peanut butter & jelly

Sometimes a woman will look at the baby pictures of her husband and laugh, flipping through the album pages and feeling her heart swell. Sometimes he is sitting beside her and sometimes he isn't; either way, his too-young face peers up at her with a toothless smile, waving with jam-covered hands.

Something akin to love is that pushes against the walls of her heart. Of course it's not attraction, not to this little whelp of a boy that doesn't know her favorite color is purple and she loves to eat macaroni with ketchup. But a kind of anticipation kick starts a tic of recognition inside of her. Where a little toothless girl lives, waving with fingers covered in peanut butter. From one child to the next, it's written in stone, like a favorite sandwich without crust.

Sarah Connor doesn't have the luxury of Kyle's baby pictures. She doubts that even he did, after Skynet took everything over. She doesn't know what he looked like at six, or seven, or eight; doesn't know any cute anecdotes from middle school or horror stories from after.

She's long since reconciled herself to the idea that she won't get to tease him about how chubby he was before he hit his growth spurt, or how he didn't have any teeth for two weeks after his brother knocked the babies all out earlier. She loved what she had of him fiercely, truly, without regard for logic or sense, but it was only what she had.

He was greater than the sum of his parts so sometimes she can convince herself that it didn't matter if she knew what all the parts were. She knew the important ones: he was brave, he was kind, he was strong, and he loved her, and that had always been enough. If not for John, then for her.

Derek tells her: You don't know the Reese boys and you never will.

It's only then that she starts to wonder.

What food did he like what car had he driven what movies had he watched who was his first girlfriend what size shoe did he wear what color was his bedroom and did he like jelly because her favorite spread was peanut butter.

But she bottles it up, corks it, throws it into the ocean to land on some distant, unmapped shore. Because the Kyle Reese alive now is not her Kyle. He is not a picture she can point to and nudge the man beside her because—there is no man beside her.

Kyle Reese is not a picture, he is not an anecdote, he is not an echo of a boy her Kyle once was. He's a living, breathing, growing kid and she's . . . old enough to be his mother, old enough tease him about zits, old enough to disapprove of the type of clothes he wears.

He's this foreign knot of blood and muscle that is her Kyle while not being her Kyle at all. So Derek says you don't know the Reese brothers and she thinks and I never will.

She's got her son and her memories and the sting of his lips on hers and that's enough. Or at least, it has to be.