CHAPTER 1: In the Beginning

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CHAPTER I: IN THE BEGINNING

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I’ve never belonged to anyone.  

My biological mother died during my birth and I was left in the custody of social services minutes after I was born. My mother never got to smile when she saw my face, or cry when she heard my cry. She never got to see the color of my eyes or feel the softness of my skin. With her last breath I was born and with my first breath she expired.

All of the odds considered, I am one of the lucky ones. I‘m part of a small percent of orphans that are adopted successfully and I’m part of an even smaller percentile of children who are happy in their adoptive homes. The social worker who was assigned my case, bless her soul, tried to find any living relative of mine, but it seemed that I was alone, for my mother was as much of a ghost in her life on earth as she was in her death.

My Mom and Dad never intended to adopt me, but when the social worker put my fragile hour old body into the arms of Elizabeth and Ronan Conaway, they had fallen in love with me. I was swaddled within a blanket and placed into the caring hands of my new family. I had lost and gained everything on that one day.

They named me Cassandra, which has two meanings, one the entangler of men, and the other man’s defender. I never thought I’d live up to my name.

And so I grew as any normal kid does with two older sisters Callie and Camille and our younger brother Cade. I’m the only adopted one out of the family but since Callie and Cammie, the twins were only two when I was born I’ve never been treated as anything other than their sister. The twins both have dirty blonde hair and dark blue eyes all gangly and beautiful, I attribute that to my mother because they were made in her image. While my brother pulls more from my dads side, still a dirty blonde but with green eyes instead of blue, strong, steady and calm. I on the other hand am the black sheep. My father says I remind him of the earth; my hair the color of mahogany in the deepest woods, my eyes the color of the sky when a storm rolls through in July. 

We spent seventeen years in Seattle, where life was exciting and business was booming. My parents owned and operated The Café House, an ever expanding coffee and deli shop where intellectuals and scholars mingled with college musicians and high school students on black leather chairs and couches.

The atmosphere of The Café House is one I’ll never forget no matter where I go, eclectic and classy, perfection in an establishment. It’s walls lined with volumes of the classics from Shakespeare, Voltaire and Marx to the newest writers and books off of the New York Times Best-Seller List. The Café House became a haven, unique in that it offered not only an element of comfort, but also a measure of familiarity to all who frequented it. I assume it only makes sense that our expansion would translate to the rich and hip city of Aspen Colorado, where my parents would open their sixth Café House.

I was excited to move toa new city and so I didn’t cry when we left, I had no one to say goodbye to. I had had fun in Seattle, but I was curious to escape it. Cade wasn’t as willing to leave as I was, at only nine he loved his elementary and the friends that he had made. I felt for him, but I was a misfit in my school, a stranger, the girl whom no one ever understood. I didn’t fit in with any particular group, the boys stayed away from me, and the girls disliked me. I suppose I intimidated them. I loved school, I loved learning and being part of something that was greater than myself, but it’s lonely, even then.

I knew it was about time to leave home. I wanted a fresh start to do things differently, I wanted to try a social life. It was embarrassing just how much I’d missed out on. No sleepovers or girls nights, no boyfriends or camping trips with the jocks and cheerleaders. No, I spent my weekends doing homework, watching documentaries, reading until my head hurt and lastly the thing I love the most, photographing everything about life.

I sighed as I packed up the last of my things, looking out the window, watching as the sun faded in the sky and as dusk began to settle on the city.I hadn't really thought about my biological mother, or father for that matter, since my parents told me I was adopted. But recently with all the changes going on, a nagging sense of the unknown began to creep up within me.

I climbed out my window onto the roof walking my way to the flattest part, I sat down and then leaned back against the shingles. ‘This is the last night,’ I thought to myself, staring up towards the open sky, picking out the sparks of stars as the clouds shifted with the wind above. Tomorrow would be a new day.

A new start.

A new life.

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