Being adopted doesn’t totally suck…not when you have a great mom and dad like I did. I had never wanted to know who my birth parents were. I don’t know that I would have ever wanted to know even as a teenager or an adult if my adopted parents had lived.
If. I hate that word so much. If they had lived. If I didn’t look exactly like my birth father except for my hair. If it wasn’t obvious that I have the same hair as my aunt Kindra, my cousins Sophia and Kenny and my grandmother Dilly! If, if, if!
I looked at my face in the mirror and tried to picture the man from my birthday party. Jack Osborne. I remembered his name. He had blonde hair. Mine was red—just like Kindra’s (I would NOT call her mom!). But my nose? My cheek bones? My eyes. The eyes were really what gave it away. I thought about the look I’d seen on the man’s face yesterday. I figured out what it was. He looked familiar. He looked like me.
I ignored Kindra and Caleb the morning after my birthday party. I didn’t come downstairs for breakfast until nearly 8am, so that I would have barely enough time to drink a juice and run off to school. I escaped any conversation we might have had about what had happened at my party. I didn’t want to ask questions or hear answers. I just wanted to be left alone.
But at school I was not left alone. The paparazzi hung around all day. I didn’t get on the bus after school, hoping that I could avoid them. I stayed in the building until almost 4pm when I was kicked out by the principal, my mom’s replacement. Then I did my homework outside. I thought the coast was clear, but as I was finishing my last story problem, one of the nasty little parasites popped out from behind a pillar and started grilling me. I told him to buzz off and I ran off down the street.
I found myself at my aunt Sam’s house. I knocked on the door and was really relieved to see that she was home. I hadn’t even realized I wanted to talk to her until she opened the door.
“Charlie!” she exclaimed when she saw me. “Are you here to see Emma and Shelby?”
“No, actually. I was hoping I could talk to you. I wasn’t sure if you had to work tonight.”
“No. Come in,” she said. Then she led me to the couch in her living room.
“You must have a lot on your mind, Charlie.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to go home. I don’t want to face…her.”
Sam looked disappointed in me, which reminded me of mom so much that I nearly burst into tears. My mom would have hated how I was acting. She probably would have told me that Kindra had a good reason for what she did, which is exactly what Sam said next.
“What reason would you have to give up a baby?” I asked. “She was an adult. She could have kept me.”
“Ah, but then you wouldn’t have had the mother that you did.”
“I know!” and I felt horrible for all the things I was saying. I loved my mom and dad. I missed them every day. Why did I feel so betrayed by Kindra, the woman who had given birth to me.
“Charlie. Kindra was young. She was just starting a new job in Bridgeport where everything was very expensive. She also knew that Mina had wanted a child forever and couldn’t have one. Kindra could have raised you, that’s true, but your life would have been different—harder. Her life would have been harder. And worst of all, Mina wouldn’t have ever had a baby to love.
“Those were all of the reasons that my sister—both of them—did what she did.”
“I know. I know. I should be grateful, but I can’t help but feel betrayed. Why did she come back here after mom died and become my guardian? Why didn’t she ever say anything? She could have told me and explained…or something!”
“I don’t know why Kindra did that. You’ll have to ask her that yourself.” Sam looked at me gravely. “You need to talk to her about it, Charlie. Listen to what she says with an open heart and an open mind. Before you found out, did you think that Kindra loved you?”
“Do you think she feels differently now?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Go talk to her.”
I looked down at my shoes. There was still something on my mind. Something I hadn’t asked my aunt Sam yet. Finally, I looked up at her. “Did you know about him? Jack Osborne?”
“Did he know about me?”
“Why?” That was the thing that really bothered me. Why would Jack Osborne not know about me? Would he have given me up? Not that I didn’t think my dad, Kris, was a great guy, but I couldn’t help but be curious about Jack.
“You need to talk to Kindra,” was all that Sam said.
And so I did. And it didn’t go very well. First she got all upset since I hadn’t come home from school right away and I hadn’t called.
“We were worried! If Samantha hadn’t called me, I would have been calling the hospital and the cops!”
“I just needed space,” I mumbled. “I didn’t mean to worry you. I just needed time to understand what was going on.”
Kindra looked really sad. She seemed ready to cry. “I know. I’m so sorry you found out like that.”
“How was I supposed to find out?!” I demanded. If it had been up to her I would never have found out.
I shoved away from the table and tried to get out of the room. Suddenly, I didn’t want the answers. I needed to get upstairs, but Kindra stepped in front of me and blocked my path.
“Why? So you tell me how you were doing what was best for me?”
“Actually, yes. That’s what I was trying to do.”
I glared at her. “Why?”
“I wasn’t married, not that a lot of girls don’t raise kids by themselves. But I was moving to a new city, too, and starting a new job,” she tried to explain.
“Don’t they have kids in the cities?” It was a belligerent question and I knew it. I could feel my mother’s spirit looking down on me in disappointment. She would have shaken her head at me and told me to be polite.
“What should I have done, Charlie?” Kindra asked me, clearly exasperated. “I was scared, alone, and really not ready to be a mother. I didn’t want kids ever, at the time. I thought all I needed was my work.”
“That’s just dumb. “ I said, cruelly. “My mom told me that family was the most important thing. She was your sister; she said your parents always said that. Didn’t you learn it, too?”
“Your mom was right,” Kindra said, and I realized that we were both referring to Mina.
Kindra laughed a little sheepishly. “Actually, it took me awhile to learn that lesson. I had to come back here to learn it, actually.”
“A job is just a job,” I said. “You could have made everything work out, probably, but you didn’t even try.”
Kindra shook her head. “Actually, I did try. I didn’t want you to have a terrible life. I wanted you to be loved and cared for.”
I snorted in disbelief—another thing my mom would have been upset by. She always told me to keep an open mind and listen when people are talking. She said that you should make judgments only after you knew all the facts.
Kindra looked at me in disappointment, as if I was a child who hadn’t learned his lessons. “Charlie, did you love Mina? Wasn’t she a terrific mom for you?”
“Yeah. I still love her,” I started to cry, struck once again by the grief of losing my parents. I took my anger, grief and frustration out on Kindra. “She’s my real mom, not you!”
“That’s true.” Her acceptance of my statement startled me. I looked up at her, confused.
“Mina was your true mother, Charlie. I just gave birth to you,” she said, reaching out to touch my shoulder. “I love you. I love you more than you really can know, but Mina was your mom. She loved you just like a mom is supposed to. Kris, too. He was your real dad. He loved you just like a dad’s supposed to.”
And that’s when I really lost it. The grief and loss crashed over me like a wave. Kindra knew why I was upset. It wasn’t because I didn’t think she had loved me enough to keep me as a baby. It was because I was afraid that my mom hadn’t loved me since I wasn’t really her son. And since she was gone, I couldn’t go to her for reassurance of that love.
I won’t say that I felt great about all that had happened, but that night when I went to bed, I felt more at peace than I had in a long time. My mom had loved me. Kindra loved me, too. I was no longer feeling like I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was Charlie Fields, son of Mina and Kris Fields.
Of course, nothing is ever easy, right? Even though I felt a lot better, I still couldn’t get over Jack Osborne coming to my birthday party. What was he like? Would he have wanted to keep me and raise me if Kindra hadn’t given me to her sister?
Kindra didn’t tell me a lot about Jack. She just said they’d met at work and had had a relationship. She told me that Jack wouldn’t have made a good father, but she also admitted that he hadn’t known that he was one because she hadn’t told him.
She refused to tell me much more about Jack because she said their relationship hadn’t ended well.
But I couldn’t get him out of my head. I confided in my cousins. “I think I’d like to meet him,” I told them.
“That’s cool. Are you just going to go up to his house and, like, ring the doorbell?” Emma asked.
“No stupid!” Shelby said. “Charlie needs to come up with a plan…like, some way to get Jack Osborne alone so they can talk. Otherwise the stupid paparazzi will be, like, all over them.”
“Totally. Like, we have to come up with something.”
And my cousins worked it all out so that I could meet Jack without the paparazzi spying on us. The plan was that I was to take one of those work-study seminars where you get to go into a business and work for a day and then write about it. I’d work in Jack’s office. The only thing was that I had to do it on a day when Kindra was not in the office. Otherwise she’d want to know why I wasn’t doing my work-study with her. Also, she knew that I wasn’t into business, so she would have asked a lot of questions anyway.
“Leave it to me,” Shelby said. “Like, Mr. Peters is in charge of the work-study program, and like I’m his TA during 2nd period. I file all the paperwork and make sure everything is, like, all set. It’ll be easy.”
“I’ll call aunt Kindra and, like, find out when her next day off is. I’ll tell her I’m going to do a work-study and I want to make sure that I get her instead of, like, anyone else,” Emma said.
“Totally! She’ll go for it and I’ll arrange your paperwork, too. You’ll, like, have to actually do the work-study, though,” Shelby said to her sister.
“No prob!” I think Emma actually looked excited about job shadowing Kindra. I didn’t think a sporty girl like her would even like business. I sure didn’t, but meeting Jack Osborne would make the job shadowing worth it.