Elise Kennedy was in her kitchen, preparing dinner. She'd already put the chicken in the air fryer and made up a satay sauce. All she had left to do, was the rice. She filled up a pan, sprinkled in some salt and left it on the stovetop to boil. Once that was done, she poured in the rice, which would take about ten minutes to cook.
Elise went upstairs for a quick shower, unsure about what to wear. She blow dried her hair and ran a brush through it, then applied a small amount of makeup. She also put silver hoops in her ears. She chose a turquoise blue tunic top, black jeans with soft sandals. One final look in the mirror and she was all set. She looked down at her watch; 6:30 pm. Her guest said she would be arriving at 7:00.
Elise chopped up the chicken into bitesized pieces and mixed them into the sauce. The rice was in another dish, so they could have as much or as little as they wanted. Despite her nerves, Elise found that she was actually quite hungry. She wondered why after all these years, her guest thought that now was a good time to come into the picture. She didn't know this person at all.
But there was no doubt that Abigail Halliday had given birth to her. The name was on the birth certificate. The hospital baby photo which came with the unexpected letter a few weeks ago, was further proof.
Elise barely knew anything of her real parents. Marilyn, the nurse who watched over her during her first weeks of life, wound up taking her home when nobody else would claim ownership. The Kennedys were her family, in all the ways that mattered.
Marilyn and Caleb had gone out for the evening, allowing their adopted daughter to share this moment with Abigail on her own. As she place two bottles on the dinner table, there was a knock at the door.
The woman who walked in, so resembled an older version of herself, that there was absolutely no mistaking her parentage. They were similar in height and build. They had the same shade of honey brown hair and big hazel eyes with long lashes. Both ladies just stared in shock for what seemed like an eternity.
Her mother broke the silence and smiled warmly, looking a bit nervous. "Thank you for inviting me to dinner, it smells great." Elise stepped back a little and turned around. "Pull up a chair, I'll get the bowls and spoons. Feel free to open whichever bottle you wish."
With their appetites satisfied, Abigail and Elise carried mugs of hot chocolate and mini marshmallows into the lounge room and made themselves comfortable. Her mother spoke first. "I must say, that Marilyn and her husband have done a great job in raising you as their own. I am glad you've grown into such a wonderful human being. I had no idea that we looked so much alike, but that's totally okay by me."
Questions flew back and forth, as the two strangers slowly got to know each other. They knew they were merely building up to the real conversation that needed to be had. Finally, after about twenty minutes or so, Abigail took a long sip from her mug and started to tell her story...
"The man who was your father is not around anymore, unfortunately. I don't think you'd like him much. His name was Nathaniel Cartwright. Our relationship, if you could call it that, didn't last. I was just sixteen years old. He was in his mid thirties. I got pregnant.
Being a close friend of the family, Dad would not hear a bad word against Nathaniel. So he figured it must have been someone else and of course totally my own fault. He said I was no longer welcome in his house. Mum was devastated; she knew I had spoken the truth, but what could she do? I left that very same night.
The money I thought to take with me, soon dried up fairly quick. Jobs were few and far between, although drugs never seemed to be a problem. I wont say what substance it was, but to my everlasting shame, I got hooked. I may not have been able to afford a place to live, yet I always had enough for a fix. I wasn't strong enough to quit, but I did manage to cut down and set a little bit of money aside from casual work.
I went to a homeless shelter and stayed there for several months. One of the volunteers drove me to the hospital when I started getting contractions. Fifteen hours labor and you were born. According to the doctor, there were no signs of damage from my drug use, thank goodness.
I checked myself out as soon as possible and walked away. I knew I couldn't provide the love, safety and financial security that most parents had. I still feel guilty about leaving you there all alone. I've never been religious, but from that moment onwards, I prayed for you to be okay and that someone was kind enough to give you a proper home.
Thanks to my own mother, who tracked me down, I have been stone cold sober for almost a decade. Dad put up the money for treatment. Clearly he felt bad for cutting me off and kicking me out, once he saw the bad shape I was in. Mum found a rehab clinic and convinced me to get help.
Years later, I came back to the hospital. I wanted to find out what happened to you. A receptionist named Hannah remembered me and that's how I heard about what nurse Marilyn did. I considered making contact, but at the last minute, I lost my courage. Again Mum stepped in, saying that I owed it to yo. Eventually I wrote that letter, asking for a chance to see you."
Elise couldn't do anything except hug Abigail. The tears were flowing freely now on both sides. Elise grabbed the box of tissues from the kitchen counter and resumed her spot on the couch. "Marilyn never hid the truth from me, she only waited until she thought I was old enough to understand.
I get that women give up thier babies for all kinds of reasons, not all of them good. But you were practically a child yourself and not in the best situation to look after another person. I don't blame you for what you did at all. You know, Caleb's brother used to have a drug problem, but he refused to admit it. He died last year from an overdose."
Abigail nodded in sympathy. "I've seen it happen up close. That was a wake up call, along with Mum's intervention." Elise took her mother's hand. "I realise that fighting your addiction is going to be a constant battle. I am happy you've stayed on the road to recovery and I hope you will continue to do so."
"It was time to make some real changes in my life, which in the long run, turned out to be for the better." Elise's mobile buzzed. She tapped the screen to read the message. "A heads up from Marilyn. They're on their way home. Would you like to meet them?" Abigail wiped away more tears, but she was smiling again. "I'd love to."