Authors: Briana Gaitan
By Briana Gaitan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
Copyright © 2014 by Briana Gaitan
First Edition, 2014
This is a work of fiction.
All characters appearing in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
To: The what ifs, regrets, and loves that got away.
She stood in the hallway of my apartment building with her sparkly backpack thrown over one shoulder. I watched her foot tap against the carpet.
What is she nervous about?
She attempted to catch my eye by waving her hands in front of my face. “Uh, hell—o?”
“Um, who did you say you were looking for again?” I asked. I rarely got visitors, let alone young girls in the middle of the night.
“Maria Rose. Are
“I—I am. Who are you, kid?”
She pushed her way past me and walked straight into my living room. I spun around ready to push her out. Who was she? “Excuse me, but you can’t burst into other people’s apartment uninvited.”
“You got a husband?” She peeked into the adjacent kitchen then twirled around to look into the hallway. The whole apartment was three bedrooms, tiny, but the only thing I could afford on a LA waitressing budget.
“No, no husband. Who are you? Are you lost?”
“Got any more kids?”
more? What—” I may have been a beauty school dropout and college dropout, heck, I was even a bartending school dropout, but I wasn’t stupid. I was smart. Street smart and that was all that mattered. She turned to look at me, and I instantly recognized her blonde hair and enormous blue eyes engulfed in long dark lashes. I tugged at my own blonde hair, brittle from years of bleach to lighten it back to its former glory. She had my lean frame, but the rest of her…well that was from her father. She was the spitting image of her father.
“Ah, so it’s finally clicking.” She threw her backpack on the table and pulled out a giant pen and Kitten notebook. “I’ve got like a million questions, and if we hurry I can still get home in time to watch
“Wait. I don’t understand. Why are you here? How did you get my address? How did you find out about me?”
Annoyed, she threw her pencil down on the kitchen counter. I watched it bounce a few times and roll to a stop on the linoleum floor.
“Ugh! You’re slow. I am your daughter.” She extenuated every syllable and spoke slowly in that unruly teenager tone. “I got your information from the adoption files. Your address is public record.”
“How did you get ahold of those files?”
“You’d be surprised what people will do for money. Took a whole three months allowance to save up.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “Don’t get smart with me, kid. This is a pretty big shock.”
“Didn’t you think I’d come looking for you eventually?”
“Yeah, when you were eighteen maybe. You were supposed to be able to find me when you turned eighteen. Not when you were…” I counted the years up in my head. “…twelve.”
I’d prepared for this day ever since she was born, but suddenly all my speeches didn’t fit. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
“When did your parents tell you that you were adopted?”
She pulled out a few Andes Mints from her bag and offered me one. I declined and put my hands on my hips. She popped it in her mouth before speaking. “At the end of the summer before school started. Great timing, huh? Like I didn’t have enough going on with classes and stuff.”
“I—I suppose.” How do I talk to a kid? I didn’t hang around them very often.
“Well, I have this genealogy report due at school, and my parents are never around to help me so I thought I’d go straight to the actual source. My birth mother.” You can tell me all about my fabulous relatives and stuff.”
“Genealogy? They actually make you do that type of stuff.”
“Apparently, but whatever, you’re going off topic.”
“Wait.” I shook my head, finally coming to my senses. “Did you say your parents are never around?” That couldn’t be right. I’d handpicked them myself. The father was a director, the mother a model. They came from old Hollywood money; they were supposed to be the perfect fit. They were supposed to be the perfect American family.
“They work a lot.” She shrugged as if she were used to it.
“Don’t be. I’m not. They give me everything I want. See this?” She pulled an expensive looking phone out of the backpack. “People can’t even get these for another two months. My dad got me one last week!”
“Do they know you’re here?” I didn’t want to get in trouble; surely, there were rules about these types of things.
“No.” She beamed. “They don’t know I’m here. I’m awesome at getting information, figuring things out. I’m like Sherlock Holmes…no… or was it Watson that was the clever one? Anyway, have you seen that movie? It’s one of my favorites; I’ve seen like a gazillion times.”
“Actually, I have. I’m a sucker for Jude Law.”
I cleared my throat and walked over to the kitchen table. “Gimme just a moment.” Sitting down, I used my hands to calm my shaking knees and took a few deep breaths. From the corner of my eye, I snuck another look at her. She was beautiful, and I wasn’t saying that just because I gave birth to her. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she would soon be breaking hearts with those big round eyes and lips.
“I’m sorry. This isn’t what I expected to be doing at midnight. Actually, I was about to make some tea, want some?” I didn’t wait for an answer. I jumped up and fumbled around to put the kettle on the stove.
“Aren’t you going to ask my name?”
“What? Oh, yes. Please excuse me. What did they, your parents I mean, name you?”
“My name is Jenna.”
“Jenna,” I said the name softly to myself. “You said you had questions? About my genealogy?”
“Oh, no. That was just a lie in case you turned out to be a real stiffer. You seem kinda cool, so I’m gonna come out and say it. First off, I wanted to know…about my father. His name wasn’t in the files.”
I gripped the edge of the counter as a million emotions flowed through my body. Rage, anger, hurt, betrayal. Feelings that had been locked up for over a decade spilled in like a wild fire.
“You came all this way to ask about your father?”
“Well, no. I want to know about you, but I’m most curious about him. I don’t even know his name.”
I pulled two mugs out and set them down. “Kid, his name isn’t important. He isn’t important. You have a father that loves you at home. Your best bet is to there and forget this ever happened.”
“Why don’t you let me decide what is and isn’t important,” she snapped. My ears popped up. She had his fiery attitude and persistence as well. It didn’t matter though. I didn’t want to talk about him. Opening this door could bring my entire world down.
“I’m gonna call your parents to come and get you.” I reached for my cell, but her hand shot out and grabbed mine.
“Please,” she begged. “Please don’t call them. I’ve only got a few questions. Please? If you were me, wouldn’t you wanna know?”
Guilt. That was the feeling inside of me, swirling around and tearing up my insides. What could it hurt? Answer a few questions, send the girl on her way, and I’ll be on with my life. “Okay, you can stay for a moment, but I’m gonna drive you home. This isn’t the safest part of town to be wandering around in.”
“Deal! So does he know about me?”
“No.” I pulled out a few bags of Earl Gray.
Breath Maria, you can do this.
“Were you married to him?”
Oh, no. I can’t do this
“Do you still talk to him?”
Why did I agree to talk about him?
“No.” The teakettle started screaming.
“Were you in love with him?”
I swallowed, a knot forming as I did so, before answering. “No.”
“Are you going to say anything else besides no?”
“Nope.” I filled the cups up with hot water and looked up at her with amusement. “Alright, questions asked. Let’s get you home.”
“What?” she crossed her arms in front of her body and her eyes barrowed in on me. “I’m not going anywhere until you give me some answers.”
“Oh, fine. What do you wanna know?”
She slumped down in a chair and sighed. “I wanna know about my real parents, you and my father.”
I hadn’t thought about him in years. In fact, I purposely avoided TV and magazines so that I didn’t have to see his face starting back at me. I steadily carried the mugs over to the table and sat down next to her.
“I moved to LA with my parents right after Jr. High. My dad was this big shot lawyer, and had gotten a promotion at work. Anyway, I met your father at a party with friends. His parents were big shot Hollywood actors and he’d been in a few small movies himself. I guess you could say he was the heartthrob of every 15-year-old girl, I fell for his charms, we hooked up, and you came nine months later. I was barely 16, and I had to hide the entire thing from my parents. See? Nothing to tell.”
Her jaw dropped so she lifted her hand to close it. “Liar! Lies! All of it! Are you kidding me? That is the worst love story I’ve ever heard!”
“Will you stop love-grubbing me? Listen, kid. I told you. We weren’t in love.” I took a sip of my tea and looked down at the table. What in the world was love- grubbing anyway? When I got nervous, things just flew out of my mouth with no filter.
“Oh, whatever. I saw the way your knees gave out, and your face turned this disgusting pale color when I brought him up. Face it; you’re in love with him!”
She saw everything, noticed everything. S
he’s insightful and—get ahold of yourself, Maria! She’s not your daughter. You gave her up!”
“If I tell you the truth, you have to promise not to ask me his name; I can’t tell you who he is. He has a very successful career and a fiancé—“
“I thought you didn’t know—”
“Don’t interrupt me, kid. You can’t barge in on him. I promise I will tell him about you, and
he is interested, he will be in contact with you when you turn
“Deal! Now is this a tragic love story? Did he break your heart?”
I rolled my eyes. “Something like that. Let’s see, we met during the summer. We thought we were in love, but what do fifteen year olds really know about love? I used to dream that we’d get married when we turned eighteen, and we’d move away, but he had this saying. He always said, ‘Love is not for me.’ I guess looking back, I should have known from the start. Love can blind the willing, and I…well, I was willing. We’d dated all summer. His parent’s
me, but when school started back up in September, he went back to acting classes and auditions. Oh, this is so confusing. For the sake of it, let’s call him, John. Like John Doe. That way I won’t have to tell you his real name.”
“John it is.” She leaned forward with her chin resting on her hands.
My eyes drifted shut, and I let my mind travel back to a simpler time. A time when love was humble, and I wore my heart on my sleeve.
“You have to let me talk to him!” I’d shown up at your father’s parents’ house for tenth time that week. As usual, I stood outside the Victorian mansion and waited for someone to open the door. The door cracked open, just enough for the housekeeper to peer out. She was short, Hispanic, and the sweetest person I knew in Beverly Hills. You see, most of the people I knew in California were stuck up and materialistic, nothing like the people back home. Your father had been the same way, but he treated me differently. He didn’t care that my family was poor, or that I didn’t have the nicest clothes. We both liked the same music and adored watching old movies.
“The Mister say you not allowed to see his son anymore. I call the police if you come here.”
“Valentina! Please,” I said. “I need to speak with John. It’s important.”
She shook her head and begun to push the door closed “I am sorry, Maria. Please, go.”
My hand shot out and grabbed the door before she could close it. In an act of desperation, I told her something that I hadn’t shared with anyone. Something others only at school speculated, but I’d never confirmed. I’d drove eight hours to get here. I wasn’t going home empty-handed.
Valentina’s eyes lowered to my stomach which I kept hidden under baggy sweaters. It took a moment, but she finally opened the door to let me in. “Un memento.”
I walked inside still unsure as to what I was going to do. Your father- John- his parent’s had already forbidden us from seeing each other earlier that fall. But that was before I’d found out I was pregnant with you. I’d spent the past seven months hiding my pregnancy from my mom, which wasn’t hard to do. I was an only child, and my mother worked as an airline attendant, so she wasn’t home much. When she was around, I wore baggy clothes, and she’d made a few comments about my weight gain, but nothing more. She was too tired to pay me any attention.
John’s mother walked into the room. She wore something expensive, I can’t remember what, and she was perfectly made up. Her hair in a sophisticated bun. “Who is it, Valentina?” She took one good look at me and her eyes about bulged from her head.
“What is this? What are
doing here? I thought I told you to stay away from my son.”
What had I been expecting? For her to take one look at my stomach and instantly feel sorry for me?
“Leave us, Valentina!” She stared at me with those cold eyes. This was the woman that John hated. He always commented on how his inability to fall in love stemmed from the fact that she was distant, never touched him, and possibly the worst mother in the world. At that moment, I understood exactly how he felt. It’s never your fault, not when no one has taught you how to love. Blame our parents. It what all could do. Me with my wild child ways due to lack of parental supervision, and him with his fear of commitment due to abandonment issues.
“I’m pregnant and your son is the father,” I told her. Looking back, this had to have been the worst idea in the world. But I was young and irresponsible. I had no idea what I was going to do or what I needed to do. I had no way to get ahold of John and as the months progressed, the more desperate I’d become. John wanted to be an actor so he traveled constantly and worked crazy hours. And though my home number remained the same, he never called.