Page 29

 Penelope Ward

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She knows more than Allison does, in fact.
Not for long. I needed to get home and start working on that letter. I needed to pour my heart out to her, even if it’s the first and last time.
Mercury, your Ruler, goes retrograde today, Gemini, so you might be quite reflective. This presents a wonderful opportunity for great spiritual growth and deepening peace.
It had been a few days since Cedric’s revelation and I had asked for the week off from both jobs, citing a family emergency. I guess this could qualify as that.
I sat in my apartment alone listening to the sounds of children playing outside. It was Spring vacation week in Boston and the streets were filled with kids. The warm air blew through my window screen and the sounds of birds chirping helped me relax.
I have been sitting on the couch, staring at Amanda’s picture, still in disbelief. In the photo, she’s alone and leaning up against a tree. The sounds outside seem to add to the scene in the picture and I try to imagine her coming to life. In the photo, Amanda is smiling lovingly at the photographer. It was obvious who she was looking at and I still couldn’t wrap my head around it.
She was dead.
I didn’t even know she existed and she was dead. I would never know her.
But Cedric did.
Cedric knew more about my past than I did and that unnerved me.
Cedric was my sister’s boyfriend…my sister’s boyfriend. It still didn’t fully register. There is so much more I need to know. Why was he the one looking for me anyway? Did my sister even know about me before she died? I have so many questions. And why did he try to find me now?
There were so many questions left unanswered, but I wasn’t able to face him the other day a second longer once he told me the truth.
When I had first found the photo, it hadn’t even occurred to me for one second that it wasn’t me, even though I hadn’t remembered taking that picture. The shock I felt upon hearing that this was actually a photo of my twin was indescribable.
A twin.
This was like a bad Lifetime movie come true. It didn’t make sense at first, but the more I thought about it…it was certainly plausible: I never knew anything about my birth mother or the circumstances of my birth.
My mother always said she had no information either. I know that to be the truth, because my mother would have never kept something like this from me. How could the people at the adoption agency have allowed the separation of two sisters?
The ringing of the phone startled me out of my thoughts.
I picked up. “Hello?”
“Al…just checking in,” Sonia said.
Sonia would call me everyday from her nursing rotation to make sure I haven’t done anything stupid. My mental state the first twenty-four hours after Cedric’s condo encounter was not stable. Sonia had considered taking me to a doctor to get anti-anxiety meds, but I refused.
“You don’t need to call me every two hours, you know,” I said.
“Have you stopped thinking about it for even a minute?”
“Of course not…would you stop thinking about it, if you found out you had a twin? And then found out she was dead a minute later?”
“I can’t f**king imagine, Al. I can’t. I am so sorry.”
We were both silent for a bit and then I said. “I need to get out of the house. Let’s go out to dinner tonight.”
“Are you serious, Al? That would be fantastic! You really need to get your mind off of things. It’s a date.”
“Love you,” I said.
“Love you too.”
Just as I hung up the phone, it rang again and I picked up.
“Sonia…come on…this is ridiculous.”
There was a pause.
My stomach turned as I realized who it was. I didn’t respond.
“Allison? Are you there?”
“Yes,” I whispered as my heart beat rapidly.
“I’ve been so worried about you.”
“Why are you calling, Cedric?”
“I wanted to give you some space, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I need to hear your voice…to know you’re okay.”
“I’m okay, but I am not ready to talk to you.”
Cedric let out a deep breath into the phone. “Fair enough. I just needed to hear your voice, really. I still care about you, so much Allison. So much. Please don’t hate me. Please—”
I quietly hung up the phone because I was afraid of what I might say next. Tears streamed down my face. He thinks I hate him.
That was the problem. I didn’t hate him. My feelings for him were still strong and I hated myself for feeling this way.
A couple of more days passed and the funk I was in was slowly lifting.
It was seventy degrees outside and I decided to wear a delicate pink cotton sundress and take a walk.
Putting on some silver flip flop wedges and grabbing my purse, I headed out the door and breathed in the fresh mild air as a chorus of birds chirped. Days like these, I swear I could smell the scent of the sun.
I stopped at a corner store and bought something I hadn’t consumed in years…a Slush Puppy frozen drink. Sipping it fast through the tiny thin straw, I got brain freeze as I continued walking down the side streets of my neighborhood.
Two little girls holding hands skipping down the street passed me and I immediately thought of the sister I never knew. Would we have been close like that? Would she still be alive if we weren’t separated? Probably. What kind of mother separates identical twins?
My mood was darkening a bit and I decided to walk back to my apartment. As I approached my house, I dropped my drink on the sidewalk, startled to see Cedric sitting on the stairs waiting for me.
I froze as I saw him notice me and stopped about six feet short of him. His beautiful crystal blue eyes shined in the sunlight and looked like they were glowing. It pained me that he looked so goddamn handsome.
He had shaved that beard away and had just a little hair leftover on his chin. He was wearing a casual black fitted v-neck shirt and jeans and I could smell his intoxicating scent blowing toward me in the breeze.
We just stood there staring at each other. Even though I was scared, a part of me wanted him to approach me…hold me. I didn’t know exactly what this new situation meant for us, but the pull was still strong. It was probably stronger than ever because he just seemed so forbidden to me now.
He was my sister’s boyfriend.
Cedric stood up, but didn’t approach me, as I kept my distance.
“You look good, Allison.”
The sound of his voice sent shivers throughout my body.
“Why are you here, Cedric?” I asked.
“Actually, I wanted to give you this.”
He reached out a yellow envelope, prompting me to take it. Was he serving me with some legal document? What is this?
“What is it?” I asked nervously.
“It’s everything. Everything I wanted to tell you, but couldn’t…the other day.”
Finally approaching him, my hand was shaking as I took the envelope from him carefully avoiding touching his skin. Cedric stood still, never taking his eyes off mine. He seemed to be desperately searching my eyes for a clue as to what I was feeling and then said, “Promise me, you’ll read it, Allison.”
I continued staring at him, still wanting desperately for him to touch me, knowing he wouldn’t cross that line and that if he did, I would pull back.
“I will,” I finally said.
I flinched as Cedric’s hand touched my cheek and I briefly closed my eyes, relishing the brief contact before he returned his arm down and said. “Thank you.”
I walked past him up my front stairs, taking the envelope with me.
Before walking in the front door, I looked back briefly to find Cedric standing in place, with his hands in his pockets looking at me, the sun glare making him only partially visible. Then, I closed the door behind me.
It was nightfall and the yellow envelope taunted me from across the room. I wanted so badly to open it, but hadn’t yet mustered up the courage. I was truly afraid of what I might discover in it.
Prolonging the inevitable, I chose instead to daydream about the Cedric I knew before all of this happened.
I so missed the feeling of being on cloud nine and so infatuated, of being held by him and feeling safe in his arms. It was such short time in retrospect…but it was truly the best time of my life. But it wasn’t real.
I wondered how much time Amanda had with him…how close they were, whether his feelings were stronger for her than for me. I hated myself for thinking that, but I couldn’t help it. I felt sick. I knew that maybe everything I needed to know was in that letter and decided I just needed to just open it, already.
So, taking a deep breath, I stood up from the couch and walked over to the letter lying on the table.
Picking it up, I returned to the couch and rubbed my hands over the fairly large yellow envelope.
My heart thumped furiously and I opened a window to let some air in.
I took another deep breath and exhaled, opening the envelope slowly, careful not to rip the contents. Inside was a folded letter with a few pages stapled together and handwritten on heavy high quality stock paper. My chest was heaving in anticipation as I started to read it.
Dear Allison,
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this. I know it must have been a difficult decision to open this letter. It’s difficult for me to even think about you reading everything I am about to write. But I am also relieved to be able to finally tell you everything. I would say that I wished I had told you this story that first day I laid eyes on you, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I am fairly certain that if I had bombarded you with the truth about me early on, I would have never experienced what were truly the best days of my life, the weeks spent with you, as your friend and as your lover.
I have to start from the beginning. I was 21 when I met Amanda Thompson. She was a freshman and I was a senior at Northwestern. I spotted her across the room at a campus party and was immediately taken by her. She walked in and immediately fell on her ass after she slipped on the floor that was wet from the keg. I started cracking up and she walked over to me to kick my ass and the rest was history. She was beautiful in a natural way and easy to talk to. I dated a lot in those days and it was rare that one girl kept my attention for longer than a week. But Amanda was different. I was a bit of a jackass back then, but she didn’t seem to be scared away by that persona. She was smart enough to see it was a persona. I was a kid with a tough exterior from the streets of Boston. She was a sheltered Daddy’s girl from the suburbs. But Amanda seemed to be able to peel through the fake layers I had built up and had a way of making me want to open up about the real me…my insecurities and fears, my hopes and dreams.
She was young, only seventeen when I met her. I was her first real boyfriend. I got to know her parents, Ed and Elaine pretty well during that time and they were pretty cool with everything, as long as I didn’t spend the night in her room and vice versa. She lived at home and I lived on campus, so sometimes I would go over to her parent’s house for dinner. Ed and Elaine had adopted Amanda as a newborn and she was their only child. They treated her like a princess because they were so happy to have her since they couldn’t have kids of their own. She even looked a little like Elaine.
We dated for almost a year. I was her first. Up until the end, it was the first time in my life that I had never cheated on a girlfriend. She would tell me that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me. I told her I loved her, but truthfully I had my doubts about making a lifelong commitment so young. I was getting ready to graduate and possibly move away and she was just starting college. But Amanda didn’t care about all that. She just wanted to be with me. That wasn’t enough for me, Allison. What came next is the hard part of my story.
One night Amanda came to my dorm after I had ignored her calls that day. She caught me kissing another girl. It hadn’t gotten as far as anything further and probably wouldn’t have, but I had lost control of myself in the days leading up to that. I was probably going to end things for her own good, but never expected her to see what she walked in on. She was devastated, Allison and the second I saw the look on her face, I was devastated too. I knew then and there that I cared so much about this person. I felt like I had hurt my best friend and I had.
Amanda ran out of my room that night and drove off. She was upset and probably driving erratically. That was the night of the car accident that eventually killed her. I am so sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, Allison. I still to this day feel some of the blame for what happened, most of the blame, actually. Your sister was so strong. She fought for her life for many days in and out of a coma.
What I need you to know is that shortly before Amanda died, Ed and Elaine told her about you. They didn’t know your name or where you were living, but Elaine had gotten information from a friend at the adoption agency years before, that there had been a twin born to the anonymous birth mother who had you and Amanda. Other than that, Elaine only knew that your Mom was a fifteen-year-old drug addict. Amanda’s parents decided to tell her about you after she turned eighteen and vowed to help find you if that was what she wanted.
On her hospital bed on the day she died, her last words to me were to ask me to find you. She said ‘find my sister.’
I had a really hard time after Amanda died. I blamed myself and Caleb actually came and stayed with me for several weeks. I never even told my mother about anything that happened there or the truth about you until a few days ago.
There is one other upsetting thing that I need to tell you. It’s really why I think I have been so afraid to tell you the truth. It’s the one part of my past I am most ashamed of and it’s very difficult for me to talk about even to this day. But I want to tell you everything. When Amanda was in the hospital, the doctors had discovered she had been pregnant at the time of the accident and lost the baby. It was my baby, Allison. Amanda had not yet told me and I don’t even know if she knew. She told me she was on the pill and I trusted that I couldn’t get her pregnant. I still struggle with whether she knew or not when she caught me that night, whether that’s why she had been calling me a lot that day. And more than that, I struggle with the fact that I helped cause an accident that also killed my own child. I know that it is probably very difficult for you to hear this and I am sorry to have to tell you that about me.