Emma finds a sixty year old photograph on the sidewalk and searches for answers.
|Emma and Rhonda looked out the window of The Regency Café in London, watching the people hurry by. They both worked at The Daily Star and were discussing interesting prospects for a story.|
"Maybe today will be a good news day," Emma sighed. " I want to report on something unusual instead of murders or robberies."
"You'll never know what the day will bring," Rhonda smiled. "Keep the faith, I do."
"Yeah, right!" Emma scrunched up her face.
They paid for their meal, and as they walked out of the restaurant, Emma remembered.
"I need to get a book of stamps at the post office across the street. Meet you back at work."
Hurrying along Maxwell Street, Emma paused midstride when spotting something waving in the breeze. On closer inspection, she saw a photo caught in the grate and walked over to gently pull it loose. She turned it over to find three children dressed in an older style of clothing. Checking the date, she wondered who had lost it, then dialed Rhonda for help.
“You picked what off the street?” Rhonda asked, trying to get past the excitement in her friend’s voice.
“An old photograph! I found it walking along Maxwell Street. Get this, there’s writing on the bottom that says Croyde Bay, 30/8/49. That’s sixty years ago, Rhonda!” Emma's voice rang with excitement at the prospect of a new story. “Somebody lost it, and I want to find out who did. There are three children pictured, and I’m wondering… Who are they? Are they still alive and if they are, where are they now? Don't you think this will make a great feature story?"
Rhonda gave in to the excitement and suggested, “Maybe... Okay, here's what we'll do..." They went back and forth on the issues. "I have to take another call, but I'll get back to you on this."
"Thanks, Rhonda,” Emma ended the call and looked at the photo for more clues. A faint scent of Jasmine greeted her nose as she tried to make out the faded name stamped on the back. She gave up after a bit and thought about what to do next. Aaron Wiese’s name popped into her mind, he was a semi-retired photographer, and he was a friend who helped her whenever she asked. She punched in his number...
“Hello, Aaron Wiese’s Office.”
“Hi, Judy, can I speak to Aaron, please? It's Emma.”
"Just one moment."
“Hello!” Aaron Wiese smiled as he listened.
Emma crossed her fingers and asked, “Aaron, I found a photo on the street, and I would like to show it to you. Do you have some time today for me to come over?”
“Sure, come on over! Being semi-retired gives me plenty of free time to help you,” Aaron said, knowing he would never say no to his favorite protégé.
“Thank you! I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” Emma hung up and punched in Rhonda's number.
When she answered, "Hey, Rhonda, come over to Wiese’s Studios. Allen promised to help us with the photo."
“That's great! I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Rhonda hung up.
Emma turned left onto Baker Street, waving at people she knew as she hurried along, thinking. Those three children would be in their seventies now. Oh, I hope they’re still alive. Arriving at Wiese’s Studios, she entered the elegant office and walked over to Judy’s desk.
“Hi, Judy! Is Aaron in the back?” Emma asked.
"Hello, Emma! Yes, you'll find him in his studio office."
Rhonda rushed in at that exact moment and walked over to Judy’s desk to give her the reading material she asked for. “Hey, Emma,” Rhonda said, breathing heavily. “I made it! Let’s go see what Aaron has to say.”
They found him seated behind his desk looking at some wedding photos. He rose and directed Emma and Rhonda to have a seat. “Well, Emma, let’s see this mysterious photograph you found."
“Here, it’s quite old, but it still looks in great shape. I hope you can help us,” Emma handed it over to Aaron.
He took out his magnifying glass and checked it over thoroughly. After a while, he looked up at the two women who sat on the edge of their seats, anxiously waiting for his verdict.
“It's in good shape, so, I'm assuming someone must have lost it recently. I also made out the name on the back, of a photographer by the name of R.L Knight. I remember him, his studio used to be located on Bout Port Street in Barnstaple," Aaron said, deep in thought. "A very successful and excellent photographer, too, but I haven't heard or seen anything of his work recently.
“I'll check and see if he's still alive,” Rhonda answered. “May I see the photo now?”
Aaron handed it over to Rhonda. “Cute kids! Love the little girl in pigtails! Just bear with me here as I talk my way through this... What if it was someone who wanted to trace their family’s history, and this person collected all the documents that were available to take them over to the archives? Anyway, that is what I'd do if I wanted to find someone, like a father or mother. Whoever lost this photo may be in the dark about it as much as we are; maybe they didn’t even realize they dropped it, so, what would be the point to publish this snap-shot in The Daily Star if they won't even recognize it as theirs?”
“Oh, I didn’t think of that scenario," Emma ran her fingers through her hair.
“Well, it’s a possibility we have to consider. I’ll do a little write-up on it, and here’s hoping the person who dropped it sees it,” Rhonda said. She stood up to shake hands with Aaron. "Thank you for taking the time to help us."
"No problem, I loved doing it, Rhonda." Aaron stood up to open the door.
Emma kissed Aaron on the cheek before walking out. They drove over to the Daily Star to plan what to write. Afterward, when it was agreed on how to word it, Emma thanked Rhonda and left. At home, she made herself some tea and a plate of buttered crumpets. Going over to her computer, she checked all the missing photos to see if any of them matched hers. The phone rang as she was halfway through the list. "Hello."
“I found out where R.L Knight, Ltd., is. He's in an old folk's home, and I went to see him. When I showed him the picture, he remembers those three children, explaining in detail how still they sat for the photo, afraid to move. I was hoping he could remember their last name, but he couldn’t recall."
Emma thanked her and hung up. Sighing, she continued searching through missing photos until she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and got up to rinse her plate under the faucet. She took a quick shower before falling face down on the bed, exhausted… In minutes, she was asleep.
The next morning, she opened the front door to pick up the mail. She found the picture on the sixth page with a small paragraph underneath it. Must have been short of space. All she could do now was pray that someone noticed it. She brought the paper into the house and called The Daily Star that she'd be an hour late before settling down in front of her computer with her morning cup of coffee. She needed to check out the rest of the missing photos.
That afternoon, Rhonda had a young lady visitor. She gave her name as Susan Gallagher, and explained, "I was the one who lost the picture. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the picture staring at me! I would have missed it, but one of my twin girls pointed to the little girl in the picture, wondering why that little girl looked like them. This has been haunting me whenever I look at my twin girls. She looked so identical, and therefore I'm searching for my birth mother, thinking the archives could help me. I took all my information to them, and they told me to come back in two days, which I did. They informed me that an Allison Bishop had a baby girl on February 10th, 1978. That's my birth date! My mother, who adopted me, would celebrate my birthday on that day. One day, when I was looking at pictures, I found the name, Allison Bishop, in the safe along with some important-looking documents. My mom died recently, and I decided then and there that I would find out everything I could about my real family. I have twin girls, Chloe and Claire, and I want them to know our real family’s history, no matter how bad or good."
"I'm so glad you came to me, Susan because I think we can help each other out. Do you recognize any of the children in the photograph?"
"No... but, as I said, the little girl in pigtails resembles my twin girls," Susan answered. "I feel as if I'm closing in on a whole new life."
"Well, let's pray that everything will come together, and you'll meet your new family," Rhonda said. "Just give me your phone number and I'll call when anybody else gets in touch with me about this picture."
"I've waited this long, I think I can wait longer," Susan smiled, thanking Rhonda, and left.
Rhonda phoned Emma's office immediately to tell her the good news, "A Susan Gallagher came to see me. She's looking for her birth mother, and she's the one who dropped the photo."
"That's great news! Maybe everything will come together in due time. I can't wait to meet Susan!"
"All in good time," Rhonda said.
"Thank you for keeping me in the loop," Emma said.
Two days later, Alfred Bishop called up the Herald and talked to Rhonda about the photograph. "I have to say, it was quite a surprise and shock to see our family's picture in The Daily Star! I was debating whether to call and decided that maybe I should. I don’t want the publicity but would like to know who dropped this photo.”
“Oh, I can arrange that for you. I would like you to meet Susan Gallagher; she's the one who wants to know more about her family."
"Susan Gallagher… She thinks we're her relatives?" Alfred seemed doubtful but curious. He gave Rhonda his address.
As she jotted it down, she asked, "Who's pictured in the photo? I know you're one of the boys." Rhonda's curiosity got the better of her.
"Yes, I'm the youngest, my older sister is still alive, too, but my older brother has been gone for a while now," Alfred said, after a long pause.
"Oh, I'm sorry... "Okay... I'll give your address to Susan and hope for the best."
Susan took down his address and phone number and thanked Rhonda. "Now that this is all coming together, I'm getting goosebumps. Could you come with me just for confidence and safety-wise?"
"Sure, I'll come with you! When you feel confident that all is alright, we'll give you some alone time with him so you can become acquainted." Rhonda hung up, then punched in Emma's number.
“An Alfred Bishop just called me, he says he's the youngest child of the three children pictured,” Rhonda explained. "Susan Gallagher is going over to his house and wants me to come along. If they are related, and he's her grandfather, then we did it!"
"This is so exciting!" Emma said. "Call me when you know, I want to be in on this too." When hearing Rhonda say she will, she hung up.
Susan Gallagher and Rhonda arrived at the Bishop's home. Alfred escorted the two women into his living room where they sat down together. Rhonda introduced Susan to Alfred.
He took Susan's hand, "You look so much like her, my daughter, Allison."
"Really!" Susan became teary-eyed. "You are my grandfather?
"Yes, I believe so," Alfred said, hugging her.
Rhonda interrupted, "I feel I should leave now. You both have a lot to talk about. Are you alright, Susan?"
"I'm more than fine, I'm ecstatic!" Susan smiled at Rhonda. "I found my family!"
"I'm so happy for you!" Rhonda hugged Susan, waved goodbye to Alfred, and left.
"Okay, let me tell you about my daughter, your mother," Alfred sat down beside Susan. "Allison had a mind of her own and left home when she became old enough. I tried so many times to talk her out of it but to no avail! When she moved in with that boy, I knew she was making a mistake. I heard later she became pregnant and gave birth in 1978. My wife and I wanted so much to take care of them both, but Allison called to inform us not to bother, that she had already signed the papers ‘giving you up for adoption.’ Peggy, my wife, your grandmother, was frantic. She wanted Allison to reconsider, but she wouldn't hear of it. She was nineteen, an adult in the eyes of the law, so our hands were tied. Afterward, Allison became even more distant. It wasn’t until 1989 that we found out why. She was in a serious car accident, and Allison had died on impact. When Peggy heard this, she never recovered from that shock and became distant herself. She shut herself off from the world, and ten years later, she passed away from a broken heart."
Tears running down her cheeks, Susan said, "I'm so sorry to hear that." She hugged her grandfather and they stayed that way for a while, comforting each other. When they both recovered, Susan continued. "I’m so happy to meet you and I can't wait for you to meet my daughters, Chloe and Claire. They are going to be so surprised and happy to meet you!"
"I should call my sister, Emily, she'll want to meet you. Make yourself comfortable.” He left the room. Susan dialed Rhonda's number and told her what happened. "I would like you to come over and meet my family. Could you bring your friend too? She's the one who made all this happen."
"We'll be right over." Hanging up, she called Emma. "I'm coming to pick you up, Susan wants to meet you and introduce us to her family."
Emily Morris, Alfred's sister, arrived at the same time as Emma and Rhonda. They entered the living room and introduced themselves to Susan.
"Thank you so much for finding that photograph. It helped me find my grandfather," Susan hugged Emma.
"I'm so happy you decided to publish that picture," she told Rhonda, hugging her. "I found a new family for me and my twin girls; I can't wait for you all to meet them."
When she turned to hug Aunt Emily, she said, "I'm so glad we finally get to meet! When I saw that picture of you in pigtails, I knew we had to be related somehow, because my twins look exactly like you did as a young girl."
"How old are they?"
"They'll be eight in August. They're going to be so thrilled to meet all of you!" Susan hung her head. "They were sad when Grandma Julie died, my adoptive mother."
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Emily hugged Susan. "We'll make a happy new family for them and you'll be alone no longer."
"Tell us about the picture and when it was taken," Emma asked, sitting down across from Emily, Susan, and Alfred.
“I remember it to be a sunny day... we were playing in the garden, getting along so well that Mum decided to have our picture taken. Later, she took us to the beach and then treated us to an ice cream cone for being good,” Emily said, laughing at the memory.
The two siblings had a lot to say about their older brother, William, a war veteran, who was killed fighting for his country. They talked about their tight-knit family, their loving parents, and their wonderful time growing up together.
"That's why it was so hard on Peggy and me that Allison wouldn't listen to reason," Alfred ran his hand through his hair. "She was only seventeen when she moved in with this boy, Randy; I don't even know his last name. He was a bad influence on her and alienated her from her friends and family."
"Everything happens for a reason," Emily said, looking on the bright side. "You now have a wonderful granddaughter and two great-grandbabies."
"By the way, I would like to invite all of you to my house for Sunday dinner," Susan said, giving them her address. “That way you can meet Chloe and Claire.”
"Thank you," Emma got up with Rhonda following suit. "You all need to get reacquainted, so we'll leave you to it."
"It's been my pleasure in helping make this all happen," Rhonda said, smiling at Alfred, Susan, and Emily. "See you all on Sunday,"
Rhonda and Emma decided to go to their favorite coffee shop to discuss how to handle the story and came up with a solution.
When Sunday arrived, Emma and Rhonda were greeted at the door by two identical blond girls. When they entered the living room, Emily laughed and greeted them with a hug.
"Don't they look exactly as I did in that picture?" Emily beamed proudly.
"Yes, you could have been triplets!" Emma laughed.
"Our mommy is an RN. When you're sick, she'll make you better," Chloe stated with certainty.
"I'm really glad to hear that," Emma smiled at her.
"I'm going to be an RN when I grow up," Claire said, who sat down next to Emily. "May I call you Gram?"
"You sure can!" Emily said, hugging her. "I would love it if you both called me Gram."
When the party was over, Emma and Rhonda decided it was time for this family to have a little alone time.
They said their goodbyes, deciding not to write about this in the newspaper because they needed their privacy.
Emma and Rhonda stayed in touch with this newfound family. They'd meet on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. Even Aaron Wiese became good friends with Alfred and Emily.
Emma, Rhonda, and Susan found that they had many things in common. They'd get together often at the coffee shop or each other's homes. Chloe and Claire began calling them Aunt Emma, and Aunt Rhonda. They both loved it, being that they were career women and adopted these two little girls in their hearts.
Featured in 'Short Stories: Writing Effective Flash Fiction--Showing' January 11, 2022