“Definitely.” I gave him a plastic smile.
He started to lean out the window, and I walked closer to him so I’d be able to shut the window behind him. Then he stopped and turned to look at me. He felt dangerously close, his eyes full of something smoldering just below the surface.
When he looked at me like that, he took all the air from my lungs, and I wondered if this was how Patrick felt when I persuaded him.
“I almost forgot,” Finn said softly, his face so close to mine I could feel his breath on my cheeks. “You looked really beautiful tonight.” He stayed that way a moment longer, completely captivating me, then he turned abruptly and climbed out the window.
I stood there, barely remembering to breathe, as I watched him grab a branch of the tree next to my house and swing down to the ground. A cool breeze fluttered in, so I closed the window and pulled my curtains shut tightly.
Feeling dazed, I staggered back to my bed and collapsed on it. I had never felt more bewildered in my entire life.
I barely got any sleep. What little I had was filled with dreams of little green trolls coming to take me away. I lay in bed for a while after I woke up. Everything felt muddled and confusing.
I couldn’t let myself believe that anything Finn had said made sense, but I couldn’t discount how badly I wanted it to be true. I had never felt like I belonged anywhere. Until recently, Matt had been the only person I ever felt any connection with.
Lying in bed at six-thirty in the morning, I could hear the morning birds chirping loudly outside my window. Quietly, I got up and crept downstairs. I didn’t want to wake Matt and Maggie this early. Matt got up early every school day to make sure I didn’t oversleep and then drove me to school, so this was his only time to sleep in.
For some reason, I felt desperate to find something to prove we were family. All my life I had been trying to prove the opposite, but as soon as Finn had mentioned that it might be a real possibility, I felt oddly protective.
Matt and Maggie had sacrificed everything for me. I had never been that good to either of them, yet they still loved me unconditionally. Wasn’t that evidence enough?
I crouched on the floor next to one of the cardboard boxes in the living room. The word “memorabilia” was scrawled across it in Maggie’s pretty cursive.
Underneath Matt’s and Maggie’s diplomas and lots of Matt’s graduation pictures, I found several photo albums. Based on the covers, I could tell which ones had been Maggie’s purchases. Maggie picked albums covered in flowers and polka dots and happy things.
My mother only had one, and it was adorned with a faded brown, nondescript cover. There was also a damaged blue baby book. Carefully, I pulled it out, along with my mom’s photo album.
My baby book had been blue because all the ultrasounds had said I was a boy. Tucked in the back of the book there was even a cracked ultrasound photo where the doctor had circled what they had incorrectly assumed was my penis.
Most families would have made some kind of joke about that, but not mine. My mother had just looked at me with disdain and said, “You were supposed to be a boy.”
Most mothers start out filling the beginning of a baby book, but then forget as time goes on. Not mine. She’d never written a thing in it. The handwriting was either my father’s or Maggie’s.
My footprints were in there, along with my measurements and a copy of my birth certificate. I touched it delicately, proving that my birth was real and tangible. I had been born into this family, whether my mother liked it or not.
“What are you doing, kiddo?” Maggie asked softly from behind me, and I jumped a little. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” Wrapped in her house coat, Maggie yawned and ran a hand through her sleep-disheveled hair.
“It’s okay.” I tried to cover up my baby book, feeling as if I had been caught doing something naughty. “What are you doing up?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” Maggie replied with a smile. She sat down on the floor next to me, leaning against the back of the couch. “I heard you get up.” She nodded at the pile of photo albums on my lap. “You feeling nostalgic?”
“I don’t know, really.”
“What are you looking at?” Maggie leaned over so she could peer at the photo album. “Oh, that’s an old one. You were just a baby then.”
I flipped open the book and it went chronologically, so the first few pages were of Matt when he was little. Maggie looked at it with me, making clucking sounds at my dad. She gently touched his picture once and commented on how handsome her brother was.
Even though everyone agreed that my father had been a good guy, we rarely talked about him. It was our way of not talking about my mother and not talking about what had happened. Nothing before my sixth birthday mattered, and that just happened to include every memory of Dad.
Most of the pictures in the album were of Matt, and there were many with my mother, my dad, and Matt looking ridiculously happy. All three of them had blond hair and blue eyes. They looked like something out of a Hallmark commercial.
Toward the end of the book, everything changed. As soon as pictures of me started to appear, my mother began looking surly and sullen. In the very first picture, I was only a few days old. I wore an outfit with blue trains all over it, and my mother glared at me.
“You were such a cute baby!” Maggie laughed. “But I remember that. You wore boys’ clothes for the first month because they were so sure you were going to be a boy.”
“That explains a lot,” I mumbled, and Maggie laughed. “Why didn’t they just get me new clothes? They had the money for it.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Maggie sighed, looking faraway. “It was something your mother wanted.” She shook her head. “She was weird about things.”
“What was my name supposed to be?”
“Um . . .” Maggie snapped her fingers when she remembered. “Michael! Michael Conrad Everly. But then you were a girl, so that ruined that.”
“How did they get Wendy from that?” I wrinkled my nose. “Michelle would make more sense.”
“Well . . .” Maggie looked up at the ceiling, thinking. “Your mother refused to name you, and your father . . . I guess he couldn’t think of anything. So Matt named you.”
“Oh, yeah.” I faintly remembered hearing that before. “But why Wendy?”
“He liked the name Wendy.” Maggie shrugged. “He was a big Peter Pan fan, which is ironic because Peter Pan is the story of a boy who never grows up, and Matt was a boy who was always grown up.” I smirked at that. “Maybe that’s why he’s always been so protective of you. He named you. You were his.”