Got inspired by Courtney Miller-Callihan’s writing prompt and was surprised where the story took me. Love when that happens!!

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I opened the last box, and inside found a slim stack of photos. Tired and sweaty, I blew the bangs off my forehead and slowly straightened in the hot attic. The over-bright Technicolor shades of the photos told me they were from the early ‘70s even before the bell bottoms and embroidered peasant tops did. My mother—young, beautiful, and sporting the era’s trademark shag cut—stood smiling in a backyard. She held a toddler on her cocked hip. Blond and chubby-cheeked, the baby bore a striking resemblance to my young mother…and to me.

The fine hair on my forearms rose. The certain chill of dread that precedes any cataclysmic finding that you later wished you didn’t know, ran through my belly.

I flipped it over and read my mother’s handwriting: “Serena. First visitation. 1972.”

I slowly replaced it at the back of the stack and flipped through the rest which ran sequentially, annually, through the next three years. At the bottom, there was a well-aged envelope whose seal no longer held. Centered above the flap was the name, “Greater New York City Adoption Agency” in a cobalt blue print that had faded over the decades.

Hands shaking slightly, I removed the folded stack of papers and numbly read the words that confirmed that my mother had given a baby up for adoption when she was 18. This baby—Serena?—now an adult, was my sister. My sister that I’d never met, and until moments ago, hadn’t even known existed.

Confusion and chaos washed over me. A flood of questions cascaded into my brain, faster than I could catalogue them. Foremost I wondered why my mother had never told me. Realization crystallized: My mother had intentionally never told me—yet she had left this information for me to discover, certainly knowing that the task of cleaning out her house after her death would fall to me. With her gone, I could never ask her why…how…what the circumstances were…who the father was…how she knew him…why…why…why…

It was then that another emotion rose—rough and raw and unexpected, it crowded the others out: anger.

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