“A little girl is your brother’s best friend? You don’t find that odd?”
“No, because I know my brother, and I know their story.”
“Falyn, you’re not going to go over there, are you? They don’t know you’re here, and I don’t think you can handle it.”
Taylor was quiet for a while, and then he sighed. “You can tell me. My feelings won’t change. Was it you?”
“I don’t know much about it. I mean … I only know the little bit Dad and Trent told me. I know it was an accident. I know no one was arrested. I can see you wanting their forgiveness, but, Falyn … they might not be ready to give it to you.”
“Are you the one who … you know … the one who hit Austin? Were you driving?”
My eyes filled with tears, and I looked down.
Taylor draped his arm across my shoulders, his hand cupping my upper arm and squeezing me to his side. “It’s okay. It was an accident.”
“It wasn’t an accident,” I said, wiping my eyes.
I looked up at Taylor, and his brown irises bounced from one of my eyes to the other.
He hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“It wasn’t me. I didn’t take their son, Taylor. I gave them my daughter.”
“You thought I was the one who hit and killed Olive’s brother, Austin?” When he didn’t speak, I continued, “Now, it makes sense when you mentioned earlier that I didn’t drive.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” he asked.
“I’m not here because of Austin. It’s Olive.”
“My parents didn’t want anyone to know about her because of my father’s plans. My father was the mayor in Colorado Springs. He decided to run for governor of Colorado in the next election.”
“So, this year,” Taylor said, unhappy. “What does that have to do with Shane and Liza … or Olive? I’m really fucking confused right now. You’re saying a lot, but you’re not telling me anything.”
I wiped a tear that had escaped down my cheek. “She’s … mine.”
Taylor stared at me as if I were on fire. “But she’s, like … a kindergartner.” He shook his head. “How does no one know about this? I don’t understand how you’ve kept it a secret all this time.”
“My parents know. And Phaedra and Chuck know. A lot of people suspect. There’ve been rumors. A lot of rumors.”
“That’s why your parents were horrified that I was from Eakins. They didn’t want it to come out. They didn’t want me to bring you here.”
My bottom lip trembled. “They want me to pretend it never happened, that she never happened. They held college over my head, saying that if I didn’t sign the papers, I would be throwing my life away. And then,” I said, almost breathing the words, “I realized it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. I’d already thrown my life away because she was gone.”
He shook his head. “Falyn, I don’t know what’s going on here, but”—he cringed, already regretting his next words—“Olive wasn’t adopted. She is Shane and Liza’s daughter. There’s been a mistake.”
“It’s just that … this is weird as fuck. I mean, what are the odds? She ends up with a couple from Eakins, who live next door to my dad, and then you and I meet and become friends. I don’t want to upset you, but this is wrong. I remember when Shane and Liza moved in. They have baby pictures of Olive on their walls, ones of Liza holding Olive in the hospital. They moved in next door when Olive was two. They’ve never mentioned that she was adopted.”
“Exactly,” I said, wiping my cheek again and pointing at him. “Exactly. It’s too perfect. You and I were supposed to meet. This was supposed to happen.”
Taylor’s entire face contorted, and he stood. “You’re serious. You’re really telling me that Olive is your daughter?”
My mouth fell open. “Didn’t you see her? Phaedra says she looks just like me. Think about Shane and Liza. Which one does Olive look like, Taylor?”
He thought about that for a moment, his eyes glued to the floor. “She does.” He looked up at me. “Same eyes. Same hair. Same nose and lips. The chin is different.”
I laughed once without humor. “She has her father’s chin.”
He blinked, trying to process what I had said. “But their pictures?”
“The pictures of Liza and Olive were taken right outside my hospital room. Go over there now, and look. Liza isn’t wearing a hospital gown. I can promise you that. I can take you to the birth center at Saint Francis in the Springs. If the pictures show Olive as a newborn in a hospital, those pictures were taken there.”
“It’s not that I don’t believe you,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “It’s just … I brought you here. You want to interrupt those people’s lives? I’m not okay with that.”
“You know how I feel about you. I mean, you have to know. I’m not sure there’s anything I wouldn’t do for you. That sounds pathetically inadequate when I say it out loud,” he said, disgusted. “But this is …” He looked away, his voice trailing off. “We can’t do this to them.”
“I agree,” I said. “I don’t want to do anything to them either.”
He paused. “What is the plan, Falyn? I don’t think Olive knows she’s adopted. You’re not going to …”
“No. I just …” I took a deep breath. “My parents made me believe I had no choice, and I’ve lived with the decision I made. I’ll live with it forever, even now while sitting next door. I know she’s already suffered loss. I don’t want to turn her life upside down twice.”
Taylor looked like he’d been punched in the gut. “They made you give her up?”
“I didn’t tell them I was pregnant. I hid it until Blaire found me. I was on my bathroom floor, on all fours, soaked in sweat and trying not to push. I was barely eighteen.”
The visual disturbed Taylor, and he shifted his weight, unsettled.
“My mother heard noises coming from my room. She found me and took me to the emergency room.” I touched my fingers to my lips. “After Olive was born, I only had a few hours to decide. My parents said if I didn’t give her away, I would lose everything. My entire life, I had planned on going to college, having a career, making my parents proud.” I choked on my words. “A signature seemed like an easy solution. I didn’t understand what I was giving up.”
“How could your parents force that on you? That’s fucking atrocious, Falyn.”
The room grew quiet, and suddenly, it was too awkward to talk.
A sob was caught in my throat, and I swallowed it down. “I went away to college. It’s easier to think when someone isn’t in your ear all the time. I realized it wasn’t what I wanted, but it was too late. I couldn’t take Olive from her mother twice. I got sick not long after I started college. I thought it was the stress of everything. So, after a year at Dartmouth, I came home. That’s when it happened. Blaire took me to the doctor, and they told me I had developed endometriosis. That was my punishment for what I had done.”