by Mary Kate Brogan

In 1981 Connecticut, twenty-six-year-old attorney Tara Carter is astonished to learn she was adopted from an institution for unwed mothers in Ireland. Her search for her birth parents, her defense of a man accused of manslaughter, and an involvement with the prosecuting attorney leads her on a journey of excitement and shocking betrayal.

While she loves her adoptive parents, she longs to hold in her arms her birth mother and the father whose seed gave her life.  But in Ireland, she swings from joy to heartbreak and disappointment after learning her birth mother has died. Although her father, a former Catholic seminarian, is reputed to be living and working either as a teacher in New York or a missionary in Africa, his whereabouts remain a mystery. And now she returns to New York where she will help to defend Father Patrick Gannon who has pleaded not guilty to the crime of manslaughter. In between her court work, she embarks on the arduous task of contacting schools in the United States and Ireland. Negative replies lead her to hire a private detective. After an interminable wait, she learns the detective has been unsuccessful.

Tara is ready to abandon hope when a sudden revelation leads to a devastating conclusion of her search.  


Chapter One


She dropped the card onto the floor as if it scalded her fingers. The words seared her heart: Congratulations on getting the baby girl from the Emerald Isle! Tara. What a beautiful name! At first, she thought it was a joke, but the card had come from Mom’s late sister, Edie, who had rarely joked about anything.

She slumped beside the cardboard box she’d found in the attic. She’d been looking for old pictures in the attic of her parents’ Connecticut home and found a card with the name “Good Shepherd Sisters,” dated June 4, 1955 at the bottom.

She felt like she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Feeling faint, she pulled herself to her feet and stumbled across the green carpet toward the window. To think she’d almost reached the age of twenty-six without knowing who she was.

She massaged her forehead against a sharp headache. The two downstairs had treated her well, and she loved them dearly. But what a shock to discover that they were not her real parents.

Yet they were the only parents she had ever known. Bits of her life flashed before her—her first day at school when Mom said, “Goodbye,” with tears in her eyes. The time she fell off her tricycle and cut her forehead. It had taken four stitches to close the wound. The hospital nurse made Mom sit in the waiting room listening to her scream while Mom cried her heart out. The day she graduated from kindergarten when her parents threw a party. Her first crush in high school. Her parents’ pride when she graduated from Yale. On and on, memories flashed through her mind like a film on a screen.

But why hadn’t they told I me I was adopted? she wondered.

In spite of her trepidation, she wanted to meet her birth mother. But so many questions were left unanswered. What impediment had lain in her parents’ path to happiness that led them to adopt? What did her mother look like? Were her birth parents in love? Had they loved her? Did they regret giving her up?

Something she’d once heard her father say to a relative filtered through her mind: “She grew inside her heart, not beneath it.” She’d asked Dad about it, but he’d just said, “It means we love you, darling. Want some cake?” Now she knew the truth.

There was no doubt that her parents loved her. But although she loved them with all her heart, she was filled with a curiosity about the couple that had given her life. She’d fallen in love with the beauty of Ireland during college, and now she’d have the opportunity to visit. That is, if Malcolm, her boss at Harrington, Cook and Bridges, gave her a leave of absence.

She breathed deeply in an effort to calm her nerves. What might she discover if she were to search for her birth parents?

She grabbed a t-shirt from the closet and pulled the snug fabric over her head. Next came slacks that she stepped into and drew them over her slim hips. All this would have to wait till later, since she was running out of time. It was Saturday, and she was running late to meet her friend Deirdre for lunch.

The offending card in hand, she closed the box and shoved it into her closet beneath the business suits she wore as a practicing attorney. She smoothed the green silk eiderdown on her four-poster bed. Mom’s voice rose from the living room like that of an operatic soprano, “Oh, Derek, it’s so fantastic. I can’t wait to show people.”

What had Mom convinced Dad to buy this time? Perhaps a bracelet to match the twenty-thousand-dollar diamond ring he gave her last December for her fifty-third birthday? In the same way they’d search every store in New York for the best Oriental carpets and furniture pieces, they had traveled to Ireland to find a baby.

They’d struggled to mold her into a girl of whom they could be proud, giving her piano and ballet lessons, sending her to finishing school and to Yale Law School. All this in the hope she would reflect their own good breeding and fit in with their circle of friends and acquaintances they’d cultivated here in Connecticut and New York. In almost the whole world, in fact. As far as the fame of their exclusive clothing-designing industry reached.

Through the open bedroom window, the late May air carried the scent of newly mown grass from the front lawn. The sounds of Brandy, their white French poodle, barking as he chased a squirrel up a blue spruce, sparrows and crows offering a cacophony of protest drifted in. She could hear their gardener, Jack, driving across the smooth two acres of land atop the ride-on lawnmower. It seemed that Brandy had tired of chasing the squirrels and she saw him race across the lawn toward a deer that had emerged from the woods bordering a corner of the land.

Tara brushed her hair, noting idly that it now reached her shoulders. Did her birth mother have blonde hair, too? Was she tall and slim with blue eyes, like her daughter?

“Mom, where are you?” she called, as she closed her bedroom door and came down the carpeted stairs.

“We’re in the living room, darling. Hurry up.”

She quickly crossed the foyer, her sandals tapping the marble tiles. A vase of white roses stood on a pedestal near the window. The view of a green velvet lawn and beds of pink hydrangeas added to the beauty of the house’s interior. The French doors leading to the living room stood open.

Dad, tall and slim, with a shock of salt and pepper hair, stood in the middle of a room filled with an eclectic mixture of furniture and a grand piano. Mom's fashionable, form-hugging white suit showed off her petite figure and complemented her silvery bob. Tara stared at them just as Mom was staring at her new painting of a sunset over green water that was hanging over the marble fireplace. How well they fit, even their builds matched.

“Do you like it?” Mom asked, her diamond earrings sparkling when she turned her head.

It’s hideous, Tara thought. “Not particularly.” She held the card high and stared at Mom. “Nor do I like this, she said, her eyes filling with tears.

“What is it?” Mom asked.”

Dad extended a hand. “May I see it?”

His face paled as he read the message. “Sweetheart,” he said. “We wanted to tell you but kept putting it off. I don’t blame you for being hurt.”

“Derek, what is it?” Mom clasped her hands together.

“Don’t worry, Julia.” Dad stroked her arm. “It’s a card from your sister, congratulating you on Tara’s adoption.”

Julia slumped to the yellow French Louis XVI armchair, and covered her face with her hands. “I knew this would happen. Oh, why didn’t we tell her years ago?”

She stared at her daughter. Tears filled her eyes and poured down her cheeks. “Can you ever forgive me? I love you so much, and now I may lose you forever.”

Alarmed at Mom’s reaction, Tara embraced her. “Sorry for upsetting you, Mom. Oh, please don’t cry. There’s nothing to forgive. You will never lose me. I love you, too.”

Julia kissed Tara’s cheek. Tears choking her voice, she said, “Having you has made us so happy.”

Tara smiled. “You and Dad have made me happy.” She checked her watch. “I’m meeting Deirdre for lunch in twenty minutes, so we will talk later.” She placed a kiss, first on Mom’s cheek, then on Dad’s. “See you both soon.”

* * *

After re-reading the card that had upset Tara, Derek set it on the coffee table. He glanced at his wife who dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. He sighed. Recently, any problem at all sent Julia into the depths of despair, though he loved her and her dedication to her goals. “Don’t fret, Julia. Everything will be all right.” He shook his head, knowing it wouldn’t help cure her depression.

Julia sniffed. “I don’t blame her for being upset. She had a right to know we adopted her. But we were afraid that one day she’d go looking for her birth parents. And now that may happen anyway.”

Derek rose and moved to the window, staring past the lawn toward the hills. Tears stung his eyes. Tara was the best thing that ever happened to him and Julia. He often thought of the day they brought her here from Ireland. She was such a gentle baby and grew up to become a responsible adult. A girl any parent could be proud of.

“What do you think will happen if she does find her birth parents?” Julia asked in a quavering voice.

Derek came to place a kiss on her lips. “Honey, she’s almost twenty-six years old and has a good job. She won’t leave us for people in a small Irish village, no matter how beautiful that village may be.”

With a sigh, Julia placed a hand over her heart. “She knows we love her.”

“She does. She may decide to search for them out of curiosity. So, let’s give her our blessing if she wants to do that.”

Derek sighed. Because of Julia’s recent bouts of depression, he’d thought it better to hide their recent financial problems from her. He couldn’t tell her they were nearly bankrupt. That he had invested heavily in a couple of apartments, and when the interest rates skyrocketed in the late seventies, he fell behind in the payments, causing the bank to foreclose on his mortgages.

Again, he moved to the window, his gaze scanning the lawn. Thank God this house and their Fifth Avenue apartment were free and clear. Julia had inherited them from her father, and it was their good fortune that both properties remained in her name. Also, lucky that she had her own modest bank account that paid the taxes and sundry household expenses.

From the coffee table, he grabbed a cigarette, held a lighter to the tip, and inhaled. Bankruptcy, he thought with a sigh. He’d begun selling off what he could, and he’d hoped the sale of his beloved dress designing business would generate enough cash to pay off his debts. But that hadn’t happened.

He glanced at the atrocious painting hanging over the fireplace. He must find a way to tell Julia to cut down on spending. Soon. In the meantime, he would tighten his own belt.


Tara by Mary Kate Brogan



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