(Note: This story begins October 13, 2009 blah blah blah)
Megan wasn't the only one having trouble focusing on a book. As she thumbed through a used copy of an American history textbook, looking for the chapter on the post-Revolutionary War period, Helen's mind was far away from the Whiskey Rebellion and the Articles of Confederation.
How did she find me? And how did she know about Megan?
The documentary, and she cursed the day she and Michael consented to that show. For the meager fee they were paid, they ended up with random letters from kooks and long-lost parents. One and the same, she thought bitterly.
The idea of writing back kept flitting around her head, like an annoying housefly, but she swatted at it angrily. No. She had worked too hard to put as much distance between herself and her failed family, and she did not want Megan dragged into that. Megan had enough problems as it was. Helen recalled the sight of Megan's black, scaly arms, and shuddered.
"Here it is," said Megan, pushing the book towards her mother.
Helen sighed. "Honey, you know what? Let's skip the lessons today, okay?"
"You're still freaked out by this afternoon, aren't you?"
"A bit," Helen admitted.
"Mom, please," insisted Megan. "I'm fine. It was an accident. It won't happen again."
"Do you realize how lucky you were?"
"I know," Megan groaned, exasperated.
Helen slapped a hand on the book. "You weren't there," she lectured sternly.
"You didn't watch your baby struggle for air. You don't know how that feels. You don't know how close you came to doing that again."
"You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little upset about all of this."
"I was the baby," Megan muttered.
Megan fixed her eyes on her mother's defiantly. "I was the baby," she repeated. "I was there."
"You have no memory of it," snapped Helen. She stood up. "Like I said, let's do this later. I can't handle this right now." She left the kitchen quickly, pausing only to look back and offer a quieter, "I'm sorry."
Megan simmered, glaring at George Washington for a few moments. What the hell was her problem? The bathroom incident had clearly rattled her, but she seemed far too upset for that. If she had suffered an attack, then maybe, but she hadn't. She wasn't any worse for wear, so why was her mother so upset?
Then Megan glanced at the trash can.
She rose, walked over to it, and peered in. There, near the top, was the crumpled slip of paper her mother had been transfixed by earlier. She lifted it carefully, shaking off a few stray coffee grounds, and carried it back up the stairs to her room.
She shut the door behind her and sat down on the foot of her bed. She pulled the note open, extracted the envelope that had been wadded around it, and read the shaking handwriting.
I know what is wrong with your daughter-- she rolled her eyes. Another nut who saw the show. But then she saw the signature.
She had watched enough hours of Sesame Street to know a bit of basic Spanish.
Who was writing her mother and signing the note 'Mom'? And in Spanish to boot? Her mother-- Helen Hanson Ursis-- wasn't Latina. Was it some kind of old joke, old nickname? Her mother's mother was long dead. Was it a family friend?
Megan glanced at the envelope. Florida?
She went over to her desk and sat down, the wrinkled envelope in hand. Grabbing a sheet of notebook paper and a pen, she wrote:
My mother threw your note away, but I want to know who you are.
PS And what do you know?
She found a blank envelope, folded and inserted her reply in it, then copied the Florida address painstakingly onto it. She slipped the envelope into her desk drawer, plotting how and when she could mail it without her parents noticing.