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Finding Eden(8)

By:Mia Sheridan

Felix had rescued me, given me a home, a purpose, and a safe place to grieve. I'd never divulged to him or Marissa where I'd come from, not even when I saw news coverage about Acadia, where no one had come out alive. But they knew I was emotionally damaged, and they gave me the space I needed to work through some of it in my mind, in my own time. And though much of the last three years had passed in a daze of pain and longing, because of Felix and Marissa, there had been comfort, too.

And he'd given me back my music, and the pride that my sweet little student now loved the piano as much as I did. She had helped me grasp the hope I could still find small pieces of happiness in this lifetime. Not many, perhaps. And they were fleeting. But they were there—and they helped me survive.

Once I got a handle on my tears, I pulled the second picture out of the folder and looked down at the handsome blond man. I tilted my head, trying to recall his face, and although there was a small spark of recognition, I had nowhere near the emotional response I'd felt when I looked at my mother's photo.

I set it down and started looking through the rest of the paperwork. It all corroborated what Felix had written in his letter, although the scandal my father had been involved in wasn't spelled out.

At the bottom of the pile lay the photo from the missing children's database. I stared at it for long minutes, my heartbeat speeding up. It was me, no question. Eden Everson. My name was Eden Everson. Is. Is Eden Everson. "My name is Eden Everson," I whispered. The name felt foreign on my tongue.

I was a missing child. I had been stolen. Shock and grief hit me in the chest. Hector had lied to me. Hector had kidnapped me. All those years . . . all a lie. I sat there for a minute simply staring at the wall and letting the truth sink in.

Finally, I looked back at the folder on my bed. The last page at the back was an address in the Hyde Park section of Cincinnati. I folded it up and reached for my purse, putting it inside.

When I went to put all the papers back in the envelope, I felt something hard at the bottom and opened it wide, tilting it upside down. The locket I'd brought to Felix's shop three years ago fell out. I let out a small breath and brought it to my chest, holding it tightly against me. Oh, Felix. I'll miss you forever.

I startled when there was a knock on my door. "Come in." The door opened and Marissa peeked inside.

"I just wanted to let you know I'm home, dear."

"Thank you, Marissa." I licked my dry lips. "Marissa, can I ask you something?"

Marissa came inside and sat on the end of my bed. "Have you been crying?" she asked gently.

I nodded my head. "A little, yes. I'm okay. Felix, he wrote me a letter and he . . . did you know he was investigating my past, where I came from?"

Marissa looked surprised. "No." She shook her head. "Did you ask him to?"

"No . . . I . . . I'm not upset about it, in fact, he found my parents."

A look of surprise came over Marissa's face. "Your parents? I thought you said your parents were dead."

I nodded, frowning slightly. "I thought they were. They're not. Or at least, my mother isn't." I glanced down at the folder again.

"What are you going to do?"

"I think I'm going to go to her," I said. I think.

Marissa studied me for a few seconds but didn't ask more questions. It was her way. I knew she'd never pry unless I indicated I was ready to speak more on a subject. "You know I wish I could offer for you to stay here . . ." Her face filled with regret.

"I know," I interrupted. "I have some money now, though, enough to rent a room for myself." I met her kind eyes. "I know you'd let me stay here if it belonged to you." I grabbed her hand in mine and squeezed it.

Her eyes filled with more sadness. I knew she'd miss me as much as I'd miss her. "Have you found an apartment yet?"

"I've checked out a couple. I just need to decide on one." They were all small and run-down. I couldn't afford much, but it would be mine.

Marissa nodded. "You just let me know when you're ready."

"I will." Marissa was going to rent my new place in her name since I still didn't have identification. Not yet anyway. A world of possibilities swam in front of my eyes and I could hardly put them all in order. I have a name.

Marissa looked at me with concern. "Eden…" She brought her lips together, blinking tears from her eyes. "Three years ago when you first came here, you asked me if Felix would let you go out if you wanted to."

I took a deep breath and studied my fingernails. When I met her eyes, I said, "Yes. I remember."

She nodded. "Felix would have never prevented you from doing anything you wanted to do. But it seems . . . well, it seems that you've held yourself captive here since then, rarely ever going out, holing yourself up in your room much of the time." Her kind eyes were filled with sympathy. "I just hope you'll see this change not only tinged with sadness, but as an opportunity to start living, truly living. I have so much faith in you. Felix had so much faith in you."