By Meg Sorick. Find other parts of the series and a family tree, here.
David dreamed about Meredith. It was one of those hazy dreams where nothing really happens. Meredith was sitting across from him at an outdoor cafe. They were sipping coffee, not speaking, not even looking at one another, when a sudden downpour chased them –laughing– indoors. Rain. It was the rain that had penetrated his dreams. It battered against the windows of his Philadelphia apartment. The walk to work today would be miserable. His office was just far enough away that he felt foolish getting a cab. Maybe he’d take a personal day. God knows he deserved one.
He rolled over and reached for his phone. He hit the power button to check the time. It read: 4:02 am. He groaned and pulled the duvet up around his chin. Meredith. He cursed his own presumptuousness. He must have come on too strong. Just because he had felt a connection to his cousin, didn’t mean the feeling was mutual. Certainly, after all these months, the mail would have caught up with her. She would have contacted him if she’d wanted to stay in touch. He never should have sent the family heirloom through the mail without first getting a reply. Stupid of him.
Just as he was drifting back to sleep, his phone chimed an alert. Strange. He had all his alerts turned off. Well, except for his personal e-mail account. Which would explain it. It was probably his buddy, Mike sending more photos of his baby girl. Who else would be out of bed at this hour, besides a set of new parents? Anyway, the rest of his friends kept in touch over social media, nothing so archaic as e-mail. He sighed. He was wide awake; he might as well get up.
The steel-grey sky was just beginning to lighten and the battering rain had turned to sleet. David started coffee brewing and perused the pile of work he’d brought home with him. He probably had enough to keep him busy for the day if he didn’t make it to the office. The stack of files sat on the tiny table that doubled as a desk in the cramped apartment. The rest of the table was taken up with his laptop. He would have been able to afford a bigger place if he’d been willing to sacrifice this location. He wasn’t. If he had to live 300 miles from his friends and his hometown, he was bloody well going to enjoy himself. The apartment was right in the heart of the city, near all the restaurants and bars, shops and cafes. Even the Walnut Street Theater was within walking distance. Besides, he didn’t need a lot of room, especially with all the traveling he did for work.
The coffee maker beeped that his brew was ready. He poured a cup and swiped open his phone. Might as well see what the baby genius was up to. He wondered if he’d be the same way if he had children. He chuckled. Probably. When he opened the e-mail, though, it wasn’t from Mike. ProfMermaid@steans.ac.uk. The subject line read: So sorry cousin. Meredith! ProfMermaid, ha! Very clever. She was a professor of Ancient History at St. Eanswith College in a small coastal town, southeast of London. Her expertise was in Greek and Roman mythology, so the play on words went beyond her name. Well, well. She had finally got back to him.
My Dearest Cousin,
I am so sorry that I’m just contacting you now. I’m afraid all the mail you sent over the last several months has just reached me today. Thank you so very much for sending the locket. I will treasure it dearly. What a terrible shame you missed me by just a few days. I would have enjoyed your company tremendously. You would most certainly have been welcome to stay and spend time with me. Perhaps we can try that again, if you are going to travel to England for business. In fact, I have just thought of this, since I have time off for the holidays, maybe you could join me while college is on mid-term break? I know it’s only a few weeks away, but you would only need a flight. I have a place for you to stay. I would offer to travel to you, but my funds, unfortunately, are limited. I’d love to show you Gran’s old photo albums. I’m sure some of these pictures are of your side of the family as well. Especially now that I’ve seen the photos inside the locket. Communication should be easier now that I have your e-mail. I should have thought of it before this. Again, my deepest apologies for my earlier lack of response. I hope you understand and forgive me.
Travel to England in the middle of winter? The weather was likely to be bleak. Hell, it was bleak here. He hadn’t made any plans for the holidays, wasn’t much of a celebrant. Sure, one of his friends was likely to take pity on him and invite him to come visit. It only emphasized his isolation when he was with someone else’s happy family, though. His cousin wanted to see him. She might be able to help with the family history he’d been compiling. He smiled. Damned if he would pass that up. He hit the reply arrow and began typing.
(Image courtesy hiddencityphila.org)