Thursday, February 23, 2012
Lucinda and Cassandra were walking hand in hand on a beautiful Sunday morning. The birds were chirping in the trees as they passed by on their way to services at Saint Peter's Church. Lucinda was thinking back to just a few weeks ago. She didn't know where she would find the money to pay the rent on their tiny apartment in the big city. Now she and Cassandra were living in a beautiful room in the loveliest town she had ever seen. She had friends and was making new ones each day. They entered the church and sat down in the pew. Both mother and daughter were kneeling in prayer and thanksgiving for the home and family they had found in Camden Corners.
Seated behind them and to the right was Nicola Rossi and the entire Marino family. Nick's heart skipped a beat when he looked up and noticed Lucinda and Cassandra sitting so close. He had only met Lucinda one time but the attraction to her was almost overwhelming.
After services, Lucinda thought it would be fun to take a walk by the beach. Cassandra was squealing with delight when they came upon a traveling carnival with a carousel, fortune tellers and games of chance. Nick, who had been waylaid by several of his friends finally caught up with them. Lucinda was happy to see a familiar face.
The three of them rode the carousel several times. Nick won a stuffed bear for Cassandra that was almost as big as she was.
As they strolled by the fortune teller, she asked if “The little family would like to know how many more children they would have? Madame DuPont will tell you for only five cents.”
Nick laughed while Lucinda's face turned bright red.
“It is almost time for dinner at my sister Rosa's house. Would you and Cassandra like to join us today?” asked Nick.
“Oh my goodness, we couldn't impose on your family without warning.”
“Are you kidding, Rosa would be insulted if you didn't come. Besides, I saw you in church and promised her I would bring you and Cassandra back before the bread finished baking.”
“I'm hungry, Mama, can we eat with Mr. Nick today.”
“Hey, you two are ganging up on me. I give in if you are sure it's alright with your sister.”
Lucinda was finding out what it was like to be a part of a big happy family. She was welcomed with open arms by every one of the Marinos. Nick's nieces took Cassandra by the hand directly to the playroom where there were more dolls and doll houses than Cassandra had ever seen. His nephew Tony brought out his camera that was never very far away and started taking photos of everyone.
“Nicola, show Lucinda your garden and the grapevines. She can see what a wonderful farmer you are and what a superb vintner you will be.”
“You'll have to forgive my sister, she exaggerates when it comes to her family. According to her we are all the best at anything we do, the smartest of people and the best looking specimens that have ever been created.
Lucinda laughed. She loved this family already. Now she felt close to two families in Camden Corners and she liked that feeling. Lucinda was impressed with what Nick had planted. The grapevines were growing nicely. Not that she knew anything about grapevines or grapes. She tasted one and it was sweet and tangy at the same time. Nick told her the vines on the left were ready to be harvested and he would be beginning the process of making them into wine. His father was a vintner in Tuscany and he had been working the fields since he was a young boy. Ernesto came outside with a glasses filled with wine made from the grapes. Lucinda thought it tasted good but had nothing to compare it too. She had never tasted wine before since she and Paul never had enough money to buy any kind of spirits.
It was well into the evening when Lucinda was able to tear Cassandra away from her new friends and all the wonderful toys. Rosa and all the family hugged their visitors goodnight.
Nick walked them back to the boarding house. Mrs. Watson was sitting on the porch and offered to take Cassandra up to bed while Lucinda chatted with Nick. They sat on the porch swing. Nick took her hand in his and Lucinda pulled it away. She apologized and said she felt a disloyalty to her husband. She knew that was absurd but she couldn't help herself. Nick apologized himself for being so forward. He admitted he was very attracted to Lucinda but he was willing to accept friendship only if that was all she was able to give. He hoped it wouldn't be too long before she felt comfortable enough to open her heart to him. They said goodnight and Lucinda walked up the stairs to her room.
Mrs. Watson was just dimming the light as Lucinda walked in to see her daughter sleeping soundly. Mrs. Watson could tell by the worried look on Lucinda's face that something was not right.
“Oh Mrs. Watson, I don't know what I am going to do. I do like Nick and I think he likes me but I feel so guilty for all the wonderful things that have happened lately. Paul worked so hard and struggled through his life and now I am finding happiness without him.”
“My dear child” replied Mrs. Watson “Allow me to tell you my story and how my guilt drove me away from a man I truly loved.”
My mother and father were married for several years before I was born. They thought they would remain childless but my birth proved them wrong. Mother was rather fragile and my birth was difficult for her. From what I remember of her she was a very tender and loving woman. I was only 9 years old when she contracted pneumonia and passed away. My father was devastated by her death but did his best to raise his little girl.
When I was barely 16, he passed too. His best friend, Mr. George Watson had never married. He took me into his home as I had no other relatives. It was considered scandalous that a young girl was living in the home of a man without benefit of marriage and therefore, at the age of 16 I was married to a much older man. He had taken me in when I had no one else. He was kind and loving and although I wasn't in love with him, I loved him very much.
Grace was born two years later and on her third birthday, George was taken from us. Money was not a concern since we had been well taken care of for the rest of our lives. The two of us lived in this big old house all by ourselves. I loved being a mother to Grace but I felt something was missing in my life. I had the idea of turning our home into a boarding house and renting rooms out to travelers and as a temporary home for newcomers to Camden Corners.
Oscar Crowley arranged a meeting with a young architect friend of his from Gilford. I remember the day Jamison Bentley came into my life. He was young and very good looking. I felt myself blush when he tipped his hat to me. He seemed to know exactly what I had in mind for this house. He took notes and drew sketches and had a plan the next day. It was exactly what I had dreamed of and work was started the following week.
Jamison arranged for all the workers that were needed and the transformation had begun. He was here every day supervising and I knew in my heart that I was falling in love for the first time in my life. The work was finally finished and I was happy but also sad because I knew Jamison would be leaving to return to his home in Gilford. The day the house was completed he showed me all the rooms and we walked out into the garden where he had built the gazebo.
The sun was setting and there was a soft breeze blowing the sycamore tree when he took me in his arms and kissed me as I have never been kissed before. Or since, I might add. I found myself kissing him back and feeling that kiss down to my toes. He told me he loved me and had from the beginning. He said we would be married as soon as possible and he would adopt Grace and we would give her plenty of brothers and sisters. It all sounded so wonderful to me but then I remembered George. The guilt took over and I told Jamison that would not be possible. I didn't love him and he should go back to Gilford and forget we ever met. I ran into the house locking the door behind me and sobbed for what seemed to be an eternity.
Jamison wrote to me several times but I returned his letters unopened. Finally, the letters stopped but my memories of him and that kiss were still with me as they are to this day. One of my roomers left a copy of the Gilford paper in his room and there was a notice of the impending nuptials of Mr. Jamison Bentley and Miss Hillary Carson. This time I only sobbed for half of an eternity.
“Oh Mrs. Watson, what a heartbreaking story”
“You now know my deep, dark secret that even my daughter doesn't know, please call me Caroline”.
“I'd like that, Caroline. I think the next time I see Mr. Nicola Rossi, I may be brazen and reach for his hand this time and hope he doesn't yank it away”.
“I don't think he will” Caroline said with a wink.
“Have you ever heard anything about Jamison Bentley through these years.”
“Only that he has two sons. His wife passed away a couple of years ago. I almost wrote to him when Oscar Crowley told me that but it seemed too soon and besides, I'm sure he has forgotten all about me by now.”
Lucinda doubted that but didn't say anything. She hugged Caroline and thanked her for confiding in her. The two women bid each other good night.
The next morning, Lucinda joined Hyacinth and Dahlia. The twins were planning the house that would be built on the property.
“What you need is an architect and I think I know where to find one” said a smiling Lucinda.
“Let's check with Oscar Crowley. He will know where to find Mr. Jamison Bentley of Gilford.”