Finding Forever

By: Melody Anne

“I understand, Ms. Steele. Please let me know your decision quickly. The holidays are approaching, and my father, as I told you, is in a weak state right now.”

She didn’t say anything more; she just shut the door in the man’s face. She exhaled as she leaned against the sturdy frame. She wasn’t in any way qualified to make the kind of decisions required for Brayden and Ally. She was only twenty-five years old, and it seemed as if something new happened every day, something confirming that she wasn’t fit to raise her niece and nephew. She didn’t know what the right decision was.

Her baking was already a lost cause, so she sat back down at the kitchen island to look at the papers Mr. Felton had left. She’d be completely irresponsible if she didn’t even look through the information. After all, if the kids did have more family out there, didn’t she owe them the chance to get acquainted?

A shudder ran through her as she examined the paperwork. And then she went to her computer. Her fear intensified as she did her search.

The Feltons appeared to be from old money — true American blue bloods — and they certainly hadn’t fallen on hard times at any point in their history. They were multibillionaires out of New York, owners of a media conglomerate.

Who in the world had her sister married?

Why hadn’t Vince told Maxine where he came from? Was he ashamed of his family? Were they horrible people he hadn’t wanted his children to know? Whitney decided that she’d better try to find out a heck of a lot more before the kids got home.

By the time she was finished surfing the Web, she was sitting back in her chair and chewing her nails, wondering what she was going to do. What if this family wanted to keep the kids because they decided she was unfit to raise them? Her niece and nephew seemed to be potential heirs to a great fortune. Wouldn’t they want to be a part of that life?

But didn’t the rich raise their children at a distance, with nannies and in boarding schools? Sometimes it was worse than the old line that “Children should be seen and not heard,” because sometimes they weren’t even seen. Weren’t her sister’s children better off being raised with love instead of wealth? She wished more than ever before that Maxine were there to guide her, to help her make the right choice. Of course, if Maxine were there, she wouldn’t be faced with this burdensome decision.

She finally concluded that the best thing to do would be to ask the children. If they really wanted to see their grandfather and their uncle, then she’d take them across the country to New York state. What else could she do? Her fear of losing them didn’t give her the right to be selfish and keep them all to herself. Life kept dealing her bad cards, but she’d do her best to win the game and to get herself and the children through it all.

She heard the front door open, and laughter spilled from her niece as Brayden and Ally came rushing around the corner.

“Hi, Aunt Whitney,” Ally burbled.

“What’s that look for, darling girl?”

As Ally jumped into her lap, Whitney held her close to her chest, so afraid she was about to lose this beloved child and her dear brother.

“I have a present for you, Auntie,” Ally told her, giggling in her delight.

“Oh, that’s so wonderful! Do I get to open it now?”

“No, Aunt Whitney,” Ally said firmly. “You have to wait until Christmas morning.”

“Okay, sweetie, if I have to wait, I’ll wait,” Whitney replied before tickling her niece affectionately. She was fighting back tears and praying that this connection wasn’t going to end anytime soon.

“Mercy,” Ally cried, and Whitney stopped. Then she directed her attention toward her nephew, who was sitting on the other end of the island and not looking at either of them.

“Take off your headphones, Brayden. I need to talk to you both.”

“What is it?” he groused.

“Someone came to see me today,” she told them. “It seems your father has some close relatives who are alive, but they live on the other side of the country. They want to meet you both, and to spend this Christmas with you.”

“If they want to see us so badly, where have they been all of our lives?” Brayden asked with open resentment.

“I don’t know, really. It seems that there was some kind of disagreement — umm, that sort of thing happens all the time in families — and they didn’t know about the two of you. They just learned of your father’s passing. They’re grieving. As you know, it’s never easy to lose people you love. And they would like to know you, their family,” Whitney said. “You have a grandpa and an uncle that I know of. I don’t know how many other relatives.”

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