Lindsey was not a happy girl.
She wasn't unhappy, exactly. If anything, her emotional state was non-existent. Her senior year in high school could have been ecstatic, vibrant, chaotic, frightful, painful, embarrassing, any number of adverbs or adjectives. Instead, it simply---was. She would have considered herself a drone if she thought of herself at all. Her existence was simple. She came to school, excelled in her classes, went home, did chores and homework, ate a silent supper with her mother, did a series of workouts inside; afterwards took a shower and went to sleep. Repeat each day with variations on weekends.
She was intelligent but did not associate with the clique of the high school "intelligentsia". It wasn't that she rebuffed attempts at friendship or was painfully shy. She just didn't acknowledge attempts at friendships.
If anyone at the school had been insightful enough to see through the drab exterior she presented, they would have had found an unrivaled beauty in her form. No one was that insightful, however. At her mother's---not so much insistence but rather indoctrination (for insistence presumes a buried rebellion somewhere, but rebellion was nowhere in Lindsey's programming) she wore her dark lustrous hair in a bun, and dark big, framed glasses (though the lenses were mere glass, as Lindsey's eyesight was 20/20). Her clothing always consisted of long sleeved baggy blouses, loose button up sweaters, ankle length skirts and unattractive shoes. Underneath, there was no steamy underwear hinting at wantonness waiting to be unleashed. It was white and utilitarian, ordered from a mail catalogue from a middle class chain department store. The boys who glanced at her and immediately forgot her existence would have passed out from testosterone overload from a simple scene every night in her bedroom. After taking a shower and brushing out her hair, which fell down to the small of her back, she would stand in front of a full length mirror in all of her nude glory. Her full and firm breasts, narrow waist and tight buttocks were the stuff of male fantasies and playboy centerfold searches. But there was neither self-admiration nor self-loathing in her self-examinations. She was simply checking to make sure that everything was healthy. Seeing that her five foot three frame was still in good shape, she put on a nightgown that almost touched the floor when she walked.
If things had gone along uninterrupted, Lindsey would have found herself sixty years from now a "spinster" research librarian with vague feeling of emptiness. Fortunately, fate stepped in. Specifically Fate stepped in in the following forms:
1) A computer program almost as bereft of personality as Lindsey
2) An Irish scholar with the improbable name of Genghis O'Brien
3) A 2500 year old scroll for garden pests.
- - -
In a small town in a big but empty western state, a fairly unknown mathematician with a few academic papers to his name died. One of the papers he had produced, though, was fairly instrumental in designing algorithms to make transactions between large financial institutions more secure, thus providing a substantial amount of financial security for the mathematician. Our mathematician had very little use for the money when he was alive, but had big plans for it on his death. His estate provided for the establishment of a research foundation concerning the history of the history of Celtic people, especially B.C.E. (Before Common Era). He had some provisions, though.
Part of the money was to be used to establish a "budding scholar" program. And any Gaelic Historians who wanted long term fellowships in the foundation had to spend a couple of years as mentors in the "budding scholar" program. Specifically, he or she would have to take on a high school senior as an intern in actual research while simultaneously instructing the intern.
Each year, as per the late mathematician's instructions, five high schools were selected at random. Each school was allowed to sponsor five candidates for the internship, and one would be selected on an essay entry, SAT scores and general academic standings. As Lindsey finished her junior year (and incidentally turned 18 in June), her high school was one of the five that was allowed to sponsor five students. The school itself had a mini-selection process including an essay which, after an hour long analytical discussion with her mother concerning the pros and cons (her mother thought it would look good on a scholarship application, though Lindsey herself thought the benefits wouldn't outweigh the need to disrupt her schedule. In the end, though, Lindsey went with her mother), Lindsey submitted her essay and application to her school. Almost inevitably, she was selected among the five students her school sponsored. And in the end, she was selected as the intern in the foundations budding scholar program.
Fate had taken the first step in changing Lindsey's life. The next step was to bring in the Mongolian Hordes from the desert of academia.
- - -
Technically, his name was Genghis James O'Brien, though his colleagues called him Jimmy, his superior James, and his family Dutch (for some inexplicable reason his older brother Larry started calling him that when James turned 2, and the rest of the family picked it up). Genghis was pinned to him because his great-grandfather had been a member of the original Smithsonian expeditions to Mongolia at the beginning of the 20th century. At age 32, he was becoming something of an adventurer himself, though he wouldn't admit to it. On his last expedition, the story he would repeat to others with a certain amount of pride was the discovery of a reference in a secluded Hungarian monastery to a 14th century tome that suggested the existence of an undiscovered Roman settlement on the Crimean peninsula. What was inconsequential to him (and would have been more exciting to his listeners) would have been the run in he had with artifact smugglers on the Austrian-Hungarian which he escaped from with his life as well as a few pre-Christian Roman artifacts which he turned over to the grateful Italian authorities. In many ways, G. James O'Brien was a modern day Indiana Jones who hadn't learned that denial just isn't the name of a river in Egypt.
Currently, Genghis James O'Brien was storming into the office of his supervisor with all the grace of his namesake. His immediate superior, Daniel Mayo, remained stonily silent in the face of this storm. Danny would have remained stoic if the current Genghis had had a real horde behind him.
"Danny, it's not fair. I've almost got those permits lined up. The site is pristine. Untouched! Most of what we know about the Celtic sacking of Rome is pure legend. They're the last people to sack Rome before the rise of the Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire. Why do I need to go to some little Podunk high school and play nursery maid?"
Danny looked Jimmy O'Brien up and down. He was 6' 3", rugged good looks with a long thin scar running across his jaw line. He was athletic, with dark hair and green eyes that sparkled with mischief when he was in a good mood and buying the round. Now, though, Jimmy's eyes were as hard as flint. Those big hands of his hands, which could handle a pottery fragment with meticulous gentleness ,were in a hard grip on the edge of Danny's desk, as if by force of will Jimmy could make Danny supersede the Foundation's policy just this once. Not a chance. Daniel Mayo was The Original Unmovable Object.
"OK, Jimmy, you don't have to go down to tutor at the high school." Jimmy smiled for a moment. "Of course, you can forget your fellowship and expedition sponsorship." Jimmy started to protest. "Look, Jimmy, this is how it is. Your a brilliant Roman scholar with an interest in the relationship between the budding Roman Republic and the loose Celtic Federation of the time. And the Foundation is more than willing to pay for you to pursue this interest, inasmuch as it expands the knowledge of all things Celtic, for which this foundation was endowed. However, that comes with a price. And frankly, Jimmy, you won't find such a generous offer anywhere else in the realm of archaeological research. Or at least with as few strings as the foundation has. So go do your one year in academic Siberia. You put in two hours a day with this budding scholar, and the rest of the time you get to sort through all the raw data you've brought back over the last four years. You'll still have unlimited access to our online libraries, as well as those of our affiliates. And if you're a particularly good boy, I might...MIGHT...be able to get you a generous backing from one of our patrons for a trip to the Ukraine." Jimmy's eyes lit up on that note. He was fairly sure the Foundation would not sponsor an expedition to the Crimean since there wasn't even the remotest connection to anything Celtic, but a might from Danny was a promise in stone from anyone else. "But that fully depends on your year of tutoring being productive. No black eyes for the Foundation. Understood?" Jimmy nodded and went back to his office.
There wasn't that much to pack. Most of the Uhaul trailer he had rented was full of books, papers and clothes. One of his friends from the Foundation was subletting his apartment, and the Foundation itself was providing a furnished house in the town where he was being exiled for one year. The trip was only three hours, but the hangover from the goodbye party worsened the dismal mood he was already in. So when he went to the high school to present his credentials and then meet the prospective "budding scholar", his worst fears were realized. She was a tiny frumpy thing with a blank face and empty eyes. One year of his life he would never get back as he attempted to throw Celtic pearls before this swine. Lindsey looked at the brute before her with rough features and doubted that anything he would teach her would be more than rote lecturing, which she could easily teach herself more comfortably in her own living room. Worse, though usually the opposite of empathic, Lindsey could tell that the man before her didn't not want to be here, and found her something of a disappointment. She was already regretting signing away 10 hours a week of her life for her entire senior year.
Fate, however, was indifferent to their mutual disdain. She had thrown them together with a purpose in mind, and still had one card up her sleeve. An Ancient Chi---err, Celtic secret.
- - -
The Foundation had rented for James an unremarkable little house located, fortuitously enough, between Lindsey's high school and Lindsey's home. This was the only silver lining in the setup as far as Lindsey was concerned, cutting back on the time taken from her other tasks. James had converted the formal dining room to an office, pushing two large oak desks face to face. His plan was to spend the first hour teaching from a Latin primer to Lindsey, set her study assignments for the second hour while doing online research himself or going through photocopies of some of the church documents found in Hungary.
Lindsey parked her somewhat rusty but basically nondescript car in his driveway and walked into the study. She was dressed in her usual "uniform of the day", i.e., bun, fake glasses and formless blouse, sweater and long skirt. Under normal circumstances, considering it was a visiting male teacher and female student, the principal might have at the very least insisted the tutoring session be held on campus, if not with a chaperone present. However, in this case the principal was very empathetic. Lindsey was the polar opposite of the classic giddy hormone saturated school girl, and was a legal adult besides. (The sole event of that August birthday being to go down to the county clerk's office to register to vote.) In addition, after a heart to heart talk with James's boss, and witnessing the initial meeting between Lindsey and James, she could tell that James saw Lindsey as an albatross to be bourn around his neck for one year before he could free himself of that burden and seek greener pastures. So the off campus sessions were allowed and then forgotten by all except the two who had mentally girded themselves to endure them.
Lindsey walked in and took the seat across from James as he scribbled on some notes, not looking up. A few minutes later as Lindsey patiently waited, he tossed a beat up Latin primer in front of her and looked up. "First, Ms. Dunham, my name is Dr. O'Brien. I believe we shall get along better if we maintain formalities, as I believe neither of us would benefit from pretending anything but a formal relationship will exist between us. Now, your initial lessons will be to learn a modicum of Latin, which will be required if your to be of any use to me. A number of the documents I'm looking over are in either Early Church Latin or Medieval Latin, so a basis in Classical Latin will allow you to organize them for my research."
In a emotionless voice, Lindsey stated, "Latine loquor."
Jimmy looked up from his notes with a raised an eyebrow. Something prodded him to respond with "Hoc tempore obsequium amicos." Lindsey replied with "Veritas odium parit." Jimmy gave her a long look and nodded. "And yet we keep looking for the truth, don't with, Ms. Dunham. I don't suppose you're familiar with Gaelic, Irish or otherwise." Lindsey shook her head. "But I am a fairly quick learner."
"Of that, I have no doubt, Ms. Dunham. Well, we shall rely on your Latin for now and tackle the Irish later." Jimmy reached behind him and pulled a thick folder out of his file cabinet and placed it in front of her, as well as a worn Latin dictionary. "Now these are copies of copies of texts taken from the Vatican Library. It makes mention of a patron named Aemilius Paullus..." A hint of inquisitiveness flashed in Lindsey's eyes. "Ah, a name you don't recognize. Well, the thing he is most noted for is being a patron of Pobylius...". From here Jimmy launched into a mini-lecture, as Lindsey translated works and asked questions. At the end of the two hours Lindsey had come to the conclusion that the two hours would be fruitful after all. Jimmy, too, had new thoughts of Lindsey. Not only would she be a useful assistant, but with the right encouragement could be prodded into becoming a top notch research librarian, an indispensable Library liaison to archaeologists such as himself.
In truth, the only distinction Jimmy made between Lindsey and his desktop computer was that Lindsey didn't require a surge protector. And Lindsey viewed James a remarkable if somewhat eccentric instructor, but had no more emotional regard for James than his computer had.
This was about to change over the course of just two weeks.
- - -
Over the next few weeks Jimmy and Lindsey settled into a comfortable routine, the tutoring combining teaching Lindsey both Roman and Celtic History as well as basic Gaelic. The work she did for Jimmy was scut work, basically pouring through photocopies, looking for key words and handing them over to Jimmy, but it was a learning experience as well, and she had Jimmy's inclination for the meticulous observation of the most minute details and the patience to bring them to the surface. And then Lindsey made a discovery.
The discovery itself had came over a break of their usual routine. Jimmy had offhandedly made a remark about a certain Ivy league full scholarship that she should put in for. The foundation, as a rule, did not provide scholarships, but did provide living subsidies in the form of grants that were connected to certain scholarships for Irish Studies. Lindsey had reported it to her Mom and her Mom decided to have Dr. G. James O'Brien over for Friday night dinner. That afternoon a large box of files had been Fedexed over to Jimmy from the Foundation and he was discussing the fact with Lindsey over dinner while alternately providing scholarship/grant information to Lindsey's mother. At this point, Lindsey's mother volunteered her daughter to assist the good doctor in sorting through the wheat from the chaff.
"I couldn't possibly think of making Lindsey come over on a Saturday morning, Mrs. Dunham."
Lindsey chimed in. "Actually, Dr. O'Brien, I wouldn't mind if I could spend some time with your books. As you know, I'm tying this research in with my Senior paper."
"Well, since this is outside of our schedule, the least I can do is make a proper lunch as compensation, Ms. Dunham." In truth, Jimmy was thrilled to have Lindsey's assistance. She was becoming almost as indispensable as his internet connection. "And I would like the opportunity to repay you for this dinner, Mrs. Dunham."
"I'm afraid I won't be able to tomorrow, Dr. O'Brien. Volunteer work at the church. But I do appreciate the opportunity you've provided for Lindsey."
"Nonsense, Mrs. Dunham. Lindsey has been an unexpected blessing. With just a few months of instructions, she's been more able than half the grad students I've been stuck with in the past. I can't imagine what she'll be like after a few years of college."
Lindsey's mother was pleased not only that her daughter was conducting herself so ablely, but that Dr. O'Brien seemed to have no regard for any of Lindsey's attributes outside of her skull. Lindsey herself was satisfied that her academic career was progressing so well. Dr. O'Brien was happy to have a home cooked meal in his stomach and that the last six months had actually been productive.
The next morning Lindsey came over to find piles of papers scattered across both their desks and a grumbling Dr. O'Brien seated on the floor, sorting through more papers.
"My apologies, Ms. Dunham; you will find me in a foul mood this morning. Unlike you, some of our graduate students have a profane regard for order, and have sent us these photocopies willy nilly. Now, I've made a brief list on the table how I would like them ordered, and the key words I'm looking for, so if you will forgive me my occasional lapse in courtesies, you can begin with the stack on the far right."
Lindsey diligently set to her task as Jimmy continued muttering and pulling papers out. Then she found one line and her brow furrowed slightly. She walked over to the files and brought out a page she had translated three months ago and set the two down side by side. "Dr. O'Brien, do you have a moment? I have an anomaly here."
Jimmy took a sec to stretch his legs and back, then walked over to Lindsey. He assumed that Lindsey had merely found a word which the translation to was ambiguous. He leaned over her as she showed him the two documents side by side. "Now, see here, they both make reference to this historian, but they make references to him to being a Hellenized Syrian, rather than a Greek. And over here" Lindsey stood up to reach for another document, "I think this is the same Historian, except his name has been garbled through three or four translations."
Jimmy gathered all three documents, pulling one in front, then another, than the third. With a loud Gaelic "Yes!" he scooped up Lindsey into a hug and twirled her around. Lindsey's eyes went wide at this unexpected physical contact (In Lindsey's life all contact was unexpected) and Jimmy's eyes went wide in horror as he realized what he had done. He immediately set her down and backed up. "Miss Dunham, you have my most sincere apologies for that. The excitement of the discovery...well, I still have no excuse."
Lindsey stuttered and for once in her life seemed to have lost her composure. "Well, yes, I suppose I can understand. I...the connection is valid then?"
Jimmy thankfully returned to his papers as he walked around to his side of the combined desks. "Definitely. I need to get on the internet, email a colleague of mine in Athens to talk about this." A look of consternation crossed his face. Lindsey was apprehensive about what he might say next. "Ms. Dunham, I know I promised you lunch, but would you mind if we ordered out?" A tiny bit of relief broke across Lindsey's face. "No problem, Dr. O'Brien. Will Chinese be OK?"