Author's note: The idea for this story came to me through a short story I was writing. Suddenly, the entire... Show full author's note »
Chapter 1I spent the first fifteen years of my life not knowing I had a sister
I admit, I found out about her through snooping. I had snuck out to my neighbor’s bonfire the night before, a bonfire which I was not permitted to attend. My mom didn’t like these particular neighbors due to the fact that the two boys, Jack and Conner, got arrested for drunk driving last year. I was about ready to kill both of them for getting me grounded. I could have easily slid back inside my window and crawled into bed before my mom noticed that I was missing. However, they were drunk as usual and were screaming, “Don’t get caught, Ruby!” loud enough to wake up the neighbors at least ten houses down as I was tiptoeing through my yard. My mom was sitting in my room, waiting for me to climb back through the window. Thank you very much, Jack and Conner.
Spending the first few weeks of summer without my phone was definitely not my ideal way to start the vacation. As soon as she left for work the next morning, I began my search. I grabbed the home phone off of counter and dialed my cell number. The call went straight to my voicemail. I sighed, knowing now I would have to look through each and every drawer in her room, excluding her underwear drawer.
I successfully found my phone in the drawer attached to my mom’s desk, which sat next to her bed. There was nothing else in that drawer other than a newspaper clipping from the Sun Times. Curiously, I reached for it and began to read. It was a list of the winning poems from some poetry contest for teenagers all around Ohio. I remembered how my English teacher forced the class to submit at least one poem from our poetry portfolio to this contest. I, who had neglected to finish my portfolio, had to quickly write something down before the bell rang to start the class. As I read through the winning poems, one particular poem, the one circled in purple marker, caught my eye:
Life’s a hopeless search
To find things unknown
There are too many
Fern Foster, Age 14, Cleveland
Considering we shared the same last name, I concluded that she was a long-lost cousin. But I was almost one hundred percent certain that I knew all of my cousins. I was really close with all of them. I was sure that if I had a long-lost cousin, someone would have told me by now. And why would my mom have kept a poem from her in her drawer?
I knew the one and only way to find out the answer was to ask my mom about it. I made her her favorite soup, Cream of Mushroom, which was sitting on the table with a piece of French bread on the side by the time she came home for her lunch break. I knew I went overboard, but I also knew that every time that she was in a bad mood, she would refuse to talk to me until I cleaned something. Having met her boss on Bring-Your-Child-To-Work-Day, I knew that it was definitely a possibility. I was not in the mood to go clean the basement, which was well in need of dusting.
“Hi, Mom!” I chirped, sitting myself down in the seat beside her, “How was your day so far? I hope it was well.”
“Ruby, I hope you know that this isn’t going to get your phone back.” my mom said suspiciously, stirring her soup with her spoon but not bringing it to her mouth.
“Mother, this isn’t about my phone,” I smiled sweetly, “I just have a quick question.”
“And that is?”
“Who is Fern Foster?”
At the sound of her name, she dropped the spoon, the splash leaving bits of soup on the table which I knew I was going to have to clean up later. She immediately turned pale, and she refused to meet my gaze.
“How do you know about Fern?” she asked with a worried tone in her voice.
I froze. How was I supposed to tell her I found her poem while looking for my phone?
“You left the drawer in your room open. When I walked by, I saw a newspaper clipping in there. I was curious.” I lied pathetically.
To my relief, she didn’t question what I was doing in her room. By the look on her face, I could tell she was trying to think of something, anything, to get out of telling me the truth.
“Honey,” she sighed in defeat after a few long moments, “Fern Foster is your sister.”
That left me speechless. My mom had once told me a story about my father, but never anything about a sister. I absentmindedly brought my hand up to the scar above my left eyebrow. Supposedly, I had gotten this when he had hit me over the head with a beer bottle when I was just two years old. My mom grabbed me and ran, not stopping until we were a safe distance from the house. We took a bus and stayed with a friend until my mom could afford an apartment for the two of us. We never went back.
But what had happened to my sister?
“Fern was your twin. The day you got that scar, she ran away and hid.” her voice cracked, and she did not attempt to stop herself from crying, “I wasn’t thinking. All I did was grab you and run, I didn’t think I could find her in time. Your father was so angry, he had a gun in his hand, and he was threatening to shoot me with it. I was so scared.”
Thinking back, I don’t think she ever told me what had made my father so angry. But at the moment, I was not worried about that.
“And we went back for her, right?” I asked.
My mom just buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
“Right?” I asked again, nervously awaiting the answer.
My mom shook her head.
“I was too scared.”
“Well, then what are we waiting for?” I asked, “We need to save her.”
My mom just shook her head.
“Honey, Fern probably turned out fine. I doubt she even remembers us, we would be like strangers taking her away.”
“Fine?” I asked in disbelief, “But Mom-”
“What if she hates us for leaving her?” she whimpered.
I sighed in frustration and stood up.
“Ruby, honey, it’s complicated.”
I didn’t answer her. Having a twin sister was enough for me to take in.
I sat down on my bed with the poem in her hands. Part of me wanted to put it away and pretend I never came across it. I read it over once more. It seemed as if it were an ignored plea for help. How could I go on living my life knowing I was just another person who didn’t give her poem a second thought?
I stood up and began to pace back and forth. My window was open, and a cool summer breeze floated through the window. I went up to it and looked down. It wasn’t that far of a jump, I could easily get outside from my bedroom. I had done it many times before.
I sat back down on my bed. Pacing back and forth was not going to change the fact that my sister was somewhere out there in Cleveland with our abusive father.
Going to find her was.