I stared out the window of the plane, the Florida coastline coming into view as we prepared to land. The early morning light cast a warm glow over the sparkling blue waters, promising a gorgeous day in the Sunshine State.
Ellie was sound asleep, her soft snores bringing a smile to my face. She wasn’t impressed by our first class seats. My sister’s butt had never graced a coach seat in her life. But mine had. I was a first class virgin. It was nice not to be twisted up like a pretzel.
I studied her sweet face, so childlike and innocent. My little sister had experienced more turmoil and upheaval in her life in the past month than any kid should. She was caught up in the dirty laundry of two selfish asses. The father who raised her as his own, and the one who provided the sperm.
Like father, like son.
Harland is nothing like his father. He’s a good man. And he loves you.
My eyes filled with tears for the umpteenth time since I walked out on him the night before. Leaving him was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I couldn’t get the image out of my head. The horrifying visual of him fucking my mother. It was too much for me to deal with. Our relationship was too new to withstand that kind of revelation.
“Our driver is on his way,” Ellie informed me.
We stepped through the sliding glass doors, leaving the comfort of the air-conditioned airport. The Florida heat blasted me in the face like a hot oven when you open the door. I removed my sweater, wiping the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand.
“Are you okay, Kinley?” Ellie asked, her eyebrows drawing together as she watched me strip off every article of clothing allowable without risking arrest for indecent exposure.
“I’m just really hot,” I panted. “How long until the driver gets here?”
She glanced at her phone. “He should be arriving momentarily.”
“I need to sit down.”
“You’re very pale.”
“I’ll be fine as soon as I get out of this heat.” I collapsed onto a nearby bench, not caring that it was already occupied by two elderly women.
“Is your mother okay, honey?”
“She’s just hot,” Ellie explained, not bothering to correct them.
My stomach rolled, it’s message loud and clear. I bolted for the trash can, my head spinning with dizziness as I hurled violently.
“Do you want me to get you some water?” Ellie asked.
“No,” I moaned. “I’ll just bring it back up.”
“Listen, Ellie,” I said once we were settled in the backseat of the town car. “I need to talk to you about something before we get to the condo.”
She looked up from her phone, her eyes darting to my stomach. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell the grandparents about your condition.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s wrong with you,” she snorted. “And I am a genius, so give me some credit.”
“Nothing is wrong with me. I just got overheated.”
“Uh-huh,” she muttered. “Keep telling yourself that.”
“Anyways,” I continued, shaking my head. “I don’t think we should tell Grandma and Grandpa that Harland is your biological father. We will eventually. But they’re really looking forward to this visit. I don’t wanna ruin it for them.”
“I’m agreeable to that.”
“Have you taken a test yet?”
“A test for what?”
“A pregnancy test.”
“I’m not pregnant, Ellie.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“When was your last menstrual period, Kinley?”
“I’m not having this discussion with you.”
“Whatever.” She shrugged and went back to whatever she was looking at on her phone.
A bolt of fear zipped through my ravaged gut. When was my last period? Right before I started sleeping with Harland. I should’ve had another one. How did I not notice I was late?
“Shall I ask the driver to stop at the pharmacy?” Ellie muttered without looking up from her phone.
“Yeah,” I whispered.
“Swanky,” I snorted, glancing around the lobby of the condo building. The gold marble floors with enormous matching pillars, fake plants and uncomfortable looking furniture suggested that the residents of the building weren’t pensioners.
“Harland said he rarely comes down here,” Ellie said.
“Why own a condo if you never use it?”
“Investment property. There are multiple benefits including better asset stability, tax benefits, leverage, and safety from inflation.”
“I see,” I chuckled, glancing at the doorman.
“Smart kid,” he commented.
“She is definitely that.”
“Who are you visiting?”
“The Davenports. They’re staying in 902.”
“Oh yes. They’re in Mr. Hollingbrook’s unit.”
“That’s correct,” Ellie said.
“I’ll ring up and let them know you’re here.”
“There’s only two bedrooms,” Grandpa said, leading us down the hallway. “You girls are gonna have to bunk together.”
“That’s fine with me,” Ellie piped up. “We took the red-eye. Would you mind terribly if we had a nap before we commence with our visit?”
“Of course not, sweetie,” Grandma said.
“Yes. Thanks, Gram.”
“Get some rest, Kinley. You look exhausted.”
As soon as the door closed behind my grandparents, Ellie opened my carry on and pulled out the pharmacy bag with the pregnancy tests. She insisted I buy five. Just to be sure.
“Time to verify what we already know.”
“Ellie,” I warned. “Don’t get your hopes up.”
“I thought you didn’t want any more kids around right now.”
“I changed my mind. And I get to be an aunt and a big sister. How cool is that?”
“Did I miss something?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night, you were ready to cancel Harland.”
“Isn’t that what the kids call it when they cut someone out of their life?”
“I know what it means,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes. “But you’re old. How do you know what that means?”
“I’m not old.”
“Whatever.” She pointed to the bathroom. “Pee-pee time.”
“What am I? A dog?”
“Kinley,” she warned, narrowing her eyes. “I know what you’re doing.”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“Fine,” I snapped, snatching the bag from her hand. I stepped into the large, masculine bathroom, the shiny black fixtures and white tiles creating a sterile environment. The huge corner tub called out to me, my weary body begging to take a long soak. I’d have to pick up some bubble bath. Somehow, I doubted I would find any in the cupboard.
“Come out as soon as you’re done urinating,” Ellie called through the door.
“Congratulations,” Ellie offered, taking in the five positive pregnancy tests lined up on the counter. “I told you so.”
I braced my hands on the vanity, staring at my reflection in the mirror. “How did this happen?” I whispered.
“You had sexual intercourse without a prophylactic,” Ellie replied matter-of-factly. “Harland ejaculated in your vagina. His sperm underwent several hours of preparation before meeting your ovum in your fallopian tube, penetrating the zona pellucida. Three to seven days later, the fertilized ovum implanted in your uterine wall. Your body commenced production of HCG, the early pregnancy hormone responsible for the symptoms you’re experiencing.”
“Thank you for the biology lesson,” I said with a tight smile, glancing at her in the mirror.
“Why didn’t your grandparents wanna join us?” Ellie asked as we stepped onto the elevator.
“You know they’re your grandparents too, right?”
“I know. It just feels weird to refer to them that way.”
“They’re going to look at some properties. They can’t stay in Harland’s condo forever.”
“I can’t believe it rained for three straight days,” she said.
“We still had fun. I never used to like shopping, but having unlimited funds is kind of cool.”
“I don’t really know any different,” she said. “But I can’t imagine enjoying shopping without money.”
We exited the lobby and headed down the path to the beach. Ellie removed her flip-flops, taking off across the sand with childlike excitement. My heart flooded with joy. My sister may have grown up with wealth and privilege, but she missed out on some of the simple joys of life.
I closed my eyes, the familiar smells bringing a smile to my face. Salt water mixed with coconut and seaweed. The beach was my happy place. I love the ocean. My mother dated a guy with a beach house. The summer I was nine, we spent a month there. My mom’s boyfriend had two daughters close to my age. We had a blast playing on the beach and swimming everyday. At night, we’d have campfires and roast marshmallows. I foolishly believed I was finally going to have the family I longed for. But the relationship didn’t last.
We found an empty spot and spread out our blanket. “Wanna get some sun before we go in the water?” I suggested.
“I’m not positive I want to enter the water.”
“The ocean is an unpredictable environment.”
“It’s perfectly safe.”
“Are you gonna tell Harland about the baby?”
“Of course, I am. This family doesn’t need any more secrets. And I’m pretty sure it’s not something I can really hide for too long.”
“What do you think he’ll say?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what he did,” she said, staring out at the water, the calm waves licking the shore while the seagulls hovered overhead. “I’m grateful to him for leaving me with my mother and father. If I lived with him, my life would’ve been very different. I probably would’ve been raised by a nanny. I believe his claim that he did what he thought was best. I’m still angry that he didn’t tell me after they died, but I understand why. We were dealing with enough at the time. He didn’t want to add to the stress.”
“You’re a pretty great kid,” I said, pulling her in for a hug.
“Sorry,” I laughed. “You’re a pretty great sister.”
“You too, Kinley.”
“Do you think there’s a chance you might forgive him?”
I picked up a handful of warm sand, watching it trickle between my fingers. My eyes stung, a few stray tears streaking down my cheeks. “I love him,” I choked out. “I’m having his baby.”
“It’s not like he cheated on you.”
“He slept with my mother.”
“That is disturbing,” she agreed with an exaggerated shiver. “But without their inappropriate copulation, I wouldn’t be here.”
“And that would be a real shame,” I said, smiling at my sister. “Because you are an amazing human being. Your intelligence, attitude, and outlook on life continues to blow me away with everyday I spend with you.”
“Thank you, Kinley,” she said. “I think you’re pretty amazing yourself. You drew the short straw in the mother pool. My father, or grandfather I guess, did a terrible thing to you. But you overcame it, and built a life for yourself.”
“I’m gonna check out the water,” I said.
“I’ll go with you.”
“Great! Let’s go, sis!”
We ventured down to the shore, laughing at some little kids splashing in the shallow water while their mother kept watch. That could be me in a few years. I touched my belly, smiling to myself. Life was good.
My grandparents were living their retirement dream. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. A huge budget to renovate an old house, a project that I’d be in charge of. I had a great sister. And now I was having a baby with a man I loved. I’d lived my entire adult life under the shadow of my rape. It was time to put the past to rest. The future was bright, and I wanted to embrace it.
The cry for help snapped me from my daydream. Ellie had wandered into the surf, her unease with the ocean forgotten as she jumped the waves. I whipped my head to the right, the mother of the small kids screaming. They were caught up in a wave, their tiny bodies being sucked out to sea.
I ran toward them with Ellie on my heels. She dove into the wave, grabbing them and handing them back to me one by one. I passed them to a woman who’d come to help. The mother was hysterical, her screams carrying down the beach as we fought the undertow.
I turned back to grab Ellie. She was struggling. “Ellie!” I screamed, charging into the violent swell to save my sister. It took every ounce of strength in my body to keep her from being swept away.
“Kinley!” she screamed as the other woman dragged her toward shore.
I was being sucked into a black hole. I tried to dive under the water and swim forward. The waves were so high. I couldn’t find my way up to the surface. My lungs filled with salt water, my throat burning as I realized I was going to die.