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Hi, my name’s Raven. I live with my mom, Flora, my dad, Michael, and my little sister, Cassie. I’m a musician, and that’s always made me feel like kind of a black sheep in my super athletic family. My dad, Michael, is the high school gym teacher, my mother is a former tennis pro, my sister is the point guard…and then there’s me. I’m different, but I’ve always felt like I still belonged.
That is, until the day we moved. Mom hauled out a rickety chest, and what was inside brought smiles to all of our faces: Boxes of childhood photos. It was a really sweet moment, looking at all the things we had done together… but realized most of the photos were at sporting events. I was even crying in some of them.
What was in the bottom of the chest took my breath away. My birth certificate. But something was… off. ‘Aaron’ was written in one of the rows. A name I’d never heard. I reached down for it and my mom slammed the chest shut. What was she hiding? Later that night, when everyone was asleep, I tiptoed up the staircase into the attic.
Every step up the stairs I felt like I was doing something wrong. My parents loved me, they would never hide anything from me. I tried to talk myself out of opening the chest.
Finally, I opened the lid. When I found Aaron on the birth certificate, my whole world came crashing down. It felt like my head was spinning.
‘Aaron Leighton’ was listed as my father. But… my dad’s name wasn’t Aaron. My last name wasn’t even Leighton! The man I thought was my father wasn’t.
A light flicked on behind me, and my parents stood in the doorway of the attic. Tears were welling in my mother’s eyes. “We were going to tell you.” She said. The man who raised me put his arms out to hug me… but I shoved him away.
I snapped: “You’re not my father, don’t touch me.” Tears streamed down his face, tears I had never seen before. But I felt such betrayal, such a rage burning in me that I couldn’t have cared less.
“It’s no wonder I’m not like you guys. I’m not even his.” My mom tried to tell me I was no different than Cassie, that I was their daughter regardless of my blood… but I couldn’t bare to listen. If they had lied about my dad, what else were they prepared to lie about?
I blew past them and slammed the door to my bedroom, locking it. I pulled up my laptop and typed a name into social media: Aaron Leighton.
He looked EXACTLY like me. And the best of all? He was a musician, like me! His photos showed him rocking out on guitar, fearless and confident. It was no wonder I felt like a black sheep. I wasn’t like this family… I was like him. Like my real dad.
He had a post talking about a show he had in town the next night. The idea of finally meeting him is what lulled me to sleep.
The next day I didn’t look at my mom or my dad when I came down later for lunch. Had my mom cheated on my dad with my biological father? Did they know about each other? I begged silently that Aaron would answer the questions, because the idea of talking to anyone else about it made me sick.
I slammed the door without saying a word and hurried onto a bus to go downtown for the show. I daydreamed the entire way about meeting my real dad. Had he missed me? Would he look at me and just know? Did my mom even tell him about me?
I nestled into the crowd at a grimy venue, waiting for him to take the stage. Finally, he stepped out, just like I imagined. He was like a rock God on stage. He even had some of the same mannerisms I did! I felt myself buzzing as I watched him play the full set. We could be a father daughter band! He could teach me all the things my parents couldn’t.
When the set ended, I hovered by the edge of the stage. He finally made eye contact with me… and I didn’t know what to do. I fumbled for my birth certificate in my pocket and handed it to him, shaking.
He gave a sad smile at the birth certificate, then at me. “I knew this day would come, Raven.” He said. But his voice was…disappointed? Wasn’t he excited to see me?