Apparently I’m not the only one who is uninformed. So my family never knew of your existence until they saw you in the papers. That was clever of your parents.
A grandfather. You have family coming from everywhere. I hope this one turns better than the grandparents you’ve already found.
New York continues to be hectic. Edmond Cole is over at our house even more than he was before, nearly every day. James used to come over talk with and torment me but he is almost always with Edmond now. They work it over together.
Sometimes I feel like a child with my entire family working with them. James may play his words to sound like we are neither of us part of it but he is trusted and I am not. I used to throw fits over the smallest things when I was a child and I was trained out of it but I feel like stamping my feet and screaming like I did.
It sounds spoiled but I don’t particularly care.
Today I found my mother crying, though I can’t figure out why. I went over to her and asked about it. She was bent over and holding up a letter. She seemed small somehow and I almost pitied her, whatever I know now.
But she said it was nothing.
I spoke with James over the arrangement today:
“You and your deals. What will you do if I don’t do as you say?”
“It doesn’t matter what I’d do, because you will. Do you have anything for me, Olivia?”
There was something different about James today. There was no teasing. He’d fixed his eyes on me, following me, never stopping. He seemed older. I walked round the room, flipping off remarks, continuing to mock him.
“I’m Olivia again. I couldn’t be more flattered. Yes, I do have some things to tell, though probably nothing all too valuable to you.”
“I’ll decide that. Go on, tell me.”
He gave a little nod and I stood, moving behind the chair.
It doesn’t particularly matter where I attained this information, except that maids have sharper ears than my grandmother might think and can be bribed without much trouble. I have one less pair of pearl earrings (the things I gave that little Rachel were terrible, anyway) and several secrets more. The girl may be a surprising ally.
“I’ve written up a list of any of my mother’s correspondents. Naturally she’s not such an idiot as to leave her letters to be opened but she does leave her envelopes on the table occasionally.”
“Stupid of her,” James stated. He wasn’t mocking or sneering. He didn’t seem amused. Perhaps we were serious now.
“Yes,” I conceded, “My grandmother would do better. Though perhaps my mother thought she had nothing to worry about.”
“And that’s even more foolish.”
“Perhaps, just by her correspondents, she doesn’t.”
“Maybe. On with it. Read it to me.”
“Read it yourself.”
I put the list into his hands, he scanned over it.
“Most of this is useless, you know.”
“Not all,” I replied.
“My guardian’s on here, hardly a surprise.”
“She didn’t have his letters. According to the girl, they corresponded frequently for months before he came to the city.”
He didn’t seem to find it interesting. He threw away the word.
“Hawthorne Society?” I asked.
“Probably one of her socialite affairs.”
He didn’t seem to believe it, though, there was a flash of recognition but he shrugged and crumpled the paper.
“It isn’t,” I confirmed.
“Maybe not. Still, doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Is that all?”
I bit my lip to stop myself from saying something, if I lost my temper, I lost everything.
“You gave me barely a week, Mr. Cole.”
“Stop calling me that. Anything else, even something small?”
“I looked in my grandmother’s bedroom and found not much, though perhaps you’ll find something in it I didn’t. What should I call you?”
“I’m sure you can come up with something to call me. Tell me what you found, I’m beginning to sincerely regret deciding to work with you, Olivia.”
“Mr. Cole suits me perfectly and James is out of the question. Did you expect Doisneau secrets to be spilling from the walls?”
“Maybe I did. Go on, then.”
“I warn you, there weren’t any locked boxes in there, though there was a locked closet, which I hopes suits your taste for intrigue, Mr. Cole. Most people do keep their closets locked.”
“A stack of letters on the desk, all business, all ordinary. As it turns out, she is not doing any sort of railroad deal with your guardian, though I am sure you already knew that.”
He granted me a laugh.
“No, there never was, though I’m sure they’ll tie one together at the last moment. Correspondents?”
“The Hayeses, the Atwaters, the Society for the Protection of Children.”
“I expect she cares about that a great deal.”
I joined him.
“Yes,” I quipped, “She’s just weeping for the poor dears.”
“Anything else?” he asked.
“No. I am sorry.”
“Fine.” He shrugged.
I never expected it to be easy but I was hoping to come up with more than this. I don’t like to fail and I almost felt a failure, though I pushed that away.
That will never be true.
“Do I have my question now?” I asked, folding myself back into the chair.
“That was the deal, though you haven’t come up with much.”
I said nothing for a moment, thinking of what to ask him, what to say.
“Why were the police here? Was it anything to do with the new laws?” I demanded.
He thought for a minute, perhaps trying to think of the best way to evade the question.
“The police were here because lately the state’s grown tight and narrow-minded. They were here because they want to stamp out things people have done for centuries and it makes them feel inferior to see it and not be able to have any part.”
“That’s hardly a satisfactory answer,” I scoffed.
“You hardly gave me satisfactory information. Onto the last, my request for the week---“
“After this, I hardly think---“ I began.
“Find me those letters between my guardian and your mother.”
“There is no way possible. Perhaps they’ve been burned!” I protested.
“That’s possible. Find them. I’ll likely have hers from him next week.”
“They can’t be there!”
“You’re a disappointment,” James ordered, “But not an idiot. Find them. Now, I’m going inside. No more talk of this.”
“And if I don’t find them?” I hissed, catching his arm as he rose to leave.
He turned round in the door, looking back at me.
“And you wouldn’t pass any of this on, would you?” he asked.
“Of course not.” I flashed a smirk at him and left to the other room so he could not question me more.
I don’t care much whether he believes me or not.
And then he was gone. We’ll meet next week. I’ve considered forging the letters for him if I doesn’t find them---that would be a laugh. Surely I can find his father’s writing somewhere.
I hope I can, anyway. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe James is right about me---spoiled, vain, selfish and useless.
in my heart: apathetic