Six months later, Emma walked proudly across the stage to receive her PhD in Historical Studies from Harvard University. Her dissertation had received high praise from her graduate committee. Her major professor was urging her to expand it into a book. Her family was in the audience and after the ceremony they all hovered around in the lobby of the auditorium congratulating her and chatting.
She noticed a well dressed handsome young man standing outside the circle of her well wishers trying to catch her eye. After things were quieting down with her family, he again caught her eye. He looked strangely familiar, but she couldn’t place him. She excused herself and went to where he was standing. Her grooup moved on outside.
“Do I know you?” she asked.
“I am so sorry to intrude” he said with a formal British accent and voice she vaguely recognized from her trip six months ago.
He continued, “I was impelled to come to your ceremony and congratulate you on your great success. I am truly honored to be here, albeit, a gate crasher.
“You did not answer my question,” she said with an edge to her voice.
“Ah, yes, where are my manners, but I am reluctant to tell you. You may not readily accept what I have to tell you, but please, my name is Smythe. Alexander Smythe, but please, Alex will do just fine.”
She sucked in a breath, “So you’re Mr. Smythe’s son?”
“No, I am the son of Ronald Smythe.”
Her eyes popped wide open and she brought a hand to her mouth as she exclaimed more loudly than she intended, “NO! You’re not! NO! Surely you’re not! You’re not the gentleman I met six months ago, not THE Alexander Smythe?!” Surely you . . . NO . . . it’s not possible!”
Her thoughts flew back to the library and manuscripts about aging spells and Sylvester Arnon. It all came together. She felt unsteady and put her other hand against the wall for support. He quickly grabbed her and helped her to steady herself.
“I’m so sorry to spring this on you like this.”
She took two deep breaths, “It’s okay. This can’t be true. I’m okay now. This isn’t true.” She slowly regained her equilibrium. “I’m okay now, I think. You can let go.” He released his hold and stood back.
“Ah, I’m sorry, but, yes it is. Those documents you gave me on the aging spells, they were thankfully what I needed. I, with the help of some of my comrades of course, managed to reverse the spell. The Mr. Arnon you met at the library was responsible for casting that spell upon me, causing me to age almost overnight into an eighty-five year old man.”
He continued by saying that Arnon had been disgraced, banned from the library, and shunned by anyone who knew him. He had disappeared and he was rumored to be in India where he had entered a Buddhist monastery.
He continued his story, “Six weeks ago several other of the select library members and myself found the secret passageway you told me about. With further investigation, we discovered yet another hidden chamber you missed containing many other such ancient parchments with similar spells and alchemy. Arnon must have discovered it never telling anyone. All those documents all have now all been sealed away in a completely secure vault while they are being studied by some occult scholars. They shall never see the light of day and will be never again used for such treachery.”
She sank back into a bench taking some deep breaths and several moments to process all she had just heard. He saw her dismay and said, “My sincere apologies for causing you any unwarranted distress on this illustrious day. I wanted to come to congratulate your success and give you a gift. I am happy I was of service in your accomplishment.”
“No. No, it’s okay. It’s just that, I don’t know. My studies of the occult have always been with the idea that this stuff was no more than wishful thinking and mythology.”
“Ah, far from mythology, dear Emma. It is all quite real. I again apologize for taking from your family and friends and all this. I should leave now.”
She was confused and she wanted to talk more with this man. “No. Please. Come and join us. We are going for a celebration dinner and party. Please come. I want to talk more with you about, well, everything. It’s a lot for me to process. It was good of you to remember and to come today. How did you know? Get in?”
“Let’s just say I know people who know people. Oh, I almost forgot. Here is a present for you. Please wait until later to open it,” as he handed her a tightly sealed envelope. “Are you sure I won’t be an inconvenience?”
“Not at all. You will be very welcome.” She took him back to her group and introduced him only as the man who was instrumental to her finalizing her thesis.
Later that night, alone in her apartment, she opened his envelope. Along with a thank-you/congratulation note, he saw a cash transfer into her bank account of $1,000,000. Her breath csught in disbelief and she fell into a chair stunned, dropping the envelope and note, immobile for several minutes. Shakily, she managed to get to her computer to check her bank balance which was $1,0409,767.39. It took her a long time for her heart to quit pounding. Some time later she was calmed enough to make a cup of chamomile tea fall into a deep sleep, waking in the morning still in disbelief.
* * *
Emma had invited Alex to meet the next morning for breakfast at a small cafe close to her apartment by the Harvard campus. Instead of his formal tailored suit, he was in sneakers, jeans, and a light v-necked sweater, his once feeble body looking strong and fit. He really is handsome, giving him a once over.
Once seated and their order taken, Emma first thanked him for his thoughtfulness and then adamantly refused the money.
Alex would not hear of it, “You were paramount in giving me my life back, for actually saving my life, restoring me to my youth. That is a small token of my appreciation. My gratefulness is beyond anything I could ever offer you.”
She considered this and nodded her head in defeat. Then she had nothing but questions which rolled out non-stop.
“Whoa,” he said, “one at a time. I shall start at the beginning.” He went on to tell how his and Arnon’s great grandfathers were best of friends growing up. The practice of the magical and alchemical arts had been practiced by both families for many generations. His family had accumulated great wealth over the years from world wide business interests which Alex was now the only remaining heir to and solely in charge of managing. The families had remained close until Alex’s great grandfather, Reginald, wrote his book, “Full Moon Rituals”. Sylvester Arnon then claimed, without any merit, that it was his research on this very topic and Reginald had stolen all his work for his own purpose and had the book published. That incident caused a break in the relationships with the families and they became enemies, the feud carrying through until present day.
Sylvester Arnon took it upon himself to settle the score once and for all when he discovered the manuscripts containing the ‘aging spells’. He successfully performed the spell, sending Alex into rapid aging from a vital twenty-eight year old to someone well into his eighties or beyond. Thankfully the spell slowed incrementally as the aging process increased or he would have been dead some time ago. Emma, of course had found the manuscripts and Alex and his friends were able to reverse the process. The whole ordeal had taken a toll on him from which he was almost now fully recovered.
Their food had arrived. “That is it all in a nutshell. What you consider to be myth is something that is quite real and not to be taken lightly. Please, now let us enjoy our food.”
As they quietly ate for a few minutes, she noticed him stealing glances at her, making her smile inside.
She interrupted between bites, “I should tell you I’ll be heading back to England next month for a more extended stay. I’ve been granted a post-doctoral position at Cambridge for at least a year. So we’ll sort of be neighbors.”
“How perfectly wonderful, Emma. Congratulations. May I call upon you for a dinner sometime? We must exchange our contact information.”
Her heart skipped a beat, “Sure. I’ll be looking forward to it.”
“Meantime, I will be spending at a week here in your lovely city and I would be so happy if you would be my tour guide, but only if you are free to do so,” he said, taking a bite of sausage and egg.
“Of course I would. I’d be honored, but only a week? There’s a lot to see and enjoy here,” she said.
“Of course. I could certainly extend my visit, to see everything you might want to show me, if you so wish,” his smile brightening with anticipation.
“Sounds good,” she said with an even bigger smile.