Anna was so involved with designing leaflets for the upcoming telethon for Children’s Leukemia that she didn’t see Marian until she rapped on the door frame. Startled, Anna looked up and motioned her in. “Give me a second to complete this, if you don’t mind.” She finished a few keystrokes, then gave Marian her full attention. “Sorry, Alicia has been bugging me to get this layout to her.”
“No problem. I won’t keep you long. What’s the Cantrell’s status? If they want to get their event on this year’s calendar, they need to choose a date soon.”
“Jeanette called yesterday. I gave her the available dates in December. She promised to make a decision by the end of the week. They have narrowed their choices down to two. One event would be a Christmas party for the children at Shriner’s Hospital.
"They are leaning toward the second option: a facelift for a privately funded school for special needs students. The school is housed in an old warehouse on Sprague Street. The teachers are doing a great job, and they are doing it with outdated computers and electronic equipment. The Cantrell’s would like to take a volunteer team into the school during the Christmas break. Their goal is to make the classrooms more attractive and conducive to learning. A fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference. The school project would also include purchasing new computers and electronic equipment.”
“I hope they decide on the school project. Both are commendable, but there are several groups that have parties at Shriner’s Hospital. Sprague Street School struggles to keep their doors open. The teachers and parents would be especially appreciative. Special needs students are often overlooked.” She rose from her chair. “Keep me informed.”
Anna finished the layout for the Leukemia telethon ad and emailed it to Alicia, who replied immediately. Looks great! Thanks. Philip Cantrell is here to see you. He says that he doesn’t need much of your time.
As much as she would have liked to say no, she didn’t have a legitimate reason for putting him off.
"Send him back."
Philip appeared in her doorway before she had time to change her mind.
“I hope I didn’t come at a bad time.”
“Not at all. Please come in.”
He entered her office and slipped into the visitor’s chair that Marian had vacated.
Anna said, “Marian and I were discussing your upcoming decision fifteen minutes ago. She’s excited about both projects.”
“I’m not here to give you an answer about our project, Anna. Jeanette and I haven’t made a decision.”
“I don’t understand. Are you here to ask about my mother’s paintings?”
“No. It’s a personal matter.” He glanced at the door. “Will I be overheard?”
Anna breathed a sigh of relief, when she saw Mark standing in the doorway.
He didn’t wait for her to respond to Philip’s question. “If you are here to discuss a personal matter, maybe the door should be closed.” He closed the door, crossed to a chair next to Philip and sat down. “I’m Mark Quinn, a co-worker and personal friend of Anna’s.”
Philip shook hands with Mark, and then glanced at Anna. “I’m not sure that we should discuss this matter with a third party in the room.”
“Anything you say to me, can be said to Mark.”
“He muttered, “I hope I’m not making a mistake. Am I correct in assuming that you’ve seen me before?”
Anna’s eyes widened. “You seem vaguely familiar, but I can’t remember where we met.”
“We met the day your director’s daughter had emergency surgery. However, I had seen you three times before that day. That’s why I’m here. Jeanette insisted that we talk. She felt the tension in the room when you were making your presentation. She liked you immensely, and she’s excited about the suggestions you made. She demanded that I clear the air.”
“Where did you see me, Philip?”
“At Millie’s Café.”
Anna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her eyes popped open, and her face turned ghostly white. “Now I remember.”
There is an explanation for my deplorable behavior. In May, I was working with a client who lives in British Woods. There were issues with the deal, so Christine and I agreed to meet in a casual setting. We were in and out of Millie’s on several occasions during our negotiations.
"I first saw you when you were coming out of Millie’s sometime around the first of May. You didn’t glance my way, so you wouldn’t remember seeing me on that occasion. Christine and I sat behind you the following Saturday morning. You were with two other young women. They left, and you stayed on. Christine demanded to know why I was staring at you. She warned me that you would be offended if you caught me staring.
"I tried to ignore you, but I found my eyes going back to you. The same thing happened the next Saturday. If I made you uncomfortable, I am deeply sorry.”
“Very uncomfortable. I sensed that I was being observed. In this day and age, young women can't be too careful."
“That is why Jeanette insisted that I talk to you. Let me start from the beginning. In April, Jeanette and I visited long-time friends, Richard and Judith Costello, in Richmond. On Saturday, our hosts suggested that we drive over to Laurel Springs, a charming small town that is known for its antique shops and craft galleries.
"Late in the day, I spotted a quaint gallery that was in a tiny cottage. The rest of the crew was tired and thirsty, but I was determined to have a look inside. They chose to get a cup of coffee rather than accompany me.
“I mentioned the gallery owner the day we met.”
Puzzled, Anna asked, “Beth Summerfield? The artist whose paintings reminded you of my mother’s?”
Philip nodded. “The paintings in one of the rooms of the gallery are exclusively Summerfields. Her landscapes are magnificent, but it was the haunting quality of one portrait that took my breath away. I used every argument I could come up with to persuade her to sell the painting to me. She refused.
"Her reason? The woman in the painting is her mother. I was doubly impressed when I learned that Beth’s mother Claire died when Beth was eight. Beth used photos for copy.
"Claire’s image haunted me for days. I don't believe in the metaphysical, but when I saw you, I thought that I was seeing the incarnation of Claire. Claire's hair was a golden brown, but otherwise, you are a mirror image of Claire Summerfield. I know your name is Kingston, but I wondered if the two or you were related.
"I decided not to mention the portrait when you didn't react to the name Beth Summerfield."
"Anna was stunned, but recovered quickly. “I’ve heard it said that every person has a double. I must be Claire’s.”
“That’s one explanation. I hope my explanation eases your mind. If you want verification that a portrait of Claire exists, call Beth.” He took a business card out of his pocket and handed it to Anna.
Anna stared at the card for several seconds before speaking. “Thank you for your honesty.”
“Now that you know the truth, can you work with me? Jeanette is excited about working with you, and I don't want to disappoint her. Jeanette will speak for both of us if that's what you prefer."
“I see no reason why we can’t work together.”
“Thank you. I’m sure that you will find this hard to believe, but I’m usually unobservant when it comes to other people’s looks. I promise that I won’t bring up the subject again.”
Anna laughed. “If you do, I’ll call you on it!”
When Anna and Mark were alone, she asked, “So . . . do you think he’s telling the truth, Mark?”
“There’s no reason for him to lie.”
“I wish he hadn’t waited so long to come forward.”
“You have to admit, it’s a fascinating story. I can understand his hesitation."
“Disturbing more than fascinating. My name was Anna Williams when I was abandoned. Before Caroline Williams, who knows. I could be Beth’s long-lost cousin. Do you think I should contact her?”
“You won’t let this go until you see Claire’s portrait, will you?”
“Probably not. I could ask Beth to take a photo of the portrait.”
“You could, but for her sake, you two should meet.”
Anna said uneasily, “For some reason, I don’t think this is over.”
“Maybe because it wasn’t Philip watching your house, and it wasn’t Philip who jostled you at the restaurant. That guy couldn't have been more than twenty."