“I want to find my real parents!”
The silence that followed that statement was like a thick, dark, storm cloud settling over the McIre breakfast table. All three faces around it twisted into frowns, further sparking the tension.
“Did you hear me?” Joanie asked worriedly.
She knew they’d heard her; she spoke clearly enough but still no one answered. She stared at the three of them one by one, silently willing them to speak, to say anything.
“Mom, I want-”
Joanie jumped at the vehemence in her mother’s voice. Beth McIre never raised her voice at the most stressful of situations. The fact that she did now wasn’t a very positive start to this conversation. Joanie sighed, because she had hoped this would be a calm, civilised talk between family. No chance of that now.
“Please let me explain Mom,”
In an uncharacteristic burst of violence, Beth hurled the plate of eggs to the floor. Joanie could see her mother was more than furious. She was livid. It wouldn’t help trying to plead her case to Beth, so she turned to the fairer judge.
“Daddy, please. I just need to explain,”
“Please explain what you mean by ‘real parents’ Joan, because I thought Beth and I are your parents and that Tyler is your brother and that we are your family. Who is this ‘real parents you speak of?”
Joanie realised how unwise her choice of words had been. Stupid. Of course the McIres were her family. They were all the family she had ever had and she loved them with all her heart. She knew that they loved her just as much as she loved them. Still, for as long as she could remember, Joanie had known that she was different.
She would look at her mother’s lovely red hair, her father’s green eyes and her brother’s milky white skin and wonder. Wonder why her own hair was coarse and kinky, why her eyes were not perfectly green but dull boring brown and why , by God, was her skin so black ?
She had stopped asking her parents when she was five because every time she did they would say something like, “We love you the way you are,” or “God gave you to us as a gift, Joanie, just in a beautiful wrapping.” She could never really explain the feeling of not belonging that always hovered around her.
“I just mean I need to find my birth parents,” Joanie explained lamely.
“Need? You need do no such thing Jo, and I forbid any more talk of this nonsense in this house!”
With that, her mother fled the kitchen, sobbing hysterically, and John went after her. A huge part of Joanie wished she could take it back. She wished she could erase the last twenty minutes forever, but a bigger, more defiant part of her refused to apologise for her feelings.
“I am who I am and I want what I want,” she said to herself. It couldn’t be wrong to want to find her identity. Joanie knew it couldn’t.
“Way to go Jon-Jon!”
Joanie turned towards her brother with a start. He’d been quiet through the whole disaster of a conversation, so she’d forgotten he was there. But looking at him now, she could see that he was just as angry and hurt as their parents. She wanted to hug him and console him, but he didn’t look like he would accept her comfort.
“That was a royal screw up Joanie! Really thought out. Made a lot of sense.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you Ty.”
Tyler tried a snort of derision instead. It stung, that of all people, he wouldn’t understand. For as long as Joanie could remember, Ty always was the one to understand her. They were so close, best friends even, and now Joanie could feel that bond weakening by the second.
“I just want to find the real me, Ty-Ty”
“You know the real you Joanie. You’re my sister. You’re a McIre! And that’s the only you there has ever been. You’re just looking for phantoms and it’s going to rip our family apart”
Joanie broke down and just cried after Tyler left. She had never felt so alone in her life and it hurt like hell. She’d imagined that her family would support her decision, that they would help her through it. How naïve. Now she was lying on the cold kitchen floor next to a shattered plate of cold eggs and bawling like a baby.