By Meg Sorick. Find other parts of the story and a family tree, here.
David laughed. “No family resemblance?” he repeated. “I must favor my mother’s side.”
“That must be it,” Miss Woodbridge said. “Now Meredith…. She looks just like her gran when she was that age.”
David regarded his cousin and smiled. “Then she must have been a beautiful woman.”
Meredith took a sip of tea to hide her discomfiture. She cleared her throat. “Let’s stick to the mystery, shall we Cousin?” She tapped the photograph in the old album. Their ancestors stared back at them from the sepia square. Meredith’s grandmother Anne at age thirteen, looking as pretty as a picture, standing with her widowed mother. Hayden, David’s grandfather, a sullen boy of ten, between his grandparents, who’d lost both their sons to the war. It was a somber day, Armistice Day. Too many men hadn’t come home. And even ten years later, it was obvious by their expressions that the pain was still fresh.
Meredith pulled a small notebook from her handbag and opened it to a fresh page. “Let’s list the things we know so far. We know Gladys was born in 1913 and that she was still alive when Ada died in 1918. There wasn’t a record of her death in the files up to 1922 –that’s as far as we got today. And we know that she had already gone missing by the time my gran was able to remember. Which would have been when she was say, between three and four years old, around 1919.”
“And you’re sure your gran would’ve told you?” David asked.
“Absolutely,” Meredith said. “If she knew, she wouldn’t have kept it a secret, especially this long after everyone of that generation was gone. What would be the point?”
“I agree,” Miss Woodbridge affirmed. “Anne felt very strongly about family. Why, look how she tended to her father’s grave. I went with her once when we were both younger. She had such great affection for the father she never knew. I am positive she wouldn’t have hidden a long lost cousin from you, Meredith.” She paused for a moment then asked, “David, I’m going to assume your grandfather didn’t know either?”
He shrugged. “I am going to assume that, too. If he knew, he never told my father. Dad was also very interested in family. That’s what put me on this quest in the first place. To put the family tree in order.” He gave Miss Woodbridge a sad smile. “I suppose it’s a fool’s errand. There’s no one left in this branch but me.”
“Oh, nonsense, David,” the old woman said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “You’ll be able to pass this history on to your own children someday.”
He smiled genuinely this time. “Thank you, my dear Miss Woodbridge for being so optimistic. I, however, have sincere doubts about that outcome.”
“Never say never, my boy,” she said, wagging a finger at him.
“All right,” David went on, suppressing a laugh. “So let’s say Anne’s earliest memories were from 1919, that means Gladys must have disappeared within that first year after her mother’s death in 1918.” He frowned. “Is there any way the death record could’ve been misplaced? You know, with the flu epidemic and all?”
Miss Woodbridge shook her head and replied, “No, no. I really think that is a dead end. Pardon the pun. Why keep her death a secret? She would have been given a funeral and been buried with her mother in the churchyard.”
“And she couldn’t have disappeared through foul play,” Meredith added. “That would have been newsworthy.”
“Is it possible she could’ve been given away?” David asked.
“But why keep one child and not the other? Meredith countered.
“I may have a suggestion,” Marion interjected.
All eyes turned toward the young woman.
“Perhaps her real father claimed her.”
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