I was having a disagreement with my eyelids.
Not that that was anything new. Early mornings have long been the bane of my existence, something that doesn’t exactly mesh well with being the part-owner of a coffee shop that does a roaring trade during breakfast. When my alarm clock goes off at five o’clock sharp – and not a minute earlier or later – I’m torn between hitting the snooze button and getting a few extra minutes of sleep, or getting up and stumbling to the kitchen in search of something to wake me up. One option runs the risk of at least one member of my family getting more than a little stroppy at me, and the other usually results in me being non-verbal for at least the first ten minutes after I wake up. Neither option is something that particularly appeals to me at the best of times.
That particular morning, though, my mental disagreement was ended rather abruptly when, through a haze of sleep, I felt a little hand land on my right shoulder and start shaking it.
“Daddy…Daddy wake up…”
I forced one eye open and squinted against the light from the lamp set into the wall above my side of the bed. Standing there was the oldest of my twin daughters, Cara – one of her eyes was squinted shut and her hair was tangled up and matted over on one side of her head, a pretty good indicator that she’d only just woken up. I was even willing to bet that she wasn’t quite sure where she was. Her left arm was curled around one of her teddy bears.
“Cara, sweetheart, it’s” I broke off briefly to eye my alarm clock, biting back a particularly potent swear word when I saw that it was four-thirty in the morning “way too early to be up. Why aren’t you in bed?”
Cara’s immediate response was to take her right hand off my shoulder and lift it up to her right ear, pulling down on her earlobe. “My ear hurts,” she said. “It woke me up.”
I couldn’t help but feel sympathy when Cara said this. I had been plagued with near-constant earaches as a kid, and it seemed that Cara had inherited it from me. Mia had escaped it thus far, something her mother and I were very thankful for. It remained to be seen if our youngest would be in the same boat as Cara, but so far we’d been lucky.
After a quick glance back over my shoulder to make sure Kimberley hadn’t woken up, I pushed my covers back and eased myself upright. “Come on Cara,” I said as I got up out of bed, stretching as I moved. “We’ll get your ear fixed and then you can go back to bed.”
Deciding that the bathroom just across the hall from mine and Kimberley’s bedroom carried far too high a risk of waking Kimberley up with our talking, I led Cara out into the kitchen and lifted her up onto the kitchen bench. It was still pitch dark outside – sunrise wasn’t for another hour and a half at the absolute earliest – but there was enough light from the streetlights outside and next door’s patio lights that the house wasn’t completely dark. Even so, I switched on the kitchen light anyway – I needed fairly bright light to be able to see what I was about to do.
The very first thing I did was seek out Kimberley’s work bag and liberate her digital ear thermometer from its depths. That, I felt, was one of the benefits of being married to a doctor – instead of going to the bathroom to hunt down the thermometer we kept in the medicine cabinet, so long as Kimberley was at home I could just nick hers out of her bag. It saved a hell of a lot of time for one, something I felt was absolutely crucial when dealing with our three kids. Not mention that with Fletcher in particular being a biter, there was far less of a risk of the thermometer’s glass breaking when one of the kids chomped down on it.
“Daddy?” Cara asked once I had stuck the probe of the thermometer into her ear.
“Do I have to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house today?”
I didn’t answer straight away, instead focusing on the little LCD display on the thermometer – her temperature read as normal, but I resolved to get Kimberley to keep an eye on Cara once she was up and about. “Not today,” I replied, giving Cara a quick smile before turning to the cupboard next to the range hood above the stove. Inside that cupboard were all the various medications used by our family – painkillers of one description or another, allergy medication, vitamins, and cold and flu medication. A quick root around one-handed produced the bottle of strawberry Children’s Panadol and its measuring cup that lived in there on a more or less constant basis. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Cara staring at it with a healthy amount of distaste in her eyes.
“I don’t like that one,” she said matter-of-factly. “It tastes yucky.”
“It’s strawberry kiddo, you like strawberry don’t you?” Cara shook her head at this. “No, that’s right, it’s your sister that likes strawberry.” I studied the back of the bottle so I could figure out the correct dosage. “It’s all there is Cara, so unless you want to have a sore ear all night you’re going to have to take it.” I reached over and ruffled Cara’s dark blonde hair, a colour she and her twin had inherited from me. “You can have some chocolate milk to get rid of the taste if you like, but you have to take your medicine first. Okay?”
Cara sighed. “Okay.”
“Good girl.” I uncapped the medicine bottle, poured the necessary dose into the measuring cup and handed it to Cara. She downed the dose of medicine in one go and handed the cup back, pulling a face. I gave the cup a quick rinse under the tap and set it in the draining rack to dry.
“Are you going to work today, Daddy?” Cara asked once she had the promised cup of chocolate milk in her hands.
“For a couple of hours, yep,” I replied. “Then I have band practice with your auntie and uncle. You’re going to stay home with your mum today though, okay?”
“But I want to come with you!”
I raised an eyebrow at Cara. “What did your mum and I say about that sort of attitude, young lady?” I asked her, my tone a little sterner than usual.
“To knock it off,” Cara said, her tone contrite.
“And what happens to little girls who don’t knock off with that sort of attitude?” I prompted to make sure this particular lesson had sunk in.
“I don’t get to ride my bike or watch TV for a week.”
“That’s right. So no more of that attitude, okay?”
“Okay.” She finished off her milk and handed the cup back to me, and I helped her down off the bench. “Sorry, Daddy.”
I bent down and pressed a kiss to the crown of Cara’s head. “Come on you, back to bed. Your mum will have my head if she finds out you stayed awake longer than you were supposed to.”
Once Cara was safely back in the bedroom she shared with Mia, and after I had checked on Fletcher to make sure he was still in his cot – he was getting to that age where he was more than capable of climbing out of it, and did just that on a disturbingly regular basis – I returned to my bedroom. The lamp above my side of the bed was still blazing – Cara not being tall enough to reach the dimmer switch, I figured that she had just barely managed to flick it on in the first place. Kimberley was still asleep, her back to me as I turned the lamp down and carefully got back into bed, but the second I sat down on the mattress she woke up.
“Tay?” she mumbled, and rolled over so she could see me. One grey eye eased itself open and squinted up at me. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Cara woke me up with an earache,” I replied. “Got some Panadol into her and put her back to bed. She should be all right in the morning.”
“Good,” Kimberley said through a yawn so wide I was almost certain she would end up dislocating her jaw. “I might stay home with her today. If they need me at the hospital they can always ring me – they know what my mobile number is.”
“Sounds like a plan to me. I have work and band practice today, otherwise I’d watch her.” I leaned over and planted a quick kiss on Kimberley’s forehead. “Go back to sleep. I’ll try not to wake you when I get up.”
“Thanks, love,” Kimberley said, and gave me a sleepy smile before closing her eyes. I mirrored her smile, even though I knew she couldn’t see it, and closed my own eyes in an attempt at catching a few minutes’ sleep before my alarm went off.
Much to my relief, the breakfast shift that morning went off mostly without a hitch – there was a tiny crisis when the coffee machine stopped working right as I was sorting out a coffee order for the florists’ over on Fitzroy Street, but that was sorted out fairly quickly – and I was soon driving over to my sister’s place. Sara lived in a townhouse on Rawson Avenue, and out of the three of we Ainsworth siblings was the only one who had enough space for our band practices. I parked my car in the street outside her block and popped the driver’s side door open, noting absently that Nate’s car was already parked in the driveway.
Nate and Sara were hard at work setting up the lounge room for our band practice when I walked in the front door – Nate was putting his drum kit together, and Sara was setting her keyboard up on its stand. All of the furniture that normally filled the lounge room – the coffee table, the lounge and both armchairs – had been pushed against the walls so that we had as much space as possible.
“Would you look who the cat dragged in,” Nate said dryly as I dropped my messenger bag and guitar case right next to him. In response I smacked the back of his head. “Ow!”
“Don’t be such a fucking baby,” I retorted. “I barely touched you.”
“Can we please set up for practice?” Sara asked before Nate and I could really get going. “If we’re going to get this EP of ours finished anytime soon then I’d really like it if we could get even just a tiny bit of rehearsal in.”
“Yeah okay Sare, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Nate said, earning himself another smack across the back of the head – this time from Sara. “Jesus fucking Christ Sara, you don’t have to hit me so goddamn hard!”
“Well watch your mouth then,” Sara said. She set her piano bench into place behind her keyboard and sat down on it. “Come on, are we going to get started or what?”
“Actually, I was wondering if I could talk to you guys about something,” Nate said as he sat down behind his drums and took two of his drumsticks out of their quiver. “I think it could be really good for us.”
“Nate, the last time you said that, Taylor ended up with a broken arm,” Sara said, and jerked a thumb at me. “So you’ll have to excuse me for not feeling all that enthusiastic about any ideas you might have.”
“Yeah, okay, but that was one time!” Nate protested. “This won’t be like that, I swear.”
“Shoot, then,” I said. I rubbed my right forearm near where the break had been as I spoke. I was admittedly a little nervous about what Nate was going to suggest, because I was usually the one who got hurt.
“I was watching Channel V last night,” Nate began. “And I saw this ad for a competition – one indie artist will get to tour around Australia as the opener for an American band this March and April. It would get us hell of a lot more exposure than we already get around here, and we’d get to see the rest of Australia.”
“And what band are we talking about here?” Sara asked. She sounded as if she was starting to warm up to the idea.
I watched as Nate swallowed hard and bit down on his bottom lip, as if he were trying to phrase his answer in a way that wouldn’t piss both Sara and I off. “Hanson,” he said at last.
“Hanson?” Sara asked, clearly shocked at what Nate was suggesting. “Am I hearing you right? You want us to tour with Hanson?”
“I thought you liked Hanson, Sara,” Nate said.
“Yeah, I do, but touring with them? We’re nowhere near good enough for that!”
“Not to mention that they’re a hell of a lot more popular than we’ll ever be,” I added. “Barely anyone outside Tamworth knows who we are – why the fuck would a band like Hanson ever want to tour with us? Compared to them, we’re nobodies.”
“Yeah, but see that’s my whole point,” Nate said. I could tell he was getting excited about his idea now. “Okay, yeah, we’re pretty much nobodies and we don’t have nearly enough touring experience. But this could be really good for us, don’t you see? If they pick us, because there’s absolutely no guarantee that they even would-”
“Wait, Channel V’s not judging the competition?” Sara asked.
“Nope,” Nate replied. “They have to like who they end up spending a month on the road with, right?” He twirled one of his drumsticks around in his fingers. “As I was saying, if they pick us then we won’t be nobodies anymore. People outside of New England will know who we are. Not to mention that we’ll be able to prove that people from Tamworth are capable of writing something other than bloody country music.” He gave a somewhat theatrical shudder at this. “I really think we should give this a shot. Nothing ventured nothing gained, right?”
Sara and I glanced at each other, and I watched as my sister gave me an almost imperceptible nod. “Okay then, say we do decide to enter,” I said. Nate sat up a little straighter at this, and I bit back a grin. It was his way of attempting to intimidate me. “What exactly do we need to do?”
“We need to get the EP finished, first and foremost,” he replied. “We also need to record an audition video that has no more than ten songs in it, and submit a digital copy of our EP, photographs of ourselves and a copy of the video to Channel V by the fifteenth of this month.”
“That’s pushing things a little, isn’t it?” Sara asked. “I mean, it’s already the sixth.”
“EP’s almost done, though,” I said. “We’ve got, what, four songs done for it? Only need a couple more, and then we can pick a few more songs to play in our audition video.”
“Speaking of, and I’m probably going to regret this…” Nate visibly braced himself. “If you two say for sure that you want to do this, then I’ll let you pick the extra songs we play in our audition video.”
“And you won’t complain?” Sara asked.
“I swear I won’t complain. Because I know damn well that if I do bitch and moan you’ll tell Mum and Dad what I did during my Year 12 Formal after party, and Mum will kill me.”
“Well then, in that case,” Sara said, sounding very cheerful – knowing that she had something to hold over our little brother’s head as blackmail always made her happy. “We’ll do it.” She then pointed her right index finger at Nate. “But the first I hear of you moaning about the songs that Tay and I pick, I’m telling Mum.”
“I don’t doubt that for a second,” Nate said. “Okay then, seeing as that’s decided, how about we get some practice in?”
But try as we might, we didn’t get that far. We were just about to start rehearsing one of the songs we hadn’t yet recorded for the EP, one that Sara had written called Days And Days, when my mobile phone rang in my pocket. Its ringtone identified the caller as Kimberley. I waved a hand at Sara and Nate to indicate that I needed quiet and answered my phone. “Hey Kim.”
“Tay, are you at band practice?” Kimberley asked as soon as I’d finished speaking. In the background of the phone call I could hear the unmistakable sounds of the emergency department of Tamworth Hospital.
“Yeah,” I replied, wondering just where Kimberley was going with this. “Hang on, what are you doing at work? I thought you were staying home with Cara today.”
“They called me in. I need the three of you to come down here, okay? Your dad’s been admitted.”
The instant that Kimberley told me that my father was in hospital, I nearly dropped my phone. “He’s what?” I asked, willing my voice not to shake.
“He’s in hospital, Tay – he had something fall on him while he was working in the garage at your parents’ place. He’s all right but he’s got a pretty bad concussion – he’ll probably have to stay here overnight.” She paused, and I could almost see her running a hand through her hair. “I can’t say anything more than that, I’ll get in trouble. Just get down here, all right?”
“Okay. We’ll be there soon. Love you Kim.”
I could almost see Kimberley smile at this. “Love you too, Tay.”
We hung up almost at the same moment, and I locked my phone again before sliding it into my pocket. “Dad’s in hospital,” I said, deciding to get straight to the point.
Those three words were met with what was clearly a very shocked silence. “Is he okay?” Sara asked at last.
“Yeah, he just got whacked on the head,” I replied. “Probably with that toolbox of his. Anyway, Kim asked us to come down.”
A brief glance passed between Sara and Nate. “All one car, d’you think?” Sara suggested. “There’s no point in us all taking our own cars, I’m not even sure there’d be enough parking spaces.”
“Yeah, good idea,” Nate replied, and stuck his drumsticks back into their quiver.
The drive between Sara’s place and Tamworth Hospital didn’t take long at all, and once Sara had found a parking space in the hospital’s carpark we all piled out and headed inside the main building. Kimberley was waiting with Mum and the kids in the waiting area of the emergency department, with Mum and Kimberley looking up at us as Sara, Nate and I approached. Mum had Fletcher perched on her lap, while Cara and Mia were sitting on the floor playing with the dolls they’d got for Christmas.
“How’s Dad?” Nate asked Mum once the pleasantries were out of the way. “Tay said he got whacked on the head with something but that’s it.”
“That stupid, stupid man,” Mum said – she sounded more relieved than angry. “I’ve been telling him for years to take that toolbox of his down off that shelf and put it somewhere it’s not going to fall on someone. I swear I’m going to kill him when he gets home.”
“Told you,” I said in an undertone to my brother and sister. “But he’s okay though?”
“Aside from a concussion and a very nasty gash that I just spent ten minutes stitching, he’ll be fine,” Kimberley replied. “But I will be keeping him in overnight for observation, just to be sure there’s no lasting damage.” She gave us a smile. “Sara and Nate, how about you, your mum and the kids go through and see your dad – I want to talk to your brother for a little bit.”
Oh great, what did I do this time? I couldn’t help but wonder. In my experience, if Kimberley needed to talk to me either the kids had done something idiotic or I had – I could only hope neither applied in this case. “What did you want to talk to me about?” I asked once Mum, my siblings and the kids had headed off.
“We should go somewhere a little more private,” Kimberley said, and I was immediately on my guard. This couldn’t be good.
‘Somewhere a little more private’ turned out to be the hospital’s pathology department. “Tay, what’s your blood type?”
I raised an eyebrow. “How the fuck should I know what my blood type is? I’ve never donated, you of all people should know that.”
“One way to find out, isn’t there?” Kimberley grinned at me, a little evilly I thought, and proceeded to drag me inside Pathology.
Ten minutes later I was glaring at the bright pink bandaid that now had a home on my left forearm just beneath the crook of my elbow, completely ignoring Kimberley as she worked on figuring out exactly what my blood type was. “You’re type O-positive,” she announced triumphantly. Her tone quickly sobered. “Okay, that should not be possible.”
I looked over at Kimberley to see that she had a very confused look on her face. “What shouldn’t be possible?”
“You inherit your blood type from your parents. I saw your dad’s in his records after he was admitted, and out of curiosity I pulled your mum’s as well.”
“Should you even be telling me this?” I asked. “I mean, isn’t this a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality?”
“As long as you keep your mouth shut I won’t be in the shit,” Kimberley shot back. “Your dad is A-negative, and your mum is AB-positive. You should be either A, AB or B. It shouldn’t be biologically possible for you to be O.”
It took a little while for this to sink in. “Kim, what exactly are you saying here? And don’t even say I’m adopted because there’s no way in hell that’s true. Mum and Dad would have told me years ago if I was. They would never have kept that from me.”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.” She let out a quiet sigh. “Tay, I really do think you might be adopted. There’s no other explanation – if you weren’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”
“Jesus Christ,” I whispered. “What am I supposed to do now, Kim?”
“Talk to them,” Kimberley replied. “Find out why they’ve kept this from you for so long. Though I would wait until after your dad is out of here. I don’t think it’s a conversation you should have anywhere other than home – it’s a private matter between you and your parents.” She came over to where I sat on a high stool and put her hands on my shoulders. “I really am sorry you had to find out this way. And if it helps any, I still love you no matter what. That you might be adopted, that doesn’t have any bearing on who you are as a person – you are still my Taylor, and that will never change. Okay?”
I nodded. “Okay.”
Dad was sitting up in a hospital bed in the emergency ward, a curtain separating his bed area from the rest of the ward to provide an illusion of privacy. He had a large white bandage taped down over the right side of his head. “How are you feeling Dad?” I asked, pulling up a chair next to Sara and sitting down as I spoke.
Dad flashed me a tired smile. “Head’s killing me but I’ll be right. That wife of yours has decided to keep me locked up here overnight for some reason, though.” He winked at me to indicate he was joking.
“Standard procedure for a head injury, Mr. Ainsworth,” Kimberley said, shifting seamlessly into her professional tone of voice. “We wouldn’t want you to send you home and risk missing something.” Here she dropped that particular tone. “It’s good to see you’re all right though, Nick. I was a little worried there for a moment.” She nodded at Mum. “I think Jeanette might want to kill you later on, though.”
“So what did Kim want to talk to you about?” Sara asked as the discussion around us turned to things that didn’t have anything to do with doctors and hospitals.
“Dinner tonight,” I lied, thanking my lucky stars that I had always been very good at telling little white lies. They had saved my sanity on many an occasion.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Sara studying me, blue eyes nearly identical to my own just a little concerned. “You’d tell me if anything was up, wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah, of course I would. I’d never intentionally keep anything from you. You should know that by now.”
“Okay, just making sure.” Sara gave me a smile and turned back to Dad. I got up from my seat near the end of Dad’s bed, slipped through a gap in the curtains and headed out of the ward.
There had to be some mistake. I wasn’t adopted – I couldn’t be. I looked like my parents and my brother and sister – my entire family was blonde to various degrees, and I shared my eye colour with Dad and with Sara. Nate had inherited Mum’s green eyes. I had no memories that would indicate that I wasn’t an Ainsworth – my earliest memory was of being three years old and playing in the snow with my parents and Sara at our old house in New York, a year before Nate had been born. My passport, my driver’s licence and my birth certificate all gave my full name as Taylor James Ainsworth. Why would they say anything different?
But at the same time, Kimberley telling me that my blood type wasn’t even close to being similar to my parents’ had planted a tiny seed of doubt deep inside. I knew there was no chance that she had made a mistake. Never mind that she would never lie to me unless she had a very good reason for doing so, and the revelation that I could very well be adopted didn’t come under that particular heading. It was something that had the potential to change my entire life. Hell, it already had changed it.
I raked my hair back off my face with my hands and let out a sigh. Kimberley was right – I needed to talk to my parents about this. I needed to hear the truth from them, as much as I knew it would probably hurt. And if I was adopted, then I needed to know why they’d kept it from me for so many years.
“Whatever deity is out there, give me strength,” I said to myself. “Because I think I’m going to need it.”
A week later, Dad was out of hospital and the EP was finished. By mutual agreement, Nate, Sara and I had chosen to call our EP Broken Hearts And Opened Scars – of all the titles we had been tossing around between us over the last couple of months, it was the only one that even remotely seemed to fit. With recording completely out of the way and the Channel V competition firmly in our collective sights, there really were only three things left to do – record an audition video, get some new photos taken, and upload the whole lot to the competition website. We were cutting it pretty fine, though – with just two days left until the competition ended, it was going to be a case of attempting to do our video in the one take so we didn’t waste any time.
“Thanks for helping us out with this, Dad,” Nate said once Sara’s lounge room was set up for filming. Nate’s drums were directly in front of the sliding glass door that opened onto the backyard, with my guitar in its stand to the left of our makeshift stage and Sara’s keyboard to the right.
“No problem Nate,” Dad said. His video camera was set up on its tripod in front of the window that looked out on the front verandah. “Now, how long does this video need to be?”
“Forty-five minutes at the absolute most,” I replied. Since agreeing to enter the competition, I had spent a little bit of time familiarising myself with its rules. “We have to introduce ourselves, talk about our band and then play a few songs.”
“Sounds easy enough,” Dad said as Nate, Sara and I took up our positions in front of the camera, which were more or less the same as how we set ourselves up onstage – Nate in the middle, Sara to his left and me to his right. “Ready?”
“Ready,” the three of us chorused, and the red light on the front of the video camera that indicated that recording had started went on. Sara being the oldest, she went first.
“My name is Sara Ainsworth,” she said to begin our audition video. “I play piano and violin in After Midnight – I also sing vocals and do the majority of our songwriting.”
I was next. “I’m Taylor Ainsworth,” I said to introduce myself. I could feel myself beginning to shake, and I clenched my hands into fists behind my back to stave it off. “I play guitar, piano and drums, along with vocals, and I contribute the occasional song to Sara’s writing efforts.”
Nate, as the youngest Ainsworth and the youngest member of our band, was last to introduce himself. “My name’s Nathaniel Ainsworth, but everyone calls me Nate,” he said. “I’m After Midnight’s drummer, and I also sing and play guitar.”
“And as you can probably tell from our accents, we come from Australia,” I said. “Home for us is a city roughly three hundred and twenty kilometres south of the border between New South Wales and Queensland – it’s called Tamworth. Originally we hail from the USA, New York to be exact – our family moved Down Under in 1992.”
“How long have you been a band?” Dad prompted from behind the camera.
“Eight years,” Sara replied. “Since Nate finished high school, basically. That was the deal we made with our parents, because they’ve always known how passionate the three of us are about music – once all three of us were completely done with high school, exams and all, then they’d let us play our music as much as we liked. It was really just a hobby before that.”
“We’ve also just finished our second EP, which we’ve christened Broken Hearts And Opened Scars,” Nate added. “And seeing as the whole point of this video is to show what we can do, how about we play a few songs from it?”
“Sounds good to me,” I agreed, and out of the corner of my eye I could see Sara nodding. We went to our instruments and set ourselves up to play, with Nate and I leading the very first song from our EP on my guitar and his drums, one that Sara had vocals on.
“After some thought on the subject…I’ve decided that I’ve gone and lost it…I feel stupid and confused on…anything that has to do with you and…I got a bad reputation…I got a bad reputation…
“Too much coffee and no smoking…I feel a little lame like I’m kinda boring…I wish I could date my former self…she’d be a fun girlfriend…she’d be a fun girlfriend…
“She got a bad reputation…she got a bad reputation…she probably needs medication…she don’t care ‘bout no reputation…
“And I’ve lost a little bit…but I’m gonna go find it…yeah, I’m gonna go find it…
“I have dreams about the end of the story…there’s no explosions, there’s never any holy glory…just a bunch of people lost and sleeping…trying to find someone…trying to find someone…
“We got ourselves a bad situation…we got ourselves a bad situation…we gotta get to the next space station…to save ourselves from this bad reputation…
“We’ve lost a little but we’re gonna go find it…yeah, we’re gonna go find it…
“I got a bad reputation…I got a bad reputation…I probably need medication…to save myself from this bad reputation…”
After a short pause, one meant to mimic the time the audience at our shows spent clapping and cheering, we skipped the next three songs in the EP’s track list to one that I sang lead vocals on. Nate and Sara had backing vocals, but essentially this song was all mine. It started out with Nate’s drums and Sara’s keyboard, with my vocals starting around thirty seconds after the song itself did.
“I don’t know how you do it…but somehow you always will be there…and there’s nothing to it…but somehow you always understand…there’s no way to wake up now…too many times I saw you cry…and no one can make up it…you wait for the sun to make the sky…
“And no one elevates you, elevates you now…and no one’s gonna take you, gonna take you there…
“All this time, never thought I would see you smile…know that I and I know that I see you now…but I know I can’t walk in…never go back again…no matter how, tonight I’ll never go back, never go back again…
“And no one elevates you, elevates you now…and no one’s gonna take you, gonna take you there…and no one elevates you, elevates you now…and no one’s gonna take you, gonna take you there…
“You know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…
“And no one elevates you, elevates you now…and no one’s gonna take you, gonna take you there…and no one elevates you, elevates you now…and no one’s gonna take you, gonna take you there…hold on to your heart…
“You know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…hold on to your heart…
“You know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…hold on to your heart…
“You know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…you know that I want to get away…and I cannot wait for another day…you know that I want to elevate…time to pick it up and celebrate…”
This time there was applause once the song had finished instead of silence, and all three of us looked over at the stairs that led up to the townhouse’s first floor. Standing there halfway up the first flight of stairs was Sara’s fiancé, Joshua.
“Josh, we’re filming,” Sara said, sounding rather like a petulant child.
“We can edit that out, Sare,” Nate said. “How was that Josh?”
“Bloody awesome,” Joshua replied, and I couldn’t help the smile that erupted onto my face. “What are you filming?”
“Audition video,” Nate replied. “We’re entering a competition to try and get on tour with Hanson when they come here in a couple of months – it closes Wednesday.”
“I’ll leave you to it then,” Joshua said. “Sara, my parents have Chelsea tonight, okay?”
“Okay,” Sara replied.
Joshua disappeared upstairs after that, leaving the three of us to finish our audition video. “Covers next then?” I said to pick up the thread again.
“Yeah, may as well,” Nate said, and started tapping out a drumbeat – one that I recognised as the beginning of the song that Sara had chosen as her cover, 1997 by Washington. That was all it took for us to refocus on what we had been in the middle of doing before Joshua had interrupted us, and we shifted seamlessly back into our performance.
When we had finished performing our three covers – we’d followed 1997 up with Hold My Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish, rounding things out with Panic! At The Disco’s New Perspective – we left our instruments and resumed our places before the camera. It was time to make our closing remarks and end our video.
“So there you have it,” Sara said. “Hopefully this video and our EP have shown you what we’re capable of. This would be an incredible opportunity for us – so many people consider Tamworth to be known for country music and not much else, so to show the rest of Australia that indie musicians make their home here too would be amazing.”
“Not to mention that getting to see all of Australia would be pretty awesome as well,” Nate added. “There is so much out there to see, and in all honesty between the three of us” he gestured at himself, Sara and I “we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
“Thanks for taking the time to consider us as a potential opening act for the Australian leg of the Anthem World Tour – we really appreciate it,” I said to finish up. “This is Sara, Taylor and Nate Ainsworth, otherwise known as After Midnight, signing off.”
The red recording light on the front of the video camera blinked off, and I let out a sigh of relief. It was done. All we needed to do now was edit out the bit where Joshua had interrupted us – I was pretty sure nobody but us needed to see that – and get some photos taken.
“And that’s a wrap,” Dad said. He popped the media card that held our audition video out of the video camera, and Nate went over to collect it from him. “Oh, before the three of you go anywhere, your mum and I want you to come over for dinner tonight.”
“Just the three of us?” I asked. I knew that Kimberley had the night off from work, so it would be no trouble for her to look after Fletcher and the girls – I just needed to give her plenty of notice.
“Just the three of you,” Dad replied. “This is strictly an Ainsworth family matter for the time being, and to be honest it’s something you two” he indicated Nate and I “should have been told about years ago. Having that toolbox fall on my head last week was a wake-up call to say the least.”
“Okay,” I said, all of a sudden feeling very nervous. I looked over at Nate, and he shrugged – a clear sign that he had no idea what Dad was on about. I, on the other hand, did have a fairly good idea – and I was almost certain that it had pretty much everything to do with what Kimberley had discovered the week before.
Our little band meeting ended in the backyard with a photography session, Sara donating her digital camera for the cause and roping Joshua into being our photographer. Two headshots apiece and a group photo later we were completely done. “Lose this and I’ll lose you,” Sara warned as she handed her digital camera’s media card over to Nate. “Got me?”
“Gotcha,” Nate replied, and he slid the media card into a pocket. “When did you want us to come over, Dad?” he asked.
“Six should about do it.” To me he said, “Tay, I know you tell Kim everything, but your mum and I want you to keep things quiet for now. Tell her that you’re having dinner at our place if you like, but nothing more than that. All right?”
I nodded quickly. “All right.”
For the rest of the afternoon, I had Kimberley’s little discovery about me on my mind. It was the only thing I could come up with that my parents would want to talk to Sara, Nate and I about – the only thing that even remotely made sense. Something that they should have told Nate and I about years ago, and that Sara obviously knew about already – it fit. It was the only thing that did.
“Something on your mind?”
I looked over at Sara. The two of us were sitting on the deck outside the back door, Nate having gone home to shower and get changed for dinner – I’d decided to catch a ride to our parents’ house with Sara, reasoning that as long as I didn’t drink too much that night I could drive myself home from my sister’s place.
“Just thinking about what Mum and Dad want to talk to us about,” I replied. “It’s just…what the hell could they need to talk to us about? I can’t think of anything.”
“If it’s what I suspect it is,” Sara began, “then I’m honestly shocked they haven’t mentioned it before now. They really should have.”
“Okay, I’m kind of worried now.”
Sara’s only response was a tight smile, and I swallowed hard.
That evening was tense to say the least. Normally spending time at my parents’ place, in the hundred-year-old house on Fitzroy Street where I had essentially grown up, put me completely at ease – it was a familiar place to me. But walking in the front door just behind Sara that evening, not even realising that Mum had done up a pot of spaghetti bolognese for dinner was enough to ease my nerves. I didn’t want to know what my parents had to tell us, and if not for the fact that my car was still at Sara’s place and home was more than an hour away on foot I would have turned around and started heading back to South Tamworth.
“Is that you Sara?” Mum called out from the general direction of the kitchen, and I froze right in the middle of the front hallway.
“Yeah Mum,” Sara called back. “Tay’s with me.” She looked back at me and nodded toward the kitchen, and I shook my head. “How old are you again?” she asked with one eyebrow raised.
“I don’t want to do this,” I hissed. “I don’t want to know what Mum and Dad want to talk to us about, and I am this goddamn close to walking all the way back home.”
“For fuck’s sake Taylor, grow the fuck up and act your age for once. You have no idea what it is exactly they want to tell us. For all you know it could just be that they’re selling up and moving somewhere smaller. How about you wait until you hear what it is they have to say?”
“I hate it when you’re being sensible,” I grumbled, knowing that Sara had a point.
I couldn’t stop fidgeting all throughout dinner. I had always been restless when I was even just the smallest bit anxious, my fingers worrying at the hem of whatever shirt I was wearing at the time or tapping on the nearest flat surface, and my feet tapping out whatever drumbeat that Nate had most recently dreamed up. Tonight, it seemed, was absolutely no exception – my left foot would not stop tapping against the polished wooden floorboards beneath my feet, no matter how many glances my parents shot my way. I was on edge and my whole family knew it.
Finally, once the dinner dishes were cleared away and stacked in the sink, ready to be washed later on, Dad cleared his throat. My hands tensed on my knees, and a ripple of fear started to work its way down my back. This was not going to end well.
“Your mother and I have something we need to tell you two,” Dad said to Nate and I. “Sara has known for a long time.”
“How long is a long time?” Nate asked.
“Almost twenty-nine years,” Sara replied quietly. “I’ve wanted to say something for a long time, believe me. But it was just decided that nobody needed to know until now.” She gave me an apologetic smile.
“I thought we didn’t keep secrets in this family,” I muttered just loud enough for everyone else to hear.
Mum and Dad looked at each other for the briefest of moments. “In this case, this secret was kept to protect you, Taylor. You…” Mum sighed. “There’s no easy way to say this, unfortunately, and I truly wish there was.”
“Just say it already, Mum,” I snapped.
“Taylor James Ainsworth, you watch your mouth,” Dad scolded.
“Why should I?” I retorted. “I know I’m adopted, Dad.” I spat that last word out as if it was something distasteful. “I’ve known for an entire week.”
“You know?” Mum asked – she was clearly shocked that I had found out. Those two words cemented who I was, what Kimberley had discovered last week. I really am adopted, I realised, the horrible truth of it slamming into me like a freight train. I’m adopted, and they never intended to tell me.
I nodded sharply. “Yeah. I…why would you keep something like that from me?” My hands curled into fists, and I dug them into my knees. “What in the world possessed the two of you to lie to me my whole life about who I am? My own wife was the one who found out – you know, the one who works at Tamworth Hospital as a doctor? She was the one who had to break the news to me. Not the two of you” I raised my right hand from beneath the table and jabbed my index finger at my parents “who should have been completely honest with me from the very fucking beginning!” These last few words were shouted at them, and I very belatedly realised I was on my feet with my chair tipped over behind me. “And don’t even give me that bullshit about protecting me, what the fuck could you have been protecting me from? I just…” I shook my head hard. “This is complete bullshit. I’m leaving.”
At any other time, the shock that was present on the faces of my parents would have snapped me right out of my anger. But right then, I was too caught up in my fury about having been lied to for virtually all of my life to even care. I stormed out of the kitchen and out into the front hall, yanking the front door open when I reached it. I pulled on it so forcefully that it nearly came off its hinges, and when I slammed it closed behind me I could hear the panes of glass set into it rattle.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been so angry – in fact I was almost certain I’d never felt so much anger before. It was blinding me to the point where once I finally stopped walking, the January heat almost too much to bear, I had no idea where I was at first. All I could tell was that I was in one of the parks that littered the city. As I calmed down the burning heat of my anger quietened into a simmer, and I looked up to find I was standing near the high green viaduct that carried the CountryLink trains toward the railway station in the middle of town. That was enough of a landmark for me to figure out where I was – Riverside Park. It was a mark of how truly pissed off I was that I hadn’t even paid attention to where I was even going.
I ignored the voice calling my name as I walked over to the viaduct so I could sit down in its shade. It belonged to one of the three people I really didn’t want to talk to right at that moment, and in all honesty finding some shade was more important than anything else. A hand landed on my shoulder as I stepped into the viaduct’s shade, but I shrugged it off and sat down on the ground against one of the pylons. The second I sat down a shadow cast itself over me, and I looked over to my right. Sara stood there, shading her eyes with one of her hands as she looked down at me.
“Go away,” I snapped, turning myself so I didn’t have to look at her.
“Tay, come on. I know you’re angry – believe me, I know, and I don’t blame you one bit. I’d be angry too if I was in your shoes right now.” I watched out of the corner of my eye as she crouched down in front of me. “I don’t care that you’re adopted, Tay. I really don’t. In every way that matters, you’re my pain-in-the-neck little brother and you always will be. Okay?”
I didn’t respond to this. “They lied to me, Sara,” I said. “However long it’s been since they adopted me, that’s how long they’ve lied to me. I…” I drew in a shaky breath. “Why did they do that to me?”
“I don’t know, Tay,” Sara replied. She shifted out of her crouch and sat down on the grass next to me. “Mum and Dad have always maintained it was to protect you, but I honestly don’t know what they’ve been trying to protect you from. They’re the only ones who know why.”
“How old was I?”
“Tay, I really think you should be talking to Mum and Dad about this. Not me.”
“Right now Sara, I want to talk to those two about as much as I want to climb up there” I pointed up at the underside of the viaduct “and jump off. As in I don’t. Now tell me how old I was.”
“You were two,” Sara replied. “I was three. That’s my earliest memory, actually – meeting you. They took you in as a foster kid at first, but I think the intent once they met you was to adopt you. I still remember the day they signed the adoption papers and brought you home for good – the fourteenth of September 1985.” She rubbed a hand over her face. “You didn’t talk at all until you were four. I guess something happened to you when you were in foster care, before you came to us anyway, and you were just scared mute.” She looked at me sidelong. “Maybe that’s why they were protecting you?”
“Doesn’t make it right.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Sara agreed. She tucked a stray lock of hair behind one of my ears. “I don’t know who you were before you came to us, and I’ll probably never find out. But you know what? That doesn’t matter to me. Who you are now, that’s what I care about. You’re my brother, my band mate, and the dad of my nieces and nephew. You annoy the absolute shit out of me sometimes, but that’s what brothers and sisters are supposed to do to each other. You’re supposed to piss each other off. But at the end of the day, when everything’s all said and done, we’re still family. That’s what’s important. Okay?”
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak – now that my anger had mostly abated entirely, I’d started shaking. Sara seemed to realise this, for she pulled me close and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I squeezed my eyes closed against the sting of tears that threatened to fall, not wanting to cry – I was thirty years old, I didn’t have a reason to cry.
“We’ll figure things out, Tay,” she said quietly. Her hand started rubbing my right shoulder. “If you want to, we’ll find out who you were before. But only if you want to – I won’t let anyone push you into it. You just let me know.”
I nodded again. “Thanks Sara,” I said quietly.