Sister Ann Marie rubbed her lower back, yawned and flicked on the light in her office closet. Lining the walls were eight wooden file cabinets, four drawers each. For weeks, she’d been alone in the building, listening to its groans, hums and squeaks while searching through empty classrooms, forgotten dorms and alcoves. She’d located documents, discarded duplicate and extraneous information, and saved each child’s essentials: date of birth and birth parents, if known; date of arrival; date and details of adoption, if applicable; grade and test reports; and graduation or transfer date. These records, some dating to the mid-nineteenth century, were destined for the Ursuline Academy in Springfield. In a matter of months, St. Angela Merici Children’s Home and School would be closed for good.
“One drawer left in this closet,” Sister Ann Marie muttered as floorboards creaked underfoot. “Don’t fret.” She tapped the wood with her toe. “Someone will buy you, and you’ll have a brand new purpose.”
She leaned down, rolled open a drawer and removed several hanging files, which exposed a layer of crinkled manila paper at the bottom. She took out the rest of the files, then pried out a lumpy, 10” x 13” envelope and carried it to her desk. She set it on her blotter and rubbed a hand over the surface. In the bold print of her former mentor, the dearly departed Sister Mary Margaret, was the name Ellyanna.
The weary nun sat down, unfastened the clasp and reached inside. She pulled out several pages of school records; a stack of notes on index cards bound with rubber bands; a rumpled handkerchief; a beaded, red change purse; and an unopened letter addressed to Ellyanna Lowry. She skimmed the school records, then slowed down to read the index cards. When she finished, she read them again while fingering her rosary and moving her lips in silent prayer. Finally, she replaced the rubber bands and reached for her letter opener. But then the banker’s lamp on her desk flickered like a strobe light. She blinked, pulled back her arm and regarded the lamp. “Okay, okay. Not mine to read.”
The lamp resumed its usual, steady glow. She leaned back in the chair, swiveled to face the window and stared at a verdant lawn, petunia beds and cornfields beyond as minutes ticked slowly by on the wall clock above the door. Then she spun back to face the desk and thumbed through her Rolodex. When she spotted Jasper and Emily Skrillpod’s card, she stopped and picked up the phone.
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