Lila wondered briefly if she ought to try harder to convince the Chief to use her first name, or if she should just give up. It tended to raise unwanted questions in visitor’s minds when the Town Clerk, Librarian, and President of the Shadowsbrook Historical Society called the Chief “Gwen” and was called “Miss Emerson” in return. Gwen and Lila looked about the same age, but Lila remembered helping out when Gwen’s maternal grandmother was born, shortly that pair of great-grandparents moved to town. For quite a long time, Lila had been “Miss Emerson” at the small school in town, but as the world became more professional, she’d moved to her current set of positions. She also quite liked the new building, although she tried very hard not to refer to it as such.
At the moment, Lila was wrestling with a particularly knotty problem which had first appeared in the form of an email to the Shadowsbrook Town Library. It was a genealogical question about people Lila had known well. In one case, continued to know, quite well, she thought with a smile. A descendant was trying to nail down a death date, hopefully with a record, for two people. Lila wasn’t exactly certain what had happened to Sarah “Patsy” Johnson. Patsy had changed her name to Elizabeth some time between the wars and left town. She was in occasional contact with her friends in Shadowsbrook, but Lila hadn’t heard anything specific in about thirty years. A quick phone call to Theodore, however, produced contact information for Sarah/Patsy/Elizabeth Johnson/Smith, which she relayed to the descendant without bothering to get permission to do so from anyone. Lila was a big believer in gossip, and if Theodore hadn’t figured that out by now he was past helping. Lila also sent along Matthew Johnson’s contact information, along with a paragraph pointing out that information was accessible to anyone with a web browser who knew to point it at http://www.411.com.
The genealogist, however, was not happy with this response, and shot off a missive almost immediately upon receipt of Lila’s message. But she didn’t reply to Lila; she instead sent a message to the Historical Society of Shadowsbrook. It was a cut-and-paste of the original genealogical query, along with a snippy remark that the Town Librarian didn’t seem to be competent to do her job.
Just thinking about that email made Lila angry all over again. For most of Lila’s very long life, she would not have answered the genealogist’s question honestly. She would have found the faked death record for the names in question (if it existed) or would have notified the people and worked with them to fake a death record and then tell the genealogist. But that was before a decade of urban fantasy had accustomed virtually everyone in the United States to the idea of vampires and werewolves, fairies, pixies, gnomes, djinn, gods, goddesses, skinwalkers, ogres, trolls, elves, ghosts, ghouls, demons, angels and hosts of other supernatural creatures had been living alongside more ordinary humans for, well, forever. And once everyone was used to the idea in fiction, it seemed a lot less risky to try coming out in reality.
As a librarian, Lila had ambiguous feelings about Stephanie Meyer. She loved any book that got kids excited about reading, of course. There were limited connections between the supernatural as depicted by Meyer and the supernatural as Lila knew them, which was inevitably frustrating. But along with all the other, less celebrity-associated authors who had helped pave the way for supes to come out of the closet, Meyer was a Real Life Heroine to Lila and most of her friends.
When they weren’t actually trying to read her books, that is.
Thanks to all that genre fiction, Lila could honestly and proudly hand a scion of Shadowsbrook — a person with dilute supernatural ancestry of her very own — contact information for distant relatives and enable them to claim connection with these fresh celebrities. Lila always liked to think that when she passed out phone numbers and email addresses (never physical addresses), she was creating an opportunity for someone who might otherwise join a bunch a wackadoodles like the Third Day idiot who tried to do an exorcism at Clayton’s house last night, a real opportunity to get to know someone who perhaps wasn’t exactly like them, but who was enough like them to be a friend.
Or at least a family member.
Lila also liked to think that some of these genealogical queries would answer long standing questions people had, like why they didn’t seem to age the way everyone else did, or why they hated the sun, or any number of other anomalies that could be inherited, some of which led to a lot of expensive visits to neurologists to no satisfactory answer.
But every once in a while, Lila got a genealogist who was far enough into the twenty-first century to be using e-mail, but not far enough into it to realize they might have a distant relative from a century ago who was still alive (more or less) and available to answer their questions (and correct their genealogical efforts) in person, or at least on Skype. Usually, when she handed over contact information for a “long-dead” ancestor, she either got effusive thanks (and occasionally, an in person hug or a donation to the library or historical society) or conspicuous silence. Repeat queries that presumed error on her part were rare. In fact, Lila thought, this was the first time to generate a _third_ query.
The third email was to the Town Clerk, asking for assistance in checking vital records. A credit card number was enclosed, and Lila was briefly tempted to charge a fee — or several, perhaps — to do the searches and then send the same information again. She paused, however, to reread the last paragraph again.
“I have already contacted your Town Librarian and the President of your Historical Society, who seem to be the same person. I understand Shadowsbrook is a small town and has limited funds, but surely it would be better to not have a librarian or even not have a historical society, than to have a librarian and town historian who replies to a genealogical request for death records of people who must surely have died over a century ago with telephone numbers and email addresses! Am I to believe that not one but both of the people I inquired about are supernatural and therefore long-lived? Surely that is unlikely in any family, but particularly so in this one! Every generation since has died at average age of 45 and the longest lived made it to 62, which was my dear departed husband.”
Lila frowned. She had looked at the genealogical information provided by the researcher enough to know who she was looking for, but hadn’t closely inspected all the names and dates, nor had she visited the site where a larger tree could be found. She took a few minutes to do so, and abruptly realized how this particular woman was connected to Matthew and Sarah.
Lila had a dilemma. She did love to tell a good story — and this was a really good story, because it was the incident that led to fairies being banned from Shadowsbrook, and the death at 36 of the changeling foisted on Matthew and Sarah (and to whom they had been passionately attached) had led directly to the end of their marriage. They had eventually found their natural son, but so many years raised by humans had made it very difficult for him to reintegrate with the community of Shadowsbrook. His decision to stay in the larger human world was part of why Sarah had left town in the 1920s.
Could it possibly be summarized in an email? Was that even a good idea, not knowing how this descendant would react?
For once, Lila opted for discretion. “I am sorry to inform you that your ancestor Gideon was not the biological child of Matthew and Sarah Johnson. Gideon’s parents are not known to me, other than that one of them was a fairy and the other was almost certainly a human. Human-fairy pairings, as you may or may not be aware, often lead to shortened lifespans in themselves and their descendants. Please know that Matthew and Sarah both loved Gideon with great passion and have never forgotten him, or their love of him. They would be pleased to meet Gideon’s descendants, or anyone who has known and loved Gideon’s descendants. I, personally, know Matthew and Sarah (who are no longer married), and knew Gideon during his tragically brief life. He was an honorable man, admired by everyone who met him. This particular episode is very important in the recent history of Shadowsbrook. If you come to visit, I’d be happy to put you in touch with several people who remember it well, and can answer your questions, if you doubt my veracity.”
It would have to do. Lila sent it off, and hoped that the next email from that researcher — because she wasn’t lucky enough for this to be the end of it — would be a little more politely worded.