Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reggie's True Love

Hyacinth and Dahlia couldn't have been more pleased with the design Jamison Bentley prepared for their new home. It was just exactly what they had envisioned. Their husbands were busy working along side Nick Rossi and the crew preparing the earth for the vines to be planted and left the house design and building to their wives. The foundation was being laid as the girls looked on. The Hightower brothers insisted that no corners be cut in anything they did and those instructions were being followed. Reggie Blackburn was a perfectionist himself and as head contractor, he was watching over the crew like a hawk.
Reggie was very polite and respectful to the sisters but they suspected something in his life had made him terribly sad. Reggie came highly recommended by Jamison and the girls trusted him enough to hire the man sight unseen. Jamison stopped by the site a couple of times a day. He was always smiling and the girls suspected his happiness was the result of his marriage to Caroline Watson.
Dahlia knew she was prying but decided to ask Jamison what was troubling Reggie. Jamison had known Reggie since he was born. He had grown up with Jamison's two boys. Reggie had fallen for a young lady by the name of Elena Malone. Jamison had never seen a young boy so devoted to a member of the opposite sex. His boys were more interested in teasing the girls in town than carrying their books home from school. Elena was a very pretty young girl and as she grew she became a real beauty. Jamison thought she was a rather spoiled and selfish little girl who was even more so as she grew older. Reggie was a popular fellow through his high school years. The boys liked him and most of the girls had a crush on him but he only had eyes for Elena. Reggie worked his way though college and asked Elena to be his wife. She accepted his proposal and a big wedding was planned for the second Saturday in September.
Reggie's friends all tried to dissuade him from marrying Elena so quickly.
“Reggie, you have been going to school non stop for years, give yourself some time to enjoy your carefree days before settling down”
What they really meant was give yourself some time to get over Elena. Reggie wouldn't hear of it. He was going to marry Elena and that was final. Just three days before the wedding, Elena was sipping a soda at the drugstore when a handsome young fellow entered the store. He was drawn to the beauty sitting at the counter and came to sit next to her. He flashed a big bright smile at the girl and told her she was pretty enough to be on Broadway and he should know because his boss was none other than Nelson Grant, the famous producer. It didn't take Elena much time at all to rush home and pack her clothes and join this young man at the train station. She planned to send a telegram to Reggie when she arrived in New York but somehow never got around to it. Reggie was devastated. The soda jerk at the ice cream counter heard every word that transpired between the stranger and Elena and repeated it to Reggie. Reggie just knew Elena would be returning to him after she realized everything she ever wanted was right here in Gilford.
Jamison realized it had been close to a year since Reggie was jilted.
“That young man should be getting over his crush on that ungrateful girl by now.” he said to Dahlia.
Dahlia and Hyacinth felt sad for Reggie. There were plenty of nice girls in Camden Corners but if he was still pining away for this Elena person, he probably wouldn't be interested in any of them.
Just as Jamison was leaving, Josie McMillan drove up in Doc's buckboard. She waved to Nick and the Hightowers as they were doing their last check of the plots before they began planting the first of the grapevines. Josie was Julie McMillan's sister. She wasn't married and had just purchased a small cottage by the lake. Like Julie, who became a doctor in spite of the fact that there were very few female doctors, Josie ventured out on her own. Most girls her age who were not married lived with their parents in the houses they grew up in. Josie was not like other girls. Thanks to a mother and father who had raised their daughters to be their own person and not what society told them they should be. Josie knew construction had begun on the new house and was anxious to see how they were coming along. She loved her little cottage but it needed some repair and she was determined to learn all she could about construction and make the repairs herself if at all possible.
She couldn't help but notice the tall good looking fellow who seemed to be in control of the project. The twins gave Julie a hug and she commented on how much their tummies had grown since she saw them just a couple of weeks ago. She was introduced to Reggie and he was quite impressed with the fact that she was interested in the construction business. He offered to let her observe and possibly lend a hand.
“Keep in mind though, I don't allow any shoddy workmanship on my jobs.”
“Keep in mind” Josie replied “I don't allow any shoddy workmanship on my jobs either”.
He apologized immediately for his insensitive remark and decided it would be nice to have a female on the job to keep him in line. Besides, she wasn't that bad to look at.
After what seemed an eternity, The day the first planting of the grape plants had arrived. The precious cuttings Nick's father had sent from Italy had also arrived. Nick had received cuttings from various established vineyards in the state and as far away as California. He had treated them with tender loving care and gingerly handed a cutting to each of the Hightowers as well as to Lucinda and even little Cassandra. They each lovingly planted their cuttings as the Marino family, all of Reggie's crew and half the town looked on and cheered. Nick had hired some of the best workers he could find and the planting began in earnest. Harold and Howard worked alongside the men as well as Lucinda who was able to keep up with the best of the them. Dahlia and Hyacinth wanted to help but their husbands insisted they stay off their feet as much as possible. Everyone couldn't help but notice the Bloom sisters had really begun to blossom out.
The planting was finally done. There wasn't much to do in the vineyards except wait and watch until spring when the vines began to grow. Nick lent a hand to Reggie and the Hightower house was coming along nicely. Josie was learning more than she had anticipated and after working all day would return home to her little cottage and put in another full day of work. One Saturday afternoon Reggie let the crew leave early. They had been working non stop for many weeks. By the looks of the growing Hightower wives, the sooner the house was livable the better.
Reggie asked Josie how her place was coming and she admitted she had run into a snag or two but she was working out the problems. Reggie offered to accompany her home to look over her work and possibly offer some suggestions. Josie was grateful for the assistance and happily accepted the offer. Reggie was impressed with the work Josie had done. The cottage suited her perfectly. Reggie felt right at home in this little house by the lake. They sat on the back porch watching the water and talking like old friends. Before long the sun was going down and although the days were beginning to shorten, they realized it was getting late and they hadn't had any dinner. Josie insisted Reggie stay while she heated up the stew she had made that morning. They sipped wine and ate the stew with a loaf of bread her mother had baked and delivered earlier. Josie finally had to admit what she had been denying these last couple of months, she had fallen in love with Reggie Blackburn.
The next morning during services at St. Peter's Church, Vicar Will announced that the ladies auxiliary was auctioning off tickets to the play Saturday night at the Opera House.
“The name of the play is The Taming of the Shrew starring one of our neighbors from Gilford, Elena Malone. This play will be performed on Broadway soon. It says here Miss Malone is a rising Broadway star.” Jamison Bentley's ears perked up. Elena Malone, was the name of the girl who left Reggie at the altar. I wonder if he knows she will be in town.
He turned to Carolyn and whispered “She will be able to play the part of the shrew without even acting”.
Carolyn chuckled. Jamison had told her Reggie's sad story. Just at that moment, Reggie was walking down main street and noticed a playbill in the window of Nichol's General Store. Taming of the Shrew starring Elena Malone.
The theater's production company arrived in Camden Corners the following Tuesday. Josie had heard the story of Reggie and his broken heart and felt the need to torture herself by getting a look at the love of his life. She and a few of the ladies in town were a part of the welcoming committee for the troupe as they disembarked the train.
Miss Elena Malone paused on the top step and glanced through the crowd. She had heard Reggie was in Camden Corners and was sure he would be at the station to greet her. Josie looked up and held back a gasp. She had never seen a lovelier looking woman in her life. With her long dark hair and flashing blue eyes, she was a true beauty.
Reggie had forced himself to stay away from the train station. He wanted to see Elena when she wasn't surrounded by other people. The pain of her leaving was still in his heart. He planned to plead his case to her. He would never interfere with her desire for stardom and his love for her was strong enough for the two of them. He went about his business and looked around for Josie. He missed her when she wasn't there. She was a good kid and his men thought the world of her. She had a cute way of smiling at him when she finished a project he had given her. He would miss her when he moved to New York with Elena. He would miss Camden Corners too as the little town and its people had begun to grow on him. Just a touch of sadness came over him but that was ridiculous, in less than an hour he would be seeing his true love again and they would be together forever. Maybe, Vicar Will would be able to marry them this afternoon.
The troupe was staying at the Ritz and had taken over the entire hotel. Reggie announced his arrival exactly one hour later. The hotel clerk rang Elena's suite.
“Have him come up Jasper and have him wait in the sitting room.” ordered Elena. “He should have been at the station to greet me so he can just sit and wait..”
Reggie sat on a very uncomfortable Louis XV upholstered chair which was not designed for anyone over 4 feet tall.
Jasper poked his head around the corner. “Miss Malone is powdering her nose and will be with you shortly Mr. Bluebeard.”
“It's Blackburn” Reggie called out as the little man disappeared around the corner again. Reggie could hear Elena's voice inside the other room. She was issuing orders left and right. One of the hotel maids who Reggie recognized from town ran out of the room in tears.
“I've been fired because there was a feather on the floor but that feather came from Miss Malone's boa. The room was sparkling clean when she arrived.”
Reggie assured the girl that he would talk to Miss Malone and she wouldn't lose her job. Next came the busboy shaking his head. His face was red as a beet.
“Miss Malone didn't like the way I opened her trunk” She is telling the hotel to withhold my pay for the day”.
Reggie could hear commotion going on inside the other room. Every few minutes another person would exit either crying or grumbling about Miss Elena Malone. She must be tired from her trip, I'm sure after she rests, she will be fine again.
Thirty minutes later, Jasper appeared again “Miss Malone will see you now”.
He ushered him into the room. There she was, the love of his life, sitting at the mirror. She glanced in his direction and turned around. If possible, she was more beautiful than he'd remembered. She stood and walked toward him.
“Reggie, darling, so good to see you, fetch me my robe dear boy”.
Reggie looked around, all he saw was a flimsy gown with feathers all around the neck.
“Is this a robe?”
“Don't be a fool, Reggie. Of course it is.”
Elena grabbed the robe out of his hands in disgust. “Whatever brought you to this dingy little town Reggie? You must have been more distraught over my leaving than I ever imagined”.
Reggie couldn't believe his ears. Was this shrew really the girl he had been pining away for? He looked into her eyes and saw nothing but coldness. Suddenly he had a vision of another face. A smiling face with sparkling eyes. A cute little laugh and bouncing blond hair. What a fool he had been.
“Elena, it has been good to see you again. Good luck with the play.”
He was out the door and running down the street as Elena looked out her window watching him vanish out of sight.
“He'll be back” she whispered to Jasper.
Somehow Jasper didn't think so.

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