"Simmons' Mills. Because I haven't figured out what to do next."

"Liar. Because you're scared."

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She thought about what he had said. "Maybe," she admitted finally. "It's weird, Paul. I find out something, and then—well, it's almost as if that's enough. I start thinking that maybe I don't want to find out the rest. And when it gets tough, knowing where to look next, I guess I kind of use that as an excuse."

"Are you ready to quit, then? Give it up?"

She stared at the sky. A few clouds moved slowly, their undersurfaces touched with gray, a hint of rain, but no real threat to the day; they disappeared behind the thick leaves of the maple tree and the sun still flickered in patterns across the grass and their bare feet.

"No." She sighed. "I don't want to give it up."

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"Well, then. I have it all figured out. What you should have done."

"Thanks a lot," Natalie said sarcastically. "I thought I was a pretty good detective."

"Yeah? You didn't find out much, did you?"

"Did too. I found out who my mother is, for pete's sake. I just didn't find out where she is."

"Okay, listen. You should have gone to the local Episcopal church. People like that are always Episcopalians."

"What do you mean, people like that? I'm Episcopalian."

"Big deal. That's just what I meant. You said the family was rich. Rich people are Episcopalians."

"That right? I'm sure the Kennedys would be very interested to hear that. Now you're being dumb."

"Maybe. But you should have tried it. They would have transferred their church membership somewhere."

Natalie sighed again. "You're right. I could have asked at all the churches."

"Or," said Paul.

"Or what?"

"Or you could have gone to see some of her old high school teachers," he said. "You had their names right there, in the yearbook. They might have known where she went."

She shook her head. "Couldn't. I thought of it. But they would have recognized me, Paul. They would have known. And I couldn't do that to her, to Julie, wherever she is."

He nodded, chewed on a blade of grass, and thought.

"Or," he said again.

She waited.

"The school," he mused. "She would have transferred to another school. They would have the records."

"I thought of that, dummy. And I called the school before I left Simmons' Mills. But it was closed. There was no one there. It was the end of June."

"So now it's the middle of July. You're not going to find her by sitting around here on your fat rear."

Natalie grabbed him around the waist and tickled him. He pulled her to the ground and they rolled like puppies, laughing, until he had her pinned, gasping and pleading for mercy.

"Paul," she said suddenly. "Why are you trying to help, anyway? You said the whole thing was a dumb idea."

He let her go and sank to the grass again beside her. "I don't know. I guess it begins to take on the feeling of a detective story, and that appeals to me. I keep forgetting what the purpose of it is, when I start thinking about the ways you can do it."

"You know something funny, Paul?"

"What?"

"When I was there, and when I found out who she was, and how young she was, and especially when I saw how much she looked like me, it was weird. I mean, there I was, in her town, at her house, even, and I began to feel as if it was me. I could picture myself, there, as if I was Julie Jeffries, as if I was Cleopatra with the makeup, all of that."

He looked at her, thinking. "Yeah. I can see what you mean."

"And you know, at first, when I first found out, I was mad at her, a little. For getting pregnant. But then, after a while, when I was feeling what it felt like to be her, I started feeling, oh, kind of scared, and sad, the way she must have."

"God, in a small town like that, it must have been horrible for her."

"I can't figure out why she did it."

Paul laughed shortly. "You're crazy, Nat. Why does anyone do it? Because they care about another person, and they get carried away."

"That's stupid."

"Happens all the time."

"Doesn't happen to me. Or you."

"Don't kid yourself, Natalie," Paul said. "You know, a minute ago, when we were wrestling—well, you don't think I care that much about wrestling, do you?"

Natalie grinned at him. "Yeah," she said. "I thought you were really into it as a classical art."

"Like hell," said Paul. "I couldn't care less about wrestling and you know it. I just like touching you. Quit acting so innocent." He grabbed at her playfully again.

"Cut it out." Natalie laughed, pushing him away.

"Thwarted again." Paul groaned, broke off a fresh long blade of grass, stuck it between his teeth, and chewed on the end. "Well, anyway. You get the point."

"Julie Jeffries was a wrestler?"

"She was a human. We all are."

They watched the sky silently.

"Or—" Paul looked at her suddenly. "Listen, Nat! Call the mill! The hell with all that other stuff! They'll know, at the mill, where her family went!"

23

THE PERSONNEL OFFICE at the P. R. Simmons Paper Company was not open on Saturday. The switchboard operator said politely that it would not be open until Monday.

On Monday, Natalie had to work. On Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday morning, Natalie had to work. On Thursday afternoon, she looked at the telephone, and she looked at her mother, who was trying to measure the entire house for new carpeting with a twelve-inch ruler from Nancy's geometry class.

"The width of the dining room," announced Kay Armstrong dubiously from a kneeling position, "is either twelve feet and four inches, or it's a few inches more than that, or a few inches less."

"Mom," said Natalie, "why don't you buy one of those metal measuring tapes that you pull out of a holder?"

But her mother wasn't listening. She was moving the ruler across the dining room again, muttering, trying to get the measurement right.

Natalie couldn't make the phone call with her mother in the house. In the weeks since graduation, her parents had not asked about the search for her natural parents; they had seen her off on the trip to Simmons' Mills, had welcomed her back, without asking her destination. In the beginning, they had told her that it didn't matter—not to them—what she found. If, someday, she wanted to tell them, they would listen.

And she was not ready, yet, to tell them anything.

"Natalie?" called Kay Armstrong from the dining room floor. "How tall are you?"

"Five-eight," Natalie called back from the kitchen. "Why?"

"Well, if you were six-two, two of you would be twelve feet and four inches. You could lie down twice across the dining room and I could tell if I'd measured it right."

"If I were six-two, I'd be outside playing basketball!"

"Come here a minute, Nat. Lie down here with your feet against the wall, and I'll make a mark, and then lie down with your feet against the other wall, and I'll make a mark. Then I'll measure the part in the middle. It should be just one foot, if I've figured properly."

"Mother. Get in the car. Go to the hardware store. Buy a metal measuring tape. Please."

Her mother stood up and grinned. "Well," she said. "Since you said 'please.'"

Kay Armstrong found her pocketbook and her car keys, and left for the hardware store. Natalie went to the phone.

"Personnel," said the impersonal female voice in Simmons' Mills.

"I wonder," said Natalie nervously, doodling with her ball-point pen on the paper beside her, "if you could give me some information about someone who used to work at the mill."

"What sort of information?"

"Well, I'm trying to locate someone. I wonder if you could tell me where he went when he left Simmons Paper Company."

"I can check and see if we have that information. How long ago was he here, and in what department did he work?"

"Well, he was there in 1959 and 1960."

"Goodness. That's way back."

"Yes, I know. I'm sorry. But it's very important that I find him. I don't know what department he worked in, but he was an executive of some sort."

"Well, that will make it easier. We do maintain files on those at the executive level. Could you give me the name, please?"

"Clement Jeffries."

"Would you hold, please?"

The phone clicked and automatic music played. Natalie cringed. She would have preferred silence; instead, she got Bach's Second Brandenburg Concerto. It was a long wait.

Finally: "I have the files here on Mr. Jeffries. Let's see. He came here in 1959 from Detroit, and he was here just one year, as you said. That's unusual. Just one year. I wonder why—oh, here it is. Yes. He went, when he left Simmons, to Philadelphia. He took a position with the Wentworth Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia. That was a long time ago, of course. Frankly, I doubt if he would still be with Wentworth. He would be past retirement age by now."

Natalie wrote it down. Wentworth Manufacturing, Philadelphia. "You don't have a home address, by any chance?"

"No, I'm sorry."

"Well, thank you very much. You've been very helpful."

Natalie poured herself a Coke, called Pennsylvania information, and got the number of the Wentworth Manufacturing Company. She went through the whole thing again with the personnel department there. No music on "hold," though.

This time it was a man, in personnel.

"Clement Jeffries, Clement Jeffries, yes, here it is. He retired in 1973. And, oh, here's—is this a relative?"

"Yes," Natalie lied. "I'm his niece. But of course I haven't seen him in a long time. I've lost track of him. That's why—"

"Well, listen, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but according to our records, Clement Jeffries died in 1974."

Natalie was silent.

"Miss?"

"Yes, I'm still here. I'm sorry. I was just surprised, of course. Do you by any chance have his home address? Do you know if his wife—his widow, I mean—still lives in Philadelphia?"

"No, I'm sorry. We don't keep that kind of information."

"I see. Well, thank—"

"Miss? Hold on a minute, would you?"

Natalie waited.

A woman's voice came to the phone. "Hello?"

"Yes?"

"You were asking about the Jeffries?"

"Yes."

"This is June O'Brien. I just happened to be here in the personnel office, and I heard Bill talking to you, and I thought perhaps I could help. I remember Clement. It's funny, I didn't know him well, and I didn't know his family, but as it happens—well, you're a relative; you must know their daughter Julie?"

"Yes," said Natalie, in a whisper.

"Well, then, you remember that Julie went to Miss Sheridan's School in Connecticut. This was a long time ago, of course, but my own daughter went to Miss Sheridan's, and one time she got a ride home at vacation with Julie Jeffries. I went out to their house to pick Betsy up. So I remember that it was in Glen Severn. Of course I have no idea if Mrs. Jeffries still lives there. That must have been, well, let's see, Betsy would have been sixteen or seventeen then, and my goodness, she has five children now, so you can imagine—"

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