A homeless man is astounded to find a photo of his ex-girlfriend from 30 years before and a boy who looks just like him in an old burnt-out abandoned hospital. Francis Holloway was having a dark day. For the last 30 years, most of his days had been dark, but this was a new all-time low for the homeless man.
He had been walking along a country road when a pickup truck stopped and offered him a lift, but what the boys had wanted was some fun, which had consisted of driving Frank off into the woods and beating him up, then abandoning him. Frank sat there among the towering trees with his hands full of dirt and pine needles and tears smudging his face.
How did it all come to this, he wondered? He was 56, and his life was a flight from one place to the other, but there was no escape because the thing he was fleeing was himself. Frank got to his feet and started to walk. There was a way out of the woods. He’d follow the tracks of the car of his tormentors, but half an hour after he started walking, it started to rain, and the tracks vanished in a sea of mud.
He continued walking in the same direction, desperate to find shelter, and then, looming out of the rain and the thick trees, he saw the great hulk of a half-burnt building. Frank hurried inside and found himself in what had once been the grand lobby of a hospital. It was blackened and filled with rubble, but he was out of the rain. He found a primarily sound waiting room sofa, and as soon as he lay down, he fell asleep. When he woke, it was morning, and the rain had stopped.
Frank started exploring his surroundings. He was dead broke, and abandoned buildings could sometimes yield unexpected booty. He found a row of lockers in one wing of the hospital that seemed mostly untouched by the flames, and more importantly, they were unopened. Frank picked up a broken chair leg and started forcing the doors open. In one, he found an old watch, and in a denim jacket in another, a pair of sneakers, but the soles had melted in the heat of that long-ago fire.
Then he hit the jackpot. In one of the upper lockers, miraculously untouched by the flames, he found a woman’s handbag. Inside was an envelope with a thick wad of cash and a pink velvet bag with a tumble of what looked like gold jewelry. “Bingo!” cried Frank and started counting out the money.
It was close to eight thousand dollars, and the jewelry would be worth a lot more in the right pawn shop. Then Frank saw the photo. It was tucked into a plastic sleeve to protect it and showed a woman holding a boy of around six or seven. Frank knew that woman. It was Susan, the woman who had broken his heart and caused his downfall.
The boy in her arms was smiling happily, and something about him was eerily familiar. Frank had seen that smile before in the mirror. Then he spotted a second envelope at the bottom of the purse. Frank opened it with trembling fingers. Inside was a carefully folded letter.
He opened it and started reading it. “My dear Hilda,” the letter read. “You’ve been the most loyal of friends, and I need you to do one last favor for me. The doctors have told me my chances of surviving the procedure are 50/50, but I have no chance at all without it. I’ve left Simon with child services while I’m in the hospital, but please give him the money and jewelry in the bag if I die.
Tell Simon how much I love him and how much I wanted him. Thank you, Hilda, for your kindness and support. Love, Susan.” Frank whispered, “Susan.” Susan had been his first love, and he’d been about to propose when she’d suddenly broken up with him, ghosted him.
Frank, an up-and-coming young lawyer, had been devastated. Susan wouldn’t see him, so he’d talk to her best friend Hilda, who told him Susan believed he cheated, but he never did. “I love her so much,” he cried desperately. “I think she’s moved on, Frank,” Hilda said gently. “Maybe you should too.
She’d put her hand on Frank’s arm and smiled, but Frank wasn’t interested. All he could think about was Susan. He started drinking more than was good for him, and his life began to fall apart. He lost his friends and his job and ended up on the streets. That had been decades ago, and she’d had a boy who looked like him.
That afternoon, Frank walked the six miles into town and down the familiar streets to Hilda’s old house. Maybe someone could give him a forwarding address if she wasn’t there. She was his only link to his son and Susan. When he rang the doorbell, the woman who answered was a lot older and heavier, but it was Hilda. “Hilda,” he said.
“Please don’t be frightened. It’s Frank. I’m looking for Susan and the boy.” Hilda looked shocked by Frank’s appearance. “Oh my God, Frank,” she gasped.
“What happened to you?” “Life,” Frank answered sadly. “Please, where is Susan? Where is the boy? I found her handbag in the hospital.
Hilda’s eyes filled with tears. “Susan died 27 years ago,” she revealed. “She didn’t survive the operation, and a few days later, there was a fire at the hospital. Simon grew up in the orphanage, but I always stayed in touch with him. I have a confession to make, Frank.
I was the one who told Susan you cheated on her. I’m sorry. You see, I was in love with you, but all you saw was Susan. I thought if she didn’t want you, you’d see me, but you never did. I didn’t know Susan was pregnant.
I messed up both your lives, but believe me, I haven’t been happy either.” Hilda was sobbing, but Frank felt no pity for her. She’d meddled and ruined his life and Susan’s, and because of her, his son had grown up in an orphanage. “I want to see my son,” Frank told her. “I want to see Simon.
Two days later, Frank waited nervously at the local cafe. He’d showered and shaved and was looking neat and clean. A tall man in his early 30s walked in, and Frank recognized him straight away. He had Susan’s eyes. “Simon?
Frank asked. “Yes,” Simon said politely. “Hilda said that you’re an old friend of my mother’s.” “Yes,” he confirmed. “I found your mother’s handbag at the old ruined hospital and had a photo and some money and jewelry which she meant for you.
Frank held out the handbag with trembling hands. “Thank you,” Simon said, looking inside the handbag. “This means a lot to me. She died when I was very young, you see. I’ll take the photo and the jewelry, which was hers, but you can keep the money.
You look like you need it.” He took out the envelope with the money, handed it to Frank, and walked away. “Wait,” cried Frank. “Please wait.” Simon turned back, and he looked annoyed.
“Look, there must be a few thousand dollars in the envelope. I’m not giving you any more money.” “No,” Frank sobbed. “You don’t understand. I’m your father.
Out poured the whole story of Hilda’s lies and his shameful past. Frank hid nothing from Simon, and to his surprise, his son hugged him when it was over. “It’s not your fault,” he said. “It’s okay. I’ve been looking for you all my life.