Artifacts of Affection (CH4)

Chapter Four

Corrine met Olivia at her office, and they walked the two miles home, as they always did when the weather was fair. Besides being good exercise, Olivia approved saving gas and avoiding the afternoon crush on the city buses. Corrine enjoyed the time to chat.

“Where are you?” she finally asked. “I’ve asked twice what hours you’re teaching this summer, and you haven’t heard me.”

“I’m on Lake Superior,” Olivia admitted. “I think I’ve got a job.”

Corrine’s perfect eyebrows arched. “Better than assisting Doctor Barron?”

Olivia nodded emphatically. “Like doctoral material better.”

Corrine whistled through her teeth and bumped her shoulder into Olivia’s, a walking half-hug. “You rockstar. It’s gotta pay well enough, or you wouldn’t consider it. Where on Lake Superior?”

“I don’t know, yet.” Olivia told her about the meeting. “If you’re willing to come, or do without me this summer – ”

“The first, yes. The types of jobs I can get, I can get anywhere,” Corrine said, “and with good gloves and a hat, I’ll work on your site, if you want and need me. But I’m not sure I can handle everything you do. I’d rather you packed us up like so much luggage than leave me in charge.”

“That’s what I’d rather,” Olivia said. “It’s not that I don’t think you couldn’t manage, but…”

“I couldn’t manage, and I know it,” Corrine said firmly. “Now’s not the time to learn, either. Mom will be working on Dr. Fuentez’ book, but if there’s email up there, she’ll be fine.” Corrine looked across the street, past the traffic to Fraternity Row. “Besides, I’d rather get Susannah out of here for the summer.”

“What do you know that I don’t?” Olivia said.

“She’s got … a crush. Him on her, not her on him. She says he creeps her out.” Corrine looked guilty. “I was told that in strictest confidence. You’re not to know since you’ll make a fuss and file a police report and press stalking charges.”

“Is he stalking her?” Olivia asked.

“No. Yes. Not really, just notes in her locker, he stares at her in class.”

“Then I won’t fuss,” Olivia said. “But if you’re worried, then you guess something you’re not telling.”

“Have you noticed how Suse always keeps her adult supervision, as she calls us, around?”

“I thought it was just normal, teenage insecurities,” Olivia mused. “Is she not telling you something?”

“I think this kid disturbs her more than she lets on,” Corrine said.

“Then we’ll be careful, and persuade Mom that we all need a break from Boulder,” Olivia said.

“And if I’m really lucky, it will be close to Moonwolf Rep, and I can try to get a foot in the door there,” Corrine said happily.

“Moonwolf Rep?” Olivia asked. “Should I know this one?”

“It’s a very well respected repertory theater, ‘Via,” Corrine said, exasperated. “Don’t you pay attention to where I apply?”

“I do… at the time, but…”

“No, it’s fine,” Corrine said. “I know better. If it’s a bone or a burnt out hovel, I have a chance of you being interested, but if it’s not, it doesn’t hang around. It’s a summer stock company, they’re one of the last stock companies making money in the country, and they specialize in musical theater and classics.”

“I’m not completely ignorant of the theater, contrary to popular opinion,” Olivia said. “Won’t they be finished casting for the season? And well into rehearsals?”

Corrine shrugged. “Yes, but maybe they’ll need a grip, or a dresser. Or an understudy. Or I can pray they’ll take an intern. Assuming we’re close enough.”

“Which is a major assumption,” Olivia agreed. “The lake is huge.”

“Right,” Corrine said, and laughed. “With my luck, we won’t even be close enough to go over and see a matinee performance.”

“Or afford one,” Olivia said, and sighed.

Olivia and Corrine presented Olivia’s news to their sister and mother over a simple supper of garden lettuce salads, tuna sandwiches, and nectarines. Rebecca looked thoughtful, chewing carefully. “It’s not permanent, is it?” she finally said.

“No,” Olivia said for the dozenth time. “We’ll be home at the end of dig season, or you will be. I may need to stay a week or two longer after Susannah should start school.”

Susannah picked seeds out of her bread and piled them in a corner of her plate to eat last. “I could home-school for a year,” she suggested.

“No,” Olivia said. “We can’t afford the curricula for a home school year, as much as you’d love it, darling.”

“Rats,” Susannah muttered under her breath. Corrine and Olivia exchanged a smile Susannah didn’t see. Susie’s fondest wish was to spend a year studying, take her SATs, and go on to college so she could be with her sisters every day.

“Well,” Rebecca finally said, late in the evening, when Corrine had spread out her own final papers and Olivia worked her way though journals and Susannah tackled trig. “As you please, Olivia. I think the change would do us all good, and personally, a summer without being asked to watch Hunter for a month because his parents can’t bother with him will be a relief.”

Olivia sighed, the tension lifting off her shoulders. “A summer without Hunter will be fabulous,” she agreed. “I’ll bring home my contract and the exact location tomorrow.”

The morning dawned cool and rainy, even for the mountains in May. Corrine and Olivia walked with Susannah to her school then backtracked to the University, where Corrine abandoned her sister for the cover of the performing arts pavilion. Olivia slogged up the running paths under dripping trees to Gidde Hall under the dubious protection of raincoat and umbrella, only to find Mr. Godwin leaning against the wall outside her door.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” he said as she approached.

“Then stop loitering at my workplace,” she returned, and unlocked her office door. “What are you doing here? Nobody else on campus is even awake, except those who haven’t gone to bed yet.”

He took the chair and put a folder on her desk while she hung up her wet things. “I don’t have a circadian clock anymore. I do best on Greenwich time, but I’ve been in so many time zones in the past five years, my body’s given up.”

“What do you do when you’re in the Pacific Rim?” she asked.

“IV coffee,” he replied. “Must I beg?”

“No. I’ll take it,” Olivia said. “Is this the contract?”

“And all the details. You mentioned your sister’s graduating – same field?”

“Corrine?” She laughed. “No. Most emphatically not. She can help at a site, but she’s not fond of sunlight.”

“Good. HiveCor has some pretty strong nepotism policies. None allowed. You can hire helpers, but not family members.”

Olivia looked up at him. “That doesn’t apply to you?”

He flushed. “Would that it did.”

“I wonder if my brother and his wife know… they both work for HiveCor,” she said.

He slammed his palms over his ears and screwed up his eyes. “Don’t tell me,” he said urgently. “What I don’t know, I don’t have to report and I think it’s a daft policy.”

“Sure,” she said, and took each page out of its pocket. She signed three different places and handed them back. “What do we do now?”

“Get ready to excavate,” he said, and offered his hand. “Welcome to HiveCor.”

Olivia took it and shook briefly. “Thanks, I think. Will you answer my question now?”

“What question?”

“What do you want me to find?”

“Personally?” He sighed. “I want it to be a pre-Columbian Norse settlement, further inland than we thought they came. I want it to be a serious settlement, not just a camp. I want it to be a UNESCO Human Heritage site.”

“And HiveCor?”

“Wants it to be a burned out farm from 1909.”

“That’s what I guessed,” Olivia sighed. “I won’t skew the evidence.”

“I don’t want you to.”

“Another question. How far is this site from a town?”

“Seven kilometers.”

“And what town is it?”

“Halfway between Castle Danger and Silver Bay, Minnesota,” he said. “Those are the closest, but they’re small. Houghton is twenty kilometers further south and Duluth is about ninety.”

“Houghton,” she mused. “That’ll make Corrine happy.”

“Of course, you can live wherever you like within reason,” Mr. Godwin said. “We’ll make sure you have a car that can handle a wheelchair at your disposal.”

“Oh.” She shrugged. “Is that necessary? I don’t drive much. I can, but — ”

“How does your mother get around?”

“She has a tricked out chair that can do everything but vote, and a local service drives her when I can’t. Mostly, she works at home.” She looked at the contract again. “You increased the stipend.”

“Yes. I thought it was fair, considering your skills, if not your qualifications.”

“It feels like charity,” she said bluntly.

“It’s not. Those are US Human Resources numbers, not mine. I called them last night. My assistant quoted UK numbers.”

“I’m committed, anyway,” she said. “Thank you. I can’t say it won’t help.”

“Good.” He beamed at her, and she really looked at him. He was closer to five years her senior, not ten, with dark blue eyes, as dramatic as Corrine’s. The sun had freckled him over the years, and he couldn’t have ever met an iron, or possibly a comb. He reminded her of someone from long ago, someone she’d liked, but couldn’t now recall, except he should be wearing brown, not rumpled khakis and a rumpled navy dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Average build, just above average tall for a man; he wasn’t much taller than she. “Now, I’ve hired you, contracted you from the University, and you’re mine to do with as I please.”

Olivia gaped at him. “I don’t like the way that sounds, Mr. Godwin,” she said faintly.

He reparsed that sentence in his head. “Oy, sorry. No, I mean I need your help putting this project together. I know every environmental impact regulation in four countries by heart, but what I know about archeology and anthropology won’t fill an eggcup. Though I’m trying – I downloaded a dozen recent popular science books and audiobooks last night, and subscribed to twenty journals, but I only read so fast. I need you to tell me what to do and what to lease, who to hire, if we need it, and when to sign what check.”

“Are you telling me that this project has no budget?” she said.

“This part of it,” he admitted. “We have a budget, but let me worry about the accountants.” Then he seemed to remember something. “Avery.”

“Excuse me?”

“Avery.” He tapped his collarbone, then pointed at her. “And you’re?”

“Olivia.”

“I like that name. Peace. Now, what kind of shovels and picks and earth movers do you need?”

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