Wait, what was going on? What is she saying? My father isn't my father?
I sat in my wheelchair in shock. I didn't know how to react.
"Lissa, can you please say something?" my aunt pleaded.
What did she want me to say? That it was all okay? That everything was fine?
'Sure, I'm great. I've only found out that everything I've known for the past 15 and a half years has been a lie.' These words caught in my throat.
I couldn't say them. Not the woman who took me into her family and away from the people who lied to me. Who hurt me.
"Why.... why was I with them in the first place?" I asked heisitantly.
She sighed, not really wanting to go on. "You and Asher were born on the same day, just to different parents. Your mother, however, was the boss of our famly business and knew that you wouldn't be safe here in Italy. She sent you to go live in the States with Pietro, thinking that that would be the best option until for a little while. But she was killed about 3 moths after she sent you away."
"So Asher and I are not twins? But what about my father? Where is he?"
"We don't know Lissa. Your mother never told us who your father was. There has always been some speculation, but we never truly knew. And no, you and Asher are not twins. You are cousins. Born on the same day. But you are older by 9 hours. You are also the heir to the family business because you are Viviana's child."
I still didn't know how to process everything correctly. My father... No, wait. My unlce and aunt knew about my situation and they still chose to hurt and ignore me.
And what about Asher? Did he know?
'You know, you look almost exactly like your mom. You have her eyes. Everyone was always so fascinated by her beautiful eyes. They really do draw in a person. And how you act. So like her. Stubborn, refusing to give up. That was a quality that my parents loved and hated about her."
It was truly wonderful to hear about my mom from Lucia. "Do you have a picture of her?" I asked.
"Sure" she replied without hesitation.
She walked to room that I hadn't noticed earlier. "What's in there?"
"That is your office. It can be used for your school work and for official business once you get used to the way things are run around here. Now, this is a picture of all of use together."
She laid a picture of three teenagers in my lap. I instantly recognized Lucia and my uncle. They looked exactly alike and almost how they do now, except younger. They were on either side of a beautiful young girl, around the age of 20 or so, with long black hair reaching her waist. She had two mismatched eyes and a mischevious grin that one could tell ws about to get her into trouble.
"That's Viviana. She was 19 in this picture."
"My hair doesn't match hers though..." I wasn't sure where I had gotten this hair from. Maybe my father? It seemed as though dark hair ran in the family, all except for me.
"No, her hair is truly black. We think yours came from your dad, but without knowing who he is, we can't know for sure. But you look just like her, see!"
Looking back at the photo, I could see the resemblence between the beautiful woman in the picture and myself.
"She was a strong leader. I really admired her. She waas my best friend. I was devestated when I lost her."
"How old were you when she died auntie?"
"I was 18. Your mother was 26 when she had you. You were the light of her life. She was so happy when she found out she was pregnant with you."
Lucia showed me some more pictures of my mother in her childhood, along with my uncle and herself.
"This is what I really wanted you to see though."
She held up a little photo album of my mother. Inside were nothing but pictures of my mom during her pregnancy with me. Each week was documented, random side views, secret photos from other members of the family catching my mom fondling her tiny little bump. It was hard to imagine that I was in there.
"She really loved you so much. The hardest thing she ever did was send you to go live with your uncle. I know that it will take some time to adjust, and that you may not accept all of this, but please give us all a chance. She even left you a letter. The reason that we left you with Pietro was because of her wishes. We always wanted to raise you here, but we wanted to respect Viviana."
I was happy that Lucia was going to respect my space while I processed this. Who wouldn't need time? But how could I not love and respect each and every one of my family members here that did everything they could to respect my mother.
"Thank you aunt Lucia" I said. "I just need a bit of time. I will be down in the morning for breakfast. If you don't mind, I would like to spend the night looking at these pictures of my mom. Do you have any others that I can look at?"
She smiled and bought out every album of my mom that was currently in the house.
"My mom has more. I'm sure that she would love to discuss everything with you later. My father would also probably like to talk to you about the family business soon too. I know it may be a lot to take in, but keep your hopes up tesoro (sweetie)."
She kissed me on the head and bid me good night.
After being left alone in my new room, I looked over every one of the photos. There were inscriptions and little notes left everywhere, and I could only hope that they were from my mother's hand.
I had never felt so loved and cherished in my life. I was surrounded by a family that cared for me and wanted me to feel welcomed. They told me my true lineage without trying to scam it from me, and it seemed like they wanted to help me get better and move on.
Flipping through the album of my mom's pregnancy book, I came to a final page. There was an envelope addressed to me tin delicate cursive writing hat had never been opened.
With trembling fingers, I took it out from the plastic binding and gingerly opened it.
"To my Dearest Daughter Analissa,
If you are reading this without me by your side, then I am gone. For that, I am truly sorry. I love you more than anything in the world, and it is truly the hardest decision to have to send you away. I hope you understand that it is for your safety, but I know nothing will ever compare to a mother's love.
I fear that someone within the family has betrayed us. If I am really gone, then you must be cautious. Lucia will know what to do. Show her this letter, but only her. After that, burn it.
I'm sure that you must have some questions about your father as well. I cannot tell you who he is, but he is the most wonderful man. And you came from our love. You are beautiful my darling. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. The true meaning of being a Winters is accepting the differences in a person and seeing them as strengths. Be strong and brave my love.
With all of my love, always and forever,
By the time I had finished reading my mother's letter, I had tears running down my face.
I had never met this beautiful woman, and yet I missed her. I missed her so much because she was my mother.
The woman who carried me for months. The woman who gave birth to me. This beautiful, kind soul who wished for me to have a good life and to see the good in others.
"I want her back!" I cried out, sobbing to the silence of my new room.
I wanted to be like the other kids, who had a mother to come home to, to hug, to hold, to tell their stories to. I broke down crying.
Lucia came rushing in without me knowing. She knelt down beside my wheelchair and held me while I cried.
"Lissa, it will be okay. I have never felt the pain you are going through, but we both lost the same person. Tesoro, look at me. I love you with all my heart, as does my family. I know you just moved in here today, but you are our family. Please, lean on us. Open up to us."
"Lucia, I want a mother. I want a mother that will hold me. To love me as her own. To listen to my stories when I come home from school, and to go shopping with. I need a mother Lucia. The woman who wrote in this letter made me realiaze what I never had."
I sat there sobbing in Lucia's arms for a while longer while she rubbed small circles on my back. "Tesoro, I know you may not think this, but I can act like a mother for you. I have children your age already. I would never want to take the place of your real mother. Or if you do not want to see that in me, you can see me as an older, crazy sister. I know I am your aunt, but I will always be their for you Lissa. In whatever way you need me to be."
I loved Lucia for everything that she said. I felt so at home in her arms that I started to drift to sleep.
"Come on Tesoro, it's time to get you to bed." she said with a laugh.
She wheeled me into my bedroom and I picked out a pair of satin shorts and a tank top to wear to bed. After she helped me get into bed, she sat on the edge and held my hand for a bit.
"Lissa, I promise you, we will do everything in our power to protect you and to cherish you forever. You are our piccolina." she laughed.
"I still don't know why you call me 'little one'."
"It is because you are. Now, sweet dreams piccolina. We will see you in the morning."
She left and went back downstairs again, leaving me along in my room.
While falling asleep, I reminded myself of everything that had happened, and of everything that was to come.
"I will be happy here. I will be able to start a new life. I will become Analissa Winters."