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.Ten a.m.on a Saturday.Typical.She couldn’t even be left alone on her day off.The door buzzed again and Michelle crossed the living room to answer it.“Who is it?”“Who do you think? I left you a hundred messages.Let me in.”Michelle rolled her eyes at Belinda’s breathless voice.She hadn’t bothered to listen to the messages after the first two, and didn’t want to know whether she had any from Kevin.After their last disagreement, she didn’t want to talk to him until she was good and ready.She pressed the entry button, and opened her front door a couple of minutes later.“About time.What are you doing?” Belinda pushed past her, her arms around a large brown box.“Not much.” Michelle grinned, fished in the pocket of her jeans for a hair tie and pulled her hair off her neck.“Antiquing again, Belinda? Don’s going to have a fit.”“I know.Which is why you’re keeping this stuff here until I can drive it to Connecticut.” Belinda set the box down on a chair in the dining room and gave an impressive performance of someone on the verge of a heart attack.“This weighs a ton.I couldn’t get a parking space out front, so I had to walk three blocks.But it was so worth it.” She smiled like a kid in FAO Schwartz.“You’re an addict.” Michelle went to the kitchen and opened two cans of diet soda, handing one to Belinda when she returned.“You need therapy, Lin.”“Therapy is for sissies.” Belinda laughed, her sandals clicking on the hard wood floors as she walked through the apartment and sank down onto the couch.She brushed dirt off her beige linen trousers.“Can you believe it’s this hot in June already?”“I know.I went for a run this morning and nearly died.I’ll put the a/c on.” She preferred fresh air, but Belinda liked to live in an icebox.Michelle walked back through the living room just in time to see Belinda staring at the screen of her laptop.In her haste to answer the door she’d forgotten to close it down.Wonderful.She settled in an armchair across from her desk where Belinda sat, steeled herself against what was coming, and waited.Belinda swiveled to meet her gaze, astonishment in her eyes.“You’re looking?”“Don’t get too excited.” Michelle set her can down on the glass coffee table and pulled her knees to her chest.“You’re kidding, right? I’ve been after you about this for years.Don’t tell me don’t get too excited!” Belinda scanned the screen again.“So? Why the sudden change of heart, Shel?”Michelle groaned, choosing her words.“I wouldn’t call it a change of heart.” She stared out the window and clenched her jaw.“I got a phone call a while ago.From the Department of Children and Families in Hartford.”“You what?” Belinda left the desk and plopped onto the couch, her shocked expression making Michelle slightly woozy.“When? Why didn’t you tell me? What did they say?”Michelle managed a small smile.“Actually the call came about a week or two after our trip to Connecticut.I must have angered the gods by going back there.”That or the real God was punishing her big time.“And?” Concern filled Belinda’s eyes.Michelle shrugged and mentally prepared herself for the conversation she’d been avoiding for days.“Look, I don’t want you to freak out, okay? I’ve dealt with it.It’s over.DCF called to tell me that…she…she’d contacted them, filled out the application to request her non-identifying information.”“Are you serious?” Belinda’s mouth formed a large red ‘o’.“So she knows who you are?”Michelle glared, anger blindsiding her.For a moment she was pulled back in time, standing on the steps of her dorm building, facing the future alone.She’d called Belinda then, hysterical, but her friend never faltered.Rushed right over and told her everything would be okay until Michelle believed it.Blanketed her with words of comfort and offered wisdom where there was none.And somehow it had all worked out.Almost.“Of course she doesn’t know who I am.Do you think I’d let that happen? I’m not that stupid.”“Shelly…” Belinda’s eyes narrowed.“What are you saying?”“They needed my permission to give her the file.” Michelle huffed out a sigh, her chest inexplicably tight.“I’m saying I refused.I told them I wouldn’t allow them to release that information.”“You what?” Belinda’s eyes grew wide, her normally tanned face draining of color.“Shelly, what’s wrong with you?”“Nothing is wrong with me.” Michelle clenched her jaw and studied her fingernails.The temptation to chew on them was strong, but she’d broken that habit years ago.Weariness dogged her.She lifted her chin and tossed Belinda a scowl.“Do you know what this would do to me if this story ever came out?”Belinda shook her head.“I don’t think anyone would bat an eye.You made the only decision you could at the time.It’s not uncommon.”Michelle sat on her hands to stop them from shaking.“I don’t care.I’m not about to open my private life for the public to gawk at.It’s bad enough with everything going on with Kevin.Besides that, I don’t want anything to do with her.She’ll get the point.”“Did you just say you don’t want anything to do with her?” Belinda’s stunned expression made her feelings clear.“Are you hard of hearing?”“Shel…this is…”Michelle ground her teeth and counted to ten.She would not get into a shouting match over this.“No.Just stop.You are not going to sit there and give me some guilt trip.This is my decision, Belinda, my life.I’ve worked long and hard to get where I am.I’m well respected.People trust me.Kevin trusts me.If this came out, it would all be over.”“You’re serious.”“Of course I’m serious,” Michelle snapped.“Don’t give me that look.”“But…Shelly…she’s looking for you.She wants…”“I don’t care what she wants!” Michelle shot off the couch and paced the room.Moisture formed along her hairline despite the cool air blowing through the vents in the ceiling.“I made a choice, Lin.I did the best I could at the time.I’ve got a new life now, a career to consider.When I gave her up, I closed that door.Permanently.There is no point in opening it again.No point rehashing the past.I’m not doing it.”“Then why are you looking at those registries?”Michelle faced her friend, a slight twinge of regret twisting her heart at the disappointment in Belinda’s eyes.“If you must know, I’m trying to see if anyone with her birthday left their name or any contact information.I want to make sure she’s not still out there trying to track me down.”“Trying to track you down? Michelle, listen to yourself!” Belinda hissed.“You make her sound like some deranged psychopath.That’s your daughter you’re talking about.”“No!” Michelle shook her head, a beleaguered laugh sticking in her throat.“No, Lin.She’s somebody else’s daughter.Not mine.” She stood in front of the window and watched the traffic creep by on the street below, and for the umpteenth time that week, questioned her sanity.“I didn’t realize you’d be so adamant about this.” Belinda’s tone softened and dripped with uncharacteristic melancholy.“Don’t you think Darcie has the right to know she has a sister out there somewhere?”“Absolutely not [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]