Chapter 20: Photograph
Corrie couldn’t help it. She just started laughing. “You expect me to believe that?” Some creepy guy came out of nowhere and said he was her father? He was probably just trying to freak her out.
Dawn, though, didn’t seem amused. “He does kind of look like you,” she said doubtfully.
Corrie turned to her, astonished. “You believe this creep?”
“I’m telling the truth,” he said.
Corrie turned back to him and folded her arms. “Prove it.”
She expected him to claim he couldn’t—he certainly couldn’t get her mother’s evidence—but instead he reached into his pocket. He seemed to rummage through it looking for something, then pulled out a piece of thick paper. He held it out to her. “I can’t hand this to you without coming closer.”
Reluctantly, she stepped forward and took it. It was a photograph. “I can’t see it in this light,” she said, even though she was pretty sure she already knew what was in the picture. She could see the shapes of two faces, one surrounded by long dark hair, the other surrounded by shorter pale hair. She felt sweat break out on her body.
The man nodded towards the nearest emergency light. “Go into the light and look at it. Even if you don’t trust me, that’s an emergency phone, right? You can call security if I do anything.”
“Come on,” said Dawn softly. She took Corrie’s arm and walked them both toward the light. Even if Corrie didn’t like it, she knew they were right. Once they were in the brighter light, she looked at the photo again. Even in the blue light, she could recognize the people in the picture. One was her mother—a younger version of her, not much older than Corrie was herself—and the other was the man, who had followed them but stayed several paces away.
Her sweat turned to chill. He didn’t look any older now than he did in the photo.
She turned to him and crossed her arms again, this time mostly to keep herself from shaking. “Just because you have a picture of yourself with my mom doesn’t prove anything.”
“But you believe it now, don’t you?” He sighed. “I wish I had more proof than that. I wish I could have talked to you when you were with her and she could tell you, but she made it very clear she never wants to see me again.”
“So why do you think it’s okay for you to come talk to me?”
He half-smiled, just one side of his mouth coming up. “She never forbade me from talking to you. In fact, I rather think she would prefer for me to explain things to you so she doesn’t have to do it herself.”
“So explain.” Corrie kept her arms crossed, but still held the picture. She rubbed the plastic of the edges—it was a Polaroid—between her fingers. “What is there to explain? Why you’ve never been in my life? I guess you just explained that.”
“I wanted to tell you why that is.”
“And why do you think she hasn’t told me all about it already?”
“Because you would have believed me sooner.”
Corrie narrowed her eyes. He was talking in circles. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
He took a few steps closer. Now the blue emergency light shone over him, making him look pale and ill, though he still had that half-smile. “Look at me, Corrie.”
She looked. One of the knots in her stomach loosened; now that he was in better light, she could see the fine wrinkles next to his eyes, the sparkles of a few silver strands in his hair. In the photo, he was in his twenties. She had just been expecting something strange—strange, but within the paradigm she knew—so she had seen something that wasn’t quite there.
There was still something strange, though. She just couldn’t place it. He did look a little like her, that was true… but that wasn’t what she was looking for, was it? Instead, she changed the subject. “Why are you looking for me now, after all these years?”
He shrugged. “You’re an adult. You don’t live with your mother any more, so I don’t have to worry about running into her. And I heard it was Parents’ Weekend at your college.”
She frowned. “How do you know what college I go to?”
He looked away for the first time. “Let’s just say I have connections.”
“No, that’s not good enough,” said Dawn, startling Corrie slightly. She’d almost forgotten her friend was there. “We can’t trust everyone at this school. We need to know.”
“All right, fair enough. It’s a student. His name is Charlie.”
The girls looked at each other. The only Charlie that Corrie could think of was Lorelei’s fellow RA for Gilkey. Why was he sending information to strange men?
“But that’s not important,” said the man who claimed he was Corrie’s father, looking directly at her again. “Corrie, look at me. What do you see?”