For the first time I can remember, it was actually sunny on my birthday. Sixteen today and what did I have planned on this warm summer Wednesday? I wasn't going to meet up with my mates, my folks had offered a range of trips and bullshit, but no, I only had one thing I wanted to do.
At nine o'clock exactly I caught the Tube into central London, competing for space and seats with late running commuters. I got off at Westminster and followed the map I had printed out, which took me to a rather bland concrete office block. I went into the lobby, gave my name to a bored receptionist and was handed a ticket and got told to take a seat and wait for my number to come up. There was only one seat spare in the waiting area, it happened to be next to a really cute girl.
I eyed her over as I walked to the chair; she had the kind of long silky brunette hair you generally found only on shampoo adverts. I guessed she was around my age; her face was blessed with smooth skin, rosy cheeks and large brown eyes. She wore a simple white blouse with a few top buttons undone, showing off a rather nice bit of cleavage. Her skirt was short and black, and she was wearing a pair of tights that looked like stockings, hoping to draw attention from her chest to a fine set of legs. She had headphones in her ears and was holding a magazine, although she didn't seem to be reading it.
She nodded to acknowledge my presence just before I sat down. It crossed my mind that my seating position gave me both a nice view of her legs and a fantastic angle to see down her top. On the far wall was a screen showing which ticket number was last called up. It read 02. I looked on my ticket, 31. I groaned.
"Tell me about it." The girl next to me said, showing me her ticket, it read 30. "So, you want to know who you are too?"
"Yeah, thought I should find out, my birthday present to myself, find out who my parents were."
"Oh, snap, it's your birthday. Mine too. I'm sixteen, what about you?"
"The same. So, you've been planning this for long?"
"Not really. Parents told me yesterday that I was adopted, so I was out the house and on my way to London before they could blink. What about your 'rents? Do they know you're here?"
"I don't call them parents. They're my folks. They told me years ago I was adopted, I didn't really make a big deal about it, but recently I've been thinking about it more, so I figured that it'd be a big thing for my sixteenth. They know I'm here, I don't know if they are happy about it or not, but they said they'd help me find them if it was what I wanted. I kinda feel sorry for them, they seem like they are taking it that I don't want them anymore, but no, they're cool. A bit of me hopes my actual parents are cunts so that I know that I got the better deal. What about yours?"
"Well, they were okay, both rich, give me stuff and let me do my own thing. They're not around much, but it used to be great when they were, like they were making it up to me. Last week we found out that my mum was having an affair, so it has been rows all holiday. Sometimes, like yesterday, I get caught in the crossfire. My mum is pregnant, and was yelling at my dad that he could never give her a baby and that because of him they had to adopt. They didn't even notice I was there, didn't care that I would hear."
"Shit, sounds bad. I'm Jacob by the way, Jacob McArthur."
"Michelle Booker. Or maybe not, depending on today."
We spent the morning talking. She lived in Norfolk, out near the broads. She'd managed to get the last train into London last night and had been wandering around since the early hours and was pretty much doped up on Red Bull. I cornily mentioned that it didn't look like she'd lost any beauty sleep, she smiled at me.
Just after midday, her number came up. We arranged to meet up once we'd finished so we could open our letters together.
My number came up a few minutes later and I made my way up to the door at the end of the room, where I was directed into a small, grey, office. Behind the desk was a small, colourless woman. Her hair was neat and fussily arranged with clips. Her face was neat, subtlety made up and completely unremarkable, topped off by small horn-rimmed glasses. She wore a grey suit that did its best to hide any sexually she might have once possessed. She forced a smile at me.
"Jacob, well, we've done some research while you were waiting and I can tell you that we have some information about your parents. They left a contact address with the adoption agency and also a copy of your birth certificate. I can't promise the address will still be current; after all, it has been sixteen years. We have also included a guide to finding your parents. All of them are in this envelope."
She handed me a small beige envelope that contained all that anybody knew about who I really was. She looked at me expectantly, as is I was going to open it up there and then, but having agreed to meet Michelle, I just put the envelope in my pocket and thanked the woman before leaving.
"Lunch?" I asked.
"Sure, I'd feel better doing this on a full stomach."
We headed over the road to a little pizza place, that was about half full. We decided that this was to be our birthday meal so went all out and also had starters and a couple of sundaes for desert.
Michelle gave out a massive yawn, reminding me that she'd been up for at least 24 hours.
"If you want a lie down, I can offer you a bed for the afternoon." I tried not to sound seedy.
I took her to the station and back onto the Tube, heading back into North London and the People's Republic of Kingsbury. She'd decided that she needed to open her envelope up when she had a clearer head.
.... There is more of this story ...