I am in a tent that doubles as the school, teaching these kids to read via a program called LitWorld. "Yes?"
"The radio. It's for you."
There is no phone in the village. You can only reach this part of the Cabinda Province of Angola via a radio. I had served not far from here years ago, after I graduated from Princeton and worked for the Peace Corps. You've heard that saying that when God closes a door, he opens another. Or something like that. So when I opened that red door, I had no idea another one would open.
Ed Grayson is the one who saved my life. He has a friend, a woman named Terese Collins, who works in a village like this on the other side of the mountain. She and Ed are the only ones who know the truth. To everyone else, Dan Mercer is indeed dead.
That isn't really a lie.
I told you before that the life of Dan Mercer was over. But the life of Dan Mayer-not a big name change, but big enough-has begun. Funny thing. I don't really miss my old life. Something had happened to me along the way-maybe it was a cruel foster family, maybe it was what I had done to Christa Stockwell, maybe it was the fact that I let Phil Turnball take the fall alone-that made this kind of work my calling. I guess that you'd call it atonement. That might be it. But I think it somehow works on a genetic level, like some people are born to be doctors or to like fishing or to shoot baskets with great skill.
For a long time I fought this. I married Jenna. But like I told you in the beginning, my destiny is to be alone. Now I embrace that. Because-and I know this will sound corny-when you see the smiles on these kids' faces, you aren't really ever alone.
I don't look back. If the world thinks Dan Mercer is some kind of pedophile, so be it. We don't have the Internet out here, so I can't check on what's going on at home. I don't think I'd be tempted anyway. I miss Jenna and Noel and the kids, but that's okay. I am tempted to tell her the truth. Jenna is the only one who will really, truly mourn for me.
I don't know. Maybe someday I will.
I pick up the radio receiver. In my short time here, I have never gotten a call. Only Terese Collins and Ed Grayson have this number, so I'm surprised when I hear the familiar voice say, "I'm so sorry."
I guess that I should hate the sound of her voice. I should be angry with her, but I'm not. I smile. In the end, in a way, she's made me happier than I've ever been.
She is talking fast now, crying too, explaining herself. I listen with half an ear. I don't need to know any of this. Wendy has called to hear three words. I wait. And when she finally gives me the chance, I am more than happy to say them to her:
"I forgive you."