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My Not-So-Imaginary Fiend by The Quiet Girl
Chapter 8 : VIII: Nudged in the Right Direction
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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VIII: Nudged in the Right Direction

Marta Kulinski?!

Benjamin appeared instantly. So instantly, I would have jumped at his sudden arrival if my mind wasn’t wrapped around something else Ron just said.

“Did you say the twenty-eighth of March, 1980?” My mouth had suddenly gotten very dry.

Ron just looked up at me in confusion. “Yeah. Something wrong?”

I took the old parchment back. The second name on the list, Diana Greengrass, was written normal enough. But the first name, Marta Kulinski, was written at about half the size, squeezed between Diana’s name and the top of the sheet. Ron was right- her name must have been added after the list was started.

“Sally-Anne? Hey!”

Ron’s voice broke me out of my trance. He, Harry, and even Hermione looked up at me with concerned expressions. They were probably worried that I would go into one of my weird tangents.

I opened my mouth to ask something, but my throat closed up. I took a deep breath and tried again, but I couldn’t get anything through. I became very aware of my heart pounding hard in my chest.

Where did you get that?!” Benjamin demanded sharply.

I took a quick glance at Benjamin. He was pale. Deathly pale. Hazel eyes wide and jaw dropped slightly, his gaze seemed fixated on the list of names in my hand, looking as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

But learning all I could from Ron was more important than questioning Benjamin now. I tried to speak again. This time, I finally found my voice. “Can you tell me about Marta Kulinski?”

“Sure,” Ron said calmly, “she was a professional Quidditch player. Only for one year though. Recruited straight from the Gryffindor Quidditch team after her seventh year here, actually. Played as a spectacular Keeper. Everyone was talking about her during that year. Rumor has it that half the League wanted her, but she chose the join the Montrose Magpies. Nasty play by the Falmouth Falcons robbed her from winning the League Cup in her first full year of professional play. Did you know she was actually on the team roster the summer after she finished school as the alternate Keeper? She even played one game that year when the primary Keeper was hexed before a game.”

“If she played for just one year,” Hermione said slowly, “how do you even know this much about her?”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “She’s not mentioned in any Quidditch books I’ve read.”

Ron’s ears turned red. He shifted around in his chair a bit. “Uh, well, it’s because of Charlie.”

Charlie Weasley? What did he have to do with anything? I remembered hearing about how he was the Gryffindor Seeker before Harry joined the team in first year. But if Charlie was a Seeker, what did that have to do with Marta Kulinski, who played Keeper?

Hermione and Harry just continued to look at Ron, waiting for him to go on.

Ron’s gaze shifted between the three of us quickly, looking rather uncomfortable. “What?”

“Oh honestly, you’re going to stop there?” Hermione snapped impatiently. “How would Marta Kulinski’s death be common knowledge to anyone anyway?”

“It’s a bit embarrassing, actually,” Ron said, turning his blue eyes on one of his rooks. Realizing that we would wait all night for him to continue, Ron went on, “Right, well, Dad once took Bill and Charlie to a Chudley Cannons game when they were little. I think Charlie was six years old at the time. Or was he five? I don’t know, I only know that I wasn’t born yet.

“Anyway, it was just Dad and those two, and Dad was able to get three Quidditch tickets for the Chudley Cannons. It was the only Cannons game that was going to be played near our home, and they were going up against the Montrose Magpies. Dad always said that he was worried that the game wouldn’t last too long and spoil my brothers’ first game-”

“Can you get to the point?” Hermione interrupted. Her hair was starting to look more frazzled than usual. “This is going far past the two minutes Sally-Anne promised this would take.”

Looking at the mountain of books still towering over Hermione, I was somewhat amazed that my situation still held her attention. Then again, she probably wanted to know how the ‘smartest witch in our year’ missed the whole birth year and death year thing.

To which I wouldn’t say more about until I had all the useful information Ron had to offer.

“Charlie had a crush on Marta Kulinski!”

A few people around us stopped talking to look back at us before going back to their business.

My jaw dropped. Ron’s brother had a crush on my . . . possible . . . maybe . . .

“I’d say that was to the point,” Harry said in a stunned voice, eyebrows shooting up into his black fringe.

“Everyone in my family is a Cannons fan,” Ron said, ears now bright scarlet verging on purple. “But apparently when Charlie saw Marta Kulinski play, he couldn’t learn enough about her. He was sorely disappointed when he found out that she wasn’t playing in the 1979-1980 Quidditch season. And he cried for three days straight when he found out she died.”

Why did I underestimate Quidditch popularity?

I looked over to Benjamin again. Some of his color had returned, but he still didn’t look right. Didn’t sound right either. His hands were squeezed into tight fists at his sides, the knuckles bony white. His nostrils flared as he breathed. His eyes had narrowed dangerously, his gaze not focused anywhere but looking ready to tear into anything that got in his path.

I took a step away from Benjamin, my heart now pounding in fear from my imaginary friend for the first time. I didn’t like this new feeling.

“Sally-Anne?” Harry asked, stopping me before I could worry myself too much about Benjamin. “Are you okay?”

I shook my head. My attention was struggling to split into every direction imaginable. I knew I had unfinished homework to complete. I had to study for Arithmancy. I had an upcoming Charms test. But none of that mattered. I had just learned something more important than all of my classes bundled together.

“I think Marta Kulinski was my mother.”

I wasn’t even aware that I said that aloud until Harry, Ron, and Hermione seemed to refocus their attention on me. Benjamin let out a string of swear words, but I didn’t bother looking at him this time.

“I don’t think so,” Ron said first, shaking his head. “I’ve listened to Charlie talk about Marta Kulinski all my life. She didn’t have any children. She wasn’t even married or seeing anyone as far as anyone knew-”

“Marta Kulinski died on the twenty-eighth of March,” I said, the pitch of my voice rising as I spoke faster. “I was born on the twenty-eighth of March! My mother died in childbirth! My parents know who my mother is, but some magical will or whatnot is preventing them from speaking her name until I’m seventeen! Why do that unless she was someone famous?”

The reminder about my mother’s will made me want to go back home now and confront my parents with the truth. If they couldn’t say Marta Kulinski’s name back to me, then I’d know for sure who my mother was. But the Perks had taken me in and prevented me from going to an orphanage. I couldn’t be so cruel to a sweet old couple like them.

“If you think your mother is Marta Kulinski,” Hermione said, taking the list from me and looking over the names again, “then this list is undoubtedly your family tree. I’m sorry, Sally-Anne, but I find that extremely hard to believe.”

“Why is that?”

“Because all these witches would have died in their twenties. Well, except for Diana Greengrass, who died in her thirties, but most of them died in their early or mid twenties.” Hermione then passed the list back to me. “I find it hard to believe that every witch in your family died so earlier in life, apparently in childbirth.”

She’s got a point,” Benjamin whispered to my right. “Forty plus generations of witches dying in childbirth? That’s too much to be a coincidence. This list must be about something else.

But Benjamin had turned his murderous gaze on the old parchment in my hands, as if hoping it would spontaneously combust if he stared at it long enough.

“I don’t believe that,” I said to Hermione, folding the list and placing it into a safe pocket on the inside of my robes. “There has to be a good explanation for it. Ron, do you have a picture of Marta Kulinski?”

Ron shook his head, seemed ready to say no, but then stopped. His eyes brightened as he looked up at me. “But Charlie would have! All the Quidditch players have their own trading cards, no matter how long they’re playing in the League! I could owl Charlie and-” His eyes quickly dimmed.

“What is it?” I asked. “You can’t owl him?”

“Oh, I know I can,” Ron said. “But if I ask him to send me his Marta Kulinski card, he’ll want to know why, and I don’t want to tell him that his childhood crush had a kid without telling him.” He shrugged. “He hasn’t really gotten over her, but he won’t admit it. Sorry.”

I nodded, disappointed about not having a real picture of my mother but at least grateful I had a name to associate her with. I guess I would have to make do with the sketch in my notebook.

“Sally-Anne,” Hermione said, picking up her quill and pulling her homework closer to her, “these Ancient Runes translations are a bit difficult. You’re running out of time to complete them unless you want to earn another detention from another teacher for another incomplete homework assignment.”

I opened my mouth to reply with sarcasm, or at least ask her why she wasn’t bothering Harry and Ron about their homework, but I thought better of it. Ron had provided me with a lot of information, so I should at least be respectful to one of his best friends.

“I’ll get started on it then,” I said softly, turning to go back to my table. “Thank you.”

“Hey, Sally-Anne,” Harry said, stopping me just as I was about to leave. “The library has a large Quidditch section. I’m sure I’ve seen a few books about the Montrose Magpies. Maybe one of them has more information about your mother.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Learning something about one of your parents is better than nothing, right?”

I brightened at the idea of learning more. “Yeah. Thanks, Harry! I’ll look into it tomorrow. After I finish my homework,” I added for Hermione’s benefit.

Harry and Ron returned to their chess game as I went back to rejoin my other friends. I thought of Harry and his famous story. I was a little jealous of him, actually. At least he knew for sure who both of his parents were. Me? I still had no idea what my real last name was supposed to be.

It was hard for me to work on Ancient Runes that night, however. And after his long periods of absence, Benjamin now seemed determined to make up for lost time, and not in a positive way. For instance, I knew that page 153 in one of my dictionaries had a useful table. Benjamin, on the other hand, insisted that I look up each rune individually. Did he want me to get no sleep that night or something? Trying to ignore him so I could think properly made me take longer in my homework than normal.

I didn’t finish until near midnight, and then Benjamin woke me up at four thirty the next morning, telling me to study for Arithmancy.

“I’m too tired!” I whined, clutching the pillow over my head.

But you need to study!” Benjamin insisted in a slightly manic voice. “Get better grades than Hermione! You have detention Friday and Saturday night with Mr. Filch, remember? You’ve gotten behind in your coursework! You live at a school, remember? You need to put school first! Looking up information on a dead person isn’t going to help you prepare for your future!

Knowing I wouldn’t get much sleep with Benjamin sounding like a male version of Hermione, I reluctantly started me day with only half the sleep I needed for the second day in a row. Even my black curls hung limp as numbers and charts circled around my brain. I was grateful that I always studied for this class on my own anyway, because otherwise I knew I would have been lost in class that morning.

“You look awful, Sally-Anne,” Lavender commented over breakfast.

“I feel like I have a big gloomy storm cloud hanging over my head,” I grumbled. Then, looking up at the Great Hall ceiling, which reflected the nasty weather outside, “You know, besides that one.”

“Were you really worrying yourself about your mother all this time?” Parvati asked gently. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It’s personal,” I insisted. I started eating my porridge. “And saying ‘I’m looking for my real mum’ sounds stupid when I say it out loud.”

I felt like a terrible friend, but I didn’t join in with Lavender and Parvati’s conversation over breakfast. I even left early, claiming that I didn’t want to be around for the morning post to arrive.

“I can’t stop thinking about her,” I sighed, climbing the stairs to get to Arithmancy.

Who?” Benjamin walked with me, making me feel like things were going back to normal with us.

“Marta Kulinski.”

Then try harder. You’re going to fail out of school if you don’t.” And with that, Benjamin relapsed into the unhelpful, grouchy person that he’d become as of late.

“Fat load of help you are,” I huffed. “What do you have against me finding out who my mother was anyway?”

Benjamin made a point of not looking at me as we continued up. “I never said I don’t want you to know anything.

I got to the third floor landing and stopped, looking down at the room closest to these stairs.

Hey, Sally-Anne, get moving. I know we left early for Arithmancy, but standing still will guarantee that you’re late to class.

“I want to make a quick stop somewhere first.”

Sally-Anne! No, not in there!

I slipped into the trophy room, which brimmed with old displays filled with awards, trophies, cups, anything you could think of that told the rare visitor who the best of the best students were. It was a bit overwhelming, actually. And, before today, I thought this room was totally useless.

But if they had designed an award to recognize the most amazing and awesome witch to ever exist and named me as its first and only recipient, I might appreciate this room a bit more.

“Quidditch teams would be listed in here too, right?” I asked, circling the room as I thought aloud. “I mean, everyone loves Quidditch. Let’s see, special awards for miscellaneous tasks, Gobstones champions, the Head Boy and Head Girl list- hm, Percy’s name is especially shinny. He must come here every day to look at his name. Ah, here we are.”

The long back wall of the trophy room seemed completely dedicated to the sport of Quidditch. There were hundreds and hundreds of plaques on the wall, each displaying the names of the members of the winning Quidditch team each year and their overall statistics.

Sally-Anne, you really need to get to Arithmancy.” But Benjamin’s reminder sounded more fearful of something other than being late to class.

“I’ll just be a minute,” I promised. Each of the large wooden plaques sported seven golden shields that formed a circle around the inscription of the year and team’s final scores. The seven shields represented each of the seven players, listing the player’s name and position.

And there it was, the one I was looking for. It was at the top of a new row, making me stretch up on my toes and arc my head back so I could try to read it better.

1978. Gryffindor Quidditch Team, undefeated in all games. Won 1260 points. Surrendered 0 points all season.

I then read all the names on the list, starting with the one at the very top and working my way clockwise.

James Potter (Captain): Chaser.
Sirius Black: Chaser.
Wendy Lewis: Chaser.
Paulina Stevens: Beater.
Paul Stevens: Beater.
Marta Kulinski: Keeper.
Erin Miller: Seeker.


There she was. Marta Kulinski. She really was a Keeper. But two other names struck me. My mother played on the same team as Harry father? And both of our parents were on the same team as that mass murderer?

“Wow,” I whispered. Wait. It said that zero points were lost all season. My mother played a perfect season of Quidditch in her seventh year? I mean, I think that was her seventh year. I ran the numbers in my head. Yeah, had to be. Wow, maybe I should try out for Quidditch next year. Oliver Wood was in his seventh year now, so there would be an opening. If not, I could try something else. There was no rule saying I had to play the same position as my mother. Obviously Harry wasn’t a Chaser like his father.

Sally-Anne, Arithmancy starts in five minutes!

Taking one final look at the plaque, especially my mother’s name, I ran out of the trophy room. I checked my watch. “Stop exaggerating, Benjamin. I’ve got six minutes to get to Arithmancy. Don’t rush me.”

Benjamin only made a long groaning sound as he ran at my side towards class. I was the last to arrive.

This was probably the hardest Arithmancy lesson of my life, and we were only talking about the number three. But it wasn’t the subject matter that made this class last the longest. I had to constantly force myself to focus my thoughts away from Marta Kulinski and my instinct to pursue more information immediately.

It felt like time was stretching out to last forever. It didn’t help that whenever my mind wandered in Transfiguration, Benjamin snapped his fingers in front of my face and pointed to my notebook, silently telling me to keep working. Honestly, he was gone when I wanted him before but now showed up again when I didn’t? That’s it, I must be losing my mind if my own subconscious couldn’t keep my imaginary friend in check.

“Please say you did the homework,” Hermione said as she walked with me to Ancient Runes after lunch. I had left Dean and Seamus early. Apparently Hermione did the same with Harry and Ron.

“Did it last night,” I said, putting on a cheerful expression, grateful for this opportunity to speak more with Hermione. “I don’t know what you’re talking about for Ancient Runes being so difficult. It’s just a tiny bit tedious.”

“I forgot who I was talking to,” Hermione said dryly. “I’ve seen what you call notes.”

“Yup! Hey, maybe I should call my note-taking style ‘Modern Runes.’ I mean, pictures and symbols are a lot easier to read and remember than the alphabet we use today!”

“Sally-Anne,” Hermione groaned, entering our classroom first and leading the way to our front row seats.

“Hermione!” I sat beside her. “Okay, I have some more questions for you, and don’t worry, I’ll take care of all my homework before I start doing this personal research, but if you were me, where would you start looking up information on your mother?”

“Really? You’re still thinking about that?” Hermione asked. “That explains why you seemed out of focus this morning.” She pulled her collection of dictionaries out of her bag and piled them on her side of the desk.

“Yeah,” I said slowly. “But in all fairness, I didn’t even know my real mother’s name until yesterday, so I think I’m entitled to a little bit of obsessing.”

Benjamin then appeared, standing on my right and looking down at us two girls. “She’s not going to help you, Sally-Anne,” Benjamin chided me. “This is Hermione. She’s only interested in her schoolwork. She-

“Hermione, you once asked me in Arithmancy what my real name was. Sally-Anne Perks is my adopted name. But I don’t know what Marta Kulinski wanted my name to really be. And I still don’t know who my father was, so I have idea what my surname was supposed to be. It’s a lot of information, and I don’t really know where to start.”

I could see Hermione thinking about this. I definitely got her attention when I reminded her about one of our first Arithmancy lessons. I only hoped that she would be flattered enough by my plea for help to actually give me some good advice.

She still won’t help you . . .” Benjamin said, but it sounded more like a hopeful wish rather than a prediction.

“Well, Harry had a good idea yesterday,” Hermione said slowly. “Marta Kulinski might be in one of the Quidditch books in the library. You could also try looking into old copies of The Daily Prophet. Her name might be in the obituaries and there might be someone listed that you could try to get into contact with.”

“I’ve already looked there ages ago,” I said, my heart sinking. “There were only five deaths listed in the paper on the twenty-eighth of March, and they were all wizards.”

Hermione glanced at me as if I had grown three heads before taking out her homework and setting up her notes. “Of course she wouldn’t have been listed in the obituaries on the day she died! The Daily Prophet can’t write about something until it happens. If you mother was listed, the notice wouldn’t have shown up until the twenty-ninth or thirtieth.”

My jaw dropped as the bell rang, signaling the start of class. Hastily getting out my homework and notes, I again regretted getting those Friday and Saturday night detentions with Filch. How was I supposed to do any research of my own with so much schoolwork of my own?

Not to mention how I was supposed to do any research with Benjamin hounding me about my work. At least he left me alone while I took notes on Ancient Runes. After all, this was the only class in which my notes looked like everyone else’s. Or rather, everyone else’s notes looked a lot like mine.

Five minutes before the end of class, Hermione surprised me by actually giving me another suggestion.

“When you’re in the library looking up the team your mother was on,” she said softly as others in our class wrote down tonight’s homework assignment, “maybe you could get in contact with her former teammates. Maybe she was friends with a few of them. Who knows? Maybe she was teammates with your father on the Montrose Magpies.”

WHAT?!” Benjamin choked. “WHAT DID HERMIONE JUST SAY?!

“You think my mother was teammates with my father?” I partly repeated that for Benjamin’s benefit and partly for my own.

That’s absurd! Total ludicrous! Do you know what the odds are against you being the child of two Quidditch players?!

“About as absurd as all my female ancestors only living into their twenties?” I challenged softly as I bent over my book bag on my side of the desk, whispering so only Benjamin could hear me. “Look, I want to know. What harm can come of that?”

I can think of- Wait, Hermione’s gone again!

The bell rang as I looked back over my shoulder. Indeed, Hermione’s seat was once again empty and the door out of class was still closed.

“You’re still amazed with Hermione’s disappearing act?” I asked skeptically. I stood, swung my bag over my shoulder, and said, “Just ignore it like I do. You’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring me and my life lately. Why break your streak?”

I ignored the awkward stares of Sue Li and Lisa Turpin as I left class. I rather enjoyed wondering how much I could confuse Ravenclaws. It must be an odd sensation for them, since they probably weren’t confused in class much.

“I actually like that suggestion Hermione made,” I said on the way to the common room.

What, to get in contact with the Montrose Magpies and see what they know?” Benjamin huffed. “Good luck getting a response. They’re famous Quidditch players! They probably get loads of fan mail! Even if they read your letter, what are the odds that they’ll give you a response?” Benjamin paused, considering his words. His expression softened from annoyance to acceptance. “You know, that might not be a bad idea. Doesn’t hurt to try, does it?

“Nope, not at all. Ooh, I must be lucky!” I ran to catch up with a group of sixth years so I wouldn’t have to bother Sir Cadogan with the password. Once inside, I headed up to my dorm to get the books I needed for homework tonight. Benjamin was actually helpful and reminded me to bring my Potions book with me.

Lavender and Parvati arrived ten minutes later, just as I was about to leave. They were looking quite wet and slightly irritable.

“Have a nice Care of Magical Creatures class?” I asked cheerfully.

“It was raining throughout our entire lesson,” Lavender complained loudly, her brunette hair darker than usual and still dripping water. “It didn’t stop until we came inside after our lesson! Why?!”

I sniggered. “I’m glad I didn’t take that class, then. What are you studying?”

“Flobberworms,” Parvati said as Lavender trailed water to her bed. “But the way they act, they probably wouldn’t give you any problems.”

“Wait, are they those giant worm things that look like they’ve got an engorgement charm on them?”

Parvati nodded. “Super easy to take care of. Actually, if you try to take care of them, they die.”

“Fun. I bet one would still try to eat me starting with my shoe first.” I heaved my bulging bag over my shoulder and headed for the door.

“Hey, where are you going with all that?” Lavender asked. She had peeled her drenched robes off and hung them out to dry. “You’re not going to do homework over dinner, are you? I hope you’re not turning into another Hermione!”

“Nope, no worries there,” I said brightly. “But Hermione did give me a good idea about how to learn more information about my mother.”

Opposed to this morning, when they both seemed thrilled that I learned my mother's identity, Lavender and Parvati now seemed a bit skeptical.  They exchanged concerned looks.

“Isn’t just knowing her name enough?” Parvati asked gently. “You know what her profession was and the definite reason why she couldn’t raise you herself.”

“It’s not enough,” I said. I took deep breath. “Trelawney was right in that death was an early part of my life. My mother’s dead. But the other four cards are still vague to me. I want to know what happened to my father too.”

“Then maybe we could see Professor Trelawney again,” Lavender said, her voice unable to hide the excitement of bringing me back to the North Tower.

“No!” I snapped. I paused for a moment, not wanting to alienate my friends. “I want solid facts, not speculation. At least, not until I know what the other four cards mean for certain.” I let out a long sigh. “Look, you two wouldn’t understand. But something is telling me that I should look into this further.”

Not me. I’m not telling you anything of the sort.

“I’ll be in the library doing homework at lightning speeds,” I continued. “Once I’m done, or whenever Madam Pince kicks me out, I’ll get started working on my own made-up problems.” I waved from the door. “Wish me luck!”

“Good luck,” Parvati said.

“Don’t forget we have Astronomy tonight,” Lavender said. She held a towel to her head and was working on drying her hair. I hoped she would remember to use a brush; her hair looked almost frizzy enough to rival Hermione’s.

“It’s Wednesday?” I groaned. “Well, three days of getting only four hours of sleep won’t kill me. Later!” I left the dormitory and actually skipped down the stairs.

You’re awfully cheerful for someone with homework in every subject,” Benjamin said as we crossed the common room. “You’re not even going to have dinner?

“Eh, I can make up for it at breakfast tomorrow,” I said, noticing that Hermione had already gotten out her homework for Arithmancy. Harry and Ron, however, seemed to be working on that Astronomy homework due tonight. Too bad it was going to be too cloudy for us to do any practical work. Astronomy lectures were almost as boring as History of Magic.

However, when I got to the library, I headed not for the Herbology section (because that homework was due tomorrow morning) but for the Quidditch section.

Sally-Anne, this part of the library is the furthest from any other part of the library you’ll need,” Benjamin said, following me as my heels. If I stopped suddenly, he would certainly run me over.

“I’ll just be here for two minutes.”

You and your two minutes.

It wasn’t hard to find the books about the Montrose Magpies. All the Quidditch books about specific teams only had their team colors on the covers. Too bad the Magpies were black and white. Their book spines all looked like their team mascot should be zebras. I know I wouldn’t have played for this team until they chose a better color pattern.

It didn’t take long to find it. The Montrose Magpies Almanac, 1970-1979. According to Ron, Marta Kulinski played in late seventies and never played a game in 1980. I flipped to the near end of the book, looking for the team roster.

It was on the first page. Seven names in all, including that of Marta Kulinski. I carried the book to a nearby study table and copied the names onto a spare sheet of parchment, making sure to spell the names correctly.

Sally-Anne, you have to do your homework!” Benjamin practically shouted at me. “Sitting around reading about Quidditch, a sport you only had a passing interest in twenty-four hours ago, is not proper time management!

“Sh, you’re in a library,” I whispered.

Argh, only you can hear me! Not that you’re listening to me! Argh!” Benjamin stormed off to the end of the aisle. He leaned against the bookcase with his arms cross over his chest and a scowl clearly written across his face.

I would have been more concerned with him if I hadn’t flipped past a few pages to the players’ biographies section.

And there she was.

Marta Kulinski. A real photograph of her in full color. Her eyes, a gentle royal blue, kept looking back and forth from within her picture. And while the image was just a shot of her from the shoulders up, she looked to be shuffling around a bit. In fact, the longer I looked at her, the more it looked like she was looking for something just off camera. She would check her left side, her right side, and her left side again. And she didn’t once hint at a smile.

I ran my fingers over her brunette hair, which she kept tied behind her head in a simple ponytail. But other than the hair and eyes, she looked like she could be a future version of me. If I had any doubt about who she was before, seeing this picture would have blown those thoughts away in an instant.

“Mum,” I whispered, taking deep breaths to keep myself calm. I blinked rapidly, doing my best to keep my eyes clear. “I finally found you.”
 


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