Jeff fanned himself and raised his head to look at the sky. “Let me ask you a question. What would I get if I forced her to stay?”
Olivia fell silent.
Jeff added, “All I would get is resentment. She wouldn’t yell at me for it, but she’d ignore me and hate me for the rest of her life. She’d lament the unfairness of the world. Her eyes would become lifeless, and her lips would never smile.
“Even if I had her with me in person, I’d never have her heart. The relationship would look fine on the surface but would actually be in ruins. That would’ve resulted in you having to walk on eggshells during your childhood.
“I’ll never forget how you tried so hard to make her like you. You were still so young. Kids your age had no worries, but you were trying your best to win her favor. And despite your efforts, she still didn’t warm up to you.
“Sooner or later, you would’ve become like her if we had remained a family torn by such internal conflicts.
“A peacock is only beautiful because it has enough space to roam freely. It wouldn’t even display its feathers if it was stuck in a cage unhappily. Its beauty would be concealed.
“I let her go so that there wouldn’t be hate, even if there was no love. She’d get the happiness and freedom she wanted, and I’d be satisfied spiritually. The only regret was that you lost your mother.
“The truth is, nothing is guaranteed to work out in this world. Sometimes, you won’t get anything in return even if you worked hard. It all boils down to how we make our choices.”
Olivia understood how Jeff felt. It was similar to what she was going through with Ethan.
“You must love Mom a lot, right, Dad?”
“Of course, I do. I fell hopelessly in love the first time I met her. Your mother was elegant and dignified. She was perfect in every way. The sad thing was that she never loved me. She married me due to circumstances, and I tried my best to love her during our years together.
“I was never able to change her mind, though. So, I set her free. Knowing she got the happiness she sought, I feel my hard work didn’t go to waste.”
Olivia asked, “You never remarried after Mom left. Is it because you never met anyone else you liked?”
Olivia saw that Jeff’s expression changed when she brought that up. His face lost its glow immediately.
Jeff looked at Olivia with a sigh. He decided to tell her the truth.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. You were still too young then. I wanted to wait a
couple of years before telling you. Then, all those things happened…”
Jeff shook his head and continued, “It’s already come to this. I think you deserve to know the truth. There was a woman I liked a few years back. She was slightly older than you. She was pretty, lively, and her eyes always glowed. She was a student whose education I funded. It’s such a pity…”
Jeff’s expression became worse as he said, “I had thought she was just a kid when she first confessed her feelings to me. What would people think if an old man like me got together with a young woman like her?”
Olivia knew that Jeff was talking about Jodie. She didn’t expect Jeff to be the one to bring it up.
She asked, “What happened next?”
“It’s not like I didn’t plan on getting married again. But you know how serious I am regarding marriage and relationships. I’d never settle with someone I didn’t have feelings for. So, I didn’t pay her any mind.
“She was smart and excelled in her studies like you. She skipped grades multiple times and started working at a young age. She tried her best to appear more mature in front of me. She was frustrated that I treated her like a child.”
“Did you like her, Dad?”
Jeff looked at the clouds, starting to space out.
guess I had feelings for her. She had the liveliness and youthfulness of a young woman. Initially, I took care of her because I felt bad for her. Then, we began to get in touch more. I felt happy when I was with her. I felt younger. So, I started to take her feelings more seriously.”
Jeff turned to look at Olivia’s face. “I fell in love with your mother when I was still a boy. I could love unreservedly. At my current age, I had to think twice before acting. I was afraid that you wouldn’t like it. Also, I was worried about what people might say about us.
“My hesitance ended up becoming the reason she left. She was already pregnant when I found her again.
Olivia’s eyes widened in surprise. “Her baby wasn’t yours?”