The Winds of Change

Joan Stephens

Stunned, Catherine sat on the floor of her bedroom, staring blankly at the yellow, wrinkled paper she held in her hand. It was a record of her adoption, adoption by two people she had always considered her natural parents. Three small words, baby Jane Doe, had rocked the foundation of her comfortable world. Her whole life was a lie, was based on a lie. She felt numb. Tears flooded her eyes as Peterís story of how he had delivered her popped into her mind. Even that story was a lie. Surging to her feet, she ran to the telephone and dialed his number. She didnít care that it was almost ten p.m.

"Hello?" he enquired.

"Peter, I have to see you; Iíll be right over." Without waiting for an answer, she slammed the phone down, grabbed her coat and purse, and rushed from the apartment.

*****

"What is it, honey?" Peter queried as she brushed by him and hurried into his den. The lost, frightened look on her face alarmed him. He quickly followed her, unease beginning to take a firm hold.

Waving the offending piece of paper under his nose, she hissed, "What is this?"

"I thought Charles would have destroyed this," he muttered under his breath as he took the document from her and quickly scanned it.

"Is this true?" She still had trouble believing it applied to her. Surely it had to apply to some other child.

"Iím afraid so, honey," he answered glumly, wondering how he could steer her through this unhappy revelation of her true origins.

"Why didnít they tell me? Why didnít you?" she cried as she sagged into a leather upholstered chair and stared moodily into the fire. "Were they ashamed that I wasnít their natural child?"

He cursed Charles for not telling his daughter of her adoption and leaving him to pick up the pieces of her broken heart. Many times he had tried to get either Charles or Caroline to tell Cathy, but they had declined and had sworn him to secrecy.

A brandy would do both of them good right now, and he went to the bar at the far end of the room and fixed one for each of them. Handing a snifter to her, he said, "No, Cathy, not for one moment. They were so proud and happy to have a child to call their own." He settled into a companion chair to the one she sulked in. "Youíre entitled to know the whole story."

"Your darn right I am," she snarled, still angry.

He began the story that should have been told to her long ago, "With your motherís . . ."

"Ha!" she cut in derisively.

"With your motherís precarious health," he emphasized, "it precluded her having any children, and they knew that would keep them from adopting. Still, they continued to hope that a miracle would happen. And one night it did." He noticed that a little of the rigidity in Cathyís body was easing and that she was listening intently to his words. He continued, "They had been away for six months, touring Europe. I was a resident at St. Vincentís, working my regular rotation when I was called down to the ER. It seems a young woman had staggered into the hospital hemorrhaging severely. She was pregnant and about eight months along. We did everything we could to save her, but she had lost too much blood. Just before she died, she grabbed my arm and pleaded, "Save my baby. Give her to some deserving couple. Then she died and I performed an emergency Caesarian and you were born posthumously about ten minutes later."

"Who was she, Peter?" Cathy asked, leaning forward intently.

He shook his head. "We never knew; she wouldnít tell us."

"Oh," Cathy breathed, disappointed as she slumped back into her chair.

"You werenít doing very well so I rushed you to Neonatal. I debated whether to use the Chandler name as I already knew who the deserving couple would be, but I decided to play it safe and registered you as baby Jane Doe. When you were stabilized, I sent a telegram to Charles and Caroline to hurry back, that I had a baby for them. They returned two days later, and when they saw you, they immediately fell in love with you. You were a fighter even then, Cathy, and you hung on and slowly began to improve. Caroline barely left your side. She was touching you as often as she could, sending you her love and willing you to live. I can remember the love and pride on your parentís faces the day they took you home. The nurses commented that they had never seen such loving and caring parents. As soon as they got you home, Charles started the adoption procedure."

"But didnít people wonder about my sudden appearance?" She took a sip of her brandy to calm her nerves.

"No, Charles and Caroline had been away just the right amount of time, and then told everyone that you were born a month prematurely in Scotland."

Still, he hadnít answered her question. "But why didnít they tell me?"

"Honey, I think that they had almost convinced themselves that you were their flesh and blood. They never ever thought of you as an adopted child. They loved you so very much."

"I know, but I still wish they had told me."

"Why?" he asked bluntly. "Would it have changed anything?" She shook her head. "You made your motherís last ten years very happy. She knew she wasnít leaving Charles alone."

"Yeah," Cathy said reminiscently, "we were the three musketeers, what with mother and dad being only children. When she died, we became the two musketeers."

"You made Charles very happy and proud, most of the time, anyway." He grinned at her, reminding her of her abortive attempt to find satisfaction working in her fatherís law office. "Not a bad accomplishment, wouldnít you say?"

She drained the brandy snifter and smiled sadly. "I guess, but Iíll never know who my birth mother was or if I have any other family."

"No, you wonít. I think she wanted it that way. Nothing to tie you to the past, it was her gift to you." He debated whether to tell her of her birth motherís burial. She needed to be told everything, and he added. "Your father made arrangements for her burial after no one claimed the body."

"Oh, Iím so glad he did; do you know where sheís buried?"

"Yes, I do, honey."

"Iíd like to see it."

"Iíll have to look through my papers. Your father left a small annuity for the care of the grave."

Cathy stood and set the snifter on the bar. "Thanks, Peter, for telling me the whole story. I guess it was the shock more than anything."

"Itís understandable, honey. But donít ever think that they regretted having you. You were the light of their lives."

"I know and I wonít. Would you call a taxi for me, please? Itís time I went home."

They were comfortably quiet with each other while waiting for the cab. Just before she stepped into the back seat, he enfolded her in his arms. "I love you, honey, and donít forget, if you need me, just call."

Reaching up, she kissed him on the cheek. "I love you too."

*****

Vincent was waiting for her as she knew he would be. Her emotions had been in such upheaval that he was frantic with worry. "Whatís wrong?" he gasped as he held her tightly to his breast.

She could feel his calming love and trust settle around her, and she relaxed for the first time since she had started to go through her fatherís papers. To her complete surprise she began to cry. Leaning into his great strength, she surrendered to her need to grieve for her lost innocence. Distraught and bemused, Vincent didnít know what to do. Impulsively he picked her up and stepped into her apartment. Now that he was in, he wondered what he should do next. She continued to sob into his shoulder. He settled on the sofa as the safest place to deposit her, but she clung like a leech when he attempted to do so. Defeated by her obvious distress and need of him, he sank into the love seat, holding her on his lap. Hmm, he thought this is nice and was immediately ashamed of himself. She needed his help, not these wayward thoughts.

Catherine, in the meanwhile, was just coming to the realization that she was ensconced in Vincentís lap and that he was sitting in her living room. She couldnít help the thrill that fluttered through her and unconsciously snuggled a little closer and put her arms around his neck. Her sobs finally began to lessen, and she laid like a limp flower in his arms. Lifting her head, she said, "Wow! I had no idea that was coming. I havenít cried like that in ages, not since my mother died." Vincent tried to remove her from his lap, but she tightened her hold on his neck. "Let me stay?" she begged. "I need this intimacy right now."

He examined her feelings and found only the need for his comfort and his strength and counsel. Boldly he hugged her to him and was rewarded with a trembling sigh of relief as she laid her head back on his damp shoulder.

"Oh, Iíve gotten you all wet," she cried.

"It will dry," he replied with certainty. "Now tell me what has you so upset."

"Well, you know I had set tonight apart to go through my fatherís papers."

He nodded. She pulled a crumbled piece of paper from the pocket of her jeansĖaccompanied by a delicious amount of squirmingĖand handed it to him.

"Iím adopted," she whispered through a watery half-smile. Then she told him all that Peter had related to her.

When she finished, they sat in silence for several minutes, Vincent thinking rapidly. He had to change this devastating revelation into something positive. He asked a question, "Does this change your feelings about them, how much you loved them?"

"No," she answered, "I love them as much as I always have. I just . . . wish that they had been honest with me, that they had told me."

"Does this make you doubt their love for you?"

"No . . . I donít think so. I think the love they had for me kept them from telling me."

"Do you think that their love was different because you were adopted?"

"No . . . yes. I think they loved me deeply, but I know that they spoiled me." At his raised eyebrows, she chuckled lightly. "Oh yes, they did, but they were careful in the way they spoiled me. I didnít always get what I wanted."

That led him directly to his next question, "Does knowing you are adopted change your feelings about yourself?"

She thought for a few minutes. "In a way. I donít know who I am; what my lineage is or where I belong. But Iím very grateful for all the love Iíve had throughout the years."

"You are who you always have been . . . nothing can change that, and you are where you have always belonged . . . in my arms."

"Oh Vincent," she wailed as she threw her arms around his neck and started to cry again. "You always know the right thing to say. I love you so much."

He hugged her back, kissing her on the cheek, and he said, "I love you also." She sighed and stopped crying.

He picked up his questioning. "Will this change how you interact with your friends and colleagues?"

"No, at least, I donít think it will. Will I be tempted to tell my friends? I donít knowĖonly Jenny, if I do. Maybe Nancy and Joe."

He was getting close to the most important question of all. "Will this change how you interact with Father and those Below who love you?"

"Good heavens, no. Why do you even ask?" Bewildered, she looked at him.

He plunged on. "Will it change how you feel about me?" he interjected quietly.

She stared at him, thinking what an odd question. But the longer she thought about it, the more she realized that it would change how she felt about him . . . and about her. "Yes, it will change how I think about you, me . . . us." She raised her eyes to his to find a hint of fear in then. With a soft laugh, she kissed him straightforwardly on the mouth. It wasnít a passionate kiss but a loving one, a thankful kiss . . . a happy, almost carefree kiss.

She snuggled back into his embrace. "Donít you see, Vincent? I may be rich and privileged, and you may be poor and have to hide from the world Above, but we are alike. Weíve lived parallel lives. We both were adopted, lost our mothers, and were raised by our fathers, but weíve been surrounded by love all our lives. Weíre both orphans. Thereís only solitary you and solitary me, but somehow we found each other, and together we make a whole that nothing and nobody can defeat."

They were silent for a few minutes while Vincent assimilated her words. They were true. The two of them were alike and like two half-souls they had been searching for their other half. Finally finding each other, they cleaved together, never to be separated. He looked down into her calm, serene face; she had accepted the change in her life and would forge on, finding a way to accommodate both his world and hers. She was as strong as he had always thought she was. And he realized that one stumbling block had been removed in their journey toward their dream. They were not so different after all but similar in so many ways. Swiftly, before he changed his mind, he lowered his lips to hers in their first true kiss of commitment. They had weathered another storm. He wondered, briefly, how many more there would be.

Fini