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“Please don’t take this the wrong way,” I announced as I sat my parents down for ‘the talk’ on our family couch. My mouth was dry. “But there’s something you need to know.” I glanced between their faces.
“It’s about Lizzie,” I said, sitting up diplomatically.
“Is your sister OK?” Concern was written all over my mother's face.
“She’s fine!” I explained quickly. “But, I think there’s something she deserves to know.”
This secret had been eating away at me ever since my younger sister, Lizzie, had started 3rd grade. If I didn’t say something now, I would just be allowing the lies to continue. I avoided their eyes and took a deep breath.
“I know that Lizzie was adopted!” I blurted.
I waited for a response, but their expressions quickly melted from concern into amusement. They turned to each other and grinned.
“What?” I asked, trying to brush aside my confusion, “What’s so funny?”
“Robyn,” my dad wiped tears from his eyes with a grin, “Lizzie wasn’t adopted.”
I felt personally attacked. Why would they lie to me? I carefully chose my response.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course we’re sure,” my mom replied softly, quieting her laughter.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
“But it’s obvious!” I needed them to listen. “How do you explain the way she talks? And she looks so much different than the rest of us.”
“Listen sweetie,” my dad chimed back in, “Trust us, she wasn’t adopted.”
The look in his eyes almost made me believe him. I was so sure. I nodded, just to show that I understood, before hugging them both and running upstairs to get ready for school. I didn’t understand. I was going to prove them wrong.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it on the bus. Surrounded by screaming children, I was focused. I wanted to trust my parents, but my instincts were strong. If they were lying to protect Lizzie, why would they lie to me? I can keep a secret; I’m the oldest, they trusted me. This made it all the more confusing. Ideas were swirling in my head, but in the center of it all was only one thought: prove them wrong.
In art that morning, I explained it all to my friend Ian. He was mashing the paint together distractedly, turning his sunset brown. Art wasn’t really his thing, but he had helped me through more Bio tests than I could count.
“So you really don’t think I’m crazy?” I asked as I put the final touches on my lily pads.
“Nah,” he replied, creating a distinctly penis-shaped object in his sunset before quickly blending it in. “I think you’re a genius.”
“Thank you!” I was so relieved. “I’m glad someone understands. Too bad you’re the only one that thinks so.”
“Yeah well,” he grinned. “It takes one to know one.”
“Oh whatever.” I smiled too.
“So the question now,” he asked. “Is: are you going to let it go-” he paused waiting for the inevitable.
“Oh, of course not,” I said without hesitation.
“So the question becomes,” Ian said, taking a break from his pile of muddy paint to look me in the eye, “how do you prove it?”
“That’s just it,” I sighed, sinking against the plastic chair. “I don’t know.”
Mr. Kinder, the art teacher, was making his rounds and was almost to our table.
“I have an idea,” Ian’s voice lowered to a whisper.
“Hit me.” I leaned in, awaiting his response.
“Ian!” yelled Mr. Kinder, who was suddenly above us. “Again?”
Ian’s smug face shifted to anguish.
“I’ll tell you in Bio,” he muttered right before the bell rang.
All that day, the suspense was killing me. I got to Bio early, even though I knew Ian would be late. I sat in the back of the classroom, saving a seat beside me, as that was the optimal place for plotting.
As predicted, Ian slipped into the classroom right after the bell, quickly taking his seat beside me.
So what’s the plan? I scribbled on a piece of notebook paper before sliding it onto his desk.
He casually began his response, taking what I assumed was a pencil out of his bag. The teacher was reviewing slides, droning on about some new kind of technology. The notebook paper was flipped back onto my desk in paper football forum, landing with a louder thud than before. I eagerly unfolded it under my desk. I flinched when two small, clear, plastic vials landed in my lap. The paper itself was blank. I looked back up at him, confused. I grabbed a pen to express my confusion, and it barely touched the paper before Mr.Kinder startled me.
“Ian!” he snapped. “Robyn!”
His droning voice was now stern and slightly annoyed.
“What do you two think you’re doing?”
I looked up from my desk, realizing that the entire class had taken their books out. I glanced at Ian, who didn’t seem nearly as shocked. In fact, he seemed quite pleased with himself.
“This is not the first time that you have been too busy socialising to pay attention in class.”
Mr. Kinder spoke the truth. But this was important! I prayed that he wouldn’t separate us again, but he seemed more authoritative than usual.
“I would separate you two, but I’d rather not take up any more class time. I’d like you both to stay after school.”
And with that, he continued teaching. I felt the grossness of being caught in the act, even though I couldn’t care less about the class itself. I looked over at Ian for support, but he was contently folding more paper footballs.
By the end of class, the anticipation had drained me. As students flooded out of the room, Mr. Kinder handed us our worksheets.
“These are due tomorrow,” he said “No exceptions. I don’t expect you to finish but I do expect you to stay until five. Let the office know when you leave please.”
“Yes sir,” Ian said.
I nodded. Ian had the best grades in the class, but he was not one of the best students. When Mr. Kinder left, I immediately turned to Ian.
“Thank god he’s gone,” Ian sighed sinking into his seat.
“Yeah,” I said, “now you can explain yourself. It just sucks that we’re stuck here.”
“Well it’s a good thing we got in trouble,” Ian said with a grin. “Now we have everything we need.”
I looked at him, confused. What was he trying to say?
“Can you hand me those vials?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, taking them out of my pocket and sliding them across the table. “Are you going to explain yourself or are you just going to act mysterious?”
“Just let me work. I know a way to prove for certain that your sister isn’t your sister. I’m just going to need a DNA sample from both of you.”
“You know how to do that?” I asked in astonishment.
“Not without the proper equipment,” he replied. “Fortunately, we have everything we need in this classroom.”
Ian began rummaging through desks and opening cabinets left and right. The pace at which he was doing it made it look and sound like he was robbing the place.
“I’m one hundred percent positive that you aren't allowed to be doing that,” I said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said from across the room. “Just get me the samples.”
I had seen this in movies. I could obviously get my own DNA, but finding some of Lizzie’s was going to be impossible. I took one of the vials of Mr. Kinders desk, opened it up, and summoned as much saliva as I could. When I screwed the cap back on, the empty one beside it glared up at me. I didn’t want to wait until I got home to get the other sample, asking Lizzie to spit into a vial would be strange. Plus, we only had the classroom for so long.
“I don’t know what to do with the other one!” I said frantically. “It’s not like I carry her DNA around with me.”
“You have to have something that belongs to her, don’t you?” Ian asked over Mr.Kinder’s dinosaur computer.
I thought hard. I borrowed her jacket on occasion but today had been warm. Then, it hit me.
“Her pencil pouch! We traded because mine was bigger.”
When I pulled it out of my backpack, sure enough, there was a thick, black hair caught in the zipper. I pulled it out slowly and placed it carefully in the vial.
“Fantastic,” Ian sighed, snatching them off the table. “We have two hours left in detention and half an hour for the results.
“I forgot you were so good at this,” I said, following him to the computer. He had placed the vials in a simple looking piece of equipment; it looked well worn.
“I've done a DNA test on about 20 people this year,” he stated proudly. “Including your parents.”
I gaped at him.
“I wanted to know whether or not you were Italian,” he explained guiltily.
He looked back at the loading bar on the computer and then back up at me.
“Thirty-five percent.” Ian said, then avoided my eyes.
“What? You’re feisty,” He grinned before continuing his work.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about this invasion of privacy but at least it was coming in handy. To be honest, it seemed like something he would do. We waited there for about an hour (late, as usual) before a match appeared on the screen. I was sweating, half from anticipation, half from fear that a teacher would walk in.
“Ok,” he said, scrolling down. “Your results are in. Now we just have to wait for Lizzie’s. Hair always takes longer.”
“Please not too long,” I prayed aloud.
“That’s weird,” Ian said laughing. “I guess you got all of the Italian. This says sixty percent.”
“Oh whatever.” I rolled my eyes.
Just then, another match appeared on the screen. Without words, Ian clicked the file and began to scroll.
“This looks too different already,” he said. “I think you’re right.”
“Well, match it already!” I almost yelled.
“Working on it,” he mumbled.
After a few seconds, the results materialized on the screen. I couldn’t breathe.
“Not a match!” Ian yelled with triumph!
“I was right!” I screamed. “Print those out right now!”
I began to imagine showing my parents the results. They had lied to me, and I wasn’t going to let them forget it. Lizzie deserved to know the truth.
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Ian said gleefully, clicking the print button.
I couldn’t believe it. I finally had solid evidence. I didn’t care about waiting until five, I was going home! Ian handed me the printed sheets and returned to the computer.
“Man, I forgot how fun this was,” he exclaimed, “especially for a good cause. Now about that feisty Italian…”
I rolled my eyes.
“Have fun with that. Isn’t that racist or something?” I jabbed. “But for real, thank you.”
Slinging my backpack on as a free woman, I began to walk out the door before Ian stopped me in my tracks.
“Wait!” he yelled. “I think I might have done it wrong.”
My heart sank.
“What do you mean?” I asked, hurrying back over to the computer.
“Well, I just matched you to your parents,” he said nervously.
“And it wasn’t a match,” he said. “It must be broken. Here, let me try your sister’s again.”
A loading bar appeared on the screen.
“It might have mismatched yours. I’ll just collect it again,” he said to try and comfort me.
I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to show my parents something solid, not an accident created by a high school nerd. The screen flashed on with the results.
“Oh my god.” Ian’s voice got lower. “Robyn, your sisters DNA is a match.”
“To mine?” I asked anxiously.
I knew something like this would happen.
“No,” he replied, “To your parents.”
I could not have been more confused. Was he trying to say that Lizzie’s DNA matched theirs and mine didn’t?
“That’s not possible.” My voice was barely above a whisper.
“Robyn,” Ian repeated my name, “I think you were adopted.”