Last night at dinner, while the three of us were sitting at the dinner table feasting on Mother’s Tarragon Poached Salmon, my parents informed me of their joint decision to work on and resuscitate their dying marriage. They had mutually agreed that to do so successfully they were required to be alone, to be somewhere that neither of them could be easily influenced by outside sources such as work colleagues, friends, or family members. So my Dad had made a reservation for them to spend a week in the Bahamas and had made arrangement with Aunt Rachel and my cousin, Christian, to stay at the house with me while they were away. They explained that they had contacted my brother, Daniel and asked if he would be able to come home for the week to stay with me, but he was unable to leave campus; his demanding schedule and commitment to the summer camp program that the school offered didn’t allow him time for trips home that summer.
It was a challenge for me to stifle a mocking laugh that had lurched from inside my gut. His “demanding schedule”? Really? Were they serious? Did they honestly believe his weak excuse for not coming home? It was evident to me that neither of them followed Daniel on any social media platform because it was clear, at least to me, by his numerous photos and status messages that he was having a very exciting and busy summer so far, socializing with numerous peers and by my own deduction was not even staying on campus this summer. There was no way he was involved or had a commitment with the summer camp program that his school was offering. He had posted plenty of photos of himself holding a variety of alcoholic drinks, Narraganset Beer being his beverage of choice, with a diverse menagerie of girls in countless poses all in social settings that were noticeably not his school campus. He appeared to have a freedom that contradicted the information my parents shared with me, but I wasn’t going to point out the blatant inconsistency. I understood why Daniel didn’t want to spend the week at home even if my parents were in denial or just plain ignorant about it. It wasn’t just because he wouldn’t be surrounded by pretty girls hanging all over him or by the never-ending flow of beer; it was because he didn’t want to spend the week alone with me.
I sadly realized that not only were my brother and I estranged; we were just two very dissimilar people. My personal interests were not Daniel’s and his were not mine. (I dislike large crowds of people and alcohol does nothing for me except make me nauseous.) It was almost as if we were raised in two different households by two different set of parents, which I found to be more than just a tad disturbing. Was it possible that one of us was actually adopted? Daniel was named after Caroline’s father, but I was unsure of who I was named after, if I was named after anyone at all. Is it beyond reasonable consideration to think that perhaps Caroline and Edward were not my biological parents? Could I be the daughter of someone else? Perhaps there weren’t any other members of the Williams’ family who possessed the same abilities as I did. Maybe I was abandoned and left in a cardboard box on the porch of my pseudoparents because I was so powerful at birth and the unusual facts about my beginnings was kept from me for all these years because it could inevitably endanger those around me. Conceivably my feelings of alienation were because I honestly didn’t belong in the Williams clan, these people weren’t my tribe and their ancestors weren’t mine. The answers that I was seeking from them, they couldn’t provide because I simply didn’t belong.
“Am I adopted?” The question flew out of my mouth before I could capture it and regret settled in as soon as I heard my own voice utter the words in the silent pause of the ongoing dinner conversation.
“What?” Mother carefully placed the silver fork she was using onto the table next to her plate and blotted her painted mouth with her cloth napkin. “Why are you asking, Angie?”
Dad was obviously annoyed. With his hand he waved off Mother’s question and glared in my direction. “What does that have to do with what we’ve been discussing here, right now?” He vigorously jammed his index finger against the surface of the oak table as he spoke, emphasizing every other word. He paused, waiting for my response, to which I gave none. I stayed silent which clearly irritated him even more. I winced at the volume of his voice as he continued his tirade. “Have you heard nothing we’ve been explaining to you, Angie? Are you aware that we are informing you about a very serious situation that will affect your future in this family? Are you listening to what we are saying to you? Are you comprehending what’s happening here? Or are you off in your own fantasy world as usual?”
Mother glanced from Dad to me in silence. When I didn’t respond to his bullying, he purposefully dropped his fork onto the table so that it created a loud thud and grabbed his beer glass draining it of the dark ale it had been holding. When the glass was empty he forcefully placed it on the table with a thump; the white foam slowly slid down the inside of the thick glass from the rim to the bottom. Dad was clearly agitated, but I understood that his reaction to my question wasn’t solely in response to my inquiry. I wasn’t the original catalyst that sparked his passionate anger. He had redirected his feelings of inadequacy that Mother’s indiscretion with Peter Morrell had stirred within him to me, an easier target and origin of some of his overall life’s frustrations. I silently wondered if their vacation to the Bahamas was truly a shared decision or if Mother was manipulating the situation so that Dad had no choice but to agree with what she had proposed.
“Edward,” Mother warned, focusing her gaze on Dad as she lifted the crystal water glass to her lips and sipped.
He grunted, stood from his chair, set his napkin on the table, and grabbed his beer glass. “I’m getting myself another ale.” With his free hand he gestured to Mother and me. “Do either of you need anything from the kitchen?”
“No, thank you, Edward,” Mother responded, gently replacing her glass to its place off to the right of her dinner plate.
I shook my head uneasy with Dad’s seemingly quick change of demeanor. He left the dining room quietly as Mother smiled weakly at me.
“Don’t take your father’s behavior so personally, Angie. He’s under a tremendous amount of stress at work lately because of what’s been happening over these last few weeks. He’s had to take on more clients and well, you know, with what’s happened with Mr. Morrell,” she paused as a subtle shadow of remorse appeared. She quickly waved her hand in front of her face as if to wipe away the lingering shadow. “Any way, I’m certain that when we return from the Bahamas everything will be back to normal.”
I nodded indicating that I heard her and understood what she was trying to convey, but not because I agreed with her. Was she attempting to persuade me or herself? She picked up her fork and continued with eating. I studied her expression with confusion and disbelief. Did she really think that a week vacation in the Bahamas was going to fix everything in her marriage? In Dad’s life? With our family? I watched her coral-colored lips part so that the fork full of green beans could find its way into her mouth. The silver metal tongs easily slid back out with a soft tug of her hand. She glanced at me as she chewed the vegetables and smiled, briefly patting my hand that rested on the table near my own fork, reassuring me of whatever she felt I needed comforting about.
I contemplated why she hadn’t responded to my original question and why it had sparked such an emotional response from Dad. Was Mother ignoring my query in hopes that I would forget I had asked? I wondered if I had even spoken the words aloud. Maybe I had just considered doing so within my own mind and hadn’t vocalized my concern with an actual question. Had I even spoken at all during dinner? Did I utter words aloud or had I only imagined that I had?
“Am I adopted?” I asked the woman sitting with me at the dining room table, who I had known as Mother for all the years I could remember.
I made a mental note that: yes, this time I knew for certain I had clearly articulated my question. Was her reluctance to respond because I was adopted and neither parent wanted to discuss it? What was so disturbing about the circumstances of my adoption that they denied it and never wanted to discuss it with me? My curiosity was evolving into something greater, something darker, more turbulent.
Mother swallowed the green beans, placed her fork gingerly on the table, and took a quick drink of water before responding to me.
She looked me directly in the eyes as she replied aware that her response was meaningful, “No, Angie, you are not adopted.”
She shook her head. “No. Neither of you are adopted. You are both our biological children. You know, when you were younger the resemblance you had to your Aunt Rachel when she was the same age was uncanny. You could have easily been mistaken for twins. There are some old family photos in the big album that I keep on the bookshelf near the fireplace in the living room. If you’re curious you should dig them out and look through them.”
I was overwhelmingly disappointed with her reply. I had been convinced that I was adopted and the idea had brought me hope of finding someone else who I could relate to, someone who could understand the lonely life I was living, and the elation my abilities bestowed upon me, but with her reasonable words Mother demolished that hope. I picked up my fork and stabbed the piece of salmon that sat untouched on my own dinner plate.