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"I CANNOT ABIDE HERE without him. My heart aches with emptiness. I must flee to the man I love, or I shall die."
Tracey stared at the elegant black handwriting on the journal's fragile yellowing pages. Even now, almost one hundred-and-fifty years later, she felt the writer's anguish—an anguish that she, too, should be feeling at the loss of Scotty. But she didn't. She just felt numb.
Like Tracey, this woman—her many-times-great-grandmother—had loved a man and lost him. But unlike Tracey, she'd found her love again and married him.
Tracey closed the leather-bound diary and returned it to the old-fashioned, curved-top trunk beside her. She slipped off thin white cotton gloves and buried her face in her hands.
"Why did you have to die, Scotty?" she whispered. "You promised me a lifetime of love and adventure." And passion to fill the long, lonely nights. Would she ever know passion? Or love?
An island of light surrounded Tracey and her worktable in the silent museum warehouse. Shelves to the ceiling, filled with archive boxes, stretched into the darkness. An air conditioner's hum muffled any sounds from outside.
For two weeks, she'd waited for news about Scotty. D.A.R.T., the sheriff's Diving And Rescue Team, still hadn't found his body. Don, his roommate, had heard nothing. Though Tracey wanted to hope, she knew Scotty must be dead.
She rubbed the small silver key she wore on a chain around her neck—the only memento she'd kept of the man she'd promised to marry. If he'd lived, would she have fallen in love with him during those long nights on the high seas?
A clickstartled her and she turned. Marge Jefferson, her deputy director, stood in the doorway from the office area.
"Tracey? Are you all right, honey?"
"I'm fine," she replied automatically.
She didn't sound fine and she knew it.
Marge's dark eyes were compassionate in her round, brown face. "You ought to take a couple of days off, honey. Go somewhere, or stay home and—"
"No!" Not meaning to sound so harsh, Tracey softened her voice. "No. We have too much to do. And I need to work. I don't want to sit home and…"
And what? Listen to the silence? Drown in the loneliness? Go crazy thinking about what might have been? Tracey shook her head.
Marge was not only her assistant, but also her friend. After Scotty's death, she'd taken over all the meet-the-public duties so Tracey could bury herself in her work out in the warehouse. But Marge shouldn't have to run the whole museum by herself.
"I did not come back here to sit around and mope." Tracey picked up her white cotton gloves. "I intend to get everything in this trunk sorted tonight, and be back to my office tomorrow."
Marge jammed her fists against ample hips. "Tracey, you push yourself too hard. That trunk's been in your grandmother's house for over fifty years. It can wait another few days."
Tracey smiled. "You're right. But this job is good for me right now." She straightened the stack of letters she'd already enclosed in Mylar. "I can't imagine why Grandma didn't bring these things down to the museum before. Unless she forgot she'd stashed this trunk up in the attic."
"Or saved it for you to work on after you graduated and took over as director here."
That would've been just like her grandmother—keeping a few exciting jobs to intersperse with the boring ones. She'd always done anything she could to keep Tracey interested in her studies, and in the museum that was to be her life's work.
Copyright © 2005 Eloise Barton Miller.