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It took a few moments for me to process the words I had just heard. Daughter? If I was honest with myself it had been months since I’d even thought about the baby girl that Amber had given birth to 18 years ago. After having her taken by the state and placed with an adoptive family Amber had been emotionally devastated in a way that neither of us could have anticipated. The abruptness with which it had happened certainly hadn’t helped things.
For years after that day the baby we lost was a daily or weekly topic of discussion or at the very least something we thought about regularly. It was made worse when Amber had found out she had ovulation dysfunction likely as a result from her drug use, which meant she could no longer have a child. Eventually though, we rested easy with the idea that the baby had found its way into a loving family who would provide her with the healthy upbringing that we could not have given her at that time. We also settled into our own lives, our bond becoming even stronger as a result.
When we finally tied the knot in marriage almost a decade ago the idea that we would not have children became the life we expected, and it was something we had now become at peace with. We didn’t feel like we were missing anything and instead doubled our efforts to improve our lives together and our relationship, an effort that had made the last ten years of marriage incredible. The idea that we would ever have to confront our past or contemplate an alternative future was never on our minds. And yet, here she was—a young girl claiming to be our daughter.
My stunned silence and shocked expression must have tipped Sienna off to the fact that I was not quite anticipating such an event, which spurred her to follow up her bombshell revelation with a little bit of explanation.
“Yeah, I’m sorry for just like, showing up on your doorstep. This is probably super weird, I get it…”
Sienna’s eyes fell to the white trainers she was wearing and I sensed that she also hadn’t quite thought this interaction through. I also detected a hint of embarrassment from her and possibly shame, likely believing she was unwanted and had made a mistake in ever coming here. The idea that she probably felt like complete shit as a result of my failure to adequately compose myself made me feel equally like shit and I knew I had to try to stop this train from traveling any further off the rails.
“No, I should be the one apologizing. I’m not good with surprises,” I smiled kindly and hoped my self-deprecating reply would help to put her at ease.
She met my smile with one of her own and seemed to regain a bit of the confidence it must have taken to knock on my door in the first place.
“Yeah… there really isn’t a non-surprising way of breaking this kind of news, unfortunately,” she joked.
“No, I guess there isn’t,” I remarked, wondering what Amber was going to think of this particular surprise.
“So… can I come in or?” Sienna finally asked, breaking several seconds of awkwardness as both of us struggled to think of something to say.
“Yeah, of course. I should have invited you in. Apparently I’m a bit slow today,” I added, trying to excuse my social ineptitude with humor.
“It’s cool, this is probably the last thing you expected. I really don’t blame you for not being like, super smooth,” She commented perceptively.
“Have a seat for a minute, I’ll be right back,” I said, motioning to the dining room table.
Sienna did as I requested and sat at the dining room table while I headed down the hall toward the bedroom, wondering how this news was going to be received by Amber.
I opened the door and stepped in, shutting it behind me.
“Who was it? I heard you talking to someone,” Amber asked still laying in bed, smoking and checking her phone.
“We have company,” I answered curtly.
Amber looked up from her phone and it seemed my demeanor gave me away immediately.
“What’s wrong? Who’s here?” she asked.
I searched my vocabulary for the least shocking words to use and came up completely blank.
“Babe? Are you ok?” Amber prodded, now removing the covers and sitting up.
“It’s our baby,” I replied finally, choosing the word ‘baby’ as a last minute replacement for daughter in an attempt to make it somehow more easy to digest.
Amber’s eyes suddenly took on a look of alertness and her mouth opened as if she was going to say something but resigned herself to thought, clearly suffering the same bout of shock that I had experienced only minutes before.
“Our daughter, she’s sitting in our dining room right now. Her name is Sienna,” I explained, hoping a more grounded description of the current circumstance would shake Amber out of her speechlessness.
Amber’s features slowly relaxed into a look of contemplation, she punctuated that look with a hard drag on her cigarette, clearly needing the calming properties of the nicotine now more than ever. She stubbed out her spent butt and swung her feet out of the bed and onto the floor, heading istanbul escort right for the closet.
I continued watching as Amber grabbed her white shorts and a pale yellow tank top, putting them on as quickly as I’d ever seen.
“Are you ok?” I asked, a bit unnerved by her lack of an audible response.
After having put her clothes on and slipping on a pair of sandals she finally looked at me and smiled.
“I’m very ok,” she beamed, giving me a soft kiss before heading out the door.
I followed her out, hoping Amber would take the lead as she certainly seemed to be handling it better than I was.
As we entered the dining room Sienna looked over to see Amber and I could see an instant connection form between them. Sienna’s smile was big and bright and featured none of the awkwardness that it had when she had met me. I silently cursed myself for making such a poor first impression.
“My baby..” Amber said, walking directly to the table and holding out her arms to invite a hug she had probably been dreaming about since that day in the delivery room.
Sienna stood up from her chair instinctively, meeting Amber’s open arms with an equally genuine display of affection.
I watched from a few feet away as Amber and Sienna embraced for the first time, something that had been callously denied to Amber 18 years ago. Both of them were brought to tears, holding onto to one another and sobbing softly, clearly overcome with a type of emotion that can only be understood by a mother and daughter.
After nearly a minute they broke apart and stepped away from each other, looking into each other’s eyes and smiling. Amber placed her hands on Sienna’s shoulders while Sienna began wiping her eyes.
“Damnit, I did my make-up for this and everything,” Sienna joked, referencing the streaks of eyeshadow and eyeliner that were now smudged and streaking.
Amber laughed in response, but kept her arms on Sienna’s shoulders, as though fearing if she didn’t keep a hold of her she would be taken away again.
“You’re beautiful,” Amber remarked.
Sienna smiled wide again, looking away in a moment of mother-daughter embarrassment.
Finally, Amber let her grip on Sienna’s shoulders release and they sat down in unison. I finished my way to the table myself and joined them, sitting across from Amber which put Sienna in the middle of both of us on the far side.
“So, we obviously want to know everything about you but do you want to ask us anything first?” Amber asked, taking the lead like I figured she might and felt she deserved.
Sienna fidgeted a moment, looking down at the table at her clasped hands.
“I guess the first thing I’d want to ask is why? Why did you give me up?” She asked.
I looked at Amber who looked at me in kind, silently communicating to me that she would take this one. Which was good, as I really didn’t know how much she wanted to tell.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly our choice,” she began, trying to be truthful without revealing too much about the exact circumstances surrounding our motivations at that time.
“I was an addict, and I was very young and didn’t have any means to take care of you. The state believed we were unfit parents and we really weren’t in a position to fight it. Ultimately, we felt that they were probably right and that the best thing for you was to be given to a family that could give you what we couldn’t,” Amber’s eyes broke from Sienna for a moment and she looked to me, a tear running down her cheek.
I reached out and wiped it away, fighting back tears of my own.
“I’ve thought about that decision constantly since that day, I still don’t know if I did the right thing,” Amber concluded.
Which keyed me into the fact that although she no longer spoke about it, Amber had continued being tormented about our past unbeknownst to me. Which stung badly.
Sienna remained silent, perhaps wondering what she should follow up with, and perhaps digesting what Amber had just said. Amber responded by reaching out her hand and placing it on Sienna’s forearm, which prompted Sienna to look up and meet Amber’s gaze.
“I’m sorry,” Amber spoke in a near whisper.
Sienna smiled and wiped another tear from her eye, putting her hand on top of Amber’s hand and squeezing softly.
“It’s okay, I’m not mad. I’m just curious. I didn’t find you to yell at you for what you did or because I hate you. I’ve had a great life, I’m happy. I really just.. I just needed to know who you were. I don’t know why, I just needed to do this,” Sienna explained.
Which in turn brought a thought to my mind.
“Speaking of which, how did you find us? I don’t think we were ever contacted by an adoption agency or anything,” I queried.
“My birth certificate. When I turned 18 I requested a copy of my original birth certificate and both your names were on it. After that it didn’t take too much work on the internet to find out where you lived,” She revealed, making avcılar escort it all sound quite banal.
“Do you live close?” Asked Amber.
“Not too far, a few hours. I took the bus, I don’t have a car yet,” Sienna answered.
“You still live with your parents?” I asked.
“Yeah, I head to college in the fall. I graduated from high school a couple weeks ago, that’s when they told me that I was adopted,” She explained with a wry smile on her face.
“And how’d that go?” I followed-up, sensing a story there.
“About as well as you’d expect,” Sienna replied, denying me the particulars but getting the point across nonetheless.
“Are you on good terms with them? Are they ok with you coming here?” Amber asked.
“Yeah, there were a couple days of weirdness but I got over it pretty quick. I don’t really blame them for waiting so long to tell me. They wanted me to be old enough to deal with it, which I understand. But they gave me the money for the bus ticket and everything. We’re good,” she explained with an air of maturity that impressed me.
“Speaking of, I need to call them to let them know I got here ok and you guys aren’t serial killers or anything,” Sienna quipped, grabbing her phone.
“Well, you haven’t seen the dungeon in our basement yet,” I cracked.
Sienna laughed aloud and put her phone up to her ear, making sure I saw her eyes rolling at my attempt at humor. I mentally congratulated myself for making my first ‘dad joke.’
“Hey mom, I’m here. Everything is fine,” Sienna reported and began nodding her head in physical acknowledgment of the many questions no doubt being lobbed at her from the other line.
“Yep.. yeah… Yeah, I’m sitting at their table right now… Uh huh… Ok… Yep… Ok, I love you too. Ok, call you when I’m back on the bus. Yep.. ok.. ok bye.”
And with that Sienna had fulfilled her daughterly duties and congratulated herself with an even more pronounced eye roll. I laughed.
“When is your bus leaving?” Asked Amber.
“7:45” came Sienna’s reply.
I looked to the kitchen at the microwave and saw that it was 5:36 pm. This was apparently meant to be a fairly brief visit.
“Tonight?” Amber asked with a tinge of incredulity.
“Yeah, I didn’t know how this was going to go or if you were even going to be home. I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Sienna replied truthfully.
“Oh,” Amber responded, sounding a bit more deflated with every syllable.
Sensing the realization that Sienna was going to leave so soon having crushed Amber’s spirits I sprung into action.
“You could stay with us, we have a spare room. We could just drive you back tomorrow and repay you for the ticket. Or buy you another ticket. Whatever works for you,” I offered, hoping for Amber’s sake that she’d accept.
I could tell immediately from Sienna’s face that she was hoping for such an offer.
“I gotta let my parents know but that would be great. You’re sure?” Sienna asked.
“Of course! You just got here, we should at least have enough time to hear all about you before you leave,” Amber interjected, reinforcing my invitation.
Again a bright, wide smile appeared on Sienna’s face, revealing her enthusiasm at the idea.
“Ok, let me call my mom back real quick,” She said, tapping on her phone furiously.
We waited a few moments while another slew of questions and confirmations were exchanged and Sienna’s eyes exhibited a perpetual series of eye rolls. Finally, ‘I love you’ followed by ‘ok bye’ and the call was complete.
“Ok, done,” Sienna exclaimed.
“So your mom is ok with you staying the night?” I asked, a bit surprised at their parental leniency.
“Well, I am 18 so… they really have no control over whether or not I stay. They know I’m going to do what I’m going to do so they generally don’t fight me on most things anymore. They also know this is very important to me and they know they owe me for the adoption thing and they’re trying to win points by being extra cool right now. So, yeah, it’s all good,” She explained, hinting at a bit of the impressive perception I noticed earlier and also a healthy dose of the manipulation that teen girls are especially adept at wielding.
I smiled proudly at the thought that this beautiful, smart young girl was my daughter. While I beamed I caught Amber looking at me lovingly, clearly appreciative of my quick offer of accommodations. I reciprocated her loving smile and nodded ever so slightly in acknowledgment.
“Ok, so I have more questions,” chirped Sienna, sounding energized with having more time at her disposal.
“Shoot,” I replied.
“How long have you guys been married? I was pretty surprised that you were still together actually, you had me when you were still in high school right?” She asked.
“No, actually we had you after we graduated. We got married about ten years ago but we’ve been together since Freshman year,” I answered.
“Seriously? Freshman year? That’s crazy,” She replied in şirinevler escort astonishment.
“I guess it is, but it doesn’t really feel that long,” I remarked.
“It’s been us against everything since we were kids. I can’t imagine myself without Matt. He’s my everything,” Amber mused, her eyes glassy again and tempting tears.
“I feel the same,” I replied, again feeling the now familiar lump in the back of my throat indicative of a swelling of emotions.
“Awww.. you guys are so cute,” Sienna gushed.
I smiled and felt my cheeks burn in embarrassment at being called ‘cute’ by an 18-year-old girl.
“It would be amazing to find someone and have a relationship like that, but boys in high school are such assholes. I think I’m going celibate until I graduate college and meet a grown man,” Sienna scowled, again baring the threads of a story that she didn’t seem interested in expanding on.
“Have you had many boyfriends? You’re so gorgeous I bet they love you,” Amber pushed brazenly.
Sienna shifted in her seat a moment, clearly a bit uncomfortable with the subject.
“It’s ok, you don’t have to get into it if you don’t want to,” I offered.
“No, it’s ok. I’ve only had one boyfriend and I dated him from Junior to Senior year. My parents are really religious so, it was kind of hard. Also, he turned out to be a total asshole anyway, so they must have known something I didn’t,” Sienna explained.
“If he lost you then he’s a moron. Good riddance,” I responded, surprising myself with how quickly my ‘fatherly instincts’ were kicking in.
Sienna seemed to appreciate my overzealousness and flashed me a smile.
“What college are you going to?” Amber asked.
“Oregon State. I have an athletic scholarship for track and field,” Sienna replied proudly.
“Oh wow, that’s amazing, congratulations. Are you a runner?” I asked, genuinely impressed.
“Yeah, you’re thinking of cross-country. I did that too but I do Sprints and Hurdles in track and field. I was all-state two years in a row,” Sienna corrected my abysmal athletic knowledge.
“I’m so proud! I don’t know who you got it from though. Neither of us were into sports,” Amber added.
“What were you into?” Sienna asked.
Amber looked at me with a devious grin and I sensed her desire to divulge a bit more than she probably should. I smiled back but hoped she’d exercise some restraint.
“Well, I did a lot of after-school stuff—food drives, tutoring, volunteer work. I also had a lot of youth group stuff with my church. Matt played music and hung out with his friends,” Amber detailed.
“Are you still active with the church?” Sienna asked.
“Um..,” Again I could sense Amber’s desire to get deeper into our sordid past, “No, I’ve pretty much moved on from that,” Amber settled on a simple but reluctant answer.
“Oh..,” Sienna replied, perhaps sensing more to the story but unsure about whether to pursue it.
I decided to run interference.
“What do your parents do?” I asked.
“Um, my mom stays at home with me and my two younger sisters. My dad is an electrical engineer, he works on planes,” Sienna answered.
“Oh wow, he must do pretty well then,” I replied, a faint sense of inferiority creeping in.
“Yeah, I guess,” Sienna replied, seemingly unaware or disinterested in her father’s financial prowess.
“What about you guys?” Sienna asked, taking the opportunity to swing the focus back on us.
“I’m a manager at a grocery store and Amber is a registered nurse,” I answered.
Sienna just nodded, perhaps asking that question as a matter of course rather than a deep interest. I was relieved that my relatively unimpressive job title in comparison to her adoptive father seemed of little interest to her, and I cringed inwardly at my own feelings of inadequacy.
We continued volleying questions back and forth for the next couple of hours, each of us getting to know the other as much as time would allow. We learned that Sienna had been a straight-A student, had broken her arm when she was 15 doing hurdles, had been to Summer camp with her church every year for the last 7 years, loved green tea, hated mustard, wanted to be a veterinarian, and many more tidbits.
By 8 o’clock we were all comfortable with one another and had settled into a very friendly and familial atmosphere that felt completely natural. Amber had made a special connection with Sienna from the first moment and it had only grown stronger. I, on the other hand, had botched the introduction phase but had eased my way into ‘dad’ quite soon after with a deft use of humor and compliments.
I could sense everyone start to wind down and the adrenaline of the day’s events finally drain a little. Who knew an unexpected visit from your long-lost daughter could be so tiring? I also noticed Amber getting very antsy as she had gone nearly 3 hours without a cigarette, most likely the longest she’d gone since Sienna was born. I wasn’t sure if she was intentionally trying to hide the fact that she smoked from Sienna or if she was just so caught up in the moment that she didn’t want to interrupt it. Either way, all of us probably needed to relax the mood a little.
I decided to show Sienna her room and allow Amber to do what she needed to do. When I suggested it, she darted away immediately and I knew I’d made the right choice.
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