The Midwife's Confession - novelonlinefull.com
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"Where's the baby?" Ian asked. "Tara's real...the baby she gave birth to?"
"I don't even want to think about that." I felt my eyes burn. Tara was more sister than friend to me, and I was haunted by what might have happened to her baby. Did she end up in a shallow grave? A Dumpster somewhere? What happened to the baby we should have been allowed to love and grieve? I put my hands to my face. "What do I do, Ian?" I asked.
"Well, first off, Tara needs to know," he said.
"Oh, G.o.d," I said, because of course she did. I knew that, but I'd needed to hear someone else say it. "It seems so cruel," I said.
I thought I heard the faintest creaking sound from the direction of the stairs and I glanced toward the hallway, but Ian didn't seem to notice.
"Let's say Tara and I knew that Jenny wasn't your biological child," he said, "would you want us to tell you?"
"Yes, of course, but I would...." I shut my eyes, trying to imagine getting that news. "It would kill me to know my own child had died and I'd known nothing about it. And that Jenny had been stolen from some other woman." I shook my head. "Oh, my G.o.d. It would just kill me."
"No, it wouldn't, because Tara would be there for you," Ian said. "You two have seen each other through thick and thin, and you'll be there for her, all right? And I will be, too."
"She just lost Sam, though, Ian," I nearly wailed. "How can we take away her daughter?" I was upset, but felt relief that suddenly I could use the word we instead of I.
"We're not talking about taking away anyone's daughter," he said. "To be honest, I have to do a little research into this to figure out the best approach, but we'll take it one step at a time. It shouldn't be too difficult to track down the officers who investigated this case back in '94. I may even know some of them."
"I think we need to let Tara know before you talk to anyone else, though," I said. "I'm afraid she'll be angry that I told you before I told her. And I can tell her that maybe I'm wrong. When it comes right down to it, we don't have proof, do we? I can just tell her what I know. Maybe somehow I'm misinterpreting things."
"That's very true," he said. "There will have to be DNA tests and interviews, and as I said, we'll take it one step at a time."
"Should we tell her today?" My voice was so tentative. I was dreading what lay ahead of me.
Ian folded his arms across his chest. "Can you wait another couple of days?" he asked. "I'm leaving tonight for Charlotte and I'm in a golf tournament all day tomorrow." For the first time since his arrival, he smiled, then rested his hand flat on the logbook. "Not that I think my golf game is more important than this," he said, "but tomorrow's a holiday and this has held for sixteen years. I won't call the investigator until after we talk to Tara, so if you can handle waiting, we can talk to her Tuesday afternoon when she gets out of school."
I heard another creak coming from the direction of the stairs, and this time both Ian and I looked toward the hallway.
"Jenny?" I called, but there was no answer.
I turned back to Ian. Licked my dry lips. "Yes," I said, my voice very low now. "I can wait."
Grace It was like having a giant ball of thorns in my chest, the pain was that bad. I felt like I was having some kind of breakdown. I'd gotten my hopes up that Cleve and I would get back together. They were still up and I wanted to try calling him again in the worst way. It made me realize how often I'd been calling and texting him. Had I been annoying him? I could call to apologize for calling him too much. I couldn't stop thinking of excuses to contact him. But I knew I couldn't or I'd drive him even further away.
Instead, I lay on my bed with my feet up on my headboard and texted Jenny all afternoon while my mother was out. I told her how I'd come up with the plan to drive to Chapel Hill and what a b.i.t.c.h my mother was. I told her I'd made up that Elena girl in case my mother ever asked about her. I hardly ever lied. Everyone else I knew lied all the time, but I really didn't and it had felt amazingly easy. My mother was so gullible. I had to admit the whole thing had been a really stupid idea, although I still wanted to do it. It was pouring rain out now, though, and I wouldn't be able to get there until dark and wouldn't know where I was going. I had his dorm address, but...it was just a stupid idea.
I'd look like the pathetic girl he thought I was.
Jenny texted me that she needed to get some juice, so for a few minutes it was just me and my phone. Dangerous. I typed Sorry i annoyed u so much to Cleve, but I erased it without sending.
Jenny was taking forever to get her juice. R u there yet? I texted her, but she didn't text me back. Somehow I fell asleep and when I woke up, my phone was ringing and her cell number was on the display.
"I fell asleep," I said, instead of h.e.l.lo.
"I'm coming over there." She sounded terrible and I knew it had to hurt for her to talk.
"You are? It's pouring out and you're sick."
"There's something I have to tell you. To show you. Is your mom home yet?"
"No. What are you-"
"I'm coming right now, okay?"
I lowered my feet from the headboard and sat up. "Is it about Cleve?" I asked, but she'd already hung up.
When I opened the front door a few minutes later, Jenny stood there shivering and holding an umbrella over her head. I grabbed her arm and pulled her inside.
"What's so important?" I asked.
"Your mom's not home yet, right?" Her voice was low and hoa.r.s.e and her nose was red. She was holding a plastic grocery bag with a book or something inside it.
"No. This is about Cleve, isn't it?" What if he'd been in an accident? Oh, G.o.d! I'd die.
She gave me a little shove toward the stairs. "It's not about Cleve," she said. "Let's go to your room."
I let her push me across the hall. "You're seriously freaking me out," I said as we climbed the stairs.
"Just go," she said.
In my room, Jenny grabbed the box of tissues from one of the nightstands. She sat on the edge of my bed with the tissues on one side of her and the plastic bag on the other. She pulled a tissue from the box and blew her nose while I just stood there, twisting my hands together, waiting for her to get to the point.
"Look," Jenny said finally, "this timing sucks and I'm sorry about that, but I found out something you need to know. It has to do with you. Who you are."
"What do you mean, who I am?" Did she mean my personality? Did I have some trait so horrible that she had to rush over in the rain while she was sick as a dog to tell me about it? Maybe so. After all, Cleve wasn't crazy about who I was. Neither was my mother. Neither was I.
"Just listen to me," she said, "and remember I'm your best friend forever, okay? I always will be. Always, always, Gracie, no matter what!" Her eyes looked gla.s.sy and I started to cry without even knowing why. Anything that had her this upset was going to make a mess out of me, too.
"Tell me," I said.
"Ian was at my house like an hour ago."
"Ian?" What did Ian have to do with anything? "Is this more about the will?" I wasn't hurt that Noelle left more money to Jenny than to me. Jenny deserved it. I didn't.
"No, not the will. I thought that, too, but that wasn't it at all. I was upstairs while you and I were texting, and when I started to go downstairs for more juice, I heard them talking and... I don't remember what my mom was saying but it made me stop and just listen in. They were talking about-" Jenny hesitated "-I am so sorry to tell you this!"
"Tell me what?"
"They said how you're not really your mom's daughter. How you were stolen from some other woman."
"What?" What was she saying? "Are you sure they were talking about me?"
"That's... Why would they say that? It's ridiculous."
"I know. It sounds crazy, but they were talking about it and I was totally shocked." She blew her nose again. "I just stood there listening, trying to get what they meant. Your mom doesn't know but they're going to tell her."
"Know what? How can they know something about me that my own mother doesn't know?" I tried to laugh. "This is like the most bizarre thing I've ever heard."
"I know, but-"
"Do you hear how stupid this sounds? You just said my mother stole me, which is totally ridiculous, anyway, but if she stole me, then how could she not know I was stolen?" I wanted to throw something at Jenny. "Why are you s.c.r.e.w.i.n.g with my head?"
"I'm sorry! I know. But I can explain everything." She opened the grocery bag and pulled out a big brown book and a manila file folder. Her hands were shaking all over the place. "I sat on the stairs until after Ian left and then I went into the kitchen like I wanted more juice," she said. "I think Mom was worried I'd overheard them, but I acted like I just came downstairs right that minute and poured some juice. I watched her put this book and things in the drawer in the kitchen. You know by the desk she uses?"
"What's the book?" I sat down next to her on the bed.
"It's got notes from when Noelle delivered babies. I looked over her notes from when you were born and it doesn't say anything weird that I could tell. But these things were with it." She opened the folder and took out a type-written sheet of paper. "This letter...part of a letter. Noelle wrote it." She handed it to me.
I could hardly believe what I was reading.
"This is disgusting!" I said, horrified. "I can't believe Noelle would do something like that."
"I know. Me neither, but-"
"Why would you think I'm the baby she took?"
"I don't understand for sure how they know it's you, but they do," Jenny said. "I think it's because of this. Because of the date here." She pulled two sheets of printer paper from the folder and showed me the top one. "See the URL at the bottom? This is from the website of the Missing Children's Bureau. It's just one line." She read it out loud in her raspy voice. "'Lily Ann Knightly was born August 29, 1994, and disappeared from a Wilmington, NC, hospital shortly after her birth.'"
I shook my head slowly. I was starting to feel nauseated.
"Were there other...I mean, could it have been a different baby Noelle delivered? Why are they so sure it's me? Your birthday is a day closer to hers than mine." Lily. Could that really be my name?
"But Noelle had nothing to do with me being born."
Jenny put her arm around me. The truth was sinking in for both of us. We knew I looked nothing like my parents. I had their brown eyes, but so did half the kids in the country. Everyone always said I was quiet and smart like my father, but plenty of kids were quiet and smart. And I was nothing like my mother. Nothing.
"I can't believe this," I said quietly.
"I'm sorry," Jenny said. "I thought you had a right to know. I didn't know if they'd ever tell you."
I touched the sheet of printer paper. Lily Ann Knightly. Lily. "Who am I?" I asked.
Jenny pressed her cheek to my shoulder and her arm tightened around me. "You're Grace," she said. "My best friend, and don't you ever forget it."
My mind was miles away. "I always knew I didn't fit in. My mother... It's like she wishes I was someone else," I said. "That dead baby. That's who my mother was supposed to get as her daughter." I stood and waved my hands through the air. "Oh, my G.o.d, Jenny. A baby died. I hate Noelle. How could anyone do something like this?"
"If she never took you, you wouldn't be my friend, though, and I can't stand that thought."
It was true. I couldn't imagine my life without Jenny in it. But that felt like the only thing that was good about my life right then.
"When are they going to tell my mother?" That would be it, I thought. That would be the moment my mother cut me out of her heart. Right now, she had to love me and put up with me. No wonder she's nothing like me, my mother would think. How could she help but think that? How could she help but wonder about how different, how perfect, her real daughter would have been?
"I think Tuesday," Jenny said. "Don't tell her I told you, okay? My mother would kill me for snooping. I have to get these things back before she figures out I took them."
"What's the other paper?" I pointed to the two sheets of printer paper on her lap.
"It's just nothing." Jenny stuck both sheets back in the folder.
"Let me see," I said. Jenny was a terrible liar.
She hesitated, then reached into the folder and handed me another paper printed from the Missing Children's Bureau website.
Missing Children's Bureau director, Anna Chester Knightly, 44, has worked for MCB for ten years. Her infant daughter, Lily, disappeared from a Wilmington, North Carolina, hospital in 1994. She has one other daughter, Haley.
I couldn't speak. My mother? And a sister. "Where do they live?" I was finally able to ask. "Are they in Wilmington?"
"I don't think so. She's director of this Missing Children's place and I don't think that's here."
"She's been looking for me," I whispered. "All my life, she's been looking for me." I felt so much sympathy for her. Sympathy, and a longing so strong I felt it from the center of my heart to the ends of my fingers. "She probably thinks I'm dead."
Jenny took the paper from my hand and put it back in the folder. "Look, I've got to get home," she said. "I told my mother I was just going to the store for cough medicine. She'll be calling me any second."
"Leave the papers with me," I said.
"I can't. She'll notice they're gone."
"Please, Jenny. I need them."
"I can't." She started to put the folder back in the grocery bag, but I grabbed it from her and hugged it to my chest.
"Grace! I have to put them back!" she said.
"I'm keeping them. They're mine. They're about me."
"Gracie. Please. She'll kill me." She grabbed for the folder but I turned around quickly, opened my dresser drawer and shut the file inside it.
"Grace!" She tried to get to the drawer but I held her away. "You can find the same stuff on that website," she said. "On that Missing Children's website."
I held my hands out to my sides to keep her from getting to the drawer. She was right; I could find the information on the site, but I wanted those sheets of paper. Suddenly I felt like I couldn't stand one more thing being taken away from me. "Let me keep them, Jenny," I pleaded. I felt tears running down my cheeks. "Let them be mine."
She stared at me a minute, then pulled me into a hug. "Make copies," she said into my hair. "Then give them back to me tomorrow." I wasn't sure which one of us was crying harder.
I sat in my room for an hour after Jenny left, the two sheets of paper on my lap. I'd stared at the words on them for a long time before it got too dark to see them any longer, and it was like I didn't have the energy to turn on the light. When my mother came home, she stopped in my room to tell me she'd picked up sandwiches for dinner. I turned on the light then because I wanted to see if she looked any different to me, but she didn't. She wasn't the one who had changed in the past couple of hours.
After my mother went downstairs again, I logged on to the internet. I found the website for the Missing Children's Bureau and followed the URL to the page about Anna Knightly. I caught my breath. A picture! OmiG.o.d, she looked so amazing. She had this open, beautiful face. You could tell so much from a picture. She looked gentle and full of love. She had green eyes, which had to be where my flecks of green came from. I didn't think she looked anything like me otherwise, though. My own mother-at least, the mother who raised me-looked more like me than Anna Knightly did. I tried to find myself in her face, holding my hand mirror in front of me so I could look back and forth from my reflection to her photograph. My real father, I thought. I must look more like him. I shivered, creeped out by the thought of having any other father than the one I'd grown up with. The one I would love forever, no matter what.