“Well, did you like him? I mean, did he seem like he could help you?” Cal asked.
Kitty was sitting at her desk in the front office. Cal sat on an extra chair off to the side. Even though she was right in front of him, he couldn’t get a read on how she felt.
“How was the recital?” Kitty asked.
“The kids were just fine. Everything went well. Except that Lois showed up with her boyfriend,” he sneered when he said boyfriend and Kitty flinched a little at his show of anger. “I gave her the divorce papers, though.”
“Oh,” said Kitty. She felt like she was slipping into some deep place, alone, far away.
“Well, tell me. How did it go?” he asked again.
Now Kitty felt like she was in a dark room. Far off in the distance she imagined she could hear faintly familiar sounds. Water on a tin roof. Muffled voices. A hoot owl. Her father coughing.
“Kitty?” Cal said.
“What … ” she jumped a little, her reverie interrupted. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“I said how did it go? You seem upset,” he said. “Wasn’t he helpful?” Cal didn’t know quite how to approach this.
“He was nice I guess,” said Kitty. “He was… kind of rough.”
“He was what?” asked Cal.
“He said … ” Kitty began and then closed her eyes, trying to catch hold of a memory that carried a certain sound. “He said he would start looking through police records,” she said, her eyes still closed. “He asked for the names of everyone in my family. He said he would start right away, but because Christmas is coming things would be slower than usual.”
“Why police reports?” Cal asked, worried now.
“Because that’s where they start. That and old addresses and stuff like that. I don’t have any social security numbers. He said he would check birth certificates and try to find those. He said… oh, Cal,” Kitty stopped talking.
Cal came over to her and raised her form the chair and put his arms around her. “It’ll be all right. Nothing is ever as bad as you think it’s going to be. I thought seeing Lois and that guy would make me want to kill them both but I just got angry, and now I’m here with you and everything’s going to be all right.” He hugged her to him.
“I think something happened to me when he started asking all those questions. It made me remember things so far in the past. Like sounds and just images. I remember my father and how his beard felt when he kissed me goodnight. And how his breath smelled of liquor sometimes. And I remember my mother’s voice from far off somewhere. Her voice sounded tired. And just sort of beaten down. And I remember the baby’s little feet. My baby sister. She was still so little when I left. And that man.” Kitty shivered against Cal although it was not from the cold.
“You need to divorce that guy,” said Cal. “Tomorrow let’s go see the lawyer who’s handling mine.”
“Cal,” she said softly. “I couldn’t remember the baby’s name.”