(1939-11-19) Mum's the Word
Details for Mum's the Word
Summary: Faulkner comes to London to visit Rena, and he has a remarkable surprise for her.
Date: 1939-11-19
Location: Somerset House, London
Related:
Characters
RenaFaulkner

It is morning when Faulkner pulls up near his agreed meeting spot with Irene in a staff car. He's wearing his overcoat, and has his hat jammed down, and the occasional puff of smoke comes from a cigarette between his lips. He gets out of the car and then walks around to open the door for her. "I have a surprise for you." he says, with a little smile as he tips his hat, and then goes back to get in the driver's seat. She might notice that his eyes are a bit red-rimmed, obviously it was a late night at Biggin Hill. He pulls smoothly from the kerb and heads in the direction of the Strand.

Just a bit early - that's the ticket. Rena made sure to slip out of the Leaky Cauldron a few minutes earlier than when Faulkner was meant to arrive so that he wouldn't even try to notice where she came from. And so, the redhead is waiting in the chilly morning air with red-tinged cheeks in her dark green overcoat when her friend arrives.
All bright and full of sunshiny smiles, she trots up to meet him. "You 'ave?" She asks eagerly. She's such a kid at heart sometimes. However, upon getting settled in the car, her face takes on a touch of concern as she notices how tired he looks: "Oh, Birdie - you look a bit the worse for wear. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Irene, really." Faulkner says, giving her a pat on the hand before he returns it to the gear shift lever. At least navigating London is easier in the daylight - and the wind blowing into the open-topped coupe isn't quite so cold, either. Though London generally tends more towards the wet than the freezing. Eventually, though, their long trip down the Strand brings them near where construction crews work busily on the new second iteration of the Waterloo Bridge across the Thames. And right up to the gates of a huge mansion with, in wartime, guard booths outside. Somerset House, home of several government offices.

"You mentioned wanting more information about your mother. I thought perhaps a bit of genealogical research was in order." Faulkner explains, after showing his identity card to the guard and getting waved through, the black and white striped barrier arm raised to admit the vehicle. "The General Registry Office has all birth, death, and marriage records for the last hundred years. Of course, being civil servants, the question is whether they can /find/ any of them."

Rena casts a sidelong glance at Faulkner and adjusts her hat with her hand. The glance is one of those: Not quite sure I believe you… looks. But, she won't question him further. If it's RAF business and not hers, she can't poke and pry. After all, there are things she can't talk about, either.
The young woman's eyes go wide at the mention of finding out more about her mother, and her lips part in unspoken surprise. They are waved through the gate before she can even form some kind of coherent response: "I… I don't know what to say, Birdie. I never knew where I could even begin to look for 'er. I never even knew 'er maiden name. Since dad would never speak of it to me. I thought it were a lost cause, I did." She's breathless with excitement, now.

"Well, you didn't tell me that. That changes matters entirely." Faulkner says. He glances over at her deadpan. Then he slowly cracks a smile and admits, "We know your name, don't we? And your date of birth. And I happen to know that all birth certificates are required to include the name of the mother, including her maiden and all previous names." He pulls the car into the carpark and then alights to let her out before offering his arm to lead her into the building - holding the door, of course.

Once inside, he gets directions from the guard, and then follows the hallways towards the Register of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. "So, once we have your birth certificate, we can find out her name and information, and then use that to get her marriage certificate, birth certificate, and so-on. One good thing about being an Academic, you see, is that you get quite used to following paper trails through old records."

For a moment, Rena looks like a deflated balloon. At first, when Faulkner said that that changed things, she thought it meant that the whole mission was hopeless. However, his reassurance to the contrary livens her up once more. The eager, happy smile returns.
Leaving the car, Rena slips her arm through Faulkner's and sticks very close to him. For being so used to the Ministry in all its grandness, this place is rather frightening in its own way. Must the the scent of Bureaucracy in the air. Wonderingly, she gazes up at him as he talks. "Still, it all rather sounds like the Office of Circumlocution - like what Mister Dickens wrote about in Bleak 'Ouse." She remarks with a quiet laugh. "I do know my mum's first name, though. It's my middle name! Cassandra."

Faulkner shakes his head, "Of all the books you could have read, it has to be Dickens, eh? You know the man was paid by the word, right? Because they published his novels in parts in magazines." He smiles at her, though, and gives her hand a reassuring squeeze, "That's a very pretty name for a very pretty girl. Do you often feel like people don't listen to you, even though you're right?" Figure on the classics major to pick up on the origin of that name.

They come to the double doors of the appropriate office and he opens one for her then steps in and heads to the counter, removing his hat and unbuttoning his coat so that his dress blouse shows. Taking up the necessary form out of the basket, he takes a fountain pen and begins to fill it in in precise handwriting. "Name… Lee, Irene Cassandra. Date of Birth… 9 February 1918. Place of birth… London?" He looks at her, tilting his head.

"Oh, so THAT'S why everything 'e wrote takes such a terrible long time to get through?" Rena asks of Dickens. Clearly, this is a bombshell of a revelation to the poor girl. "I just read anything I could get my 'ands on, though." She explains with a faint smile.
His question about people not listening to her when she knows that she's right seems to surprise and muddle her slightly. "Actually… a good deal of the time," she replies, raising one eyebrow quizzically. That's an odd coincidence.
Upon arriving at the office, her voice drops into silence, and Rena almost hides behind Faulkner in a fit of unwarranted nerves and shyness. However, she has to answer his question and bear up. "London, yes. N-not in 'ospital, though - if that makes any difference. Midwife came to the house." She says very quietly, trying not to look scared.

"Cassandra, in mythology, was a daughter of Queen Hecuba and King Priam of Troy. Apollo, the god, tried to seduce her, and gave her the gift of prophecy. She rebuffed him and he punished her by cursing that she would always prophesy true, but would never be believed." Faulkner says, explaining his observation on her not being believed. "So, you see, mythology imitates life, I suppose. I'll send you over a good translation of the Iliad, so you can read all about her prophecies of the fall of Troy, and how they were ignored."

He continues to fill out the form, and when it's done, he nods, and says, "The birth should still - hopefully - be registered. Otherwise, there's a 2 quid fine. That'd cut into your father's income, I think." A little grin, and he rings a bell to call over a clerk, passing over the form and a few pennies to pay the fee.

"Cor…" Is all Rena can seem to think to say with regard to the plight of poor Cassandra. She knows exactly how the woman felt. How many times has she said something and nobody listened to her? "Blimey, you think the name itself carries the punishment - or something like?" She asks, blinking. It is hard to say whether she's serious or not. She can be rather adorably simple at times.
"I'd love to read it. That's one I know I've never read before. It sounds interesting! But, really, you're already going to so much trouble for me with all of this… I feel badly that I 'aven't any way to return the favor." Rena says, blushing a little. It always feels so wrong when one can't think of a way to reciprocate, offhand. Turn about is fair play, after all.
Rather anxiously, the little redhead watches the clerk once the small fee has been given over, along with the paperwork. What is he going to find? Anything?

"It's no trouble. I know where I can pick one up for a tuppence." Faulkner says, with a little chuckle, and then hands the paperwork over to the surley clerk. There's a brief conversation - basically, come back around teatime - and Faulkner nods and expresses politely his need to get back to base before too long. The RAF uniform has a little sway, and so it will now only be after elevenses.

Birdie sighs, and turns back to Rena, "Let's go get breakfast. And I'll get you that book. Then we can come back and check on the results, hrm? As for repaying me, don't worry about it. It's my pleasure."

Rena worries her lower lip and fidgets with her hands on the sidelines as Faulkner and the Clerk discuss how long it will take to find anything. The idea of waiting all day is quite agonizing - but hope springs anew when the time is revised to late morning. That's not nearly so bad!
Birdie is met with a warm smile when he turns back to Rena and suggests that they go get some breakfast. "I'd love to. At least it'll 'elp to pass the time." She replies, slipping her arm through his again. "Fancy me trying to read something as high-class as the Iliad. Little Irene Lee from Wapping. Nobody would've laid bets on me ending up where I am today." Rena adds with a light laugh. How things have changed for her.

Faulkner leaves the car behind - petrol rationing and all that, even the military has to be careful. They walk along the strand, with the Thames Embankment to one side, and stop at one of the many used bookstores in that particular area, where a copy of the Iliad can be had for cheap as chips. Her heroic pilot, of course, takes the opportunity to inscribe it in his somewhat old-fashioned flourished handwriting, "To Irene Cassandra, The voice that launched a thousand Spitfires. Yours always, Birdie." The book is wrapped up, and he tucks the brown paper parcel away before leading her off to breakfast. A full fry later, they are on their way back to Somerset House.

"You know, if this doesn't work out, there are still parish records, christening certificates, things like that…" he explains, "Or tracking down the midwife, if she's still alive. You're an investigator, right? Find her, ask her about your mum, and bobs your uncle." He has his arm back in hers as they walk along the street - him on the kerb, as tradition dictates - and he exchanges greetings now and again with the growing number of men in uniform, returning salutes as necessary.

"Oh, you are silly!" Rena says, stifling a self-conscious giggle when Birdie inscribes the book for her. "But, thanks awfully. It means a lot." It may have been a cheap book to buy, but it came with love from a friend. Of course she's going to cherish and treasure it always for that very reason.
"You'll think I'm awfully silly for this," the young woman admits as they walk arm in arm, "But, I never even thought about 'ow to go about finding anything out about my mum. I just thought it was a lost cause… because I didn't know where to begin." Pausing to flash a bright smile in greeting to a couple of young soldiers in passing, Rena continues as an important afterthought, looking up at Faulkner with deep sincerity: "Honestly, I can't even tell you what this means to me. I can never thank you enough - just for trying."

They eventually make it back to the imposing former mansion, and into the General Register Office. As they walk, Faulkner says, "Well, I think I have some advantages you don't. For example, I didn't go to, erm, school in Scotland during my formative years. They do things differently there." Fortunately, she was born in England and Wales, so the records are right here in London, instead of somewhere else, far away. "And you wanted to know your mother's name, right? So, now you will."

He opens the big door for her again and they pass through, and then he approaches the counter. The same clerk as before passes an envelope over, and Faulkner glances inside it. Without spilling the beans, he passes it over, and then begins to fill out another request form, giving Irene a moment to herself to digest the information contained on the red-lettered certificated titled 'EXTRACT OF REGISTER OF BIRTHS' and noted to be from the District of Limehouse, Sub-District of Wapping, in the Borough of Stepney, County of London. Complicated, if precise.

Rena does her best not to appear too over-eager and nervous; but, the fact of the matter is, when Faulkner hands her the envelope, her hands are trembling. It takes a moment for her to get the thing open and slide the crisp new paper from within to examine it. Still scarcely drawing breath, she reads over the details. For a brief moment, she remains silent. Biting her lower lip, she then slowly breaks into a thoughtful smile: "Cassandra Aileen Flynn - that was 'er name…"
It may seem like an incredibly small thing, just to have a name, but it means such a lot to her. "I… it sounds rather Irish, doesn't it?" Rena asks, glancing up at Faulkner. Her eyes are shining with tears that she's doing a decent job of holding back - for now.

A few pence more, though he pauses at some information he doesn't know and he explains, "Now that we know her full name, we can get copies of her marriage and death certificates, and then use that to get her birth certificate to find out where she was born and who your grandparents were. You can follow that chain back to… well, sometime in the 1830s, I think, for people in Blighty. Earlier than that, it's all parish records and the like, if they exist."

When he sees tears start to well up, he reaches out and puts a hand on her shoulder, giving it a squeeze, "I'm glad I could help. I don't know why your father refused to tell you. Maybe he didn't know that you could just come find the information quite so easily."

Rena's chin drops slightly, and she masks her emotion by focusing on the paper in her hands once more. Better to stare at it instead of Faulkner, otherwise, she might really cry. "Mostly, I think 'e just didn't want to talk about it… her, I mean. I couldn't bring it up that 'e didn't become angry. And there was always trouble enough, what with 'is drinking and all." She murmurs.
Getting a grip, she draws a deep breath and brings her gaze up to meet with Faulkner's: "You've done such a lot already - but," she hesitates, worrying over something in her mind. Clearly, the next question is harder for her to ask. But still, she bolsters her courage and does so: "Birdie, do… do you think we could find out where she's buried? From the papers and all."

"It's possible. Do you know when she died, at least the year?" Faulkner asks, and then he considers, "Your parents, they're CofE?" Church of England, he means, which is rather a default sort of guess. "I think burial records… well, I'm not sure, but if a priest did it, it's probably in a parish register. So, we'd have to go down to Wapping and take a look there. But let's put in for the death and marriage certificates now, and then we can follow up?"

Sniffing slightly, Rena manages a small smile and nods in reply. "Yes, Church of England… If I remember, she died September 3rd, same year. 1918."
It may seem morbid or depressing, but, the poor girl would very much like to know where her mother lays at rest so that she might perhaps pay respects to the woman who gave her life. Although she has no memory of meeting her, she feels love and gratitude to her.
As to marriage and death records, she nods again, stepping closer to Faulkner, tucking the paper back into its envelope slowly, thoughtfully. "I would like that very much… Of course, I know there's no certainty of when, what with things being as they are. But, I'm beholden to you for even caring. You're an awfully good person."

"Being that precise, it should be easy enough to find." Faulkner says, with a nod, before handing the paper back over to the clerk and paying the fee, "You'll have to post it to me, I'm afraid. I don't think the censors will mind, given what it is." A wry smile and a glance at Rena, before he turns to lean against the counter, pulling his cigarette case out of his uniform blouse pocket, along with his lighter, "We'll find her, Irene. It's a small enough thing to make you happy. As for my being a good person, that's up for considerable debate, but I do try to help my friends."

Nobody ever offered before - or even tried. Rena is understandably moved by Faulkner being so generous with his time, doing all of this for her when she didn't even ask. It's all truly beginning to sink in. If they weren't in such a place as this, she'd at least throw her arms around him in an emotional, enthusiastic hug.
Smiling a little more warmly, she chuckles: "I don't know why you say that's up for debate. You're kind and generous; and you're a gentleman and a scholar. Anybody who teaches cares a good deal more about others than they do themselves. Because they want people to learn and grow." Stopping a moment, her expression fades very slightly: "Besides all that, you're flying again to defend the country." These all seem very valid arguments for his being a good man.

"We can talk about it later, Irene." Faulkner says, with a nod, conceding the point for the moment, "I do have to get back to base, though. We can pick this up in a few days?" He lights his cigarette and then tucks the lighter and case away. He certainly wouldn't refuse the hug, and she lights up the room when she smiles, so there is that.

Oh, what does she care? Rena is known for her outbursts of emotion and for tackling people with hugs. So, the poor clerk behind the counter is exposed to her enthusiasm. Worse things can happen.
Closing the distance between them, the little redhead is up on her toes in an instant, with her arms over Faulkner's shoulders so that she can pull him close enough to her level and plant a kiss on his cheek. "I can never, ever thank you enough, Birdie," she says warmly. "You're wonderful."
When she releases him, Rena quickly fixes her hat with a slightly sheepish smile. "Sorry, but… you deserved it."

Faulkner blushes just a hint for a moment or two, before his usual stiff upper lip reasserts itself and he then says, "My pleasure, Irene. Shall I take you back home? Guy will have my hide if I'm late in getting back." That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but some military rules are more flexible than others. He takes her arm again, and reclaims his cap, then heads out towards the car and a quick drive to drop her off at the underground.

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