"Okay," our father says, the Igbo chieftain making clan policy, "this is your older sister from America. She's come to visit. You love her."
He is wrong. It is I who love them, I who have grown up twenty-six years alone. Up to now, family has always meant being the focal point. Now, in one day, with one sentence, I go from being the youngest, the sole daughter, niece, grandchild, to being the eldest of four, the one with the responsibility for love.
He is right. Adanna reaches me first. She is twelve, with a personality that shoves her brothers to the side. She is exquisite luminous skin the color of Dutch cocoa; heart-shaped face with high, rounded cheekbones, slimmer than mine, darker; a mouth that flowers above a delicate pointed chin. I can see myself for the first time we are exquisite. We come face to face, and the rest of the family gasps, Aieeeee!, steps back, disappears, makes way for our love.
The first thing my sister does upon meeting me is drag me into her room. She pushes me onto her bed and dumps her photo album in my lap. I smile, thinking of the album in my bag. My mother has always laughed at how I hoard photographs, especially the black and white, the older the better. Half my collection is unidentified, snapshots of scowling Scandinavians no one can remember. Who was that rotund Elmer always standing next to Bessie, a creamy-faced cow?
My sister, who has lived all twelve of her years in my absence, hands me the images to accompany her life, this language we share. Still shy of my eyes, she huddles close, her head on my shoulder, the African seeking warmth.
She whispers that she's been lonely all these years, the only girl in the family. The house is full of women—young cousins come from the village for schooling, orphans my father inherited after the war-but I know what she means.
"I was so glad to learn about you," she says. Her pulse throbs against my shoulder, a flutter of life working its way inside me.
"When did you find out?" I ask, touching her curls.