She sat across from the police officer, her eyes numb from the hours she’d spent crying. The officer’s mouth kept moving. He must’ve been talking about how his department was doing its best to find her daughter and son.
As the minutes counted and the day turned toward early evening, only one thing razed her mind: How could she do this to us?
When Elsa and Patrober Parker decided to adopt their second child, they’d only wanted to extend their good fortune to a less fortunate soul while also growing their family.
They’d gotten married in their late twenties, and as they approached their middle thirties, they saw it as the perfect time to begin the adoption process. They had no clue what pain it would cost them in the future.
Elsa and Patrober researched the adoption agencies at their disposal, landing on a trusted one that operated in Ethiopia. The couple’s first child, Keagan, was eight at the time and couldn’t wait to have a little sibling to take care of.
It didn’t take the Parker family long before they found the cutest little angel to adopt. They were overjoyed at the idea of finally adding a new member to their family. But their happy tears would turn sour in the years to come.
The Parkers welcomed little Mari into their lives in the summer of that same year. The little angel was not only beautiful but responsive in every way a parent would want their daughter to be.
When the family brought her in, she was five. Her age made her, and Keagan hit it off immediately. Elsa and Patrober had no clue what this harmless relationship would give birth to.
Mari and Keagan were near inseparable as kids. They did everything together, with Keagan protecting his little sister and teaching her English while Mari taught him all the games she used to play back in Ethiopia.
Their relationship would only grow stronger as the two got older. But despite the sign, their parents wouldn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.
Mari’s story had been a heartbreaking one. A native of Addis Ababa, she never saw her birth parents, given that her mom died during childbirth and her dad was never in the picture.
Mari grew up with her aunt, who was advanced in years at the time. But something even more heartrending about her aunt made everyone’s eyes water when they heard her story.
Mari’s aunt wasn’t only advanced in age but also battling HIV/AIDS. At the age of seventy, she’d lived with the condition for more than a decade.
Additionally, her economic situation wasn’t the best, and although she never verbally admitted it, she struggled to raise her little niece despite how much she loved her. It wouldn’t be long until the worst happened.
Although Mari’s aunt was ailing, she did everything to give Mari the best life possible. But as the little girl got older, the courageous woman had to choose between her medication and providing for Mari.
Her condition worsened owing to her choosing to raise Mari over her health. Worried over who would watch over her niece when she was no longer around, she made a few calls to the adoption agency. Although her wish would be answered, the ripple effect would shatter an entire family years later.
Sixteen years had passed since Mari joined the Parkers as their second child. A third-year student in one of the best colleges in the Midwest, she was on her way to nabbing a degree in actuarial science.
But that morning, instead of her mom waking up to her studying at the dining table, she found a letter that would break her heart. She’d have no choice but to get the police involved.
Throughout her years as a mom, Elsa had read and heard countless accounts of adopted kids wiping their parents’ bank accounts and running away.
Even more sickening were the stories of some kids engaging in despicable acts with their family members. She’d never thought her Mari would break her heart as those other parents had been broken by their kids. That letter would prove her wrong.
“Dear mom,” the letter began easy enough, detailing why Mari wasn’t at the table, as was her habit every weekday before she left for her classes. “I have been thinking about my birth country a lot,” continued the letter.
“I got a message from an Ethiopian family member on Instagram. My aunt, the one we believed died, has been alive. She only recently passed away.” Elsa gasped, her eyes blooming with tears as she continued reading. The rest of the letter would leave her dashing for her phone.
From the rest of the letter, Elsa learned that Mari and Keagan were on their way to the airport, with a flight booked for Addis Ababa. Alarmed, the mom screamed for her husband, who came running. She threw the letter at him and fetched her phone, calling her kids as Patrober phoned the police.
The parents would spend the morning trying Mari and Keagan’s phones. Elsa knew Keagan would always stand by Mari no matter what. Although she should’ve been relieved that he was by her side to protect her, she couldn’t stomach the idea of them flying across the world alone.
The police flocked the Parkers’ home, asking all the relevant questions before falling into their investigation. Patrober was already halfway into the city, calling all the airlines he knew that flew to Ethiopia. He’d find his kids if it were the last thing he did.
Alone with a police investigator, Elsa got lost in her thoughts. She couldn’t believe her daughter could do this to them. With puffy eyes, she sat numbly across from the officer. How could life be so cruel?
A few hours passed with the police promising they were doing everything to find Mari and Keagan. Patrober had also called, assuring a distraught Elsa he was scouring the airport for their kids.
Elsa curled into herself on the couch. Her kids were the best things in her life, her family the only thing she lived for. She imagined them outside her ever-watchful gaze and broke down even more. God had given her the best children a parent could ask for. Why would he take them away from her?
The day had turned into a dull evening when Patrober returned. Elsa didn’t even look at him. But then she heard a familiar voice, a girl calling her ‘mama,’ the way her Mari always did. She turned to find her kids smiling beside her husband and couldn’t help but rush to hug them. They cried in each other’s arms, where Mari revealed that halfway to the airport, Keagan convinced her to go to their favorite baseball park, where she cooled off. She apologized for letting her emotions get the better of her. Although she’d later travel to Ethiopia to visit her aunt’s grave, she’d do it in the company of the Parkers: her family and everything.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.