It was a pricey location, but Julia had inherited some money from her mother that would pay for most of the wedding.
"The offices are downstairs," Michael added. "Let's go."
Julia drew in a deep breath as the moment of truth came rushing toward her. "I need to stop in the rest-room. Why don't you go ahead? I'll be right there."
When Michael left, Julia walked over to get a drink of water from a nearby fountain. She was sweating and her heart was practically jumping out of her chest. What on earth was the matter with her? She'd never felt so panicky in her life.
It was all the changes, she told herself again. Her emotions were too close to the surface. But she could do this. They were only picking a date. She wasn't going to say "I do" this afternoon. That would be months from now, when she was ready, really ready.
Feeling better, she headed downstairs, passing by several intriguing exhibits along the way. Maybe they could stop and take a look on the way out.
"Mrs. Harvey is finishing up another appointment," Michael told her as she joined him. "She'll be about ten minutes. I need to make a call. Can you hold down the fort?"
"Sure." Julia sat down on the couch, wishing Michael hadn't left. She really needed a distraction from her nerves. As the minutes passed, she became aware of the faint sound of music coming from down the hall. The melody was lovely but sad, filled with unanswered dreams, regrets. It reminded her of a piece played on the balalaika in one of her music classes in college, and it called to her in a way she couldn't resist. Music had always been her passion. Just a quick peek, she told herself, as she got to her feet and moved into the corridor.
The sounds of the strings grew louder as she entered the room at the end of the hall. It was a tape, she realized, playing in the background, intended no doubt to complement the equally haunting historic photographs on display. Within seconds she was caught up in a journey through time. She couldn't look away. And she didn't want to look awayespecially when she came to the picture of the little girl.
Captioned "The Coldest War of All," the black-and-white photograph showed a girl of no more than three or four years old, standing behind the gate of an orphanage in Moscow. The photo had been taken by someone named Charles Manning, the same man who appeared to have taken many of the pictures in the exhibit.
Julia studied the picture in detail. She wasn't as interested in the Russian scene as she was in the girl. The child wore a heavy dark coat, pale thick stockings, and a black woolen cap over her curly blond hair. The expression in her eyes begged for someonewhoever was taking the picture, perhapsto let her out, to set her free, to help her.
An uneasy feeling crept down Julia's spine. The girl's features, the oval shape of her face, the tiny freckle at the corner of her eyebrow, the slope of her small, upturned nose, seemed familiar. She noticed how the child's pudgy fingers clung to the bars of the gate. It was odd, but she could almost feel that cold steel beneath her own fingers. Her breath quickened. She'd seen this picture before, but where? A vague memory danced just out of reach.
Her gaze moved to the silver chain hanging around the girl's neck and the small charm dangling from it. It looked like a swan, a white swan, just like the one her mother had given to her when she was a little girl. Her heart thudded in her chest, and the panicky feeling she'd experienced earlier returned.
She jumped at the sound of Michael's booming voice. She'd forgotten about him.
"Mrs. Harvey is waiting for us," he said as he crossed the room. "What are you doing in here?"
"Looking at the photos."
"We don't have time for that. Come on."
"Just a second." She pointed at the photograph. "Does this girl seem familiar to you?"
Michael gave the photo a quick glance. "I don't think so. Why?"
"I have a necklace just like the one that little girl is wearing," she added. "Isn't that odd?"
"Why would it be odd? It doesn't look unusual to me.
Of course it didn't. There were probably a million girls who had that same necklace. "You're right. Let's go." But as she turned to follow Michael out of the room, she couldn't help taking one last look at the picture. The girl's eyes called out to hereyes that looked so much like her own. But that little girl in the photograph didn't have anything to do with herdid she?