“Really?” My voice was kind of squeaky in the back of my throat. “Like birth? Am I your daughter that way too, Daddy?” I opened my eyes but they wouldn’t focus properly.
“Stop it, Mac! I don’t know where this came from! What are you doing, bringing something like this up now? Come home!”
“It doesn’t matter where it came from. It matters where it’s going. Tell me Alina and I weren’t adopted, Daddy,” I insisted. “Tell me that. Say it! Just say those words and we can end this conversation. That’s all you need to say. Alina and I weren’t adopted. Say it. Unless you can’t.”
There was another of those horrid, horrid silences. Then he said, “Mac, baby, we love you. Come home.” His deep, usually strong baritone cracked on the last word. He cleared his throat and when he spoke again he was using his in-control tax-attorney voice that conveyed years of expertise coupled with the bone-deep assurance that you could trust him to know what was best. Calm, confident, powerful, backed by six feet two inches of self-assured, strong southern man, it used to work on me. “Look, I’m booking a flight for you the second we hang up, Mac. Go pack your bags right now and get yourself to the airport. I don’t want you to do or think about anything. Don’t even check out. I’ll take care of any bills you have over the phone. Do you hear me? I’m going to call you back and tell you what flight you’re on. Pack and go. Do you hear me?”
I stared out the window. It had begun to rain. There it was: the lie he refused to speak. If we hadn’t been adopted, Dad would have told me that without hesitation. He would have laughed and said, “Of course you weren’t adopted, you goon.” And we would both think it was funny that I could be so stupid. But he wouldn’t say it, because he couldn’t. “God, Daddy, who am I?” It was my turn for my voice to crack.
“My daughter,” he said fiercely into the phone. “That’s who you are! Rainey and Jack Lane’s baby girl!”
But I wasn’t, really. Not by birth. And we both knew it. And I guess some part of me had sort of known it all along.
1. Fairies exist.
2. Vampires are real.
3. A mobster and fifteen of his henchmen are dead because of me.
4. I’m adopted.
I stared down at the journal that would soon be full, ignoring the wet splash of tears that was making the ink run on the page.
Of the four things I’d listed, only one of them had the power to cut me off at the knees. I could wrap my brain around any weirdness, realign myself to any new reality, except for one.
I could deal with fairies and vampires and I could live with blood on my hands, so long as I could stand and proudly say, I’m MacKayla Lane, you know, from the Frye-Lanes in Ashford, Georgia? And I follow the same genetic recipe as everyone else in my family. We’re yellow cake with chocolate frosting, all of us, from great-grandparent down to the tiniest tot. I fit with them. I belong somewhere.
You have no idea how important that is, how deeply reassuring, until you lose it. All my life, up until that moment, I’d had a warm, protective blanket wrapped around me, knitted of aunts and uncles, purled of first and second and third cousins, knot-tied with grandmas and grandpas and greats.
That blanket had just dropped from my shoulders. I felt cold, lost and alone.
O’Connor, the old woman had called me. She’d said I had their skin and eyes. She’d mentioned a name, an odd name: Patrona. Was I an O’Connor? Did I have relatives somewhere in Ireland? Why hadn’t I been kept? Why had Alina and I been given up? Where had Mom and Dad gotten us? When? And how had all my talkative, chatty, gossipy aunts, uncles, and grandparents kept such a conspiracy silent? Not one of them had ever slipped. How young had we been when we were adopted? I must have barely been born, because I had no memories of any other life, nor had Alina ever mentioned a thing. Since she was two years older than me, it stood to reason she would have been the one with anachronistic recall. Or would her memories of another life and place simply have blurred into our new life and merged seamlessly over time?
I’m adopted. The thought had me whirling, rootless, in a tornado, and still that wasn’t quite the worst of it.
The part that really bit, the part that had its teeth in me and wouldn’t let go, was that the only person I knew for a fact I’d been related to was dead. My sister. Alina. My only blood relative in the world, and she was gone.
I was stricken by an awful thought: Had she known? Had she found out we were adopted and not told me? Was this one of the things she’d meant by, There are so many things I should have told you?