Page 28

 Penelope Ward

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Groggily, she looked over at me and said nothing. Did she know what happened…why she was here?
I ran out of the room and called a nurse. The nurse came in and verified that what was happening was normal, that Amanda would wake up from time to time, but may not be aware of her surroundings. By the time the nurse and I made it back to the room though, Amanda looked fast asleep again.
I let her mother go in again and waited anxiously in the hallway.
After about an hour, I was able to go back in her room. Amanda had not opened her eyes since the last time and I hoped and prayed she would wake up again.
The next day, something amazing happened. Amanda opened her eyes and said ‘Mom.’
A couple of more days passed and Amanda was slowly regaining the ability to talk. Her physical condition, though, according to the doctors was still serious. Amanda had a lot of internal bleeding at the time of the accident and may have suffered some irreversible organ damage.
She acknowledged me only one time and it was the most precious couple of minutes of my life.
“Oh my God…Hi, baby…I am here. I am here!” I said.
“Love you,” she whispered.
“I love you too, baby,” I cried through tears.
“Cedric—help me.”
“Help you, baby? Help you get better?” I asked, sobbing now.
“Ye—yes. Help me…fi—
“It’s ok, baby. Don’t force yourself to talk.”
Amanda struggled to get the words out, then said, “Fi…Fi…Find…my sister.”
“Your sister? Baby…your sister…is that what you said?”
Amanda looked like she was going to cry, nodded and then closed her eyes, dozing off.
Help her find her sister? That made no sense. I wonder if she was delusional from all the meds. My poor Amanda.
When I left her to sleep and joined Ed and Elaine in the cafeteria, I relayed what I thought she said to Ed and Elaine.
The way that Amanda’s parents looked at each other showed me there was something to what she said.
Ed coughed nervously and asked, “Cedric…did Amanda say anything to you about her some news she received back in December?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Did she tell you what we told her one night?”
I looked down and strained my eyes trying to remember what she told me.
“She said there was something you told her, that she was angry with you, but that she wasn’t ready to think about it and talk about it and I was cool with that. I knew it had something to do with her adoption, but she never said anything again after the first time she mentioned it to me and I didn’t push it.”
Elaine closed her eyes and nodded. “Yes, yes, it did have something to do with her adoption.”
“Why was she asking for her sister in there? She has a sister?”
Ed put his hand on Elaine’s shoulder, looked at me and said, “Because, Cedric. Amanda was an identical twin. She had a sister born five minutes after she was.”
I was floored. There was another half of Amanda out there somewhere?
Holy Shit.
Elaine continued, “The adoption agency only told us that the birth mother was having a girl. A woman in Boston had apparently been promised the other girl. Both sets of adoptive parents were told that the mother was having only one girl. Legally, the babies were bound to the respective parents and since both were closed adoptions, there was no information given to us about the other child. The birth mother was a fifteen-year-old drug addict. I knew someone at the adoption agency who leaked this information to me years after Amanda was born, but we chose to keep it a secret until she turned eighteen when we would then tell her, because we felt she had a right to know.”
Elaine grabbed a tissue from her purse and wiped her eyes, then continued, “We just didn’t want to turn her world upside down when the other mother and child had no idea Amanda even existed. We don’t have much information on the sister, unfortunately, but promised Amanda that if she wanted, we would look into trying to find her. We don’t even have her name.”
I sighed in shock at what they just told me. How had Amanda kept this news from me these past few months?
Elaine wiped her eyes again. “She had dropped the subject recently and we thought maybe she was having doubts about finding her. But Cedric, clearly, if she called out to you asking to find her sister, our poor daughter is tormented. My poor baby.” Elaine began to cry uncontrollably now, as Ed comforted her.
I decided in that moment that I would do whatever it took to grant Amanda her wish to find her sister. I had no clue how I was going to do that, but I knew I owed it to her after all of the damage I had done. I couldn’t wait for her to wake up fully, so I could tell her myself and we could work together to find her. Maybe take a trip to Boston.
That night, Amanda died.
Present Day
“What in God’s name happened to you?” Allison’s roommate Sonia asked as she arrived at the doorstep of my condo, staring me up and down, clearly amazed by my bearded transformation.
“Come in,” I said somberly, pointing my head in Allison’s direction.
Allison was sitting on my couch with her head in her hands, rubbing her temples, refusing to speak to me. I had grabbed her phone earlier before I started really trying to explain everything, pulled up Sonia’s name in the contacts and texted her my address to come pick up Allison immediately at my place without further explanation. Knowing Allison wouldn’t have been in any condition to leave here on her own, I wanted to make sure someone could accompany her home.
Sonia arrived faster than I expected, since someone drove her here and she was apparently already close by at a bar in Kenmore Square when she got my text. That had given me under fifteen minutes to try and explain everything before Sonia got here.
Allison had sat in silent shock as I nervously told her bits and pieces of the truth. I wasn’t expecting to face this today and was unprepared, to say the least. I wasn’t quite sure if she even understood me clearly. She wasn’t saying anything and I was really worried about her state of mind.
I got far enough to tell her that the girl in the picture she was holding was named Amanda, that she was her twin sister and they were separated at birth, that Amanda was my college girlfriend and that Amanda died in an accident.
But there were so many holes in my story and I couldn’t seem to articulate it all from the beginning to end.
She wasn’t responding coherently to me or asking any questions. She just kept shaking her head in disbelief and wouldn’t say anything when I demanded that she talk to me.
Before I could fully explain the role I played in finding her, Sonia knocked on the door. When I opened it, she burst in.
“Al…are you alright?” Sonia asked as she made her way over to Allison.
Allison shook her head no, her eyes red. She was clearly still in shock and my heart was breaking not being able to comfort her. I knew I was the last person she wanted near her, so I kept my distance standing across the room, still dressed in my robe since I had been unable to change in the time since Allison came here so unexpectedly.
Sonia was glaring at me and rubbing Allison’s back and after a minute, Allison then managed to look at Sonia and say hoarsely, “Let’s go.”
Just as Allison stood up to leave, Sonia stopped her.
“Wait…what the hell is going on here? You two weren’t even together, so you couldn’t have broken up…what in the bloody hell happened? She looked to me. “Cedric? What’s so bad that you thought Allison couldn’t manage to take herself home safely?”
Neither Allison nor I said anything.
Sonia looked back and forth at us. “No one is going to tell me what the hell is going on?”
A tear ran down Allison’s face and my fists clenched from not being able to wipe it from her cheek.
This moment was one of the worst of my entire life.
I cleared my throat and forced myself to say something.
“Sonia, Allison may not want to say anything right now. She’s in shock because I just gave her some devastating news. When she is ready, she’ll tell you.”
I looked over at Allison, noticing that for the first time gave me a rare bit of eye contact in return.
“And…Allison, when you’re ready, I need to explain more to you. I am so sorry I kept this from you all this time, but when you’re ready to hear it, I’ll try to explain why I did what I did,” I said.
I knew she was in no condition to hear anything more from me tonight. I had done enough damage for one day.
“I am not sure I can believe anything you have to say,” Allison said as she got up and suddenly opened the front door and walked out in tears.
Sonia followed and looked back at me from the hallway as Allison raced ahead of her. “Good going, asshole.”
Her words didn’t penetrate. She could have shot me in the chest at that moment and it might not have mattered.
About a half hour passed and I needed to do something. I hadn’t moved from the same spot I was standing in when she left. I got out my phone and texted her.
Allison, please don’t be scared of me. I have so much more I need to tell you. I know you’re not ready to talk to me. It was never my intention to keep this from you for so long. Please, let me know when you are ready and I promise to explain everything, if you’ll hear me out.
She never responded and I hadn’t expected her to. As sick as I felt seeing her leave like that, an eerie bittersweet calm came over me that night as I realized that everything I feared had finally happened and it couldn’t get any worse from here.
The dread of this day had been eating away at me for months and now, for better or worse, the secret was out. Granted, I hadn’t gotten to explain it to her the way I anticipated, but the main facts were out. She would need time to process everything before I would stand a chance of talking to her again and I had to accept that.
The next day, trumpets sounded because…I shaved. It was definitely a longtime coming.
Something else that was a longtime coming happened: I finally confessed everything to my mother and she cried more than I had ever seen in my entire life, telling me that she always felt something was off with me during those months, years ago when Caleb moved out to Chicago to stay with me. She had wrongly suspected it was drugs and that Caleb was keeping it secret. But of course, at the time, both of us denied that there had been anything wrong.
“Cedric, honey…why did you feel like you couldn’t tell me all of this? All of these years you were keeping the fact that your first love died, from me and Dad?”
“I was ashamed. There are so many parts to what happened that I felt would devastate you back then, given how hard things were with Callie on top of things at that time. I am so sorry, Ma.”
My mother and I held each other tight as Callie’s iPad made noises next to us in the living room.
“Cedric, this is all so hard to believe. How am I supposed to handle seeing Allison now…if she comes back to work? That poor girl must be so shocked and confused. Tell me again, why you never told her the truth about her sister that very first day?”
I ran my hands through my hair, took in a deep breath and exhaled. “That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? I wouldn’t be here in this predicament right now if I had done that, that’s for sure. Mom. That’s something I can’t explain to you. She just had me under a spell from the moment I first laid eyes on her and I didn’t want it to end. It sounds cliché, but I really think I experienced love at first sight. I wanted to be with her and wanted her to see me for me. I knew it would have ended the second I told her the truth. I was selfish, I know.”
My mother pulled me in for a hug. “Selfish, yes, but I know you didn’t mean to hurt her.”
“No, Mom…no, that’s the last thing I wanted, believe me.”
“I think you need to write her a letter, son.”
“A letter?”
“Yes. She is not going to want to face you for a while, honey. And you won’t be able to explain it the way you want to in person. There’s too much to the story and from what you told me, you really didn’t do a good job of articulating everything to her face to face.”
“No, I didn’t. I froze,” I said.
“Exactly. So, I want you to stay here with us today. Have a nice dinner, spend time with your sister, and clear your head. Then, I want you to go home and sit down and focus on what you need to say to her. Can you do that?”
“I don’t think I have a choice.”
“No, you don’t.”
That night, I spent a calm evening with my mother and sister, grateful to have such a wonderful family.
After an early dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and a couple of glasses of red wine, I felt more relaxed and took Callie for a walk around the neighborhood. Holding my sister’s hand, I felt for the first time like everything would somehow turn out okay. A lot of that had to do with the weight that was lifted after telling my mother.
At one point, Callie, stopped and was pulling me to go across the street.
“No, Callie, this way,” I said.
Callie was pulling me harder toward the street.
“Allison,” she said.
My heart pounded when I heard her say the name and then I realized Callie was pointing to a girl walking across the street with long dark hair. I soon realized it wasn’t Allison, but just the few seconds I thought it might be her, were enough to show me how intense it would be when I laid eyes on her again.
Would she even show up here to work with Callie next week? I don’t know how she could. If she does, at least my mother knows everything now.