After his wife’s funeral, a man finds his wife’s hiding place and discovers she had been keeping a dark secret from him all along.
Ben stood alone near the freshly dug grave. Everyone who had come to his wife Alice’s funeral service had gradually dispersed, but Ben couldn’t take his gaze away from the small mound of earth.
He had met her at New York State University, where at first glance, he felt like she was the one. Then they met inside the institute’s cafeteria, found themselves at the same table, and were inseparable since then.
After graduation, the pair tied the knot and moved into a small apartment. Ben soon got a job as an accountant in a firm, and Alice decided to oversee the responsibility of making their home a lovely place.
Every day when Ben returned from work into their cozy apartment, everything shone with cleanliness. The table was always set with dinner prepared by his wife’s caring hands, and Alice would be standing at the doorstep, well-groomed and pretty as ever.
They used to spend the evenings together, talking about their days, then surrendering to the power of warmth and love after. Ben never refused Alice’s requests, whether it was expensive jewelry or hand-made gifts, and she adored him.
When he was away on business, Alice called him several times a day to remind him not to skip meals and to advise him on what to wear to events.
The only flaw in their perfect life was that they never had children. Several visits to the clinics proved futile. Dejected, Ben had suggested adoption, but Alice was anything but impressed by the idea.
“No way, Ben!” she stubbornly refused. “I want to give birth. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept someone else’s child as my own.”
The categorical refusal of his wife surprised Ben, but he resigned himself to the fact that they were never having kids and never spoke about it again.
With time, the couple began to devote all of their love and attention to each other, believing everything would be fine, but then trouble arrived from an unexpected source.
Poor Alice was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, and it was the last stage. It was as if Ben’s heart had stopped beating; he was no longer aware of what was going on around him at work, in the city, in the heart of the world.
Not trusting anyone to look after her, the man took an extended leave of absence from work and devoted all of his energy to caring for his beloved wife.
During these months, he pushed many thresholds, trying to find a way to improve her condition. He persuaded, insisted, begged her many times to agree to surgery. “Alice, dear, I discovered a clinic in Germany that performs such operations. You and I have a slim chance,” he’d said, but she refused.
Now he was crying bitterly sitting by her grave, unable to bring himself to return home. His sweet and kind, beloved wife, who had devoted her entire life to caring for him, was gone.
As the sun went down, darkness and cold took over. Ben finally got out of the cold and slowly walked towards the house, which seemed empty, like his heart.
The man walked through the bedroom without undressing and lay down on his wife’s side of the bed for a long time, inhaling her sweet, beloved smell. Then he sat in bed, turned on the night light, and gently opened the drawer on the side table that held a photo frame of him and his beloved wife.
How happy and sweet we looked, without ever a thought of death, Ben pondered.
Suddenly, his fingers felt an inexplicable thickening in the photo frame. He dismantled the frame, removed the glass, and discovered another photo behind their photograph. The old picture depicted a baby. He turned it over, confused, and read the mysterious inscription, “Tom Oliver.”
Who is this baby? And why did Alice keep this photo from me? His mind began to race with the strangest suspicions.
He went to his wife’s dressing table, pulled out numerous drawers, and came across a stack of letters. They were Alice’s correspondence with her childhood friend Monica. He glanced over the last letter and turned cold with an unpleasant feeling.
“What a handsome boy. You should have seen how funny he is and squinting just like his dad,” she wrote.
Ben’s heart was beating rapidly. Squinting like his dad?! He, too, had a habit of squinting. This can’t be true! He began to read every letter until a disgusting picture of betrayal was evident.
It turned out that on one of his long business trips, his wife carried and gave birth to a child. The boy was born with a congenital heart defect, and she was told he wouldn’t live long. So she abandoned the baby in the hospital, signing the necessary papers.
How could you do that to our son, Alice? Why didn’t you inform me of him? Ben shook his head and moaned.
In the morning, at the first rays of the sun, he called a taxi and drove to his late wife’s hometown to meet Monica. The young woman was shocked to see him at her doorstep.
“I want to know where he is! Where did you keep my son?” Ben was furious.
“I don’t understand. What’s wrong?” Monica pretended to be clueless as if she didn’t know anything.
Ben took the photograph of the child from his inner pocket and threw it in front of her. “I hope you know the answer now!” He glared at her.
Monica sighed, realizing there was no pointing in hiding the truth longer, and told him everything. “He was born while you were on a 7-month business trip abroad,” she explained. “At first, Alice didn’t tell you because she was going to surprise you. She was happy. You know how she wanted to have a baby with you.
“However, when the child was born, he was diagnosed with a heart defect, and doctors said he would not live more than a year. She didn’t want to upset you by putting you through such a grueling test. And she decided to deal with her grief on her own.”
Ben’s eyes welled up. “I can’t believe Alice did that! I want to meet my son. Take me to him!”
“Don’t be concerned,” Monica said. “He’s in good hands at the orphanage where I work. He’s lovely and innocent, but no one wanted to adopt him after seeing his medical records.”
Ben hit the table with his fist. “I don’t want to hear another word. Take me there now!
When Ben and Monica arrived at the orphanage, a nurse brought little Tom. With his innocent eyes and brownish tinge to his hair, he reminded Ben of Alice. “Good day, Tom!” Ben extended his hand. “I’m your father!”
The three-year-old boy looked at him, surprised, and smiled. “I thought my parents had died in a car accident. That’s what everyone told me. If you’re my dad, where’s my mom?”
“That’s quite a story, Tom. I’ll tell you everything when you get home. Will that be okay?”
The boy smiled at him then took his hand. “All right, Dad! I’ll be waiting for you!”
Ben spent nearly two months gathering all of the documents he needed to bring home Tom. When his son finally came home, he immediately consulted a good doctor. Thankfully, Tom recovered completely a year after undergoing heart surgery.
Later, on the anniversary of Alice’s death, Ben took his son to his mother’s grave and explained that she had been ill for a long time and couldn’t win against her illness. “She has now transformed into an angel and watches over you from the sky, Tom, and she will always protect you. By the way, won’t you give her what you got for her?” Ben said.
The boy smiled at his dad and placed Alice’s favorite flowers on her grave. Then he walked away happily, holding his dad’s hand.
What can we learn from this story?
Life is entirely unexpected. Sometimes, life throws unexpected surprises, some are pleasant, and some are not. Sometimes, an unpleasant event, like the death of Alice, can lead to something pleasant and life-changing, the way Ben found Tom.
Never hide anything from your partner. If Alice had told Ben about their son, they would’ve been able to live happily as a family for the short time they were together.