Elijah stared at the professor. He could feel the professor’s sadness because he too was sad. Maria had suffered so much in life and then she had lost the only man who had truly made her happy and loved her for who she was. It was not fair. The professor smiled at Elijah. He stood up and pulled a photo album from a shelf. He handed it to Elijah and took the chair that was beside him. It was Sunday morning and the professor had resumed the story as soon as they woke up.
“After everything that happened, Maria sold everything and went back south but she never returned to the house that she had grown up. It held too many painful memories for her. It was in 1902 that she found me on the street and just like I told you before, she took me in. I not only got a mother, Elijah, I also got a brother. Arthur and I shared a bond just like real brothers. Maria brought us up with love, care and patience. Every now and then, her past would rear its ugly head. It was one of those times that she sat Arthur and I down and told us her story.”
“Wow.” Elijah turned the pages of the photo album in his hands. There were several photos of Maria, a black guy who he assumed was Arthur and a white guy who he figured was Professor Boxton. His eyes lingered on a photo. It had more people in it.
“Those are Uncle Royal, Aunt Gracie and Aunt Anna as well as Aunt Beatrix. Maria never lost touch with them,” Professor Boxton explained when he noticed Elijah’s pause.
“So, did Maria open another coffeehouse?”
“Not just one, dear boy, she opened a whole chain of them. She was an intelligent and hardworking woman who never shied away from work.”
“How about your elder brother Arthur? Are you both still in touch? What happened to him?”
“Oh, we are still very much in touch. He got married to an actress and he has a son and twins. Just last two weeks, we met up for tea. Which reminds me, my niece and nephew should be here any minute from now. We have a sit-in to attend,” Professor Boxton looked at his wristwatch.
“I think I understand you a little more now, now I understand why you are so involved in civil rights movement for the blacks. They are your family as well. They took care of you and you spent your life around them.”
Professor Boxton nodded.
“Professor, what exactly happened to Maria when she was younger?” Elijah asked
“Her father raped the maid and got her pregnant. She witnessed it all and she spoke up. Her father poisoned her, probably in the hopes that she would die, she got blind and was paralyzed for a while. He blamed it all on the maid who was pregnant for him at the time. She was helpless and could not say anything. Later on, she was taunted in the house. She did try to tell the truth but of course, no one believed anything she had to say. They all thought that she was going cuckoo.”
Elijah looked at the professor in shock. Where had he heard that story, before? Then, he remembered. It was back at the haunted house. That had been Maria’s house? But the name of the girl had been Felicia not Maria.
“Was her name always Maria, professor?” Elijah asked, his heart pounding
“No,” the professor shook his head, “I actually had no idea until later and it was Arthur who told me. Her name was Felicia but she changed it to Maria when she ran away from home.”
“Whoa,” Elijah said turning pale.
“Is something wrong?” Before Elijah could say anything else, they both heard the door opening and a voice resounded in the house
“Uncle Boxton! Where are you?” It was a female voice. It was a little familiar. A few seconds later, Steve and Maria stepped into the room and Elijah’s eyes only got bigger. Professor Boxton stood up and hugged them.
“You are late,” he scolded them.
“Sorry about that, uncle. There was…” Steve was saying and then, he saw Elijah. “Hey, man.”
The two of them shook hands and Elijah waved at Maria.
“Professor Boxton is your uncle?” Elijah asked as he looked from one twin to the other
“Yes he is. Why do you sound surprised?” Maria asked as she picked up the photo album that Elijah had been thumbing through.
“How do the three of you know each other?” Professor Boxton asked from one person to the other.
Maria shrugged as she said, “Long story, Uncle Boxton. We were trapped in the house that granny always used to tell Steve and I about when we were kids. I honestly was always a bit skeptical about it all uncle but after seeing all those dolls and hearing what the maid had to say.” Maria shivered as a chill passed through her. “Felicia’s father was really a terrible man. How did granny know about that story anyway? Now that I think of it, she knew the story in such a detailed way as if she had been there.”
“Your granny?” Elijah swallowed. This was all so much for him to process.
Maria nodded as she pointed to Maria’s picture in the album. “Yes, grandma Maria. She is the one that I am named after. Our older brother Arthur the third is named after Grandpa Arthur. We never got to meet him. He died while our father was still a kid.”
“Maria is right, uncle Boxton. How did grandma know so much about what happened in that house so many years ago?” Steve asked as he joined his sister in perusing the photos.
“It’s because she was Felicia,” Professor Boxton’s said and Steve and Maria’s heads shot up. “Did she not ever tell you?”
“No way. All she did was tell us the stories but never in our wildest imaginations did we ever think that she was talking about herself. Wow!” Maria said as the knowledge that she had just gained sunk in.
“So mother was right about all her stories, huh? Even about the dolls and their eyes staring at her?” Professor Boxton asked as he claimed his seat. He too had been skeptical whenever Maria told her stories. Not once had he ever thought that what she said had ever happened. It was really Arthur that had been utterly convinced about it all.
“Uh huh. The ghost of the maid told us.” Steve stood up. “We have got to get going. We have a sit-in that we need to attend. Elijah, you are coming with us. Right?”
“Yes of course, I’m going to get my coat.” Elijah left the room.
“You all are friends,” Professor Boxton said in surprise. He said it as a statement and not as a question.
“Uh huh. We are, uncle.” Steve took his uncle’s car keys from the ring on the wall. “I told you that it is a very long story, uncle. Let’s get going.”