Matilda had just settled down at the kitchen table to start her reading for Anatomy, when a rapid succession of knocks scattered across the front door. She stormed down the hallway and flung the door open with a frustrated, “What?”
She immediately regretted the emotion when she saw Delia rush past her, the slender girl breathing heavily.
“Del? What’s wrong?”
“Mattie.” She paused to catch her breath as Matilda closed the front door, “I had to come tell you right away.”
“What?” Matilda led her friend down the hallway, where both girls took a seat at the kitchen table. Matilda closed her textbook.
“I was just at the library, going through early issues of Writer’s Monthly for a project in Modern American Literature. I was just curled up in one of those reading nooks, with like twelve issues around me. I just kept flipping through, looking for something for Mr. Ackers, when you’ll never believe what I found.”
“What did you find?”
Matilda felt her breath escape and then catch in her throat. She couldn’t breathe. The ambient noise from the cars driving past the house, the leaves rustling through the trees in the backyard, the neighbors chatting, all of the noise stopped. Matilda felt herself zero in on those two words from her friend’s mouth.
Delia watched Matilda’s eyes grow wide in astonishment and she smiled, “Yeah. I found an article from, like, five years ago. The byline said Agnes J. Warner wrote it. So I did a Google search and found her picture. Look, I printed it out. Doesn’t she look just like you? Except, you know, older.”
Matilda took the black and white, low-resolution photo from Delia’s hand and stared at the image.
Delia was right. The woman in the photograph, a simple professional headshot of a serious woman, looked just as Matilda might in another twenty years.
“What else did you find?”
“There’s not a lot about this Agnes J. Warner. Just a small bio on the Writer’s Monthly website. She penned a few stories for them for about a year, and that was it.”
“Show me.” Matilda led Delia to her father’s office and booted up his iMac. As they waited, she grilled her friend about what the bio said.
“I think it said that she studied Literature at some university. It was kind of vague, but it did mention that she alternated between her apartment in New York City and a small villa in, like, Italy, or something.”
When the computer was ready, Matilda sat in her father’s chair and pulled up the Google website in the internet browser. Delia leaned over her to type “Agnes J. Warner, Writer’s Monthly” in the search bar. Matilda watched anxiously as the search results loaded. The top link was to the author bio page on the magazine’s website.
“See?” Delia pointed to the screen so Matilda would click the link.
Agnes J. Warner studied at NYU, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in World Literatures and a Master’s in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Fiction. She has had stories published in Spark Magazine, New York Art, and Cultural News. McCarron Publishing recently published her chapbook of short stories, Songs of Silence. In addition to being a freelance writer, Mrs. Warner also works as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College. She and her husband, Mr. Henry Warner, a small business owner, divide their time between an apartment in NYC and a villa in Northern Italy. Mrs. Warner can be contacted at email@example.com.
Matilda let the words sink in as she stared at the full color picture of Mrs. Warner. There was no doubt in her mind that this woman was her mother.
“What are you going to do?” Delia’s voice broke her concentration. Matilda quickly clicked the ‘back’ button on the browser and scanned the rest of the search results. They were links to the other stories Agnes J. Warner had published in the same magazine. She typed ‘www.warner.com’ into the browser, but the website required a password. She ran a search for ‘Songs of Silence’, but only found that it was available for purchase through a few websites. None of them had any information about the author, apart from the bio – verbatim – that she’d already read.
“She’s a Google ghost,” Delia giggled.
Matilda looked at her friend and then cracked a smile, “And here I thought you could find anything on Google.”
Delia was relieved to see her friend smile, even if she could still see the frustration in Matilda’s eyes.
“Are you going to tell your dad?”
Matilda shook her head, “At least not now. Maybe he already knows about this. I want to see what I can find before talking to him about it.” She opened her Gmail account and opened a new message. In the ‘To’ column, she entered ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Delia watched her friend type a short message to the woman.
Dear Mrs. Warner,
For my high school English class, I was assigned to research my favorite living writer. As I am a huge fan of your work, it was obvious that I would choose you. However, I have found it difficult to find much information on you. Would it be possible to schedule an interview?
“What are you doing? Why are you giving her my name?”
“It’s a little too obvious if I use my own name.”
Delia sighed, “But it’s from your email account.”
“You’re right. Here,” she copied the email to the computer’s virtual clipboard and logged out of the email account.
Delia signed into her own Gmail account and pasted the email into a blank message. She hesitated with the cursor over the ‘send’ button.
Matilda reached over and clicked it with authority.
“I wonder if she’ll respond.”
Matilda ignored her friend and shut down the computer. She heard her dad’s car pulling into the driveway, “I hope so. Just don’t say anything to my dad. Okay?”
“Okay.” Delia followed Matilda out of the office, “I’ll see you in class tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” The girls met David in the kitchen. Matilda sat down and opened her Anatomy textbook.
“Hi David. See you later.” Delia waved and quickly walked out of the house.
“Hi Delia…bye…” David let his voice trail off and then turned to Matilda once the door had closed firmly, “Is she in some kind of hurry?”
“Oh, she just stopped by to tell me something. But she’s gotta get home. We have homework to do.” Matilda flipped to the assigned page in her textbook and watched her dad out of the corner of her eye.
David slung his shoulder bag onto the island in the kitchen and put his hands on his hips, “Well daughter, what do you think we should do for dinner?”
“I don’t know, father. I really need to get this reading done. Maybe we can just order a pizza?”
“Sounds good and lazy to me,” he smiled and winked. Matilda felt sick with her secret. She’d never kept one from her father before. She forced a smile out and bent her head towards her textbook.
She didn’t know whether she wanted Agnes J. Warner to contact her or not.