking to the bin to drop her dirty mug and left the coffee shop. She hopped in the car, and pulled out a small piece of paper. She plugged “218 N. Parker Lane, Edgewood, NJ” into her GPS. and started driving.


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