By I. C. Talbot
Julia Carstairs was seventeen, just graduated from high school, when her father and mother turned her out of their house.
The young girl did not smoke, drink, never had any contact with drugs, had no expectations of being waited on hand and foot, was helpful to her mother around the house without being asked, kept a clean room and had grown proficient over the years in making most of her own clothing.
Julia came down for breakfast one pleasant summer morning, was asked to run an errand to the barn, returned to find her bags packed and her father loading them into the back of his pickup truck. Taught never to question the decisions of her parents all during her young life, Julia waited silently for an explanation. None was forthcoming.
"This is the last day you will spend in this house, Julia," her mother said when her father ordered her into the truck before driving off with her. She hadn't the faintest notion of what she had done, where she was being taken, or what was to happen to her. Her father answered her questions with silence.
Julia was stunned beyond belief. Nothing in her entire lifetime had prepared her for this turn of events.
Her silent, stern faced father turned, after placing her belongings on the sidewalk in front of the local bus station, handed her an envelope, climbed into his truck, and drove off, leaving her alone on the sidewalk with her things.
Julia was always discouraged from inviting her friends to the house, was never allowed to spend any time away from home. There were no friends to whom she could turn. With no money for bus fare, Julia believed she was dumped off at the bus station as no one would question a young girl with luggage being there alone.
A tearful Julia carried her two battered suitcases and two fairly large boxes into the bus station, placed them near a bench against a far wall, sat down and opened the envelope her father had given her, hoping for a clue to her future.
In it was a ten dollar bill, a smaller envelope with two dollars in small change (no pennies), and a folded document she thought to be her birth certificate. Nothing else.
Still stunned, as all this happened to her in the space of a short hour, she unfolded the certificate and began to read.
Her first name, Julia and middle name Agatha were as she knew them but the last name was not Carstairs, the one she had grown up thinking to be hers. Her mother's name and that of her father, as shown, weren't those of the people she had lived with all her life and called Mom and Dad.
The first and last name written on the certificate under Mother's name was that of the resident of Willow Crest, a stately home from which, gossip said, all the town's benefits flowed.
The name shown under Father's Name was unfamiliar to her.
Listed on the outside of the envelope was a local telephone number.
Julia sat for over an hour on the hard bench while the realization that she had no place to go, no way to get there if she had, and was entirely on her own, set in.
Finally, with a huge sigh, Julia walked to the pay phone, put in her quarter and dialed the number on the envelope.
"Shane and Renfrew, Attorneys at Law, how may I help you?" came back at her.
"I don't know if you can." Julia replied. "I'm seventeen, with a problem I don't know how to solve. I'm at the bus station with my belongings, brought here by my father with the admonition not to return home, ever."
"What did you do?" she was asked.
"I got up this morning, ran an errand out of doors for my mother before breakfast, and when I returned, found my things packed and was told I had to leave."
"May I ask your name?"
"Julia Carstairs well, I thought I was Julia Carstairs but I was given a birth certificate for a Julia Agatha Christie."
"Julia," the voice on the phone told her, "stay right where you are. I'll come get you. In a blue Ford, in ten minutes. My name is Shirley Fontaine. Stay calm, dear."
Julia hung up the phone and returned to her bench.
Shirley, however, rushed into Cal Renfrew's office without knocking, saying as she entered, "You will never guess who just called, Cal."
"Well, from what I overheard, Shirley, let me guess. The matter we discussed last Friday as someday rearing its ugly head, has done so, far in advance of the expected date."
"Right. I'm picking up Julia Carstairs Christie at the bus depot NOW!"
"I'll call my wife to let her know we have a guest, who may stay for three years before all this is settled."
Shirley closed the outer door as Cal picked up his phone.
At the depot, as Shirley opened the outer door to an almost empty room, she saw at the far end, a tearful lost looking young lady, with luggage around her feet.
She called quietly, "Julia?" and was answered by a shy smile.
Well, Shirley thought, she's a pretty little thing, poorly dressed, but Cal will soon take care of that!
Shirley picked up half of Julia's things, while she followed with the rest to the car, where everything was stowed in the trunk. They then drove to Cal's office.
Julia was ushered in, introduced to Cal Renfrew, offered a chair, and asked if there were anything she wanted before they had their chat.
Julie smiled shyly, "I wasn't offered breakfast before being rushed off..."
"If Shirley would be so kind as to run to MacDonald's, would one of their breakfasts do?"
"Yes, sir, it would."Shirley was so kind.
While they waited, Julie told Cal about the birth certificate. He explained that the Carstairs were only foster parents, perhaps in some way related, that she had been, unfortunately, placed with the Carstairs shortly after birth, although not forgotten by her own parents. His client wanted her to remain Julia Carstairs until her twenty first birthday.
Now, until that time, she was welcome to live with himself, his wife and two children, Drew, thirteen and Delia, twelve, as one of the family. Would Julia agree to use the Carstairs name until that time?
"I don't think the Carstairs would want that." she offered.
"They have no say in the matter. In fact, if they voice an objection, or make any mention of the fact that your last name isn't Carstairs, they face consequences."
"Why the mystery, Mr. Renfrew? Either I am a Christie as my birth certificate reads, or I am not."
"Julia, I am under obligation to see to your welfare until you are twenty one. At that time, you take over. Meanwhile, if you'd like to work, I will find you a job, or you may elect to go to college. I understand your grades will allow you to enter any college you may choose. Your tuition is provided for."
Julia's hopes rose immediately, but she questioned: "Why wasn't I told? The Carstairs said many times that I must earn my own living when I finished school, would not be able to attend college. I probably would have chosen other courses to be college ready, had I known."
"I've kept track of your scholastic record, Julia. I believe you could ready yourself for college by attending summer classes in Albany. They start Monday and I will see that you are enrolled immediately."
"How would I get to Albany? And how will I live, and where, while going to classes?" Julia was skeptical.
"Shirley will let you stay with her during the week, if you choose to go and you will return to my house weekends. Shirley will use this afternoon to take you shopping for a fall wardrobe. Would you be up to going after lunch?" Renfrew asked.
"It's very nice of Shirley to allow a complete stranger to stay with her. Things are happening so fast, it's hard to make decisions." She was overwhelmed.
"You will have time before and during the ride to Albany after lunch for serious thought on the matter." was Renfrew's optimistic statement.
"And in the three hours before then, can I keep busy, by perhaps helping Shirley?" she questioned.
"I am sure she'd be pleased you offered." He called out to Shirley, "Julia has offered to help you anyway she can, until you both leave after lunch. I'll let you two work it out."
Shirley smiled, "I can always use help. Julia, what do you know about filing?" she asked, as Julia left the lawyer's office.
"What filing system do you use?"
"Alphabetical." Julia's question showed promise.
"I know my alphabet." Julia said with a slow smile.
"Good. See that stack over on the desk?" Shirley pointed to a pile of correspondence, and explained further to Julia, "All our filing is done under the Client's last name, which will appear on a legal paper, whether litigant or defendant, and can be easily determined if you call out the case name to me."
The filing was soon finished.Shirley also found Julia very efficient at the keyboard when she set her to work there, and was sorry when lunch time came. Another hour with Julia's help and she would be on top of things in the morning.
On the drive to Albany, Julia asked a lot of questions of Shirley, who explained as best she could, keeping the confidentiality of her work in mind.
Julia was impressed not only by the name of the shop she was taken to in Albany, but by the manner in which Shirley handed her over to the sales clerk.
"This is Julia. She will go to summer classes starting Monday and is entering college this fall. She will need a complete wardrobe, please."
They went over the racks, gathering clothing. Julia was dressed, Shirley consulted, Julia undressed, dressed again. It took little time for the sales clerk to discover what pleased Shirley. Nothing flamboyant, just stylish, somewhat conservative, in skirts, sweaters, dresses, all of excellent quality.
After amassing a pile of choices, Julia was hustled off to the shoe department where she chose four pair, matching them with the clothing she had chosen.
Lingerie, p.j.'s, light coat, jacket, scarf, gloves, purses, hosiery, again with the clothing and shoe purchases in mind, were chosen.
Julia caught a fleeting glimpse of price tags and, although enjoying the unique experience, laid her hand on Shirley's arm as she went to arrange for payment.
"Who is paying for all this, Shirley?" was her question.
"A client." was the answer.
"I could get by with half this cost at Sears, or Penneys, even less at Walmart."
"Yes, you could. But we were told where to bring you, and given an approximate amount to spend. We're under that. You've been very easy to please, and I think you'll look great in all you've chosen." Shirley explained.
"Honestly, Shirley, my sewing machine and all the materials and other things over my four years in high school didn't amount to what those four pair of shoes cost."
"My dear, this is one time I would caution you not to look a gift horse in the mouth." Shirley admonished.
"Well, okay, then!" Julia sighed.
"Good girl. Now I'll take you to my place where you will spend your evenings, five days a week."
Shirley drove to a house in a modest neighborhood, explaining on the way she had a teen aged daughter, Martie, whom Julia would meet a little later.
Martie had her own room, for which Julia was grateful after being given a tour of the house. She had always studied alone in a quiet house, and one look into Martie's room at her TV, stereo, record player and collection, made Julia appreciate the guestroom had been built off the family room, behind the garage.
This part of the house seemed a new addition to Julie, as were the furnishings, and would be a great place to study.
"Mr. Renfrew is coming to take you back to Littlefield for the weekend. Why don't you spend the time until he arrives in arranging your new things, taking off labels, and sorting out a few items, like pj's, to take with you. Here's a weekender bag to pack it in. I'll bring Martie back to meet you when she gets home. And, Julia, please answer her questions generally. That you are going to summer classes at the college and Mr. Renfrew is sponsoring you, as he's done for others over the years. They all proved to be brains who didn't fit into Martie's picture of real people. You're more like her. I think you two will get along fine."
Shirley was wrong about their being alike. Martie talked a blue streak, Julia just listened. She had only a vague idea of who Martie's favorite musicians were, hadn't seen any of the movies Martie had enjoyed, and gave only perfunctory answers to her questions.
Martie soon lost interest and Julia was alone in her room when Shirley came to tell her Renfrew had arrived.
During the drive back to Littlefield, Julia answered the many questions Cal asked about herself, the Carstairs, and the family life she knew with them, giving him an insight into what her life had been like thus far.
The Renfrew house was on the river, a very attractive home outside, beautiful on the inside. The Renfrew children proved younger, polite, but distant.
Julia's suitcases were already in her room, which had a southern view of woods and river. She enjoyed the view as she unpacked, intermingling her new things with the old, placing into the weekender those things she would need in Albany.
Mrs. Renfrew requested she join the family after settling in, and Julia spent an hour becoming acquainted with the Renfrew children, Mrs. Renfrew whom she immediately liked and the house.
It was suggested she wait to visit the grounds until the morning as dinner was ready. It was enjoyed during light conversation.
Julia was an early riser, even on weekends. The smell of coffee lead her to the kitchen at quarter to seven next morning. Cal Renfrew was seated at the counter looking out at the river and seemed lost in thought as she entered.
She said a quiet "Good morning, sir," and didn't think he heard, until he answered in the same quiet tone.
"Come over here, slowly, Julia. I've been watching a squirrel cross over quite a distance on a wire. See him out there?" he pointed.
"I do. That wire has a lot of slack in it. He could fall if startled. Do you suppose he's brave or just foolish? Of course, either way, you have to admire him. It would be so much easier to make that crossing on the ground." As she stood, intent on that little furry creature's daring do, Cal studied the young girl.
Julia was about five foot six, he guessed. Long blonde hair caught up in a pony tail, green eyes, aristocratic nose and chin, and a delightful wide grin, showing even white teeth, and there was an easy going air about her.
What a blow it must have been for her world to change the way it had, he thought. Julia Carstairs, but not Julia Carstairs. Parents who weren't parents and didn't want her, let alone love her. Believing there was no chance for her to go to college, then the definite opportunity to go arising.
Here she was, in completely different circumstances, admiring the pluck of a squirrel!
He wondered if perhaps he should schedule several visits for her with Amory Stedman, the Guidance Counsellor at Littlefield High School. Julia found no reason to visit him while she was enrolled there and Amory reported her as a well adjusted young lady. Had all this changed her? He should find out.
"Would you like breakfast now, or would you care for a walk about the grounds, Julia?" Renfrew asked, thinking it might give him a chance to learn.
"I can breakfast later when everyone is up, I'd like a walk. It looks nice and fresh out there."
It was a beautiful morning and Cal took her first along the river. He was proud of having acquired this piece of property on its shore, although it had to be fenced when his children were younger.
"Julia, tell me how you feel about everything that is happening in your life." Cal asked.
"So many of the questions I had over the years have been answered now. My supposed parents were affectionate, I guess. They always seemed to be standoffish where other people were concerned polite, but not wanting anyone to get too close. Vague with the answers I always thought should be answered more specifically. Why didn't they just come out and say they weren't my parents? That, I could have understood. I seemed different from them in so many ways. My opinions, likes, dislikes. There were Aunts and Uncles on both sides cousins they visited a lot when I was younger, but we never returned their visits and they gradually stopped coming. 'Different interests, different lifestyles' I was told."
"I can remember the many times other people told me I surely didn't resemble either of the Carstairs, I must be a throwback or something. I can remember how upset my mother how do I think of her now? my foster mother? getting really upset over that. Why not explain I was a foster child, or adopted?" she asked Renfrew.
"Their contract was to reveal nothing." he explained.
"What would they have lost by revealing it?"
"Oh, I'd say a lot."
"Can't you tell me?"
"No, not yet." Renfrew shook his head sadly.
"But if I can be told when I am 2l, why not at almost eighteen? Swear me to secrecy, threaten me with banishment, no, I guess I've already been banished, haven't I?
"Tell me, Mr. Renfrew," she continued. "Do you think I shall be better able to handle the facts of my life when I am 2l, three years less one month from now?"
"No, I don't. But you can get used to not being a Carstairs by birth during that time."
"Get over being cast out by the only family I've known? How long does it take to get over the death of ones' parents? Mine are dead, you know, to me. But I can't go to the farm and see it empty of the Carstairs because the Carstairs are dead only to me. That's what I can't understand. And why yesterday and not on my graduation day? Who decided when they should cast me out? You, my parents on the birth certificate, or my foster parents?" Julia wanted to know.
"Actually, Julia, it was the Carstairs."
"At the moment, I don't really know. But the fact that they gave you the firm's phone number means something. If this hadn't happened, would you eventually have moved away if you found employment in Albany? You could have gone there to look for work. What were your plans? Did you reveal them to the Carstairs? Something set this off, as you were to be allowed to stay with them, or go where you would. The tie was to remain the same."
"Then you think what they did was meant to upset the apple cart?"
"I wish I knew."
"I guess I should look at this in a different light. Not knowing all the facts makes it almost impossible to guess why, at this time, I was made to leave the house."
Julie sat on a stone wall, looking out at the river."Mr. Renfrew, what happened this past week? Why was Shirley aware that I might call? She didn't seem surprised. Nor were you. It was just as if you all had shifted into another gear on a steep hill. You seemed ready for me."
"I have no idea why we felt ready for contact from you, as I really don't know." Cal answered truthfully.
"Look, its clear I've been kept in the dark all my life. Now I want the light turned on. I want to see my future, not grope in the dark until I am 2l. I think, by giving me that birth certificate, the Carstairs were directing me. What I need to know is in this town somewhere. Is it well hidden? Why immediately enroll me in summer classes in Albany, away from Littlefield!" Julia was now facing him, her eyes flashing. "I'm curious, Mr. Renfrew, I want the facts. And with that birth certificate, I think I can get them myself, one way or another."
"Please, Julia, I ask that you don't!" he pleaded.
"Not good enough, sir. I've always needed a reason for things people wanted of me. A please is not a reason. I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll wait a week for a good reason, a very good reason. Then I find the light switch!"
Julie took a short cut back to the house, and joined the Renfrew family for breakfast.
Before Cal did likewise, he went to Julia's room to check her purse for the birth certificate, only to find it wasn't there. He would call Shirley after breakfast. She could look in Julia's things at her house. He didn't think Julia was expecting anyone to take it, so why should she hide it? It might upset things if it stayed in her possession.
When he called, Shirley suggested Cal just ask for it. Give her the excuse that he wanted to check on something. He was a lawyer, she was certain he would think of something!
He did as she suggested, asked Julia where it was, could he see it. He wanted to know how the Carstairs got it.
Julia replied, "There isn't anything on it to tell you. I know it by heart. It's a certified copy, came from the State Records. You can get a copy from there if you need one. $2.00 plus postage." and walked away to join his daughter. It was almost too smooth, he thought. Like a lawyer might answer. Then he grinned. No, exactly like a lawyer would answer.
Julia, unbeknownst to Shirley, made a copy of both sides of the certificate on the copier while she was helping her in the office, and filed the original in the closed files under Shirley's name. She felt the original was quite safe there, and the copies, one of the front, one of the back of the certificate, were also safely tucked in the torn corner of the lining of the weekender. The names and dates were on file in her memory. Etched there, in fact.
Julia spent a busy week back in Albany. First, an interview in the Administration Office, where her enrollment was finalized. Then classes. Her books were delivered to Shirley's house, along with a class schedule, even before her return from Renfrew's. Shirley didn't just hint at how fortunate Julia was to have all the preliminaries taken care of for her. She still vividly
remembered how much time and money it took for her brother to gather up his books (used, of course), arrange tuition, and find a place to stay. His time in college was long before Shirley married, found her present home, gave birth to Martie, but was still fresh in her memory.
Julia had a retentive mind, a knack for thorough reading, but even so, her first week left little time to even remember her ultimatum to Cal, or become acquainted with Martie.
Later, she found the young girl to be refreshingly honest, nosey, with a great sense of humor. Martie was experiencing things at school Julia had missed, and she soon realized her introverted nature had shut her out of a lot of enjoyable experiences.
Martie developed the habit of seeking Julia out when she came home from school, during the hours her mother was not yet home. To Julia, it was like having a younger sister, and she found herself reticent to weekend at the Renfrew's, as she felt out of place in their more opulent setting, much more comfortable at Shirley's.
She asked Shirley if it were necessary for her to go there every weekend, if her presence at Shirley's might be an inconvenience if she didn't go. Before answering, Shirley spoke to Cal Renfrew about it.
His reply: "When Julia reaches twenty one, her mother wishes her to be educated in more ways than college. We are to introduce her into society, so to speak, where she will meet eligible men, with the idea of her marrying well, and I'm afraid, reach the point where her mother can finally wash her hands of the girl, or, if her husband is acceptable, meet with her on a social basis. That is why it is unfortunate she was given that birth certificate. Have you had any luck in locating it?"
"No, and she hasn't mentioned to Martie a thing about her last name, not really being a Carstairs, or that she was shown the door on her former home. Nothing that isn't related to school or her present circumstances. Everything seems to be held inside as far as her former life is concerned. Is that good? Do you think she should, perhaps, get help there?" Shirley was concerned.
"I do have full discretion where her physical well being is concerned. Her mental well being is perhaps something I should discuss with the Client. Keep a close watch on her when you can, Shirley. I'll see that this added burden is rewarded."
Shirley suggested to the girls, instead of getting together while she was still at work, they do their studying early, and thus draw Julia into family life discussions, some TV together, during which interaction on a family basis could take place.
Then she pointed out to Cal that more time with herself and Martie on the weekends with Julia could be useful in this matter, also. After all, Julia had several years yet to go before coming of age.
Thus, the outings Shirley enjoyed on weekends with her own daughter stretched to include Julia, and as Martie was active in sports, they took Julia to summer league soccer games. As older girls were on the team, they talked her into trying out for the summer team, too. Julia fitted in nicely with the girls, proved to have a natural knack for the game and the exercise heightened her color.
The weekend games bit into the time Julia spent at the Renfrew's, dwindling it to an occasional Sunday.
The obvious effect on Julia's well being was so apparent, all of Cal's doubt faded. Interaction with her own age group seemed to be what she needed. Her studies were not affected.
Julia passed her SAT test without problem and was soon enrolled in fall college classes.
From a slow paced introverted home life, Julia emerged as an eager, involved young lady. A very much-changed young lady, apparent as young men her age began appearing on Shirley's doorstep.
Martie again postponed her homework until her mother came home to sit on Julia's bed and ooh and aah at Julia's conquests.
The Renfrew's were insistent that the Holidays be spent with them at Littlefield. Martie had a new close girl friend who spent the weekends with her, but the big sister/little sister relation ship remained intact.
After her nineteenth birthday, with two years of college behind her, Julia decided she was ready to confront her past. She had clues enough to know who her mother was, where she lived, and that Julia's birth had been an embarrassment to her family because of their social status. Being well read, having seen, first hand, girls at school vanish because they became pregnant, and heard stories on campus, it was easy to understand that where teen aged girls were concerned, they were at the mercy of their parents' decisions when a difficult situation developed. A handsome face, a smooth line, a moment's indiscretion with the wrong young man, and a girl's life could be ruined. And also a child's, she realized.
Julia wanted to see what the man who caused all this was like. She was certain her mother's family had taken over her life. But were they instrumental in her being raised by the Carstairs? It would be interesting to hear both sides of the story.
Between classes, Julia spent many hours in the college library, which boasted several computers, and she inquired about taking a short class between her regular ones. It would put the information she needed more readily at her disposal.
After the class, with the help of the assistant librarian, Julie started a family tree.
Name: Julia Agatha ChristieMother's Name: Martha Eleanor RandolphFather's Name: Cornelius Wadsworth Stratton ChristieShe then added the date and place of her birth.The library assistant hadn't remained at her side beyond Julia's placing her name on the proper line.
Knowing who her parents were, Julia was now interested in where they lived, and learned Martha Eleanor Randolph was now the sole resident at Willow Crest in Littlefield.
She was an old maid (not that old, Julia thought), never married. Did she still carry a torch for Cornelius Christie had he been her first and only love? What did she look like now? Let's see, I'm l9, she was l9 when I was born, which would make her 38 or 39 now. That was still young, and if she were still good looking, why hadn't her money bought her a husband? Julie was determined to find out.
And Cornelius Christie? He wasn't in the phone books she pulled up on the computer screen.
Julia went back to the Assistant Librarian.
"How would one go about locating a relative's address? One that doesn't appear locally or in any of the phone books pulled up on the computer?" she inquired.
"Try City Directories. If not, advertise for information on the person you are trying to locate on the web. Ask them to mail the information to your home, here, or wherever. It may take time, but eventually someone will give it to you. Using a web site would be the quickest way." the librarian explained to her.
"I don't have a computer or a web site. Now what? I'd like to get on with this family tree, but to hit a snag so soon sort of takes the fun out of it." Julia complained to her new friend.
"Give me what info you have and I'll give it a try for you. I have spare time between two and three. When you come back at four, I'll have it printed out and in an envelope with your name on it on my desk. As I'll probably be gone before then, you can thank me tomorrow, Julia." She said with a smile.
"And if I come by tomorrow when you're here, can you clue me in a little more on computer use? Not so much for this, but I'm enrolled in some courses the girls say can be made easier by info on the computer."
"That's what I'm here for, Julia. From eight to three thirty week days."
Before the weekend, Julia amassed a great family tree. Aunts, uncles, cousins, names, addresses, the works. An astounded librarian kept it to herself, but thought Julia had a very remarkable family tree!
Her father, Cornelius, Julia learned, was now living out of state, ran a brokerage firm, had prestige, was widowed with two grown boys (Julia always thought having a brother would be GREAT! Now she had two half brothers.) She had their addresses, phone numbers, and a gleam in her eye at the thought of close kin.
She debated all one afternoon whether she should contact her father first, one of her brothers, or just show up on their door step and confront all three at one time?
Julia wished she had someone to talk this over with before she committed a fax pax and regretted it. Shirley? The friendly librarian? Julie ruled them out. But she was impatient, her twenty first birthday seemed a long way off. But meanwhile...?
Julia again approached her friend at her library desk on the pretense of computer instruction.
Mary Proctor was about forty, very motherly, and when she asked Julia how her family tree was coming, Julia decided to seek her counsel.
"Mary," she said as she went through a routine she was being taught, "what if you found in a family tree search someone you wished you could meet, never heard of before, but didn't want to interfere in their lives, really, but.."
"You sound lonely to me, Julia. Why not just send them an E mail greeting?" her friend suggested.
"How can I do that?" Julia asked, her interest piqued.
Mary then spent an hour instructing Julia on the how's, why's and wherefore's of E mail.
"But you'll need an E mail address of your own and the address of the person you want to contact." she explained to Julia.
"Okay, how do I get an address of my own, and the other persons?"
"You make up your own address, and use an E Mail Directory to get the other."
This was very interesting to Julia, but she couldn't spend all her time at the library.
Mary's next remark solved her problem."Julia, computers aren't that expensive. You should have one of your own. Go price one at Office Max or at Office Depot. And buy an Internet for Dummies book."
Taking down the name of the computer she was using and its components, Julia decided to talk to Shirley about it. She knew her clothing allowance was generous and her stay at Shirley's must be expensive, could she ask for more, she wondered?
She didn't have to ask anyone. That weekend at the Renfrew's, Cal asked at the dinner table what was new in her life and she expounded on the computer how much she enjoyed learning to operate one, how much it helped in her studies, how much she wished she had her own. Julia laid it on thick, glad of the opportunity.
Mrs. Renfrew offered to go with her to pick out one she thought might be helpful, have it installed at Shirley's the first of the week, and remarked to her husband about the oversight in not already having provided her with one.
Cal apologized profusely about the oversight; two years ago, in fact.
Julia ended up with everything, computer, screen, modem, printer, scanner, fax, personal zerox, her own phone, plus a desk, chair and filing cabinet. She was ecstatic.
There was little space for all this in her room, but lots of space in the family room, where it was set up so both girls could use it to good advantage.
Fortunately, Martie tired after an hour of instruction and Julia was left to her own devices. She immediately got an E mail address and, using the directory, found no end of friends and acquaintances with whom to communicate.
Alone in the house one evening, Julia composed a letter to her half brothers. Nothing earth shaking, just a "while perusing the family tree" sort of thing. She didn't send it, just wrote it up, printed it out, erased it from the file, and after giving it lots of thought, set it aside.
Would it really be fair, she thought, to surprise them with the fact they had a half sister? The letter sat in her drawer, unsent.
Then, while checking further into E Mail addresses, her father's name appeared. Further checking proved it was his office address. Was that the way to go? He probably had a secretary, and an explanation might prove embarrassing to him. Could she use the family tree gambit on him?
"In checking the Christie family tree, your name no, better to leave the Christie name out of it. Cornelius Wadsworth Stratton Christie the name left lots of possibilities. Perhaps Stratton, it sounded like a family name.
To be sure, Julia checked the archives. Yes! It was his mother's maiden name. Wadsworth was his Grandmother's maiden name.
Julia had chosen her initials and the last four letters of Carstairs for her E mail address jacairs. She still used that last name and wondered how her foster parents would feel about it.
Her strategy on contacting her father made it necessary to dig into the Stratton family tree. It took a week before she had enough background for her use.
But in preparing her E mail, Julia again got cold feet.
Instead, she decided to investigage her mother's activities. She hadn't been sent that far away to be raised that her mother could not check on her wellbeing, so perhaps there might be some interest remaining there.
She began reading back issues of newspapers at the library, found her mother's name in bridge club news, learned she was a member of the Littlefield hospital board, and wondered aloud to her librarian friend if she could access back issues of newspapers on her own computer at home.
As Julia began confining all her activities to the indoors, it began to worry Shirley. Why didn't Julia find something to do out of doors play golf, tennis, join the soccer team again? She voiced her concern to Julia.
Julia learned in perusing the papers her mother played golf at one of the clubs between Littlefield and Albany, and she mentioned an interest in learning to play the game. Shirley saw to it at once that Julia had a membership in the club, and also in another local club where Shirley was acquainted with the tennis coach.
Julia spent a good deal of time out of doors from that moment on, concentrating on learning both games and learning them well.
Her need for transportation to go from one to the other, college and home, was mentioned by Shirley to Cal, who agreed Julia should have a small second hand car and driving lessons.
Being a fast learner, and a good athlete, it wasn't long before she was good at all three, driving, golf and tennis.
The paper's sports news listed her mother's name as being involved in activities at the one club on Tuesday and Thursday. Julia changed her scheduled lessons for those days.
And finished her Sophomore year at college.
Unaware of her mother's appearance, Julia decided not to try finding pictures of her, as she would be very nervous in her presence, but to let happenstance take control of their meeting.
Toby Scott was her tennis instructor, a very attractive young lady with a real knack at the racquet, and was quite convinced Julia was a natural at the game. She began singing her praises to the club women.
Julia's golf swing seemed to have real power to Davy Breck, the club pro, who also thought Julia's smile had the same impact as her swing.
Having made no close friends, still being prone to hold back because friendships were frowned on by the Carstairs and besides that, Julia was too busy to form any.
One sultry afternoon after her golf lesson, Julia sat sipping a lemonade alone at an outside table, reviewing one of the books Cal obtained for her for fall courses. Engrossed, she barely looked up when two women sat down at her table.
"You are Julia, Davy's new star pupil, the one with the powerful swing?" one of them addressed the question to her.
"Well, I am Julia and Mr. Breck is trying to teach the game of golf to me." she answered honestly.
"I'm Henrietta Borlin, and this is Martha Randolph. Martha and I are looking for fresh talent on the green. If you are serious about learning, we usually pick a beginner to take under our wing."
After she heard "Martha Randolph", Julia lost the thread of the conversation and as she didn't want to stare at her mother, she fastened her eyes on Henrietta's.
"Well," Henrietta smiled warmly at the surprised expression on Julia's face. "Would you like to play with us for an hour or so after your next lesson?"
"It's very kind of you to offer. I take lessons twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday. I have tennis lessons two other mornings." Julia tried hard not to stammer.
"Tennis? Where?" Henrietta asked.
"At the Sundown Club Tuesday and Thursday."
"What do you do on Fridays?" Henrietta asked, with a grin.
"I'm learning to operate a computer." she answered.
"Well, Julia, you seem to have filled your mornings for the summer." It was the first Martha had spoken, giving Julia the opportunity to really look at her. What she saw was how she, herself, might look approaching forty. Not much different, in fact. Julia wondered if both women were aware of who she was, the resemblance was so close. Nothing was said about that, but they did say they would like her to play with them the coming Monday.
"But I barely know how!" Julia protested.
"My dear, the pro goes on vacation next week, some sort of competition he enters every year. If you don't play with us, you will backslide. Davy suggested we take you over. Don't worry, if you forget to address the ball, even lose half a dozen of them, it should at least prove interesting."
"Then thank you. I'd like to try." Julia replied.
"Good girl." And they left the table.
Julia sat there in shock. She had met her mother for the first time and barely spoken to her. It wasn't what she had envisioned at all!
She spent the weekend with the Renfrews, and they noted how quiet she was. Mrs. Renfrew remarked on it.
"Actually, it's stage fright." Julia explained. "I'm to play golf with two of the ladies at the club on Monday and I've barely begun my lessons."
"Don't fret, Julia. They know you're green, and isn't this the week Dave Breck takes off, Cal?" Mrs. Renfrew asked.
"Yes. The regular league players usually take over for him every year. Who picked you?" he asked Julia.
"Who picked me? Is that how it works? That makes it worse, Mr. Renfrew. Henrietta Brolin, who did all the talking, and Martha Randolph." Julia exploded a bomb, evidently.
They were at the dinner table. Cal dropped his fork and fixed his gaze on Julia. "Ah, I believe it begins. I wondered how she would do it!"
"Do what? What begins? I don't know how to act! I don't think I'll show up on Monday!" Julia was flustered.
"Yes, you will, Julia. I wondered if she would wait until your twenty first birthday once she saw you. I take it you caught the resemblance?" Cal asked.
"I sure did. I think my jaw dropped two inches."
"Hers probably did too, the first time she saw you. I never told her you were her spitting image. I suppose she thought you might resemble your father."
"And what did Cornelius Christie look like, Mr. Renfrew? Blonde, dark hair, what?" Julia's curiosity about her father made her bold.
"How I do wish Carstairs hadn't given you that birth certificate." was Cal's only reply.
"I've used it on the computer to get names for a family tree on both sides. I even wrote an E Mail to my father and half brothers." at the horrified expression on Cal's face, she continued. "Oh, don't worry, I didn't send them. I remembered how I felt when I learned I wasn't a Carstairs. Maybe being one wasn't the choicest relationship, but I was used to it. I could only wonder how those children would feel when they found out their father had sired another child, out of wedlock, no less!"
"Wait a minute, Julie!" Cal interrupted, "Your parents were married! But the marriage was annulled before Martha knew she was pregnant. When it was discovered, she had hidden the fact for almost seven months, and by then, your father's whereabouts couldn't be discovered.
"Martha absolutely refused to approach him even if he were found. I think she hated her parents for what they had done. I never discerned any warmth for them emanating from her, but believe Martha turned bitter inside, because they made her give up the two things she loved most her husband and you." Renfrew hoped he had not revealed more than his Client would like him to reveal.
"She cared for me? Then why not acknowledge me?" Julie was almost crying.
"And give her parents a grandchild they so dearly wanted? No, they gave her pain and sorrow, and she made them suffer in return by never looking at another man!" Renfrew seemed to sympathize with his Client.
"Cheating herself, too, in the process. Are her parents still living?" Julia didn't think she would be able to like those grandparents, and was relieved at Renfrew's reply.
"She's still beautiful. She might yet be able to have children." Julia mused.
"No, she probably wouldn't want any more! She hardened her heart to the world, I'm afraid." Cal left the table, ending the discussion. Julia lingered. In her young mind, she could see Martha relenting. Or could she? Yes, in her young life, anything seemed possible.
Cal's revelation of Martha's past had given Julia a new outlook on her mother. She was seventeen when turned out by the Carstairs, and now it seemed to give her a close kinship with her mother, who had lost a husband and her love for her parents for what they had done to her at about the same age.
After the last golf lesson until Davy's return, Julia found the ladies waiting with a golf cart and a set of clubs for Julia, who hitherto had used a beginner's set furnished by the club.
Her game, in contrast to that of the ladies, had Julia almost in tears by the fourth hole.
"Look," she told them, "You can't be enjoying seeing me make a fool of myself. Why don't I just go back to the club house and we do this again next year? I should be a little better by then!" She was really disgusted with herself.
"Actually, Julia," Martha said as they all boarded the cart, "I wanted to play with you for an altogether different reason. Henrietta, this is where you tee off for the next hole and leave us alone." She waived Henrietta off the cart.
Henrietta quietly walked away. Martha and Julia sat silently for several minutes, while Julia held her breath. Then Martha reached for her hand.
"You know, don't you, Julia?" she asked.
"I know." Julia replied. "And at first, I didn't really understand at all, until Mr. Renfrew told me what you went through before and after I was born. Your stubborness did cause me some unhappiness, but there was no way I could know it when I was growing up." Julia paused, looking into her mother's eyes.
"Would it have been so hard to go against your parent's wishes when they arranged for the annulment? Didn't you love my father, or was he the one who put up no opposition?" she asked.
Martha looked at her in surprise. "I never thought you would begin this way! I felt there would be recrimination, hurt, anger, but you are talking about our feelings!"
"Well, didn't you have to give up the man you loved long before you even knew about me. How could your parents have been so cruel?" Julia wanted to understand their reasoning.
"Their explanation was "He is not our sort!"
"Tell me about how you met my father, what you loved about him, where your marriage took place, and how they convinced you the annulment was necessary. If your parents did what I think they did, like the Carstairs did to me, with no explanation, I can see why you never shared the fact that you were pregnant with them."
"I truly loved him, but my parents hid me away until the annulment was final. Oh, I prayed every day that Cornelius would find me, that we could somehow steal away, have you and be a family. I cried many tears those seven months before it became apparent to everyone that I was carrying you."
"Didn't he ever try to get in touch with you? What did you think the reason was he didn't? Did you ever ask him?" Julia still held her mother's hand as she asked question after question.
"I never knew where he went!" It was a sad reply.
"My computer found him. He has two sons my half brothers. I almost sent them E Mail from their half sister!"
"How did you find out our names?" Martha asked.
"When the Carstairs put me out, Mr. Carstairs gave me an envelope containing a copy of my birth certificate."
"They put you out?" Martha was aghast.
"Didn't Mr. Renfrew tell you?" Julia was surprised, as she thought her mother knew all about it.
"Several weeks after I graduated, they just told me to leave."
"What did you do? Where did you go?"
"The only clue I had was a telephone number on the envelope containing my birth certificate. Shane and Renfrew, Attorneys at Law. Mr. Renfrew has seen to my welfare since."
"Henrietta recognized you the moment she saw you, before I heard you were Julia Carstairs. She and I are friends from childhood, my one confidante over the years. She broke all speed records getting to me with the news she saw you at the club. Where are you staying, Julia?"
Henrietta had tired of pretending to golf. She cleared her throat as she approached.
"Two groups have already played through, Martha." She informed her friend.
"Get in. We're going to Willow Crest. I doubt if I'll let Julia get away for the rest of the summer."
"Well, well, you two seem to be hitting it off, so to speak." Henrietta was very pleased it was turning out so well for her friend.
"It's wonderful, Henrietta. Drive the cart so I can sit here and really look at my daughter." Martha said, with tears streaming down her face.
"And I can, at last, look back at my mother." Julia was also crying.
That proved to be the easy part of disclosing their relationship.
Martha and Cornelius' marriage was still a secret, but now Martha wanted to introduce Julia to all her friends as her daughter. She appealed to Henrietta to help her find a way to do so, without embarrassing Julia. She decided she didn't give a hang for the rumors about herself.
Julia asked her mother, "Why not let me announce the fact of my birth on the computer, just as if I were a newborn? And take out an ad in the local paper for those who don't use a computer?"
They grew closer as they prepared for her debut.Julia dug her E Mail letters to her father and half brothers out of her desk, revised them and sent them off.
Cornelius, it seemed, had told of his short marriage to an heiress to his wife and sons, but he was never aware of Julia's birth.
Now, he welcomed her into his family with open arms, by using his Web Page, no less. He also felt that if the boys' mother hadn't been lost to cancer some years before, she would also welcome Julia, as they always wanted a daughter.
Cornelius wanted to welcome Julia into his social circle with a party to honor the occasion, and Martha was included on the guest list, after Julia told of how Martha's parents had hidden her away. Never having been given a chance to be a mother to a young child, let alone an adult one, Martha was a little stiff at first. Cornelius' sons were, of course, barely teenagers, and were tired of their father's reticence at getting on with his life. They schemed with Julia at reuniting Martha and Cornelius, with very satisfactory results.
The attraction Cornelius and Martha felt years ago had just faded into the past, but never died.
The question of why the Carstairs had turned Julie out was made apparent when Renfrew learned they tried blackmailing Martha, who disappointed them by revealing she owned the property where they lived, and would put them out immediately if they embarrassed Julia.
Martha agreed before the blackmail attempt not to cut off the payment to the Carstairs for caring for Julia until she was eighteen as in their original agreement, as long as she remained there. But with the blackmail attempt, she severed the agreement, giving them the telephone number of her lawyer for any further contact.
They retaliated by ousting Julia, which eventually ended happily for her.
Julia had, of course, dropped Carstairs as her last name before she moved in with Martha. It took a little adjusting for her, but any inconvenience that arose was well worth it.