CHAPTER ONE - Strangers
"Cassie, is this it?" Pete asked, shielding his eyes from the sun. I glanced down at my map of downtown Toronto and up again at the store sign that read 'C&M Photography.'
"I guess so..." I trailed off, not quite sure what to do next. Pete came closer, took my hand and stared into my eyes.
"We don't have to do this is you're not ready," he told me. I nodded and let out a sigh. How could I not be ready? I'd been preparing for this moment my entire life.
"... Maybe we can come back tomorrow," I said weakly. Pete wrapped his arm around my waist and kissed my forehead. He was so good to me.
"Sure. Let's head back to the hotel."
Nine o'clock the next morning. Streams of sunlight were pouring into the room through the open windows. Frustrated, I sat down at the edge of the bed and placed my head in my hands. Pete came out of bathroom, a towel draped over his shoulder.
"Cassie?" he asked, his voice full of concern.
"God, am I doing the right thing?" I asked, on the verge of tears. Pete gently pulled me up from the bed and let me rest my head on his chest. I drenched his shirt with my tears.
"Yes. You're doing the right thing," he assured me quietly. "You can't spend the rest of your life wondering about this." He wiped away my tears and kissed me. "No matter what happens – I'm here. I'll always be here."
Who knew that a guy I'd met in junior year of high school would now be making a cross-country trip with me and be by my side, riding this roller coaster of emotions as I searched for my birth parents.
My name's Cassandra McKnight -- Cassie for short. I turned 18 six months ago and like I had vowed to myself since I was 7, I started this journey of finding Manuella Santos and Craig Manning, the exact day I turned 18.
Manuella and Craig were strangers, as far as I was concerned. Just names of a flimsy piece of paper.
Strangers with an unbroken connection to me – they were my parents.