Page 29 of Hopeful Hearts

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Robbie jerked his head toward the door, and Emmet nodded before making himself scarce.

Brodie’s shoulders shook, but his tears were all cried out. The aftermath was a deafening silence that settled somewhere deep inside his soul. Every part of him was numb, and he wasn’t sure that he could ever feel anything other than this giant, empty hole in his heart.

“Get up,” Robbie ordered.

Brodie shook his head. Unable to make his legs feel enough energy to get him to his feet.

“Get up, Brodie. You wanted to talk man to man and there are things I need to tell you. Secrets I thought I’d take to the grave,” he added in barely more than a whisper.

Something in Brodie’s subconscious was curious enough to force him to his feet, and he collapsed onto the sofa. This time, it was Robbie pacing the room.

“I didn’t want to share this with you, son. Or with anyone. What I’m about to tell you can’t be shared with anyone else without my say so. Do you understand that?”

Brodie nodded his head.

“Not a single soul. Including my daughter.” He stopped pacing to point a finger in Brodie’s direction. “Especially my daughter.”

“You’re asking me to keep a secret from my fiancée?”

“No, I’m telling you to. You have to, for her sake, and if you can’t promise me, you will, then I can’t tell you anything more.”

Brodie ran a hand over his stubble. He’d never kept a secret from Sophia before, unless it was to plan a surprise for her. They didn’t do secrets. Both of them were painfully honest with one another. It was one principle they’d agreed to live by. Way back when they were just a couple of love drunk kids, they’d promised that whatever life threw at them, they would always be honest with each other. No secrets. It was their rule, and they’d stuck to it.

Until now.

“You have my word,” Brodie nodded and Robbie started another walk of the oak floorboards, as though giving him a chance to back out. Whatever he was about to tell Brodie was obviously weighing heavily on him, because Robbie’s frown was deeper than Brodie knew possible on his usually almost wrinkle free features.

“There might be another way. I don’t want you to get your hopes up, which is why I have told no one. It’s a slim, minute and almost impossible possibility, but I can see how much you’re hurting, Brodie. It’s time you knew the truth.”

Brodie said nothing. Scared he’d stop talking because although he had no idea what Robbie was about to say, he sensed it could change everything.

“This isn’t easy, so I’m just going to spit it out.”

“Okay,” Brodie nodded and Robbie dropped into the armchair facing him.

“Before we had Emmet and Sophia; Mel and I shared another child.”

Brodie tried to prevent his eyes from widening, not wanting Robbie to think he was shocked in case he stopped talking.

“A baby boy named Austin. We were young, too young for a baby, and we didn’t have the first clue what we were doing. The day Mel found out she was pregnant, she passed out; she was so shocked.”

“What happened?”

“Mel’s parents swooped in and did what they thought was best. They took Austin in and raised him as their own. They disappeared for the last five months of her pregnancy and when they returned, her mum; Susan, announced the surprise baby to the bay as their own.”

“I’m so sorry,” was all that Brodie could think to say.

“Don’t be. It was what we both wanted back then, and it was for the best. At least, that's what we thought. Mel could never have gone through with a termination. You know how she is around babies and I couldn’t let him be adopted. I can’t think of anything worse than knowing you have a child in the world and not being able to see them.”

“What happened to Austin?”

“He grew up. He had a good life. Susan and Sophia’s dad, Bert made sure he never wanted for anything. We got to see him and in time, things got easier. At first, it was hard. Mel’s milk came in and she cried and cried to feed him herself, but her parents made her express so they could bottle feed him. They were worried if we were too involved with Austin, he would grow confused, and they wanted him to respect them in their role as his parents. For a long time, Mel longed for the son she felt like she’d lost. Sometimes, I wondered if not seeing him would have been the better option because having him so close was torture for her.”

“I can’t even imagine.”

“In time, we grew up and so did Austin. He was happy. Settled. This way, we all got a chance to love him. Mel found her love for midwifery and committed her life to bringing babies into the world. She called it her greatest gift and when we felt ready, we had Sophia and Emmet.”

“I’ll never forget the day they met their Uncle Austin. He loved those kids, and they loved him. He shared all of their firsts: steps, smiles, giggles. He was there to see it all, and we found peace with our decision. We cherished the times when we could cook dinner and have all our three kids under the same roof, but it tugged at Mel’s heartstrings and she carried so much guilt over the fact that Austin didn’t know the truth. She wanted him to know his true identity. I think in a way, she was searching for some kind of redemption for what she saw as her wrong-doing.”

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