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   Chapter 59 No.59

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 11438

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:27


I THOUGHT MARTHA AND I HAD FIGURED every possibility, but we never considered this one. Winston is Uncle Charlie? My heart skipped a beat. Dad? Goose bumps rose on my arms. I've often heard that the first time a man sees his newborn child, an emotion of unconditional love sweeps through him like a flame on spilled gasoline. I was meeting my father for the first time and I felt something powerful sweep through me.

Sydney stammered like a child who'd just been tricked by a slight-of-hand magician at the county fair. "W—What did you do?"

Mother dabbed a tissue at her eyes, but looked as if she'd been relieved of a load she had carried her whole life. "All the feelings I thought I'd stowed away forever came rushing back. I went to pieces, burst into tears, and collapsed in the doorway. When he lifted me up, I grabbed hold of him, kissed him, and wouldn't let go." That loose shutter banged again against the side of the house. "We held each other for hours crying and laughing, and then made love. It was the most wonderful, most magical day of my life. And when it was time to go, I didn't want to leave, but Charlie insisted that I had to go home, that I had to keep his identity a secret."

"What? Why is that?" I asked Winston.

Winston—No, Charlie—No. My God! My father—my real father took over the story. I stared as if seeing him for the first time, hanging on his every word, looking for pieces of myself in him.

"The first few months in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, they kept me so doped up that I was seldom conscious. And when I was, the pain was so intense that all I wanted was to be knocked out again."

Mom watched him just as I did and his pain showed in her face.

"I'd been there for months before I realized that they thought I was somebody else. I told them my name was Charlie, but they just ignored me and kept calling me Winston. Then people that had known Winston before the accident began coming up from Wilmington and little by little I learned about Pearl—that she had married my brother Gus and that they'd had a child." The pain in Winston's voice brought tears to every eye in the room.

"After that, I didn't care what they called me. Or whether I lived or died. I just laid there and cried. The nurses thought it was because of the pain caused by my burns."

"I didn't know, " Mom said sliding an arm around Charlie, laying her head against his shoulder.

"Then, after being there for a year and a half, they released me from the hospital. But I didn't have anywhere to go. So I did what everyone around me expected me to do. I let them bring me back to Wilmington and set me up at the farm."

"Why didn't you tell anyone who you were when you got back to Wilmington?" I asked.

"I didn't want to be pitied, " he said looking down. "And people said they thought things had worked out pretty well for Pearl. They said she looked happy and I didn't know that you were my son."

Hearing those words caused my chest to tighten. I could feel the love in his eyes as they peered at me through his scarred slits. I felt dizzy. My legs shook nervously and my face felt as if it was on fire.

"And the biggest reason I kept my identity a secret is that I didn't know how Pearl would react if she saw me. Winston had never been married and his parents were dead, so I figured the best thing for me to do was leave well enough alone."

It was a powerful momen

hat to say. "Daddy knew the truth about me and hated me, " I said searching for the right words. "Would you rather he'd known about you, too?" She didn't answer, just sniffled. "Do you think it's easy giving up a child? Not being able to hold it? Not being able to tell it who you are?" I waited for a response, but none came. "It takes a lot of love, little sister, to give up not one, but two of your children."

"I would never do that."

"Of course you wouldn't. And maybe Charlie Baimbridge didn't want to either. But he had to. He knew that he would never be able to give us much of a life. That he would never be able to take us places and be the kind of father that he wanted to be."

"He could have done something."

"Did you know he was there at the hospital every single day both times you were there?"

She turned back to face me. "I didn't see him."

"Yes you did. He came in the room many times with Mom."

"I just thought…"

"I know. So did I. I thought he was there for Mom. But he stopped me every time I left and asked how you were doing. And how Daddy was doing, too. And he listened to every word I said. I could tell he really cared, I just didn't know how much."

Tears welled up in her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know. Didn't I?"

"Maybe."

"And all those times we went out to the farm with Mom, don't you remember how he always wanted to know everything we were doing? How we always had to take our report cards? Charlie Baimbridge had to let his brother raise his children because he knew it was the best thing for them. But he stayed in touch the only way he could."

She sat up and laid her head against mine. "What do we do now?"

"He's our father. Let's get to know him. Give him a chance."

"I'm so ashamed."

I put my arms around her. "Believe me, he'll forgive you."

As Hurricane Isabelle churned up the coast and changed the history of Ocracoke Island that day, so too were our lives changed forever. Secrets and lies gave way to truth and understanding. Charlie Baimbridge could never replace Gus in Martha's life, but she agreed to open her arms and her heart to him. And although my father's existence created new questions that needed answers, it answered quite a few that had haunted me for years.

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