Actions

Work Header

Looking Glass

Work Text:

There was an old saying in Haven, supposed to date back to Colonial days, and Audrey had heard it four times already though it wasn't even noon. Don't bury your dead too close to the water or too far from the ground, people said, so the rains don't wash 'em up when the storms arrive in winter and the press of earth don't keep 'em down if an urge to walk again come upon 'em in the spring. That was how Dave had recited it with downcast eyes and a softness to his tone Audrey hadn't heard before, but the bite she was used to hearing in his voice returned when Vince started ragging on him for getting the wording wrong. "Too deep in the ground," Vince said. "Not too far from the ground."

"Grandmamma said 'far.' "

"Not in all her life, she didn't."

No matter. The graveyard they were burying Eleanor in was about as far from the water as you could get and still be in Haven, and Audrey had seen enough broken necks in her day to know the doctor wouldn't be taking a stroll again when the trees started budding. Not even in Haven.

She stayed toward the rear of the assembled group, where she could keep an eye on Nathan, standing grimly by his Bronco. He was out of earshot of Reverend Driscoll, whose words of comfort came out of his throat with the same low growl he used for admonitions on Sundays. Eleanor Carr was from a good family, he said, a godly family; if she chose poorly when she wed we can forgive her now she has passed on...

All around them, the cemetery's headstones stood in uneven rows, names and dates chiseled below crosses and eroded by decades of harsh northeastern weather. Martha Croker, beloved wife, born 1902, died...when? Audrey reached out to touch the stone, run her finger along the shallow grooves that were all that remained of the second date. In time Eleanor's stone would look like this. Audrey's stone, too, wherever in the world she might wind up buried. Maybe right here in Haven, where her own mother had apparently come and gone, and wouldn't that be something?

She wondered what had become of Lucy Ripley, the woman who looked so much like her in that old newspaper photo, the woman several people had mistaken her for or commented that she resembled. Was Lucy buried somewhere here as well, or had she left town twenty-six years ago, never to return? One of the few people who might have known, one she'd hoped might one day trust her enough to open up to her about it, was the woman they were burying today. Not too deep, she thought, and not too far. In case an urge to talk again come upon her in the spring...

#

"Talk?" Eleanor laughed at the very idea. "What's there to talk about? Way it works around here, either you already know or you're not worth the telling."

"I'm not asking for the combination to the vault at Haven National," Audrey said, "or the secret recipe for Denny's chowder—"

"Good thing you're not, Denny would defend that recipe with both barrels of his twelve-gauge. It was his mother's recipe."

"I'm just asking if there's some place that people who've lived in Haven a long time go to meet up and talk about old times—"

"So you can walk in and pump them for information," Eleanor said. She finished tidying up the row of milk-glass bottles on her windowsill, each with a single flower in it: a bright aster, a tall and drooping calla lily, a leafy, blood-red dahlia. Looking over the row again, Audrey realized the plants were in alphabetical order. "You can't expect to barge in on a gathering of old friends and begin questioning them FBI-fashion. Well, you can, but you can't expect me to help you do it."

"This isn't for work," Audrey said. "This is for me."

"All the same," Eleanor said, and she put a hand on Audrey's elbow. It was a warm touch, but solid, like the hand you'd put out to help a dog remember you'd told it to sit. "You're an officer of the law, two times over. People know that. You're an outsider, too, for all that you've helped some folk who needed it dearly. You can't expect doors to open all at once."

"How about just one door, just a crack? I'd even settle for it being slammed in my face if it meant I at least knew what door to knock on."

"You think people are going to have answers to your questions just because they've lived here a long time?"

"I think some of them might," Audrey said.

Eleanor shook her head and headed to the far side of the kitchen, where a teakettle had begun whistling. She switched off the flame and brought it back. Audrey put her hand out as she raised the steaming kettle over one of the milk-glass bottles. "Eleanor!"

Eleanor smiled and brought the kettle down. "So your protective streak extends even to zantedeschia odorata. Nature's most vulnerable creature."

"You were testing me? What would you have done if I hadn't stopped you?"

"Made my tea, of course. I wouldn't have boiled my flowers, for heaven's sake." She filled a mug. "You're looking for the woman in the picture," she said.

"Yes. Information about her, anything. All I have is a name. I don't know where she came from, where she went..."

"How do you know she went anywhere?"

"Well, she's not here," Audrey said.

"And how do you know that?"

That stopped Audrey for a second. How did she know that? Could Lucy still be living in Haven, or nearby? But surely she'd have heard, then, about the young FBI agent who shared her face and who'd come to town with a fistful of questions; if she were still alive and anywhere in earshot, she'd have heard and reached out to Audrey somehow...wouldn't she?

"All I'm saying," Eleanor went on, "is that you don't know as much as you think you do."

"That's not easy, since I don't think I know anything at all."

Eleanor sipped her tea and said nothing.

"You've lived here, Eleanor—how long? Fifty years?"

"All my life," Eleanor said. "Which is a good bit longer than fifty years."

"You were here when she was. Lucy, I mean. Why can't you tell me anything about her?"

Eleanor looked into Audrey's eyes as if searching for something there. Whether she found it or not, Audrey couldn't guess.

"Only saw her a handful of times, as I recall," Eleanor said. "She kept to herself for the most part. Many people here do. We leave people alone who prefer to be left alone."

"But she helped people—"

"Sure, and so have you. But how many people living here will be able to answer questions about your personal life after you've moved on?"

Audrey thought about that. Nathan could—she'd shared more with him than she'd ever expected to. Duke, to some extent, though it felt like there was always a fence up between them whenever they spoke, two guarded people keeping themselves from letting the other get too close. And Eleanor—she'd thought Eleanor might have felt close to her by now. But Eleanor was an odd one; she blew hot and cold.

Of course, time would help—another month, perhaps, if the Bureau allowed her to extend her leave that long...or longer if the notion that had begun nibbling at the edges of her brain became a full-fledged intention, scary as that prospect was: that she might stay here longer, long enough to find the truth about her family history, long enough, maybe, to put down roots.

"Eleanor," Audrey said, taking pains to keep her voice gentle as she said it, to sound like a friend and not an FBI agent, "you know more than you're telling me. So do Dave and Vince, and the Chief—"

"Who doesn't?" Eleanor bristled. "Who tells everyone everything she knows? I've known you to keep a secret or two."

"But why this one?" Audrey said. "When you know what it means to me, to find some trace of my family..."

"Frustrated, are you?" Eleanor said. "That's not a bad thing, necessarily. Keeps the blood flowing. Helps in your colder climates."

"Eleanor," Audrey said. "Please."

Eleanor took a sip of her tea and stood. "Let me show you something."

#

She led Audrey through a dim corridor and up a flight of stairs. There were two bedrooms on the second floor, the doors both open. One looked like it belonged to a teenager -- a girl, Audrey, thought, judging from the decor. It surprised her. She hadn't known Eleanor had any children.

But it was into the second bedroom that Eleanor led her, and through the bedroom to a small dressing area beside a closet. A tall mirror hung from the wall, its edges etched with ornamental scrollwork. It was held up with half a dozen metal brackets, and faded photographs were tucked under each: some Polaroids, some black-and-white snapshots with curled edges, a few more recent shots, printed out from a computer. Eleanor herself didn't appear in any of them, but a young woman with features unmistakably similar did in several, an eighteen-year-old in a college sweatshirt smiling for the camera.

"She's in Darfur," Eleanor said, "or the Sudan, I can't remember which. Helping people, though why she couldn't do that at home I don't know."

"Is that what you wanted to show me...?"

"No." Eleanor pointed to the upper right corner, where one of the oldest photographs hung. It showed a man in a Navy uniform with one arm around the waist of a WAC. The man didn't look familiar. But the woman...

"That's my husband's father," Eleanor said. "My ex-husband, I should say, although I don't know if that's the best way to describe him—we're still technically married, but as he's serving a pair of consecutive life sentences at Shawshank, I like to think of the marriage as having been dissolved."

Part of Audrey's brain was processing what she was being told, and she wanted to ask about it—two life sentences? For what?

But more urgent matters were commanding her attention. Specifically, the woman in the photo. The sense of déjà vu was palpable. Once again it could have been her—it could have been Audrey. With Andrews Sisters hair, to be sure, and a slightly plumper figure, but...the face was hers. Or Lucy's—but that was impossible, too, since the photo must have been taken in...

"Nineteen fifty-three," Eleanor said. "On the shore right here in Haven, the day my father-in-law got home from the service."

"But—"

"You thought you were going to get answers, didn't you?" Eleanor said, and reflected in the mirror Audrey saw an unseemly glint in Eleanor's eye, as full of I-told-you-so as her own expression was of confusion. "Not more questions."

"It must be..." Audrey was stymied. "Lucy's mother? My grandmother?" Audrey turned to look at Eleanor, but the older woman kept staring at the photo and the mirror behind it, and after a moment Audrey turned back as well.

The woman's face—it was too similar, too close. Yes, mothers and daughters sometimes resembled one another, but not this much—not like twins. But what other explanation...?

"I don't know if Lucy left Haven," Eleanor said, "or where she went when she did. And I don't know who this woman with my father-in-law was. But I do know this: If you want to find these women, you need to start looking here," and she aimed a thumb in the direction of the mirror.

#

Reverend Driscoll closed his prayer book with a snap, bringing Audrey's attention back to the present. She saw Dave stir as well; the droning of the Rev's voice had lulled him into a sort of standing slumber. Beside him, Julia was wrapped in a long overcoat, rubbing a gloved hand across eyes red from crying.

The two workmen took their cue and began lowering Eleanor's coffin on straps. It took only seconds to vanish from view. One of them picked up a shovel from where it lay against a pile of freshly turned earth and handed it to Julia.

When her turn came, Audrey added her spadeful of dirt to the hole, handed the shovel back. It was cold, and she returned her hands to her pockets. In the right-hand pocket she fingered the deckled edge of a stiff bit of paper.

It had been Eleanor's gift to her, the photo; a relic of half a century past, a glimpse of another life, so close to hers and yet so impossibly far.

You need to start looking here, Eleanor had said, and pointed at the mirror, and Audrey had taken the photo down and begun studying it.

Looking up again at Eleanor's reflection in the mirror, she'd been surprised to see what looked like a trace of disappointment in Eleanor's expression, as if Audrey had somehow missed the point Eleanor had been trying to communicate.

"What is it," Audrey said, "is there something else here...?"

But Eleanor had only shrugged, patted her on the arm, and turned off the light. The image in the mirror had gone dark.

"You'll find your answers," Eleanor had said, "once you know what the right questions are." And with that she'd gone, leaving Audrey alone and fingering the edge of the photo.

#