Monday, March 10, 2014

A Child Learns She Was Adopted into a Legendary Family

I’ve written several novels including A QUESTION OF PROOF, STAR TIME, and DEEDS. I recently released BIRTHRIGHT, in which I wanted to show the effect that learning of her adoption has on a highly intelligent child, my heroine Deborah de Kronengold.

Here’s an excerpt:

Now Deborah could express her own concern. "Mummy, I heard Father say he didn't know I'd be a savage when he agreed to take me in. What did he mean?"

Deborah saw her mother's body stiffen, and she held her breath.

"'Agreed to take'—oh, Dee, you must have misunderstood," Madeleine said in an oddly strained tone.
"That's what he said."

Madeleine's shoulders sank. Her wide brown eyes stared into Deborah's without blinking, as if hypnotized by headlights on a dark road crossing.

"I had hoped ... when you were older," she finally said. Her voice seemed to come from another part of the room. She glanced down and spent much too long straightening the blanket. "I'm so sorry it has come out this way. Perhaps it's for the best."

She brushed a stray lock off Deborah's forehead and took a deep breath. "Dee, six years ago, at the end of the war, I gave birth to a baby girl who died."

"Like Calico's kitten?"

"Yes, just like that."

Liquid was forming in the corners of Madeleine's eyes. "I had wanted a second baby very much. Just after the war ended, cousin Nathan called on the telephone to my brother, Pierre, who was in Italy, and told him what had happened. They both knew how much having a little girl meant to me." She gently touched Deborah's cheek. "Our family—your uncle Pierre's and mine—owned factories and a bank in Italy before the war, and Pierre had spent the war there, so he had many friends. One particular friend was a nun who was head of an orphanage where children were protected from the war and given a ... home." The last word caught in her throat. She lifted her eyes to Deborah's. "Your uncle Pierre decided to bring me the most beautiful, most wonderful little girl he could find to be my very own."

Madeleine embraced her daughter, their cheeks close. She could feel Deborah's heart pounding.

"Dee, you were only a few weeks old," Madeleine whispered. "You were the most marvelous baby in the world. He chose you for us out of all the other babies. And we adopted you."

Deborah had no idea what that meant, but it frightened her. "What's adopted?"

"Do you remember when I told you how babies are born?"

Deborah stared at her mother, barely nodding; she had struggled to understand Madeleine's very simplified explanation.

"Well," Madeleine continued, "you had ... you had a different mother you grew up inside of until you were ready to be born. Then I became your mother."

"Where is she?"

Madeleine could hardly hear her own answer. "She died too. You needed a new mother." Madeleine's heart cried out for all the distress battering her daughter at once. "My darling, I wanted so much to be your mother."

Deborah lurched apart from Madeleine. "You mean I'm ... like the war orphans!"

"Yes," Madeleine murmured.

"Is Richard adopted?"

"No, but that doesn't mean we love him any more than you."

"He belongs to you, and I don't!" The inescapable knowledge raked her soul and racked her small body with sobs. Even as Madeleine seized her in a hug to smother physically the misery consuming this child she loved so deeply, a void engulfed Deborah, a black horror isolating her from every other living being, every familiar object in the universe. Someone went shopping and brought home a child, Deborah thought. Much as one chooses a puppy, she had been chosen as a gift for this woman and her husband in London.

"Will you keep me?"

"Oh, God, we love you. You're our daughter." She crushed Deborah in her embrace.

Read more:  BIRTHRIGHT.

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