“I had a son about your age. If he was ever caught in a mess, like this, I’d hope someone would do the decent thing and look out for him.”
Austin grabbed the table lamp and threw it across the room, making Sophia jump. “You feel bad for them?”
“Austin, you’re scaring me?”
“Have you any idea what it’s like to find out your whole life was a lie? Of course not. How could I expect you to understand when you’re the one they wanted?”
“Austin, please,” she pleaded with him to calm down.
“No. I should never have come here. You know, this is the exact reason I stayed away, and I was dumb enough to feel – I don’t know what, but something when your husband told me about your situation. But you’re just like them.”
“Austin, I’m not. I didn’t know about any of this, I swear.”
“It suited you though, didn’t it? To live the perfect life here. Campfires and fishing trips and even now. Even after I’ve told you the truth, your pity lies with them.”
“That doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t break for you, too. I love you. You’re my family. Who cares if you’re an uncle or a brother? What does it matter?”
“Stop it,” he warned in a low growl.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry about all of this, but at least now everything is out in the open.”
“It’s not going to happen, Sophia. I don’t expect you to understand. How could you?”
“I want to. Why don’t you sit down and we can talk things through?”
“There’s nothing left to say. Look how shaken up you are and I’ve only been here a few minutes. I’m bad news, Soph. Why do you think they gave me up in the first place? I’m not sticking around here to chase ghosts. You should forget that you ever saw me tonight. Focus on getting better so you can carry on with your perfect little life and go back to forgetting I exist.”
“I never forgot about you,” she murmured. “And I really think you should at least talk to Mum and Dad. Tell them how you feel and get their perspective. You might feel differently when you do.”
“Not going to happen. Take care, sis.” He spat the last word out with as much hatred as he could muster and it made Sophia’s heart ache for him. She couldn’t imagine carrying all of that anger around inside of her for so long. Her heart ached for her parents, too. She knew how much her mum loved being a mum. She had given her all to her and Emmet.
As much as she wanted to see his side of things, Sophia didn’t understand how her brother could be so pig-headed that he couldn’t see how hard it would have been for them to give up their son. All she wanted to do was hug them or Brodie, and then call Emmet and tell him everything. At the same time, she felt betrayed. How could they have kept a secret this huge for so long?
She thought she was at peace with her plan to end her treatment, but something flipped inside of her as her single opportunity turned his back on her and prepared to walk away.
She'd been afraid to hope and it had crushed everything. Suddenly she understood why Brodie had been so angry because she felt angry, too. This shit storm had entered her life and turned it upside down. For months she’d lived without daring to hope after watching everyone she loved get tested and not be a match. This damned illness had almost broken her but Brodie and her friends were right. Her parents, Emmet, all of them were right all along. She had everything to live for and now she had to fight. Standing in front of her was her last chance, and she wasn’t about to let him walk out on her. She lurched to her feet and followed after him, ignoring the way her body complained.
“I can’t get better!” She yelled after him, her voice ragged with desperation.
“Everyone can get better, Sophia. You look fine to me.”
He spun around to face her.
“Look carefully, Austin. Can you see how thin I am? That’s from vomiting so much I can barely keep a meal down, anymore. See the lines around my eyes? They’re from exhaustion.” She rolled up her sleeves. “The bruises and needle marks all over my body? They’re from endless tests and treatments that have all failed to do anything other than keep me alive. I’m dying and whether you can see it or not, it’s the truth.”
“And what? You think I’m just going to swoop in and save you when this entire family has never done anything for me in my entire life?”
“You could at least try. Look, until I saw you, I was ready to go. I’ve been planning my goodbyes. Have you any idea how hard that is to do? But now you’re here and it changes everything. If you’re truly my brother, then you could be a match.”
She gulped down on air, feeling like the oxygen had been stolen from her lungs.
“Whoa, you don’t look so good.”
She didn’t feel so good.