“You wouldn’t dare.” I hissed towards Nathan as I narrowed my eyes into slits. I watched him like a hawk as he eyed the french fries on my tray as his hand slowly inched towards it.
I sent him a warning glare and slapped his hand away harshly causing him to retract his arm and hold it close to his chest while hissing. Rolling my eyes at his typical over dramatic behavior, I sat back in my seat and turned to look over at Katie who was currently stuffing her face with the cheeseburger she had bought from the cafeteria. It was lunch hour at the moment, and the school’s cafeteria was bustling with students all around as everyone purchased their food before finding a place to sit.
I watched Katie with a small smile playing on my face as I witnessed her scarf the burger down within five minutes. I gave her an amused stare when she finally looked up at me before holding a napkin out towards her so she could wipe the excess ketchup that had dripped down her chin. Just as I saw slight movement out of the corner of my eyes, I whipped my head around towards Nathan who quickly scooped up a handful of my fries before stuffing them into his mouth.
“Nathan! You ogre!” I shouted loudly as I leaned over to slap his upper arm once again. He simply flashed me a cheeky smile with a mouth full of french fries before going back to chewing. Flashing him a disgusted stare, I looked away and picked up the remaining fries on my tray.
I was happily munching on the fries and sandwich on my tray and quietly witnessing a banter between Katie and Nathan when I suddenly felt someone tap my shoulder. Turning around, my eyes fell upon the Vice Principal of our school who wore a solemn look on her face. Frowning slightly, I titled my head to the side before speaking up, “Mrs. Elaine? Is there something you needed me to do for you?” I confusedly asked as Nathan and Katie stared at me with questioning looks on their faces. Shrugging my shoulders at them, I looked up at Mrs. Elaine whose eyes were darting back and forth hurriedly.
“Hope, could you please grab your things and follow me out to the hallway?” She sweetly asked as she poorly attempted to plaster a smile onto her face. Feeling my heartbeat slightly accelerate at her odd behavior, I nodded my head at her silently. She flashed me another look that I couldn’t quite decipher before turning and quietly murmering something into her walkie talkie which was given to staff only to communicate through during lunch hours.
Was I in trouble?
I know I had gotten 17 tardies in the past two months but was that really bad enough to get the vice principal involved?
Turning back around, I quickly packed up a couple of notebooks I had placed on the table earlier before glancing over at Katie and Nathan who had worried looks on their faces.
“What’s going on?” Katie quickly asked as her wide brown eyes stared at me.
“I don’t know. She asked me to speak to her in the hallway.” I quietly said as I zipped up my backpack before slinging it on my shoulder. As I got up and reached for my tray, Nathan’s hand stopped my halfway. He flashed me a small smile before shaking his head, “I’ll throw it away when lunch ends. Text us when to let us know everything is okay.” He said as I sent him a grateful smile.
Turning on my heels, I followed Mrs. Elaine out of the cafeteria and into the silent hallway. A couple students were lingering around, but from where they were standing, I doubt they could hear anything.
Staring up at Mrs. Elaine with a nervous smile on my face, I watched as she let out a deep sigh before placing a hand on my shoulder. “Hope, something’s happened with your mother and it’s urgent you meet her and your sister in the hospital. I’ve already arranged a ride for you, and that nice gentlemen over there are more than willing to take you.” She said, a sympathetic smile on her face.
I felt my stomach drop and an ache resonate through my heart as I attempted to comprehend what she had just said to me.
Something happened to my mom.
Clutching a hand towards my chest, I tried to keep the tears at bay as I stared up at Mrs. Elaine horrified. “Is my mom okay?” I asked as I pinched my eyes shut, too afraid to hear her next words.
“I wasn’t told anything except for that, sweetheart. They’re expecting you arrival very soon, so I suggest you get there now.” She softly advised as I slowly nodded my head before wiping a stray tear that had escaped my eye.
My mother was my rock and my best friend. There was nobody in this world that I loved more than my mother. And hearing that she was in the hospital did nothing more than bring a feeling of dread and hopelessness over me.
Mrs. Elaine accompanied me on the silent walk towards the entrance of the school before introducing me to the police officer who was supposed to take me to the hospital. He gave me a reassuring smile that I attempted to return before glancing down at my phone.
Marissa hadn’t called or texted me and it worried me. Shooting her a quick text asking if everything was okay, I slipped the phone back into my bag and took a seat in the passenger seat of the cop car. Mrs. Elaine gave me a small wave before the officer joined me and began driving towards the hospital.
It was silent in the car, but everything felt loud in my mind. My thoughts were everywhere and I couldn’t keep the fear of losing my mom from seeping into my mind. I wasn’t in the mood for small talk, and I’m sure the officer knew that because he remained silent as well. After driving in the car for about 25 minutes, we reached the drop off area of the hospital. Placing my hand on the handle of the door, I glanced back at the cop who looked to be in his 40′s and flashed him a grateful smile.
“Thank you.” I meekly said as I took a hold of my bag and opened the door of the car.
“Hopefully everything works out kiddo.” He responded as I stood up straight outside the car. I simply nodded before shutting the car door and rounding the car to enter the doors of the hospital. I was instantly greeted by the strong scent of disinfectant and an array of visitors walking around the lobby. I counted my footsteps as I made my way towards the reception desk where a young woman was seated typing away on her computer. Upon arriving, she looked up at me with a welcoming smile on her face.
“Hello, what can I do for you?” She happily asked as she sat up in her seat. Leaning the weight of my body against the desk, I gave a slight smile before answering her question.
“My mother was brought here earlier. Her name is-” Just as I was about to utter my mothers name, I heard Marissa’s voice from behind me.
“Hope!” She called from across the hall as she hurriedly made her way towards me. Her long blonde hair that was always styled to perfection now sat in a messy bun on top of her head. There was a permanent frown etched onto her face and I could see a bit of smudged mascara beneath her eyes.
Reaching her halfway, I quickly placed my hands on her shoulders to brace myself for the news I was about to her.
My heart was racing as I looked into her blue orbs that were shining with unshed tears, “Marissa what happened to mom?” I fearfully asked as she looked away from me to stare out the window. Feeling my fear intensify at her reaction, I quickly shook her shoulders as if to snap sense into her, “Answer me!” I exclaimed loudly as she brought a hand to her face to wipe away the tears that had begun falling down her rosy cheeks.
Turning to look at me with bloodshot eyes, she pulled me aside before quietly responding, “Mom wants to be the one to tell you, but before you go in there you need to know one thing. She loves you and I love you.” Marissa cryptically said as I felt my legs turn to jelly.
Things were bad.
With the way Marissa was shaking, I knew what was to come would devastate me.
“What are you talking about? Just tell me!” I once again exclaimed as I tried to keep my voice to a minimum. I was getting frustrated by her vague comments and knowing that something was terribly wrong didn’t help the situation.
“Just promise me!” Marissa pleaded as she took my hand into hers. Looking into her blue orbs, I could see the conflict and fear in her eyes. Knowing it would calm her down, I gave her hand a soft squeeze before nodding my head and whispering an almost inaudible ‘okay’.
She gave me a soft smile before turning around and leading me towards the room where our mom was. The elevator ride towards her room was silent and I didn’t bother asking Marissa again because I knew she wouldn’t answer. As soon as we reached the fourth floor where they had just moved my mom, I quickly walked towards the room where Marissa had told me she was staying. I didn’t even bother knocking as I barged in.
I felt my stomach drop once again as my eyes landed on the pale figure laying still on the hospital bed. An IV was hooked on my mothers arm, and she slightly turned her head towards me. I felt tears spring to my eyes as I ran towards her and engulfed her into a hug. I let out the sobs I had been holding in for so long as I clutched onto my mother for dear life. I felt her hand raise up and brush my hair as I heard Marissa’s soft cries from behind me.
I felt the fear once again inch through my mind as I pulled back to stare at my mom. She looked tired as she attempted to smile at me before taking my hand into hers. “Mom what’s wrong?” I quickly asked her as soon as I had stopped crying. Wiping the rest of the tears off my face, I took a seat on the chair beside her bed before looking over at her.
She remained silent for a couple minutes and I could feel the tension in the air as I fearfully awaited her response.
“I’m sick.” She simply said as I furrowed my eyebrows at her. I knew there was more to it, and it was something serious, but it was like both my mind and my heart were refusing to accept that deep down things were worse than they seemed. Ignoring the dreadful feeling I felt, I gave my mom a small smile.
“We can fix that mom. I’ll make sure myself that the doctors will bring you back to your healthy self.” I optimistically said as she shook her head before giving me a weak smile.
“My sweet Hope.” She sadly said as she took my hand in hers. I could see the unshed tears in her eyes as she stared at me longingly. I remained silent as I waited for her to say something as her thumb rubbed the back of my hand.
“Baby, I have inoperable brain cancer.” She finally admitted as my mouth dropped open. It felt as if the world around me stopped as I stared at both my mother and Marissa.
It was impossible.
There was absolutely no way this could be true.
My mom wasn’t sick, she couldn’t possible be.
She was my mother, the woman who raised me, took care of me when I was sick, forgave me for all my mistakes, and pushed me to be the best version of myself.
She was my best friend.
There was no way she could have cancer.
She was too good for that.
I shook my head and quietly mumbled incoherent words to myself as I felt tears filling up my eyes once again. “Thats not true. It can’t be true!” I sobbed loudly as I laid my head on the small space on the bed. I felt my mother sniffle as she ran a hand through my hair soothingly.
Looking up at Marissa for confirmation, I watched as she just grimly nodded her head at me as she silently let tears roll down her cheeks.
“You can’t leave me.” I whispered to her as she stared me sadly, tears rolling down her porcelain cheeks.
“I don’t want to.” She responded as she pulled me closer to her for another hug. Holding my mother close, I tried to digest the information that had just been revealed to me. The tears wouldn’t stop flowing down my face as I laid in my mothers embrace for god knows how long. It felt as if there was a permanent ache in my heart as I stared at the wall ahead of me.
Some time had passed as my mother and I sat in silence. We hadn’t said much since she had revealed her illness and I couldn’t stop the array of questions that I ached to ask my mom. However, I held back because a part of me knew that my fragile heat probably wouldn’t be able to handle the answers.
“Hope, there’s something else I need to tell you.” My mom spoke up after another hour had passed in silence. Sitting up slightly, I turned to her hesitantly.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it.” I softly admitted to my mother as she once again pulled me closer to her and placed a kiss on my forehead.
“I need to tell you now, before its too late.” She solemnly said as I held a hand over my chest that was physically hurting.
I remained silent for a while, but gave her the cue to talk as I sat up from where I was seated. I could see the conflict resonating through her eyes as she opened and closed her mouth.
“Before I tell you anything, I want you to remember that I love you.” She reminded as she grimaced at me. I could tell she was scared of what she would say next and that did nothing but cause a deep rooted fear to develop within me.
I glanced over at Marissa who avoided eye contact. She was seated on the couch that was perched against the massive window in the hospital room. I knew she was listening, however her body was faced away from us as she gazed out the window of the hospital which overlooked a busy freeway.
I whispered an ‘okay’ to my mother before she took a deep breath and collected her thoughts. I squeezed her hand as reassurance before she finally spoke up.
“Hope, there’s no easy way to say this and I hadn’t planned on telling you for another year but it’s only right that you know this now...” She trailed off as I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion. I remained silent and waited for her to continue as she inhaled deeply before speaking up again, “You aren’t my biological daughter.” My mother admitted as a deadly silence enveloped the room.
There was not a single sound in the room as I stared down at the floor while trying to soak in what my mother had just told me.
You’re not my biological daughter.
You’re not my biological daughter.
The worlds tumbled around my mind for a couple minutes before I slowly began to shake my head in denial, “There’s no way...you’re my mother. And I’m your daughter” I tried to reason with her as she she flashed me a sad look.
“Yes baby, you are, but I just wasn’t the woman who birthed you.” She tried to explain as I continued to shake my head. There was no way she was telling the truth. Absolutely no way. Granted, I didn’t resemble my mother, but I had aways assumed it was because I looked like my father who was never a part of my life.
Bringing a hand to my hand, I rubbed it over my throbbing temples as I pinched my eyes shut. It felt as if I was in a dream. A dream that I had no control over, and one that had become a deadly nightmare.
“So, what you’re saying is that Marissa and I are adopted?” I questioned slowly as I glanced over at Marissa who hadn’t uttered a word. She stared at me with a blank look in her eyes before shaking her head slowly at me before turning to look at my mom, a grave expression etched all across her face.
My eyes darted back and forth between them as I pressed my mother to respond, “Mom?” I asked her, my voice cracking slightly.
“No, Hope. Just you.” She quietly stated, confirming my suspicions that had arisen earlier upon seeing Marissa’s face. I felt a drop in my stomach as I pinched my eyes shut to stop the flood of tears that threatened to unleash its wrath.
Sadness. Betrayal. Confusion. Anger.
Millions of emotions were bustling through my mind as I pulled my hand out of my mother’s grasp.
I felt like a fool for never realizing this earlier.
It was as if suddenly all the jigsaw pieces of my life had begun to come together, and I now had a clear picture of what I had been so blind to.
Marissa and my mother were blonde with sparkling blue eyes whereas I was a brunette with hazel colored eyes. There wasn’t an inch of resemblance between any of us, but I had never questioned it because I never in a million years would have anticipated this as true.
I suddenly felt like an outsider in the room.
My mother wasn’t actually my mother. And Marissa wasn’t actually my sister.
“I-I always thought that maybe, maybe it was a coincidence that I didn’t look like you two, or that I had gotten the genes of my father or a distant family member, but not this. My whole life has been a lie. If I’m not yours then whose am I?” I asked her as my voice shook.
I didn’t know what to feel at the moment, but I pushed my feelings of anger aside as I attempted to listen to my mothers explanation. She reached for my hand again, but I pulled it back and placed it on my lap, not quite ready for that.
I wanted to blow up and scream and cry, but I didn’t because it felt as if all the energy in my body had been sucked out of me. It felt as if I was taking hits left and right today from life itself and I couldn’t quite catch a break.
My mother glanced away from me and cleared her throat before softly speaking, “When I was around 26 years old, I was broke and on the verge of homelessness. Marissa was barely two years old at the time and I had just gotten fired from my job at a local restaurant. My then boyfriend, and Marissa’s dad, had just broken things off with me and I needed a place to stay. I was sitting outside of a shop crying on a bench when your mother, Amelia, approached me. She was kind and comforted me as I told her everything that had happened. She then offered me a job as her housekeeper and I accepted, grateful that I had been given a chance to get back on my feet. She offered both Marissa and I a place to stay, and I soon began working for her family.” My mother said as a faraway look entered in her eyes as her blue orbs shone with memories of the past.
Amelia, that was my biological mother’s name.
I remained silent as I tried to frame a mental image of Amelia as my mother continued speaking. Everything felt so foreign in my mind as I digested all the new information.
“Amelia was about my age, and was attending graduate school at the time. Her family held many expectations of her and she had met all of them them until you happened. Both you and your brother.” She stated causing my eyes to widen.
I had a brother?
I didn’t have time to say anything because she continued on, “Amelia fell pregnant and her parents did not approve because she was still in school. Your father had just begun his career and his family was strictly opposed to the idea of any children, especially children out of wedlock. Upon hearing of twins, they grew even more livid. I was there to witness all of this, and knew that they were stuck in a rough position. Your mothers parents agreed to raise your twin brother while your mother finished graduate school, but the burden of two children would be too hard on them. I had grown close to your mother during the pregnancy and was willing to repay her for her kindness. I had agreed to raise you, and although your mother was reluctant, she agreed knowing that I would do nothing but raise you in the best way possible. It was tough for her but with the burden of school and the anger coming from both her parents and your fathers parents, she agreed.” She said as I stared down at the floor. Everything felt surreal in that moment as I took in everything my mother was saying.
I had a twin brother. Both of us were unplanned.
And my own biological parents had given us up.
“I left California and settled here in Washington and didn’t look back. Your mother kept in contact the first months after birth, but giving her children up took a toll on her mentally and he soon bid her goodbyes and cut contact. We occasionally speak, but ever since that day, its just been you, Marissa, and I.
I couldn’t hold back anymore, and unleashed the tears I had tried so hard to keep at bay.
My whole life felt like a lie and suddenly I didn’t know who I was anymore.
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier.” I cried as my mother pulled me closer to her. I didn’t resist her embrace and allowed her to hug me as she held me close to her.
As hurt and confused I was, this was the woman that had raised me and loved me like I was her own. Part of the reason why I had never suspected anything was because my mother had never given me reason to. She was as good as it got and I didn’t have it in me to hold even an ounce of hatred towards her.
“I’m sorry, my love. I never wanted to keep it from you but it never mattered that you weren’t my own. I saw you as my own daughter and never anything less.” She said as tears slowly fell down her cheeks. I held onto her tightly, unwilling to let go of her.
“I don’t care if you aren’t my biological mother, because in my eyes you’re the woman who raised me. I forgive you for not telling me, mom.” I said to my mom as soon as the waterfall of tears had ceased. My mother caressed my cheeks and looked over towards Marissa who was silently watching us with a small smile on her face. Ushering her over to us, I pulled her into a hug along with my mother as we sat there in silence.
That night, I laid in my mothers embrace in the late hours of the night, unable to fall asleep. My mind hadn’t recovered from everything that had been revealed and I was still trying to comprehend everything.
Despite hearing the truth about my family, I pushed it all to the side and focused on the time I had left to spend with my mother. The doctor’s were still attempting treatment but nothing was guaranteed as they gave us their final apologizes.
Holding my mother close to me, I relished this moment in her arms, still not willing to accept her sickness.
I hadn’t slept a wink that night, and the following morning Marissa and I said our goodbyes to our mother and best friend, who passed away later that morning.