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In Another Time

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Prologue

Five miles in from the highway, not far from The Majestic Hotel lies a trail Tamsin knew by heart. Not more than two feet wide, the dirt trail was longer than the paved path from the main gate of the cemetery and as often suggested by her family, safer.

Tamsin would just ignore them. They do not understand.

It was along this trail, under the shade of the trees as they passed the clear, placid waters of Lake Coon when she was told the tale of a love that broke the barriers of time and space.

That day, so many years ago, was much like today; the blue sky above and cool breeze blowing in from the east making it all the more perfect for her visit today.

Soon, she reaches a clearing that leads her to an open field of green, dotted with grey and white tombstones. She turns left, up the slope and there under the evergreen Cedar trees lies her best friend.

On creaking knees, she lowers herself to sit on the grass. Gently, her fingers trace the name etched into the marble as she says, "Hey you, guess what I have for you today."

Tamsin pulls out a hardcover book from her tote bag.

"It finally came out. I know, I know it took me forever to edit your manuscript but it's important that I get it right. You will be pleased to know that it's set to be another bestseller. Critics unanimously praised the book, I believe a few called it your masterpiece." Tamsin stops as a weight settles heavily on her chest.

"I wish you're here for this...it is your story..." her cracking voice trails off as she turns her gaze to the tombstone next to her sister, "yours and hers."

She remembers the family's reaction when they learned of Lauren's wish to be buried next to this woman - surprised, shocked and most of all, baffled. The only thing they knew about this stranger was that she was a famous stage actress who had a long successful career before retiring in the 1960s.

Tamsin could not blame them. If she didn't know the whole story, she would have thought Lauren was crazy too. After all, these two women were born more than 60 years apart and by all accounts, were total strangers.

But of course, no one knows the real story. No one except her.

There is a part of her that wishes the world knew that Lauren, the famous and somewhat reclusive novelist, had spent the last days of her life putting into words the joy and heartbreak of that one week in autumn so long ago, and that every word she wrote was true.

The wind picks up, sending the scattered golden leaves flying and turning, and the sweet scent of autumn brings with it memories of another time.


Chapter 1

September, 2000

The woman sat at the far corner of the restaurant, silently observing the festivities. A few feet away in a cordoned off area, people with bright smiles and sincere cheers raised their glasses to toast the laughing young woman seated on top of the bar.

"Lauren," the woman breathed as she memorised the perfect features of the face she so loved and had waited decades to see again.

"Lauren," she said again, her wrinkly hands clutching her handkerchief to her chest.

If Lauren only knew what she would give just to be able to hold her again. She could still feel Lauren's hands on her bare skin, hear Lauren's whispered declaration of love, taste her sweet lips.

Even now, she could still see Lauren emerging from the shadows, her smile bright and her eyes shining, filling her heart with love.

She closed her eyes to compose herself, drawing in shaky breaths. After a moment, she unfolded the handkerchief, revealing a rose hair pin; a white rose of solid brass, its elegant stems of gold tied in a bow of glittering crystals.

She stood up and slowly made her way to the group, the treasured hair pin held tightly in the palm of her hand.

Lauren was standing in a corner, laughing with her friends. Loud voices turned to curious murmurs as she passed but she paid no heed to any of them.

Lauren's tall friend saw her first and directed Lauren's attention to her.

And there Lauren was, eyes fixed on her, staring blankly. All she had to do was to reach out and pull Lauren into her arms to satisfy her aching need, but she knew it would be too much.

Lauren did not even know who she was.

So overwhelmed was she that words failed her. It was Lauren who spoke first, "Hi, can I help you?"

Her hands shook as she grasped Lauren's, holding on tightly for a moment. Try as she might, she could not stop the tears from forming.

Lauren looked startled and before she could say another word, a hair pin was pressed gently into her palm.

The elderly lady uttered the plea she had held inside since the day Lauren vanished from her life, "Come back to me."

She allowed herself a few more seconds to savor the feel of Lauren's hands in hers, and without another word, she turned and walked away.

Lauren didn't know what to think. She stood there for a long while, watching the elderly lady walk out of the restaurant, the hair pin still tightly clutched in her hand.

"Okay, that was weird and I've seen plenty of weird shit," Tamsin said.

Their friend, Dyson asked, "Do you know her?"

"N-no, I've never seen her before in my life."

"You know Lo, I know you like your women but I think this one might be a little too old for you." Dyson chuckled.

Lauren smiled but said nothing. There was something about the old woman, something in her unflinching gaze and her tone, which Lauren could best describe as a plea, that made her heart hurt.

"Hey, you okay?" Tamsin nudged Lauren.

Lauren nodded absently as she inspect the hair pin, noting its delicate beauty. "This is beautiful."

"I guess. I wouldn't know, I'm a guy" Dyson said.

Tamsin rolled her eyes. "He knows nothing, unless there are boobs attached."

Dyson gave Tamsin a playful bump on the shoulder and she retaliated with a smack on his back.

Her attention now effectively diverted, Lauren shoved the hair pin into her pocket and stuck out a hand in between her two friends. "Okay, you kids break it up before you end up wrestling on the floor. Again."

Dyson glared playfully at them and hopped onto the chair.

Raising his glass, he announced loudly, "Okay, it's my turn to toast our guest of honor! To my friend, Lauren Lewis, who has published her first bestseller! You probably can't tell but I'm seething with jealousy inside. If you weren't so hot, I would be sticking pins into a voodoo doll that look just like you right about now. To Lauren the overachiever, may this novel be the first of many!"

Lauren laughed as she downed her beer, the old woman forgotten.


October, 2005

She would head east, and keep on driving, Lauren decided as she pulled out of the parking lot.

She drove with the top down, the wind in her hair and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini blasting from the player. She relaxed, her foot easing off the pedal as cars whizzed by on the highway.

A few days away was what she needed. Someplace quiet to clear her mind, regroup in a place far away from the smog and mad traffic of the city. Perhaps, she could even be free from the headaches that plagued her the past few months.

Perhaps, just perhaps.


Tamsin could feel her anger rising with each unanswered ring. It seemed to go on forever before it went to the voicemail.

"Lauren, where the hell are you? Everyone is looking for you. For God's sake, pick up the damn phone," Tamsin paused to gather herself. In a calmer voice, she said, "Lo, you can't run from this. Please, I'm begging you...just call me, please."

With great restraint, she gently set the phone down. A knock on the door sounded and without waiting for an answer, Dyson entered, his face betraying his worry.

"Well? Did you find her?"

"No, she's not picking up. We need to find her. She shouldn't be out there on her own in her condition."

Dyson stepped forward, pulling Tamsin into his arms. "We'll find her, we'll find her."

Tamsin could only nod in response.


Lauren had no idea how she ended up here. On a whim, she took Exit 23 off the highway and kept on driving until she came to a crossroad.

Her stomach was growling by then; she had been driving for more than three hours at least. So, the small billboard on the left side of the road with its images of juicy burgers and steaks was more than appealing.

"The Dal, satisfaction guaranteed," the signboard read.

Lauren figured she couldn't go wrong with a restaurant named The Dal, not when it dared to make a guarantee like that.

She flipped the signal and took the road on her left in search of a nice, juicy steak and a glass of thick, icy cold milkshake. Except she didn't get that far.

Somewhere along the way, she turned into a quiet, tree-lined street offering a scenic view of a lake surrounded by the ever-changing foliage of autumn and the age-old mountain range of this little town known as Avon Peak.

Mesmerised by the view, Lauren slowed the car and that was when she saw the hotel.

Just up ahead, sitting by the edge of the lake was a massive six-storey white colored structure that spoke of another era. Four gables pierced the steeply pitched roof with two chimneys resting on both ends. A line of casement windows composed of small-paned leaded glass lined the front of the building behind the four grand looking columns.

By the side of the road was a sign announcing, The Majestic Hotel.

Without thinking, Lauren veered her car towards the slip road that led to the hotel.

"Good afternoon, Maám," a porter greeted her with a tip of his hat as she pulled up to the entrance.

She followed him up the red-carpeted stairs to the lobby, taking a moment to study the coffered ceilings, shiny mosaic floors and the elegant chandelier with its dangling crystals. The wooden front desk was so well polished that it seemed to sparkle.

Lauren smiled to herself; even the furnishing was distinctively vintage. She liked it.

At the front desk, she was greeted by an elderly lady with red hair and a kind face. "Good afternoon, welcome to The Majestic."

"Good afternoon, charming place you got here. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I just traveled back to the early 19th century."

"Well, this hotel has been around since 1888 and we make it a point to preserve its original look and feel. And trust me, little has changed here. I know, I have been working here since I was a teenager and as you can see, I'm ancient." The woman flashed a charming smile. "I'm Emma Weir. Do you have a reservation, Ms...?"

"Lewis. Please call me Lauren and no, I don't. I hope there's a room available."

"That we have, and how long will you be staying with us?"

"A couple of days. I'm not really sure yet."

Emma was quiet for a second, regarding Lauren curiously. "Have you been here before, Lauren?"

"No, this is my first time."

Emma crinkled her brows. "Hmmm, I have a sudden sense of déjà vu," she paused thoughtfully, "There is this image in my head of you standing right where you are, talking to me."

"Couldn't have been me. If I've been here, I would remember a place like this."

Emma waved it off. "Forgive me. At my age, the mind can play tricks on you sometimes. Can you please sign the guest registry?"

Lauren chuckled when she saw the registry. "I didn't know there are still hotels that use this."

"Like I've said, we like to preserve our tradition. It has a certain charm to it, don't you think?" Emma placed the room key on the counter.

"Definitely." Lauren smiled genuinely for the first time in weeks.

The room was spacious, bright and tastefully decorated; a king sized bed, a dresser, a cabinet, two chairs sitting by the window, a work table and fireplace in the center. In the bathroom, Lauren found a slipper clawfoot tub and a separate shower stall.

She drew the drapes to find a stunning view of the lake and for a moment, she almost felt like her old self again.

But the vibrating mobile in her back pocket brought her back to a reality she wasn't quite ready to face. Without looking at the flashing screen, she already knew who it was.

She drew a deep breath and pressed the answer button. "Tamsin, I'm fine."

"Where the hell are you? I've been worried sick! You can't just take off without telling anyone!" Tamsin yelled over the phone.

"Okay, that's not true. I left a message telling you I was going away for a few days."

"You couldn't have left an address and why can't you answer your damn phone?! You should not be wandering around on your own."

"Come on, I can take care of myself. I still have six months, I'm not dead yet!"

Silence followed for several moments before a much calmer Tamsin said, "You can have decades more if you do the surgery. I know you're scared, I know the risks are high but it's worth a shot. Lauren, it doesn't have to end like this."

Lauren sighed wearily. "Can we not talk about this now? Just give me a few days, please?"

A few seconds passed before Tamsin replied, "All right. Can you at least tell me where you are? If you don't want anyone else to know, I won't tell them."

Knowing Tamsin would just keep calling till she gets her answer, she gave in, "The Majestic Hotel in Avon Peak."

By the time Lauren showered, her headache had returned with a vengeance. The pain spread down the back of her neck, inflaming her veins.

She popped two painkillers and chewed them, ignoring the bitter, brittle taste. Then she tossed back two more painkillers, anything to get rid of the headache. The pain eased a little as she set out in search for food.

She was too early. The Maitre d' told her, the restaurant would not be opened for another hour.

Of course, she could just order room service but she simply wasn't in the mood to eat alone in the room. Perhaps, this would be a good time for her to get acquainted with the grounds of the hotel.

She wandered outside. The air was crisp and cool, cooler than the heat of summer and warmer than cold of winter. Reaching the garden, she was awestruck by the beauty that greeted her.

Down the cobblestone path flanked by the flowering shrubs of pinkish Azaleas, and passed the rose arch were flower beds of every imaginable color. She moved slowly, taking her time to study each bud, each petal, inhaling the different scents.

After a long while, she found a garden chair to rest, content to watch the world go by. She wondered just how much or if any at all had changed here since the day it was built.

She closed her eyes and let her imagination take over. In the dark, she saw women in shapeless shift dresses, short hair under cloche hats and T bar shoes with buckle and bows. They walked on the arms of men in slim jackets with high pinched waist and narrow shoulders, fedoras on their heads.

It was so vivid that for a second, she could have sworn she was transported back in time.

Soon, it was time to go as the evening light faded away. En route to the restaurant, Lauren chanced upon a sign that read, "Hall of History".

Being the curious sort, she decided to spare a few minutes to learn more about the history of the hotel.

It was interesting; there were display of historic items such as napkins and menus from the late 19th century, a telephone, hotel register and an iron from the early 1900s. There was even a replica bedroom from the pre-war days.

By the corner, she came across programs for plays performed in the hotel. She made a mental note to ask Emma about this as she was not aware there was a theater in the vicinity.

As she turned to leave, her gaze fell upon the framed photos on the wall to her left.

Right in the middle, under the light was a picture of the most exquisitely beautiful face Lauren had ever seen in her life.

Her breath hitched and her feet bringing her closer as she stared at the image. Full lips of red, perfectly sculpted nose, and an enchanting smile that would render the hardest of hearts weak in the knees.

But it was her eyes, those rich, brown eyes that left Lauren speechless. Unguarded and magnetic, they sparkled with such adoration that for a fleeting moment, Lauren was overcome with dizziness.

Her eyes drifted to the small plaque under the frame. Her name flowed out of Lauren's lips in a whispered breath, "Ysabeau Dennis."

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 2

All through dinner, her mind kept drifting back to the portrait. Ysabeau's face and her expression of pure trust and adoration haunted her.

Who was she looking at when that photo was taken? Who was she thinking of? Lauren wondered, briefly wishing someone would grace her with that same look.

Lauren had never been able to maintain her relationships for long, nor had she found someone who made wanted to. And here she was, at what could quite possibly be the last few months of her life, drawn to a stranger who lived in another lifetime.

"Ysabeau," Lauren said out loud as she stirred her coffee.

In 1938, Ysabeau did a play here at The Majestic - The Little Minister by J. M Barrie. Aside from her biography printed on the program, Lauren knew little of her. She was already a popular actress with a good number of high profile roles under her belt by then.

Then there were the glowing reviews of her performance at The Majestic. She commands the stage like no other, one critic wrote while another simply called her, mesmerising.

It was also noted on the plaque below her name that Ysabeau died in 2000.

She must had been a remarkable actress, Lauren thought.

She wished she was born earlier just so she could be have been here that night, watching her perform on stage.


Lauren slept fitfully.

Her dreams were odd; horse-drawn carriages down a deserted lane, Dr. Bishop cutting her head open, Tamsin offering her a root beer float and somewhere in there, the most vivid of them all, was Ysabeau, smiling at her as if Lauren had just given her the whole world.

She woke up nauseated, her body engulfed in a strange floating sensation.

It will get worse, Dr. Bishop told her.

She wondered if she would soon lose her grip on reality. Maybe it had already started; spending the entire evening and night thinking and dreaming about a woman she had only seen in a photograph was not exactly normal.

Perhaps some fresh air would do her good, a walk by the lake. And that was her intent when she left her room, but somehow, she found herself back at the Hall of History. In the clear light of day, Ysabeau Dennis was even more beautiful.

It was starting to frighten her. This need to know all she could about Ysabeau was irrational and fast becoming an obsession.

Lauren could see the headlines now, "Writer found dead clutching portrait of deceased actress in hotel room."

Then again, it may not be a bad way to die. Definitely better than being hooked up to machines in a cold hospital room.

She could hear Tamsin's voice in her head telling her, "You're obsessing over this actress because you don't want to deal with your problems."

Maybe so, but it would be one hell of an escape, wouldn't it? Lauren laughed to herself. It could be one of her projects, much like the many researches she threw herself into when she's writing a new book.

Her mind made up, she hurried out to look for Emma.


"Love walked right in and drove the shadows away, love walked right in and brought my sunniest day," Emma sang as she went about cleaning her living room.

Her singing rose above the hum of the vacuum cleaner, in harmony with the deep, raspy voice of Louis Armstrong, "One magic moment, and my heart seemed to know that love said, 'Hello', though not a word was spoken."

It took several knocks for her to realize there was someone at the door. Opening the door, she was surprised to find Lauren Lewis standing there.

"Hello there," she said.

"Hi, I'm sorry to bother you. I was told I could find you here."

Emma smiled. "It's all right. Come on in."

Lauren took a few steps forward and stopped. The surprise was evident in her tone. "This is a home."

"Yes,it is."

"Your home?"

"Yes, it is, dear." Emma grew more amused by the second. "What were you expecting?"

"I don't know. A guy named Jon at the front desk told me I can find you at the bungalow behind the hotel. I thought it was an employees' rest house. And judging by your casual attire, and the vacuum cleaner, I'm guessing it's probably your day off. I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to bother you."

Emma patted Lauren's shoulders reassuringly. "It's all right, I'm just cleaning the house. Actually, you came at the right time, I'm about to take a break. I have oatmeal cookies in the oven, care to join me?"

Lauren took a sniff, grinning. "Oh, that smells good."

"I'll take that as a yes." Emma laughed. "Take a seat, I'll be back."

When Emma emerged from the kitchen with a plate of cookies and two cups of coffee, she found Lauren looking at the framed photos on the mantle. Lauren picked up one of a young teenage girl standing in front of a fireplace and asked, "Is this you?"

"Yes, back in the days when my knees didn't hurt and my face was free of wrinkles." Emma chuckled.

"You're beautiful," Lauren glanced at Emma, "you still are."

"You don't have to flatter me, I'm already feeding you cookies."

Lauren laughed and grasped the woman's hand. "I mean it."

"Thank you." Emma held out the plate. "Now, you can have your cookie."

Lauren took one eagerly, asking as she took a bite, "How long have you been living here?"

"I grew up here. My father was one of the first few employees of The Majestic Hotel. Back then, he pretty much took care of everything on the grounds. Edward Forsham, his family owns the hotel, decided it would be easier for my father to live closer to the hotel. So, he offered him this bungalow."

"So you've been living here your whole life?"

"No, I moved out when I got married. My father passed on, then my husband, and my kids are all grown up, it just feels right to come back. But I have worked here my whole life. I was offered the general manager position once but I turned it down. Getting stuck behind the desk and attending endless meetings are not for me. I like being on the grounds, meeting people. People always ask me why I'm still working. What else am I going to do with my time? Knit?"

Emma took a sip of her coffee and continued, "Now I know you're not here to chat with an old lady about her life. How can I help you?"

Lauren smiled. "I was in the Hall of History last night and I read that there is a theatre here."

"Oh yes, it's out by far end of the lake. We don't stage as many plays as we did back then but the management wanted to keep the theatre as it is. I'm glad, it is an important part of the hotel's history."

"Well," Lauren began, a little nervously thought Emma. "There is one particular play I'm interested in. I believe it was staged in 1938, The Little Minister by J. M Barrie. It starred Ysabeau Dennis. Do you remember that play?"

Ysabeau Dennis. That's a name Emma had not heard or thought of in a long time. The mention easily brought back a rush of memories she thought she had forgotten.

A fond smile lit up her features. "Heavens, that was so long ago. It was a one night engagement, and what a spectacular play it was."

"Did you meet her?" Lauren leaned forward anxiously.

Unforgettable, that's what it was for Emma, for a few good reasons. Most of which she was unable to share.

But what she could, she did, "I did. I was 18 and had just started work at the hotel. I had never met a star before and she was a star in the truest sense. That photograph you saw was taken here on the night of the play."

A pause and Emma added, "She asked us to call her, Bo. Said Ysabeau was her professional name and only men in stuffy suits called her that."

"Bo," Lauren repeated to herself, liking the way it sound.

"She had just done a movie with none other than Errol Flynn. It wasn't the lead role but she certainly got people's attention. So you can imagine what a big deal it was to have a movie star performing in a small town like this. Suitors flocked to the hotel, thinking they would have a shot with her. She turned them all down. She was classy, beautiful and glamorous...so different from that manager of hers. "

"How so?"

"The woman was a bully in my book, always ordering people around.I certainly did not like the way she talked to Bo, she was so condescending to her, acting like she owned her. God, I forgot her name," she paused. "I think it's Morland..yes, it's Morland. Julia Morland."

Images from long ago played before Emma's eyes. "If I didn't work for the hotel, I would have told her off."

"I don't think I'd like her much too," Lauren said quietly.

"Then you would be pleased to know that Ms. Morland got her comeuppance." Emma smiled despite feeling a little guilty speaking ill of the dead but even now she had a strange sense of protectiveness towards Bo.

"Really? What happened?"

"Bo stood up to her." Emma sat back, her voice softened at the memory of the day that changed her life. "It was the morning after the play. It must have been a little past five. I had just started my morning shift when Ms. Morland came down and demanded that we send out a party to search for Bo who appeared to be missing, saying that she would take us to court if we failed to do so. Then, right on cue Bo came running in from outside, looking like she had not slept the whole night."

Lauren leaned forward. "What happened next?"

"Aren't you impatient? I'm an old lady, it takes a while for this brain of mind to remember," Emma said lightly, both amused and curious at Lauren's anxious interest in Bo.

"I'm sorry, I get excited easily," Lauren said sheepishly.

Emma let out a small laugh and continued, "Let's see, Bo marched straight up to Ms. Morland. She was fearless. They got into a heated argument right there in the lobby. For a moment there, I thought Bo was going to hit Ms. Morland. Then she did something that almost made me stood up and applauded- she fired the old witch."

Lauren smiled gleefully. "Now, I would love to have been there to see that."

Emma paused; somewhere from deep within the recess of her memory, an image appeared. She stared at Lauren, carefully studying her face. Her pulse quickened as the fuzzy image became clearer.

In the morning light, Lauren looked a lot like...no, it was not possible, she told herself. Lauren Lewis, that name...it's just a coincidence, just a coincidence.

Lauren leaned back, slightly unnerved by Emma's scrutinising gaze. "What's wrong?"

Emma said nothing, her mind caught up in days gone by. She remembered Bo's voice, teetering between anger and fear as she asked that dreadful woman again and again, "What did you do to her? What did you do to her?"

Then, there were the things that happened after the fight. The relief Emma felt when she saw...no, she told herself again, it was not possible.

"Okay, now you're really starting to scare me," Lauren said half jokingly.

Emma shook her head, hoping to push away this absurd thought and pulled her gaze away from the young woman seated across the table. "I'm sorry. I...are you sure you have never been here before?"

"Positive, absolutely, 100% sure. That's the second time you asked me that question."

Of course Lauren had never been here before, Emma wanted to believe her. "Again, my apologies. You just reminded me of someone I know."

"I guess I have a common face." Lauren chuckled. "So what happened after that?"

The story was begging to be told but Emma held back. It was simply not hers to tell. "Ms. Morland left and I never saw her again. As for Bo, she stayed on in the hotel for another month."

Sadness crept into Emma's voice as she went on, "But something changed in her. She was much more quiet, kept to herself. She spent her days walking around the lake, especially around the theatre. There was a spot, a bench she was fond of in the garden next to the theatre by the apple trees. She spent so much time there that some of the staff joked that we should just name the bench after her. There were times when I would walk by and see her there, staring ahead so intensely as if she's waiting for something...someone to appear."

Emma inhaled deeply, answering a question she knew Lauren would ask, "I don't know what brought about the change. Then one day, she packed up and left. That was the last I saw of her."

"Someone broke her heart," Lauren said quietly.

Emma looked up in surprise. "Maybe. I don't know. She never said anything to me."

They lapsed into silence for a short while before Lauren asked, "You said she did a movie. Were there any others?"

"No, I believe that was the only movie she made. I heard that she was supposed to sign a contract with MGM but she changed her mind. Actually, she stopped acting for a year after the play here, disappeared completely from public eye. Ugh, I remember the vicious rumours. Some said she had a breakdown, others said she had a child out of wedlock and that was scandalous back in the day."

"What do you think happened to her?"

Emma looked at the young woman's face, seeing not trivial curiosity but an honest need to know. "I believe it was as you said, a broken heart that sent her into seclusion." A beat. "I will tell you this, she was brave. Brave in a time the world wasn't."

"What do you mean?"

"Just that she taught me to love without fear. Because of her, I found my husband."

Lauren raised a brow, silently urging her to go on. Emma stood and picked up a photo from the mantle.

Sitting back down, she handed the photo to Lauren. "That's my husband. His name was Bobby, we were married for over 50 years. I met him that same fall. He was the hotel's gardener. I loved him the moment I saw him. Naturally, my father disapproved, he believed I was born for royalty." Emma laughed.

"Long story short, because of Bo I learned to follow my heart and it was the best decision I have ever made," Emma concluded.

Lauren opened her mouth, looking as if she wanted to know more but to Emma's relief, she sat back and said, "Now, that's a love story that should be written into a book."

"Judging from your work, I have no doubt you will do it justice but it's a story I would rather keep private." Upon seeing the surprise on Lauren's face, Emma added, "I know who you are, I recognised you from your photo on your books. My daughter and I are fans."

Lauren smiled a little shyly. "Thank you, always good to know people like your work."

"May I ask what brought about the sudden interest in Bo?"

Lauren fidgeted for a second. "I saw her photograph and I guess you could say I'm intrigued. She is becoming sort of my muse for my next project. It's a story about the theatre and a stage actress in the 1930s."

"I see. If that's the case, I suggest you visit our library. We have quite an extensive collection of books on the American and Canadian stage and its actors. Our former general manager, God bless his soul, loved the theatre. A lot of the books were from his private collection."

Lauren stood up immediately. "Where is the library?"

"You really do get excited easily," Emma chuckled. "It's on the first floor of the hotel. Take the stairs near the Hall of History, it's on your right."

"Thank you, thank you! I hope you don't mind if I make a move, should get a head start on the research."

Emma shook her head. "You could barely contain your excitement. Go, go. Would you like some cookies to take with you?"

Lauren grinned. "If you don't mind."

Emma placed the remainder of the cookies in a bag and after expressing her heartfelt thanks, Lauren took off.

As Emma watched her walked briskly up the pavement leading to the hotel with cookies in hand, she was struck yet again by the strangest sense of familiarity.

"Em honey, your mind is getting wilted from old age," she chided herself out loud.

She took another look at the disappearing figure. Impossible, simply impossible, she thought as she closed the door.


The first book Lauren found was "Stars of the American Theater" by Charles Baldwin, published in 1992.

Ysabeau, or rather Bo as Lauren came to call her, was featured on pages 103 and 104. She first studied the photographs.

There was Bo as a child in a black and white photo, already beautiful. Next to it was a photo of her as a teenager, 13 or 14 perhaps with her family. Her parents were Jack and Aoife Dennis.

Lauren could see the family resemblance and what a gorgeous family they were. Then came photos of Bo on stage - the tragic Isolde in Tristan and Isolde, the faithful Rosalind in As You Like it, the intelligent Portia in Merchant of Venice and even the playful Peter Pan.

Post 1938, Bo took to the Broadway stage with astounding success. She sang her way into audiences' hearts in Show Boat, broke hearts as the complicated Anna in Anna Christie and made people laughed in Sunny.

Lauren saw changes in her face as the years went by, yet she was as beautiful as the day the photo in the Hall of History was taken.

Next, Lauren turned to the text. Bo was born in 1915 to the rich and powerful Dennis family. At age 16, she left school to pursue an acting career full time, much to her parent's disapproval.

Baldwin wrote that Bo arrived in New York with a suitcase, her dreams and nothing much else. It was said but never substantiated that Bo met Julia Morland in the summer of 1933 at a small theater.

Morland, ever the shrewd businesswoman, saw a star in Bo despite her small role in the play. A partnership was soon formed, one that lasted till 1938.

Bo, in a 1935 interview, described her early years in the city as an eye-opener and ingrained in her a deep gratitude for her career. A career she believed would not have been possible without Morland.

Lauren noted with interest that critics thought of Bo pre-1938 as a capable actress with charms to spare but lacking in depth, attributing her success to her beauty.

It was on the stage of The Majestic Hotel in 1938 that Ysabeau Dennis was transformed from an adequate actress into a true artist, wrote Baldwin.

Baldwin went on, thus, it came as a surprise to many that it was then that she chose to retreat from the stage, reportedly spending her time at her farm for over a year in seclusion.

The artist herself appeared to have changed as well when she returned triumphantly to the stage in spring of 1940, observed the author.

"Once charming and outgoing, Dennis became a mystery, preferring to let her work speak for her. There would be no more public appearances and interviews were very rare. Even when she agreed to be interviewed, Dennis kept herself closed off, answering questions only related to her work. Yet, it was precisely her mysterious persona that drew interest from the public and kept them enthralled," wrote Baldwin.

Next, Lauren tackled "Broadway Luminaries" by Alexander Goldman.

The book featured quotes from her costars. Nathan Burke recounted her performance in Romeo and Juliet in 1945, "Seemingly without effort, she disappeared into the role so completely that it was both terrifying and electrifying to watch."

"What many do not see is her discipline and devotion to her art. She becomes the character she plays and that is truly a marvel to behold," said Jessica Bentley, another co star.

She was adored and revered by fans and critics alike, but no matter how hard many tried to pry, her private life remained a mystery, wrote Goldman.

What was known was that Bo never married, adopted a child in her later years and after retirement, devoted her life to charity work. It was written too that Bo was fond of traveling, venturing on her own to see the world in her free time.

Then Goldman pointed out, to Lauren's delight, that even though Bo credited Morland for her earlier success, it after the demise of their partnership that Bo's career reached a level that many had sought but failed to reach.

Lauren took notes, jotting down in messy strokes in her notebook. She stayed till late afternoon, ignoring the pounding in her head, hungry for every little bit of information on Bo.

She was especially interested in the first and only TV interview Bo did in 1998. She must get her hands on it, one way or another.

What had Lauren most intrigued was what happened in 1938, right here in The Majestic. It had to be a life-altering event, and she found herself cursing the fool who broke Bo's heart.

Tired now, and no longer able to ignore her headache, Lauren took a stack of the books she hadn't managed to read to the counter to be checked out.

As she waited for the library staff to do the necessary, Lauren mindlessly flipped through one of the books.

On page 89 were more photographs of Bo including the one hanging in the Hall of History. It was the photograph on the next page that stopped the beating of her heart.

Looking back at her in a full page glossy black and white was an elderly woman, a half smile on her face. Below, the caption read, "The last known photograph of Ysabeau Dennis, taken in 1999."

Lauren's knees grew weak, mind spinning like a carousel as she studied the photo. Her hair stood on end. It was her, the old woman who pleaded with Lauren to come back to her five years ago was none other than Bo Dennis.