“Because she let her go to Ireland in the first place,” he said tiredly, and I could tell it was a conversation he’d had with her a dozen times but made no headway. Maybe I get my stubbornness from both sides. Mom digs in, too.
“That’s ridiculous. That’s like saying if I decided to take a cab somewhere and the cab wrecked, it was your fault. It was my choice to take the cab. You couldn’t know something would go wrong and neither could Mom.”
“Unless somebody warned us in the first place,” he said in a voice so low that I nearly missed it, and then I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.
“Huh?” I said. “What did you say? Did somebody tell you not to let Alina go to Ireland? Oh, Dad, people are always full of gloom and doom! Everybody’s a prophet in retrospect. You can’t listen to them!” Though I love Ashford, we have our share of busybodies, and I could just see some of the nosier and less-kind inhabitants of the town gossiping in the grocery store, and not quietly, when my parents went by. Saying snide things like, Well, what did they expect—sending their daughter four thousand miles away by herself, anyway?
Right on cue, Dad said, “What kind of parents let their daughter go four thousand miles away from home by herself?”
“All kinds of parents let their kids study abroad,” I protested. “You can’t blame yourselves.”
“And now you’re gone, too. Come home, Mac. Don’t you like it here? Wasn’t it good? We always thought you and your sister were happy here,” he said.
“We were!” I exclaimed. “I was! Then Alina got killed!”
There was a weighty silence that I spent most of wishing I’d kept my big, fat mouth shut, then he said, “Let it go, Mac. Just walk away. Let it go.”
“What?” I was stunned. How could he say that? “You mean, come home and let the monster who did this to Alina just get away with it? Go on walking around out there to kill someone else’s daughter next?”
“I don’t give a grand, glorious shit about anyone else’s daughter!”
I flinched. In my entire life, I’d never heard my father cuss. If he did so at all, he did it in private, or beneath his breath.
“I care about mine. Alina is dead. You’re not. Your mother needs you. I need you. Get on a plane. Pack up right now and come home, Mac!”
I swear, I prefaced it a thousand different ways in my head; from a several sentence buildup, to a five-minute explanation and apology for what I was about to ask, but none of it came out. I opened my mouth, it stayed open, and I merely managed to breathe into the phone as I thought about all the things I could or should say, including just shutting up and never asking.
I was in sixth grade when I learned about things like brown eyes and blue eyes, about dominant and recessive genes and what kind of parents make what kind of babies and then went home that night to look really hard at my mom and dad. I’d said nothing because Alina had green eyes just like me, so we were obviously family, and I’ve always had ostrich-tendencies; if I can wedge my head far enough down into the sand that I can’t see whatever’s staring at me, then it can’t see me, either, and no matter how people try to dispute it, perception is reality. It’s what you choose to believe that makes you the person you are. Eleven years ago, I chose to be a happy daughter in a happy family. I chose to fit, to belong, to feel safe and cherished right down to my deep, strong, proud southern roots. I chose to believe DNA theory was wrong. I chose to believe teachers didn’t always know what they were talking about and scientists might never understand all there was to know about the complexities of human physiology. I’d never discussed it with anyone. I’d never had to. I knew what I thought and that was enough. I’d barely squeaked by with a D in my high-school science requirement and I’d never taken another biology course since.
“Dad, was I adopted?” I said.
There was a soft explosion of air on the other end of the line, as if someone had hit Jack Lane in the stomach with a baseball bat.
Say no, Daddy, say no, Daddy, say no.
The silence stretched.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the burn of tears. “Please, say something.”
There was another long, terrible silence, punctuated by a bone-deep sigh. “Mac, I can’t leave your mother right now. She can’t be alone. She’s too heavily medicated and unstable. After you left for Dublin, she . . . well, she just . . . fell apart. The best thing you can do right now for all of us is come home. Now. Tonight.” He paused, then said carefully, “Baby, you are our daughter in every way.”