“She cannot see or hear you,” Siobhan explained. “We are only witnessing the essence of a memory locked in time.”
“So she cannot sense us here, either?” Kimberly asked, stepping close enough to Maeve to look at what she was typing so intensely.
Before Siobhan could respond, the clacking on the typewriter stopped abruptly and Maeve looked up and around. Kimberly could see tear tracks down her face and a faint ruddy complexion in her cheeks which gave away the fact that she had been recently crying. For an instant Maeve’s eyes rested in the spot where Kimberly stood, making her think that perhaps her grandmother could see her after all, but then Maeve seemed to shake herself slightly and turn back to her typewriter, the ring-tinging of the keys once again filling the tiny room.
Kimberly looked over at Siobhan as though to challenge her assurance that there would be no interaction with these memories, and the girl merely shrugged.
Footsteps echoed on bare wooden stairs and two children burst into the room.
“Maeve!” a little girl squealed, probably around eight years of age. “Mother says we must go to bed, but we want to hear some more of your stories first!”
The boy, a little younger, piped in as well. “Please, Maeve! Please come!”
Maeve gave a sparkly laugh and said, “Very well, but hurry on to bed first. We mustn’t make Mother angry. She is tired enough as it is. I will be there shortly.”
The children ran back up the stairs, leaving a door open at the top which let in a faint yellow glow of light. As Maeve lifted the oil lamp off her desk and began climbing the stairs, Kimberly noticed for the first time that they were surrounded by stacks of bulging burlap sacks and wooden crates, with canned goods and other food items stacked inside. Maeve must have made the cellar into her makeshift study. It was probably the only space in their home which she could have to herself.
Kimberly and Siobhan followed Maeve up the stairs and through the kitchen, passing a tired-looking woman with disheveled hair sitting at a table, a needle and thread in hand as she made tiny stitches in a kelly green dress with fine black piping. There was a kettle resting on an old fashioned iron stove, just starting to blow steam from its thick round spout.
Several small rooms branched off from the kitchen where they left Kimberly’s great-grandmother to continue her work. In one room they found Maeve curled on a bed with three children nestled in close to her, their expressions rapt with delight at the story which unfolded from Maeve’s lips.
Kimberly smiled. Her grandmother was a great story teller. She had many fond memories of her adventurous bedtime stories, which tended to get Kimberly more wound up than ready to go to
“My grandmother wrote fairy tales,” Kimberly said to Siobhan, although she suspected the girl was already aware of the story she would tell. “In order to cope with the death which surrounded her in the war, she would make up stories about the boys who would never return home to their families. She liked to believe that they were able to live on in her tales, carrying out daring adventures and escapades, with never an unhappy ending.”
Laughter came from the cozy bed as the children enjoyed one of Maeve’s silly twists to her tale.
“She published many of them in the paper, in the editorial section, and grew quite a following of readers. After the war, she published a collection of them in a book. It never sold a lot of copies, but I was always amazed at her vision and persistence in publishing her work.”
A hazy mist seemed to fill the room and the scene vanished before Kimberly’s eyes. A moment later she was in a larger room with ten or more desks. Men and women in uniform walked in and out with purposeful expressions on their faces. Telephones were ringing, low voices hummed, and typewriter keys clacked.
Kimberly found her grandmother sitting at a far desk, typing from a stack of papers which were propped up next to her. As the two approached Maeve, she suddenly stopped in mid keystroke, a trembling hand raised slowly to her mouth. Maeve jumped from her seat and ran out of the room, the page she had been reading from floating carelessly onto the floor.
Curious, Kimberly looked at the paper. It was a list of names of deceased soldiers. She must have been composing the condolence letters for the Commander. Perusing the list it did not take long for Kimberly to see what had so discomposed her grandmother. The third name on the list was Timothy Declan McKenna, Maeve’s older brother.