My Lucky Stars

My Lucky Stars by Michele Paige Holmes

Book: My Lucky Stars by Michele Paige Holmes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michele Paige Holmes
though my mom had a garden that could feed the whole block.”
    “Go on,” Tara said.
    “There are fifteen children in our family.”
    She gasped. “ Fifteen ?”
    “Yep.”
    “No wonder your mother is dead—no disrespect,” she hastily added.
    “No offense taken,” Ben assured her. “As for pets, if you count the chickens, we had at least a dozen of those, too, though not all at the same time. And I think that makes us just about even on family history.”
    “You can’t stop yet,” Tara protested. “You have to at least explain the fifteen kids. Are you the oldest? In the middle? Boys, girls? Were your parents crazy ?”
    “Second youngest,” Ben said. “Ellen came about a year after me, though we’re only eight months different in age.”
    “Huh?” Tara gave him a confused frown.
    He grinned but didn’t offer anything else.
    Tara thought about what he’d said. “Ellen was adopted?”
    Ben nodded.
    Sam shook his empty cracker bag in her face. “More.”
    “I agree,” Tara said, taking the bag from him. “Ben should tell us more about his family.” She dug through the backpack Ellen had put in the truck that morning. Finding the goldfish crackers, she refilled Sam’s bag.
    “More, please ,” she said, holding the bag just out of Sam’s reach and imitating the way she’d heard Ellen speak to him.
    “More, please,” he repeated, reaching for the treat. Tara handed it to him, thinking it was the first satisfactory dialogue she’d had with a child since her arrival.
    “Can you hand me one of those water bottles, please ?” Ben asked, pointing to the still-open container.
    Tara gave one to him, opened one for herself, then drank over a third of it at once. She hadn’t realized how thirsty she was. Better be careful , she warned herself. Who knew how long till they stopped for lunch, and already she felt like she could use a bathroom. After taking one more tiny sip of water, she put the bottle back in the box and crossed her legs.
    “How long have your parents been gone?” she asked.
    “Dad’s four years now. Mom is three. She died almost a year to the day after he did. We all know it was because she missed him so much.”
    Tara was silent for a minute. “What was it really? Was there an accident or something?”
    Ben shook his head. “No accident. They both just got old. Mom was fifty-four when I came. Dad was fifty-six.”
    “Your mom had a baby when she was fifty-four ?” Ben’s family sounded weirder by the minute.
    “She adopted me when she was fifty-four. I was seven.”
    “Oh. So both you and Ellen are adopted?”
    “All of us were adopted. All fifteen kids, plus a few more that were temporary over the years.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Our parents did foster care. Some of the kids they cared for eventually went back to their families. The ones who didn’t stayed and got adopted.”
    “Wow. That’s amazing.” And it was. Tara found herself wishing she could have met Ben’s mom. It would have been interesting to find out what had possessed her to adopt fifteen kids and then what had kept her sane through raising them all.
    Her mind jumped tracks fast, circling around to Ben’s issue with his brother-in-law. If Ben and Ellen aren’t related by blood . . .
    “So when did you meet Dallin?” she asked casually.
    But Ben was on to her. “You’re not even close,” he said. “Ellen is my sister, blood or not. She always has been and always will be.”
    “Can’t blame a girl for trying.” Tara smiled in spite of her frustration at being foiled again.
    “I thought you were going to try to get some sleep today.”
    “What? Are you tired of me?” she asked in a wounded voice that wasn’t entirely pretend.
    Ben looked over at her. “No. Actually I’m not. You’re pretty good company. Better than old Sam here.” They looked down at Sam and noticed, for the first time, what he was doing with his fish crackers.
    Tara watched, somewhat disgusted, as Sam put the

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