Jeremy was angrier than he’d ever been in his life. Grinding his teeth through sleepless nights, driving too fast, drinking too much, snapping at strangers – it was new to him, these feelings and this behavior. He’d always been a pretty laid-back sort of guy. But to find out, at thirty-three, that he’d been sold to his parents like a bag of groceries. To learn that his birth mother’s husband had paid off the mortgage with money he’d gotten for Jeremy. It was just too much to process, and it was easier to be mad than sad.
It sounded like the kind of soapy TV drama he’d never watch, and at the bottom of the mess was a woman named Moira. If only she’d let well enough alone, but no, she kept digging and churning until she somehow uncovered the truth. He hated her for it.
He hated his parents, too. They’d misled him his entire life. Those honest, upright people, who wouldn’t pick up a quarter on the sidewalk in case the rightful owner came looking for it, had lied by omission. Yes, they’d always told him he was adopted, that he’d been chosen because he was special, but they skipped the fine print part of that story. Jeremy hadn’t seen or spoken to them since the night he found out the truth. As for his birth mother, what kind of woman would allow her nine-month-old son to be taken from her? When Moira called “to check on him,” as she put it, he let her have it.
“You want to know how I am? I’m practically an orphan, thanks to you. Just butt out for a change and leave me alone.”
“Sounds like you need to talk,” Moira said, her voice warm with concern. “Let’s get together.”
His first instinct was to shout a resounding no, but he was bursting with feelings he’d bottled up inside. It would be a relief to dump them all on Moira. She deserved it.
They met at a neighborhood pub after work. The place was only about half-full and they had no trouble finding a private booth. Facing her across the scarred table, Jeremy dived right in.
“What made you pursue my kidnapping so relentlessly? Why did you even care?”
“I remember when you went missing. I was seven and it shook my world. It was a big factor in why I chose my career path. I just couldn’t forget the baby who disappeared.”
“Well, you carried it too far and now you’ve ruined my life. I think you owe me an apology.”
“Oh, no, I never apologize for telling the truth. You needed to know.”
Jeremy looked narrowly at the woman across from him. She had to be about forty, seven years older than he, but she didn’t look it. She met his eyes with a frank, untroubled gaze. Obviously, her conscience was clear.
“Look, my whole life went up in flames because of you,” Jeremy said. He hated the whine in his voice, but there it was.
“You had good parents, didn’t you? They gave you a great start in life and raised you with love, right?”
“Love and lies.”
“They wanted you so much they were willing to take a terrible gamble to get you. They must have lived in fear all these years, and imagine how they feel now. And your poor birth mother. She had to have gone through hell when her baby was taken from her. You were her love child, you know. When I consider Hank Kirkpatrick, I can’t blame Myrna for having an affair.”
“Rather than let him sell me, why didn’t she leave? Why didn’t she take me and leave?”
“You should ask her.”
“Yeah, sure. And I’ll ask my birth father, whoever he is.”
“You could probably find him if you tried. I bet he’s local.”
“And then what?”
“Just meet him, talk to him. If nothing else, you need to know about medical conditions you could inherit.”
“You make it all sound so easy.”
“It’s as hard as you decide it will be,” Moira said, smiling at him as she might smile at a pouting little boy.
Jeremy struggled with that for a moment. Moira had a lot of chutzpa, but he had to admit she made sense. He’d been so wrapped up in his own feelings that he really hadn’t thought about what his parents were going through. A little niggle of empathy and another niggle of guilt broke through his hard shell of self-pity. He was acting like a jerk. Moira had led him to that realization so gently that his anger slipped away, replaced by a feeling of being understood and accepted, anger and all. Maybe she was right about his father, too. There was no doubt she was resourceful; she’d make a good ally.
“So, my father,” he said. “If I decide to look for him, will you help me find him?”