When an 18-year-old piano wunderkind meets his biological brother, his playing and his family end up on the line.
Isaac’s adoptive dad thinks he’s fragile because of the panic attacks he suffered as a kid. He’ll freak if he knows Isaac is meeting with his birth family, and that’ll mean Goodbye, Peter. So Isaac decides for once not to be the dependable, practices-four-hours-a-day kid he’s always been. He lies to his dad and starts sneaking out instead.
It’s so worth it. Peter’s the perfect older brother. He doesn’t think Isaac is a delicate weirdo, and unlike Isaac’s adopted family, he sees there’s more to his kid brother “Ike” than the piano. Hanging with Peter, Isaac finally feels normal, maybe even cool.
But when Isaac’s best friend blows his cover, his dad is pissed. Turns out Dad's been keeping a secret, too. Isaac wasn’t given up—he was removed from his family because he was abused. Peter would've been old enough then to at least know what happened.
And that means damn near everything he’s told Isaac is a lie.
I just shrugged and told him that the lights were so bright onstage, I couldn’t see anybody.
But before a concert, it’s different. Before a concert, when the house lights are up, you can at least look out from the wings and see the first several rows—the woman in her old fashioned hat, the family that brought kids who probably won’t sit through the concert, the orchestra patrons in their fancy clothes who side-eye anyone who comes in wearing jeans.
And that was how I saw the guy with the hobbit hair.
That was what Andrew had always called my hair, anyway. My hulking older brother had his perfect, straight J-Crew catalog hair; the hair that matched our dad’s, and our older brother’s, and our younger half-sisters’, and even our stepmom’s. A whole family of southern California blond perfection, just like on TV.
Me? I got to have the dark, bed-spring ringlets that made me look like a Cocker Spaniel on a good day and like a white Bob Marley on a bad one. The kind of hair that’s supposed to go with insanely big, grossly hairy feet (well, okay, I had those), second breakfast, and a quest to destroy the ring of power.
The kind of hair that screams to everyone, “This one was adopted!”
I was the only one who had the hobbit hair.
Or so I’d always thought.
This End Up
Junior year: it's when you take the PSATs, hunt for colleges, and cope with your brother on trial for fratricide.....
The hospital called us first. At four seventeen in the afternoon, two hours after they pulled Dylan out of the World War II Memorial, ninety minutes after the ambulance people sedated him, and a full hour after the doctors saw him for the first time. It was only then, after he'd bounced around from EMT to emergency interns to psych ward, after eyewitnesses accounts and police reports, after some young doctor in scrubs told Action News 7 exactly where they could shove their live-feed antenna, that someone had bothered to figure out who the kid covered in blood belonged to.
The whole thing reminded me of the time we lost our dog. We called him Maximillian, because none of us wanted a dog with a normal name, and everyone and their sister's dog's name was Max. Maximillian carried himself in accordance with his name, the canine equivalent of a professor in tweed. And he managed to get out one afternoon when Dad was busy putting away the groceries and left the front door open. Like any dog just sprung from jail, he streaked across the front lawn and across the street before Dad even knew what was going on.
We stapled signs to the telephone poles with his picture. MISSING DOG. ANSWERS TO MAXIMILLIAN. It took two days, but someone from three miles away finally grabbed him and found his dog license with the little stamped-on phone number to call the county. So we got this phone call, all calm, explaining that Maximillian was okay, and we could come get him.
It was kind of like that, when the hospital called about Dylan. "Hi, we found your kid running around the National Mall without a leash. We thought you might want him back."
Except Dylan isn't a dog.
And Maximillian's never killed anybody.