Hi, my name is April Elizabeth Kaplan, as far as I know. But starting in high school, most people called me Liz. There’s a story behind that, but it’s for another day. I never kept a diary as a child so I don’t really know how this stuff works. The other day my best friend, Rin, gave me this one. She told me it might be a good idea if I start “charting my feelings,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. Anyways, I’m 18 years old, barely graduated high school last spring, but my “parents” forced me to take the SAT, what a waste of a Saturday, which I scored a 2400 on. I love being anywhere but my house, including my crappy job at Burger King. Hurray, I just love dealing with obnoxious people so excited they can “have it your way.”
Today, like many days, I went to the beach with my camera and began taking pictures when some jerk decides to plow into me sending my $800 Nikon flying through the air and off the pier. He said sorry then ran off leaving me there, just staring into the ocean to watch my happiness sink. I’ve had that camera for three years and never dropped it. Really, I may be the clumsiest person on Earth but that camera had never fallen more than a few inches.
Needing to blow off some steam I started walking to the end of the pier, staring at all the smiling laughing faces, giggling girls and overly affectionate couples, so excited about today’s sunshine, already talking about prom. It was disgusting, their disregard for everyone around them, stuck in their selfish meaningless worlds. I was so distracted I barely noticed the guy from earlier coming towards me until he almost runs me over, again. This time I dodge him and yell, “Hey stupid! Try watching where you’re going!” He must have recognized me because he told his group to go on. He ran after me and said “Um, sorry about before, I was uh, trying to catch up with my friends,” he nodded towards the group making their way off the pier. (Note to self: the quotes are relative suggestions of what people had to say, my auditory memory is good, but not perfect) “Whatever, I really don’t care about your superficial life, ‘pretend to care about you’ friends, and I sure as hell don’t want to hear your damn excuses!” I turned to walk away but he grabbed my arm, twisting so that I was forced to look him in the face. That was when I realized just how gorgeous he was. His hair was a soft brown that the wind made dance around his eyes, their deep amber burned with a sincere intensity. His skin slightly tanned from the beach and his hands were soft, softer than mine. But it didn’t matter; his pretty boy face didn’t make up for his bratty rich kid demeanor. “Don’t pretend you know me…where’s your camera?” At this point I wanted to be as far away from him, and that subject as possible. “Somewhere in the ocean now, thanks to you.” I broke free of his arm and ran towards the exit of the pier. Refusing to look back, I grabbed my bike, and rode the 6.5 miles home.
His name is Jake. He was waiting for me at the pier with a new camera wrapped in plain brown paper. In black sharpie “I’m Sorry” was written with a phone number below. Apparently, he had been waiting on the pier with the present every day since February 14th. When I saw what he got me, I was so excited. The newest Cannon SLR! I don’t even want to know how much it costs. We ended up talking for a while, apparently he was supposed to be on a date with one of the girls in the group, but it had been going horribly by the time he ran into me. The part that really got me was when he said, “my parents set up the date. My mother thinks she would make a wonderful trophy wife.” I didn’t even know women still had the luxury of being trophy wives. Before he left he told me to text him next time I went to the beach.
Writing a diary seems pointless and superficial. Instead, I think I will use these pages to log myself. Maybe this is what Rin expected. I’ll write it to my future self to never forget my life. Never forget what made me, me.
Every time I think humans are even slightly reliable beings, I’m proven wrong. As asked, I called Jake when I went to the beach, and his sister told me he would be out for a week. Weighed down by near unbearable disappointment, I went to Rin’s house and told her all about Jake. Now she wants to meet him. That will be a fun day.
Jake must be home by now so I decided to call him. He seemed happy when he answered the phone, but I could never be sure. Our phone conversation went something like this.
“Where did you go for a week?” I asked trying to sound indifferent “Aren’t you in college?”
It took him a minute to reply “Aren’t you?” I didn’t respond, this wasn’t about me.
“But no, my career doesn’t require college,” which made me wonder why his mother wanted him to have a ‘trophy wife’ without a college education.
“That answers part of my question.”
“And the other part is a secret. Besides, what concern is it to you what I do?”
“Um, I’m your friend? Or not, I guess you’re right, it doesn’t concern me,” which was an extreme lie.
“Yeah, of course you’re my friend, I just,” he paused, “needed some space.” Something in his voice told me he was lying too.
“Oh, my friend Rin wants to meet you. See ya at central park in an hour, if you can’t find us, call.”
Rin meeting him was a disaster. He found out my first name is April, and why. I don’t blame Rin. She knew me before I was Liz and still calls me April. It’s a bad habit of hers, makes people ask questions. And Jake had a lot of questions I didn’t want to answer. Now he knows my name is April because my parents found me April 17, 1991 on the railroad track behind my house when they moved in. I was an infant so they made that my birthday. They adopted me but never told me. I didn’t find out until about 4 years ago, when I saw my adoption papers, in some old boxes in the garage. I never see my parents, less now than before, but now it’s my choice.
Rin decided she needed to put her word in so she pulled Jake aside and talked to him for about 20 minutes. I didn’t have the strength to care, or try to listen in. Instead, for the first time in three years, I cried. When he came back he put his hand on my back and told me his story. If he had a choice, he would be a chef but he was adopted for the sole reason of taking over his father’s business. At the time, doctors had told his mother she could never have children, so they found him and scheduled the rest of his life.
Through blurry vision I noticed his fists were clenched so tight that his knuckles were turning white. Then I saw on his right hand, middle finger, he wore a ring. Before I could see more details on it, he unclenched his fists and began spinning it.
Walks are refreshing and the best way to gather yourself. What did my walk teach me? One, Jake might actually like me, two, I have more issues to sort out with myself than I ever could have guessed. And three, Jake keeps too many secrets, like that strange gash on his face, growing fainter each day from his eye to his jaw. I wonder what caused it. And what does that ring mean?
Today was hot so I decided to go to the beach. I gave Jake a call and he met me there. I brought my camera. It was wonderful. It had been such a long time since I was able to take pictures. I couldn’t believe how much I missed it. I think I like Jake more than I anticipated, he became the focus of most my shots and eventually I put down the camera and we hung out until sundown.
Jake called me up this morning telling me about his ridiculous idea of going on a search for our birth parents. I don’t even know how that could be possible for me. He had an orphanage, whereas I had a railroad track. He told me to send him a copy of my adoption certificate, I did, but I’m sure it won’t help.
I am starting to become very concerned about Jakes “career.” He called me back around noon saying that I needed to meet him at the pier as soon as possible. I grabbed my bike and raced off to see him fully conscious the entire way how dangerous my liking him was becoming. When I got there, he was leaning against the railing where I was when we first met. He smiled and waved for me to come over.
“So, what was the big emergency?”
“Well,” he flashed a grin that I knew meant something devious and reached into his pocket pulling out two tickets that leave for Chicago on Tuesday (three days from now). He put one of them in my hand and said, “you are coming, right?”
“I see you’ve already decided I’m coming.”
“Awe, I thought you would want to come. And yes I am. Well, you could just leave me there to venture out to Chicago all by my lonesome.”
“Since when do you play the whiny rich kid?” as I was talking a movement caught my eye, he was spinning his ring again.
“Since I learned it worked shortly after my 4th birthday”
“Lovely, I’ll think about it,” but as you might remember I was already planning what to pack.
“Oh, and you know that adoption certificate you sent me this morning?” He asked as I was turning to go down to the beach.
“Yea?” bracing myself for what was coming next. He pulled out another set of plane tickets from his pocket leaving from Chicago and going to New York. “I found them, here”
My hand hovered over the out held ticket. “How did you-”
“It’s a secret.”
“… Jerk,” I mumbled just loud enough for him to hear.
“What was that? I thought I was a stupid.”
“You’re that too.”
“Thanks, really appreciate it. But honestly, I can’t tell you how I found your parents.”
I brought my diary with me to Chicago and will be bringing it to New York so you, I, we will never forget what happens. Also, since I have never been out of California, I brought my camera, I haven’t gotten to take any pictures yet, but I hope there is something. Anyways, when I showed up at the airport today, Jake asked me to be his girlfriend! I said yes, but still couldn’t hide my doubt. He asked why I didn’t seem cheerful and I responded “I am, but I tell you everything and your life is so,” I paused searching for the right word, “classified.”
I felt the word linger before he changed the subject to how I got out of the house. The truth was my parents didn’t care. And although I would never tell anyone, I want you to remember: I wish they did.
We met Jake’s parents and part of me is glad he’s not their son anymore. When his little sister answered, she was adorable, but the biggest brat I had ever seen. Even when she found out Jake was her older brother, she acted like he didn’t matter. His parents weren’t much different. They were indifferent their only son worked so hard just to meet them. When he asked why they left him at an orphanage his mother calmly explained that he was her son from an affair and should feel lucky he was even born. Her eyes were cold when she said, “you almost cost me my marriage! I wanted to abort you, but he wouldn’t let it happen.” As she looked to her husband they both smiled. “Why are you still here?” she snapped, “don’t you have another family you can bother? If you’re waiting for me to ask you how you’ve been, you’re wasting your time. I don’t care, nor will I ever. Oh, and don’t even bother looking for your father, he’s dead, his plane went down 5 years ago. Now leave.”
Impulsive me went to stand up and punch the teeth out of her smiling face, but Jake grabbed my shoulder and assured me it wasn’t worth it. I hope you have worked on the impulse thing. Before we left, Jake took his ring off and flung it across the wooden table. It bounced leaving a dent in the ancient looking wood. That was when I realized the pattern on the ring was a family crest, this family’s crest. It matched the one on the center of the table. Shock and a twinge of guilt passed across his mother’s face as he stormed out, and I hastily followed.
Jake was pretty messed up after that, I almost wish I got a picture of our hotel room after he destroyed it. But I’m sure that wouldn’t have helped. Maybe you remember the bill he had to pay when we checked out (even though it hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure it will). But what really got me, was how he never shed a tear over his mother’s reaction to seeing him. I stayed up the whole night with him, but there were no tears. The pain on his face showed everything the dull glow of his amber eyes, the same eyes as his mother’s, was enough for me to know he cared.
New York is supposed to be expensive, right? As I write, I am on the 32nd floor of a hotel looking over the city of New York. It’s beautiful! I don’t know how he got the money to afford this room, but there is a balcony. I spent the last 3 hours just sitting out there with my camera, in rapture by the view. Jake thinks it’s funny, how easy it is to amaze me but I think some of my happiness is that he is able to laugh and joke already. Now all I can do is hope that it goes better with my parents than it did with his.
Today we found my parents, but they completely denied I’m theirs. I am really wondering if Jake needs to check his sources because they claim to have never been to California. Jake says I resemble them, but I don’t see it. I think they are just random angry New Yorkers who don’t like being bothered, but Jake is convinced I’m their daughter.
Today made me want to go home. My real home, to the people that raised me since I was a baby, no questions asked. Who found me and decided to take me into their home without a second thought. It made me realize how much better off I was, even if my parents weren’t really there when I was little, at least they were there when I needed them most. They cared for me when I was left for dead as an infant, when they found me crying after they got home, when my friends stopped being friends. So what if they kept the only record I wasn’t really their child in a dusty old box with things hidden from sight. Maybe they just wanted to forget my genetic parents. I do. Please, if you ever get upset at mom and dad, remember this: they cared, and tried their hardest, but in the end, they were only human.
Jake got me up before my brain would function (8 A.M.) and we headed out to my birth parent’s house. He knocked on the door and told me to stay behind him. My father answered the door and said red faced that he didn’t care what Jake had to say, he was not a father. Jake pulled a strange card out of his wallet and showed the man. Immediately, he let us in. We sat at the table and Jake explained the consequences that would befall lying to him. I really want to know what Jake does for a living, or at very least what that card was, I would even settle with knowing if half the consequences he stated were true. It didn’t take long for my mother to come out of the back room and scream, “Why the f— are these people here again?! This is not a bed and breakfast! Get the f— out of this apartment! I don’t want to see your face.” She cursed like a sailor, to say the least; I don’t even swear half as much as she does.
“It’s because you know she’s your daughter, isn’t it,” Jake said his breath steady.
“N-” my mother tried to reply.
“Yes,” said my father, terror struck his face just before my mother’s hand. “Ouch! Stupid woman, he knows.”
At this point I was stood up, boiling with anger, I shouted “Why the f— did you leave me!” that got their attention. “You couldn’t even bring me to an orphanage!? You just left me! What if the train came? Or was that what you were hoping for? You are the worst humans in existence. You have a baby, try to kill it-er me, then deny it-ugh, I was ever born! You’re disgusting!” I had never heard my voice so loud, and I could only assume my face was redder than my mother’s was white.
“You weren’t supposed to be born.”
“No, the doctor said you would be dead by the time I gave birth to you, we used to live in the house in front of where we left you but your siblings died a few months before you were ‘born’ in a terrible car crash. We didn’t want to live there anymore, and we had already made plans to move he-”
“So? You decided it would be better to kill me?”
“There was no choice, we had no money. We couldn’t keep you. We couldn’t bare the loss of another child. Besides, to us, you died with your siblings. We didn’t know what to do.”
So much I had to say but couldn’t, “I don’t want to see your face anymore! You deserve a fate worse than prison, worse than finding out the daughter you tried to kill spent the last four years wondering who you were only to learn she hates you.” My eyes burned with threatening tears as I turned to Jake and asked him to take me home.
I hope my words stung. My father’s face was twisted with confusion as I walked out the door. Once it closed I heard my mother yelling, screaming at her husband I was supposed to be dead, that I shouldn’t have ever found them, followed by heavy sobbing. I didn’t care, I couldn’t care. Their sympathy was not for me, it was for themselves, they were truly selfish beings and didn’t even deserve my tears. Nothing can describe my hate for them, not even the sick feeling flowing to my stomach due to true despise for them, these adults were not fit to have children, even if they begged, I would not accept them as real parents.
I apologized to my real parents, told them everything. Then, gave them the most overdue apology in history and begged them to forgive me for my behavior the past four years. For the first time in four years, I hugged them; told them I loved them. Finally, I announced my enrollment for the fall semester. Their faces glowed with a proud smile I had never seen. For the first time ever, I knew I was home. April, remember your home, and see your name as a gift, it was the day you were found, the day you were saved. As for Jake, you know his story. With how I feel about him, there’s no way you couldn’t.
I guess I never let go of the past, I never let go of you so when I was reading through this everything hit me again, I suppressed a lot of those memories like memories of you, and our parents. I think it’s time I finally faced them, for real. So I will be writing in this diary again, this time to you, as a sort of proof and realization that it was all real, that I am not living in a dream world.
Happy 29th Birthday April. You made it another year. As a birthday present Jake decided to dig out this old diary preserving you from the garage. He never read it, or even asked to. A lot more can happen in 10 years than I thought. I want to thank you for writing the diary as a reminder and give you the advice I wish someone told me when I was your age. But most importantly, to tell you nothing is as it seems, but the world has a way of giving people what they deserve, or as some people call it, karma.
I will start with who you have become. I am now a world renowned photographer. My most famous picture was the one you wrote about, one taken of the skyline of New York when you met your parents. So I guess there is a bit of a reason to thank them, although I never have. I love my job! I get paid to travel and take pictures; my favorite are still natural life and landscapes, but it seems a lot of people like pictures of man-made things, like a sea of buildings, or a pier, which is nice because sometimes I need a break from my norm. I still find it amazing that some of my pictures hang in art galleries all over the world. I think if I had to thank one person for this, it would be Jake. Not only did he get me the camera, after destroying yours of course, but he was the one who showed my photos to a famous art collector that came to visit Southern California. He was amazed, and I sat there wondering how Jake knew the guy. Turns out, Jake is in the art business and the reason his father wanted his heir to be a son instead of a daughter is more in depth than I could have guessed.
Oops, apparently I’m needed elsewhere right now, because Jake just walked in telling me to meet him in the car in 10 minutes so I’ll write to you again. I promise! And April, remember no matter where life takes you, someone cares.
So, that was a surprise birthday party the other night, and at it I got a letter saying that my photographs would be bought and displayed in every Barns & Noble in the country! They would even have some for sale, which when sold I would get 35% of the profit. One piece of advice that I wish someone told me when I was your age. Never give up on your dream, whatever it may be. Always have a dream and always strive to reach it. If I remember correctly, you always used to carry around a camera, until Jake broke it that is. But he did get you a new one, and I still carry that one around.
I’m sure you wanted to know the rest of the story with Jake. Well, I didn’t find out his real career until a few years ago, I knew he was a master detective, and that was how he knew so many people in the art business, and how I got my big start, but there was so much more to the story I couldn’t see. One night about three years ago, I was up late trying to figure out which picture I would submit to a contest when I heard the faint sound of the front door unlatch (at this point Jake and I already lived together in the house he grew up in) I looked into the bedroom and noticed he wasn’t there. Nervous, I decided to wait until he came back. I heard the door unlatch at about 6 A.M. way earlier than I would ever wake up. In his hand I saw a beautiful acrylic painting that I had seen somewhere before. At the time, I couldn’t remember it was at the art museum 34 miles east of where you live (if you ever get a chance you should go there). I questioned him about it until he told me that he now followed in his father’s footsteps being a detective/con-artist.
I barely let him explain that this is the only reason he was allowed to live with his father and not be thrown out on the streets, before I ran to my room and began packing my bags, so outraged I was threatening to leave. When half my bags were packed, I heard a whimper coming from behind me. I turned around and saw something I never thought I would. A single tear formed in his eye and slowly made its way down his cheek. He dropped to his knees and begged me to stay with him. I was furious, but his reaction was so unexpected. I had always seen him as flawless, but here he was, broken and exposed, like he was still a child. I sat down trying to clear my head and decided to hear out the whole story.
Have you ever watched the news? I don’t remember, but if you did about once a week you would see a headline that shows a missing art piece. Jake’s dad was responsible for that. At least until Jake turned 18. Remember that trip you wrote about, when his sister answered the phone and said he was out for the week. Well he was out with his dad. He was being trained as a grandmaster art thief, which completely explains the cut on his face. Turns out the reason he has so much money is that his father “specialized” in catching art thieves, and would steal a painting then get assigned to it. A few weeks later, he would “find” it being sold on the black market for a great sum of cash; arrest the buyer as the thief’s accomplice. The reason Jake did not go to college, is because he had been trained since he was 12 to become an art detective and achieved this goal by 17.
Jake sincerely wanted to change. The next day, he gave the art back to the museum, saying he found it on the road then quit his job as a detective. He even has his own restaurant, after a few years of culinary school that is, which he decorated with some of my photos. Oh, and how he got away with the whole thing? He told the police that it was his “father” that was stealing and selling the works of art, and some of the security footage (that his father as the detective was able to hide) proved it. Now he is serving 40 years in prison with no parole.
I let Jake read what I have been writing to you and he told me I left out a few very important things, which I guess he is right. First of all, I wanted to say that your parents, the ones who raised you, love you more than you can even understand. This, you will just have to trust me on. Another thing is to let them back into your life. I wish someone told me that sooner because it wasn’t until last year that I realized how cut off they still were. And perhaps most important, give people the benefit of the doubt. Nobody can do everything, no matter how gilded their pedestal may be. Nobody, including Jake, is perfect. And maybe a more important thing for you; learn to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes, but nobody is entirely at fault. Don’t cut someone from your life because you don’t agree with them; try to work things out before deeming them hopeless. But above all, learn to forgive yourself.
I wasn’t going to tell you this, but Jake is sitting over my shoulder pointing to my engagement ring. He proposed last winter; the wedding is set for November. I’m so excited! Oh, and April Elizabeth Kaplan, never forget to live your life for you, nobody else.