Jean bounced on her mother’s lap.
“Wow. Mummy. Look how young you were there.”
She pointed a grubby finger at the photo in her mother’s hands showing an unhappy teenager in a heavy beige coat.
“Wow, This picture was taken from the top of the twin towers, Jean. They’re not there anymore. I forgot about this picture.”
Lilly frowned as Jean looked up into her mother’s deep brown eyes.
“Why?” She pulled at the picture and twisted it, this way and that.
“Grandma took this when your grandad worked there. I thought she had it, but it’s wound up here. Anyway, some bad men tried to hurt everyone by blowing the buildings up.”
Lilly remembered the tragedy all too well. She remembered the exact spot in the store when she heard the new. She remembered her mother rushing her home, and the frantic phone calls to her father.
“Was that when granddad died?” Lilly sucked in a deep breath. Even now if was still hard talking about it.
“Yes baby, about a month after this picture was taken.”
She squeezed Jean fondly and picked another photo out of the wooden box by her feet. She hadn’t realized this box of pictures was hidden in the attic, crammed in a black sack and pushed way back under the eaves as if someone was hiding it.
The picture in her hand showed a young Lilly tumbling in a park, with a wide lake behind her. She didn’t even know this had been taken. Jean plucked it from her hands before she could reminisce.
“Wow mummy. Were you a gymnast?” Lilly chuckled, a clink from the kitchen announced another broken cup.
“Are you ok in there dear?” She called across the room.
A balding head appeared around the door-frame, a thin line of beading sweat on his brow.
“Yes hun, just slipped that’s all.”
Lilly chuckled again. “At this rate we won’t have a kitchen left.”
Ray ducked back into the kitchen, and the sound of broken crockery being swept up caught her ears.
Lilly shook her head and looked down at the girl sitting in the fold of her legs. Little Jean pulled pictures on to her lap from the box. Before she could ask what she was doing Jean pointed to the first picture again.
“How long did you know daddy then.”
“Oh no. Mummy didn’t know daddy then, that was, let me see…seven years before I met him.” Jean looked puzzled for a moment.
“But that’s daddy there.” She pointed at a boy in a brown rain coat looking into the camera. Lilly snatched the photo from her daughter’s hands and held it to her face.
“It can’t be, it probably someone who just looks like daddy when he was a boy.” She shook her head again and set the photo aside.
“What about this one?”
Jean handed her mother another photo. This one showed Lilly’s 15th birthday party at a local ice-skating rink, a group of boys and girls cluttered into the picture with a young Lilly at the center. The same boy was standing way off to the left of the shot, only older. His hands deep inside his pockets, looking directly at Lilly’s group.
“No way, it’s a coincidence that’s all, just two people that look like Daddy when he was young, look.” She put the two photos together. “They’re not even the same person.” She tried to sound confident, although doubt was creeping into her voice.
Another cup broke in the kitchen.
She reasoned with herself more that it was meet coincidence, for Jean’s sake, but it didn’t quell the coldness seeping into her stomach.
Jean passed her another photo. Again, the photo showed Lilly and a female friend throwing their college hats high into the air. However, staring out from behind a huge oak tree was the same boy, but now a pubescent teenager. Lilly glanced over her shoulder, across the elegant table, passed the memories of her family framed in pictures across the walls, to the door that opened into the kitchen. All was silent.
Jean tugged at her mother’s arm.
“Daddy doesn’t look happy in this one.”
She passed her a picture of a orange landscape. Lilly was 18-years-old and on her first ever trip to the Grand Canyon with her boyfriend at the time. Lilly and Mike, her boyfriend, beamed as they threw their arms wide, trying to encompass the Canyon. And, standing with his arms crossed over his chest was the same boy, only he wasn’t a boy anymore, but a young man with a thin strap of a beard. There was no mistaking Ray.
Her boyfriend had fallen to his death while she was trying to book a helicopter ride. No one saw what had happened, and everyone thought that Mike had tried to see too far over the edge, and had toppled.
Lilly, dumbstruck picked up another picture, she was at her father’s birthday in a bar in her hometown. Ray was in the background. She picked up another picture. This one showed her at a baseball game when she was 14-years-old. Ray was sitting among the crowd behind her.
The coldness in her stomach reached up with icy fingers and tore at her heart.