“I did not have sex with your father.”
The conversation had started innocently enough. I was at the cash paying for gas and a Globe at the Hunter River Irving, when a woman next to me commented on the evil eye stare of Karla Homolka on page 1.

“I wouldn’t even rent one of my cottages to that one,” she said.

When I turned to reply, she cut me off. “You’re Hickox, right?” She looked like she’d seen a ghost. Or maybe it was the lingering Homolka effect. I knew who she was immediately.

“You’re Linda, aren’t you? You dated my dad before he married mom.”

“That’s right. We were very young.”

I’d heard about Linda for decades. There were rumours that she and dad had conceived a child, but that the kid was officially raised as Linda’s husband’s son. Dad and Linda broke up abruptly one day when dad missed a hockey game where he was to meet her. Dad told me a few years ago that he’d been drinking shine in the provincial legislature galleries with Great Uncle Jack, a consumate Liberal and political junkie. When dad showed up drunk and late at the hockey rink, it was over with Linda.

“When I heard your dad had taken up with the minister’s daughter (mom), I thought, ‘Oh well, that’s good for him.’ But your dad was country folk, like me.” The relationship failed.

A few years later, Linda’s son was killed while riding his bike. He was six or seven, I think. Dad was devastated. Mom swears that’s when she knew the truth.

It seemed that Linda and Dad would have been a better match, and after the hockey rink near-miss, they both regretted not staying together. Linda said as much.

“I know what this means for you, but your dad and I were good together.” By this point we’d moved from the cash out to the gas pumps where Jasper was waiting in the car, making impatient faces through the window of the Echo. Suddenly I imagined not being born, and was grateful for shine and the provincial Liberals – yikes.

I decided to go for it.
“There are rumours that …”

She cut me off, again.

“I did not have sex with your father.”

I was shocked to get such a blunt answer, even before I’d asked the question. Folks from PEI tend to beat around the bush about sex.

“Well,” I said, “that’s pretty clear.”

There was an awkward pause then, punctuated by Jasper knocking on the car window.

Linda broke the silence.

“When you smile, I see your dad.”

I decided to reward her honesty. After all, dad’s been gone for nearly four years. I knew she was looking at me but seeing his ghost.

“I don’t know if dad ever told you this, but he loved you very much. He said you were the love of his life.”

Linda didn’t flinch. “Everyone has regret and pain,” she said. Then it was time to go. I considered giving her a hug, but settled for a squeeze on her shoulder. Then we parted and I drove off, Accident of Destiny with Miracle Child in the back seat, finally asleep by the time we got back to our wee woodland cabin.

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