"I have had a beautiful time explaining this to you darling," Virginia said truthfully. "Can you imagine how I would have felt had you not been interested or being terribly upset at what I was telling you?"
"Yes. Grandma, before I enter college I want you to use trust money to pay someone to investigate Samuel Levy's family who I suppose are my relatives and to do the same thing about my mother's background and the situation of her relatives who are my relatives to a certain extent I guess."
"Say we do that when you turn eighteen?"
The young girl just smiled and Virginia knew that was a confirmed yes.
"Let's go for a walk grandma to the park. If you feel like it, I'd like you to tell me why you think my father wasn't a bad man."
Dark-haired Virginia, now that the towel had been removed and her hair coloring had suppressed the gray, was somewhat shaken by that comment. But she though she could manage without telling the child how her father had died a hero going to the assistance of a friend. That would be best let to later when her grandchild had greater understand about violence and its consequences.
* * *
Kelly returned home later that afternoon and Leonie took her adopted daughter into her arms and sat with her.
"So you know much more about yourself?"
"Yes but what makes me the happiest is that grandma wishes to remain my grandma."
"Oh I didn't doubt that she would. She really loves you Kelly because you belong to her past."
Kelly stirred and sat up and asked, " Just what does she mean?"
Leonie decided to say what she thought, not to filter it. "You grandmother loved your father."
Kelly didn't answer instantly and Leonie began to feel very uneasy until Kelly said, "Yeah, I gained that impression while grandma was reciting my history. She didn't say that but I could tell because her voice tone would change whenever she mentioned him."
"You have sensitivity and understanding." Leonie said, hugging Kelly and feeling greatly relieved.
* * *
That tumultuous weekend changed the way Kelly felt about herself. She had long thought from casual comments she wanted to know more about her past and now that her past had been fully exposed to her she didn't feel bad about it at all. She felt closer than ever to Grandma Virginia and really appreciated how her adoptive parents had taken her under her care and she realized they respected and loved her just like their real daughter. She felt so good about herself and her family.
A few days after 'revelation weekend', Leonie explained to Kelly why they had been keen to adopt Kelly after visiting and seeing her for the first time.
"You looked just like I remember my baby looking when I lost her."
"So you did have a baby. Where is it?"
Leonie explained how her baby died of respiratory problems, probably as the result of not having properly developed lungs but the official reason for the fatality was given as 'cot death.'
Wide-eyed, Kelly said, "Did you feel it was your fault she died?"
"Never, not even when in the depths of my despair and grief."
"I am so glad you found me and accepted me."
Kelly had to hold her mother while Leonie wept uncontrollably.
Two Saturdays later Kelly had a few heart-topping moments with Mrs Wilks. Sandra had been sent inside to toss the chicken salad and bring it out for lunch. Mr Wilks was away fishing.
Mrs Wilks said, "Sandra told me confidently you were adopted."
Appalled, Kelly said, "She shouldn't have told you that."
"I know, blonde Mrs Wilks smiled and stroked Kelly's hair. "Sandra had a special reason for telling me."
"She can't, no reason can be that special for something I told her was to be kept secret."
"Is that so darling? I was adopted after my parents were killed in a car crash when I was not quite five."
Kelly stared at Mrs Wilks left almost breathless. "Y-you were adopted?"
"Yes dear. And can you see any significant difference between me and other mothers you know?"
"Um, I not think so. No you look just like them."
Mrs Wilks kissed Kelly and said, "I don't expect you to understand this but being adopted is rather like a readjustment in relationships that some children are forced into. In reality it's not a stigma."
"I-I think I understand Mrs Wilks."
"Your secret is safe with me Kelly and let me tell you this; I admire how you have coped. I often see you with your adoptive parents and I can tell you this honestly, not one would ever know they are not your natural parents."
"I-I think the secret is becoming less important t-to me."
"Oh darling, that's the way to go. You're looking on the bright side. No wonder Sandra describes you as an awesome friend."
"Sandra told you that?"
"Yes. Hasn't she told you that?"
"No and I suppose we know we don't have to talk about stuff like that; we just know."
At home Kelly looked up the word stigma and one of the definitions was a social disgrace. She knew then what Mrs Wilks had been saying, that the truth was being adopted was not a social disgrace however people reacted to it. She felt very happy about that disclosure and very happy about Mrs Wilks.
A couple of weekends later Kelly and her cousin Milly, one year older, were rowing Virginia on the lake in a hire boat.
"This is boring, I wish we were doing something else," Milly complained.
"Well grandma likes this. Look at her trailing her hand in the water and smiling so softly."
"Thank you Kelly. I do like it. Head back to the pontoon if you wish girls."
"Nah, if you like it we'll row," Milly said.
Virginia looked at her two granddaughters, both blonde with pale blue eyes. They really could be taken for sisters. However one was a bit selfish and perhaps at this age tending to be a little scatty. The other one, Kelly, appeared to be aware of everything around her and eager to participate. Were those not indicators of a highly intelligent young girl?
Virginia was already aware that Kelly had rated very highly in tests and was in an accelerated stream at school, receiving more intense and challenging tuition. Kelly had complained to her and said she resented not being in the same class as Sandra. Virginia stopped that thought as if placing a brick wall in front of Kelly: "Don't fuss darling, where you are because of your intelligence is your birthright."
Kelly knew grandma was talking about Kelly's legacy from her parents. Her adoptive mother had explained to her the concept of birthright.
* * *
Staying with Virginia one Saturday night when her parents were away at a law seminar, Kelly asked Virginia: "Grandma what do you really know about my mother?"
"Very little. I never met her and all Sam said was she was pregnant to him and they were expected the son he so desired."
"But what did she do?"
"She was much younger, twenty-three when you were born and actually I remember Sam saying he met her at a nightclub where Connie was playing guitar in a band."
"Connie? You have not used her name before."
"Yes it was Connie. I have your birth certificate at the office."
On Monday during dinner Kelly said, "Mom can I learn the guitar?"
"Because grandma said my birth father met my birth mother at a club where she played guitar for the resident performing group."
"Yes why not? You have no need to describe them as your birth parents dear. Just call them as your mother and father. We'll know what you mean. You are musical so ought to learn some kind of instrument. The guitar sounds appropriate to me."
"Yes good idea baby providing you stick at it."
"Oh but I will."
"Yes I don't doubt that," Stephen smiled. "Please learn to play my favorite tunes. You know what they are."
"God Stephen, give Kelly a chance to learn cords without that pressure."
They laughed and Kelly felt cocooned. She assumed she was would receive tuition at the school's music department after school but next morning when she was leaving for school her mom said she'd enroll Kelly to learn from Miguel Lopez.
Kelly was almost dumbstruck. "But mom he used to be famous, and won't want to be bothered by the likes of me."
"Oh is that so. And how do you think Mr Lopez learned guitar."
"Ah my lively one, you are too smart from me. I read once, however, that Mr Lopez prefers pupils with no knowledge of the guitar whatsoever."
"Well that's me. Best of luck mom. Tell him I'm female, fourteen and musically vacant."
Miguel was in his mid sixties. He was courteous and sat Kelly down and played a note.
"Pitch your voice to that please by singing Oh or Ah?"
He tested Kelly on three more notes and chucked. "And your mother said you were musically vacant. You were spot on with three of those and only fractionally off with the fourth that was a little more difficult. Very good."
He gave Kelly a piece of sheet music. "This is a standard piece, one of my favorites. I'll play and sing a verse and then want you to sing the second verse without me singing."
"Am I not here to learn guitar?"
"Well you have guts to challenge me like that. But shut up and sing. This is all about assessing you so please let's get on with it."
Kelly knew the piece La Paloma and knew it was one of her mom's favorites so her mom must have wheezed up the old guy. She'd sung it at music appreciation classes at school a couple of years ago. She sang the duet and was quite pleased with her harmony and then for the second verse gave it full bore.
To her disappointment all her teacher said was, "You'll do."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I'll accept you as a pupil. You have natural ability. Now please, may we get on with it?"
A year later before her debut as a solo guitarist at her school's end-of-year concert for parents, Mr Lopez said, "You are the most diligent pupil I have ever taught, practicing so faithfully, and you are very talented Kelly, not the best I've ever taught but you are right up with those just below those top few. Go out and slay your contemporaries and parents on Thursday night and remember I want you back here for four more years."
"What, to pay for the wine you and Mrs Lopez consume?"
"The think I like about you sweet one is you don't appear to have an unkind bone in your body or an unkind thought in your mind. With that said I must confess they are the reasons why I have tolerated your teasing and walking out on me those times when I stupidly attempted to push you too fast, too hard."
"Oh really. I only walked out because you are too much of a gentleman for me to explode and call you're a fucking slave driver."
Mr Lopez grinned and looked at her, shaking his head.
At that concert Kelly picked up her guitar she called Connie and performed La Paloma to huge applause and then by public demand was asked for an encore.
"I have only recently learned this so please bear with me. I dedicate this to my two mothers. Be warned, it may make some of your ladies weep."
Two mothers? Some of the audience was already looking bemused and Leonie was already weeping without really knowing why. She guessed correctly this was not something she'd heard Kelly play.
The auditorium was stilled, everyone focused on the blonde under the spotlight on stage as she played and sang, 'Stairway to Heaven'.
The applause was thunderous and the Master of Ceremonies Mrs Johnstone said, "That was truly wonderful Kelly. We are intrigued, what did you mean by your two mothers."
"My birth mother was killed in a road accident when I was three weeks old. My adoptive mother and father and mom's mother have been leading me into an understanding of my transition into their love and care. Mom encouraged me to learn guitar after learning my birth mom played the guitar and sang professionally. Tonight playing the last number I felt as if possessed by both my moms requiring a top performance from me and so I dedicated that number to both of them. I'm only just sixteen but feel I have come of age this evening in acknowledging publicly I have two mothers, though one I really scarcely knew and don't remember."
"Thank you Kelly," Mrs Johnstone said, dabbing at her eyes. Many women were doing the same and when Kelly went behind stage she was engulfed in the hugs and kisses of her contemporaries. It was a moving time for her.
At the interval she walked hand in hand into the foyer with Sandra Wilks and Leonie and Tammy, Sandra's mother hugged them.
"You honored me and you mother tonight," Leonie said, eyes shining. "That is the best I've ever heard you play."
Mr Lopez appeared at their side and kissed Kelly on the cheek.
"I agree with you young girl. Tonight with that last number you were possessed. Brilliantly performed."
Kelly would continue receiving tuition from Mr Lopez for another two years but never publicly performed after that 'coming out' evening.
Kelly was debating champion in her final two years at high school and at graduation, with her 18th birthday still eight weeks away, took the award for highest number of goals scored that year in the senior field hockey team of which she was captain and the J. H. Marx $2000 literary scholarship.
Kelly and Sandra had enrolled at the same college, Sandra doing an arts degree and Kelly a bachelor's in business administration.
Meanwhile Virginia had hired a professional investigator, to be paid for by the trust, to investigate the late Connie Shutter's family and to also compile a dossier on the late Samuel Levy's family. Connie knew this could be akin to rattling skeletons in the cupboard but as an attorney she knew she was acting as instructed by her client who had the right to know about her birth parents and their families.
Kelly was enjoying the lazy days of summer when two days before her eighteenth birthday she accepted Virginia's invitation to come over, alone, for pizza that night.
Virginia poured wine, a full glass for Kelly on this occasion.
"Wow, I'm responsible enough to be considered capable of drinking a full glass am I?"
"You may have several and stay the night if you wish."
"Oh and what's the occasion?"
"I have reports on the families of both your birth parents to give to you."
"Oh god. What do I do with the information apart from digesting it?"
"It's up to you if you wish to do something with or without my assistance."
"Wow. Let's have some wine and eat first and yes I would like to stay over but I'll only want the one glass of wine. I wish to keep a clear head on this."
After dinner Virginia left the room and told Kelly she would be in the kitchen clearing away and would then be in the TV room.
Kelly read the report about her mother and family first. For some reason she felt greater affinity with her mother. She guessed that's because she thought Connie would have stayed with her and would still be living with her had it not been for that fatal accident.
Connie's father, an industrial chemist, had died peacefully twelve years ago and her mother Beryl was already suffering from dementia by then and died three years later in a nursing home. One of Connie's brother was killed in a motor-cycle accident thirty months after she died and the other three brothers were married with children, one girl and six boys. One lived in Toronto, one in Calgary and the third in LA.
Reading the report that was complete with photographs of Connie and her parents and fairly recent photos of Connie's brothers and current addresses, Kelly sighed and decided to leave sleeping dogs lie.
She expected to reach that same conclusion with the Levy family but found she did have interest in making contact. She read about how her father had died; that information had not been revealed to her before, and she was staggered. Sam, whom she'd always regarded as a swine, had identified himself as a hero going to the aid of his friend whereas all other patrons in that restaurant had sat horrified and did nothing to assist the man being assaulted. Sam's death had been very quick according to the Coroner's finding, a single bullet piercing an artery.
Kelly had already learned that Connie was almost twenty-four when she was born and Sam would have been forty-four. She grinned and wondered what was Connie thinking. Perhaps her father had been a bit of a gigolo? She'd have to press Virginia on that point.
Sam's wife who'd been four years his senior died of complications arising from influenza one winter eight years ago.
Their three daughters Helen, Doris and Marlene were all married and still lived in Manhattan. Helen was a guitar teacher at a high school, Doris was a pharmacists and Marlene taught ballet at a private school of dancing. They sounded very talented to Kelly and then her breath caught when the investigator reported he'd interviewed all three women when visiting each of them by appointment. No they hadn't been aware of an illegitimate daughter and yes they would be interested in meeting her."
For a moment Kelly didn't know what to think. She went into Virginia.
"I was somewhat stunned at the end but my thoughts are clearer now and my conclusions are the opposite to what I had thought they would be when this information was handed to me."
"Well it is pretty heavy going and you might change you mind later, perhaps several times."
"I think probably not. I feel I have nothing in common with my Canadian uncles and their families."
"I see. You will understand the investigator did not report receiving negative replies from your uncles. He did not put the finding in writing because he considered it was both negative and hurtful. All three blame your birth for their sister's death. I guess they must have discussed that at the time of the tragedy and have since found no reason to change their minds. Perhaps they think at a lower level."
"That doesn't really matter but I would have expected them to have had some interest in me."
"Not to be darling and I like your decision to leave them out of the equation. You can always revisit that subject at some later date. So you wish to meet your half sisters?"
"All are older than you. What say they wish to scratch out your eyes?
"I was thinking of meeting them for lunch at a café."
"Ah and not a restaurant. Good thinking. And how will you attempt to set up this meeting?"
"I'll contact Helen."
"Because she teaches the guitar?"
"No because she is the oldest sister."
"Good thinking but I suggest you tell her that's why you are contacting her. If she tells that to the other two it may save them being miffed that they weren't contacted first."
"Are adult women really that difficult."
Kelly then sat beside Virginia and was cuddled.
* * *
Four weeks after the investigator representing a law firm had spoken to Helen Levy, Kelly made contract.
For Helen, hearing the claim she had a half-sister had been rather a shock and she'd established that the girl was not after money or recognition but might wish to meet just to say hi and so she ceased to be alarmed and had almost forgotten it when the phone went and a youngster asked was that Mrs Morgan, formerly Helen Levy?"
"Yes, are you the teenager claiming to be my half sister?"
"Well that could be correct but I have no wish to change how you feel about this. You father was registered as my father at the time of my birth."
"And who is your mother?"
"She died when run down on the street when I was three weeks old. Her name was Connie Shutter."
"Ohmigod, it is you. My father told me of your existence after his girlfriend's death and swore me to secrecy."
"It was all very sad, wasn't it? I don't mind if you and your sisters don't wish to meet me."
"Ah but we do. Your name is Karla or Karen isn't it?"
"Oh yes, the investigator just mentioned it the once. Are you intending screwing us for money?"