Disclaimer is on the Introduction page.
October 23rd, 1944
Betty Sherwood leaned against the railing of the ferry going to Nantucket, Massachusetts. The wind whipped through her hair. She shivered a bit. The October day was gray and chilly, but the rain held off. She smiled at the laugher that came from behind her and turned to make sure that her husband Scott and their daughter Agatha hadn't caused too much damage to the boat.
Scott sat in the main lounge area of the ferry. Aggie sat across from him on the floor. Scott caught a soft, knitted football as Betty joined him. "Nice throw, Aggie. Now, go long!" Scott threw the football over her head. Aggie giggled and tried to crawl to it, but her father snatched it first. "Sorry, short stuff, but you've gotta learn to move faster."
"Scott," Betty asked him hesitantly, "are you sure you want to do this?"
Scott's face became determined as he threw his daughter her ball. "Aunt Aggie mentioned me in her will. I'm not getting much, but I have to be there." His expression hardened. "And Dad can't stop me."
"Why would he want to?"
Scott watched Agatha as she threw the football up in the air. The football landed several inches behind her back. The baby laughed and went to fetch it again. "Dad resents...resented my being so close to Aunt Aggie. She and Uncle Ollie tried to adopt me several times, but he wouldn't let them. Not that he ever really cared, anyway."
"What about your mother? What did she think?"
Scott shrugged. "I wouldn't know. Mom died a few hours after she had me. The story I got from Aunt Aggie was that Mom wasn't strong enough to have kids, but Dad wanted one badly, so they did it anyway."
The sound of a boat whistle and people standing indicated the end of their ride. Scott scooped little Agatha and her football into his arms. Aggie protested a bit, but Scott quieted her. "Aunt Agatha's daughter Rita and her husband Kyle are closing up her house. They offered room and board for us while we're here."
"What about your dad?"
Scott narrowed his eyes. "He can stay at a hotel."
Betty gathered their luggage. "Scott, what's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing important," Scott grumbled. "Dad and I haven't spoken in two years, that's all. No big deal."
Betty frowned. She could never imagine not speaking to her father. The only man she loved more than her dear old Dad was Scott. "Scott, does it have something to do with me?"
Scott paled momentarily, but he pasted on a smile as they joined the crowd lined up near the dock. "No, why would you think that?"
"Because I'm not your average Sherwood." They walked onto the dock. "I've never stolen anything, I only lie when I need to, and I've never pulled any con that didn't have to do with WENN or one of the staff members."
"Scotty!" a voice exclaimed. "How are you?" A pretty, young woman threw her arms around Scott. "I've missed you!"
Scott laughed. "I'm fine, Rita." Aggie made noises and tried to get her cousin's attention. "Rita, I'd like you to meet my girls." He put his free arm around Betty's shoulder. "This is my wife, Betty."
Rita shook Betty's hand. "It's nice to meet you, Betty. Scott told me a lot about you." She grinned. "And this must be the new little Sherwood." She tickled Aggie's tummy and the little girl let out a peal of laughter. "Do you know that your daddy named you after my mommy? I wish you could have met her."
Rita walked over to a slender young man who stood at the end of the dock. "This is my husband, Kyle."
Scott shook his hand. "Hey, there, Kyle. How long have you two been hitched?"
"Five years in May," Kyle admitted. A small boy with large brown eyes and thick brown hair huddled next to Kyle. "And this is our little boy Edward. He just turned three last month. He's kind of shy."
"That's all right," Scott said. "We have a whole three days to get to know one another. Most of the WENN staff went to a radio actors convention. Eugenia and Mr. Foley are running records and playing music and some of the Armed Forces volunteers are running the W.E.N.N." He took one of the suitcases from Betty. "Well, let's get this show on the road."
Betty sighed as she sat on the veranda of Agatha Sherwood Finch's beautiful beach house several hours later. Little Agatha slept peacefully on her lap. "It must be wonderful to live here all year 'round."
Rita shook her head. "It is if you like traffic and congestion during the summer and being bored stiff during the winter. Most of the stores here close the day after New Year's and don't open again until Armstice Day."
Betty stroked her daughter's heavy black hair. "Rita, how did your mother die? Scott won't tell me."
"Heart attack," Rita said simply. "Mom hasn't been well for a long time. Kyle and I tried to get her to go to a doctor in Boston who specializes in heart problems, but she's…well, she was so stubborn." Rita smiled, but Betty could see tears in her eyes. "Kyle was performing in a touring company of Oklahoma in Boston when we received the news. He took a leave of absence and I took time off from my teaching job in California in order to get down here."
"What does your Uncle Mitchell..."
"Think about me not being a con-artist? He's not thrilled about my choosing to teach history instead of pull the wool over the eyes of innocent victims, but Mom supported me, and he wasn't about to cross her." She shrugged. "I was never much of a con-woman anyway. Susan's better, but we both paled by comparison to Mom and Uncle Mitchell."
"So I've heard." Betty looked in the large bay windows. "It's awfully quiet in there. Do you think the men have gone through your mother's entire stock of sprits yet?"
"I hope not," Rita exclaimed. "I just got Eddie into bed and they'll wake him up if they get too spirited, if you know what I mean."
A car roared into the driveway as Betty and Rita made their way to the door. It was a fancy, expensive Packard. A handsome, silver-haired man stepped out and tapped the sand off his shoes with his gold-topped cane.
Rita narrowed her eyes. "Uncle Mitchell, what are you doing here?"
"Just came to pay my respects to my dear departed sister, Rita." He hugged her, but she remained stiff. "How are you, dear?"
"Fine, Uncle Mitchell," Rita snapped, "but if you're here to pay respects to my mother, why didn't you do it while she was still alive?"
Betty decided to intervene. "Um, hello, Mr. Sherwood, sir. My name is Betty Sherwood. I married your son a few years ago. Why don't we just go into the house..."
Mitchell gave her an icy glare. "So you're the goody-two-shoes who turned my son into an honest man."
"What are you doing here?" Betty and Rita turned around to face Scott Sherwood. His face was red and swollen, as if he'd been crying.
"Don't start on me, boy," Mitchell said menacingly. "I'm here for Agatha's funeral and the will-reading. She was my sister, you know. I loved her. She was a hard-headed old biddy, but I loved her."
"You don't know what it's like to love anyone," Scott snarled. "All you ever cared about was fleecing people and taking whatever you could without any regard to whose heart gets broken in the morning."
"How can you say that to the man who raised you single-handedly for eighteen years?" Mitchell asked.
Scott's eyes widened dangerously. Betty handed Aggie to Rita and went to hold him back. She saw his fits of temper in the past. "YOU DID NOT RAISE ME! I barely saw you when I was a kid. Where were you when I scraped my knees or caught prize fish or got in trouble at school? Where were you on Mother's Day when I ran home in tears because my real mother was dead and all the kids at school fun of me? Aunt Aggie was more of a parent to me than you know how to be! You're nothing but a cold-hearted bastard!"
Mitchell's hand was across Scott's face before anyone could stop him. "Don't you dare talk that way to your own father, Scott O'Rourke Sherwood! Didn't I teach you any better?"
"No," Scott said quietly, "Aunt Agatha taught me better. You taught me nothing."
No one moved for a moment. The only sound was the roar of the waves on the beach. Then little Aggie woke up, gurgled for a moment, and let out a loud wail. Scott took her in his arms. "Don't worry, sweetheart," he murmured to the baby. "Daddy's here. Did the bad man wake up my little lady?" He walked inside, no longer paying attention to the fuming man on the beach.
October 24th, 1944
Betty lay Agatha down in the old-fashioned bassinet that Rita found in a closet. Aggie seemed so happy and peaceful. She and Eddie spent the morning playing on the beach while their parents chatted and enjoyed a picnic lunch. Aggie loved the beach, although Betty and Scott had to convince her that sand and shells were for looking at, not putting in mouths.
Eddie, too, had settled down for a nap upstairs. Rita and Scott were at the reading of the will and Kyle was talking to his agent in Boston. The clouds finally burst after they came in from lunch and Betty was bored. She tried to concentrate on the book she brought to read, but her mind drifted.
Betty studied the photos that lined the heavy fireplace. A beautiful young woman and a short, gentle-looking man smiled proudly in their fancy turn-of-the-century wedding outfits. Two girls, one taller than the other, joined them in the next picture. A black-haired boy who also stood in the picture pulled at the smaller girl's pigtails. Betty laughed. That had to be Scott tormenting one of his cousins. The next photo also featured her husband. He was a teenager in this one, a beaming youth who held up his enormous fish for the camera to admire. She recognized a younger Rita in another picture, her nose buried in a large book. Betty was surprised to see a wedding picture of her and Scott on the mantel with the ones of Agatha's daughters and their husbands.
She suddenly wanted to see it all before Agatha's daughters cleaned the house out and sold everything or gave it away for scrap. Scott never talked much about himself or his family. He said that his father and his third wife Doris lived out of hotels and sold their home ages ago. He never spoke kindly of any family but Aunt Agatha's children and her husband. She knew nothing about what his life in Nantucket was like.
Betty walked upstairs. She peered into rooms. Eddie cuddled under the big cherry bed in one. Agatha occupied the other. Aunt Agatha's personal items were in the third bedroom. She saw the large, cheery bathroom last night when she took a shower. The faucets were made of shiny brass and the sink and tub were real marble.
The curious writer opened a plain, whitewashed door in the wall between the bathroom and the room where little Agatha slept. It led to a musty, creaking staircase. She slowly ascended the old wooden steps and found herself in a large, cold, cobweb-covered room. Old sheets gray with age covered strange forms. Molding trunks and dusty boxes were stacked on the floor and old horse tacks and faded women's hats lined the walls. A weathered rocking horse stood in one corner, next to a large box of ancient toys.
Betty made a mental note to watch out for loose floorboards as she carefully made her way around the room. She gave the old horse a push. He moved slowly. She wondered if she could find someone to fix him up for Agatha. The little girl would love to have a pony all her own, even if he was made of wood.
She sneezed and stumbled over a large box. Betty yelped and checked to make sure nothing was broken and that she didn't have any splinters. She seemed to be all right, but the box broke open. An odd-looking pendant on a tarnished gold chain spilled onto the floor, along with several photos and a thick, yellowed packet of brittle-looking papers. She picked up the box and started to restore its contents. The last thing she gathered before she closed the box again was an envelope addressed to Scott O'Rourke Sherwood from Fiona Sherwood.
Surprised, she turned the envelope over in her hands. It was dated January 24th, 1901, Scott's birthday. Normally, she wouldn't read other people's mail, but Fiona Sherwood was long dead. Was it blasphemy to read dead people's mail? Besides, Scott would want to know what was in it. She slowly and carefully opened the envelope.
Betty finished hauling the box downstairs just as Scott walked in the door. He gave her a kiss on her nose. "Hi, honey," he said. "How was your afternoon?"
Betty smiled and set the box on the coffee table in the living room. "Oh, it was fascinating. I explored the attic. Aunt Agatha kept some interesting things up there."
Scott laughed. "I know. Rita, Susan, and I used to play let's pretend in the attic on rainy days. I think she still has my old rocking horse, too."
"That was yours?" She grinned. "Somehow, I can't see you riding a horse."
"I used to dream of being William S. Hart when I was a boy," Scott explained. "When I wasn't being Ivanhoe and rescuing Rita and Susan from dress form villains."
"Where's Rita?" Betty asked. "And did Susan ever come?"
"She and Susan went to meet Kyle in Boston," Scott explained. "Susan just arrived from Detroit. Her husband is watching their kids."
"So," Betty began, "how did the will reading go?"
Scott opened the icebox and took out two root beers. "Aunt Agatha split the bulk of her estate between Susan and Rita. She left Dad and Doris a thousand dollars and we get five thousand and some box in the attic. She said that it was important."
Betty nearly choked on her root beer. She ran into the living room and gathered the box in her arms. "Would this be it, Scott?"
He inspected it. "It must be. It's addressed to me and Dad from Mom..." Scott's eyes widened. "Mom? But, how..." He took the box from his wife. "Betty, call my father and tell him to come over here now. There's something that he needs to see."
Mitchell Sherwood stormed into the house ten minutes later. "I thought you weren't speaking to me again after last night," the older man snapped.
"Dad, this stuff is from Mom," Scott growled.
"Mom is dead," Mitchell explained. "She died years ago..."
"...on January 24th, 1901?" Betty finished.
Mitchell went pale. "How do you know?"
Scott showed him the envelope and the letters. "Betty found this stuff in this box in the attic. You told me that all of Mom's things were destroyed in a fire." He leaned back in his chair. "Explain, please."
Mitchell looked uncomfortable. "I only half-lied, Scott. A fire did destroy all of Fiona's things. The one that was in my fireplace." He shrugged. "Well, I thought I destroyed all of them. Agatha must have saved the items in this box."
"You burned Mom's things?" Scott asked incredulously.
Mitchell sat down beside his son. "Scott, I was mad after Fiona died. I loved her. I loved her more than I ever loved any woman, including the women I married later. I looked forward to spending the rest of my life with her."
"Why did you throw all these things away, then?"
The older Sherwood picked up the tarnished pendant. "I didn't want to be constantly reminded of Fiona after she passed on. I couldn't even stand to look at you for a while. You lived with Agatha and Oliver for the first two weeks of your life. I almost drowned in grief." He fingered the smooth glass shape. "This is a Celtic love knot, Scott. She brought it over with her from Ireland."
Mitchell smiled. Betty noticed that his smile was almost identical to his son's and his granddaughter's. "Didn't that older sister of mine ever tell you that Fiona was pure Irish? She immigrated to Boston from Dublin when she was sixteen. She worked in factories and led women's rights rallies. That's how I met her." He laughed. "She and a bunch of her suffragette buddies found me in an alley during a rally that got out of hand. The protest gave the cops something else to think about besides my criminal record."
Betty laughed. "That's a Sherwood for you!"
Mitchell settled back in his chair, happily losing himself in memories. "Fiona and I made a great team. We coordinated rallies, first for suffragettes, then for factory unions when the sweatshop that Fiona worked for cut wages to next to nothing." His face suddenly clouded over. "I was the one who wanted kids. Fiona wasn't sure she was cut out for mothering, but Agatha already married Oliver Finch and was happily traveling around the world with him."
He pulled one tattered photo out of the pile. "That's your mom and me on our wedding day, Scotty." A gorgeous, black-haired Fiona O'Rourke Sherwood stood with a much-younger Mitchell. "You got your hair from her, Scott. Fiona's what they call Black Irish." He sighed. "We were going to settle down in Nantucket. I opened the butcher shop with some of my old con friends who wanted to go straight and she kept my books and attended to customers."
Betty handed Scott the letter. "You haven't read this yet. I think she would have wanted both of you to. It's from her."
Scott nodded and took the brittle paper. His eyes filled with tears as he read the note aloud.
"My dear Scott O'Rourke Sherwood,
By the time you're old enough read this, my little laddie, I will be gone from this world. I wanted to be with you, to be with your father, but I barely have the strength to write this note. My only wish is that you know I love both of you. You have your daddy, and your Aunt Agatha will be a much better mother than I ever could have been. I want you to grow up in a normal, happy family, and not have to worry about sweatshops and rallies and running from one policeman or the other.
I find that I must leave you now, my wee Scott. The doctors want to check up on me. God bless you, my love, and god bless your father and your aunt!
All my love forever,
Fiona O'Rourke Sherwood"
A cry from upstairs distracted the trio. Betty walked up the stairs and sang to her wailing daughter. She descended the staircase and entered the kitchen.
Agatha was calm now. She stared at her father and grandfather with large, round brown eyes. "Da da," the baby gurgled happily.
"Mitchell Sherwood," Betty said, "meet your granddaughter, Agatha." She handed him the baby girl.
She took hold of his finger and he laughed. "You're a cute one, you are." She suddenly popped her little fist across his nose. Mitchell rubbed his now-red face. "What a left hook! You're definitely a real Sherwood, kiddo!"
This war won't last forever...
Is WENN still in one piece? How's Jeff and Victor doing? Does Scott have anything to do with the government papers that Betty found in his office? Who is the mysterious "Falcon"?
On the Edge of the Precipice Series
Go to On the Edge of the Precipice#21 - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!
Go Back to On the Edge of the Precipice#19 - Tea for Two...or Three!
Go Back to the On the Edge of the Precipice Introduction Page!
Go Back to the Fanfiction Library!