The Mystery Cousin

The boy at the door was tall and slim, and although I had no idea who he was, he said: “You must be V.J.!”

A whoosh of Mom’s skirt obliterated my response. She was hugging and kissing him and exclaiming: “Oh my! Can’t believe it is you!”

Then my sisters were there, crowding our small porch, all smiles and tears and more hugs. Who was this person?

“Come inside. Did you bring your bathing suit?”

Just like that I became a shadow hovering on the periphery of something I couldn’t understand. “He’s your cousin,” Mom finally offered. “But then who are his parents?” I begged.

The mystery boy was handsome, with a soft, low voice. He laughed easily, and I noticed that his eyelashes were long, framing blue eyes. Every so often he’d throw me a smile, or a pat on the head, but I was not part of this circle, it was clear.

“Where’s your brother?” Mom asked at one point.

“He’s wouldn’t come. He’s not ready.”

My five-year-old curiosity was bursting. I had never seen this boy in all my life, and yet my sisters were all over him as if they’d known him forever. They had shared stories and knew how to make each other laugh. If he was a cousin, then why didn’t I know him? We visited my Mom’s family every weekend, hosted family reunions. Where had he been?

And then he was gone, and no one spoke of him again, as if he was a magical being who really didn’t exist at all.

“Don’t tell your father,” Mom warned when all was quiet again.

I didn’t tell, understanding all too well the consequences of setting off Dad’s anger.

The ‘cousin’ would surface again, once a year or so, and the scene would play out much the same.

Until I turned eleven, and asked the question that would unravel it all: “Am I adopted?”

(Some of you asked that I continue the story that started here. To read on, go to So Many Questions.)

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

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