“She looked at me with a why-are-you-staring-at-my-phone look. I returned the look with a confused stare, grabbed my bag, then walked upstairs and into my dad’s office. Who could Johnny be?”
I walked into the kitchen and plopped my school bag on the table. After the chilly walk home from school, the vegetable soup heating on the stove smelled delightful.
“Hi Emma,” she said unenthusiastically.
Then I heard my mom’s phone ringing on the counter. I looked down. The name Johnny popped up on the screen. My mom rushed to her phone to pick up it up. She looked at me with a why-are-you-staring-at-my-phone look. I returned the look with a confused stare, grabbed my bag, then walked upstairs and into my dad’s office. Who could Johnny be?
“Hi Dad,” I said. “I’ll be in my room, ok?”
My dad sat in front of his desktop, lost in thought. “Hi sweetie, how was your day?” he said, looking up.
“It was fine-” Ding! I looked down at the phone on his desk. Johnny. Again. So my dad knew this Johnny guy too? I didn’t have time to see what the message said, because my dad snatched the phone and shooed me away.
“Shouldn’t you be doing homework?”
My parents were acting so weirdly these days. I decided to ignore it for now and go up to my room. Maybe Johnny was just an old friend of theirs.
I made my way to my desk in front of the big window facing the sea. It’s my favorite place to relax. The window gives me a nice view of our small neighborhood and the Scottish beaches of the Isle of Mull. I opened it to let in the fresh ocean air.
I took my worksheet out of my folder. Great. Conjugation. My favorite. I sighed. “J’aurais, tu aurais, il, elle, on aur-” Suddenly, a flutter outside my window caught my eye and I saw a paper airplane fall into the garden. I opened the window farther and tried to find where the plane had come from, but there was no sign of anybody except my dog, Tanzie, playing in the water with my older brother Mike. He was visiting from his first year of university and he wouldn’t throw a paper airplane at my window. I knew I should finish my conjugations, but I felt intrigued—and a little bit bored with french—and decided to go get the plane. I wandered down to the garden and found it in a flower bed.
When I picked it up, I saw it was made from part of a map. Why a map? It looked a lot like my neighborhood, and I could see something that looked like directions. I climbed the stairs back up to my room where I spread the plane out and unfolded it on my desk. Someone had indeed made the plane out of a map, the kind you find in guidebooks, but I couldn’t find any other information and the directions went off the page. It was interesting, but it wasn’t going to help me with my French so I went back to my conjugation.
But later, during the night, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. I had so many questions: Where did the map come from? Would I ever get the other part of the map? Also, who was Johnny? And why were my parents acting so oddly all of a sudden? All those questions exhausted me and I finally fell asleep.
The next day, my parents behaved as if nothing weird was happening.
“Good morning Honey!” said my dad, setting a bottle of maple syrup on the rough pine farm table.“I made you french toast. I love that yellow dress!”
“Hey Little Sis!” said Mike, scratching Tanzie’s neck as he sat in his usual spot across from mine.
“Morning, thanks,” I said, sitting down. Not sure if I was thanking Dad for the french toast, the complement, or both. I ate my French toast then walked to our small local middle school. It was a normal school day; maths, english, music, French, and P.E.
That afternoon, I planned on going to play with Tanzie, my border collie after finishing my homework. After thirty minutes of solving algebraic equations, I saw another flicker in the corner of my vision. My heart beat faster – could it be another map? I rushed down to the garden and grabbed the paper airplane and unfolded it. Another part of the same map! I ran back up to my room and tried to put the two pieces of map together: They fit! But the map was still incomplete. The directions still ran off the page.
Every day that week, I looked forward to coming home from school and getting more and more pieces of the map. After five days, I finally put the final pieces together, I noticed something odd at the bottom of the last piece of the map. I looked more closely and was shocked to find a signature: Johnny. “Oh. My. Goodness.” I murmured. “How..? What…?” I needed to talk to my parents. They couldn’t hide things from me anymore.
I walked into the living room, where Dad read his newspaper and Mom and Mike watched a cooking show on TV. “Mom, Dad, Mike, I think we need to talk.” We gathered around the dining room table. My parents looked worried and my brother just looked confused.
“I’ve noticed some weird behavior from you, Mom and Dad,” I began. “First of all, the name Johnny keeps popping up on your phones. And then there’s this.”
I spread the taped-together map out on the coffee table in front of the sofa and pointed to the signature. Their worried expressions told me they had been expecting whatever this was, but weren’t ready. “Can you please tell me who this Johnny guy is, and why he’s been sending me these parts of a map?”
My parents exchanged looks and muttered something to each other.
“Hello? Can you answer me please?!”
They quickly looked back at me, and my mom said “Oh Honey, we’re all sorry. We think you should find that out yourself by following that map.”
“Wait. ‘we’re all’?! Are you saying Mike knows what this is this about? And why are you sorry?” I felt nearly ready to explode—confused, shocked, and enraged all at once.
“Calm down!” My dad said, defensively. Yes, he knew. “Fine, I’ll explain: Before- ”
My mom cut him off. “Stop! No. We need to let Johnny explain. It’s his story.”
“Fine. If you won’t tell me, I’ll go figure it out myself.” I snatched the map off the table, grabbed my coat off the hook by the door and stomped out slamming the door behind me.
I followed the directions and it brought me to the market. I saw a boy, maybe twenty years old, who looked a lot like Mike, standing apart from the small crowd shopping for fresh seafood at the stalls. He seemed to be looking for somebody and when he spotted me and walked carefully over, as if he didn’t want to frighten me.
“Emma? Is that you?”
I felt confused. “Who are you!?”
He ignored my question. “I see you got my airplanes”
“Who are you?!!” I repeated, louder now.
“My name is Johnny. I’m your brother.”
I stood, shocked and speechless.
“Let’s sit down on that bench and I’ll explain everything.”
“A few years before our father met your mom, he met a woman called Rose. She got pregnant with me, and when I was born, Rose left our father. She took me with her and we never saw him again. Then our father met your mom and had you and Mike, but my mother never told me I had a sister and brother.” He sighed sadly.
“When I turned thirteen, my mom had to leave me for the military and my grandma took me in, but she died six months later. It was quite a shock for me and it left me scarred. Social workers took me to an orphanage in Harris. My mother never came back and no families adopted me. When I turned eighteen, they let me leave and I got a job at a public library. A friend agreed to let me sleep at his house.”
What a terrible story, I thought. How could he go through all of that with only one friend?
“But how did you know about my family?” I asked, not wanting to hurt his feelings—he was already scarred for life.
“I started doing research because I wanted to find my father. I got a lot of help from friends and co-workers, but it took me two years. When I found him—last week—I got extremely excited and I called him. He didn’t believe it. He told your mom and your brother, but apparently not you.”
“Wasn’t Mom shocked or furious?” I asked, confused.
“She knew about me when she met our dad, but it was shocking to learn I wanted to come back. It took some persuading but she agreed.”
“Oh,” I said, still not having all the answers I wanted. “But why did you send me those paper airplanes with the map?”
“Your parents didn’t want to tell you because they felt embarrassed that they hadn’t mentioned anything earlier. We agreed to let you figure it out by yourself and I must say, it was a pretty bad idea.” He chuckled. “I hope you’ll forgive us.”
I stammered. “I…I forgive you.”
We walked home in silence, thoughts swirling around in my head. Why hadn’t I sensed I had a long lost sibling before? Did my parents know his mom left him? Why had they told Mike and not me? All these thoughts had distracted me and soon we were already home. We entered the living room and my family came to hug us.
“We’re so, so sorry,” said Mom
“Guys, it’s all good,” I said, comforting them.
“Let’s make dinner,” said my dad, “as a family.”
We all agreed and Johnny and I helped Mike make pasta bolognese while mom and dad set the table. We told funny stories and got really close with Johnny.
“One, two, three—”
At Easter holidays, my whole family had decided to go to Edinburgh to celebrate our reunion. We sat beside Edinburgh Castle, beaming at the camera and we probably looked like the happiest family in the city, because we were! My family felt complete and we all had decided that we wouldn’t keep secrets anymore. I never wanted this moment to end. I looked up and saw Johnny, smiling at me, mouthing, “thank you.”