Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 9

Posted by on Jan 28, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 0 comments

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Rose closed the door to her parents’ room behind her and leaned against it, arms folded defensively across her chest. She settled her face into one of her mama’s quiet expressions, but she doubted she could hold it long, her mind was so a-spin.

Daddy—But he’s not my dad. What do I call him? Do I have to call him Jon now? Oh mercy, I can’t do that!—spoke first. “Sweetheart, what’s eating you? You know you can talk to your mama and me about anything, right?”

Rose cringed as he said that, her face twisting in pain. Stop it, Rose. If you want answers, you’re going to have to stop being such a baby. She straightened and looked at them directly.

“You aren’t my parents, are you?” she said, voice flat.

Mama let out a small gasp, but quickly gathered herself again. Daddy, on the other hand, collapsed on the edge of the bed as though she’d kicked him, his mouth dropping open. “What the—?” he began.

Mama waved at him to be quiet. Rose wasn’t surprised by that. Of course. Mama will do the talking. Knowing her, she’s been prepared to answer that question for years.

“While I did not give birth to you, we truly are your parents.”

“How can you say that!”

“I can say it because it is the truth. Your mother died shortly after you were born. Your father brought you to us because he could not care for you on his own. You were barely a week old when I first cradled you in my arms, and since then we have held you and comforted you, taught you and protected you. We have loved you no less than if you actually came from my own womb. You will always be our daughter, Rose.”

Her words glowed golden, and far brighter than usual for Rose’s weak Truth-Seeing abilities. If what she said wasn’t the actual truth, Mama at least believed it to be. And maybe there is a lot of truth in what she’s saying, Rose allowed. What makes a family? Do you have to be related by blood? Or is loving someone enough to make them family?

“Still, we’re not related by blood, are we?” she threw back at them.

“Ellis is not related to any of us by blood,” Mama countered calmly.

What? “He’s not?” Rose didn’t know her Uncle Ellis well—he’d been away from the ranch for most of her life. But the few times he had visited, she had never thought that he wasn’t a part of the family.

“No. He’s not even related by marriage. But no one would ever say he’s not my real brother.”

No, they wouldn’t. But . . . Rose was trying to reason through what to think, what to ask next, and not succeeding. She could feel all her thoughts and emotions running loose on her face, but she was too overwhelmed to keep them under control.

Part of her realized Daddy was growing even more restless, mouth opening and closing as though he wanted to jump into the conversation, but couldn’t figure out what to say either; Mama grabbed his hand, squeezed it, and he settled uneasily. I’m sorry, she thought distantly. I’m not trying to hurt you. I just need to know who I am.

“I suppose you’re right,” she finally was able to say. “At least, when you put it that way, you are my parents. And you are telling the truth. I can see that much . . .” Her voice trailed off. She knew she was going to cry again, and hated herself for it. “But . . . who . . . who am I then?”

“You are the same girl you’ve always been. Rose Winter Steele.”

That wasn’t the truth, and Rose frowned. “That’s not my real name, is it? Because those words came out black.”

Mama started to say something, then stopped and sighed.

“You were going to say that’s the only name you’ve ever called me, weren’t you? And you can’t, because it’s not the truth. You called me something else once. Which means you know who my real—” At her daddy’s wince, Rose quickly amended her statement, so as to not hurt him more. “—who my birth parents are. Don’t you?”

“We do,” Mama admitted.

Rose could hear the ‘but’ in her voice. “But you won’t tell me, will you?”

“We can’t.” Mama sighed again. “You know how much your father and I dislike lies and secrets, right?” Daddy nodded in emphatic agreement.

Rose gave a slow nod of acknowledgement. She did know that. For as far back as she could remember, telling a lie was the greatest of sins, and a secret was only allowable under the narrowest of circumstances.

“Then know this, if we were free to tell you, we would. However, we both promised not to.”

“But—”

“We’ve always kept our promises to you. Would you have us break our promise to someone else?”

“No, I suppose not,” Rose said dully, suddenly very weary. Now what? I’ve learned nothing that I didn’t already know. All I’ve succeeded in doing is hurting my folks terribly.

At that realization, the uncontrollable need to know, the urge that had driven her to confront her parents, drained unexpectedly, leaving her limp inside. She wanted to apologize, but couldn’t think of the right things to say. “I think I’ll go to my room now,” was all she could manage. “May I please be excused?”

“Of course, sweetheart. We can talk more whenever you’re ready to,” Daddy said kindly.

“Thanks,” she whispered, and stumbled from the room.

 

The next morning Sandy was out feeding the stock in the new barn when Rose appeared. She said nothing at first, just stood there watching him, her arms resting on the paddock bars and a thinking look on her face.

“Are you busy today?” she asked, voice quiet, but not as strained as it had been the day before. He was glad to hear that.

“Not very. Why?”

“Can we go for a ride?”

“Sure thing, Chickadee. Just let me finish with the yearlings, then we can go.

A short while later they were riding out across the prairie, just them and the horses and the wide Wyoming sky.

“So, what would you like to talk about?” Sandy asked, keeping his voice light and his eyes on the grass before them. That she wanted to talk was obvious, but he didn’t think she’d appreciate being stared at while doing so.

“Did you know I was adopted?”

He reined in abruptly, his heart stopping for a bare moment. “Who told you that?”

She snorted. “I may be only ten, but I’m not stupid. I figured it out on my own, and Mama and Daddy didn’t, couldn’t, deny it.”

“They really are your parents, you know,” he said earnestly. “In every sense of the word.”

“Except giving birth to me,” she retorted. “I know, I know,” she added quickly, as though she could sense his coming protest. “Mama said she and Daddy are the only ones who’ve ever raised me, and that that makes them my real parents. And I guess I have to agree with her on that. But it doesn’t stop me from wondering who my other parents are, were,” she corrected. “Supposedly my mother’s dead. But why did my father give me away? Didn’t he love me?”

Sandy chose his next words very, very carefully. “I’m sure he loved you very much, Chickadee, but sometimes love means letting go.”

She turned to look at him, head cocked to one side like a little bird, a question in her eyes. “Mama said he couldn’t take care of me properly.”

“Exactly. He let you go because he knew you would be better off—safer, healthier, happier—with Kat and Jon.”

“I suppose that’s a decent reason . . .” Her words trailed off and her eyes narrowed. “Wait . . . did you know my father too?”

“Yes.” Simple answers were always best when skirting the truth.

“But you can’t tell me who he was either, can you?” She sighed and shifted in her saddle. “Was everyone on the ranch sworn to secrecy or something?” She waved aside the question before he could reply. “Don’t bother answering that. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to let the subject drop for now anyway. Jack says I’m over-reacting, that nothing’s really changed. He’s right, you know. All I’ve done in demanding an answer is hurt the people I care for most.” She wilted a little as she admitted her failure.

Then she straightened again and looked Sandy in the eye. “But someday I will find out who my father is. I swear it. I will track the man down, if I have to hire L & L Detective Agency myself to Find him for me. And once I meet the man I will ask him if he truly loved me, and he had better be sincere enough that I can see the truth for myself.” She hesitated before adding, “Assuming he’s alive for me to ask, that is,” in a low, unsteady voice before clucking to her horse and turning him back toward the house.

 

To be continued . . .

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