Estimated reading time — 10 minutes
I sat against the red and brown brick wall outside the police station, knees tucked into my chest. My heavy breaths clouded in front of me as the cold winter air bit at my skin, making my fingers numb, but I didn’t care. The cold air provided me with the only sense of peace that I could find right now. Just yesterday, I was just a normal teenage kid living a normal teenage life with normal parents who loved me. Today, everything I thought I knew about my life was shattered.
My family, the Antonov’s, always boasted proud Russian heritage. My grandparents on both sides of my family migrated from The USSR when they were just children. My Father always told me the dramatic versions of the stories of his grandfather, Maksim Antonov. Maksim migrated to the United States with his family, only $6.55 in his pocket. However, we knew very little about our family genealogy past Maksim, thanks to their town being completely destroyed in the war.
With all of these new DNA Genealogy tests now readily available, I thought it would be fun to surprise my parents by getting a more detailed picture of our true ancestry. I researched these test kits for hours and I was amazed. I just knew my parents would love this, so I secretly purchased a test kit with the money I made raking leaves and shoveling snow.
I went to the store with my cash and change. I handed the cashier my wrinkly, disorganized bills, mostly with 5’s, 10’s, and 1’s on them. The bored cashier gave a noticeable sigh but counted out the money anyway before handing me a receipt and a small firm box.
Out of the box, I pulled a small tube in sterile packaging. I filled the tube to the line with clear, bubbly spit. Then I sealed the enclosed, pre-labeled box and dropped it off in the nearest blue postal drop box.
The results took a long time. I checked my email regularly, hoping to see a notification that my results were ready to view. I grew impatient waiting. It had been 3 weeks, then 4 weeks, then 5 weeks. Finally, 5 weeks and 6 days later during online school, I got the notification:
Your DNA Genealogy Test results are ready to view:
I hurried to the website and typed at the keys so fast that I entered my password incorrectly not once, but twice. Finally, my account opened up. I eagerly opened the Genealogy chart, excited to bring incredible insight and clarity to my family. When I opened the results, however, I found only confusion instead of clarity.
There wasn’t any Russian listed at all. The color-coded bullet points showed that I am 62% Scottish, 11% Welsh, 10% German, 8% Italian, 5% Arabic, and 4% Indigenous American. Not even a fraction of Russian heritage was listed. The detailed map showed colored migration patterns of my alleged ancestors dating back to the 1700’s, but not a single one of those colored dotted lines touched Soviet land.
I was so confused and disappointed. I thought that I would be getting a detailed explanation as to my family’s Genealogy, but instead, I just found a bunch of mumbo jumbo that didn’t add up.
I figured if there was one person who might be able to explain this one, it would be my father. I was disappointed that I couldn’t give him the awesome surprise that I had hoped for, but now I was the one who needed answers. So, I walked into his home office and confessed what I did, and asked why my Genealogy wasn’t Russian.
My father was rarely a person to be quick to anger, but when I showed the usually calm and collected man the results his face turned red and his lips twisted into a grimace as if he had just drank sour milk. I had never In my life seen him be so livid, waving his arms around with spit droplets flying from his mouth with each word he yelled.
After 30 minutes of listening to his terrifying rant about how those tests were fake and unreliable, an outright scam according to him, my father demanded that I disable my account and never speak of it again. Never in my life had I ever felt so let down. I was just trying to make my family proud and could not understand why my dad was so mad. Alas, I disabled my account, deleting it all, and walked back to my room staring at the ground with slumped shoulders.
The ensuing days felt weird and awkward at home with my dad, so I barricaded myself in the sanctuary of my room to avoid any contact with him. He did the same. My mom got weird too after my dad undoubtedly told her what I did. I could feel her avoiding eye contact with me. They even confiscated my cell phone.
Finally, it was Monday, one of the two days each week that I had in-person schooling. I was relieved to hop on my bike and ride away from my now tense home, away from the trauma and tension. As I arrived at school and talked with my friends, I finally found relief and felt like myself again. That, however, would not last long.
It was only the first period when I was called to the office. I had never been called to the office before, so I nervously collected my things, dropping my books in front of my entire class. I strolled quickly to the administrative offices, my heart beating through my chest. The second I walked through those doors, I found two police officers looking at me intently.
“Are you Max Antonov?” Asked one of the officers
“Umm, yeah. Who are you?” I replied, nervously, with my thumbs circling each other in front of me. I had never been in trouble at school, yet alone in trouble with the police. My mind raced at the possibilities of where I could have gone wrong. Maybe, I thought, it was my frequent jaywalking?
The officer must have noticed my worried expression. “Don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble,” He assured me, leaning down to appear less threatening. “My name is Detective Reynolds, and this is my partner, Detective Carter.” He gestured to the female officer beside him. “We need to have a word with you, at the station.”
“Why? Is everything okay? Was there an accident?” I asked quickly, as my mind now raced with the thought that my parents must have had a tragic accident.
“There’s no emergency,” Detective Carter chimed in, showing a gentle smile, “This is concerning a cold case. We’ll explain more down at the station.”
I was concerned, but I could tell that whatever was going on was serious. I obliged and followed the detectives out to their car. Detective Reynolds was kind enough to grab my bike and attach it to the car’s bike rack.
Finally, we arrived at the station. I was guided to a room in the back. It wasn’t an interrogation room, but an office with a couch and a few chairs. I sat down on the couch next to Carter as Reynolds pulled a chair up and sat in front of me. I couldn’t help to feel like they were being a little too sympathetic, making sure that I was comfortable and offering me soda and snacks.
“We need to talk to you about your DNA test that you submitted to YourGenealogyMatters.com,” said detective Reynolds, sitting backward on a chair right in front of me. His arms rested on the backrest while he nervously tinkered with his wedding ring.
“This may seem like a shock, but your profile matches a murder victim in a local cold case.” He took a long deep breath before dropping the bomb. “Max, I really don’t know how to explain this to you, but according to your DNA profile, the victim could be your biological mother.”
“Oh, that’s not possible,” I assured him, “I saw my mom this morning.”
Detective Carter caught on to Reynolds’ struggle to explain the touchy situation, and interjected herself in a calm and reassuring tone. She gave me a gentle squeeze on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. “Max, the Victim was found murdered and her 3-week old baby was missing and never found. That crime happened on January 6th, 2003, which is the date you listed as your birthday.”
Detective Reynolds wiped his forehead before finally looking up to make eye contact with me. The way he was looking at me, as if I was a wounded pet, showed that he certainly believed his twisted theory.
“Look, I know this is a lot, but we’d like to take your footprints and a confirmation DNA sample, so we can compare them to the footprints on the birth certificate of the missing baby, as well as DNA retrieved from the baby’s pacifier.”
All I could do was nod.
A forensics officer came into the room and swabbed both of my cheeks with long Q-tips. After that, she pulled out a kit that she used to get my footprints.
Hours passed as I waited for the results. I felt a pressure in my chest as I paced the room, sat on the couch, then paced the room again. I even tried to read a magazine, but I couldn’t read more than two sentences without my mind drifting off into its habitual overthinking, which was now turbocharged. There had to be a mistake, I was certain that the company had accidentally swapped my DNA with someone else, and that was the reason for all of this confusion, but, what if…
The officers said they were rushing the tests, but it still felt like I was pacing that room for days on end. Finally, Reynolds and Carter walked into the room, failing to hide their dismal expressions. He put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a pitiful look.
“Son, I’m sorry to say both the prints and the DNA are a confirmed match.”
So that’s how I ended up sitting outside the police station, with a concerned Detective Carter trying to decide if I need medical care, or if fresh air was enough. She kindly guided me outside after I started hyperventilating inside that room. Detective Reynolds was still inside, likely making a plan to arrest my “parents,” or whoever the hell they are.
What I did next was impulsive, erratic, and ultimately a horrible decision, but I was not in my right mind.
I looked up to Detective Carter, who awkwardly leaned against the wall with her hands in the pockets. “Do you think I can get a drink of water?” I asked.
“Yeah, no problem, Max,” She replied, with her gentle smile back on her face, “You just stay right here and I’ll be right back.”
The second the door closed behind her I jumped to my feet and ran to the parking lot where my bike was. I hopped on my bike and pedaled as fast as I possibly could toward my house, barely noticing how hard I was breathing. It was only a couple of miles away, so I arrived in maybe 10 minutes fueled by panic and adrenaline. My “dad’s” car wasn’t there, but I knew my “mother” was at least home.
I sprinted upstairs and burst into her room sending the door slamming into the wall and bouncing back at me. She looked up from her book, taken aback by my boisterous entrance and heavy breathing.
“Is everything okay, Max?” She asked.
I came her to confront her, but now that we were face to face I stuttered through words not sure how to start this conversation.
Finally, still panting, I blurted out, “Did you kill my mother?”
Her eyes widened in shock, but then her expression quickly changed to a mixture of sadness and sympathy. “I am your mother, Max.” She told me quietly.
“THEN WHY-” I started to yell, before taking a deep breath and resuming in a more controlled tone, “Then why did the police just match my DNA to the kidnapped baby of a murder victim.”
Her face perked at the mention of police. “The police? You called the POLICE?” She said, panicked as she walked across the room to close the curtains.
“No, they found me.”
She hurried to her nightstand, from which she retrieved a silver revolver. “We need to leave right now, Max, get in the car.”
“YOU NEED TO TELL ME THE TRUTH!” I yelled, this time unable to remain composed. My hands and legs were shaking and my chest felt heavy and tight again. My mom froze, as police sirens were now audible in the distance. They were coming our way, and quickly.
“You want the truth?” She asked, as the sirens slowly grew louder and the neighborhood dogs joined in, “Well here’s the truth.”
She stepped closer and leaned toward me, clutching the gun with her finger on the trigger. I suddenly realized that I may have just put myself in a situation with a murderer. Obviously, I didn’t know this woman the way I thought, could she kill me too?
“That woman was not your mother, she was a worthless heroin tweaking whore!” She practically spat that last word out, not even attempting to hide her spite. “We tried for years to have a baby, but we couldn’t, meanwhile that woman was blessed with a beautiful baby?”
She took another step closer, as I took a step backward. The sirens were now right in front of the house sending red and blue flashes through the windows. An intercom buzzed with orders for my parents to step out of the house with their hands up, but she ignored it.
“We found you, just a baby, crying in the backseat of a hot car with a soiled diaper.” Her expression softened, as her eyes changed from anger to sadness.
“The woman who gave birth to you was passed out in the front with a goddamn needle sticking out of her arm.” She took a deep breath, and grabbed my hand with hers. “So yeah, we did what we had to do to save you. We gave you a far better life than you would have ever had if we left you there. We’ve always loved you as if you were our own.”
Tears now streamed down both of our faces as a boom of the front door being kicked down cracked through the house, signaling the entrance of the police.
As I fell to the ground sobbing, my mother stood up and looked at me with the unarguable love that she felt for me.
“Never forget who your real Mother is. You are MY son, and I love you, Max.”
Those were the last words she ever said to me. As the police headed up the stairs, she charged them with the revolver still in her hand. The gunshots rang through the house, followed by the thud of her body hitting the ground.
Detective Carter found me in my mother’s room, sobbing and hyperventilating again. She grabbed me in her arms and embraced me in a way that was both sympathetic and somehow understanding. With surprising strength, she picked me up in her arms, carrying my 160-pound self out of the house after covering my head with her jacket. Detective Carter, whose first name is Michelle, took me to the hospital and stayed by my side through the night and well into the next morning.
My “father” was arrested not too long after. I’ve asked to speak with him, but so far his lawyer won’t allow it. They did allow me to go to my Mother’s funeral, though. Thankfully, Michelle accompanied me. None of the people that I once thought were my family members so much as looked my way. I realized that day that I was now alone, without family.
At the end of the funeral, Michelle handed me a beautiful bouquet of royal blue roses. She gave me an understanding nod to my unspoken emotions. As I placed the flowers on the casket, I whispered, “I love you too, Mom.”
Credit : R. M. Staniforth
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