"You know she had another one?"
It was tossed out my direction by Kelly's mother as she and Kelly's father prepared to leave our home last fall, more of a statement than a question. They were traveling through our town on a road trip and we had spent the afternoon together, the adults catching up and Eddie and Mari playing with Eddie's little sister, Robin, who Kelly's parents are currently raising.
"Another what?" I thought. Before my confusion even had time to take hold, Kelly's mom was talking again, information tumbling out of her. "There are three. Kelly had another baby. A boy. In July. He was adopted and he's in Northern California." She kept going without pause.
That was how we learned Eddie has a brother. Half of my brain was trying to memorize everything Kelly's mom was saying, to save every scrap of information she was dropping so I could piece it together later. The other half of my mind was racing, trying to overwrite the last year of our relationship with Kelly and what we thought was true with this new story. "We saw Kelly in August. He was born by then," I realized. "She didn't tell us. We spent hours with her and she didn't tell us. She didn't tell Eddie he has a brother. All those times we talked to her on the phone this year, she was pregnant the whole time. Is Eddie in listening range? I don't want him to hear it like this. 'Another one'? They're children. Your grandchildren. Two of whom are right here. Is that what my son is to you? Just 'another one'?"
Kelly's parents kept talking, interrupting each other to get the words out. Looking back, I realize this was probably one of the first chances they had to tell their big story to someone. We heard all about the circumstances of the pregnancy, the boyfriend, the agency's last-minute involvement, exactly what the adoptive parents were doing when they got the call. Yes, the adoptive parents know about Robin; no, they don't think they know about Eddie. They talked about it as if it were this exciting thing that had happened to them.
At some point they paused and Kelly's mom said, "Don't tell Kelly we told you. She doesn't want anyone to know. You won't tell her, will you?" Without thinking, I answered, "No, of course not." I think I would have said almost anything at that point just to keep the information coming. It felt like I had this brief open window to grab up as many facts as I could--as much truth as I could--and I didn't know when it would open again, if ever.
I've regretted that promise countless times since that day. I can't believe I spoke without thinking, can't believe I agreed to more secrecy when it goes against every value I hold about how adoption should be practiced. It is awkward to talk to Kelly now. And I hate knowing that there is no easy way out; eventually Kelly will know we knew but didn't say anything to her and her parents will know we broke our promise to them, however regrettable it was. But that day is going to have to come, sooner than later.
One thing I knew right away: I wasn't going to keep any secrets from Eddie. This wasn't something that needed to be held until it was age-appropriate; information as basic as the existence of a sibling belonged to him right now. The next day I gently and plainly told Eddie about his new brother. He asked where he was and I explained. He said, "Oh." He asked me to pick him up. Arms wrapped around my neck, he told me he'd never let me go.
We held each other for a long time.