Frayed Page 69

She finally breaks the silence. ’’I went to the cemetery yesterday and saw the seashells you put on Mom\s gravestone.’’ I glance over at her. ’’Yeah, I\ve been thinking about her a lot lately.’’

She takes a deep breath and inhales the fresh sea air. ’’Me too.’’

’’I\m sure she must miss the beach.’’

She nods.

I stare out into the distance and catch sight of a sailboat going by. I point to it. ’’Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you could go back and change things?’’

She bends down in the sand to pick up a seashell. ’’No, I don\ . There\s no sense in doing that.’’

’’Sometimes I do. I think it\s the littlest things that could make the biggest changes.’’

She makes a face of contemplation but doesn\ answer. We walk for a bit and then I decide to just tell her. ’’I started seeing S\elle while you were gone,’’ I blurt out.

She stops to pick up another shell and when she rises she hands it to me. ’’That doesn\ surprise me.’’

Brushing the sand from it, I examine its beauty and think about its uniqueness. No two seashells are ever the same. I look at my sister. ’’She told me something yesterday that caught me completely off guard.’’

’’Would you like to tell me what it was?’’

I\ve gone over in my mind who must know about the baby. I\m guessing S\elle\s family and more than likely Dahlia. What I\m not certain about is if Dahlia would have told Serena. I turn toward her. ’’Did you know about the baby?’’

Her eyes widen. A look of shock crosses her face. ’’Do I know about what baby?’’

I toss the shell I\m holding into the ocean and watch it hit the water.

She grabs my arms. ’’What are you talking about, Ben?’’

I feel my throat tightening. ’’My baby.’’

She stares in disbelief, her mouth open. ’’Your your ba-a-b-b-by?’’ she stutters.

I nod. ’’S\elle, Bell, I mean, got pregnant that night I spent with her in college. She had the baby and gave it up for adoption.’’

My sister\s hand flies to her mouth.

’’Yeah, I was a little shocked too.’’ I try to keep the edge off my sarcasm.

’’Let\s sit down,’’ she whispers, walking toward the rocks and choosing one. I sit beside her and bend to sift the sand with my fingers.

’’How do you feel about it?’’

’’How do you think I feel?’’

’’You\ e upset?’’ she asks.

’’F*k yes, I\m upset. There\s been a kid out there in the world for the past six years that\s mine and I never knew he or she existed until yesterday.’’

She takes my hand. ’’What did she say?’’

’’She told me she gave birth on St. Patrick\s Day and gave the baby away.’’

She looks at me for the longest time. ’’Are you sure it was yours?’’

’’Yes, I mean no,’’ I stammer.

’’But she told you it was?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’And you believe her?’’

’’I have no reason to think she\d lie about that. What would be the purpose now?’’

She nods, agreeing. ’’What else did she say?’’

’’She said she didn\ want to tell me. She wanted to leave the past in the past.’’

’’Why didn\ she tell you before?’’

’’She said she tried to contact me, but I didn\ call her back.’’

’’Did she?’’

’’Serena, come on. Yeah, she called me, but . . .’’ I stop, not really sure what the but is. That she didn\ try hard enough, try often enough?

’’Where did you leave it?’’

I drop her hand and cradle my head. ’’Nowhere. I left her standing there. I was so f**king pissed. I had a right to know.’’ I glance over at her. ’’I had a right to know.’’

’’Yes, you did, but put yourself in her place. You were with someone else. She was young and I\m sure she was scared. It must have been hard for her. Shit, it was hard for me when I found out I was pregnant. I was twenty and scared shitless scared to tell Jason, scared to tell Mom, and so scared to have a baby.’’

’’Yeah, but you had him. And you kept him . . . .’’ My voice trails off.

’’Yes, but my circumstances were different. I was with Jason. He was there to help me through all my doubts.’’

I run my hands through my hair. ’’Are you defending her?’’

She gives me a stern look. ’’No. I\m not. I just think maybe you should think a little more about her and a little less about yourself.’’

CHAPTER 22

Burn

Bell

Guilt chased me for years. Guilt for pursuing a guy that belonged to someone else, guilt for asking a friend to drive me home from a bar and being oblivious of her drunken state, guilt for giving up my baby. It was a domino effect I chased someone I shouldn\ have and wound up pregnant. When I found out, I couldn\ wait to tell him in hopes he might be as thrilled as I was and that it might change things between us. But in my haste to get home to meet him, one of my friends died, and the guilt was more than I could stand. How could I raise a child? I was irresponsible and incapable I was sure of that. And with that realization came the certainty that someone else could give my baby the life I knew I couldn\ .

I never blamed anyone for my actions but myself not my dead father, not my mother, not my brothers, and not any former lover. I just swam in my own self-condemnation. It hung around the fringes of my very existence. For years, it teased me, taunted me. It haunted me to the point that it almost dragged me under. But then something happened, something that made me realize I could let it go. That something was a friendship with a very special person Dahlia London. Her kindness and understanding helped me see through my pain and made me understand it was okay to move on. With her support and that of my family, I finally found direction in my life. I stopped flailing and decided it was time to grow up.


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