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The corridor was far to the right, stretching into a magnificent balcony with stairs leading down to the crystal clear waters. The sky had been a brilliant mixture of pinks, oranges, and yellows, just like a beautiful July evening on Lake Michigan should be.
My family was rich. We spent our summers at the lake house south in Sheboygan. It was smaller than our home in the Upper Peninsula, but still quite large compared to Tulia James’ home blocks down from mine.
I was wearing a floridly dyed sundress, which did not quite compliment my stick straight strawberry blond hair or my black charcoal eyes. But I was the lucky one. While clothes were a pain to choose, I never looked like anyone. Few thirteen-year-old girls have such a look as mine.
So, anyway, back to the lake house. I had a queen size bed centered a large room with waxed wood flooring and pastel oranges and yellows, my favorite colors. I had just a small balcony near my private bathroom in which I would step out on to every night, so I could look up at the stars in wonder and awe.
Chandelle and Camden Kasson look nothing like me. My sister Chandelle has pale green eyes and washed out black hair, which makes her look pale and even incandescent. Yet she is the one who has undivided attention from my father. A daddy’s girl? Yes, quite indubitably. Camden, my brother, has hazel eyes and soft, clean, dark brown hair. He has the looks of the maternal side of the family.
But eye and hair color just scratches the surface of how different we really are. I’m a taller girl at five foot eight. Chandelle is two years older than I, and she is merely five two. Camden is an inch shorter than I though we are the same age. Chandelle and Camden have pale and flawless skin; I have one shade darker with hints of freckles and blackheads.
Now, back to the story. Camden was sitting next to me down by the water: close enough for the water to just lap up against our toes, but not so close that it drenched us. He was always my best friend. He was so friendly and loved to spend time with me. I found that actually kind of funny; most brothers hate to be with their sister.
Camden stared at the sky with a blank expression on his face. It was mysterious, like something I’d never seen before. “Camden?” I asked quietly. “What’s wrong?”
He glanced at me slightly, a shadow of something… I couldn’t tell what… slipping across his face. “I… I…” He was at such a strange loss for words.
Then he shook his head wildly and jerked up. “I can’t take this anymore!” he cried out, in a totally un-Camden-like way. “Thirteen years I’ve been living a lie, and I can’t even tell you the truth!”
I must’ve looked shocked. Camden had always told me so much, and I never would have expected him to tell me a lie. But at that moment, he was dialing someone quickly on his phone.
“Mom?” he said in a quivering voice. “Can you please come down here by the water? We really need to discuss something.”
A good three minutes later, our mother came down the balcony. She was wearing an elegant green sundress that looked excellent with her eyes. But my mother was so pretty anyway, it just made sense.
She looked at Camden’s war-torn expression and my completely lost look and sighed. “You broke, Camden; didn’t you?”
He stared at the sandy ground as my mother kneeled down next to us. “Mom, it’s killing me. How can we keep sheltering this? It was going to come out sooner or later.”
My mother stared at me. “I guess now is as good a time as any.”
She dug through her beaded shoulder bag I so greatly admired and pulled out a folder with a single slip of paper. She silently handed it over to me.
I quivered just slightly as I read the very professional piece of paper.
Liana Krystal Everson: born August third, nineteen-ninety-nine. Birth mother- Bethany Wilmer, age nineteen.
I dropped the piece of paper and shook heavily. I could feel the blood drain from my face. “What?!” I shrieked. I flung the paper. “What is this?”
“Liana, please, just calm down. Let me speak.”
I started hyperventilating, a habit I have when I am scared. “Wh-who is B-Bethany W-Wilmer?” I stuttered.
Camden looked at me with a concerned expression on his face as his mother spoke to me. “She is your mother, Liana, your birth mother. You were up for adoption shortly after you were born, approximately three weeks or so. Camden had just been born, and I was really hoping for twins. An adoption agency in Illinois was desperately looking for parents, and we flew down. As soon as I saw you, I knew you were perfect for the family.”
I stared at her, my adoptive mother. “Why didn’t you tell me I was adopted?” I asked softly.
She laid her hand gently on my arm. I looked at her through blurry eyes.
“I just wanted us to be a real family. I didn’t want you to be endlessly searching for you parents because…” she stopped abruptly.
She just gave me a small smile and hugged me. Then, without a word, she left, leaving Camden and I alone.
He looked at me shyly. “It’s weird, isn’t it? We’ve been brother and sister for years, but now we’re just merely friends.”
I looked at the ground. “Why did you always stick around by me? Why didn’t you hate me? You could’ve been all by yourself, living the highlights of the rich life. You stuck by me, a girl abandoned by her parents. I probably wasn’t rich. This isn’t even my real place.” I shook my head. “Now I realize why I don’t look anything like you.”
Camden stared at me with a sad face. “Liana, I always knew you weren’t my sister. You were my best friend. I grew up with you. Yeah, I could’ve left you fend for yourself like Chandelle; but I cared about you. I took after Mom, always caring about others and not myself. Chandelle’s more like… Dad.”
I glanced at him slightly. “You always knew I wasn’t your sister…” I said slowly.
“We had family discussions whenever you were with Tulia. We were… scared that you’d be treated differently if people knew the truth. You might have been looked down on at school for just being saved by the Kasson family.”
“But… you told me you liked Kelly Sparrows. I realize now that… you never talked to her. You don’t talk to any girl except for me. Why?”
Camden looked stunned. “Liana, it’s complicated. I just…”
“You liked me, didn’t you?” I interrupted. “That’s why you couldn’t handle keeping it from me anymore. You actually wanted to tell me.”
“I…” Camden looked away. “How do you think it felt,” he began quietly, “to like your adoptive sister? I couldn’t tell anyone; I never could!”
I stood up quickly. “So… you really do like me, don’t you?”
“Liana, it’s just that…”
I shook my head. “No…” I walked away, with Camden trying to follow me. “Just give me some time alone, Camden.”
I ran towards the storage shed, feeling the tears burning in my eyes. No, this is not happening, I told myself. Camden doesn’t like you like that; he’s just your brother. You’re not adopted. I tripped, ripping the corners of my dress, and pushed myself farther, right into the shed.
I sat down in an old wooden lifeboat filled with blankets. All I could do was cry, let it all out. Everything was turned upside-down. My life, my family… it wasn’t even true anymore. I was living a lie. My family had probably been so poor, or they just didn’t want me. And then… Camden, the guy I’ve loved like a brother forever. It was all true. Every last little detail that sunk deeply into my skin tortured me down to the final drop.
I looked out the window, faded from sunshine seeping in all those years. It really was just me in this world. I was alone, wasn’t I?
An inward jerk rose inside of me. Liana, he likes you. Liana, he’d die for you. He’d do anything for you. You’re not alone. I shook my head wildly. How could I like him? He’d been my brother forever. There was just that small tugging inside of me… one that told me I actually liked him all along. I just didn’t know it at the time.
I rose, gathering myself together, and pushed open the door. Sunlight streamed through, illuminating my tearful face. I have to find him. I took off down to the sand, near the waters.
“Camden?” I asked. “Camden!”
I shook my head. Then I rushed into the house and passed Loretta, a maid that just works at the lake house. “Have you seen Camden, Loretta?”
She looked at the hem of my dress discouragingly and nodded towards the huge staircase. “He said if anyone needed him, he’d be in his room.”
I thanked her and dashed up the stairs, turning the corner down a seriously long hallway. I dashed towards the end, knocking desperately on Camden’s door. “Camden, it’s Liana.”
The door opened to reveal him. His face, a perfect circle, drew lines of perplexity and shame. His hazel eyes sparked a different look, one that was new to me. His brown hair was extremely shiny, something I hadn’t quite recognized before.
“Camden, I was scared. I had just found out that you weren’t my brother. Then I realize you like me; and I didn’t see it before. I…”
He stopped me with a hug. I was stunned, but slowly hugged him back. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“What did I do?”
“You listened and thought about it. That’s more than I could ask from you. I was sure you’d just run away and never speak to me again.”
I pulled away from him. “At least I understand that I’m adopted. But, Camden, I really can’t…”
He put up his hand. “Save it, Liana. I get it. I guess that, yeah, if I’d just found out my adoptive brother liked me, I’d be shaken up. You’re right. I know you’re not ready, and you don’t feel that way about me. But maybe in the future…”
“Maybe, Camden, I will. I’ll think about it; I promise. After all, what are adoptive sisters for?”