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“Yes, I’m looking for two. Fifteen? Sixteen? Older.”
Dawn walked in and threw her father, who was on the phone, a suspicious glance. She opened the fridge and poured herself juice. She flopped down on a stool near the counter.
Her father thanked the other line and put down the phone. He also helped himself to some juice, and pushed his glasses on top of his head. He leaned over the counter, reaching for the juice and then started pouring himself some. “So what are you doing today? Only another month or so until school starts again.”
Dawn looked up from her juice, and asked, “Who was that on the phone? Mom?”
Her father recoiled. That had been a little too harsh. But she wanted it to be her so badly—
“No. It wasn’t.”
“An agency. An adoptive agency.”
“You want me to get adopted?” Dawn was immediately sorry she said anything about her mother.
“No, no—I want to adopt two more girls.”
That stunned her. “Why?”
“You’re worried about the why, but I am more worried about the who. I got the affirmative. They’ll be here in a couple short weeks.”
Dawn bit her lip. “Is this a joke?”
“Nope. So what are you doing today?”
“Beach. Bye.” Dawn didn’t feel much like eating anymore, so she threw her glass into the sink and ran back upstairs to her room.
It was a big bedroom; it had been originally the attic. The other bedroom was downstairs. She tried imagining two more beds squashed next to hers, and splitting her closet. She was still biting her lip as she went down the stairs again and out the back door. As her feet hit the sand, she immediately felt better. They would be sisters, if nothing more. She could ignore them. Maybe if she got messed up enough, her mother would come back and fix it all and nothing would be different; those girls would get adopted by someone else, their family would be reunited…
Another part of her head fiercely demanded that she stop hoping for her mother. She would probably go back to England, her hometown, and start a new life. Divorce papers would be filed, everyone would be unhappy, except for her mother. Hate flamed up inside her at the thought that her mother had left their family so that she herself could be happy.
Again, a voice inside her told her to stop; she was anxious, and her reasoning must be flawed. She needed to calm down and talk to her best friend. She realized too late she had left her phone at home. She kicked the sand, which the wind picked up and blew right back into her face.
An escape. That’s what she needed. Not the beach, where you embraced life and lived. The movies, for example. That was the best escape in the world, where for two hours you were locked into a huge room and forced to think about someone else’s problems.
She immediately changed direction, and headed up the street to downtown.
She took the route that went right by her best friend’s house. She could at least ring the doorbell and ask if he wanted to come.
She stood outside the door to his house, and pressed the bell twice, impatiently.
He answered. Opening the door and immediately recognizing her, he laughed and said, “Perfect timing! We were just starting breakfast. Want to come in?”
“Hey Nate. Can I? That’d be great,” she then added, “and afterwards, a movie?”
“After that the boardwalk?”
“Sounds good.” Her day was looking up. “And what smells so good?”
He laughed as he led her to the kitchen. My mom’s making apple crisp. And she already made an omelet. Hey mom! Guess who’s here!”
Dawn’s stomach twisted a little bit. “Hey Mrs. Richards. I smelled your food at my house and came running!”
Mrs. Richards swooped down and gave her a hug. She was like Dawn’s second mother. “Sure, dear, juice?”
“No thanks, but I’ll have some of that omelet.”
She sat down and ate the delicious omelet. It burned her mouth slightly, and she gasped: “Actually, I’ll take some of that orange juice, Mrs. Richards.”
Nate sat down to eat as well, and asked, “Well, how are you?”
“Good.” A look passed between them. He knew her so well, and he could tell something was wrong. “Well,” she continued, “My father surprised me today with news that—”
“—he got a girlfriend?” Nate’s eyes widened.
“No! Definitely not! It’s something ten times crazier. He’s adopting two girls, around my age.”
Nate looked at Dawn, and then at his mother, and then shoved another piece of omelet into his mouth.
Dawn looked at Mrs. Richards quizzically.
“Oh, well, dear, that was your mother’s dream last year, to adopt. I thought he would’ve forgotten about that by now.”
Dawn shrugged. “I figured it was something like that. My father’s not that creative.” But as blasé as she seemed, that news hit her like a truck. She finished up, and she and Nate left for the movies.
“Nate, I don’t want two sisters.” Dawn complained the second they stepped out the door.
“Hey, how bad can it be? You don’t have to be best friends with them. Just be nice, and in two years you’re out of the house anyway.”
Dawn kicked a rock down the sidewalk.
Nate went on. “Are you worrying about it? ‘Cause that’s just stupid. You can’t worry about things that you can’t control.”
The rock went into the street. Dawn sighed and looked up. “It’s like the combination of the two things. And I don’t need the change.”
“But hey, when you finally get down to write that book you want, this’ll make a great story.”
“I wouldn’t want to tell it.”
“Oh.” They walked in silence for a while, and then Nate changed the subject to lighter topics. For a few hours, Dawn made her escape.