“Oh, Harper, gross. Way to take it up a notch.”
“Hey, look.” Marcy pointed at the door. “It’s your handsome steed.” Harper lifted her head to see Daniel walking toward the library, an old brown box under one of his arms.
She was a little surprised to see him. Yesterday she’d called him a few times, but hadn’t heard from him, other than a text confirming that he was okay—just busy.
“Steed?” Harper asked, glancing back at Marcy. “You do realize that a ‘steed’ is a horse.”
“Really?” Marcy asked, but she didn’t sound swayed. “I thought it meant, like, knight in shining armor.”
The chime above the door jingled, and Daniel strode over to the front desk.
“No, that’s what knight in shining armor means,” Harper informed Marcy.
“You must be talking about me,” Daniel said. “Continue. Pretend I’m not here.”
“I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re working, Daniel.” Marcy did her best to sound bitchy, which was hard to do when she was so monotone. “This is Harper’s last day, and I need her to focus and finish all the work she’d ordinarily be doing over the next nine months. So we’re pretty swamped.”
“Marcy,” Harper chastised her, but she was laughing.
“Sorry, Marcy,” Daniel said. “I’ll only take a couple minutes. I promise.”
“Fine.” Marcy sighed dramatically and got off the desk. “I’ll just go back in the office and eat Edie’s snacktime yogurt.”
“Why are you doing that?” Harper asked.
“Because when she eats it, she gets really graphic with the spoon, and it’s gross. Do you think I like peach yogurt? No. I don’t.” Marcy shook her head emphatically as she backed toward Edie’s office. “But I eat it for all the patrons of this fair library. They should thank me. I am a hero.”
Harper turned her attention back to Daniel. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“I know that you have that dinner with your family tonight, and I don’t want to intrude on that.” He’d been holding the box so it was hidden from Harper on the other side of the counter, and now he lifted it up and set it down in front of her. “But I wanted to get this to you before you left.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything,” Harper said.
Daniel laughed and looked ashamed. “Now you’re making me feel bad, because I didn’t get you anything. I found this.”
“What is it?” Harper asked, but she was already lifting off the top to peer inside.
“I’ve been cleaning out the cabin, and I found this little secret attic compartment in the top of my closet,” Daniel explained. “There were a few mice living up there, and then this box, containing some memorabilia.”
On top were stacks of old pictures. Some of them had been chewed at the corners, probably by the mice that Daniel had mentioned, but most of them appeared to be in fairly good shape.
“I thought we’d gotten all of Bernie’s stuff out of the cabin. I was wondering why he didn’t have any pictures of his wife in his old photo albums,” Harper said as she sifted through the pictures.
“No, he has quite a few,” Daniel said.
But she didn’t need him telling her that. She’d barely even dug into it and she’d already found dozens of pictures of Bernie and his wife. Both of them appeared very young, and Harper guessed that Bernie couldn’t have been more than twenty-two.
Their wedding picture was particularly gorgeous. Her dress was exquisite, and she was absolutely breathtaking. Her long blond hair had a few simple curls, and her smile was radiant. Bernie stood next to her, a young man who’d never looked happier or more dapper, but she stole the whole picture. It was almost as if the camera couldn’t focus on anything else but her.
“She was so stunning.” Harper admired a picture of Bernie and his wife in a modest 1950s-style bikini, then held it out for Daniel to see. “Look at her. And look at how handsome Bernie was. They were so happy.”
Since she was holding it out, she could see their names scrawled on the back: Bernard and Thalia McAllister—Honeymoon, June 1961.
“And Thalia,” Harper said. “That’s such a beautiful name. I always forget it, but it’s so pretty.” Something occurred to her, something she couldn’t quite place. “Does that name sound familiar to you?”
“No, I can’t say that I’ve ever known any Thalias.” Daniel shook his head.
“You say you found all this in the attic?” Harper asked.
“Yeah. This box was the only thing I found up there, other than mouse droppings.”
“Strange,” she said. “I wonder why he hid this.”
Harper set the picture aside and started digging deeper into the box, where the pictures gave way to papers. Old love letters, news clippings of their wedding announcement, even one with an article about Bernie buying the island with money he’d inherited.
“What happened to her?” Daniel asked. He leaned forward, trying to read the papers upside down.
“I don’t know exactly. She had an accident,” Harper said, then she discovered the clipping with Thalia’s obituary. “Oh, here. It says she fell off a ladder while trimming her rosebush and broke her neck. She was only twenty-four.
“They’d been married for two years,” she said sadly. “That’s so horrible. Can you imagine? Thinking you have your whole life together, and then … this. It’s tragic.”