She sniffs. “I didn’t want to tell you this way.”
Every nerve ending in my body goes on red alert, and if I had antennae, they’d be standing straight up, too. “Tell me what?”
“I’m—I’m—” Tears start to fill her eyes again.
Meanwhile, my heart rate is so jacked up, I might start hovering over the couch. I stand, needing to do something, anything, at the moment as nausea climbs its way up my throat.
Please God, don’t let this be another one of Karl’s cast-offs. Please God, don’t let me have one of his ex-girlfriends sitting on my couch right now, about to pour her heart out to me. I can take a lot, but I’m pretty damn sure I can’t take that.
Sarah gets herself together enough to lift her chin and look me square in the eyes.
And my whole body goes cold in one of those moments when you know what’s going to come next will hurt—a lot.
And just like that, the already shaky foundation beneath my favorite pair of high-heeled boots dissolves, and I collapse onto the couch beside her.
“I’m sorry?” I must have misheard her. “What did you say? You’re my—”
“Sister.” She starts crying again. “I’m your sister. That’s how I knew where to find you, because Aunt Maggie was my aunt, too.”
And then the sobs start up all over again, but I’m too flummoxed to comfort her. To be honest, I’m too flummoxed to do anything but sit here with my mouth open and my head on the verge of exploding.
Because if she’s my sister and Aunt Maggie was her aunt, too—and that smarts, considering that means my aunt lied to me about something this hugely important—and it’s obvious that she’s younger than I am by at least five years and maybe even more…
I take a deep breath.
Okay, okay, okay. I can deal with this. I can totally deal with the fact that my father is a dirty, lying cheat.
I blow out the breath, and that’s when it happens. A sob that I was totally unprepared for comes out right along with it. Because no matter how much I want to deny it, no matter how much I want to pretend that Sarah is just pulling a cruel, cruel trick—or worse, is some kind of con artist—there is one thing I can’t ignore.
From the moment I first saw her, I thought Sarah looked familiar. And now that I’m staring at her in the middle of my very bright family room, I realize why that was. From the tips of her streaked brown hair to her ocean-blue eyes to the tiny little cluster of birthmarks on the side of her neck, she looks exactly like my father did when he was young.
All those times he lectured me about the sanctity of marriage even during hardship… All the times my mother told me that I needed to go back to Karl because a woman belonged with her husband no matter what… They hadn’t been talking about me at all. They’d been talking about themselves.
They’d wanted me to stay with Karl so they could feel better about themselves—about what they’d done and the choices they’d made.
And all the time my father had been lecturing me on what a good man Karl was, about how adultery didn’t have to mean the end of a marriage—all the time my mother had told me to wear sexier underwear and more fucking makeup—they’d been carrying around this secret.
The secret that not only did my father cheat on my mother with at least one woman—though my very angry gut says there were probably a hell of a lot more through the years—but that he fathered a child with her. And he kept that child a secret for more than two decades.
What the hell am I supposed to say to that? Except, “Welcome to the family.”
The poor woman.
That only makes her bawl harder and—not going to lie—for a second, I think about bawling right along with her. I’ve never felt more betrayed in my life, and that is saying something, considering the way my last few months have gone. By my father, by my mother, by my favorite aunt. What the hell is even happening right now?
My phone buzzes with a text—Mikey messaging me to let me know he’s looking forward to seeing me in a little while. I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing because oh my God. Am I living in the middle of a farce right now? Or just a really intense episode of some practical-joke TikTok? Because how the hell am I supposed to go on a date when my long-lost baby sister has just shown up at my door?
“I’m really sorry,” Sarah says. “I wouldn’t have come here if I had anywhere else to go. I even tried to talk to Dad—”
She broke off when my gaze snaps to hers. I’ve been an only child all my life—or so I thought—and hearing someone else call my father “Dad” shakes me to my already trembling core.
“What do you mean you tried to talk to him?”
Sarah sighs. “I went to his house, but he shooed me off the porch, then texted me to go away. That he would see me on Tuesday evening, just like he has every Tuesday evening for my entire life. But that I’m not to contact him other than that. I tried to tell him that I need help, that I’m in trouble, but he just stopped answering my texts.”
Jesus. I close my eyes, and the horror washes over me. From the time I was eight years old, Tuesdays were poker nights for my father. Every Tuesday night, he would come home from work early. He’d change his clothes, check on my mother and me, and then leave for the rest of the night to hang out with his buddies from law school and play a ruthless night of poker.
Every Wednesday at breakfast, he would regale my mother and me with tales of the cutthroat games he’d played the night before. I looked forward to those stories every week, even when I was a teenager. I shake my head, so annoyed that I hadn’t been a sucker just with Karl. I’d been that way with everyone my whole life.
The lying son of a bitch. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to look him in the face again. Hell, I don’t know if I’ll ever even want to look him in the face again, because right now I am about ready to say good riddance to bad trash, as my aunt Maggie always said. And she was right about that, even if she was wrong to keep such an important secret from me.
“My mom was your babysitter, just barely in her twenties, when you were a kid,” Sarah continues in between sniffles. “She died last year. She said she regretted the affair but never regretted having me.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I mean, yeah, I want to know, but why now?
“History seems to have a way of repeating itself, at least in some ways.” Sarah lets out a shaky breath. “I’m pregnant and the baby’s father doesn’t care, doesn’t want to be a part of the baby’s life, doesn’t want to be a part of mine. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I lost my job and a place to live all in one fell swoop. You’re my last hope.”