By Trish Hubschman
It had to be there! She had to keep at it! This was a mission!
Paula was searching Facebook for the girl she’d been watching for the past three months on American Talent search, a contestant named Marie-Jane Cummings. Paula never heard the name before but she knew who the girl was. she’d stake her life on it! It was like looking in the mirror. Marie-Jane was Paula’s own daughter. The girl was a beauty. She had dark hair, dark eyes, classic chiseled features. She looked like Paula, also like Laura, Paula’s twelve-year-old daughter. Her father was Paula’s husband Mike. Marie-Jane’s biological father was a boyfriend Paula had. She had wanted to keep her baby. That was nineteen years ago. She was legally an adult now and Paula wouldn’t be breaking any contract by contacting her.
Closing her eyes, Paula sucked in a breath. Her heart was thudding. She didn’t want to hurt Marie-Jane but she had to know. Opening her eyes, she put her hands on the computer keys and typed in the name, Marie-Jane Cummings, then clicked the search box. There were fifty listings with that name. Paula began scrolling down the page, looking at each picture. Finally, number twenty-five stared back at her. It was her!
Now that she found it, she didn’t know what she should do next. She couldn’t just send the girl a message. What would she say? This had to be approached differently. Marie-Jane had to contact her when she saw Paula’s picture. Paula sent a Friend Request. All Marie-Jane had to do was click on that and Paula’s picture would come up.
Now it was up to Marie-Jane. Paula slumped back in the chair drained. She wondered how long it would be before her daughter contacted her. Paula said a silent prayer.
. . .
Marie’s father took the whole family, five of them, out to dinner. Her parents and fourteen-year-old brother, Justin, had flown in from Chicago for the last two weeks of the talent show. They were staying in a hotel. Marie was rooming with her cousin, Lisa, on the UCLA campus.
“I sing like a canary,” Justin announced when their father was congratulating Maria and saying how proud he was of her.
Marie blushed and averted her gaze. She was curious about her easy way with music. None of her family members had that. After a brief pause, she looked up to see Lisa glaring with disgust at Justin.
“I’ve heard you sing, kiddo. You sound more like a dead frog,” Lisa teased. Marie giggled. Later, when the two girls were walking back into the dorm room, Marie asked Lisa if there was anyone in the family with dark hair and brown eyes. They all seemed to be blue-eyed, blondes. Lisa shrugged. “You’re probably better off asking your mom that,” she replied. Marie had tried a few times but Margaret always seemed nervous when the subject came up.
Lisa plopped down on the bed. Grabbing a bottle of pink nail polish, she began applying it to her fingernails. Marie sat down at the desk. She opened her laptop computer and turned it on. “What do you think we are, nationality, I mean?” Marie asked, while waiting for her computer to boot up.
Lisa thought about it, then giggled. “I guess we’re a mixed-breed. We’ve got a little bit of everything in us, Dutch, German, Irish.”
Marie’s screen came to life. She clicked on the Facebook notifications. Paula’s Friend Request was there. Marie stared at it for a long time. Finally, she glanced over the top of her computer at her cousin. “Do we know a Paula Jenkins?”
The nail polish brush stopped. Lisa looked up. Her eyes were squinted. “I don’t think so,” she said. “Why?” she asked. Marie told her. Sliding off the bed, Lisa came over to stand beside Marie. She stared at the screen, finally speaking. “I never heard of her. She probably saw you on TV and is a fan. Just delete it.” Lisa went back to the bed and pulled out her cell phone.
Marie didn’t delete it. She was curious, nervous too. Lisa’s cell phone conversation ended. Marie shut the computer down and rose from the desk. “We might as well get some sleep. You said you had an early class tomorrow,” Marie said, hitting the light switch by the door. She moved through the darkness to her own bed.
She was still tossing and turning an hour later. In the next bed, her cousin was asleep, headphones in her ears, snoring. Marie was tempted to giggle. She couldn’t risk waking Lisa. Slipping out of bed, Marie tiptoed to the desk and slid into the chair. Her curiosity was totally out of control, besides, she never ignored friend requests.
Marie turned the computer on. Lisa made a low moaning noise and rolled onto her side with a slap. Marie froze. If Lisa woke up, she’d want to know what Marie was doing, would stand by her side and watch. Marie wanted to be alone on this.
She opened Facebook and clicked on Paula Jenkins’ request, which took her to the other woman’s Profile. Paula’s picture was in the center of the screen. Marie stared at it in shock, then disbelief. It was like looking at an older version of herself. Was this the answer to the question she asked a couple of hours ago? Was this woman an aunt or cousin?
She had to know. She clicked on send a message and typed. “Who are you? What connection do you have to me?”
The response came fast. “It’s a long story,” Paula wrote. “I’d like to share it with you. Please understand that in my telling it, I’m in no way trying to hurt you or your parents.”
A shiver ran through Marie. She had no idea what Paula meant. Marie considered deleting the email. If she did that, she would never know. “Go on?” Marie gritted her teeth and waited.
It took ten minutes for Paula to arrange her thoughts and send the message. When Marie began reading it, her whole life seemed to blow up in her face. Tears sprung to her eyes. “I can’t be one hundred percent sure of this, you understand,” Paula wrote. “But the resemblance between us is too strong. The likelihood is that you’re my daughter.” Paula unraveled the story of her teenage pregnancy, the birth of her daughter and having to say goodbye.
Marie gulped hard. She was trying to control her shaking hands and pounding heart. Questions raced through Marie’s mind. Was this woman telling her the truth? Was she adopted, but her parents never told her that. “Can you play an instrument? Marie wrote. She had picked up her first guitar when she was five and music just flowed out of her.
She could hear the chuckle in Paula’s words. “I’ve been playing the piano since I was a child, though I’m no concert pianist.”
Maria sniffed. She didn’t want this to be true. “Let’s just say that I believe what your telling me, what do you want?” Marie dared.
Paula’s response came quick. “Absolutely nothing. I saw you on TV and my heart skipped a few beats. I knew who you were and needed to speak with you. I guess I should give you some medical history.”
That wasn’t the issue with Marie. She hadn’t been aware that she was adopted. She couldn’t understand why her parents hadn’t told her. Suddenly, there was a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?” Lisa asked. “What’s wrong?” Flinging around, Marie buried her face in her cousin’s middle, breaking down. Through her sobs, she blurted out what Paula Jenkins told her. Lisa stroked Marie’s hair. “I don’t know about any of this,” Lisa replied. “I was only a year old when you were born. We grew up together,” Lisa said.
Marie nodded and smiled. “I just don’t understand any of this,” Marie said. “Why did they lie to me for so many years?” She had to think about this. “I’ll talk to Mom tomorrow and find out what’s going on,” Marie decided, then swung back around to face her computer. She began typing to Paula Jenkins. “I need time to absorb this. I’ll touch base again with you tomorrow.” With that, she closed her computer, got up from the chair and went over to her bed. “Let’s go to sleep now. I’m exhausted. I have a lot on my schedule tomorrow.”
Lisa didn’t say a word, just got into bed and went to sleep.
The next morning, the Cummings family went out to breakfast. After dropping Dennis and Justin back at the hotel, Margaret and Marie went to the mall. Margaret wanted to buy her daughter some new outfits for the last two weeks of the show. “This is the most important time to look your best,” Margaret said. “Talent first, of course, and you have plenty of that.” Marie made no response. Margaret stopped thumbing through hangers on a clothes rack. “Are you okay, darling? Is something on your mind, besides the show?”
Marie nodded. “I got a Facebook message from Paula Jenkins last night.”
Margaret stiffened. “Is what she said true, Mom?” She didn’t have to spell out what Paula had told her. “Why didn’t you tell me? Lots of kids are adopted and get good homes, what’s the big deal?” she fired. Margaret tried to turn away but Marie grasped her mother’s arm. “Look at me, Mom, talk to me, tell me the truth. Don’t you think it’s about time?”
Margaret looked up, her eyes red. “You were always ours from the day you were put in my arms, Marie,” Margaret said. You were part of our family. There was never any question of that. We were all happy. There was no reason to risk spoiling that.”
Marie shook her head. “Didn’t you ever think I might wonder why I don’t look like anyone in this family or how I’m musical and Justin can’t sing to save his life?” Both women laughed.
Margaret blushed. “No, I admit, I guess I never did. Those things never crossed my mind. You don’t look any different than the rest of us,” Margaret said, taking a deep breath. “I’m sure someday we would have told you,” Margaret rushed on.
Marie wasn’t smiling. “Tell me, Mom, why did you adopt a child? You had Justin a few years later.”
Margaret nodded. “I didn’t think I’d be able to get pregnant.” She waved her hand. So, your father and I decided early on that, since we wanted children, we’d adopt, there was nothing wrong with that.” Marie agreed. “We were both totally surprised four years later when I became pregnant and Justin joined our family.” Marie chuckled. Margaret held out a finger. “But just because your brother gave me a heck of a time for nine months and through a ten-hour delivery and yours was easier doesn’t mean I don’t love both of you.”
By the end of the week, two out of the last five contestants on American Talent Search had been eliminated. Marie was amongst the remaining trio. She raced off the stage happy and exhausted. Her family waited for her in the wings. Her father swept her into a bear hug. She kissed her mother after that. An unfamiliar woman stood beside Margaret, a teenage girl about Justin’s age stood in front of her. Marie stared at the woman. She recognized her. Margaret wrapped her arm around Marie’s shoulders. “Sweetheart, I want to introduce you to someone.” And she did.
Paula broke the awkward silence. She stepped forward and held out her hand. “Hi, Marie-Jane. I’m glad to meet you.”
Marie cast questioning eyes on Margaret, who smiled and nodded. “It’s okay, Marie. Your father and I have been talking to Paula during the show.” She glanced at her husband
Dennis came to stand on the other side of Marie. “Paula’s a lovely lady. Maybe we can be friends.”
Dennis squeezed Marie’s shoulder. “We’re sorry we never told you that you were adopted. I think we were afraid we might lose you.” He glanced at his wife.
Marie leaned her head on his shoulder. You would never have lost me, Dad. You and Mom are the best parents ever.”
“Hey, nobody ever told me you weren’t my real sister, Justin squeaked.
Margaret shot a disdainful look at her son. Marie turned to face him. “You only wish that were the case, Just,” she fired back. Lisa smacked his arm.
“Wow, are you really my sister?” Laura spoke for the first time. “I’ve always wanted a sister, but you’re older than me. Does that mean you can boss me around?”
Everybody laughed, Marie stepped forward and patted Laura’s shoulder.
“Hey, what about me?” Justin protested. “Am I suddenly forgotten here?”
“You should have thought of that before you opened your big mouth, huh?” Lisa teased, elbowing him. “As I see it, you now have two sisters.” She held up two fingers. Justin scowled. Everybody laughed.
“You’re a beautiful family,” Paula said softly. She looked at Marie. “I’m glad you got to grow up in an atmosphere like this.”
So was Marie. Everyone was quiet. After a tense pause, Dennis piped up. “Why don’t we all go out to dinner, you join us, Paula?” He squeezed Marie’s shoulder. “I’m sure we have a lot of talking to do.” Everyone agreed and that was the final word.
JUST PUBLISHED: the prequel to the Tracy Gayle mystery series
by Trish Hubschman
Available in e-book and print from Amazon and Smashwords.
Details, cover image, link to a free text sample, and purchasing links: https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/
Tidalwave’s tour bus bursts into flames while the band is relaxing on the beach. The band’s leader, Danny Tide, hires private detective Tracy Gayle to do some discreet investigation into the matter. She’s joining the band on tour as security chief. The arsonist is discovered, but much deeper, more dangerous things come to light as well: an assault, an attempted murder, and then two murders. Tracy is faced with far more than she bargained for, and her stint with the band goes further than just that summer tour. She is fully determined to protect America’s favorite rock and roll heartthrob, and they become the best of friends along the way.
About the Author
Trish Hubschman and her husband, Kevin, along with their dog, Henry, recently moved to Northern Pennsylvania. They formerly lived on Long Island, New York. Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She is the author of the popular Tracy Gayle mystery series, Stiff Competition and Ratings Game. Tidalwave is the eagerly awaited prequel to the series. For more information about Trish’s three books, please visit her website, linked to above.
See her on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14473430.Trish_Hubschman