MacKlenna Farm, July 2012
KIT OPENED THE letter from the Bank of San Francisco and began to read:
Dear Ms. MacKlenna,
The Bank of San Francisco has been holding the attached letter for Kitherina MacKlenna Montgomery since September 1852. There were no instructions other than to deliver the letter to this address this year.
Although we have no information about its origination, we will be glad to discuss its discovery with you at your convenience.
President, Bank of San Francisco
She jumped to her feet and paced. A letter had survived all these years in a bank vault. Sarah would call its survival a miracle. Kit patted her baby bump. Miracles do happen.
Using a letter opener she picked up off the coffee table, she eased the blade through the sealed envelope’s seam, then carefully removed two sheets of folded paper. She prayed the missive wouldn’t be as transforming as her father’s letter had been month’s earlier.
September 5, 1852
My Dearest Kitherina,
Five days ago, a special courier delivered your traveling trunk containing a most unusual collection. Rest well knowing I will protect your supplies until we next meet, for I am certain we will.
The courier also delivered the news of your departure and Cullen’s disappearance. I, of course, feel personally responsible for both. I deeply regret abandoning the wagon train and allowing you and Cullen to come to such great harm. The discovery that Cullen survived his near-death experience does partially assuage my guilt.
Tears rushed to her eyes. My God. He’s alive. She wrapped her arms around her belly and wept. “Your father’s alive.” Tears turned to sobs as the pain of losing her husband collided with the pain of not being there when he returned. The sobs turned to sniffles, bringing a hunger for the rest of Braham’s news.
For you see, he was the courier who delivered your possessions into my safekeeping as you directed. I was delighted to see him, unaware that he carried such dreadful news.
You are probably wondering what transpired during his absence. He was unable to explain, as he has no memory of what occurred on the cliff or how he survived a fall from such a great height. He only remembers climbing out of the water and drifting between two worlds for three excruciating days, before later arriving at the wagon train after your departure.
He suffers from severe headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision, most likely from hitting his head when he fell.
She wanted to shoot Cullen for his stupidity, then hug him for his tenacity. Lord, her emotions were scattered shotgun pellets. With an exasperated sigh, she continued reading.
Fortunately, these ailments are not totally incapacitating, but he has ventured upon a quest detrimental to his full recovery. Reasoning with him, as you well know, is utterly impossible once he sets his mind on a particular course. I write that piece of tittle-tattle in confidence, my dear, as he would profess to reasonableness at all times.
It came to him in a moment of absolute despair that while in his ghostly form he assisted in the selection of Thomas MacKlenna’s final resting place. Cullen has always taken his obligations quite seriously and has placed himself upon a monumental task, believing there is more to your vision than simply marking snow-covered ground with a shovel. It is his belief he will discover a way to communicate with you once he arrives at MacKlenna Farm.
Kit walked back to sofa and sat, rubbing her belly. “Cullen, don’t. You’re not well for God’s sake.” How in the world could he travel cross-country in his condition? Had he lost his ever-loving mind? Maybe Braham talked him out of traveling. Anxious for the rest of the story, she continued reading.
I, on the other hand, have chosen letter writing as my form of communication, as there have been no reported appearances of my doppelganger. The capricious hand of fate will ultimately decide which of us has set himself upon a fool’s mission.
So, my dear Kitherina, it is our deepest desire to see you once again. Please, with haste, return to us.
Your loyal and devoted friend,
Michael Abraham McCabe
Return? Of course, she’d return. But to where? And what did this mean a century and a half later? What had happened to Cullen? Had he made it to the farm? Yes, he had made it, and that’s why he’d been haunting her for all these years.
“Kit? Where are you?” Elliott called from the hallway.
He stopped in the doorway, bracing his hands on either side of the frame. “I know it’s cliché, but you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I have, and now I know why.” She patted the sofa cushion beside her. “You’d better sit.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense. Spit it out.”
She handed him the letter. “Cullen’s alive.”
He took the yellowed paper. “Unless he found a way to jump through that frigging time warp, I’d say that’s highly unlikely.”
“Why do you have to be so pragmatic?”
“My nature, I reckon.” He read the letter and then walked to the wet bar. “It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?” He poured a double.
“I shouldn’t have come home.”
“You did what you had to do.” He knocked back his drink.
She said nothing, gazing at her feet propped up on the table. Her index finger gently tapped her chin.
“You’re going back aren’t you?”
“How could I not? Every breath I take has a catch in it as if Cullen has hold of my heart.”
Elliott dropped the letter on the coffee table and crossed the room to the built-in bookcase. “Several years ago, Sean asked me to give you something.” He pulled a handful of books from the second shelf and pressed a lever. A small door in the back wall slid open. He removed an envelope and handed it to her. “He wanted you to have this if you ever decided to leave the farm.”
“I knew you were keeping something else from me.”
“Did you have an itch about it?”
“Yes, and I’ve been scratching it so long I’ve drawn blood.” She pointed toward the bookcase. “I never knew that compartment was there.”
“Sean discovered it when the roof leaked and the workers emptied the bookcase to make repairs.”
She ran the envelope back and forth between her fingers. “Do you know what this is about? I’m not sure I can handle any more surprises today.”
“Sean didn’t tell me.”
Her eyebrow arched. “And you didn’t ask?”
Elliott returned to the sofa. “Let’s just say I intuited he didn’t need me to know.”
She ripped open the envelope and read aloud.
Elliott’s instructions are to give you this letter if you ever decide to leave the farm permanently. There is only one reason for you to do that. You have decided to return to the past. Either you have found your birth family, or you have found someone to share your life and that person prefers not to live in your time.
I wholeheartedly support your decision, and I have laid the groundwork for you to “vanish” to the MacKlenna estate in the Highlands. The estate, as you know, is very remote and you can announce that you intend to live in seclusion. No one will ever know you’re not in residence.
At your direction, our attorneys have instructions to create a revocable trust. In the event you decide to return at some point in the future, you can sign a revocation and the farm will once again revert to your control. If you never revoke the trust, then the trust becomes irrevocable twenty-one years after your “death or disappearance” and ownership of the farm passes to your heirs. In the event you have no heirs, ownership will pass to the University of Kentucky.
Your mother and I wish you a long and happy life wherever you choose to live. We love you, Dad
She crumpled into Elliott’s warm embrace, sobbing. “He had my life all figured out and never once thought he needed to discuss arrangements with me.” Her tears soaked his green polo shirt. “Why?”
Elliott pressed her head closer to his chest. “He didn’t want to lose you forever and neither do I.”
“My son deserves to have his father.”
Elliott tensed against her. “How soon will you leave?”
“I’d leave today if I wasn’t at the mercy of attorneys and CPAs.” She wiped her eyes. “I have the baby to consider, too. It’ll take a few weeks to get everything worked out.”
He snatched a tissue and blew his nose. “I’ll go with you.”
She shook her head. “Does that sound practical?”
He walked to the bar and poured another drink. “Do you think you’ll land in Independence again?”
She scrunched her face, thinking. “That seems to be the landing spot. I can take a steamboat from there to Kentucky.”
“What you’re planning is dangerous.”
“Living is dangerous, Elliott, regardless of the century.”
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