Tuesday, February 07, 2006

IV

Kathryn set the heavy backpack on the train seat. She had packed it full of the items she thought she might need, among them her mother’s Bruce Family notebook, her own notebook with quick notes about the stories her father had told her, and her laptop. She wanted to pull out the laptop and read all of her files that she had made regarding Abigail’s life, but she forced herself to relax. She was much more anxious about this trip to Edinburgh than she thought she would be. The excitement started Friday morning after the phone call to Ian’s friend, Beatrix.


“May I speak to Beatrix, please?”

“I’m Beatrix. How can I help you?”

“My name is Kathryn Bruce. Ian . . .” Kathryn got no further.

“Oh, yeah, Ian called me yesterday. This is great. I’ve got to go through all the papers to catalog them, index them so others can find what they want. I’m starting on Monday. Can you come then?” Kathryn thought the woman sounded overly excited and friendly.

“Well, uh, I . . .”

“Look, I’m not some crazy woman looking for help doing my job. I just love it that someone is interested in these loads of papers, and I’m quite glad that I won’t be trudging through these all alone for another day.”

“Monday would be fine. I don’t work that day anyway. It’s actually perfect.”

“Brilliant! If you give me your email address I’ll send driving directions.”

“I don’t drive here. The whole wrong side of the road thing intimidates me.”

“Train then? All right. The building is just a short walk from the station. I’ll email you those directions instead.”

Kathryn has spent all weekend reading the little information her mother hand grandmother had found about the Bruce family members who had emigrated from Scotland. Abigail was only mentioned once with a list of her marriage dates. She had those memorized in hopes that she could find a will or letters mentioning Abigail. Surely her children had written of her.

Most of Kathryn’s time was spent typing in the stories her father had told her over the years. The first story was always the crispest in her memory; the one that meant the most. It was the beginning of the long journey through life for Abigail. Kathryn remembered the day that she turned 16 and thought of Abigail marrying a man so much older. Every year on her birthday, Kathryn wondered what Abigail was doing at her age. These thoughts brought seriousness to a day that many celebrated selfishly. Kathryn always thought more of Abigail than of herself.

The flurry of activity as the train approached her stop roused her from her rambles. She heaved the well-worn backpack onto her shoulders and headed out of the train to find the Historical Society. Fifteen minutes later she was at the door. In just a few minutes more, Kathryn watched an average sized woman walk briskly down the hallway towards her. Her hair was short and bouncy and very dark, not quite black, but close to it. Her pale skin was accentuated by the bright red lipstick and dark top that she was wearing. But what helped Kathryn relax was the sparkle in the woman’s eye; a sparkle of intelligence and friendliness, with perhaps a bit of deviousness thrown in for good measure.

The woman held out her hand when she reached where Kathryn was sitting. “I’m Beatrix, but most people call me Trixie. Nice to meet you, Kathryn.”

Kathryn took her hand as she rose up out of the chair. “Nice to meet you too.”

“Want to see the loads of paper?” Trixie smiled broadly as she talked, “I know you do. You came all the way from the States to find out about this lady. What was her name?”

“Abigail.”

“Last name too, dear. We historians can’t give you a clue of where to look without a last name.”

“She started out as a Bruce, but the first marriage was to a Halsey.”

“Mmm. I haven’t seen any references to an Abigail Bruce so far, but I’m only a fraction of the way through the papers. There’s loads left to look through. We are going to have fun.”

They soon turned a corner through an open door. There were four tables in the room. Each had at least 5 boxes each on top. One table had papers arranged into piles with a computer nearby.

“This is where I work,” Trixie motioned with her hands. “It’ll get cheerier as the day goes on. You can have that table there. We’ll move the boxes when you tell me the approximate dates or if you have any other names.”

Kathryn told her the date of Abigail’s marriage to Robert Halsey and the name of Abigail’s children.

“Oh, there’s a box with the son’s name on it.” Trixie moved to the table in the far corner. “Here. I don’t know if the dates match, but you’ll find out soon enough. This one hasn’t even been opened. Want to do the honors?”
Kathryn hesitated, “Why don’t you do it. I would feel weird if I ripped something.”

“Okay. Here goes.” Trixie lifted the top off the box and looked inside. “Oh, you are so in luck.” Kathryn hurried over to look inside. She could tell by the date of the letter on top that this was the same William Robert Halsey, the son of Abigail.

“Wow.” Kathryn looked over to Trixie, “Can I really look through all of this?”

Trixie nodded her head. “You can. I’m just going to get you some gloves, and you are off to the races.”

As Trixie left the room to get some gloves, Kathryn set up her computer, notebook, and digital camera on the table. “If I find something, I’m going to have to buy Ian a beer,” she mumbled to herself. “I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m not. It’s just a place to start.”

“What was that, dear?” Trixie handed her the gloves.

“Oh, I was just trying not to get too excited. You know, talking to myself.”

“Well, you won’t know what you might find in there. Just keep them in the order in the box, and everything will be fine for my part in this. We’ll get a few good hours of work in, and then I’ll take you to lunch and you can tell me all about you and Ian.”

“Oh, you don’t understand.”

Trixie interrupted. “Did you bring your lunch?”

“No. I didn’t. It’s not that.”

“Well, just get working and then we can talk. You can tell me how you and Ian met. That’s got to be a great story.”

Kathryn sighed and decided to let it go for now. Lunch was only three or so hours away, and right in front of her was the possibility of finding out more about Abigail.

1 comment:

Liz Self said...

I like how you shift between sections. You're not dragging us minute by minute through everything, but you do tell how we got from the last section to the next. I also like the character development you have going. I can get a sense of some characters better than others. Trixie is definitely clear to me, for example. She's vivacious and talks fast like I do and is upbeat. I like!