His auntie was the first to recover. “I have never known two people who wanted to be parents more than your–”

His mama cut her off with a raise of the hand. “You are ours.” The words were firm, as if they should be the end of the conversation. “We are your parents.”

Awethu nodded. “I know you are my parents. What I am asking is, was I adopted?” He looked his father right in the eye, but the man cut his gaze away.

“Well,” Besana said. “This is awkward, so–”

“Hayi!” Auntie’s words sliced Besana down, and the teen slumped in his chair.

“Mama?” Awethu said. “Answer me, honestly.”

She raised her chin. “You were a gift from God and we give thanks every year that we have been granted to be your parents.”

Awethu felt frustration build in his belly and rise up through his throat. “Or did you make a deal with a Star-Judge after you yanked me from the sea?”

Everyone stared, and Awethu felt foolish. That was only a dream. Yes, he could be adopted, but there were far more realistic scenarios, such as his parents signing up with an agency and being matched with a baby, because that is how children are generally adopted. Being fished from the sea? That is ridiculous. In fact, it was–

“You soft in the head, Snowflake?” Besana said. “Maybe you got too much water in your ears when that wave hit you.”

Awethu would have agreed with his cousin, for once, if it was not for the look on his parents’ faces. Both looked pale, scared. No, make that horrified.

“You must stay!” his mama gasped.

“Son,” his father said, “you need to understand–”

“You two don’t even fish!” Awethu exploded.

His father hung his head in shame. “We used to, every Christmas holiday.”

“You were so beautiful,” his mama said. She had a faraway look in her eye. “Perfect. A perfectly beautiful baby boy.”

A stone formed in Awethu’s gut. “Did you just take me?”

“No child should be raised in the water,” his mama lashed out. “The Star-Judge agreed, so long as we kept to the rules.”

“This is crazy,” Besana said.

“Hush!” his father snapped.

“Son,” Awethu’s father said. “What you need to understand is–”

“So it’s true.” The words came out of Awethu on a whisper, but they were picked up by the breeze, and carried out to sea.

“Awethu,” a voice called out. “You can always come back.”

But unlike earlier, this time everyone could hear it.

“Whoa,” Besana said.

“You can’t,” his mama said. “It’s a trick. They’ll never let you–”

Awethu waved them off, as he rose from his chair. “Think I need another lie down.” He left, before anyone could say more.

Back in the room, he flopped down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. His mind couldn’t wrap itself around it all. So many questions. So many feelings. He loved his parents, his aunts, his uncles, his cousins – even Besana, as obnoxious as he was. But the fact that they had hidden this from him, were going to keep hiding it, never giving him a choice. “Crazy,” he whispered.

It was unbelievable. Maybe I should go back out there, talk to them some more, he thought.

But before he could make a decision, he heard a key turn in the lock.

What the–!


Tell us: What would you do if you were Awethu?