I hadn’t seen her since we were children. Almost 30 years. She’s gray now and a mom. I’m an unnatural red and a mom. There was the common ground we never had as kids. We are the same age and of course couldn’t be friends. Not with our parents dating each other and later marrying. Not with the parent’s ire expressed through the taunts of children.

Technically they are my stepsisters and brothers. And I don’t have anything against them really. I started to meet them, a process of years since our parents were careful in that if not other things. Then high school was over and I left. I didn’t fit in my own family much less theirs. I don’t know what they think of my 20 year absence with only six visits, 2 of them in the 2 years before moving back. I’m sure there were stories, explanations. None of them close to the truth; all completely speculative since no one visited me and I didn’t visit or call. And now, in what is surely a shock, I’m back and brought my family, the family that I do fit into. The family that makes me safe and lets me grow. The family I make safe. The family who knows my narrative and whose narrative I know.

And all of us now, we’ll never be a family. I’ll never know their stories nor they mine. I like their dad, I think they like my mom enough. That’s where this ends. Curiosity is in each conversation, but no direct questions of course. The answers are too complicated for strangers related by their parent’s marriage. I’m sorry their dad is ill, he’s been nice to our daughter. I hope they are sorry for my mother and how much it takes from her to care for him.

We’re the same age, even I think, the same height. I thought she was tall, very tall and her voice much louder. Everyone’s voice was much lounder then. Except mine. My voice is louder now.

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