I felt like my heart had been hit by a semi truck. I stared at my parents in stunned silence. They sat across from me; their anxious faces looked at me in hesitant anticipation.
"What?" I choked out. My throat was tight and my stomach was in knots.
"You can't do that!" I said, tears beginning to fill my eyes. My dad leaned forward in his armchair and sympathetically put his hand on my knee.
"Listen, Kate. Your mom and I have prayed about this for a long time and we believe this is what God is calling us to do."
I shook my head with a sob.
"But I'm your kid! I'm your daughter!"
"Kate," my mom said, trying to reason with me, "it's going to be OK."
I couldn't believe it. Why do we have to adopt a little girl from Romania? Only ten minutes ago I asked them if I could get my ears pierced and they turn around and tell me I'm getting a sister. Talk about a bombshell! Let's face it; I was an only child. I had always been my daddy's little girl. I was always my mom's closest friend. I didn't want that to go away. Now I have to share it with someone else. Of course this was selfish. I was old enough to take this more maturely and calmly. Even if I was twelve, I didn't like my carefree life to suddenly change so drastically like this. I bit my lip to keep it from trembling. A tear crept down my flushed cheek.
"I'm sorry, honey," my mom said to me with a sympathetic sigh. "We didn't know you would take it so hard."
I forced myself to be more controlled and asked shakily, "When . . . when is she coming?"
My dad stole a glance at my mom.
"She's coming next month. She is eight years old and her name is Anica."
"Her mother died when she was five and her father was a criminal," my mom explained. "She lived with her aunt for one year. Then her older sister died of a serious illness. Anica was sent to an orphanage."
"She really had a hard life," my dad said. "But hopefully she's young enough to forget it."
"And since we all have dark features, she'll fit right in!" my mom said, trying to lighten the atmosphere.
"So you've already signed all the papers and stuff?" I asked.
My dad looked straight at me and nodded. "It's official."
* * *
The day Anica arrived I had made the decision I wasn't going to go down and meet her. From my upstairs window I watched our family minivan roll up the driveway I slipped behind the curtains as my parents got out of the car. After all the fuss I made I didn't want to seem like I was curious.
Anica jumped out. She stared around at the manicured lawns and the chalk scrawled all over the sidewalk. Suddenly I realized she was looking at me. Annoyed, I jerked the curtain in front of my face and went back to my book.
Days passed. I was still hard and cold inside and I didn't try to hide it.
I very seldom talked to Anica and when I did, my words were cutting and sharp. Despite my dad and mom's attempts to reason with me, I avoided her as much as I could. I didn't want to admit to myself that I was being very immature and selfish. I didn't want Anica. Period.
My birthday finally arrived. I wasn't going to have a party that year. We were just going to have a celebration at home. My parents tried to make it as nice as possible. Mom made my favorite meal. Dad played my favorite game with me. I got great presents, but I was surprised when I received nothing from Anica. My parents made no comment about it. That night, I was lying on my featherbed, reading a book I got from my dad earlier that day
Suddenly, I heard a very soft knock on my closed door.
"Come in!" I said, looking up.
The door slowly opened and Anica came in, clutching something small in her hand. She was in her pajamas, holding her doll from Romania.
"What is it?" I asked shortly.
She quickly stepped forward and opened her hand.
"This is for you," she said timidly.
I stared blankly at the simple gold band held in her cupped hand.
I looked up at Anica.
She looked down at her old patched doll.
"It was my sister's," she said after a pause. "She gave it to me before I was sent to my aunt's. Jenica gave me the ring because she knew that we'd never see each other again. I didn't believe her. I was sure that we would. And then . . . then I heard she died and . . . and . . ." Anica couldn't finish. She began to cry and wiped her eyes with the head of her doll. The memory was too strong for her.
I stared at her in disbelief.
"Why are you giving it to me?" I asked, feeling suddenly ashamed that I hadn't accepted this little girl who just wanted love and a big sister again.
She hesitated and then said, "Because . . . because, even though you don't talk to me very much, you somehow remind me of her. She was my closest friend. When she died, I didn't want anyone to take her place. But then when I saw you . . ." She looked up at me with big, eager eyes and asked, "Can you take the place of Jenica?"
I was speechless. Here I was, a thirteen-year-old who had rejected this little girl, and she wanted me, who had treated her terribly, to replace her . . . her only sister? I didn't know what to do. I stared at her and suddenly saw her as she had been: a little girl who had lost everything. I wanted to cry; I wanted to give her everything that she had lost. I tried to speak, but it was then that I realized I was shy. All these days she had been with us, I didn't even let myself know her.
Hesitantly, I pulled the covers back, a smile slowly growing on my face. Anica understood me perfectly and hopped onto the bed. With a grin, she stuck the ring on my finger. I put my arm around her as she snuggled against me, reading my book over my shoulder.
Anica and I sat on my bed reading my book in perfect peace and contentment. There was no need for words. I just knew that there would never be a happier moment in my life.