by KD Miller
Millen has unlocked the mystery of his grandfather's missing brother. (Millen-1911)
| THIS CHAPTER IS NOT COMPLETE. This is an extremely long chapter, so I'm dividing it into three chapters on WDC, this is the third chapter. When the book is published, chapters 27, 28, and 29 will be one chapter.|
The following day, I followed Francis into the Sherwood College Private Library, while Dylan, Theodore, Ashton, Jasper, and Clinton helped my father remove the old attic balcony door. Grandfather took his tea and his brother's diaries to his room. He promised to bookmark anything extraordinary and let me read it when I returned.
"Can I help you?" Miss Atteberry, the middle-aged, unmarried, librarian asked with a slight smile upon her face.
"My brother and I have a two-hour study session," Francis said, as he reached up to remove his hat.
I watched the woman's eyes skim over the ledger on her desk. "Yes, I booked the two of you into a private room."
A feeling of nostalgia settled in my body. I hadn't been in this library since last summer when I used Francis's name to read the medical books. Miss Atteberry led us to a corner room and opened the door. The room held a small table and six chairs. A framed sign on the wall told the payment of fifty cents an hour to use the private quarters. I couldn't believe the students had to pay for a study room!
Francis reached into his pocket and produced a dollar bill for payment, where Miss Atteberry accepted with a smile.
"Enjoy your session, and tell your grandfather I will see him in church on Sunday."
"Yes, ma'am," we answered, as the librarian flipped the sign on the door handle to "occupied." and left.
With the door securely shut behind us, Francis hung his hat on the stand in the corner.
"Our father once told me that Miss Atteberry has always had a slight crush on grandfather," he smiled. "I believe grandfather liked her at one time but was forced to marry Rebekka."
I removed my hat, and scarf and hung them on the stand. "Do you believe that is why she never married?"
The Atteberry's were also a prominent family. Miss Clara Atteberry lived with her brother, his wife, and their children on the street opposite ours. Sometimes, I could hear her playing the piano, or catch a glimpse of her tending the flower gardens.
Francis shrugged. "Who knows?" I know grandfather is never going to remarry. He loved his wife, and one day he will be buried beside her in the family vault."
We laid our school bags on opposite ends of the table, and carefully removed notebooks, paper, and pencils. I pulled out my senior year syllabus. On the first day of class, I was expected to take a mini-exam to see if I remembered anything from last year. Of course, I remembered.
I pulled out another sheet of paper from my notebook, my reading list. Half of the books had been crossed off. On the journey back from Sicily, I spent many hours resting in my cabin and reading. The only books that remained were difficult to find in Sherwood because of the subject matter. A well-educated student was expected to find a way to read these books. Seek out alternate libraries, or order them from bookstores in large cities. I was hoping the college library had a few. One book that intrigued me, The Metamorphosis by Ovid.
I made a list of books I needed and went back into the library. While browsing the mythology section, to my delight, I found the book and several more challenging books on my list: The Satyricon, Egyptian Mythology, and The Illiad and the Odyssey. I decided to check out the Metamorphis first and put the others on hold.
For the first hour, I practiced my fractions and started reading while making notes for the book report. Francis returned with several heavy medical books in his hands and plopped them down on the table.
"Oh, drat," he sighed. "I forgot the lecture!"
I stopped scribbling key phrases from my book. "What lecture?"
I heard a slight sigh. "I've been studying lectures from different doctors, and I forgot to search for Dr. Cannon's 1907 lecture at Cambridge. He spoke about the importance of vaccinations."
I put my pencil down. "Oh, you mean those shots that the large majority of the population believe to be dangerous?" I asked.
I must have upset my brother, for he placed his hands on his hips and snarled at me. "These so-called witchcraft vaccinations will help fight tuberculosis, scarlet fever, and diphtheria! I cannot believe that some people believe scientists are playing God. We're trying to save lives. The cemeteries are filled with people who have died from diseases that we're desperately trying to find cures from, including our mama!"
Standing up, I faced my brother. "You know I plan on getting the shots when they become available," I said, hoping to calm him down. "I need a quick privy break. On the way back, I'll search for the lecture in the filing cabinet."
A look of relief passed over my brother's face. "Dr. Alexander always tells me about the poor people at the county farm who are untrustworthy of doctors and the study of vaccines. As Theodore would say--"
"We were once them." We said together and laughed.
I slipped from the room and gave a sigh with relief and thanks. If I hadn't been adopted, Dylan and I could be alone, dirty, and working in a dangerous Brooklyn factory making ten cents an hour sewing shoes together.
After using the privy, I washed my hands and went to find the lecture. The filing cabinets were in the middle of the room and grouped by the year starting with 1900. Lectures and documents from the 1800s and beyond were in another room. I found the cabinet marked "Lectures 1907" and pulled it open, and to my astonishment, it was a large, heavy file. With a sigh, I began to painstakingly flip through the papers looking for the Cannon name.
Halfway, through the file, my arm began to tire, and my eyes started to water, so I had to do a double-take when a familiar name came up. I quickly flipped backward and pulled out the paper. It was an announcement for a 1907 lecture in Salt Lake City, Utah. My eyes skimmed the paper in astonishment. It seems every year, two teachers are selected from each state to give a lecture on their success. In 1907 the two teachers representing the State of California were Thomas and Jasper Woodrow, two bachelor brothers who teach English to Spanish students!
My fingers trembled as re-read the paper several times. The silence in the room was shattered by the clock striking ten in the morning. I paused and wiped the beads of sweat from my forehead. Glancing around, I spotted Miss Atteberry with her back turned toward me. I folded the paper, and slipped it in my pocket, and turned back to the filing cabinet. I found Mr. Cannon's lecture and hurried back to Francis.
"Here," I thrust the lecture to my brother and hurried to gather my belongings. "I have to go."
"Missing Dylan already?" Francis said. I noticed the playfulness in his tone and tried not to laugh.
"No, I remembered grandfather wanted me to do something for him." I lied, as I shoved my books into my satchel.
"I still have an hour left," Francis glanced at his pocket watch. "On the way home, I'll grab some lunch for all of us at the deli. Tell mother not to cook anything."
"Will do," I raced out of the library, ignoring the look of annoyance from Miss Atteberry.
In the distance, I spotted the trolley car that took everyone around Sherwood. I raced toward it and handed a penny to the conductor as the warning bells began to chime. With a sigh, I plopped down in the front seat. Usually, I walked with my parents to St. Paul's to visit Grandpa Alex, but not today. I wanted to get there as fast as I could. Reaching in my pocket, I pulled out the Catholic pendant. Last night, during dinner, my grandfather told me the necklace must belong to Sybil or Thomas, but I had my doubts.
I reached into my other pocket and pulled out the lecture. Something startled me. Jasper was teaching Thomas how to read and write English before they disappeared. I wonder if Jasper converted to Thomas's religion in secret? Perhaps the necklace belonged to Jasper? Perhaps he dropped it in the garden the night he disappeared? I remember grandfather saying Grandpa Alex took Jasper to the gardens to yell at him before they came inside.
My eyes traveled over the piece of paper. The announcement stated that for the 1907 Teachers Conference in Salt Lake City two male teachers were selected from each state to give a speech on their success. There were two columns on the paper with the names of each state and beside them the teachers that had been chosen. I kept re-reading the names.
"The State of California will be represented by Jasper and Thomas Woodrow," I whispered to myself. "Two bachelor brothers who teach English to Spanish speaking students in Los Angeles."
There were too many coincidences. Grandfather did tell us that Thomas had been teaching Jasper Spanish, but their father could never find out. A feeling of dizziness raced through my body, as I spotted the large, gothic hospital looming in the distance. Jasper and Thomas must have made their way to California. But, what happened to Sybil? Did she go with them? Did she pass away? What happened to Uncle William? He also disappeared that night, but I doubt he helped them escape. There was a war going on, and it would be easy for Jasper and Thomas to hide, and escape anywhere.
The trolly came to a grinding halt. "Now departing St. Paul's Hospital," the conductor boomed. "Next stop, Main Street, the Opera House, and the Carnegie Library."
I leapt from my seat, and onto the pavement. Racing up the steps to the grand hospital, I remembered the first time we visited Grandpa Alex, and how he mistaken me for his son, Jasper. That was the last time he spoke. The doctors were dumbfounded why a man with perfectly good vocal cords, suddenly stopped talking.
I sailed into the front lobby and made a beeline for the elevator.
"Goodmorning, Mister O'Connor-Mueller." The elevator girl announced, as she produced a key and inserted it to the top floor panel. "Is your family with you?"
"Not today," I replied, as I anxiously hopped up and down. "I need to visit my Grandfather Alex by myself."
The girl nodded and was silent the remainder of the ride. She must be one of the new candy stripers who're hired to help around the hospital. When she wasn't operating the elevator, she was probably cleaning rooms and stocking supplies.
After she pulled open the iron gate, I raced from the elevator and down the hallway to the nurse's room.
"Millen, are you here to see your great grandfather?" Bridget, the head nurse asked.
"Yes, ma'am." I replied. She nodded and stood up to lead the way.
"Can I ask you a favor?" I said, hoping not to sound too needy.
"Anything." She responded.
"Could you please not tell my grandfather or my parents I visited Grandpa Alex today?" I blurted out. I noticed her eyes enlarging with surprise.
"As you wish." Bridget gave a brisk knock on the door to the suite and opened the door. "Mr. Woodrow," she asked. "Your great-grandson is here to see you."
With that, she opened the door to let me in and walked silently away. I could tell she was confused by my request. Nobody could know.
I spotted my great grandfather sitting at his desk, an easel propped up in front of him. I recognized the art supplies we bought him for his birthday. It was all so confusing. He knew how to read, paint, sew, dress, eat food, and clean himself. For some reason, he'd been silent since that day I met him the first time, and he yelled out Jasper's name.
"Good afternoon, Grandpa Alex," I called out. "I've come to visit you."
Ever so slowly, I watched him lay down his paintbrush, and gently push the easel to the side so he could see which one of his great-grandchildren had come to visit.
"I know it's not, Sunday," I casually called out, as I securely locked the door behind me, and stepped into the room. "I found two things I need to tell you about."
The man continued to stare back with a look of puzzlement. We visited him every week after church, and he still hadn't grasped who I was. I slowly walked toward him and watched his every move. His head tilted to the side. The way his fingers tapped the marble-top desk. That look in his eyes as if he were remembering something.
"I'm Millen, remember?" I asked. "Catrina and Frank adopted me when I was only nine years old. I'm fifteen now."
I paused in front of the desk, as he stared back in bewilderment as if he were seeing me for the first time. How did I remind him of Jasper Woodrow? I glanced down at the mole on my thumb, and instinctively my eyes went to his hand. He had a matching mole. An idea formed in my head.
"Grandpa Alex," I boldly said, as my stomach turned with butterflies. My parents would kill me if they knew what I was doing. I held my hand to his. "Grandfather Cleo and I have determined that I must be related to the Woodrow family. Perhaps, one of Diez's siblings that stayed behind in England eventually made their way to Sicily?"
I laid my hand beside his on the table. Glancing up, I saw the man's eyes gaze over our fingers, as he digested the scene in front of him. A strange gurgling sound came from the back of his throat, and he turned and looked up at me. I smiled and he did the same in return. Another feeling of giddiness raced through my body. I pulled out a chair and sat beside him.
"I have some news," I said, not taking my eyes off his, looking for any sign of recognition. "Francis and I were at the Sherwood College Library, and I accidentally came across a flyer that I think you would be interested in reading."
I slipped the flyer from my pocket and straightened it out on the table. My fingers shook. Oh, Lord how my mother would kill me if she knew what I was doing!
"Can you read the second paragraph?" I pointed to Jasper and Thomas's name. This was a test to see if Grandpa Alex really could read, or if he'd been pretending all these years.
A frown appeared on the man's forehead, as a hint of his tongue darted out to lick his bottom lip. Dear, God, I prayed. Please, let my plan work. I saw his eyes move as they seemed to read the words. Then they paused and grew large at the familiar names.
"Mal-wahn!" Grandpa Alex's voice croaked over the silence of the room. I bolted from my chair.
"Did you just say my name?" I asked in disbelief.
Grandpa Alex stared back, his eyes wide. He kept tapping the paper and croaking what sounded like my name.
“Yes, it’s Jasper’s name,” I said back. “I believe it’s your son!” I pointed toward the word Texas in big letters. “It says Professor Clarence at the Dallas Library was one of the speakers to represent Texas during the conference. I’m going to have Dylan ride the train with me down there so we can talk to him.”
It would be perfect. School started soon, and it would be best to visit the library by the end of this week. I watched Grandpa Alex continue to stare at the paper. His eyes looked to be in a deep train of thought. My gaze turned toward my pocket holding the necklace. Should I do it? It either belonged to Jasper Woodrow, Thomas, or Sybil. There was no one else.
I slipped my hand into my pocket, grasped hold of the silver-plated necklace, and placed it on top of the paper. My great grandpa’s eyes followed my every move. The room grew eerily silent, as he reached out to take the cameo, turning it over in his hand.
“Jasper.” The words seemed to slip out of the man’s mouth like silk.
“I knew it!” I clapped my hands. “The necklace belongs to Jasper Woodrow! He must have dropped it in the garden.”
I was about to twirl around not caring how ridiculous I looked when I turned back. Grandpa Alex stood from the table, the necklace clutched in his hand, his shoulders hunched over. I saw something glimmer in his eye.
“Jasper,” he repeated, taking the necklace, fumbling with the complicated clasp, which surprisingly still worked.
“You want me to put it around your neck?” I asked, walking forward. Grandpa Alex stared at me, and I saw the tears brimming in his eyes, and immediately felt awful. I had no right to show him the necklace.
“Here, it will be alright,” I took the necklace from his trembling hand. “I should have had Grandfather Cleo give it to you -”
“No!” The word echoed across the room, and I stumbled back in alarm.
“Can you understand me?” I asked in astonishment.
He turned to stare, and I saw something in his eyes. A look of determination, and sadness.
“You could talk when I first met you,” I whispered, as I came up behind him to put the necklace around his neck. “What happened?”
Another deep growl came from his throat, and I watched in amazement as Grandpa Alex picked up a pencil from his desk, and tried to write something on a piece of paper. His hand sprawled and spasmed. A sob escaped from his throat, as he threw the pencil to the floor.
“So, you can say certain words?” I gasped. “This is remarkable. I can’t wait to tell-”
“No,” Grandpa Alex once again hissed, cutting me off.
“You don’t want anyone to know you can understand us?” I said, stepping back to face him.
Another deep sigh came from his throat, and he collapsed in his chair, reaching out to fumble with the necklace. I noticed how his hands trembled, and I had a flashback to the first time I met him. How his body spasmed as he cried out in fear. The way he held his head in his hands. It all made sense.
Francis told us many times the signs of a stroke. Grandfather wanted to know the signs, in case he should ever suffer one. That day, many years ago, when Grandpa Alex first caught sight of me and believed me to be Jasper Woodrow, his body couldn’t handle it, and he suffered a stroke. All this time he could understand us, but couldn’t write, or talk, only certain words escaped his mouth. But, that didn’t explain before. He could talk before.
“Grandpa Alex, I’m so sorry.” I reached out, and embraced him in a hug, laying my head on his back. I could feel his body inhaling, and exhaling.
“Mal-wahn,” he whispered again. “Jasper...Mal-wahn.”
“I look like your son?” I asked, a smile creeping over my face. My grandfather always said his brother boasted strawberry blonde hair and big blue eyes. If Grandpa Alex said I looked like Jasper, then in his mind, I looked like Jasper.
“Would you like for me to visit every week, and talk to you in private?”
I pulled my head back and watched my great grandfather raise himself up. He twisted his lips and frowned. I could tell he was trying to talk, but the words wouldn’t form.
“I have an idea.” I nodded my head. “If you can understand me, I want you to touch your left ear.”
A strange laugh escaped his throat. To my astonishment, he raised his hand, and with trembling fingers touched his ear lobe. I wanted to jump for joy. He could understand us. This entire time, he could understand us, but couldn’t communicate to let us know.
“Wonderful.” I reached out, took a hold of his hands, and squeezed them. “Perhaps, there is a book at the college library that can help me teach you to talk again?”
I noticed his head tilted a bit, then he let out a sigh. He let go of my hands and began playing with the pendant. Another deep growl escaped his throat, and he yawned.
“Would you like to take a nap?” I looked over at his bed, and remembered grandfather saying yesterday he was going to St. Paul’s to argue with his father over the letter and journals. It dawned on me that Grandpa Alex could understand everything. It also dawned on me that Grandpa Alex knew where Jasper Suarez was buried. Perhaps, he could somehow communicate with me to let me know where.
Dr. Alexander needed to know the truth.
“Slaahhppp.” My great grandfather spat.
“Of course,” I smiled. “You want to sleep?”
A curt nod of his head told me I guessed correctly. I reached out and helped him from the chair, and we made our way to his bed. He fumbled with the quilt, and sheets, and pulled them back. Removing his robe, he handed it to me, and I draped it over a lounge sofa. To my surprise, he was already dressed in his silk pajamas.
“Tamarrawoo?” he spat, looking at me with determination in his eyes.
I helped Grandpa Alex into his bed and removed his slippers.
“Tomorrow?” I asked. “You want me to come back tomorrow after Dylan and I return from the library?”
A slight laugh escaped my mouth, as he reached up, and once again touched his left ear lobe.
“Of course,” I reached out for another hug. “I will return, and hopefully have good news.”
Grandpa Alex nodded. “Jasper.” Then his eyes traveled to the necklace. “My Jasper.”
“Yes,” I stepped back and crossed my arms behind my back. “I will do everything to bring Jasper home by Christmas.”
A sad look appeared in Grandpa Alex’s eyes, as he let out a tiny sigh, and rolled over facing the windows, throwing a quilt over his head. I turned to leave and saw his brushes and paints laying out on the table. Knowing they would dry up if I didn’t put them away, I started screwing the metal caps on the bottles and turned to the painting Grandpa Alex had been working on. Despite the fact he had difficulties using his right hand, the painting was gorgeous. I spotted the familiar house in the background, the widow’s walk, the rose bushes, and the pecan tree.
“This must have been the garden before it was destroyed.”
The tiny details were remarkable. The different colors used to show where the sun hit the leaves, flowers, and the house was outstanding. I could see the iron chair hidden in the grove of ivy, behind the tree where Theodore had unearthed Jasper Woodrow’s necklace. Upon closer inspection, I noticed three exquisite painted roses sitting on the bench, each a different shade of pink.
“How neat is this?” I laughed and placed all of the paint back in the art case. “I never knew you were an artist?” I asked, knowing fully well the man was asleep. A glance at the clock told me I best hurry and race home to prevent my mother from preparing dinner if Francis was bringing home sandwiches from the drug store. As I was softly closing the door, my gaze swept over the room, and I digested the short talk and revelation I just had. I wonder how many more secrets my great grandfather was keeping.
The Interurban came to a dead stop across from the Carnegie Library. I felt butterflies swarming around in my stomach, as I slowly rose from my plush seat and spread the invisible wrinkles from my summer cashmere coat. Beside me, Dylan let out a small yawn, stood up, and tossed his newspaper down on the vacant seat.
“Why are we at the Dallas Library again,” he complained, as the two of us stepped off the train, and onto the sidewalk.
Ignoring my brother’s complaints, I shoved my hand into my coat pocket and felt the folded piece of paper that I'd stolen from the Sherwood College Library a few days prior.
“If you didn’t want to come with me, you could have stayed at home,” I rolled my eyes at my brother, and pushed open the heavy doors, and walked into the warm hallway.
“Are you crazy,” Dylan hissed as we approached the elevator that would take us to the top floor. “After what happened this summer in Sicily, I’m surprised mother and father didn’t hire armed guards to escort you everywhere you go.”
I felt the butterflies swarming again, as the taste of bile rose to my throat. I tried my best to block out the horrible event that happened to cause our family to return home early. A wonderful summer abroad had turned tragic. I remembered recuperating in the hotel room while father talked in the parlor with officials to get us home as quickly as possible. I awoke that night to grandfather holding my hand. The haggard lines and unshaven face told me the man hadn’t slept properly since the… incident.
“Well, then,” I said, as the elevator doors opened with a chime, and the two of us entered the empty chamber. I pressed the button for the third-floor reference department.
“I guess it’s best to tell you why I need to talk to Dr. Clarence at the Dallas Library Genealogy Department.”
Ignoring the snort escaping my brother’s throat, I removed the folded piece of paper. The elevator let out a tired groan from deep within the walls, as the metal chain pulled the rickety contraption towards its destination.
“I found this in a file cabinet at the Sherwood College Medical Department Library. Francis asked me to help him, and I’m guessing this was stored in the wrong library, or someone accidentally left it there.”
I quietly handed the paper to my brother and stepped back to study the boy’s face for a reaction.
For decades grandfather had tried to find out what happened to his brother. Every expensive, private detective came up with nothing. The entire State of Texas was searched, as well as William Woodrow’s old farm in Kentucky – nothing. The year Jasper, Thomas, and Sybil vanished was also the year that William Woodrow, our grandfather’s tomcat uncle, ceased communication with the family. It was like the four of them never existed - vanished without a trace.
I closed my eyes and remembered grandfather’s soft hand holding mine in the hotel room. How the old man had changed since the first time I met the former ogre on the train station platform eight years ago. After the incident in Sicily, my body was in such a state of shock, that I had no memory of walking back to the hotel. No memory of the doctor undressing me. No memory of taking the pain medication. I remembered fluttering my eyes open and seeing grandfather sitting on the chair beside the bed, holding my hand. The man hadn’t slept all night.
How I wanted to repay my grandfather for his kindness. But, how do you repay someone who saved your life? You can’t. It’s impossible, or so I thought.
It was eventually Francis who led me to the perfect repayment. At the library, I randomly pulled open a file cabinet drawer marked: Lectures - 1907. Absentmindedly flipping through the various documents, I came across a flyer announcing a teaching seminar in Salt Lake City. I was about to pass it up when my eyes scanned a familiar name at the bottom of the paper.
A jolt raced through my body, as my eyes skimmed over the page. I learned that a couple of years ago, there was a nationwide contest for two male teachers from each state to give a lecture in Salt Lake City.
One of the teachers chosen from Texas happened to be Dr. Clarence who would be giving a talk on mastering family research. I remembered my heart beating in my chest, my fingers trembling, and a bead of sweat appearing on my forehead as I read the names of the two teachers who were chosen from California.
I watched my brother’s mouth fall in shock, and his eyes grew large as he read aloud the paragraph at the bottom of the flyer. It could all be a coincidence. I knew all about those. After all, every single one of those fancy Austin detectives that grandfather hired came back empty-handed. That was why I needed to speak to Dr. Clarence about the convention to see if he remembered the two teachers from California.
The elevator came to a sudden halt, causing me to topple forward, reaching out for the handrail mounted on the wall. Unfazed, Dylan repeated the paragraph aloud, as if it would change from the previous time:
“Representing the State of California will be Jasper and Thomas Woodrow of Los Angeles. Two confirmed bachelors, twin brothers who received their bachelor’s degrees from Harvard post Civil War. Both men teach at the Spanish Los Angeles High School, and will be lecturing on their studies of successfully teaching poverty-stricken students to succeed in life.”
“Oh, my gosh, Millen!” Dylan hissed, as we exited the elevator. “Do you think it’s really them?”
I smiled and walked down the hallway. In the distance, I spotted Dr. Clarence’s desk.
“There’s only one way to find out,” I replied, as we walked briskly up to the desk. Dr. Clarence glanced up and placed his fountain pen back in the holder. “How may I help you, gentlemen?” He smiled, revealing a chipped front tooth.
The butterflies in my stomach seemed to fly away at the man’s nice smile. I took the paper from Dylan.
“Dr. Clarence,” I boldly asked, remembering the story of Esther in the Bible. If she can have courage, then so can I. “I was wondering if you can help the two of us?”
“I’ll try,” the man laughed. “How can I be of assistance?”
I nervously handed him the paper. “Do you remember a lecture you attended in 1907?”
Another smile appeared across the man’s face. “My Salt Lake City lecture?”
“Yes,” I gave a slight jump, ignoring the astonished look on Dylan’s face.
“You want to know about my lecture on the importance of documenting family history?” Dr. Clarence leaned forward in his chair.
“Well, yes,” I answered. “But, we’re also interested in two men who were also invited to lecture. You see, we plan on applying to a university in California and one of the essay questions is about your own opinion on helping students who live in poverty succeed. I came across the names of Jasper and Thomas Woodrow on the lecture pamphlet and thought you might be able to help?”
Ignoring the look of bewilderment on my brother’s face, I smiled deeply at Dr. Clarence. Perhaps, I should study journalism in college? I watched Dr. Clarence’s eyes travel across the paper.
“Ah,” he remarked. “The Woodrow brothers! I remember them quite well. Quite a peculiar couple.”
“Really?” I pressed forward, as Dr. Clarence let out a laugh. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dylan inching forward.
“Of course,” the man answered. “One does not easily forget two men like that. They introduced themselves as twin brothers, but they looked different. Both men had gray hair, but one’s complexion was quite darker than the other. Outside the campus, after the lecture I noticed both of them talking in the distance to an elderly couple. The man seemed to be leaning against his carriage, while the woman dressed from head to toe in white lace. I caught her complexion once, as she lowered her parasol, and noticed her be of Spanish descent. That must explain the brother who had a darker complexion. One twin took after the father, and the other the mother.”
A strange noise escaped my mouth, as Dylan whispered the Lord’s name in vain. If the professor noticed, he didn’t say anything.
“The brothers were friendly, extremely well-educated, but not sociable,” Dr. Clarence continued. “They graciously declined the after party of drinks, and slipped into the waiting carriage, with what had to be their parents. I’m guessing they returned to their hotel.”
I closed my eyes, as my body felt it would float. Thomas and Jasper were alive, as well as Sybil! As for the other man, could it be the long-lost William Woodrow? Did he really rescue everyone that night? Did Sybil remarry? Why did Jasper and Thomas stay in California? So many questions. I hoped and prayed they were still living.
“I believe,” a frown appeared on Dr. Clarence’s forehead. “I can easily find the address for the high school the two men were teaching at.”
“You can?” I screeched, causing the professor to laugh.
“Of course, child, this is a library, remember?” He laughed and pushed back his chair. Standing up, he gestured toward me and Dylan. “Come with me.”
“Millen,” my brother hissed in my ear. “I can’t believe this is really happening. How did all those lawyers grandfather hire miss that lecture?”
“Because,” I rolled my eyes, as we followed Dr. Clarence into another room. “I found it in the medical files. Why would they search through those?”
Dylan was about to respond when Dr. Clarence led us to a small wooden shelf.
“Every year, we write to the city halls of every major city, and request a directory.” He replied, pointing to the rows of books. “I get people coming in here all the time looking for an address of their long-lost relative, but never a future college student!”
Dylan stifled a laugh, as Dr. Clarence turned his back to us, and reached for a fat book. “Here it is, a directory for the major cities in California.” He smiled. “Come, let's sit down.”
The butterflies returned again, and my hands began to twitch as Dylan and I sat across from the professor at a table overlooking the window.
“Where’s the index,” he muttered, turning toward the back. “Ah, Los Angeles starts on page 154.”
I could sense Dylan’s nervousness beside me. We were about to do it. We were about to accomplish something none of those expensive lawyers could do.
A few seconds of nerve-wracking silence filled the library. I watched Dr. Clarence’s eyes sweep over the tiny print, as he took the book in his hands. The man must need glasses.
“Found it.” He smiled, as he went to sit the book back down. “What’s this?” He pointed toward the print. “Spanish Los Angeles High School, Principal Jasper Woodrow, and Assistant Thomas Woodrow, Secretary Mr. Moore. Those two men must have received quite a promotion since 1907!”
“Is there an address?” Dylan leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table.
“Of course, child,” Dr. Clarence smiled, as he pulled open a drawer under the table, and removed a piece of paper, and a pencil.
I sat in front of him in stunned silence. What if this was the wrong Jasper Woodrow? What if it was, and the man replied telling me to leave him alone? What if he ignored my letter? What would I tell Grandpa Alex tonight when I visited him?
“Let me see if there is a home address?” Dr. Clarence frowned, as he flipped through the pages, causing my stomach to lurch.
“Well,” he muttered after a few seconds. “All there is in the residences section is a Mr. Woodrow, owner of Woodrow Lumber, definitely not them,” he shut the book closed. “Not everyone wants their home address in the book,” Dr. Clarence laughed and pushed the paper to me. “Or, the two men don’t actually live in Los Angeles.”
I took the paper, and read the address of their high school. Memories of Jasper returning to Sherwood swam through my head. Then I paused. I had to be realistic.
“Thank you, very much,” I said, as I folded the paper, and slipped it in my pocket. “I have another question to ask you if it’s not too much of a hassle?”
“Not at all,” Dr. Clarence smiled, once again showing his chipped tooth. “This is my job, and I enjoy it.”
“Fantastic,” I said, leaning forward. “As you might have guessed, Dylan and I are not biological brothers.”
The professor let out a laugh, while Dylan shot me an annoyed look. I ignored him and continued.
“I’m half Sicilian, and my real mother is Irish,” I continued. “My great grandfather on my dad’s side is an unknown American who visited Sicily during the Civil War. Do you think you can help me find his identity? I know my family tree, but he is the only missing name.”
I leaned back in my chair. Dylan raised an eyebrow and shook his head. I glanced at Dr. Clarence, who bit his lip, and nodded.
“This is going to be quite difficult,” he shook his head. “But, we can always pray, and I’ll guide you with the information about how to find Sicilian travel records.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, as Dr. Clarence stood up for his chair, to find a few genealogy books about Sicily. I turned to Dylan, who smiled.
“This is quite a day for you.” He said. “But, it’s about to get better.”
Intrigued, I pressed on. “How?”
“I have a surprise for you when we get home,” he continued. “Mother told me not to mention it until we were all together tonight at the dinner table. I think you’ll be enthralled.”
“Don’t tell me,” I said. “Jasper and Thomas will be waiting for us at the dining table.”
Dylan snorted. “Hardly, but you’re close. It is a person, and he has news.”
“Oh,” my mind began to race, as Dr. Clarence returned with a few books. I leaned forward, as he began flipping through the pages. It was a good thing I memorized my father’s side of the family, or it would be a waste. Dylan let out a sigh and went off to the privy, and then occupied himself by touring the many exhibits the library had. I know he loathed my father’s side of the family, but it is what it is.
By the time we left and returned to the train station, I had an address for the Spanish Los Angeles High School and an address for the Sicilian Records and Immigration Department in New York City. I couldn’t wait to visit Grandpa Alex before heading home, and seeing my mystery visitor.
Several hours later, I flew into the house from visiting Grandpa Alex. To my surprise, my Uncle Joseph sat in one of the parlor chairs drinking tea.
“It’s about time you got home,” he stood up for a hug. “Dylan’s been home now for over an hour.”
“I missed you,” I pulled back. I buried my face in his shoulder. He was the only person taller than me.
“I missed you as well,” my uncle said. I could see the excitement in his eyes, and I knew he had news.
“Dylan has been keeping me up to date on all the events since I’ve been gone,” he continued.
“Oh?” I asked, turning to Dylan who lounged back on the sofa, a glass of lemonade in his hand. I caught the smirk on his face.
“Congratulations,” my uncle whispered in my ear.
I felt myself turning red. I didn’t know why. Was it such a big deal? At that moment, the kitchen door opened, and Dr. Alexander stepped out.
“Oh, there you are?” He said, nodding in my direction. “I was wondering where you went off too?”
I plopped down beside Dylan. “I went down to see Grandpa Alex,” I casually replied. I had kept my word, nobody knew that the man could understand everyone, but couldn’t communicate.
“Is he well?” Dr. Alexander came into the room and sat beside me. “I went to Crystal Springs Cemetery, but couldn’t find any evidence of my uncle being buried there.”
I look at the doctor, and then down at my hands. I had to keep my word.
“Grandpa Alex is the same.” I nodded. “Hopefully, we will find paperwork stating where your Uncle Jasper is buried in Grandpa Alex's library?” I continued. “We have so many more journals, and papers to go through.”
Dr. Alexander let out a sigh and crossed his legs. “I figured as much.”
I glanced out the windows and saw the remains of Grandpa Alex’s rose bushes. I remember showing the necklace to the man, and how he started crying, saying his son’s name over and over. He couldn’t speak, and he couldn't write. There had to be a way for him to communicate. Perhaps, he could draw a picture of where Jasper Suarez was buried for Dr. Alexander?
I remembered the look of astonishment, and sadness when I showed him the paper with Jasper Woodrow’s address on it. Hopefully, it was really him. Hopefully, the man wrote back and wasn’t mean in his reply. Grandpa Alex reached out and kissed my forehead before I left. We kept one another’s secrets.
“Well, perhaps I can cheer everyone up?” Uncle Joseph announced breaking the silence. I looked up and saw my family, and Ashton entering the room.
“Is it good news?” I asked, remembering the last time news was broken in this room.
“I think you will especially love it.” My uncle leaned back in his chair.
Beside me, Dylan laid his empty glass on the table. “Let me guess, Millen here is really a prince.”
I gave him the side-eye, as we ignored our mother’s look of disapproval.
“Err, not quite.” Uncle Joseph cleared his throat. I couldn’t help but see the look of nervousness in his eyes. “Millen, I’m just going to go out and say it.” He looked me dead in the eyes as if we were the only two people in the room.
“Your father has been released from prison early. He’s currently hiding at a house belonging to a friend of the Tuscano Family. I’ll be leaving tonight to bring him home to Sherwood, and Dr. Alexander will be coming with me.”
I felt my mouth drop, as Theodore swiftly rose to his feet. “Are you serious?” He snapped. The anger and betrayal swam through his eyes, and I knew my brother would never forgive my real father.
“Yes, darling,” our mother took my brother’s hand and gently tugged him back down. “Roberto Tuscano has nowhere to go. He’s dreadfully sick. That is why Dr. Alexander is going with him.”
I turned to my uncle and smiled. Me and him were the only two people in the room to rejoice at the news.
“It is believed your father has scurvy,” he continued. “Years of living in that prison with no fresh fruits, or vegetables has caused his limbs to fail. He was having symptoms a few months before your arrival, but decided not to let it postpone a chance to see you.”
Beside me, Dylan crossed his arms. “The man deserves much worse.” He muttered under his breath.
I ignored my brother and turned back to my uncle who sat in perfect silence to the nasty retort.
“Where’s my father going to live?” I asked, causing my brother to give another snort.
“Why honey, he’s going to live at my house across the street so you can see him any time you wish.” My uncle smiled.
Another silence filled the room. I knew that my brothers, especially Dylan, were trying their best to keep quiet. My parents sat beside grandfather, and Ashton. I could sense my mother’s eyes swoop over the room daring anyone to say anything mean.
It was Francis who saved the day. Sweet, wonderful, Francis.
“Dr. Alexander, who’s going to watch over your practice in the months you’ll be gone?” He asked. “The elderly patients need you the most.”
All eyes were on Dr. Alexander, as he leaned forward in his chair. “I’ve thought long and hard about this,” he said. “I need to travel with Joseph here, but I understand that I have several patients that need my daily assistance, which is why I want you to be my intern, Francis. I know it’s a year early, but I think you’re ready for it.”
“Me.” Francis squeaked “I-I- don’t think…”
Dr. Alexander made a sweeping motion with his hand. “You’ll be fine. Dr. George at the hospital will assist you. But, I believe you’re ready to tend to the patients at St. Paul’s by yourself. It is easy. All you will need to do is a daily check-up. You’ll be working from nine in the morning until one in the afternoon. That will give you plenty of time for your schoolwork. If there is a major emergency, Dr. George will take charge.”
I felt myself clasping my hands together, while mother wrapped her arm around Francis’s shoulder. Theodore still reclined back against the sofa, obviously still upset that my father would be coming home in a few months.
“Well, when do I start?” Francis asked as it dawned on him that he would be taking on an extremely important task.
Dr. Alexander stood from the sofa. “Tomorrow at nine in the morning. Dr. George will meet you at St. Paul’s.”
Francis’s eyes shot up. “So, soon?” He squeaked.
Dr. Alexander tilted his head. “Best, get to bed early.”
I watched my mother reach out to hug my brother. “You’ll do fine, love.” She whispered.
I caught grandfather’s eye, as we stood up. I could tell the man wasn’t too thrilled my father would be coming home, but my uncle’s mind was made up.
“Millen, I found some of Jasper’s old clothing in the attic today.” He called, as the family headed their separate ways.
“You did?” I said as he pulled me aside.
“Yes.” Grandfather nodded. “They were all folded up in a trunk in the corner. I pulled out his old night clothing, a few pairs of moth-eaten trousers, a winter coat that had been severely damaged by time, but at the very bottom lay my brother’s old wool jacket. I gave it to your mother, and she believes she can repair the minor imperfections, but besides that, I think it will fit you if you want it?”
“But, you’ve given me so much of his already.” I tried to protest.
“Do you want it?” My grandfather asked again, with a twinkle in his eye. “I remembered my brother’s last birthday before he vanished, and how our father hired a professional tailor to sew the jacket. A war was raging in the south, money was tight all over, but my father paid almost twenty dollars for a wool jacket, with a silk lining for his favorite son. Thankfully, the moths decided not to feast upon it.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Of course, I wanted it. I reached in my pocket and felt the paper with Jasper’s address on it. Only Grandpa Alex and Dylan knew. A part of me wished to tell grandfather, but I’d hate to get his hopes up. What if it wasn’t our Jasper? What if Jasper responded in fury? What if…?
I was about to respond when I heard my mother’s shriek coming from the attic stairs. The kitchen door flew open, and father came racing out followed by Dr. Alexander and my uncle.
“Catrina, what happened?” My father yelled as he opened the door that led to the attic stairs. I heard footsteps pounding down the wooden steps, as my mother slipped past my father and into the room.
“You’ll never guess what I just found?” She bounced into the room, the highlights in her red hair lightening up under the lamps. “I remember spotting something peculiar inside that old stove yesterday the first time we were in the attic. It looked as if someone had tried to burn something. It was Millen here,” she pointed to me, “Who reminded me to go back up and look.”
I stared back in pure confusion, as did everyone else. We watched my mother reach into her pocket, and produce the item she had gone back up to rescue. It looked like a tin box.
“The door to the oven was wide open, and yesterday as I was holding my lamp up, I noticed it.” She continued. “Grandpa Alex, or someone, stuck this object into the stove fully planning on burning it, but never did.”
“Well, what is it?” Grandfather stepped forward and placed his hands on his hips.
“It’s an old tintype photograph.” Mother handed the tin box to grandfather, and I realized it wasn’t made from tin at all. It was a framed daguerreotype!
“I remember you telling us only one photograph existed of the family,” mother continued. “Grandpa Alex must have tried to burn it, but at the last minute forgot.”
“The Civil War photograph,” Theodore whispered, as we all gathered around grandfather. The man trembled slightly as he unclasped the lock, and opened the gold plated frame. A remarkably preserved photograph of four people stared back: three men and one woman.
“Jasper,” my grandfather whispered, as he reached out, and touched the face of the boy standing behind the man sitting on the couch. He pulled back his finger, and I stared into the face of a man with light hair. A strange sensation swept over my body, as I felt my brothers turn to stare at me.
“Oh, my goodness.” I heard my uncle whisper, and I was elated he hadn’t left yet for the train station.
The aristocratic facial features, the tilt of his head, his slender nose, how the man seemed to tower over everyone! Jasper Woodrow, my grandfather's long-lost brother, was a splitting resemblance of my Uncle Joseph, without the dark hair and long eyelashes.
“Do you think Jasper Woodrow is the unknown American man in your family tree?” Dylan plopped down on his bed later that night after dinner.
I silently ignored him and concentrated on the rough draft of the letter I planned to mail to Jasper Woodrow in California.
“Grandfather said there is no way his brother could have traveled to Sicily,” I said. “Also, my uncle informed us the unknown American man was in his late twenties or early thirties.”
“I know,” Dylan sighed. “But, my gosh, Millen! Jasper looks just like you and your uncle! It’s like the two of you have an American triplet!”
I gazed down at my fingers and spotted the mole on my thumb. What my brothers didn’t know is that Jasper Woodrow looked more like my father than my uncle. Closing my eyes, I remember seeing my father for the last time before I left the prison cell. His gray hair, brown eyes, and pale skin. Despite the filthy surroundings, he still stood like royalty, just like Jasper in the photo. Grandfather had taken the old photo to the portrait studio downtown to have it professionally cleaned, and several copies made. I wanted my own copy so I could show my father when he returned by Christmas.
“The unknown American is probably one of Grandpa Alex’s uncles who stayed behind in England.” I continued. “One of them made their way to Sicily.”
“I suppose.” Dylan let out a sigh, and I felt him inch over to me. “Can I read your letter?” Before I could answer, he took the paper and began to read aloud.
My name is Millen Roberto O’Connor-Mueller, and I am the adopted grandson of Mr. Cleo Diez Woodrow of Sherwood, Texas. My grandfather’s only daughter, Catrina Woodrow Mueller, and her husband adopted me and my brothers from The Orphan Train roughly six years ago.
I am writing to you today because I am trying to find my grandfather’s missing brother, Jasper Woodrow. My grandfather has been tirelessly searching for his brother for over fifty years. I found a paper in the Sherwood College Library about a lecture in Salt Lake City with your name on it. I tracked down your school’s address from a directory at the Dallas Carnegie Library.
I do wish to apologize if I have the wrong person. When I read your name on the paper my heart almost stopped. I have not said anything to my grandfather about writing to you for it would deeply sadden him if I have the wrong person. I do understand if I have the correct person and you don’t wish to be reunited with your brother, or father. Mr. Alex Woodrow has been a resident at St. Paul’s Hospital in Sherwood for almost ten years due to a fall down his basement steps. He suffered a stroke and hasn’t regained his voice.
If you do wish to communicate with me, I look forward to your reply. I only wish that you send me a letter without your name on the back for privacy. If you don’t wish to respond, I will know in time. I ask that you just not send a letter back.
I took the letter back from Dylan.
“Well, what do you think?” I asked as I fell back onto the mound of pillows. “Is it professional enough?”
“Perfectly, flawless,” Dylan replied.
“That makes absolutely no sense.” I laughed, as I took a crisp piece of paper, and fountain pen off my bedside table. I reached for my writing tablet that had been pushed to the edge of the bed.
“Are you going to let me know if he responds?” Dylan asked, as he kicked off his slippers, and pulled back the bedcovers.
“Of course,” I muttered, as I started to copy the letter in my best cursive.
A slight snort came from Dylan’s direction, as he reached over to turn the oil lamp off on his bedside table. A few short minutes later, I hopped off the bed, and removed an envelope from my desk drawer, and slipped the folded letter inside. Nerves returned to my stomach. I hoped Jasper wanted to communicate. But, if he missed his brother so much, how come he never returned after all these decades?
I dropped the letter on the bedside table beside our car keys, and let out a small prayer. Dylan had long fallen asleep. I crawled back in bed and reached for his hand. Moonlight streamed through a sliver in the linen curtains, and I remembered the night oh so many years ago. Our first night in this room. Francis and Theodore passed out on the bed which was now Dylan’s. Look how far this family has come. It would be a shame if Jasper never responded.
The weeks passed, and no response. Every day, I raced to the mailbox after school, and found only store advertisements, bills addressed to my father, women’s rights newsletters addressed to my mother, and the occasional letter from Ashton. My uncle and Dr. Alexander had reached New York and sent a telegram before boarding a ship to Sicily. Nothing marked “California.” The letter would have reached him by now.
I spent my days after school reading through my book list, working a part-time job on Friday and Saturday afternoons, or visiting Grandpa Alex. Every time I opened the door to his suite, his eyes lit up like fireworks, then dimmed in sadness when I told him no letter from Jasper. I informed him of the attic. Every piece of furniture had been removed and placed in Sybil’s old cottage for storage. We scrubbed down the walls, replaced the floor, and balcony doors. After a fresh paint job, the furniture was repaired, cleaned, and moved back. The heavenly smell of bleach and crisp linens filled the once sealed-up room. The bed had been repaired, and a new mattress was purchased. The attic room had been remodeled to look exactly like Jasper’s old room. I prayed as I helped clean the room that he would return to see it. The empty mailbox was a constant reminder that Jasper might not respond, and I was beginning to take it out on my family, especially Dylan.
“Millen, your boss at Warden’s Department Store, came and saw me today at the floral shop,” Father announced one night at the dinner table.
“Oh?” I asked as I shoved a spoonful of mashed potatoes in my mouth.
“He says you’ve been distant lately, and late for work.” Father continued. “If your schoolwork is slipping because of your job, perhaps you should stop until you graduate? I’d hate for you to lose your Valedictorian status.”
I swallowed my food. “I’m fine, just busy,” I responded.
I heard a snort coming from Dylan. I shot him an annoyed glance and continued eating.
“Are you quite sure?” Father pressed on. “Millen, you’ve worked so hard on this, and I hate for anything to happen.”
I nodded and reached for a glass of water.
“I believe he will do better,” Dylan answered for me. I fought back to urge to snap back, instead, I reached under the table, and pinched him on the leg.
I ignored the bristling sound coming from his lips and continued eating. I wish I could tell my father the truth. Every day when I was greeted with an empty mailbox, I wanted to crawl up and die. I would give Jasper until the end of the year, and if I hadn’t received a reply, I would understand. The man was purposely ignoring me. What went on in that attic? Only two people knew the truth that caused Grandpa Alex to beat his son with a horsewhip. Unfortunately, Grandpa Alex couldn’t speak, and Jasper was still carrying a grudge.
Across the table, I could sense Theodore knew something to be wrong. I felt his eyes on me as we ate for a few more seconds in silence. I knew if I told him about the letter, he’d tell everyone, and I couldn’t get grandfather’s hopes up. I knew if Jasper refused to respond, grandfather would hop on a train bound for California, and personally walk right into the Spanish Los Angeles high, and confront his brother.
“Boys,” My mother announced, breaking the silence. We all turned to her. “Your grandfather called me up before dinner and told me he’s made peace with Roberto Tuscano coming to live here. The man will receive the best care, and hopefully, he will greatly improve.”
Theodore let out a snort. “I still remember the night of Millen’s conception, and his birth ten months later.”
Mother slammed down her fork. “Theodore, really!” Her eyes are wide.
I glanced down at my plate and pretended to eat.
“I’ve forgiven him,” I whispered remembering the letter in my bedroom. My father’s response to my mama on why he did what he did. My momma died from tuberculosis before the letter arrived.
Theodore stood from his chair. “Well, I haven’t. I also know for a fact your brothers haven’t either.”
I watched mother start to stand, but father gently raised his hand. Mother sat back down in a huff, as Theodore walked from the room.
“Boys,” father sighed. “Millen’s opinion is the only one that matters. You know that right?”
I could see Francis and Dylan nodding while fighting back retorts.
“Good.” He continued. “You know I haven’t forgiven my father for the way he ignored me.”
We all looked up in disbelief. Our father never talked about his parents or his other siblings. He seemed to sense our astonishment because he let out a soft laugh.
“The moment Catrina and I announced our engagement, my father, or as I used to call him, Papa stopped talking to me.” He continued. “I still had to live at home in that dilapidated two-bedroom shack until the day before my wedding. I continued to sleep in the same bed as my brothers, but my father never spoke to me. Every morning I arose at dawn, ate breakfast that I had to prepare myself, and worked in the fields. He hasn’t spoken to me since that day.”
“The day of your wedding?” Francis asked, confused.
I watched my father finish his steak. He placed the fork down on his empty plate.
“He hasn’t spoken to me since the day of the wedding announcement.” Father let out a sigh. “The day of the announcement, your grandfather rode up to the driveway of my papa’s house and refused to get out of the carriage. I walked down the dirt pathway myself, carrying nothing with me as his rule. I was headed toward Dr. Alexander’s office for surgery. Before that, we stopped at your grandfather’s favorite barber, and then to a department store. I spent the following week recovering from a very private surgery in the hospital before heading back to my papa’s house. I stayed there for a week, being ignored, and then your grandfather’s carriage arrived, picking up me and my brother Oscar. I haven’t spoken to my papa, or my older brothers since. The man and my brothers have selfishly missed out on so much in my life. You know what happened to Oscar.”
“He adopted Ashton.” I laughed. “I love Uncle Oscar!”
“As we all do.” Mother smiled, interrupting our father. “But, '' she continued, “As I was going to mention before Theodore burst from the room, your grandfather wishes to speak to Millen and Dylan in private tonight after dinner. Something to do with a diary he found that belonged to Jasper. He wants the two of you to have it.”
“Is it something personal?” Dylan asked.
I watched my mother's shoulder rotate under her linen dress.
“He didn’t say.” She picked up her fork and paused. “All he said was that he came across a journal, and after reading the contents, he believed it should belong to you two, and not him.”
“I think the journals should be together, so they won’t be lost forever.” Francis piped up from across the table.
“I agree,” Dylan responded, as we turned toward one another.
“Well,” I stood up, and gently pushed my chair against the table. “One day I will make certain they will all be together.”
Dylan stood up, as well as Francis.
“I need to go to bed,” Francis announced. “I have another appointment at St. Paul’s tomorrow morning. I’m not used to going to bed so early. It’s still light out.”
We walked into the parlor and noticed the sun from the west windows to be slowly sinking.
“Don’t tell our parents.” He laughed, as he grasped his hand onto the banister, and took two steps up the stairs. “I have some gin and swallow a few sips before bed. It helps me relax and fall asleep.”
Dylan placed his hands on his hips. “Who sold you gin without telling our parents?” He called out.
We watched Francis pause halfway up the stairs, he turned, and mouthed the words “Our grandfather,” before scampering up the steps, and down the hallway.
Dylan and I burst out laughing, as we raced from the house, and headed toward our car.
We drove the short distance to our grandfather’s house and parked in front of the hitching post. I turned and saw the old stump where the once impressive garden once stood. The ivy had been hacked again since we did the task with Ashton a few weeks ago.
“Boys,” the front door opened, and grandfather gestured toward us. “Come in! Come in! I have tea ready.”
Dylan and I looked at one another in excitement. I opened my door and slammed it behind me. We raced up the front steps, and I threw my arms around my grandfather for a hug.
“Come in you two.” He said. “Let’s go into the library. Your two uncles are in their rooms studying.”
I followed grandfather into his library and noticed how neat and tidy everything looked. On Grandpa Alex’s desk sat a tea service, and one of Jasper’s diaries. I busied myself pouring a cup of tea for me, and Dylan, while grandfather pulled open the desk drawer.
“I want to tell you two things.” I watched my grandfather remove the old photo of his parents and brother. “Millen, it seems I haven’t been truthful to you all these years.”
Our grandfather must have noticed the stunned look on me and Dylan’s face, for he let out a laugh.
“It’s nothing too bizarre.” He sat down at his desk chair, while Dylan and I sat in chairs beside him.
“It’s just that.” He continued. “Millen ever since you came back to Sherwood from Ireland almost two years ago, I noticed how much you resembled my brother, and it’s startled me.”
I took a sip of my tea and swallowed. “You never mentioned that.” A frown appeared on my forehead. “How many times have we seen one another since then?” I joked.
A soft laugh escaped grandfather’s mouth, while an annoyed one escaped Dylan’s.
“Oh, dear,” he took a sip of his own tea and swallowed. “But, I have. Do you remember that day I sat in your parent’s parlor while awaiting your return? I hadn’t seen you in almost a year. You were but a mere child when I left for Virginia, and suddenly here comes this incredibly tall, young adult racing toward me. I glanced up and almost passed out. I saw my brother in your features.”
Grandfather paused again, while we soaked up what he’d just said. “I was surprised by how much you’d grown, but I was flabbergasted with how much you resembled my brother.”
My mind raced back to that day. I remembered grandfather placing his hands to his mouth. He whispered the words “You sound just like. You look like..”
“I remember.” I leaned forward. “You also said that there was no way Jasper could be the unknown American in my family tree.”
Grandfather reached out, and took the diary, handing it to me. “That I did, but let’s change the subject for a moment.”
I took the book from him, while Dylan inched forward beside me.
“I was reading through my brother’s journals and came across this one,” Grandfather continued. “It's quite different from the others. The date is roughly three years before he left. I began to read it and quickly realized why my brother was keeping two journals at the same time. One journal was for his regular daily writing, and the other was to record a romantic relationship.”
A gasp escaped my mouth, as Dylan and I turned toward one another. Were our speculations correct about Jasper? Grandfather believed his brother to be “just like me.” I remembered the conversation I had with him at his hotel suite in Dallas after being falsely accused of being a thief. Jasper and Thomas were in a relationship, and they took it with them to California.
“Turn to the first page, and read the entire entry aloud.” Grandfather sighed, while he reached for his handkerchief. “I’ve read it to myself several times, and I can get through it now without fainting.”
“Oh, my.” I found myself whispering, as I turned the cover open to reveal Jasper’s gorgeous handwriting. A lump rose in my throat.
“I am in love,” I began reading, as my fingers shook. “Madly, compassionately, beautifully, in love with a person, my father would kill if he knew. Last night, my deepest, darkest desires came true. A desire I’d been fantasizing about for weeks. A desire so scandalized it would make the devil himself blush. A desire I’m still having trouble comprehending. Am I immoral? Am I perfect? Will God forgive us? Did I do anything wrong? Last night, I allowed Thomas in my bed.”
I paused and felt Dylan’s breath as he peered over my shoulder.
“Grandfather, should I continue?” I asked.
I watched my grandfather reach up, and pat his forehead with the handkerchief.
“Go ahead, and finish.” He said. “This entry isn’t as graphic as the others. I - I had to stop reading midway through the journal.”
I glanced back down at the journal. “Your instincts were correct,” I replied. “We’ve found two key pieces about Jasper’s disappearance.”
“Yes, but we still don’t know where he is.” Grandfather continued.
I caught Dylan staring. Lifting my eyes, I met his. He gave a small smile. Both of us wanted to tell our grandfather about the lecture announcement, the directory at the Dallas Library, and the letter we wrote, but we couldn’t. Jasper hadn’t responded to my letter, and we couldn’t get our grandfather’s hopes up.
I closed my eyes, let out a sigh, and reopened them. It was time to learn about the man I hoped would respond to the letter I wrote him. The man who my grandfather has been blaming himself for the disappearance.
“The evening started out like any other.” I continued to read. “Thomas came into my room a bit after sundown. I sat on my bed, while he busied himself adding to the fire in the fireplace, preparing hot water, and laying out my bed clothing. I was sixteen now and told my father I could dress myself. The man responded with “It’s a servant’s duty to dress his betters.” I rolled my eyes behind his back.
I sat on my bed and tried not to stare. Thomas came into the room in silence. Usually, he greeted me, but tonight kept silent. Something was on his mind, and it took me a moment to realize it.
“Happy sixteenth birthday. I hope you had a good day yesterday.” I called out. “I’ve been so busy today, and yesterday, that I forgot. Thomas, please forgive me. We used to have so much fun on our shared birthdays, but my father has…”
I stopped talking and watched Thomas pour a cup of tea for me, his lips curled up.
“I spent my sixteenth birthday serving Jasper, and his friends on his sixteenth birthday.” He spat, his eyes seemed to enlarge with disgust. “Then, I talked to my Madre in private for an hour before returning back upstairs to help Jasper to bed. As usual, he didn’t say much. He must have been tipsy on all that strawberry wine I watched him, and his friends consume.”
I looked at him in silence. How could I have been so foolish as to forget? We were born on the same day, and poor Thomas never knew who his real father was. My father said it had to be some servant from another household who took advantage of Sybil. He didn’t care.
“I am so terribly sorry--” I began, but was abruptly interrupted.
“You want your tea?” He spat, as he stalked over to the bed. “Look at you, turning into your father.” He continued, as I slunk back into the pillows. “Your entire horrible family..” Jasper stopped talking and dropped his eyes. It had dawned on him that I could easily tell my father, and he’d be severely punished for yelling at me and disrespecting my family.
“Just hand me the damn tea.” I snapped. “Then go lay down on your bed in the closet. I apologize for forgetting your birthday.”
I cringed and pressed my hand to my mouth. I’d never spoken to Thomas in such a snobby way. His eyes grew wild, and he took my teacup and smashed it on the fireplace mantel. He opened his mouth and began hissing at me in his native Spanish. I can only guess the cruel words he was spitting, and I deserved it all. Grasping my quilt, I pulled it up to my chest, as drops of tears fell from my eyes.
“On our shared birthday.” he continued in English, “While you were upstairs sleeping off all the wine you consumed, my Madre pulled me into the kitchen and told me who my real father is.” Thomas spat, as I continued to cry, I honestly believed he was going to hit me.
“Do you want to know who my father is, Jasper?” He taunted. “Your tomcat uncle William Woodrow is my father. He raped my mother the last time he was in this house before leaving on another European vacation. You,” He pointed at me, “Are my first cousin, your horrible father is my uncle, and the horrible man knows I’m his nephew. He purposely keeps me and Sybil as indentured servants because he loathes his brother so much because of some stupid argument they had when they were sixteen, and eighteen!”
“By now, I was sobbing and not trying to hide it. I was sobbing for two reasons, the truth of Thomas’s father, and the other evil thought I’d been keeping a secret in my head. Thomas must have sensed it as well, for he looked at me.”
I stopped reading Jasper’s journal and turned to my grandfather.
“Holy monkeys,” Dylan whispered.
I frowned at his unusual remark, as my brain tried to comprehend what I’d read. Thomas and Jasper were first cousins. That would mean Thomas is rightfully an heir to the Woodrow fortune. But, they were a couple. It wasn’t unusual for two first cousins to marry. There were several in Sherwood, but this was different.
The three of us sat in silence for a few moments listening to the hands of the clock clicking the seconds away.
“Boys,” our grandfather said, “I think the two of you should have this journal. It’s filled with…” He paused, and I could see his face turning pink with embarrassment.
“Extremely well-written private encounters,” Dylan answered, as he cautiously flipped through the pages. I couldn’t help but notice the way his eyebrows seemed to raise in disbelief over what he was reading. I glanced back down, and read aloud.
“It had been a long day, and Thomas and I lay together in my bed, a bowl of strawberries in between us. My father had forced Thomas to spend an hour in the hot sun picking them. They were supposed to be for me, and Cleo. Thomas gave my brother his share and took the rest up to my room. We spent the afternoon feeding one another, while I helped him with his spelling. Thomas was making good progress in learning how to spell the English language.” I paused and stopped reading, too much in shock to read the remainder of the journal entry aloud.
“I remember that day.” A smile appeared on grandfather’s face. After lunch, Thomas presented me with a bowl of strawberries and cream for a snack in my room. I had no clue he was…” Grandfather paused again and shook his head. “None of us knew. Those two sneaky…”
I closed the journal. “Well, they had to be,” I said. “Grandpa Alex would have killed Thomas, and made Jasper watch.”
“That he would.” Grandfather replied with a nod of his head. “I want the two of you to know you don’t have to be sneaky around the family.”
Dylan waved his hand as if to dismiss grandfather. “Oh, we aren’t.”
I felt myself blush and then laid my head on my grandfather’s shoulder.
“I’m so thankful to have such Liberal children, and grandchildren,” He said, as I felt him patting my arm. “Such a different atmosphere from how I grew up in this very house.”
“Do you think that’s why Grandpa Alex beat Jasper in the attic?” Dylan piped up. I raised my head and noticed he’d been reading the journal.
“I wonder how my father found out?” Grandfather asked.
Dylan pushed his chair closer and laid the journal on the desk so we could all look. “Listen to this.” He pointed to the last journal entry. “Have you read this yet?”
I turned to grandfather, who gave a short shake of his head. “Remember, I stopped reading almost halfway through.”
Dylan gave a short laugh. “Well, this isn’t graphic.”
I pulled myself away from my grandfather and focused my attention back on Dylan. He seemed overly excited.
“Thomas and I have concocted a plan to run away with Sybil to San Antonio,” Dylan read, his eyes sweeping over the journal. “My father has given me Thomas’s indentured servant contract to do as a please as an eighteenth birthday present. I plan on releasing the contract, but Sybil’s contract is still in my father’s hands. He will never release her, and Thomas will never leave his mother. I’m starting to believe this is more of a slave contract than an indentured servant. Sybil was given to my mother on the day of her marriage to my father. A typical indentured servant contract lasts five years, therefore my father has been illegally holding Sybil and Thomas hostage.”
Beside me, grandfather let out a sigh. “I’m not surprised by any of this. Keeping two servants illegally as slaves in his house.”
Thoughts of me and my brothers when we were first brought to Sherwood entered my head. Grandfather was planning on doing the same thing to us, that his own father did to Thomas and Sybil. Grandfather must have been thinking the same thing, for he tapped the journal.
“Dylan, please, continue reading.” He whispered.
“Of course.” He inched forward. “My father is a terrible person for what he’s doing to Thomas and Sybil," he continued. "Their contract should have ended years ago. Was Thomas even mentioned on the contract? If Sybil was to have a child, was that child supposed to be an indentured servant as well? Who signed the contract? It is my belief Sybil came from the Island of Galapagos. Did she know English when she came to Texas? Was she taken from her family? Thomas doesn’t talk much about the subject, and I don’t encourage him either. Sybil needs to go back to her family. Therefore I’m taking Thomas and Sybil to San Antonio, and staying until Cleo turns eighteen and can legally leave our father. I will send for him, and the four of us, if he chooses to come, will return to Galapagos.
“I have the jade ring father purchased for me at the store. We can pawn it for its worth. I have three train tickets for Dallas. I disguised myself and purchased them. Nobody recognized me. Tonight is the night. I have my new journal with a fake entry for Cleo to find in the morning when everyone discovers we are missing. Hopefully, he understands the clues. I plan on taking this journal with me. I will meet Thomas in the barn shortly. In the parlor, I can hear my father arguing with Uncle William. Wait, I must…”
Dylan turned the page and was met with several blank pages.
“That must have been when Jasper and I overheard our father arguing with his brother, and we raced from our rooms onto the top of the stairs,” Grandfather said with a sigh. He raised his eyes heavenward. “Galapagos,” he whispered. “I will hire a new detective to search the islands. Perhaps they made it?”
I turned toward Dylan, who bit his lip. They didn’t make it to Galapagos. They went to California instead. Thomas and Jasper went to college, and Thomas wrote Grandpa Alex a letter boasting of his success.
“I don’t believe they made it to the island,” I said to my grandfather. “Remember the college letter Thomas wrote to…”
“They might have gone afterward.” Grandfather stood from his chair and walked toward his filing cabinet. “That one lawyer who used to work for President Roosevelt made the most progress, I’ll send him a letter in the morning. I bet he can find more information on Sybil’s family.”
"We have to find that missing journal," Dylan complained. "But, we've looked everywhere."
“My father probably burnt it,” Grandfather said as he removed a file from the cabinet, and closed the door. “But, it doesn’t matter. This journal, the one Jasper was supposed to take with him if my father hadn't locked him in the attic, is all I need. Thomas and Jasper are probably in Galapagos with Sybil. It would be a perfect place for them to hide. They probably graduated college, and have been living there ever since.”
I recoiled as I felt Dylan pinching me on the arm. I turned to see him scowling at me. I looked back in puzzlement.
“Well,” he stood from the chair. “It’s time for Millen and me to head home. We have school tomorrow, and Millen has to keep his grades in outstanding order.”
I glared at Dylan, took Jasper’s journal, and stood up to hug our grandfather.
“Thanks for the journal,” I whispered in his ear. “I understand why you gave it to us.”
Another faint blush appeared on his face. “Goodnight.” He replied. “Get plenty of sleep, and don’t do anything foolish.”
Pondering on grandfather’s advice, I hopped in the car moments later, while Dylan drove us home. A steady rain had fallen, and he carefully drove through the streets so we wouldn’t become stuck in the muck. I glanced at the journal and its secrets. Dylan and I had never had any sexual relations, it was as if he were scared to. I wasn’t scared, but it made me wonder if Theodore was correct. Was Dylan only agreeing to this relationship to take care of me because he knew I couldn’t take care of myself after the incident in Sicily? Did grandfather realize this, and that is why he gifted us the journal. I started to say something when Dylan raced over the railroad tracks and gave a sharp turn onto the street where we lived.
“Millen.” He said never taking his eyes off the road. “Both you and I know that grandfather hiring that lawyer is a waste of money. I think we should tell him what we know about Jasper and Thomas.”
The car hit a small puddle of water, and I watched Dylan grasp onto the steering wheel as he expertly took hold so the car wouldn’t slide. I let out a sigh. I imagined grandfather taking a train ride to Los Angeles, and walking into the Spanish high school as he owned it. I could see him sauntering into Jasper’s office, the two of them arguing. Jasper blamed grandfather for betraying him to their father that night decades ago. Grandfather returning home furious at me and Jasper. No, I couldn’t do it.
“I think we should wait until the end of the year,” I said, my voice calm. “Perhaps, this lawyer can find something about Sybil’s family? She probably left Galapagos, signed a five-year indentured servant contract with our family, and when she had Thomas out of wedlock, Grandpa Alex decided to keep her and Thomas permanently.”
Dylan sighed and pulled the car up the side of the road behind our house, and into the carriage house. Our parent’s horses gave little tosses of their heads from the stalls, as Dylan turned the car around, and parked it back into the little garage a safe distance from the animals.
“I understand what you’re saying,” Dylan said as he slipped the keys from the engine. “I don’t want our grandfather to go the remainder of his life never knowing what happened to his brother.”
I pushed open the door. “Please, let’s wait. Maybe Jasper is busy with the school year and hasn’t had an opportunity to respond? Or, he did respond and his letter was on a train that is currently stalled?”
“Ok,” Dylan agreed. “Come the day after New Year’s party if we haven’t heard from Jasper we tell grandfather.”
“Agreed.” I nodded, as we shook hands on our promise in the barn. I tucked Jasper’s journal under my sweater, as we raced from the carriage house to the back porch. Overhead, the rain had returned, as was coming down hard.
An hour later, I lay in bed reading Jasper’s journal while Dylan took a bath. The extreme graphic wording of some of the entries had me quickly slamming the book shut, taking a deep breath, and gathering up my strength to start up again. Another question that nagged at my brain. The two of them taught themselves how to do these things, and they obviously enjoyed it. The only thing Dylan has ever done to me was kiss me goodnight. I hoped Theodore wasn’t right, and Dylan was only choosing to be with me. I had to find out. I shut the journal and placed it on my bedside table as Dylan opened the bathroom door, wearing his pajamas while drying his hair with a towel.
“We have swim practice tomorrow.” He tossed the damp towel on a chair and walked over to the bed.
I frowned and buried myself under the blanket. I felt Dylan’s weight on the bed, as he pulled the blanket back.
“Goodnight.” He kissed me on top of my head, and turned over, grasping my hand. Thoughts of him not really being in love with me swam through my head.
“Dylan?” I called out after a few seconds.
“Yeah,” he answered back.
“Do you really love me?” I asked and then closed my eyes as a thunderstorm erupted outside. I heard the rain splashing on the windows, as lightning flashed into the room.
The sheets rustled as he turned over. “What makes you think I don’t love you?” He asked. Despite the darkness of the room, I could see the annoyance on his face. Wonderful, now I’ve upset him.
“It’s just that--” I paused. “I have been having bad thoughts that you’re only with me because of what happened in Sicily.”
“I see.” Dylan’s voice came out unusually cold, and immediately I regretted everything.
“I do love you,” he said. “After what happened in Sicily I knew I wanted to be with you for as long as we shall live in this world, and for eternity. Despite what the fire and brimstone preachers yell about, I don’t believe one bit God will send us to hell. Grandfather stopped going to that one church in town because the preacher would rant about the sins of sodomy. Grandfather learned that man had an affair with his servant, and she birthed three of his children.”
“Grandfather loathes hypocrites because he used to be one.” I laughed.
“Yes,” Dylan sighed, and picked up my hand. “Does this have something to do with Jasper’s journal and how I’ve never asked you to…”
I turned my head in the pillows forgetting Dylan couldn’t see my face turning red in the dark. His laughter told me he’d figured it out. I felt his fingers on my forehead.
“Millen,” he whispered. I grunted in response which brought another chuckle from him. “I’m not afraid of what I must do when the time is right,” he continued. “I just think it is too soon from everything you went through in Sicily.”
“Everything I went through!” I felt myself screeching at him. We froze for a second hoping Theodore didn’t hear from his adjoining room. When we didn’t see the light come on from under his door, Dylan continued.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” He grasped my hands. “I’m still learning this. Father taught us all about this years ago, but he never expected the two of us to be together. We were taught how to be with a wife. He’s confused about what to say. I think that’s why grandfather gave us Jasper’s journal.”
“It is quite… graphic,” I said. “The night of their first time together Jasper writes in full detail of everything that happened before, during, and in the morning after.”
“Goodness,” Dylan sighed.
“But, that’s a good thing.” I pressured him. “At least we know what to expect.”
“That is true,” Dylan said, as he reached over to kiss me again. “Are you done with this foolishness that I don’t love you?”
“I suppose so,” I said. I felt bad. Damn Theodore for getting those thoughts in my head.
“Good, now let’s go to bed.” Dylan continued. “Give me your hand. Even though we just had our first quarrel, I still want to let you know I love you.”
I took his hand. Dylan turned over, and I laid my head on his shoulder.
The following day after school, I stopped by St. Paul’s Hospital to see Grandpa Alex, while Dylan took the car to grandfather’s house. I put my bookbag on the table and pulled out Jasper’s journal.
“Look,” I held it out to him. “Look what grandfather found. It’s one of Jasper’s journals.”
I handed the journal over, while Grandpa Alex inched his chair forward to grasp a hold of it. His eyes seemed to enlarge as they traveled over the book.
“Did you buy the journal for him at the general store?” I asked.
The man nodded, while he opened the first page. I noticed his eyes skimming over the pages. To my surprise, he gave a grunt, slammed the book shut, and tossed it on the table.
“Be careful.” I took the book. “The pages are fragile.”
“Jasper!” He said loudly, as he brought his arm up and hit the table with a fist.
“What about Jasper?” I asked. “Did you read this journal after he left?”
“Bah.” He responded, and hit the surface of the table several times.