In the late 1800’s, a wealthy New York businessman named Wade Clemmons purchased thirty acres of land on Lake Helena in Fairview Virginia. At the time, Fairview’s population was 900. The twelve-room Greek Revival house built on the property was intended as a summer home, but Clemmons’ wife and children were so enamored of the lake and the residents of Fairview that the house became their permanent residence. Clemmons’ generosity and leadership were soon recognized and rewarded. Wade served two terms as the town’s mayor, and his wife Millicent worked tirelessly to improve the county’s educational system. The town became a favored resort of many of New York’s wealthiest families.
The second generation of the Clemmons family was equally involved in philanthropic causes. Clemmons’ son Jonathan became the town’s mayor. He and his wife Sierra set up a scholarship for disadvantaged children, and they generously donated three plots of lakefront property to the town Fairview.
When Clemmons’ last direct descendent, Estella Broadmore, died in 2001, she left the Clemmons home, remaining property, and a small investment portfolio to the town of Fairview with the understanding that the magnificent stone home would be converted into Graham County Public Library. In less than two years, the library was recognized as one of Virginia’s top libraries.
The growing number of Graham County’s residents who used the library’s resources was a testament to the success of the library director and library planning board. Toddler Storytime, computer classes, an exercise class for seniors, readings by authors, and other special events continued to be popular offerings.
When she was in high school, the library was Joanna’s preferred place to study. Currently, one of her students favorite field trips was the one to the library. Invariably, there would be at least one student who had not checked out a book from the public library. She believed that it was as important for youngsters to be able to navigate the library system as it was for them to know how to use a computer.
A small group of teenagers was chatting at the bicycle stand in front of the library when she pulled into the last parking space on the street in front of the library. One of her student’s brother recognized her and waved. She waved back. She edged her way through another group of students who were chatting in the sheltered entry way. She stood by the front door surveying the room. She almost missed Logan because he was tucked into one of the reading areas. He didn’t look up until she was standing directly in front of him.”
“He’s not here?”
Startled, Logan stammered, “Uh . . . Joanna. Danny is upstairs. I waited to approach him until you were here.”
Neither spoke until they were in elevator, then Joanna asked, “Is he on a computer?”
“Not when I checked. He was studying a physics book. And I do mean studying.”
“Physics! Wow. Who is this kid?”
“Obviously a very bright youngster.”
“I hope you brought your A game, Logan.”
Danny was so engrossed in his reading that nothing short of a locomotive roaring past would have broken his concentration. Logan spoke softly hoping not to startle him. When Danny did not look up, Logan raised his voice.
“Mind if we sit here?”
There was a moment of panic in Danny’s eyes that flickered and died.
He looked at Logan, and then turned his gaze on Joanna. “Why do I sense that your choice of table wasn’t a random pick?”
“Because your instincts are spot on. Danny, my name is Logan Cox and my friend’s name is Joanna Avery. I am the youth pastor at St. Matthews Church, and Joanna is a teacher at Wiley Middle School. Joanna’s Aunt Polly is a Briarwood resident.”
Danny flinched, then closed the book he had been reading. “How much trouble am I in?”
“I’ll let Joanna answer your question.”
“If you are asking if the residents of Briarwood are going to press charges, the answer is no. You are fortunate the residents are sympathetic people. They do have a question for you. Why is an underage boy with resources living in an abandoned tobacco barn? Do you have a plausible explanation I can give them?”
Danny rubbed his forehead. “Maybe not plausible to you.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. He slid it across the table toward Joanna.
She picked it up and glanced at it. “Is this a telephone number, Danny?”
“It’s the number of the social worker who handles my case. The Dare County Social Service Agency swooped in and slapped me into a foster home in Gladstone after my mom died. Joe and Carlotta Drummond are kind people, but I was not ready to deal with strangers. The day I left Gladstone was a Friday. I was fairly certain Mrs. Satterwhite, my case worker, would check the bus station, so I walked to Madison to catch a bus. Let me make it clear; I did not plan to permanently disappear. My plan was to stay away from Gladstone until my Uncle Kevin could be located. He is my dad’s brother and the executor of Mom’s will.”
“Was he appointed your guardian?”
“Yes. I’m not sure he will want to live in Gladstone. Part of my reason for leaving was to prove that I could manage on my own. What I’m hoping is that Uncle Kevin will hire a live-in housekeeper. Until I graduate from high school, I would like to remain in the house I have lived in all of my life. That’s where my memories of Mom and Dad are.”
Logan asked, “Are you ready to compromise if the Dare County Social Service Agency says no to your plan for living at home?”
Danny stared down at the table.
When it became obvious Danny was not going to answer, Logan’s questioning headed in a different direction. “Why Fairview? And how did you find the tobacco barn you are staying in?”
“My family used to visit my great grandpa who was one of the first home buyers in Briarwood. Pops grew up when Briarwood and Ashley Forest were tobacco fields. The stand of woods between the two developments was part of one of the largest tobacco farms in Virginia. Pops earned money to go to college by working in those fields. He tied tobacco in the barn I am staying in.”
Joanna realized that she must have met his great grandpa when she was a child. “What was your grandpa’s name?”
“I remember the Motsingers. When Sally died, Aunt Polly and the other neighborhood ladies took turns taking meals to your great grandpa. I liked to accompany my aunt when she delivered a meal because Mr. Tim would give me a piece of bubblegum and tell me a tall tale about his youthful adventures.”
A flicker of a smile crossed Danny’s face. “He did the same when I visited.”
Joanna’s heart ached for the grieving boy. “I’m sorry for your loss, Danny.”
His voice trembled, “Mom’s doctor had all but given her a clean bill of health, so I stopped worrying about her. Her death was a total shock. Her friends and acquaintances kept uttering ridiculous platitudes. Good intentions or not, a pat on the head doesn’t help when your life has been turned upside down. I could see what was coming, and I panicked. The thought of being on my own was scary until I remembered Pops talking about what a great neighborhood Briarwood was. I needed a safe place to think, plan for my future.”
Logan asked, “How are doing now, Danny?”
“Okay. Lonely. Being on my own has been harder than I expected.”
“Life can be difficult even when we have a support team in place. Tell us about your Uncle Kevin. Are the two of you close?”
“We were until after Dad’s death. Uncle Kevin wanted to help Mom and me, but Mom stubbornly refused. She said that Uncle Kevin was too full of dreams to be hampered by a sister-in-law and nephew. She was sure that Dad’s life insurance policy would keep us afloat until she got back on her feet. Uncle Kevin gave up his job with the airlines and began flying with a group of pilots who fly supplies into war torn areas. He also flies in supplies for two Catholic missions. The missions are located in the heart of the African jungle. He promised to come back to the States if we needed him.”
“When was the last time your mom talked to him?”
“The week before she died. He was upset when she told him about the cancer. He was going to fly home immediately, but she insisted that he honor his contract.”
“When does his contract end?”
“The end of May. Is there any chance I can talk you into letting me stay in Fairview until he shows up in Gladstone?”
Logan shook his head, “I can’t in good conscious look the other way. What are you going to do when your money runs out? Rob a bank or a box store?” He paused before continuing, “ Here’s what I can offer, Danny. I can drive you to the tobacco barn so you can pick up your gear. Then you can dine with my wife and me. My wife is an excellent cook, so you can count on a good meal. We have a guest room which is always open to anyone who needs a place to bunk down. Tomorrow, you can call Mrs. Satterwhite.
“You are not in this alone, Danny. I will personally see to it that Mrs. Satterwhite understands why you walked away. I hope that because of the extenuating circumstances, she will be able to come up with a solution that abides by the agencies guidelines but also works for you.”
“Do I have another option?”
“I can take you to the police station and let them make a decision that should be yours.”
Danny’s eyes were bright with unshed tears. “Why do you care?”
“Because I admire people who have courage.”
It did not take Danny long to make a decision. “I can’t leave my dog Prince.”
“No problem. I like dogs and so does my wife Beth.”