Michael Robinson never believed much in fate or destiny for that matter. He did however believe that if a person wanted more out of life, than it was up to them to make it happen. But despite all his planning, his life would soon be changed in a way that even he couldn’t have imagined.
Michael sat at the tiny café, sipping his coffee, while patiently waiting for his new infatuation to emerge from one of the many shops she’d gone into that day. “The rich have it so easy,” he thought to himself. The young lady he’d been watching for over a month now seemed to have no bigger worry in the world than what purse and matching shoes to wear on any given day.
Samantha stepped out of the store and into the sunlight. She slipped on her shades, shielding her hazel eyes from the sun’s bright rays. Michael quickly placed two dollars on the table and began to follow her, keeping just enough distance between them not wanting to cause suspicion or seem too eager to meet her. He watched as she popped open her trunk, throwing her many bags inside. She then got into her car, not even noticing the deflated tire, courtesy of her admirer.
“Great, one more thing for her to be oblivious about,” Michael said to himself as he approached her car. He walked over and tapped on her window. Samantha rolled down her window, and eyed him curiously.
“Well hello.” She said smiling seductively.
“Good afternoon,” he said returning her smile. “I guess you didn’t see that you have a flat,” he said pointing towards the front of her car.
Her smile quickly faded and was placed with a look of frustration. She tossed her glasses onto the passenger side seat. She turned off the ignition and exited her car. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she stated in protest. “I swear I just bought new tires two weeks ago.”
“Well, if you’d like, I can have that changed for you in no time.” He watched as she began to pout and all of a sudden he wasn’t sure who was seducing who. Either way, he knew getting what he wanted from her would be a piece of cake, it always was. He oozed charm from his pores, and seducing beautiful, wealthy women had become second nature to him. Some people hunted animals as a hobby; he preferred to hunt well to do women.
A slight smile began to reappear, and her eyes light up at his offer. “Are you sure, I would hate for you to get all dirty, just for me.”
“I don’t mind at all. Consider me your knight and shining armor.” Michael extended his arm, motioning for her to show him to her trunk. “You do have a spare, don’t you?”
“Hmmmm, I believe so.” She used her key fob to pop open her trunk once again. She watched as he removed her bags, and returned with a small tire and that other tools he needed to replace the tire he’d intentionally flattened only an hour ago.
Michael knew he could have her tire changed within 20 minutes or less; but since he’d only been watching her for a short period of time, he thought now was just as good as an opportunity to find out more about her. They made small talk, neither of them in a rush to get to wherever they were supposed to be. He knew that his sister would be waiting for him at his apartment, which only made him work slower. But after thirty minutes passed, he knew he needed to wrap things up.
“There, all done.” He knew they couldn’t stay there forever and hoped that his “act” of chivalry made the impression he’d intended.
“How can I every repay you?” She paused and anxiously awaited his reply.
“Well, how about we have dinner tonight? That is, if you’re free.”
“Well my parents are hosting a charity even tonight. Seeing as how you’re such a charitable person and all, I think you would fit right in,” she said gently touching his arm.
He had a strict rule against meeting the families of the women he dated, but then again, he also felt rules were made to be broken. So, he accepted her offer, eager to see what other treasures he might find at the party.
When Michael arrived at the address given to him by Samantha, he was amazed at the mansion hidden behind the iron gate. And in that moment, he realized he’d underestimated their wealth. He figured charming Samantha and her family would be his greatest feat yet. He smiled to himself as he rang the doorbell, ready for the games to begin. But when the door opened, he was taken by surprise. Before him stood the most breath taking woman he’d ever seen. Her doe like brown eyes were captivating and there was also something familiar about them.
“I’ve got it Martin,” she called over her shoulder to an older gentleman walking towards the door.
When Michael realized he was staring, he quickly introduced himself.
“Please come in, Mr. Robinson. My sister has been expecting you,” she said stepping aside, allowing him to enter. “I’m Christine.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Christine.” He smiled warmly, but she seemed unaffected. And he knew he would have to work extra hard to win her over.
“It was very nice of you to help my sister today,” she said making small talk as they went to join the other guests. “But she could have called road side assistance.”
“I was already there and didn’t see a need for that, I was already there,” he replied, keeping his cool. There was something familiar about Christine, although he’d never seen her out with Samantha before. Perhaps they’d passed each other on a busy street or on the trolley car one day, and exchanged pleasantries. But surely he would have remembered seeing her.
“I’m sure you didn’t.” Christine had begrudgingly agreed to entertain Michael until Samantha was able to join them, so she felt no need to be overly pleasant towards him.
“I’m sorry, have I done something to offend you?” he asked picking up on her disapproving attitude.
“Not at all, besides, I don’t know you; but then again, neither does my step sister.”
Michael began to wonder which parent each of them belonged to. Christine was definitely older than Samantha, which was easy to tell by the way she carried herself.
Christine stopped one of the waiters circling the room, grabbing two glasses of champagne, handing one to him. “So Mr. Robinson, what is it that you do?”
For some strange reason, he wanted to tell her the truth. That he did nothing but live off the money he received from the many women in his life. But he suppressed the urge, and lied like he always did.
Michael wasn’t sure if it was the champagne of if his charm had finally began to ware down Christine’s defenses, but the more he learned about her, he soon forgot the real reason why he’d come there in the first place. It wasn’t until he saw Samantha from across the room that he’d remembered she was the one who’d invited him. He noticed a young man following closely behind, like a little lost puppy, and assumed that he was one of her many suitors.
“That’s her fiancé,” Christine said, as though she were reading his mind.
“Oh,” he replied, trying not to sound too surprised. That wasn’t like him to miss such an important detail. He raised his glass to Samantha as she spotted him and began to wave. As she tried to maneuver through the crowd, hoping to lose her shadow, Christine placed her hand on the inside of Michael’s arm and began to guide him in the opposite direction.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to my mother and step father. They are more fun when the drinks are still flowing,” she said making a small joke.
Michael was growing fonder of her by the moment. Not only was she beautiful, and intelligent, but she also had a sense of humor. There was also something pure about her, and he didn’t want to taint her or break her heart, but instead felt the need to protect her. He knew his reaction towards her was strange, but he genuinely liked her, and hoped perhaps they could actually become good friends if he played his cards right.
“Mother, Harold, I would like you to meet Mr. Michael Robinson,” Christine announced as she approached a very attractive older couple. Christine was the spitting image of her mother.
“Nice to meet you sir,” Michael said shaking Harold’s hand. “Beauty obviously runs in the family,” he said, taking her mother’s free hand and kissing it. For a moment he had that strange feeling again that he knew her as well.
“Well thank you, and please, call me Claire.”
“What a pleasure to meet a friend of Christine’s. It’s rare that she ever brings any one home,” Harold said her.
“I agree. You must sit with us at dinner so we can get to know you better,” said Claire.
Michael quickly accepted her offer before Christine could object. And as he escorted Claire into the dining room, he knew tonight was definitely going to be a night to remember.
As the night progressed, and Michael couldn’t shake the feeling of familiarity he felt towards Christine. And soon she began to lower her guard and open up to him like most women did. She shared with him how her father had passed away when she was ten. He’d just dropped dead one day from a heart attack, and at the age of thirty five no less. Her mother then married Harold, who had been her father’s business partner. He and Claire had been married for ten years and she was his third wife.
“Third time’s the charm,” Harold laughing and patting Michael on the back.
“You’ll have to excuse my Harold,” Claire said apologizing for her husband’s poor sense of humor. “I once made the mistake of telling him he was funny, and now he tells jokes all the time. Michael, would you please pass me the salt?”
As he reached for the salt, his sleeve rose slightly. And as Claire stared at his wrist, he realized she’d probably seen his tattoo. He’d been in such a rush when getting ready that he’d placed his watch on the wrong wrist.
“It’s a drawing of a cross,” he said pulling his sleeve down. “A rash decision I made to commemorate my eighteenth birthday.” He shrugged and laughed, trying to make light of it. But when Claire continued to stare at his wrist, he continued to explain. “I had birth mark that I didn’t really care for, so I decided to get a tattoo to hide it.”
“Birth mark?” She repeated, placing her fork onto her plate. “Michael, when’s your birthday?”
“June 30th , I’ll be thirty three this year.”
“We have the same birthday,” Christine said excitedly. “I guess you’re not so bad after all,” she said playfully teasing him.
“Oh,” Claire said before taking a sip of her water. “Will you all excuse me?” She stood quickly, and left the table, seemingly un-phased by the awkward stares she was receiving from her guest.
“Darling are you okay?” Harold called as he went after her.
“What just happened?” Michael asked looking after them.
“It’s hard to explain,” Christine said rising from the table. She quickly left the table and Michael followed closely behind her.
They heard voices coming from the veranda. And Christine stood in the doorway of the French doors, and signaled for Michael to be quiet so they could hear.
Claire was more than upset, she was borderline hysterical. And Harold begged her to lower her voice.
“I am telling you that’s Christopher. That is my son. I knew he was still alive! How else do you explain his birthday and the birth mark in the same place as Christopher’s?”
“Claire, please calm down. What you’re saying, do you know how you sound right now?” Harold walked towards her cautiously, unsure of how she would react if he touched her.
“It all just happened so fast. One minute he was there and the next he was gone. But I never believed he was dead. A mother would know something like that,” she said touching her stomach.
“Mama, what are you saying?” Christine asked, stepping out onto the veranda.
Claire turned and looked at her daughter. When she saw Michael standing in the doorway, she began to walk towards them, tears streaming down her face.
Michael stood paralyzed with fear. All he’d ever known were his parents. They didn’t even tell him he was adopted until he turned eighteen. He’d often wondered about his real family, but never even thought to look for the people who he thought had parted with him so easily.
“I never wanted to stop searching for you, but your father made me. He said that I had to let you go, because I had another child who needed me.”
Christine looked at Michael and then back at her mother. She didn’t know what to say or think. Could this handsome stranger really have been her twin brother?
“Hey, so this is where the party is.” Samantha stumbled down the hall towards them.
“Not now, Samantha,” Christine called over her shoulder.
“I’ll take care of her,” Michael said backing away, feeling the need to make a quick exit.
“My beautiful boy, my beautiful baby boy.” All of a sudden, Claire began to faint. As she began to fall, Harold caught her and he scooped her up into arms without any resistance.
“I’m taking her upstairs,” Harold said to Christine.
“I should probably help him,” Christine said directing her attention back to Michael.
“Promise you will come back and see me tomorrow?” Claire asked as Harold carried her past Michael.
“Of course.” Michael didn’t know what else to say, seeing her in so much pain, and all them so confused.
“First thing in the morning,” she said sobbing into her husband’s shoulder as he tried to comfort her.
Michael was in shock and in no state of mind to continue his seduction. So, he delivered Samantha back to her fiancé untouched, and let himself out. As the fog that had engulfed him began to lift, he knew he needed to address the accusations from the broken woman head on. He was going to confront his parents and it could not wait until tomorrow morning. He needed answers and he needed them now.
At one o’clock in the morning, the streets were clear, and he made it to his parent’s house in record time. He banged on the door and rang the doorbell, so blinded by rage he didn’t even think to use his key. He saw the hall light cut on from inside the house, and listened for the door to unlock.
His father peered through the peep hole. “It’s Michael,” he called over his shoulder to his wife. “Son, what’s wrong, is everything okay?” he asked as he opened the door.
“I don’t know Pops, you tell me.” Michael stormed into the house and stood between his father and the stairs, looking up at the frightened woman standing at the top of them.
“Hold on, you calm down right now.” Clarence closed the door behind him.
“I don’t know if I can.” Michael had a million thoughts racing through his head at a hundred miles per minute.
“Just tell us what’s wrong, Michael,” his mother pleaded with him as she descended down the stairs, tying her robe around her.
“Who am I?” he asked, tears of anger streaming down his face.
“You’re our son,” Clarence responded calmly.
“That’s not what I am asking you.” Michael began pacing back and forth. “Did you know who my real parents were?”
Karen looked at Clarence, her expression contorted. Her eyes pleading with Clarence not to tell him the truth, but they knew the time had come.
“No son, the agency didn’t tell us the specifics.” Clarence approached Michael with caution as though he were a rabid dog.
“Stop lying to me!” He looked from his father to his mother hoping one of them would stop pretending, and tell the truth.
“We aren’t lying,” Karen said crying now. “We didn’t need specifics. The moment we laid eyes we fell in love with you and that was all that mattered to us.” She grabbed her stomach as though she’d just been stabbed. Her eyes pleading with Clarence not to tell him the truth, but they knew the time had come.
“Where did I come from?” He could tell his mother was lying. Her voice always wavered when she did. She was awful at poker, and he’d beat her every time they played.
“Dad, please?” Michael lowered his voice and held out his hands. “Did you know my real mother?” He looked at Karen, but she couldn’t bear to look back at him.
She sat down on the stairs and began running her hands through her hair. “I can’t…Clarence tell him. Tell him now before he hates us more than he does now.”
“I don’t hate you Ma. I just want to know the truth. Where did I come from?”
The lie they had been living their whole lives have finally come to light, and it was time to confess.
“We had so much trouble trying to conceive. And when we found out Karen was pregnant, we couldn’t have been happier,” Clarence said looking up at his wife. She stared back at him with a blank expression, but he knew he had to keep going.
“Dad, I know all of that.”
Clarence paused and looked up at his wife, who was quietly sobbing in the corner.
“We were both so heartbroken,” Clarence said, beginning to explain again. “And there seemed to be nothing I could do to comfort your mother.” He continued to pause, not quite sure what to say. “Then, one day I came home to a house filled with singing and the sound of my wife’s laughter. A beautiful sound I never thought I’d hear again. And when I asked her how her day had been, that’s when she told me about you. You were upstairs napping. And when I saw you…” His voice began to drift off as he tried to hold it together for his wife.
“I don’t understand.” The room had begun to spin and Michael fought to stay on his feet.
“She told me that she saw you wondering around the store, lost, and crying for your mother, but Karen had found you instead. I knew she was hurting, but if I had known just how bad it was, I would have gotten her help.” Tears started to fill Clarence’s eyes. Michael was never supposed to find out the truth about where he’d come from.
Michael felt sick to his stomach, and he doubled over as though the wind had been knocked out of him.
“She brought you home with her. I knew it was wrong, and I knew we should have taken you to the police. But I was afraid they would arrest Karen for kidnapping. And I couldn’t lose her too.” Clarence wanted to go to Michael, but he didn’t.
“Don’t you see it was meant for me to find you that day?” Karen went to him and placed her arms around him. “We loved as though you were own.”
“It’s not a question of you loving me. You stole me, from someone else. You stole the life I was supposed to have.” He shook his head back and forth, unable to make sense of what they were telling him. Michael gently lowered her hands from his face. “I have to go.”
“Michael, please,” Karen cried out to him as he reached for the door. But he didn’t stop, and just like that, he was gone.
“Let him go Karen. He’ll be back when he’s ready.” Clarence carried his wife back to bed, hoping that Michael would one day forgive them.
After that night, Michael knew his life had been forever changed. It was as though a reset button had been pressed and although he couldn’t get back the years he’d spent with the family who’d raised him, he was grateful for the chance to get to know his real family. He knew he no longer needed to pretend to be something he wasn’t, because he’d found where he belonged. He was finally home.