“We need to talk about Kevin.” Thea speaks softly, her eyes studying the table edge. “Please. We need to talk it out. All the way though. To the end. Please, Huck. Please.”
Huck taps on his laptop and glances at his wife. “You say something, dear?”
She inhales deeply. “We need to talk about Kevin. Today. Now.”
Huck furrows his brow and frowns. “You feeling okay, dear?”
“Yes. I mean no. We need to talk.” She bites her lip.
“Sure,” he says, closing his laptop. “But I’m expecting a call from Jeff anytime. He needs me in the office today.”
“On a Saturday?”
“We picked up a couple new clients. You didn’t notice I’m in a suit and tie?”
“Oh . . I guess not.”
Huck chuckles. “You and Ava should spend the day at the park. Supposed to be sunny. A high of seventy-six.”
“Yes, she’s been wanting to go ever since school let out.”
Huck opens his laptop. “Maybe you two can go shopping. She’s grown out of last year’s summer dresses. Get yourself something nice too.” He winks and begins typing.
“Yes. We’ll do that.” She folds her napkin and runs her thumbnail along the edge, pressing a sharp crease. “Now about Kevin . . ”
“Better hurry if you want to beat the traffic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get this report done before Jeff calls. Have fun.”
“No,” Thea says.
Huck continues typing.
“No!” She slams her fist on the table, and the breakfast dishes jump.
Huck blinks at Thea. “If you want, I can drop you off. I don’t mind. No need to fret over traffic. I’m used to it.”
“Kevin! I want to talk about Kevin!”
Huck purses his lips. “Thea, please. Ava will hear you.”
“Good. She needs to hear this.”
Huck stiffens and shakes his head. “That would not be good for her. We’ve already discussed this. It’s time to move on, Thea. It’s what’s best for our family.”
Tears spill over her cheeks, and she tears at her napkin. “Kevin is part of our family.”
“If he ever was,” Huck says, leaning forward, “he is not now.”
“I gave birth to him!” she says, her face red. “You were there. You cut the cord, and you held him first. I was too exhausted. You held him at my breast to feed him.”
“You changed his diapers. You pushed him in the stroller. You read to him to sleep every night. His first word was ‘book.’ He loved books. He learned to read at age five. He was reading at college level by age eight. He was way ahead on all the developmental charts.”
“Kevin’s real! He’s not . . ”
“He’s not imaginary!”
“Mommy?” Ava stands at the entrance to the kitchen, clutching a Barbie.
Thea dabs her eyes and blows her nose on a napkin shred. She turns and faces her daughter. “Yes, sweetheart?”
“Can we go to the park today?”
“Of course. Come sit on my lap.”
Ava climbs onto her mother’s lap and puts Barbie on the table.
“I have something important to tell you, Ava.”
Huck clenches his jaw. “Thea, no.”
“You have a brother.”
“You’re confused, dear.” Huck reaches across the table and takes Ava’s hand. “Mommy is confused right now. But everything will be better when you go to the park,” he says firmly. “Mommy will buy you a pretty dress. You can even get cotton candy. Do you like cotton candy, sweetheart?”
“Yes!” Ava says, grinning. “The pink kind.”
“Then tell mommy to take you to the park, before they run out of pink cotton candy.”
Ava jumps off Thea’s lap. “Can we go now? Please?”
Thea glares at Huck. “Put on your sandals and put a towel and your hat and your chalk in your backpack. And your camera. Then we’ll go.”
Ava runs out of the kitchen.
“You can’t tell me you don’t remember Kevin. He was real. Say it.”
“Listen to me.” Huck scoots his chair around the table and puts his hand on her shoulder. “We don’t have anything to prove he existed. No photos. No school records. Not even a birth certificate. Not even a pair of baby shoes or a scribbled drawing or lock of hair . . nothing.”
“It was a home birth! And I home schooled him! We were off the grid, homesteading. Back to basics. We didn’t believe in buying into the system back then, remember? We were loners. No friends, no neighbors, just our weekly trip into town, and-”
“And we were different people back then,” Huck says. “We were immature.”
Thea stares out the window. “And then he disappeared in the library, and we couldn’t find him, and we couldn’t even prove to the police that we had a missing child, and-”
“And nobody at the library remembered seeing him,” Huck says flatly. “Ever.”
“And then we had the fire, and we lost everything. That was when you snapped. After the fire, you decided Kevin never existed.”
“You’re right. I did decide. I decided to get clean and sober and make something of myself. I decided to get a real job so we could have a real house so we could have a real future. And you got clean and sober too. Weird things happen when you free-wheel and mess with drugs. Bad trips mess with your mind. But we don’t take those trips anymore.”
“Kevin loved going to the library. He loved books. Why didn’t I get him a junior library card?” Fresh tears spill over her cheeks. “I would’ve kept it in my purse, and I would’ve still had the card today. It would’ve said ‘Kevin Dorian.’ It would’ve been proof.”
“Nobody remembered seeing him,” Huck says, shaking his head. “No one.”
Ava stomps into the kitchen, arms crossed and pouting. “I can’t find my chalk!”
“Did you check your toy box?” Thea says, pressing her palms over her eyes.
A smile breaks out on Ava’s face. “Oh!” she says, then turns and runs.
Thea sighs and wipes her wet hands on her lap. “We take pictures of Ava almost every day. We have her birth on video. A copy of her birth certificate is framed on the wall. The original certificate is in a bank vault. We bronzed her baby shoes. Archived all her artwork. She’s in Brownies. She’s a card-carrying member of every kid’s club in the county.” She shakes her head. “And . . she has a junior library card.”
Huck squeezes Thea’s hand. “It’s been ten years. It’s time to move on. It’s time to be a happy family.”
Thea leans back in her chair. Her arms fall at her sides. “I want to hear you say you remember Kevin.”
Huck’s phone rings. He grabs it.
“Hey, Jim. How’s it going? . . Right. I’m on my way now.” He stands and shuts his laptop. “Gotta go, dear. You and Ava have fun.”
Thea jumps up and grabs his shoulders. “Kevin was skinny, lanky- like you. He ate like a horse, but was thin as a rail, like you. Kevin had your hair- blonde with a cowlick.” Thea shakes him by his shoulders. “Kevin wore a ring. You gave him that ring when he was eight, for his birthday. It was your grandfather’s ring. Kevin wanted to wear it. You re-sized it for him. That was the year he disappeared-”
“Kevin!” Huck screams and breaks from Thea’s grasp, falling back on his chair. He presses his hands over his ears, eyes shut tight. He kicks and flails, catching his feet on the chair legs, and collapses on the floor. “Oh, Kevin . . ” he moans, his tear-stained face purple.
Thea kneels and embraces him.
“I remember. ”
And in other news . .