Ma has always said that "sisters are different flowers from the same garden." She has two, and they have always been close. I never had been fazed by the prospect of being an only child, although if I was given the option, I would have loved to have sisters of my own. As a single child, I spent much of my time making believe I was some sort of fairy in our gardens, or painting the cobalt hydrangeas with watercolors, or sitting on the stone edge of the pool while dangling my legs in the crisp water.
That was what I was doing one afternoon when I remembered that my school choir concert was that evening. I splashed out of the water and rushed into the house, thundering up the stairs to rummage around my closet. Eventually, I snatched out a soft lavender sundress and dressed in it, securing a heliotrope ribbon around my waist in the end.
Ma owned a pair of antique earrings that matched our hydrangeas. I sincerely hoped to wear them that evening, so I sneaked into my parents' room to get them before my parents came home to get ready to see the concert. She locked them in a carved wooden music box with some of her most important possessions, but I knew where the key was, and I got it.
The music box tinkled a pretty melody when I opened it. The earrings were beneath a couple papers, so I picked them up and set them aside to put the earrings in my ears. One of the papers happened to lay open when I set it down, and I noticed my name. It was my birth certificate. I smiled as I fastened the backs of the earrings and scanned the dates and names.
And then I stopped.
Smith was not my surname. According to my birth certificate, my name was Ashley Marie Smith, not Clarke. And the name of my mother was not the name of my mother. I started to smooth out the other papers. Another birth certificate showed my real name and my Ma's name.
I swiveled around at the gentle tone of my mother, mouth open. She stood in the door with watery eyes and crossed arms. She knew what was stashed in the box, and that I had discovered it.
"Sorry," I apologized. "I wanted to wear your earrings. What is this?"
She promised to discuss it with me after the concert, and after a very distracted performance, I learned the truth: My mother was a heroin addict who lost every one of her children. She tried to abort the first, but she survived and was removed from her custody. Every child afterward was also removed.
So all of the sudden, I was never an only child. There were sisters. My mind drifted to dreams of who they may be, and I wondered if they also were brunettes with blue eyes, or if they were completely different. Ma snapped me out of this daydream and asked if I was all right.
I searched her eyes, and Da's.
"You are me parents," I promised, "but I want to also find me sisters."