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I grinned. “You worry too much. You don’t have to protect me, Weston.”

“Says who?” he said, only half joking. “I’ll wait for you in the front.”

I shook my head. “You’ll be late for practice. Go ahead.”

He watched me as I stuffed a few things in my backpack. I followed the girls down the hall. We passed the set of lockers that stood alone in the middle of the commons area and then turned left toward the office. Just a few weeks before, I’d gone down this way, soaking wet. Now life seemed completely different, and it felt like it was about to change more.

I walked into the office, where Kay Rains stood, along with a police officer, Principal Bringham, and the counselor, Mrs. Rodgers. A few students and teachers idled about or sat in a row of chairs beside the door, waiting for something. Maybe for me, and whatever was about to happen.

“Why don’t we step into my office?” Principal Bringham said. “I think that would be best.”

Our small group followed him, and Kay asked me to sit with her in one of the two chairs in front of the principal’s desk. Mr. Bringham sat down and clasped his hands in front of him.

“Erin, I understand you’ve taken a blood test. Do you understand why?”

I nodded.

“I don’t want you to be nervous. I know there are a lot of people in here, but it’s just a formality. Ms. Rains has the test results, and she’s come here to explain them to you.”

“With a police officer?” I asked.

Kay chuckled. “I know. It’s awful. But we felt it was best since we’re on school grounds and the potential for emotions to run high . . . it seems like a bit much to me as well. But because you’re eighteen, and Ms. Easter requested we inform you at school should the results come back a certain way, we’ve come here.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but can we get to the point? I’m going to be late for work.”

Kay blinked. “Of course, I’m sorry.” She shifted in her seat. “Erin, according to the test results on all three of you girls, we’ve come to the conclusion that there was a mistake at the hospital the day you were born. It appears that the late Miss Alderman was given to the Aldermans, and you were given to Ms. Easter . . . by mistake.”

Mrs. Rodgers side stepped, making eye contact with me. “What she’s trying to say, Erin, is that you are Sam and Julianne Alderman’s biological daughter. Now, you’re eighteen, so I’m not sure what this means to you, but the Aldermans have been informed, and they would very much like to speak with you as soon as you’re ready.”

“They know?”

Mrs. Rodgers nodded and smiled. “And they’re eager to talk to you about it, if that’s all right. They know this is a huge shock for you, and they want to give you as much space as you need to think this over.”

“Where’s Gina?” I asked.

Kay looked to Mrs. Rodgers, then to me. “She opted out of the meeting. She has been made aware, as well.”

I thought for a moment, while everyone in the room waited for my reaction. I looked at Mr. Bringham from under my brow. “Am I free to go?”

“Of course. This must be very upsetting for you. Mrs. Rodgers and I are available to talk when you’re ready.”

Mrs. Rodgers knelt next to my chair. “If you have any questions, legal or otherwise, I would be happy to help you, Erin. Please don’t hesitate.”

I stood up and took my backpack with me. “Thank you. I appreciate it, but I have to go to work now.”

The police officer moved to the side and opened the door, and I walked out, trying to ignore the dozen or so pairs of eyes staring at me. I pushed through the side door of the building, to find Weston’s truck sitting under the overhang in the half-circle drive in front of the school.

I walked past him, but he jumped out and jogged after me. “What did they say?” When I didn’t respond or stop, Weston stood in front of me.

I blinked.

“Erin. What did they say to you?”

“That Gina Easter isn’t my mother, and Julianne Alderman is.”

Weston stood up straight and looked over my head, lost in thought. “Whoa.” He looked back down at me. “Are you okay?”

“I need to walk.”

“Sure you don’t want me to drive you? Let me drive you.”

I took a deep breath. “I haven’t walked in a while, and right now I just really, really need to walk.”

Weston nodded, and I walked around him, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other until my feet hit the familiar asphalt in front of the Dairy Queen. I yanked open the door and slipped on my apron, tying it quickly as I made my way to the front.

Frankie was taking a bite from her own concoction, leaning against the counter. “I thought maybe you weren’t coming in today.”

“Sorry. I had a meeting.”

“With Weston?”

“No,” I said, frowning.

“He was about ten feet behind you when you came into view, driving about one mile per hour, and then he turned into the ball fields and ran in to practice. Did you dump him?”

“We’re not . . . together . . . really.”

“So you dumped him?”


“What kind of meeting?”

“With the principal and the counselor and some lady from DHS.”


“I’m not really sure why she was there. They don’t really know what to do.”

“About what?”

“When, uh . . . Alder died . . . they did some tests, and they came back weird. So they did some tests on Sonny. Those were fine. So they asked me for a blood sample.”

“I’m completely confused, but I think you’re going to make sense any minute,” Frankie said, shoveling the spoon of Whatever Blizzard into her mouth.

“So, they tell me today after school that Gina’s not my mom.”

“What?” Frankie said, standing up, her mouth still full of ice cream.

“And Gina’s not even there. I mean . . . they said they told her, so she knows, but she wanted them to tell me at school. She didn’t come to be there when they told me. So I don’t know if I’m supposed to go get my stuff, or if I have a place to live, or . . .”

Frankie pulled me into her chest and wrapped her arms around me, and it was then that I realized I was sobbing.