Thursday, June 16, 2011

Burntcore Week 56: Hearts So Deep Part 4


Picture 1

Picture 2

Burntcore's Choice: Picture 1

Hearts So Deep - Part 4

Casey walked around the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, trying to imagine her mother here, frantically looking for Julianne. The college had changed since then, buildings had been renovated, new buildings had been built. She knew it would be almost impossible to find any information about Susan or Julianne, but she had to try. If there was any chance that her aunt was still alive, Casey had to try.

When Casey first arrived on campus that morning, she went to the college archives, located in the basement of the Student Center. There, records and pictures of the campus since its founding could be located. Thankfully, she had the foresight to call ahead and make an appointment; otherwise she never would have been able to get in.

She lucked out and had found a few pictures of Julianne, who was a student before disappearing. There wasn’t anything about Susan. Casey’s mother was never a student there so that made sense. The pictures of Julianne were out front of the old Pitt Stadium with some other students. It still didn’t explain where she went, or who she was living with at the time, like the person who hung up on Susan when she tried calling in high school.

Searching through Julianne’s official transcripts, Casey discovered that one of Julianne’s teachers was still alive and still teaching. Excitedly, Casey jotted down the teacher’s office information and set out to find him.

The campus was much bigger than Penn State, but Casey managed. The map she clutched in her hand was easy to follow. She found herself distracted by the scenery, specifically the male student body scenery. A good amount of the student population was out and about, playing touch football, catch, or Frisbee in the quad outside of the Student Center. She laughed and continued on to the Information Sciences building where one Arlen Enger taught.

When Professor Enger taught Julianne, Information Sciences hadn’t existed yet, according to what Casey was able to turn up from the Archives. At that time, he taught general studies and freshman English. After the Information Sciences building was built, his office was reassigned there. He now teaches classes that were cross disciplines: management information systems, healthcare information sciences, and so on.

The halls of the Information Sciences building were quiet. There weren’t a lot of classes on Saturdays so most of the classrooms were empty. Casey made her way to the second floor where the offices of the department’s educators were located.

She was lucky. Professor Enger was in his office grading papers when she knocked on his open door.

“Professor Enger?” Casey asked softly.

The man jumped, his pen skidding across his desk. Casey bit back the giggle that threatened to leak out as he whirled around in his chair, his glasses sliding down his nose.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said, standing nervously in the doorway.

“It’s fine. I just wasn’t expecting anyone today. What can I help you with?” he asked, as he stood, looking over Casey’s face, probably trying to see if he recognized her as a student.

Casey took a step inside his office and held out her hand. “My name is Casey Thomas. I am not a student here, but my aunt was at one time, and you were one of her teachers. I was hoping you might remember something about her.”

Professor Enger took her hand and shook it firmly before releasing it. “I can try. I’ve been teaching for a long time now, probably longer than you’ve been alive, so I can’t make any promises. Please sit down.” He gestured to an empty chair next to his desk.

Casey sat down quietly and waited for the professor was settled in his chair. He moved the stack of papers off to the side, cleaned his glasses quickly, and returned his attention to the young woman sitting next to him.

“So tell me about your aunt,” he prompted, running a hand through his wispy white hair.

Casey looked over at the older man, appreciating the patience and kindness in his eyes. She was unsure of what his reaction was going to be to her barging into his office unannounced. This was a pleasant surprise. She reached into her purse and pulled out the one picture she had of Julianne, the one she found in her mom’s journal.

“This was her. Her name was Julianne Turner.” Casey handed Professor Enger the photo. “She was only a student here for one year, in 1975.”

“Was? Has something happened to her?” he asked, his forehead creasing in concern.

“I don’t know,” Casey answered honestly. “Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know I had an aunt. I came across my mother’s journal recently and there were several entries about Julianne when she came to school here, but nothing afterward.”

Holding the picture gently in his hands, he stared at it, his lips fighting a smile. “Julie, yes I remember her. That year was my first year teaching. She was a good student, troubled, but smart.”

“How well did you know her?”

“Probably better than I should have. We were so close in age that it was easy to develop a friendship.”

“You were her friend?” Casey asked in a whisper, staring at him with hope. Perhaps he could help more than she realized.

“Er, yes.” Professor Enger shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The patience in his eyes gave way to anxiety. “Ms. Thomas, I’m sorry but I need to go. I have an ... appointment that I cannot be late for,” he said hurriedly. he stood and put the picture of Julianne down on his desk.

“Wait, please, just a moment. How well did you know Julianne?” Casey asked desperately, seeing her chance at finding her aunt slipping away.

“I have to go, I’m very sorry,” he said glancing at his watch as he rushed out of the room. In his wake, a photo fluttered to the floor,

Casey sat there stunned for a moment before she knelt and picked up the photo. It looked like a woman wearing a white dress, but only her lower half was visible. Small flower buds were scattered around her and on top of the skirt. Casey flipped the picture over find a tiny mark in the lower right hand corner.

“J 76”

Casey quickly snatched the photo of Julianne off the desk and shoved both photos in her purse. Something strange was going on indeed. As she turned to leave Professor Enger’s office, she spied a stack of his business cards sitting on top of a file cabinet. She grabbed a few of them and tucked them in her purse next to the photos. Casey thought it was best if she left for now, having spooked the professor. She did not believe that he had anything going on at all that he needed to leave to attend. Casey’s question about their friendship scared him. Instead of getting answers about her aunt, now she had more questions.