Secret Hideaway

By: Carla Neggers

1



Ellen Galway wasn’t fond of cold weather, but her twin sister, Maggie, loved it. If the May cold snap didn’t explain why they were in upstate New York instead of home in Texas, it was at least a reason Maggie wasn’t complaining. “A tough prosecutor like you bundled up and shivering,” she said with a laugh.

“It’s cold.”

“It’s fifty-five degrees. It only feels cold because it’s a hundred degrees at home.”

“A hundred degrees is an exaggeration.” Ellen had to admit this sudden trip to upstate New York was a welcome break from the spring heat wave in Austin. “At least your presentation isn’t in January. I might have skipped it.”

“We could have gone skiing in January.”

“I don’t ski. You ski.”

Maggie smiled. “Cross-country only. Never downhill.”

“This talk on Jane Austen is a big deal for you,” Ellen said. “I’m so proud of you, Maggie.”

Ellen could tell Maggie was pleased with herself, as well she should be, and pleased her only sister—her fraternal twin—had taken the time to come to Saratoga Springs, a pretty, historic town in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, to hear her presentation at Skidmore College. At twenty-six, dark, willowy Maggie Galway was a writer, scholar and gentle soul. She was deep into earning her doctorate at the University of Texas, already working on her dissertation on Jane Austen. She would sometimes wonder aloud how on earth she could be a real Galway. Ellen winced at such talk but understood. Their father, Jack, was a senior Texas Ranger, and their mother, Susanna, was a financial whiz. Chestnut-haired and athletic in build, Ellen was a newly minted prosecutor, on the surface, perhaps, more like their parents. She and Maggie had their father’s brown eyes. Their little brother, Brent, was a precocious seven-year-old, born after their parents had ended a downturn in their marriage that seemed impossible now. As difficult as their separation had been on everyone in the family, they were stronger than they’d ever been.

The Galways were a strong family, Ellen thought. Any sense Maggie had that she didn’t fit in was entirely in her head.

But something was up with her—something beyond wondering if a Jane Austen scholar could be a real Galway. Ellen, with the instincts of a twin, suspected her sister had kept whatever was bothering her from their parents as well.

“Mom and Dad don’t know about my talk,” Maggie said.

“You didn’t tell them?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t want them to feel guilty about not being able to be here.”

“Maybe they’d have found a way to make it if they’d known about it.”

“For a lecture on Jane Austen? Not with their schedules. It’s okay. Honestly. I’m long past needing my parents in the audience to cheer me on. They’d only make me nervous, anyway. I only told you because I slipped up and you realized I was up to something. The prosecutor at work.”

“It’s not illegal to fly to Saratoga Springs without telling your family,” Ellen said.

“You’re not mad?”

“No.”

Maggie looked thoughtful. “Do you think Mom and Dad are disappointed neither of us became a Texas Ranger or a financial advisor?”

“They always wanted us to find our own way. It’s the same with Brent now, too.”

“He wants to be a baseball player,” her sister said with a laugh.

“Maggie…” Ellen treaded carefully. “What’s wrong? You know you can tell me.”

She hesitated, frowning as if she hadn’t understood the question. “Wrong?”

“You’re not yourself. Are you nervous about your presentation?”

“No, not at all. I can talk about Jane Austen forever. I’m never bored, and I’m confident in my opinions and arguments.” Maggie smiled, looking less preoccupied—even if it was only due to sheer force of will. “Maybe the cool air is making it seem as if something’s wrong. Maybe it’s affecting me more than I’m willing to admit.”

Ellen didn’t think the weather explained her sister’s troubled mood, but she went along with it. “Last night I dreamed about temperatures under eighty. Now I’m freezing.”

They continued down Broadway, Saratoga’s main street. The small city north of Albany was enjoying a renaissance with its shops, Victorian houses, historic parks, museums and spas. It was known for its August thoroughbred racing season, a tradition that dated back to 1863, at the height of the Civil War.

Maggie sighed deeply. “The air does feel good, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” Ellen said.

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