Frayed Page 68

When I\m finished baring my soul, Ruby asks, ’’Do you know if it was an open or a closed adoption.’’

My eyes rise to hers. ’’I have no idea. What does it matter?’’

’’An open adoption usually has an option of contact.’’

I shoot her a quizzical look.

’’I\m adopted. I\ve known since I was six years old, but my adoption was closed.’’

’’Your parents told you when you were young,’’ I comment.

’’Yes, they didn\ want me to feel any less loved and I didn\ . In fact, I grew up feeling extremely special. But a part of me wanted to know who my birth parents were. I went through the whole nature-nurture debate in my mind and when I turned eighteen I paid a woman five hundred dollars to locate my biological parents. She wasn\ able to find my birth father, but she gave me the address and phone number of my birth mother.’’

’’Why couldn\ she locate your birth father?’’

’’His name wasn\ recorded on the birth certificate.’’

With my elbows on the table, I steeple my hands together and then look over toward Ruby. ’’Did you contact your birth mother? Did she tell you who he was?’’

She shakes her head. ’’I love my parents my adoptive parents, and once I had that piece of paper in my hand, I decided I didn\ need to know.’’

Beck stands, lifting his empty cup. He looks down at Ruby. ’’We should go.’’

She glances up at him and nods. She rises and shifts her eyes to me. ’’Ben, if you ever want to talk, call me.’’

I walk them to the door and Beck leans over toward me. ’’You call me first the next time you feel the need to go to my bar. You know I\m always here to talk.’’

I nod sincerely, shooting him an appreciative glance.

Staring at them as they walk to their car, I think about what Ruby said. Then I stand there wondering if someday in the future I\ll be sitting across from a person with a piece of paper in her hand with my name on it.

•••

He runs down the stairs with a football tucked under his arm. He\s wearing a Chicago Bears football helmet and a blue jersey that\s too big for him. It looks so familiar.

’’Hey, champ, slow down,’’ I call as he hurtles past me.

’’Daddy, Daddy, I did it,’’ he says as he comes to a stop next to me.

I look down at his flushed face and brush his blond hair from his eyes. ’’What did you do, champ?’’

’’I roared. I roared,’’ he says with a gleam in his eye.

With a huge grin on my face, I bend down to pick him up. ’’You scored, little lion, you scored.’’

The little boy\s laughter morphs into mine. His eyes look just like mine. His voice sounds like mine. Then all of a sudden, I become my father and the little boy becomes me.

F*k, I wake up with sweat pouring from my brow. I look out into the ocean in an attempt to calm down. I couldn\ sleep, so I moved out to the deck early this morning to listen to the sound of the water crashing against the rocks.

’’Ben?’’ a voice calls from somewhere below me.

My head thunders in pain as I quickly sit up in the lounge chair and look into the sky, assessing the time. The sun is overhead. Looks to be around noon.

’’Ben?’’ the voice says again.

’’Up here, Serena.’’

I can hear the thumping of her sneakers against the weathered wood of the stairs and I see her dirty blond hair, much shorter than the last time I saw her, blowing in the wind. ’’Are you ignoring my calls?’’ she asks, taking the last step.

I shade my eyes with my hand. ’’No, I just have a lot going on. You cut your hair?’’

She looks down at me in the lounge chair. ’’Yes, I did, and don\ change the subject. Do the words let\s have lunch tomorrow ring a bell?’’

I throw my head back against the chaise. ’’Sorry.’’ I grimace. ’’Your hair looks nice.’’

She kicks my leg off the lounge. ’’Thanks. Now come on, let\s go for a walk.’’

I stare at her a beat, but don\ move. ’’Could you turn the volume down a notch?’’

Her eyes widen in disbelief. ’’Are you hungover?’’

I slowly sit back up, still squinting to see her through the brightness of the sun. My head feels as if someone is pounding a hammer right in the middle of it. ’’Yeah.’’

’’Get up. I\m not leaving until you talk to me.’’ There\s an angry edge to her voice.

I shake my head and another crack of thunder explodes inside it.

She stretches out her hand with disappointment more than evident on her face. ’’Come on.’’

’’Let me brush my teeth first at least.’’

She crosses to the glass doors. ’’I\ll make us a cup of coffee.’’

’’Thanks.’’ I grimace as I stand.

Water gushes from the faucet as I try to scrub last\s night drunken encounter from my mouth. I hop in the shower, hoping that will make me feel better. When I head to the kitchen the smell of freshly brewed coffee assaults me, turning my stomach. I\ll pass on a cup this morning.

My sister rinses her empty cup and places it in the sink. She turns around. ’’Are you drinking again?’’

’’No, not really. I needed a release, so I went out last night.’’

Her eyes glisten with tears.

’’Serena, I\m doing okay. I\m not going down that road again. I promise.’’

’’I hope not,’’ she says, handing me a coffee and heading for the door.

I take a gulp and follow her. The heat burns my tongue and I leave the cup on the deck, taking two steps at a time to catch up with her. We walk the beach for a long while without conversation until she turns to look at me.


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