I clung to Dante’s arm as he opened the door. As much as I hated to admit it I was still weak but I wasn’t about to let on. After being stuck in my room for five weeks I needed to get out.
Elise and Savannah had dressed me in a thick, blue, silk dress complete with pantaloons and three petticoats. The red velvet cape caressed my neck and the large hood covered my head.
“Are you ready?” Dante asked.
I laughed. “Let’s just get out there already.”
Dante took a step out onto the back terrace and I gingerly placed one foot on the snow covered stones.
I was outside.
I raised my face to the overcast sky and breathed deeply. It smelled like snow, crisp and clean.
“I should have had someone clean this off,” Dante said looking around at the snow covered terrace.
“No, no. I like it like this.” I trailed my gloved fingers over a railing. Snow drifted off and landed by my feet. “It’s perfect. Thank you.”
Dante smiled and dusted off a bench. He sat down and patted the place beside him. I shook my head. I didn’t want sit, I wanted to run.
I slowly made my way around the terrace. Empty urns, their edges softened by the snow, sat forlornly along the railing. Bare branched trees rattled softly in the breeze. I closed my eyes and held out my arms. Spinning in slow motion I revelled in the feel of the chilly air on my cheeks.
There was a bark and I opened my eyes to see Truscott racing towards me, clouds of snow rising behind him.
“Truscott! Slow down, buddy.” I stepped down onto the lawn.
Truscott skid to a stop and banged into my legs. With a jolt I found myself sitting in a drift. I laughed.
“Crystal!” Dante pounded across the patio and crouched beside me. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I’m fine.” I fondled Truscott’s ears. “Seriously, Dante, I not going to fall apart. My name may be Crystal, but I’m made out of stronger stock.”
He didn’t seemed convinced as he held his hand out to help me up. I placed my hand in his and allowed him to pull me to my feet.
He tucked my hand into the crook of his arm and led me slowly around the yard. Truscott bounded ahead. He turned and cocked his head. He barked once as if to say ‘Come on. Hurry up.’
“Can’t move any faster, boy,” I called to the brown dog. “Go play.”
With one more bark Truscott took off after a group of sparrows. I watched as the flock took to the air. They flew up, chattering, desperate to get away. Some days I felt like that. Only there was no way for me to just get up and fly.
“Dante, what do you want from me?” I studied the lines of the yard as I waited for him to answer.
“What do you mean?”
I bit my lip. “You’ve spent so much helping me get better. Surely you need something from me. You’ve treated me like one of your own. I’m not an Elite. I’m a girl from the poor of the East Slums.”
He led me to a bench and this time I sat down with him. I looked at him but he was staring into the distance. He was struggling to find an answer, I could see it in his face. I turned to the yard.
It looked unorganized but if you really studied where everything was placed you could still see a pattern. All the trees were the same distance apart. Three different groves of trees grew in squares along the bank of a small creek where Truscott was gingerly walking on ice.
I turned back to Dante.
“It’s not true.”
“What’s not true?”
Dante sighed. “How much did your grandfather tell you about his life?”
I shook my head. “Not much. He said it wasn’t worth repeating.”
“That was a lie. Well, not a lie. But his life is worth knowing. Come, I want to show you something.”
Something in his voice scared me. Truscott was still trying to walk on the ice. He came running when I called him. I wanted my trusty hound with me when Dante revealed whatever secrets he was keeping.
In his office Dante seated me in an easy chair in front of a cheery fire. I stared into the dancing flames and wondered why God had done this to me. Why He had plucked me from my life and dropped in the midst of these strangers?
Yes, I had been here five weeks, but they were still strangers to me. Only Elise seemed to understand where I came from.
In Dante’s hands was the large yellow envelope I had brought here.
I frowned. “What is it?”
“Everything you need to know.” Dante stepped back. “I’ll let you read it here. I won’t be far away.”
I watched him walk to the door. He was stiff, like he was afraid something was about to change.
Truscott yawned and turned around three times on the rug. The flames crackled, sending sparks up the chimney. Outside, snow drifted down, landing silently on the ground.
I took a deep breath and opened the envelope. I pulled out the papers and studied the top one.
It was another envelope, smaller and older. The flap was torn and breaking. Inside were pictures. I pulled them out and fanned them out on my lap. Two young men smiled at me from the black and white image.
Another photo was of only one of them and I recognized it. My grandfather had the same picture in his room. He said it was him when he was young.
I had often wondered why he had been wearing such fancy clothes. He had told me he was playing with one of the rich boys and he had lent him some clothes for the day.
I shoved the pictures back into the envelope and picked up the next piece of paper. It was a birth certificate for Andrew Reynold St. Clair.
My grandfather’s name was Andrew Reynolds. That was my last name too. Except I never used it. We didn’t have last names in the slums. We had nick names and first names, that was it.
I pulled out the picture of my grandfather again and turned it over. In faded ink was that name again. Andrew Reynold St. Clair.
I shook my head. What had my grandfather done?
The next paper was a marriage certificate. The marriage of Andrew Reynold St. Clair to Louisa Anne Trescott.
Right behind that certificate was another one. Only instead of being on heavy, gold embossed paper it was just plain paper with plain black ink. The marriage of Andrew Reynolds to Theresa Hockens. That was my grandmother.
My brain began to pound. I closed my eyes and pressed a hand to my head. What was going on? Nothing was making sense anymore.
Near the bottom of the pile was a bunch of papers clipped together with a paper clip. I flipped through them and the tears began to flow.
“No, you didn’t. How could you? How could you?” I turned away from the words.
I didn’t even know the man anymore. How could he have lied for so long to me? Why had he found it necessary to keep this all from me?
I took a deep breath and turned back to the evidence. My grandfather was once one of the Elite. Born to Reynold and Sarah St. Clair. He had one younger brother, James St. Clair. He had married Louisa Trescott only to lose her in childbirth. The baby, a boy, had died with her.
The newspaper clippings glued to the papers had told it all. My grandfather had lost it and left his family. A few years later someone saw him in the slums. His family had tried to get him to come home but he had fallen for my grandmother, a washer woman’s daughter, and he wanted her too. But the family couldn’t accept her and he refused to come back. Instead he ahd stayed on the slums and married Theresa.
That was the last time anyone in the family ever mentioned his name. His brother had inherited the family fortune and soon drove the business into the ground. James St. Clair had been accused of embezzling money and the whole family was in ruins. James’ son, Andrew, tried to restore the family name and had finally managed to do it. And nine years ago he had moved up into the Elites with his wife and his son, Dominique.
Dominique was my second cousin. Was that why Grandpa had gone to Andrew? Because he knew that his nephew couldn’t refuse him?
But what had he wanted? I flipped through the papers trying to find the answers.
‘Crystal, like glass, clear and brilliant.
Destiny, an unknown future.
Together they bring an end and a beginning.
Apart all will crumble.
Your future is like glass:
One wrong move and it shatters.’
I kept finding those words. What did they mean?
In the middle of the stack was a bunch of legal documents. I couldn’t make out what half of it was saying. But some of the names were familiar. John and Quincy, Lance, Trinity and Alex. My grandfather had adopted John and named me as John and Quincy’s oldest daughter. I studied my birth certificate.
Then I shook my head. He had written the date wrong. According to the certificate I was seventeen. One year older then the twins.
I had read enough. I shoved the papers to the floor and stood up. The windows began to rattle as the wind picked up. I made my way across the room and stared into the gathering gloom.
Tears made their way down my cheeks. I rested my head against the cold glass. Everything I had been told was a lie. I wasn’t just a girl from the slums, half of me was one of the Elite.
I turned to Dante. “How could he?”