The Secrets of the Constellations

by S. H. Clark

The Secrets of the Constellations by S. H. Clark It’s been sixteen years since Norae Whelan’s adoption. She’s conquered her past by baking her way through her challenges. All that’s left is culinary school, until a unique stranger offers her an opportunity to learn the truth of her birth and with it, the trial of facing down what she thought she left behind.

Her birth mother’s hometown is a place where memories hide beneath the floorboards of an eclectic house. Inheriting a house and all its mysteries is one thing. The instant attraction to Orion Reise is another. There’s only one problem. Orion’s blind, and the reason behind it lurks through the downtown streets, dying to take him away.

With the end of summer fast approaching, Norae must make some big decisions. She’ll have to decide if falling in love with Orion is worth the price of letting go of her past and embracing a potentially, disastrous future.




Contemporary Fiction


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Chapter One

Last night, I stabbed the Jabberwocky while eating a piece of cake, and it felt good! Tasted good, too! “Next time, nightmares, bring me your captain. I’ll use his hook to hang my tomato vines!” I pointed a paring knife at my disheveled reflection in the oven door. The Disney symphony in the background built to a crescendo, and I laughed like the perfect childhood villain.


Admittedly, I screamed, but it was totally called for. Not only had Mom scared the crap out of me, but I also dropped the knife. I never danced like a monkey so fast. Embarrassing? Completely, but my toes were still attached. Mom stood in the doorway with her hands on her stomach, her cheeks pink, her lips thinned as she held herself together.

“I hate when you sneak up on me,” I told her. I picked up the knife and set it down on the counter next to a pile of sliced strawberries. Reluctantly, I turned off the stereo. Chernabog and his mountain could wait.

“Battling with your dreams again?” Mom guessed. Her layered skirt brushed the marble floor as she swayed toward the oven. “What was it this time? Dogs, donuts, or Duff?”

I rolled my eyes. “I haven’t had dreams about Goldman in months,” I defended. “For your information, I was dreaming about Alice in Wonderland.”

“If you’re dreaming about monsters, I’m afraid your mind is trying to tell you something.” Mom clicked her tongue as she shook her finger in my face. “Worried about something?”

“Maybe I’m worried about ruining my cake because my mother likes to interpret dreams over breakfast.”

The strawberry cake filled the kitchen with a pleasant smell of home. It should’ve been warm in the kitchen, but I’d opened the backyard’s double doors to let in the chill of the morning. Later, it would get sticky. Connecticut summers came with oppressive humidity, but the chilly morning was a welcomed guest. 

“The cake smells amazing!” Mom clapped her hands together with enthusiasm. “Are you making strawberry buttercream to go with it?”

Her praise sent warm chills down my spine. “Of course!” She disappeared behind the fridge door. “Orange juice is on the top shelf. Fruit tarts are on the bottom.” A peace sign appeared over the edge of the door. “And I boiled a few eggs for you. You heard the doctor.” Mom’s head popped up. Tight, brown curls flew around her narrow face like a forest of vines. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” I added.

“I can’t. Who’s going to cook around here?”

Mom took her breakfast assortment to the kitchen table, careful of her skirt and its natural tendency of getting stuck under the chair legs. I glanced at the clock, watching the second-hand inch closer and closer to the hour. Out came the tarot cards with an expert shuffle and the jingle of bracelets. I examined the deck with an eye of disbelief. Yesterday, they claimed Ms. Golishna would kiss a frog, join the army, and move to a city full of luxurious couches. The eighty-three-year-old woman was about to move into an apartment for assisted care. 

“So, big day today, birthday girl,” Mom beamed around a mouthful of the tart. “Let’s see what the cards say. I’m feeling energized. They’re speaking to me.”

I hated the thought of unseen supernatural beings foretelling my future. Something about the whole knowing things before they happened put a massive damper on embracing what comes after high school. It was a neat parlor trick and an excellent way for Mom to earn a living, but I was skeptical. After years of living in a haunted house with a psychic mom, I still hadn’t seen more than a candle flame flicker. Those mysterious bumps in the night? Dad tripping over his shoes on the way to the bathroom. Doors opening on their own? Drafty hallways. I mean, it wasn’t like I wanted to live in a remake of Paranormal Activity, but at least their haunting seemed legit.

Maybe it wasn’t the magic so much as the thought of the annual birthday reading. My birthday was not something I really liked, only because the origin of my birth was a looming shadow I couldn’t escape. Every year, it snuck up on me, demanding I celebrate its presence. How could I celebrate something I didn’t understand? Okay, I realized it in the broadest sense. Everyone had a birth date, and I knew mine. I just didn’t know the who, why, and where. Being adopted was a buzzkill.

The memorable clap of boots echoed off the back porch. “Happy Birthday, Rae!” Cambria Dunston rushed through the open back doors, splattering mud all over the blue tiles.

“Cambria!” Mom shouted. “Your boots!”

“Sorry, Mrs. Whelan!” Her southern drawl made me smile. “What’s cooking, Chickadee?” She kicked off her cowboy boots and rushed over to look through the oven’s window. “Smells fantastic.” Cambria kissed my cheek.

“What’s baking is strawberry shortcake. What are you doing here so early?”

She stole a strawberry. “Your mom invited me.” Cambria danced around the island and joined Mom at the table. “Can’t miss the annual reading. Hoping I’ll get another one. What do you think, Mrs. W? Help a girl out?”

I went to work on slicing more strawberries while Mom shuffled the cards two more times.

“What do you need?” she asked. “We got together for a reading last month.”

“Yeah, yeah, but I need to know how Mr. Man shows up.” Cambria gripped the edge of the table and leaned forward. Her long hair tumbled onto the tablecloth and tangled with the tassels. “Where would be helpful. Around the corner is so vague. Do you know how many corners are on this block alone? Thirteen if you don’t count the broken wall next to Mr. Ballerd’s place.”

I coughed to hide my snort of laughter. Cambria, a diehard believer in the paranormal, took all of Mom’s advice to heart. She once took a taxi to Brooklyn to buy a lotto ticket because Mom said she’d win big. She won ten dollars and had to use it to tip the driver. 

“You told her she was going to meet a man? How cliché.”

Cambria interrupted Mom. “Pulled him straight from the deck! I can’t wait. Moving back to Texas is going to open up new adventures.” 

“Why don’t you come to the shop tomorrow, Cambria? I’ll give you a reading at a discount.” My best friend’s face fell into a pout. Cambria liked immediate action. She experienced severe, nonvisual allergic reactions to the word no.

“Norae, are you going to let your mom do her thing?”

Mom spread the cards out in a half-circle, waving me over.

I wiped my hands on my apron as I headed over to the table. I hovered my hand across the deck and pretended to feel the mystical energy floating off the cards. I wiggled my fingers foolishly. No energy, just empty air, but Mom promised it was the soul’s job. I picked the last five cards at the end of the curve because, let’s face it, less mess.

Mom gathered up the rest of the deck as I slid into a seat next to Cambria. “Alright, Norae,” Mom whispered, shaking her hands in the air to dispel something we couldn’t see. “Let’s find out what your year will bring.” She laid out the five cards in a cross, clapped her hands twice, and the lights went out.

Cambria gasped. “I told you! She has powers!”

“Or Clap-On bulbs she installed a few days ago.”

Mom stuck out her tongue and then tapped the top card with her green fingernail—The Fool. “There will be a situation. Different. Enticing.” Her dramatics made me smile. “It’ll be exciting, but don’t get naïve. A fire burns when the water retreats.” She waved her hand over the cards, faltering over the Devil. A sign of danger.

I pulled the Devil card on my fifteenth birthday. I broke my arm playing field hockey three weeks later and ended up losing all my chances at getting a full-ride scholarship. Dad still cries about it, but I think he’s sharing sympathy pains with his wallet.

Mom pointed to the second line. “Wheel, Magician, Devil. Good and bad here.” Her sympathetic look caused Cambria’s look of nervousness.

“Come on, Mom. It’s just a bunch of cards.”

Her finger was instantly in my face. “Don’t disrespect the cards. They say you’ll meet someone who will change your world.” She put her manicured finger on the Devil, covering its face. “But trouble is coming. You need to be ready. Do you understand me?” Our eyes met across the table. I’d never seen Mom so serious. What lay beyond the painted faces on the cards?

Cambria picked up the last card. “At least there’s love,” my best friend shouted. 

Mom took the card with a sigh. “Yes, there is this.” She handed it to me. “Destiny says it’s time. Your man will be the last thing you expect and the person you’ll need the most.”

“Time for what? Kissing naked outdoors?” It was very sensual for cat people in loincloths.

Mom snatched the card back. “You’re such a child. Are you sure you’re eighteen?”

“Did you think I’d wake up this morning ready for meetings, suits, and popping out three kids?”

I wasn’t one of those girls who grew up planning how to find a husband. I didn’t buy wedding magazines, I didn’t watch Say Yes to the Dress, and I didn’t have a wedding dress Pinterest board. A date here, a boyfriend there, but nothing long term because long term meant getting serious with a stranger. It meant giving up on my dream.

Cambria and I performed the whole cap and gown thing a week ago. My diploma cover sat on my nightstand because they never give an actual diploma at graduation. Society’s way of telling teenagers they’re still irresponsible even though they can get a full-time job and join the military. I applied to the colleges Dad recommended. I had three crumpled denials in the trash and, most likely, four on their way. Universities wanted people with Olympic medals who walked on their hands, not high school grads who had no idea what major to declare and preferred pounding dough over pounding keys on a keyboard. 

If Dad let me apply to the schools I wanted, I’d probably be juggling acceptance letters. He thought business degrees meant solid futures when, in reality, the idea of sitting in three-hour lectures on effective negotiation strategies sounded like the door to Boresville. My idea of exciting learning included applying new techniques to getting egg whites to the perfect fluffy consistency before baking. So, while I followed Dad’s instructions like a good daughter, I secretly applied to my dream school: The Culinary Institute of America in New York. 

I had a vague feeling Mom forgot something. “Hey, what time were you supposed to be at work?” 

“Ten, same as usual.” We all glanced at the clock. It was 9:53. Mom jumped out of her seat, knocking over her chair. “We’ll finish this later!” She grabbed her bag and coat off the counter. “Happy birthday, Baby. Bye, Cambria!”

“Bye, Mrs. W.” Cambria wiggled her fingers as Mom rushed out the back door. “You know, some days, she makes it obvious.”

I got up to pull the finished cake out of the oven. “Our differences? Yeah.” I bit my bottom lip and stared down at the browning cake I set on the counter, wondering if I’d ever inherited anything from my adoptive parents.


* * *

I pretended I didn’t see the gift behind Cambria’s back as we took the spiral staircase to my bedroom. I asked about her tarot reading instead. She mentioned something about a gathering, a mysterious lover, tree bark, and a goat. I lost my concentration when she started talking about farm animals.

Cambria laughed at something as I shouldered my door open. It was like listening to violins on the Venice canals in springtime, or at least that’s what I thought she sounded like when she laughed. I’d never traveled farther than Providence. She was the epitome of a Prom Queen and had the crown to prove it. Her shiny raven hair, permanently curled, complimented her high cheekbones and full lips. Fashion was her middle name. Today, Cambria paired her boots with a miniskirt and an off-the-shoulder blue paisley top. Her oversized belt buckle glittered with blue stones. I’d miss her flare. Texas was so far away.

“How about a lunch date with yours truly? One last hurrah before I leave?” She finally got to something meaningful. “I got a gift here with your name on it,” she added, and shook the small box in front of her.

“Didn’t I tell you not to get me anything?” I asked. “You know I don’t do the whole birthday thing.”

I stopped in front of my wall by the large window, covered from floor to ceiling in pictures. Cambria threw herself across my bed, muttering something about ungrateful friendships, and tossed my gift on the nightstand. Okay, not breakable. Brownie points. I grabbed a tack from my end table, picked up the newly printed picture of Cambria and me in front of her truck, and tacked it in the last free corner.


“Looks legit,” Cambria stated as if she cared. Her second allergy? Pictures. She let her head hang off the side of the bed. “So, now that you’re eighteen, don’t you think it’s time to find your roots?” She held up her hands in defense when I shot her a glare. “You know, find the donors.”

I sat down at my vanity and stared at my reflection. I’d woken up this morning and immediately went to work on my cake. My blonde hair was a wavy mess. Strands stuck up in every direction, causing my round jaw to look extra full. I took a minute to consider if chopping it off was brave or stupid. Long hair defined me, and yet, a little voice told me it was time to take a different approach. I tried to cut it on my own and ended up at a salon to fix the butchered mess. It ended up shorter than I wanted, stopping just above my shoulders. 

It wouldn’t be so bad if I liked my face, but over the years, I’d grown accustomed to disliking the little things. I didn’t know what my birth parents looked like, I wasn’t sure I cared too much anymore, but they gave me a plain face compared to my best friend. My nose was straight, like eighty percent of Connecticut’s female population. My brow was small, which made my eyebrows, even though I shaped them, sit heavy over my eyes. People told me I had a Julia Roberts’ smile, which would be nice if my lips had some substance to them, but they were thin and lacked that slight dip in my top lip. If I was Julia’s secret love child, her claiming skills were a bit rusty. I had a better chance with Angelina Jolie.

“I’m not interested,” I told Cambria. I grabbed my hairbrush. “I’m not sure I’ll get anything out of it.”

Her fake gasp rattled my nerves. “You’re the worst liar on the planet.”

“We’ve talked about this before. I don’t need to know. I’ve moved on from that lonely-orphan stage.”

“And yet, you always lie.” Cambria flipped herself onto her stomach. “I’ve known you long enough to know when you lie. Your left eyebrow wiggles.”

“It does not!”

Cambria pointed at my forehead. “It’s wiggling. Didn’t your dad tell you to ask if you ever wanted to know?” I nodded. “So, don’t you think you’ve waited long enough? Sixteen years,” she paused, adding up the years since my adoption date, “is a long time.”

Cambria didn’t understand the emotional tide that swept over me when she brought up my past. I’d spent sixteen years exactly, because my adoption day was also my second birthday, coming to terms with my lack of a real family. Okay, getting over it was too soft. I probably had a touch of Avoidant Personality Disorder. Avoiding the topic kept me going. If I didn’t think about it, it didn’t have the power to bother me.

I used to think about it a lot, especially in my middle school years. I didn’t come from trauma, but I grieved a lot, to the point where my adoptive parents, Rick and Mary, stuck me in therapy. The preteen years were the worst. I kept waiting for my birth parents to show up and announce it was all a mistake. Ta-da! Just kidding! You’re the princess of Genovia! I’d flip out on Mom and Dad simply because the pizza guy wasn't related to me. I tried to master the world I’d forcibly received and played the withdrawn, aggression, and self-doubt cards like a Royal Flush.

It took a long time to accept I couldn’t change a thing and many hours of baking with my grandma to help me come out of my depression. Cambria’s arrival helped, too, because she didn’t look at me like some orphan left on the side of the road. I wasn’t. I came to my parents through a private agency, but I started to believe in magical tree portals after watching Once Upon a Time. Too bad the real world was…real.

“I need to bring Dad some lunch,” I said, trying to change the subject. Cambria’s glare implied the issue was staying. “Fine. I’ll think about it. You’re lucky I love you.”

“I know. Your eyebrow didn’t wiggle.”


* * *

Grandpa Byron owned Whelan’s Ware before Dad took over fifteen years ago. I’d come after school when I was little and eat ice cream while Grandpa Byron whittled rocking horses for the local church. A family moved into the upstairs apartment when I was eight. They’re okay for a trio of antisocial people. Their son, Dillon, started working for Dad last year to make extra cash to buy a car. He’s still working. The car he bought isn’t.

“Hey, Norae.” Dillon nodded. I nodded back, watching him sweep the never-ending dust. We weren’t close, never were. Ours was a comfortable relationship.

I headed to the counter. Mom’s petite frame disappeared behind the thick column next to her. Body size, our only commonality, but I could reach the Doritos in the kitchen’s high cabinets. Mom’s excessive amount of jewelry was part of her made-up dress code. She called it twinkling like a star. I preferred looking like walking jewelry store.

As I passed the walls and shelves, cluttered with hundreds of shiny tools, I pictured Grandpa Byron standing on a ladder, counting merchandise. Antiques decorated the wall at the back of the shop. A warm feeling spread through my chest, making my cheeks tingle. Those tools were not for sale and never would be. I’d make sure of it.

Mom scrunched up her nose as she looked around the shop. “Where’s Cambria?”

I pointed over my shoulder, indicating the truck seen through the large window. “She’s afraid Dillon will try to talk to her again.” Dillon’s reflection in the mounted security mirror confirmed my best friend’s fears. He swept toward the windows until he saw Cambria in the truck. Then he just swept air.

“You need to fix the shelf, Rick.” Mom leaned against the counter, drawing circles in the spot Dad wasn’t wiping. “Mina almost died.”

“Whatever you want, Mary,” Dad responded. Rick Whelan tried to play pacifist unless it involved hockey. Or football.

Dad still carried his quarterback build, but the years aged him, his cheeks trading pimples for wrinkles. He blamed the menopausal witch and pubescent teenager who loved him for his grey hair, but we all knew Grandpa Byron caught the greys in his thirties. Cheerleaders used to flank Dad. Mom was the marching band’s flute player. One day during football practice, Dad overthrew the ball. Love at first concussion.

“What’s wrong with the shelves?” I asked as I hooked an arm around Mom’s waist. I imagined hundreds of witchcraft books raining down on Mina.

Candles, wands, crystal balls, essential oils, and jewelry from all over the world stuffed Books and Brooms. No Hogwarts letter? No problem! Just call Mom to curse a bully. Which never, ever, ever happened. It didn’t stop a daughter from asking a billion times though. Mom opened up shop ten years ago to help pay the bills. Now, she was Connecticut’s leading good witch and psychic. Growing up in the Whelan household was a treat. If I was terrible, and I’ll never admit to it, I had to choose between grounding or a hex. And bringing a boy home for the first time? Once they saw the setup in Mom’s study, they never came back.

“The Native remedies almost crushed Mina,” Mom exclaimed as she pointed toward the front window. Books and Brooms was across the street, which was how Mom managed to pester Dad on her self-assigned coffee breaks. “I can’t have customers getting crushed by herbal remedies. Can you imagine? You come in looking for a Cree Nettle recipe to help your pregnancy, and you leave with a concussion! Baby will come out backwards!”

“Honey, I said I’d fix it, but I can’t leave the shop right now.” Dad threw the rag under the counter. “We’re busy this morning.”

Mom and I both looked around. No one was in the shop except for Dillon, who was swatting at the fly buzzing around his head. He whacked himself in the face and swayed, trying to get the fly off his nose. “Yeah, really busy,” I said slowly. “I can see your feet bleeding from all the running around.”

The sigh Dad released was admitted defeat. “I guess I can take my lunch early.” I dropped the frozen meal on the counter. His lips flattened. “Thanks, Rae.”

I winked. “No problem.”

The grandfather clock chimed. Grandma Susan used to clean it every Saturday morning. She was a small thing, heavy from years of work and five kids, and had the voice of an angel when she sang her lullabies. My love of baking came from her. A day didn’t go by without something in the oven, fresh cookies on the table, or homemade sherbet in the freezer. After Grandpa died, her heart couldn’t take the loneliness. Two months after his death, Grandma followed him, making my seventeenth birthday a day I wouldn’t forget. 

“Hey, so, Cambria and I are grabbing brunch and seeing a movie. I’ll be home before four, okay?”

“You’re doing something on your birthday?” Dad asked, his voice layered with surprise. The door to the shop chimed, and he welcomed the customer. “Where are you guys going?” he asked when the customer waved him off.

“The Court.” I leaned forward on the counter. “Endgame just came out.”

Mom cupped my cheeks until my lips puckered. “You and your weakness for men with accents. I know you’re going because of, what’s his name, Cumberbutton?”

“Cumberbatch,” I said between my pressed lips, though it came out sounding like an insult.

Mom leaned forward and kissed the tip of my nose. “My baby girl is growing up, Rick. Remember when she was waddling around in diapers?” I stretched my lips when she let go.

“Wasn’t that yesterday?” Dad joked, pinching my arm. I rubbed the spot. “I owe you seventeen more of those.”

I back peddled, uninterested in turning black and blue. “I’ll see you guys later!”


* * *

The Court was a brand-new development, with multiple stores and restaurants tucked back into the woods of Cromwell. Benches dotted the walkway, imported fruit trees and bushes brought in some needed shade, and gas lampposts lined the one-way lane cutting through the center.

At the top of the lot was a movie theatre, one of the new ones with the reclining seats, a buzzer, and a waiter. The outside resembled The Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, with its neon lights and Broadway-style marquee. When it first opened, I told Cambria they needed to import five tons of smog and some panhandlers. Then, they’d have the perfect replica of a California landmark. A billboard above the marquee rained gold lights, but sometimes, it played trailers when a new movie debuted. I preferred the black-and-white Coke commercials from the 1960s.

We settled in our seats ten minutes before the trailers, munching on stale popcorn and sipping from gigantic sodas. The seats at the very top, right under the projector, needed our names engraved on them, kind of like how bibliophiles deserved reserved parking spots at Barnes and Noble. Sometimes, we pretended we had guests with us, just so we could use the extra seats to store our purses, but tonight, Cambria chose to give them up to a female Thor and a toddler version of Groot.

“Norae Whelan,” Cambria stage-whispered, using her soda as a microphone, “now that you’re a real woman, what are you going to do next?”

I set my popcorn at my feet. As an animated storyteller, my hands tended to flick and fling. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. You know how Dad said I needed to get a real degree? Those haven’t been working out.”

Cambria’s chin fell as she threw me a look that read Duh! What’s your point? She even repeated the implied line.

“What if I go to Dad, you know, soon, and offer up an ultimatum. If one of his colleges accepts me, I’ll attend. But if, I don’t know, a culinary school accepts me, I get to go there.” My friend looked unconvinced. “I applied to CIA in New York,” I explained, “but I didn’t tell Dad. I’m afraid he’ll freak out.” I fell back into my seat and stared up at the dancing popcorn on the screen when Cambria’s face fell in disbelief. “I want to dream bigger, fill my life with something new, something worthwhile. I don’t want to be stuck behind a desk all day. I want to be adventurous. ” I took a deep breath. “I want to open a bakery,” I admitted because, in front of Cambria, I was courageous. With my parents? Glorified wimp!

Cambria squeezed my hand. “I hope you get what you want. Just don’t forget to give me the family discount. I can’t even bake cookies.” Her head fell back against the seat. “I’m going to miss you, Chickadee.” Texas A&M accepted Cambria to its biomedical program. She planned to live with her grandparents in Bryan while she attended. “But you’ll come to see me? You’ll find the time, right?”

I wrapped my arm around hers and leaned my head on her shoulder. “Definitely.”

“You’ll get your adventure…unless those cards are telling the truth, then you’re going to get into trouble.” She leaned the side of her head on top of mine. The silence dragged on for a bit when she suddenly barked, “Get that boyfriend your mom saw.” I pinched her hip. “Ow! I’m serious! You’ll have to conquer him without me as your wing-woman.”

“You were never my wing-woman.” Because to have a wing-woman, you needed to hit on guys, and my flirt skills lacked experience. My last boyfriend asked me out.


Only boyfriend.

“Your mom’s potion collection scares them off, not you! You’re adorable.” She kissed the side of my head. “I need to find my man. You need to find your man. And then, you need to bring your man to visit so I can be unimpressed and hook you up with a cowboy.”

“Sounds like a hassle.”

“A city slick and a cowboy are two different breeds, Chickadee. You’ll need one right in the middle.” Cambria moved her hands around like she was painting a picture. “Someone nice, but not too nice. Needs some attitude. He needs to be a gentleman but with a streak of bad boy. Hot, definitely hot. Someone who will kiss you under a thunderstorm, hold your hand indoors, push you up against the wall, and tell you you’re his.” She shivered. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.”

“Yeah, he sounds pretty spectacular,” which meant that guy was already married. “When you see him, send him my way.”

Cambria held tight to my arm as the lights started to dim. “He exists,” she whispered. “Just wait.”


* * *

I got home at six. I brought ice cream to use as my apology card. Munching on Cookies N’ Cream while decorating my perfect cake was the only thing I liked to do on my birthday. Except when I ran into the kitchen, the table wasn’t set. The atrocious balloons Dad bought every year, the enormous numbers, were missing. My birthday card was unsigned, out of its envelope, and leaning against the toaster. I glanced at my watch in surprise because, even though I disliked the day, I appreciated my parent’s efforts. So, what was with the lack of festivities?

“Norae?” Mom called out. “We’re in the living room.”

“I’m sorry! I know I’m late! We can still order pizza, right?” I came around the corner and smiled brightly. “I can call Tony’s and...”

The creepy, old guy from Poltergeist sat on my couch with a toothy grin. Okay, so not the Devil’s henchman, but a gangly replica. Anyone with shocking white hair and a yellow smile would fit the bill, especially if they were rocking a bowler hat. My parents didn’t look soulless—score one for living in reality.

Dad stood up and waved a hand toward our guest. “Rae, this is Miles Hidifork.”

“Good evening, Miss Whelan,” the man greeted, taking tiny breaths between each word like his lungs couldn’t handle the talking. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Hello.” I walked over and offered my hand. His grip was solid.

“Mr. Hidifork is here about Bobbie Jo Thatchor,” Mom said as she moved to stand next to Dad.

I frowned. “Who?”

Mr. Hidifork pressed his hat against his chest. “I was her lawyer, Miss Whelan. Bobbie Jo was your birth mother.”


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