(For character descriptions, go here)
Hammond, Illinois, 2003 — Libraries were too quiet for his taste, yet Kelly had a point. They’d be able to hear each other much better here than when they’d gone to the coffee shop.
He looked out the window, light brown eyes watching as traffic whizzed by on wet pavement. As much as he hated the rain, he still hadn’t grown out of the habit of watching raindrops ‘race’ each other only to eventually merge together as one.
Kelly’s voice startled him and he jumped, knocking over the stack of books he’d picked to borrow after they were done.
“Shh!” A group of college students who’d taken the next table over gave him and Kelly disgruntled looks. Connor just shrugged and joined Kelly in picking the books up.
“Sorry I’m late,” Kelly whispered. “Traffic is insane today.”
“But you made it,” Connor replied. “I was starting to think you’d bolted on me.”
“Me? Bolt on you? Never,” Kelly said with a grin that lit up her mixed-brown eyes. For a split second, she thought she saw his face change.
He smiled and reached for the last book at the same time as her. Her hand landed on top of his and they sheepishly laughed.
Connor looked over his shoulder at the students and made a face. Kelly covered her mouth with a hand to stifle another giggle.
“So,” she said after he’d turned back to her. “Did you find it?”
He almost wished she hadn’t asked, that the items in his jacket pocket weren’t the reason for their meeting today.
“Yeah,” he said. He took out two faded polaroids and slid them across the table to her. She picked them up, transfixed.
“Wow,” she looked up from the first one to him. “You look just like her. But I can see some of him too,” she added.
The smile he gave barely lasted a second. Kelly studied the couple in the photo, noting how the young man wore a law enforcement uniform. “I see you took after your father,” she said. She flipped it over to the writing on the back:
Margaret Reid & John Matthews, 1978.
The second photo was of them again, but with a tiny person added. On the back was written:
Connor Reid Matthews, born April 1st, 1979. Mother – Margaret Reid. Father – John Matthews.
“It looks like this has been torn in half and then taped back,” Kelly said, scrutinizing the photo. “Or almost torn in half. It stops about halfway down.”
“Oh. Y-yeah.” He averted his eyes, drawing circles on the table.
Kelly frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“I…that was my fault,” he admitted. “The tear.” He worked his jaw around, looking uncomfortable.
“I take it it wasn’t accidental?”
He shook his head. “No. It happened when I was at the Heaths. I was sixteen and sitting against my bed, staring at that picture, and thinking, ‘Why? Why did they give me up? Why didn’t they keep me?'”
He sucked in a deep breath and continued. “I was so angry in that moment that I started to tear it, almost without thinking. The only thing that stopped me from finishing was the sudden thought that I still didn’t know everything about why they gave me up.”
A long beat of silence passed between them. Kelly set down the photos and Connor reached for the one of him with his birth parents.
Five more minutes of silence passed. “What if…” Connor started. He rubbed his jaw. “What if when we find them…do you think they’ll…” His voice trailed off.
“Are you afraid they won’t want anything to do with you?”
“I-I guess.” His voice was hoarse and he blinked back the sudden surge of tears wanting to spill. All throughout the majority of his childhood, he’d been bounced back and forth between homes that didn’t care for him. All he had of the parents who conceived him was a picture, and pictures didn’t tell you if the people in them were kind and loving, like he so desperately hoped.
Was he holding onto false hope?
He looked up. Even if they did find his birth parents and it turned out they didn’t care at all for him, he still had Kelly. And the Hughes and the rest of their friends from the department. Pastor Walker and his wife. The Williams.
“I think it’d be a good idea to pray about this, don’t you?” Kelly’s voice was softer than the usual sharp, no-nonsense tone she used almost 24/7.
He nodded and held out his hands. Kelly slipped hers into them, and if his eyes weren’t deceiving him, her cheeks looked a tad pink.
Not bothering to dwell on it, he bowed his head.
©H.S. Kylian 2019
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)