Secret of the Family Tree: Digging Up Old Roots

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Chapter 15: Revisiting Veil Essence

Outside, the crisp February air whipped Samantha’s unbound curls into a frenzy. Why do I always forget my scrunchie on windy days? Stuffing her hair under the hood of her coat, she buttoned up all the way to her neck.

“Hey, what do you say we head over to Embers Diner for some hot cocoa,” Anna said, as they stood outside in front of the library.

What, no. I need to go home and figure out how to tell you about your mother’s murder! “Can’t we have cocoa at home?”

“Home…? Have you forgotten what we planned to do this morning?”

“Oh…the flower shop.”

“Yes. You do still want to go over and take a look around, right?”

“Sure, I just forgot.”

“I think you’ll find the shop is quite amazing. But, first things first, let’s go get that hot cocoa. I’m freezing.”

Following her mom across the village square, Samantha stopped to get a better look at the centerpiece, the fireplace. This must be the reason the village is called, Hearthshire. The towering stones of the fireplace were at least six feet above her head. The opening leading into the inner hearth was wide enough for three adult sized people to walk through, shoulder to shoulder. Studying the clock at the center of the chimney, she noticed the two sets of numbers etched into the clock’s glass-domed face. The outer set ran clockwise, as normal, from one to twelve. However, the inner smaller set of numbers counted from zero to eleven backwards, starting at the number twelve. Three gold hands indicated the hour, minute and seconds, which now read 11:15 a.m., and 6 seconds. Hmm, why so many numbers? Behind the glass dome surface, there was a narrow ledge balancing two orbs, one black and one white, rotating in opposite directions. In-between these two orbs, a smaller clock rested with its hour, minute, and second hands mimicking the two opposing orbs by first rapidly spinning clockwise than counterclockwise. Chiseled into the stone below the round face of the clock this was written:

“Time is now the Heart of Matter.” Samu-EL

“Samantha.” Anna called from the other side of the street.

“I’m coming.” Turning away from the fireplace, she ran to catch up with her mom who was just entering the diner.

Embers Diner resembled an old English tavern with its wood beam ceilings, tables and chairs setup for patrons close to a fire, and stairs leading to another level. Samantha stood at what looked to have once been the bar, which now served as the ordering station. Every two seconds she felt for the news article in her pocket, making sure it was still there. The sentence, “Authorities have stated that both women had been violently strangled,” kept popping into her head. So engrossed she was in going over the details from the newspaper that it surprised her when her mom’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Huh? What?”

“Sean asked if you wanted a sprig of mint in your cocoa,” Anna repeated.

“Are the pixies whispering foolishness in your ear, Samantha?” Sean asked. He swiped at the air around her head with a dishtowel, as if swatting away a fly.

“Pixies? Are there pixies in here?” Samantha asked, searching the area for little winged fairies. After her morning, she wouldn’t be surprised.

“Not today,” Sean winked. “So, how about that sprig of mint in your cocoa?”

“I’d like that, thank you.”

“Another cocoa with a mint flower, Rhona,” Sean yelled into the kitchen. “Now, Anna, if you and Craig need any help around the house, just let me and Rhona know. We live very close by.”

Samantha met Sean Cullen and his wife Rhona after her grandpa’s funeral. Sean was stout, with meaty arms, and a bulbous nose. His thick red bushy hair fell to his shoulders, and matched his red beard. Rhona was about the same height as Bess, but with a larger body frame, and dark brown hair. She remembered thinking at the time they met how much they reminded her of the cartoon characters, Shrek and Fiona, and then quickly felt terrible for comparing them to green Ogres.

“I can hear those gears churning around in your noggin,” Anna said, brushing a stray curl away from Samantha’s forehead. “What are you thinking about?”

Here’s the thing mom. I thought I would play Nancy Drew and investigate the truth behind the deaths of Grandma Ameara and Great-grandma Nanna. Guess what, I found out the truth. It’s right here in my pocket. I just don’t know how to tell you, or if I should ever tell you. This is what Samantha really wanted to confess as they left the diner heading down Maple Street. Instead, she simply said, “I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular.”

“You’re still okay with us moving to Hearthshire, right?”

“What kid wouldn’t want to live in such a magical place? Really, Mom, I’m fine.”

“I’m glad, because it feels right coming back home, and running my mother’s flower shop. Speaking of which, here we are.” Positioning her arms out in front of her like a stage magician introducing a magic act, Anna announced with style, “Ta da. Welcome to Essences Flower Shop.”

Iron lettering spelled out Essences above the arched double wooden doors, flanked by multiple paned windows. When Samantha stepped inside, an unexpected warm spring like breeze blew past her ears, and as it did, she heard faint whispers that sounded like the words, “Welcome.” Out of her peripheral vision, she saw shimmering specks of bright golden lights hovering close to her head, before they darted off disappearing into a leafy potted plant.

“Did I just see…what did I just see?” she asked, pointing toward the potted plant.

“Flower and plant essences,” Anna giggled, as she placed the out to lunch sign on the front door. “They do that every time someone enters the shop, but customers seem not to take notice of them. Come on, I’ll give you the grand tour.”

They started in the main foyer where greenery grew everywhere. Samantha could hear, but could not see birds singing. She assumed they must have been hiding among the lush vegetation, which gave her the impression of being in an indoor courtyard.

Off to the right of the entrance, there was a stone water-well equipped with a hand crank and bucket tied to a rope. Wicker baskets and empty clay pots were arranged on the uneven cobblestone floors. Houseplants and more potted flowers decorated the window ledges.

On the left side of the shop were two rooms with half glass door fronts. The first door had the words, Essences of Nature, painted on its glass. Inside the room was a medium size clay basin attached to the ground. Behind the basin was a rock-water feature with green leaves growing between the stone that smelled like mint. Again, Samantha noticed the tiny little golden lights moving among the foliage.

“The essences are helping to create oils, lotions, and liquid soaps in this room,” Anna explained. “Bess’s niece, Rhiannon, says the essences can change shape and color, depending on the type of flower or plant they are working with.”

On the second door it read, Essences of Candle Light. Peeking in, Samantha saw a fire burning inside a small fireplace. The golden lights hung in the air around beeswax, wicks, and colorful candleholders of different sizes.

Further back in the main entrance, a long butcher-block table displayed a beautiful array of potted roses, colorful rocks, and gemstones next to a cash register.

Next, Anna led her through an archway that connected to the back section of the shop. The large circular room held an indoor greenhouse with a glass ceiling, as well as one more room with a door labeled, Flowering Teas. Inside this room, jars of different herbs and dried flowers lay near a mortar and pestle. Busy whizzing in and out of the greenhouse were those golden lights.

“What do you think of Essences?”

“Well, I never imaged it being this large on the inside,” Samantha said, walking towards the front of the shop, then back to the back again. “When you said flower shop, I pictured buckets of cut flowers, helium balloons, stuffed animals and greeting cards.”

“This used to be the village marketplace. That’s why it’s so big on the inside,” said a very young looking woman who emerged from the greenhouse. She was carrying a lavender plant.

“Samantha, this is Rhiannon, Bess’s niece,” Anna introduced them.

Rhiannon’s short black hair framed her round face. Her eyes were bright blue just like her Aunt Bess’s eyes. She wore an ankle length flowered embroidered coat that opened to show she wore a wool tunic dress that came to just below her knees, hitting the top of her laced brown leather boots.

“The tall ones certainly made their impression on you,” Rhiannon said, giving Samantha a hug. The top of her head barely reached under Samantha’s chin.

“Yeah, my dad’s pretty tall.” Samantha shifted from one foot to the other. It embarrassed her when people mentioned her height. She was already three inches taller than her mom’s mere five foot two inches. She only hoped she wouldn’t grow to be as tall as her dad or her great-grandma Nanna.

“You just missed Aunt Bess. She stopped by to invite you and Samantha over for dinner this evening.”

“Your aunt Bess has done too much cooking for us already. I’m starting to feel guilty.”

“She loves to cook, so let her do it,” said Rhiannon.

“To be honest, Bess has been a lifesaver. I haven’t had time to stock the fridge,” Anna confessed.

“See, it all works out,” Rhiannon said, carrying the lavender plant into the Flowering Teas room. “What do you and Samantha have planned for the rest of the afternoon?”

“I was about to take Samantha over to see her dad’s new office space. Then we’re going home.”

“I’d love to tag along. There’s a piece of your family’s history I’d like to show you.”

Behind Essences were two buildings. The first building Rhiannon called the new addition, where Craig planned to set up his office. It was a brick structure with one large open room, with several windows facing the flower shop. The only furnishings inside was an impressive looking executive desk, and a leather chair.

The other building was noticeably older, a cottage actually, with a thatched roof. It reminded Samantha of some of the homes she saw in Donegal Town, Ireland. The only difference was this cottage was quite higher in stature compared to the cottages in Ireland. “This is what I wanted to show you,” Rhiannon said.

Cobblestones like the ones on the flower shop floor paved the way to the front door. Inside, the home smelled of fresh cut grass after a rain. The clay walls felt warm, not cold as Samantha thought they would. In the front room, a low stool sat in front of the fireplace where a large black cooking pot swung from a hook over a spit. Under the only window in the room, there was a dining table set with cups, plates, and eating utensils as if waiting for a meal to be served.

“This was the first home built in Veil Essence by our ancestors,” Rhiannon proudly said.

Veil Essence? “The Veil Essence from Terrance’s Story?” Samantha asked.

“Yes. If you take a look over the archway inside the flower shop, you’ll see carved in stone the words, Veil Essence,” Rhiannon explained. “That archway use to mark the entrance into the village. As time went on, and the population grew, our ancestors built walls to enclose the marketplace. Essences Flower shop is part of the original village of Veil Essence.”

“Wow! Mom did you know about any of this?”

“I didn’t. So, what you’re telling us, Rhiannon, is that we own a piece of this village’s history? Why isn’t there a plaque or something on the building stating this is a historical site?”

“Mmm…this is a question for Aunt Bess and Kitchet.”

“Is there a dispute of some sort going on?” asked Anna.

“No, it’s more to do with the actual date when most people think the village was inhabited.”

“Oh,” Anna’s face took on a look of concern. “I hope it has nothing to do with indigenous land rights.”

“Ask Kitchet at dinner tonight,” Rhiannon suggested. “Hey, Samantha, tell me, did Terrance shock you when he spoke to you. You know being a tree and all.”

Samantha wondered if Rhiannon really wanted to know how she felt about meeting Terrance, or if she was simply trying to side step her mom’s questions. “I’ll have to get used to him talking, ladies stepping out of trees, and these little light essences that are here in the shop,” Samantha said.

“Rhiannon, which of our ancestors lived in this house after it was built?” Anna asked, returning the conversation back to why they were there.

“Oh yes.” Rhiannon cleared her throat before taking up the story again. “The Kitchet clan, Muaura, and her parents all lived together in this house.”

“Are you joking? All those people lived here?” Samantha just couldn’t imagine it looking around at the room. Though the ceilings were lofty compared to most cottages, the home did not appear to have the space to house too many people.

“They made due. Muaura’s parents didn’t stay too long. They decided to return to their original home. It was soon after they left when Muaura began a family of her own, and the Kitchets and the Fairlands moved up to the land where you live now.”

“When was this place built? Late 1700s, or was it around the early 1800s?” Anna inquired.

“I don’t remember. I only remember the stories.” Moving to stand behind one of the smaller chairs at the table, Rhiannon said. “Our families left the table set like this to remind us of the many meals, the joys, and hardships our two families have shared. It’s pretty special to us. That’s why I wanted to bring you both here.”

“It is special. Thanks,” Anna said.

“I want to show you one more thing.” Rhiannon lead them down a narrow hall towards the back of the cottage and into a room with a bed next to a writing desk. “This is the room where Muaura spent most of her time. Together with her parents, she wrote down your family’s history, and other very important information. They wanted their future generations to know all about their past. If I’m not mistaken, Innis packed away Muaura’s book with Ameara’s things after she died.”

“Do you know where my mother’s personal things were stored?”

“I would say in your attic. Look among the crates near the stairwell,” Rhiannon suggested. “That’s where most of Ameara’s things would be.”

“Rhiannon, I remember a small book my mother used to have. It had symbols of a crescent moon, sphere and stars, just like on the frame in my old bedroom. Have you seen this book anywhere?”

“That’s the book! That would be Muaura’s book,” Rhiannon shouted. “Did Ameara ever read to you from it?”

“I mainly remember the stories she told about the Core People and their music. Is this what Muaura wrote about?”

“She recorded a lot of information, but if you find the book, Anna, you’ll discover more about your family’s past.”

“I knew that book was important! I’ve even dreamed about it since returning home.”

I should tell Mom about Grandma Ameara’s diary. She’ll be pleased to have it. Oh, wait no. I can’t give her that diary. She’ll notice the entry about Mr. Lin and the Maskhim, and start asking all kinds of questions I’m sure Aunt Mayra and Kitchet won’t answer truthfully. Then again, maybe she won’t notice anything odd about the entry or even connect the date to the day before Grandma died. Samantha shook her head, if Zen were here he’d say she was thinking too much. Okay Samantha, think! What would Nancy do in this situation?

“I’m going home to look for it,” Anna declared swiftly turning. She headed out the front door of the cottage, back through the flower shop, and out to their car, leaving Samantha and Rhiannon trotting behind her.

“The book is pretty old and hard to understand,” Rhiannon yelled out as Samantha and Anna got into their car. “Take it to Addiwan when you find it. He’ll be able to interpret its meaning.”

“Addiwan? Why— oh never mind,” Anna said, waving good-bye as she drove off.

On the ride home, Samantha half listened to her mom talking of finding Muaura’s book, while the other half wondered what she should do about the diary. The small village of Hearthshire disappeared behind them as their car veered onto the lane leading up to their home. She gazed up at the massive canopy of trees swaying their branches along with the rhythm of the wind.

“Hey there’s Bess,” Anna said, tooting the car’s horn to get her attention. “I’ll tell her we’ll be over for dinner tonight.”

By the time Anna parked the car in the garage, Samantha had decided not to give her mom, Grandma Ameara’s diary until she finished her investigation. She still needed to find out who committed the murders, why, and if it was ever solved. After coming to this decision, she thought she would feel a sense of relief. But she didn’t. She felt totally guilty and she knew why. She’d never hidden anything from her mom, but in the span of two days, keeping secrets, and hiding stuff from her was developing into a habit. A habit she was not in the least bit proud of.

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