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Family Photo

I glanced at the photo, but didn’t have much of a reaction. It came via text message, just a photo with an odd comment. I snuck off to the employee bathroom and dialed Allie’s number.

“Who is this person,” I asked, “and why are you sending me her photo?”

It was a busy day at the restaurant and I didn’t have time to play guessing games with Allie. We’d always been close; sisters, we were also each other’s best friend. Lately, though, she had become a bit of a pest, sending me endless texts and sharing random social media posts.

“Take a look at that face, that hair,” Allie said.

“I’m looking,” I said, “but I need to get back to Table 2; I have some demanding diners today. Is this the girl Dane has been fooling around with?”

Allie’s beau, Dane, took advantage of our Girls’ Night Out last month. While we were playing bunko at the pizza place, Dane apparently hooked up with an out-of-towner. I had been trying to introduce her to other guys ever since, but she was so loyal to Dane it was sickening.

“It’s not that girl,” Allie insisted. “Dane swears it was just one night and I believe him. Cammie, this isn’t about me. Look at her dark hair and eyebrows, her dimples. She’s Kelly’s.”

“Kelly’s what? Sister, aunt, niece? Who cares? I haven’t seen Kelly in 20 years.”

Kelly was my first love. Well, not my first, really, but my first grown-up love. We met while attending classes at the community college. He was a jock, I was a book worm. Still am, actually, but now my resume includes waitress, single mom, and struggling bill payer.

We had a whirlwind romance and, after just two months of marriage, I was expecting our first child. My plans to finish college were pushed to the wayside while Kelly’s career soared. My second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at three months. I needed his strength, but it was non-existent. When he told me, “I’m just not a family-type of guy,” I asked him to leave. And I survived. I made my way, with my daughter Nicole by my side, and never looked back.

Allie’s voice called out, “No! Kelly’s daughter, Cammie! And, get this – her mom is our long-lost cousin, Amanda!”

A memory flashed clearly in my mind. We were eating dinner, the phone rang, and the message machine picked up. “Hi, it’s Amanda. I delivered a bouncing baby girl. Her name is Kelly. Catch you later!” At the time I thought it odd for my cousin to give her baby the same name as my then-husband, but I shrugged it off.

Nobody had heard from Amanda for years, until she started sending “friend” requests on Facebook a few months ago. I glanced again at the photo, and I knew. The nights Kelly worked late. The hang-ups when I’d answer our home phone. I had been blind. But now, it was clear. Kelly had another daughter, she was named after him, and her mother was my cousin. I couldn’t blame Amanda, really – Kelly was a charmer.

I made my way back to the dining room, Allie still on the line, when I heard, “Dear, can we get our check please?” I had forgotten about Table 2.

“I have to go,” I said, “but thank you for reminding me.”

“Reminding you what?”

“That I made the right decision when I let my ex-husband go. And please, send me Amanda’s number. I think it’s high time my daughter meets her sister.”

Born and raised in Bakersfield, Meagan Friberg lives in Paso Robles and works as a freelance writer, reporter, editor, and photographer. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, and numerous of her articles, stories, and photos have been published locally. Meagan is a member of SLO NightWriters, for writers at all levels in all genres. Find them online at slonightwriters.org.

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