Secret of the Family Tree: Digging Up Old Roots

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Chapter 16: Names of Ancestors Past

With her mom preoccupied with Bess, Samantha rushed up to her room with Gypsy close on her heels. She tucked the newspaper article into the back of Ameara’s diary and slipped it beneath her bed pillows, but then immediately rethought her hiding spot. Mom may find it when she changes the sheets. Scanning the room, her eyes zoomed in on her Nancy Drew books. Yes, perfect! Grabbing the books, she fittingly sandwiched the diary in-between The Clue in the Diary, and The Greek Symbol Mystery, before placing them on the shelf opposite her bed.

“There, that should do it.” A low groan came from Gypsy who Samantha felt stared at her judgmentally. “Don’t look at me like that. I’ll give it to Mom later, I promise. I just have to hide it for a little bit,” she told the dog, just as she heard Bess’s voice in the hallway.

“I know we helped your father put everything up in storage. Your mother’s things should be nearest to the stairs.”

“That’s where Rhiannon felt they would be. Oh here you are,” Anna said, pausing in Samantha’s doorway. “We’re heading up to search for Muaura’s book. Would you like to help?

“Sure.” Taking a backward glance at her shelf, Samantha made sure the diary blended in naturally amongst the rest of her books before following Bess and her mom to the attic.

“Samantha, your mom tells me you found your first marvels,” Bess said, as she pulled back the attic curtains.

“Yes, I did!” Samantha picked up a box, carrying it to the area rug where she made herself comfortable. “Bess, if trees have essences that can be seen, then why aren’t there other people reporting seeing them?”

“People do report seeing them.”

“Really, when? I’ve never heard about it,” Anna said.

“Sure you have. You know those stories of people getting lost in the woods and encountering helpful strangers who seem to appear out of nowhere?”

“It’s just like the story that was all over the news when we were in Flagstaff,” Samantha said. “The one where people searched all night for those lost girls?”

“Are you talking about the girls who got lost on their ski trip?” Anna asked.

“Yeah. Remember when they found them, one of the girls said a lady kept them warm all night, but she’d gone by the time help arrived.”

“This woman most likely was a tree’s essence,” Bess said, “just like Ashlynn.”

“Huh, I bet I’ve met a tree essence before and didn’t even know it,” Samantha said.

“Perhaps, but it would’ve been in a heavily wooded area and normally, as with those young girls in Flagstaff, a tree essence only appears when they are truly needed,” said Bess.

“Why is that?” Samantha asked.

“Because trees have learned to keep to themselves, especially in places where there are so few of them, like cities. Now our home, Fairland, is very active with nature essences. But still, I’ve seen people come onto this land and don’t seem to see or hear them.”

“Like I noticed in the shop today,” Anna said, “with the plant and flower essences. I guess that’s what’s known as selective hearing and seeing?”

“Yes,” answered Bess.

Samantha leaned against the box she was supposed to be looking through. She wasn’t as enthusiastic as her mom was about finding her ancestor’s old book. Her eyes wandered around the room, looking for something more exciting to do when she spied a door towards the back of the room, which she hadn’t seen the last time she was in the attic.

“What’s behind that door?”

“I suspect more family stuff. There are generations of Fairland history up here,” said Bess, as she looked through a trunk. “Goodness, I thought Innis placed Muaura’s book where you could easily put your hands on it.”

“We’ll find it,” Anna said, grabbing another crate.

Ditching her box, Samantha headed for the door to see what it held inside. It was a walk-in-closet lined with shelves holding stacks of loose papers. On examining the papers, she found they were colorful drawings of planets and star clusters. These are pretty. Thumbing through the artwork, she noticed the artist focused on two planets in particular. One was a small emerald planet labeled with the letters O-P-I-Y-U and the other a larger multicolored planet labeled E-L-P-H-I-A-M. She returned the drawings to the shelf and reached for an orrery sitting on the very top shelf. A marbled yellow ball was at the center, surrounded by ten smaller gold balls attached to metal rods affixed to interlocking gears. Positioned further away from the ten gold balls were three more gold balls, bigger than the other ten. Blowing the dust away from the orrery’s wooden base, she cranked a little metal lever on the side and watched the spherical planets revolve around each other. “Hey look at this.”

“Is it Muaura’s book?” Bess asked, stepping into the closet. “Oh, you’ve gotten into Opiyu’s stuff. She loved to draw and work with her hands.”

“Op… how did you say that name?” Anna asked.

“O-PIE-You,” Bess said slowly. “Opiyu was Muaura and Arborden’s daughter.”

“Wait, I saw that name on one of these drawings.” Samantha picked up the drawing of the small emerald planet. “See right here.”

“Yes,” Bess said. “Opiyu and her brother, Elphiam were named after planets their grandmother was very fond of.

“I’m not very savvy when it comes to astronomy, but I’ve never heard of those planets, and this orrery is holding four planets too many. Well, one of them is probably poor Pluto before it was demoted. Where is she getting these other planets?” Anna questioned. “Or, are they meant to be moons?”

“Maybe,” Bess said, stepping out of the closet. “I do know that at least one Fairland from every generation has been interested in the stars, and Opiyu was no different.”

“Is this the reason behind the symbol of the crescent moon and stars carved into the gravestones and on the wooden frame in my bedroom?” Samantha asked.

“That’s right.”

“Was Opiyu and Elphiam the only children Muaura had?” Anna asked, as she got back to searching through the crates.

“No, six, Arborden and Muaura had six children,” Bess whispered. She seemed to drift off somewhere in the crevices of her mind. Samantha got the impression the older woman was seeing another time, another place. Then clapping her hands together, Bess smiled and said, “Let me see if I can name them all in order. There was Samkin, Muluna, Elphiam, Aprena, Opiyu and Muam. You are descended from their daughter, Opiyu and her husband Pan-AEL.

“I never thought to ask my father or my Aunt Mayra, however now I’m curious,” Anna remarked. “Bess, do you know the country of origin of my family? Muaura’s children’s names are very unusual.”

“I guess the names do sound a bit strange in today’s world,” Bess chuckled. “I do know Muaura’s parents, Oeans, pronounced, O-EE-ANS and her father, EL-Athu, L-AT-HUE, lived for a time in what is now considered the continent of Africa, and in the Mesopotamia reign. Muaura’s parents traveled a great deal, just like you and Craig have.

“So our ancestors are of African and Middle Eastern descent?” asked Anna.

“Yes and no. Your ancestors lived in that part of the world, but this is not where they came from. Remember what Innis always said. We are all children of the universe, born into this Earth. So don’t get too hung up on this world’s labels,” Bess reminded Anna and Samantha.

“I liked when Grandpa used to say that. It made me feel, I don’t know, sort of connected to everybody else in the world,” Samantha said.

“They’re powerful words, meant to unite people,” Bess said.

“Bess, you really seem to know a great deal about my family’s history,” Anna said.

“Well, our family’s histories are intertwined.

“Can you tell me more about my grandma Ameara? What was she like? Did she have a lot of friends?” Samantha thought if she found out more about her grandmother, it would help her figure out who would’ve wanted to kill her.

“Your grandmother had an easy going, sweet personality. She loved to spend time in the garden and her flower shop. But most of her time was spent with her family. Oh, Anna, she loved you girls and Innis so much,” Bess beamed.

“But did she have any friends? Did she go out to dinner or to the movies with anyone besides her family?” Samantha pressed.

“She didn’t have many friends outside of her family, Samantha.”

“You said not many. Does that mean she had at least one friend?”

“What’s with all the questions all of a sudden about your grandmother?” Anna asked, looking up from her crate.

“I just wanted to get a better idea of what type of person she was, that’s all.”

“She rarely left Hearthshire, except for her trips to meet Nanna for breakfast at the university. Ameara was a good person, who left us all too soon,” Bess said solemnly.

No friends, then who was Mr. Lin? Maybe he wasn’t a friend after all and this is why Grandma was frightened to meet him. Or maybe he was a friend of Great Grandma Nanna. Samantha was about to ask about Nanna, when Bess sighed loudly and announced.

“I don’t think Muaura’s book is up here. Sorry, Anna, we can ask Kitchet during dinner. Dinner! I haven’t even started it,” she shouted, hustling down the steps.

Even though Bess had said Muaura’s book wasn’t in the attic, Anna insisted Samantha help her look through the rest of the crates. It was at least another hour before they gave up and headed back downstairs.

“We should have a shower before going over,” Anna said, following Samantha into her room.

“Mom,” Samantha said, stretching out on her bed, “do you mind if I don’t go over for dinner with you. I’m all wiped-out.” She really was looking for time alone to call Zen.

“You’re wiped out? You’re too young to feel all wiped out,” Anna teased, tickling her under her ribcage.

“Mom, stop… please… I can’t breathe,” gasped Samantha between giggles.

“That’s fine, you don’t have to come.” Anna lay down next to her “Do you want me to stay and keep you company?”

“No, Gypsy will keep me company, won’t you girl?”

At hearing her name, the Irish wolfhound who had been sleeping in front of the window, lifted her head, and wagged her tail.

“If you two get hungry, I do have some leftovers in the fridge.” Anna rolled off the bed, and began her trek around Samantha’s room, picking up clothes.

“Can I call Zen while you’re gone? I wanna tell him about Terrance, Ashlynn, and everything else.”

“Sure. Ooh Samantha! Are you starting to throw books on the floor now too?”

“Uh…no. What book?”

“This one,” Anna said, picking up the book. The books cloth dust jacket slipped off, exposing a soft leather cover underneath. “Samantha! Where did you get this book? This is what we’ve been searching for, it’s Muaura’s book!”

“What?” Samantha leaped off the bed to get a look at the book her mom held.

“See the etching in the leather cover of the moon, stars and sphere?”

Samantha could just make out the faint outlines of the symbols. Opening the book, she instantly recognized the random shapes and drawings on the faded pages from the book she had tossed aside the night she found her grandma’s diary.

“Sorry, Mom. Zen and I picked up this book from the attic the other day. I didn’t recognize it as the one you were looking for with that cover on it,” Samantha said truthfully.

“I’m just thrilled to have found it,” Anna said, skimming through the book. “Talk about old world writing. Now I understand what Rhiannon meant. There is no way I can interpret this myself. Well, I better get ready.”

Samantha listened as her mom’s footsteps faded away down the hall, and heard the shower come on in her parent’s bedroom. Sitting on the floor next to Gypsy, she ran her hand over the dog’s coarse wiry coat, waiting for her mom to leave. She didn’t know how she managed to keep herself composed all day with all the new information brimming up inside of her. She hoped when she called Zen, that he would help her unravel all she had learned. Together they would decide the next best course of action in their investigation.

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