Forever Now(8)

By: Ruth Cardello

“Your mother too,” Hazel clarified gently.

“My biological mother. I feel sorry for her, because she never accepted that I was gone. She and my twin have believed I was alive for thirty years.”

“You have a twin?” Harrison interjected. “Damn, I want a twin.”

“Harry, stop,” his father admonished quietly.

Kade didn’t mind. Harrison’s humor was actually a welcome reprieve. If all was taken seriously, it was a bloody mindfuck. “Not an identical twin. Kenzi is a girl—a woman.”

“Kade.” Annie shook his hand to regain his attention. “When we were little you used to have a reoccurring dream about having a sister. Do you remember? We used to joke you were jealous that Harrison had me.”

Kade raised a hand to his mouth as flashes from those dreams came back to him. “I did. I forgot about that.”

“Now she has a name: Kenzi. You finally have a sister.” Annie said it as if it were not batshit crazy beyond comprehending. For a moment he was lost in her eyes, in her calm acceptance of the situation. He’d forgotten how good it felt to simply be with her. She handed him his phone. “If you ever wanted more family, you hit the motherlode. Five brothers. Asher, Grant, Ian, Andrew and Lance.” She smiled at Harrison. “I thought one was bad enough.”

Harrison tossed a piece of bread at her. “Very funny.”

Mitch cleared his throat. “Was Kade the name you were born with?”

Kade tore his gaze from Annie and shook his head. “No. Kent. My brother warned me they might keep accidentally calling me that name. I’m not looking forward to tomorrow. This is all new to me, but the Barringtons have both looked for me and mourned for me for thirty years. Asking for more time seems cruel.”

Annie’s voice was calm and full of empathy. “I can’t even imagine what you must be going through.”

“It doesn’t feel real yet.” Gratitude filled Kade as he met her eyes again. He’d been an absent friend for long enough that he didn’t deserve the compassion she and her family were showing him, but he would make sure he did better from this point on. Some people came into a person’s life for a season, and others were meant to be part of the whole journey. He couldn’t imagine his life without the Martins in it. “I don’t know how to handle tomorrow. Will the Barringtons be grateful my mother kept me safe or hate her for hiding me?”

“How do you see it?” Annie asked.

It was a question he’d asked himself several times the night before as he’d gone over the story again and again rather than sleeping. “I believe my mother hid me because she felt it was the only way to keep me safe. She’d lost her own brother to the people she was afraid would come for me. She lied to my father because she didn’t want to endanger him. I wish they’d at least told me I was adopted, but it wouldn’t have mattered. I have awesome parents, and with you guys as my family too, I’ve never wished for anything else. What could I resent about that? Although, if Mum had been honest—maybe I would have tracked them down by now. Would that have gotten me killed? Maybe. So, even if it was wrong, how could I hate someone for giving up everything to keep me safe?”

Hazel let out an audible sigh. “Imagine keeping that kind of secret for all these years. It must have eaten away at Pamela. She never said a word to me—to anyone.”

Mitch nodded slowly. “It couldn’t have been easy for her.”

“Or for Sophie and Dale.” Annie looked toward her own parents. “His biological parents, if I read their names right. What would you do if you discovered a child you’d thought dead was actually alive and well?”

“Nothing could keep me from his side,” Hazel said hoarsely.

“I’d hate the woman who took my child,” Mitch said, “and then I’d love her, too, if it meant he would have been dead without her. I don’t envy what you’re being asked to navigate, Kade. Tell us what you need, though. How can we support you through this?”

“You’re doing it right now,” Kade said in a low tone. “I needed to say this shit out loud to people I knew could handle it. The Barringtons arrive tomorrow morning, and I’m supposed to meet them for lunch. Grant said they rented out the Lavender Farm lodge. I’ll see how tomorrow goes then decide if they should meet Mum and Dad.”