When we got there, Mom unloaded me from the van and helped me to the bathroom and then to bed. I pulled up the browser on my iPad and typed my name, plus my Uncle Steve's name, plus medical malfeasance, then settlement.
I tried to tell myself whatever I found wouldn't change anything. Wouldn't change me.
Then I pressed search. The results loaded, and I saw it. My name. The doctor's name, Dr. Jacoby. Settlement. Steve Cohen, my Uncle Steve. The rest was hidden. I could pay money and find out how much we got, but there was no point.
I finally knew the truth: I wasn't supposed to be born like this. The world shifted under me. Mom knew. Dad knew. Uncle Steve knew. This was worse than the Santa deception. I wanted to scream at Mom and Dad. I wanted to yell at Uncle Steve. I wanted to find them and shake them and make them fear me.
I sat there for a long time, staring at the screen until my vision felt painted with the blue-light glow. How could they all have lied to me?
"Do something," a voice inside me whispered, sounding braver than I felt. "Do something." The voice sounded familiar. Like it belonged inside me. Because it did. It was Jennifer, the girl who I could have been, would have been, if only a doctor hadn't messed up sixteen years ago. I beat my tears back. She was right. I needed answers. I would get them.
And the first person I was going to start with was Uncle Steve. He had been part of the betrayal, so he was going to spill his guts. He owed me.
I sent him an email with the settlement information attached and one simple line.
We need to talk
He texted back.
In a meeting. Can't call now. But can text. How did you find that?
Does it matter?
No. I guess not. This was all for you.
To be sure you were cared for.
Cared for? Like an abandoned
kitten? Like an orphaned child?
No. Like my niece.
So you did one of these for Rena?
Do you want to meet up after I'm
out of work? Talk about this?
No. Not now. Right now I want you
to keep this between you and me.
I don't think that's the right thing.
For you or your parents.
As your client I expect you
to respect my wishes.
Uncle Steve has always joked with us that he'd represent us against our parents if we ever needed him—as long as we paid him a dollar, he was our legal knight in shining armor. But if we really wanted to make it sacrosanct, we'd pay eighteen, the Jewish number that meant good luck. He was teasing, of course, but I pull up Venmo and send Uncle Steve a fast eighteen dollars.
Fine, we'll keep this between us for now.
But this doesn't change anything. You're
still the same girl.
That's where he was wrong. This changed everything. It changed me
. Every decision I'd made before this finding became suspect. I rethought my classes, my life's plans, my participation in therapy.In short, I rethought my world.
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller.