(The story is by the POV of Jessica Thompson.)
It was the night of 15th July, 1994. The rain was getting stronger and the winds were getting wilder. The windowpanes rattled fearfully as the harsh weather outside threatened to break and enter. As the thunder roared, I shuddered and quickly duck my head under the pillow. I had always been afraid of the lightning and the thunder. The uneasy feeling would only go away when my mother would hug me tight, saying it was alright and I’d find solace. But tonight was different. My parents were out for a party of a friend and would be back late into the night. It was only my elder sister, Melanie and me in this big, quiet house…
Knock! Knock! I heard someone knock at my bedroom door. With all the stories I’d heard in school about small children being taken away by monsters and ghosts left me too paralyzed to go and answer the door. I squeezed the pillow tighter against my ears to make the knocking go away. A few seconds later, I heard the door knob click open. I shivered with fear. That’s when I felt a hand on my back and a familiar voice call out my name. I slowly lifted the pillow off my head to see who it was. The relief I felt when I saw my sister’s face was tremendous. I sat up in bed, giving her a tight hug and sobbing loudly. “Shhh…Don’t be afraid” she said. “I’m right here. Have these cookies.” She offered me a plate of my favourite chocolate chip cookies and a glass of warm milk. I ate as she fed me the cookies, cutting them into small pieces so that I could eat properly. I was eight years old at the time and I had a loose tooth. I had to eat all my food in small portions so that I would be in less pain. I couldn’t wait for the tooth fairy to get me another present when my incisor would fall.
We talked and laughed as we gobbled up the cookies. I was always in awe of my sister. She was just a year older to me, but she sure took care of me and behaved as though she was 14 or something. I loved her a lot. Amidst all the fun, I forgot about the rains outside. But it still hadn’t stopped raining. A few hours later, as my sister tucked me into bed, the phone rang. When she didn’t come back for a long time, I went downstairs to check on her. She was sitting by the phone, crying miserably. I ran towards her, asking what had happened. I couldn’t console her and I was worried what was wrong. She sobbed uncontrollably…
I sat there by her side, feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. That’s when she calmed down a bit, and sat up, straight against the wall. She gently held me by my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. Her beautiful hazel nut brown eyes were all red and sore from the crying. She took a deep breath before she said, “Jess, there’s something I need to tell you. I don’t know how to handle this myself, we have nowhere to go and so, I’m going to put this in the simplest way possible. Mom and dad met with an accident on their way home from the party a…and…The po…police had called…Mmm…Mom and dddd..dad are never coming back.” And she broke into a cry again. I just sat there in front of her, dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to do or say. I mean, there had to be a mistake, right? How could this happen to us? Other than my parents, We had nobody. My parents were the only kids of their parents and out grandparents were dead. How could our parents leave us just like that? We were so small! There was so much I wanted them to know…I wanted to tell them how much I loved them. Everything was over.
After a while, the police came and spoke to the neighbours. On learning that we didn’t have any relatives to go to, they took us to a foster home. Too little to take in so much of trauma at a time, we just stood there, with our small bags in our hands. The lady police had packed in our clothes, a few toys and some other things she thought we would need. As the police investigator talked to the lady who was head at the foster home, another frail old lady smiled and escorted us to our room.
What we went through at that time is nothing I can ever explain. Nor something that anyone will ever understand. We hugged and cried for days and nights on end. We didn’t eat properly. Ms. Ann, the head of the foster home, told us all will be okay. How would it?! We had lost the one thing we had, the one thing we loved more than anything else. The one thing, that was our own…
A few days later, a couple came and adopted Melanie. We both cried and tugged and pushed and cried some more..I didn’t want her to go. She was the only family I had left. I didn’t want to be alone. But I didn’t have a choice. The couple didn’t want me. I had to let go, once again, and I had to learn to live with it.
About two months after my sister was adopted, a couple from New York adopted me. They were wonderful people, Ariel and Jeremy Thompson. Though I couldn’t ever really get over the lightning that had struck over my life, they tried their very best to make me smile. They took me out for vacations, put me in a great school, gave me delicious food to eat and wonderful clothes to wear. They were the perfect parents. They didn’t have kids of their own and slowly, I started warming up to them.
The years passed by and I got used to them. Though the ache and memory of my parents never went away, I was finally happy again. Their companionship was probably all I needed. However, I never got to know the name of the people who took my sister or where she lived. I never saw her after that day. “Your parents estate and money has been divided among the both of you. Please sign here.” the lawyer told me. I used that money to get into law school.
Now, 22 years after the incident that changed my life forever, I, Jessica Thompson, am a new lawyer. I just got accepted into Gavin Letter’s law firm – the most prestigious law firm that is there in New York (fictional, again). When the acceptance letter came in a month ago, my happiness knew no bounds. I had finally achieved something in life! My parents (I eventually got comfortable calling them that) were ecstatic. They got me a new car as a gift so that I could travel to work. I was going to work there as an intern to get some experience.
When I reached there, I was in awe. The place buzzed with phone calls and some of the most famous lawyers wearing their black coats, talking to their clientele were present. It was like seeing my dream actually come true! Right before my eyes! After a brief meeting with Gavin Letter himself, he assigned me to work under one his most promising employee-Mary Ann Miller.
Straightening up, I brushed my skirt and walked into her office. As soon as I saw her, there was a warm feeling that swept across me. She reminded me of someone-those hazel nut eyes had the same warmth and motherly affection that I once knew too well. She guided me around and was great to work with.
A week after I joined, there was going to be an international lawyers meet in London which was going to be attended by the who’s who of the profession. Gavin selected 4 interns to go for the meet, as a golden opportunity to learn and make connections. I was one one of them. Our guided were to go with us so Mary Ann came along.
London is a beautiful place, no doubt. So, Mary Ann and I decided to go a week before the meet and go site-seeing. And should I tell you, that week, was again one of those instances that changed my life forever.
The week of vacationing in London was bliss. We went shopping, We talked like the Brits, We saw all the great places and destinations and had all the great food. Slowly, We became close. In fact, we kind of became the best of friends. We talked about everything possible.
On one fine evening, when the sky was clear and the air was fresh, we decided to go to a park that was there just outside our hotel. We sat there, watching the kids play with their parents. My heart ached at the site. I longed to see my parents one last time, one last chance….to say I love you. A tear drop rolled down my cheek as I sat there, thinking of all the good times we had as a family. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to let it out of my system. I decided to talk to Mary Ann about it…
I narrated everything that had happened with me – our family, how we were perfect and how one rainy night had changed everything. I was starting to cry but also felt a lot better that I had finally let it out of my system as I reached in my purse, I pulled out an old picture I had, of us, as a family when we had been to Miami for a summer vacation. I still remember that day on the beach. It was the best day of my life. After I finished my story, I wiped my eyes with my handkerchief and looked up at Mary Ann’s face.
Her face was pale as that of a ghost’s and she just sat there – frozen. Her lips were slightly parted, as though she wanted to say something. For literally 5 minutes, she didn’t even blink. “What’s wrong?” I asked nervously. It was a moment before she finally said something. “Are…Are you allergic to strawberries?” She asked. “Ummm, yes?” I smiled nervously. That was it. She hugged me and started crying. Sobbing actually. This went on for a while. I didn’t know what I had done or said that made her cry.
When she calmed down and let go of me, she had the biggest grin on her face. This is what she had to say – “Jess, you have no idea how happy I am today! It’s like I have finally found my purpose for which I was still alive. I guess you haven’t understood yet. It’s me! Mel! God! Have you grown up into a beautiful lady!”
I looked at her, confused. Melanie? What did she mean? Her name was Mary Ann and she had blonde hair in contrast to the chest nut brown hair that my sister, Melanie had. What was she talking about? That’s when she explained it all…
After she had been adopted my the Miller’s, Melanie had been very sad. Because she had to leave me behind, she wouldn’t eat, sleep or do anything. Months went by but not much changed. Soon, her father got transferred to California for his job. When they moved, her mom spoke to her about it all. She assured Melanie that I would be fine and that she would take her to visit me in her next vacation. Even though she agreed, she was still suffering from depression. That’s when Melanie decided that it wasn’t fair for her new parents, who were doing so much to keep her happy and see her smile to have to see Melanie depressed. So, she thought that probably, changing her looks and name would help her start afresh and be happy, just to see her parents happy. That’s where the name Mary Ann and the blonde hair came in. This helped her in a big way and her performance in school slowly improved. But the next vacation, when her mom brought her down to the foster home as promised, she didn’t find me. I had been adopted by then and the new head of the foster home refused to reveal any information. She thought she had lost me forever. Sadly, she had gone back home, only to study for becoming a lawyer, becoming one, working at Gavin Letter’s firm and listening to my story today. She had finally found me. I, had finally found her.
My happiness knew no bounds. We both hugged each other and cried, happy tears this time. Travelling together to London had helped us improve our relationship with each other. It helped us knit our relation close enough for me to open up to her. Our companionship had gotten stronger, which helped me find my sister who had been with me all along.
I finally felt complete again. My family was complete again. I’m pretty sure our parents must be happy, wherever they may be. I lost what I had, but I was just glad that I’d found it again. And I was never going to let go…