Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So Good To Be Home

The townspeople were out in full force welcoming Oscar home. Everyone knew Oscar was an innocent man. Faith squealed with delight when she saw Polly. Randy held his wife close. He was sorry he couldn't shield her from all the pain of the last few days but looking into her eyes he knew she would be fine.
Jack Mackenzie was pacing on the platform of the train depot. He didn't notice the cold north wind blowing the snow against the train tracks as he waited for Audrey Lynch to arrive from Buffalo. He met Audrey just before Christmas but he felt as though they had known each other all their lives. He knew she had followed another man to Camden Corners but Jack knew her crush on Doctor Grady Murphy was in the past.
Jack's mother, Fiona had invited Audrey and her friend, Elizabeth Lawrence to share a room in the Mackenzie house when there was a sudden storm and the train would be delayed in it's return to Buffalo. It was love at first sight for Jack. His heart had been broken when a romance in New York City had ended and Jack never intended to be that vulnerable again. Then he met Audrey and everything changed. Jack had been a fun loving young man until the ill fated affair that left him soured on love and shattered his trust in the opposite sex. It was a time of his life he was trying to forget and with Audrey's help he was winning that battle.
Audrey and Jack had been separated more than they had been together but that was about to change within the next few minutes. Nurse Audrey and her friend Elizabeth were moving to Camden Corners to work in the McMillan medical offices and eventually in the Camden Corners Hospital.
The hospital would be up and running in just a few short months. Grady Murphy who had just completed his residency at Buffalo General was joining the medical practice and would be the first new physician to be affiliated with the hospital when it opened its doors.
Audrey's crush on the young doctor was what encouraged her to follow him to Camden Corners last December. She mislead her good friend Elizabeth into thinking nursing positions were available immediately in the hospital. Audrey was certain Dr. Murphy was playing hard to get with her but in truth he only had eyes for Elizabeth. When Audrey stopped looking in Dr. Murphy's direction, she noticed the handsome face of Jack Mackenzie.
Jack and Audrey became an item. Jack's family and friends could see a difference in him the moment the lively Audrey came into his life. Jack was an artist and had opened a gallery in town. As well as his own work, he encouraged artists from surrounding towns to display their works in the showroom. He had developed quite a positive reputation in the art community. He was often questioned by outsiders why he didn't relocate to New York City where his work would be in demand. Jack only told them his life was in Camden Corners and that is where he belonged.
The train arrived right on time and Audrey flew into Jack's arms. He shook hands with Grady and gave Elizabeth a hug. Grady was staying at the Wharton House while Audrey and Elizabeth would be returning to the Mackenzie's and Jack's sister Amanda's old room. Fiona and Gordon greeted the girls at the door. They were delighted their son had found someone who could bring the sparkle back into his eyes.
Everyone settled into their new lives. Grady fit in nicely in the McMillan medical offices. Doc Julie was beginning to experience the early stages of pregnancy and was happy to slow down her pace as Grady pitched in. Audrey and Elizabeth were an added relief especially with the seasonal ailments of the good folks of Camden Corners.
Audrey had gotten in the habit of visiting Jack at the gallery during her lunch break. They would share a sandwich from O'Sullivan's and just enjoy being together for an hour during the day. Jack hadn't officially proposed, he was waiting for Valentine's Day for that but in their hearts they knew they had found their future in each other. Audrey walked into the studio. Carrie, Another Mackenzie sister was just finishing framing Jack's latest work. Audrey loved this painting. It was bright and cheerful. So different from his previous works.
Audrey, because of you my brother has become a different man. You can see it in his work.” Carrie set the painting on an easel and turned it so it had just the right lighting. “Jack is at the Pub. Mack needed some help moving a new freezer into place but he should be back in just a few minutes. He told me not to let you leave. I'd say the boy's in love”
I am too, Carrie. Jack is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know I'm still a scatterbrain in many ways but Elizabeth says I've calmed down some. Jack has grounded me somehow if that makes sense.”
Don't change too much Audrey, we love scatterbrains in the Mackenzie house. Speaking of which, I promised Mama I'd be at the Pub to help her with the chicken pot pies. They are on the menu this evening which means we will be having a big crowd for the dinner rush. You and Jack should stop by later.”
The two friends hugged and said good bye just before a very sophisticated woman entered the shop. Audrey felt like an old frump in her nurses uniform and clunky white shoes.
She walked toward the woman to tell her the owner would be returning shortly when the customer said “I'm looking for Jack Mackenzie.”
He should be returning soon. You may look around while you're waiting.”
Oh I know his work very well” she said dripping with sarcasm.
Audrey felt very uncomfortable and frumpier every minute. She realized she should probably keep quiet at that point but she couldn't help herself. “How do you know Jack?”
We go way back, dear. I can see you have never been out of this provincial little town. My name is Daphne Saint Marie. I set Jack up in a studio in New York City a couple of years ago. He was my protege until a silly misunderstanding drove him back to this place.” The look on her face suggested she didn't see anything redeeming about Camden Corners.
Audrey didn't like Daphne Saint whatever, but she might be a paying customer and Audrey didn't want to say something that might ruin a sale.
I'm sure Jack will be back momentarily. Please make yourself comfortable Miss Saint Peter.”
It's Saint Marie young lady but before long it will be Mackenzie. Will that be easy enough for you to remember?”
Audrey was sure her heart had fallen to her feet. Could this possibly be the woman who broke Jack's heart in New York? Does he still love her and why did he ever love her in the first place? She could barely speak as she walked into the back room and out the back door. At that point the tears started to flow. She made it back to the office and dissolved into Mary McMillan's arms. Mary had two daughters and knew what a broken heart looked like. She just let Audrey cry it out while she held her tightly.
Jack opened the door of the gallery anxious to see Audrey and spotted Daphne immediately. “What are you doing here Daphne? Slumming today?”
Darling Jack, you silly boy, I'm here to whisk you off to New York and away from this horrible little town.”
This horrible little town is my home and I have no intention of going anywhere with you. I can't see that we have anything else to discuss so feel free to leave the same way you came in.”
Darling, I know you are a tiny bit miffed at me but the good news is that my husband is dead. We can finally be together my love.”
Golly Daphne congratulations on your dead husband. Now go find yourself another na├»ve jerk. I don't want you anymore.”
But darling, you need me. What do you have in this place, people like that plain little nurse that was in here a short while ago? I know you better than that. Only I can make you happy darling.”
Was Audrey here? Where is she? What did you say to her Daphne? It's time for you to leave.”
Jack escorted her to the door and gave her a little shove locking the door behind her. He turned the open sign to closed and slipped out the back door forgetting to lock it. He went directly to McMillans and found her there. Her eyes were red rimmed and he knew she had been crying.
I'm not sure we have anything to say to each other Jack. I met your intended today. I can't begin to compete with someone with her sophistication.”
Jack put his fingers to her lips. “In the first place, you are my intended. At least I hope you are. I was waiting for Valentine's Day to ask you to be my wife but today will do too. I did have a crush on Daphne but that was a long time ago. I was young and foolish and I thought I wanted to live a life that wasn't me. Daphne took me under her wing. I thought I was in love and I thought she was in love with me. I was so trusting I didn't realize she was using me as her latest diversion. She was married to a much older man who was also a very rich man.
But she broke your heart. There must be some feelings left for her.”
Yes, she broke my heart two years ago. I realized she wasn't for me very quickly. It wasn't a broken heart that upset me it was the way I was duped. I swore back then that I would never let any woman do that to me again. She made a complete and total fool of me. I was use to strong women, I've been around them all my life, but never any that were dishonest. I learned Daphne was married when her husband strolled into the gallery. He was looking for her latest play thing. I packed my few things, put my paintings under my arm and was on the next train back to Camden Corners.
The day I first saw you I fell in love. I realized I had been wallowing in self pity. Not because of Daphne but because my pride was hurt. When you opened your heart to me I knew you would never hurt me as I hurt you by not telling you about Daphne. If I had spoken up earlier, you wouldn't have been upset today.”
Mary McMillan stepped into the room. “Hello Jack. Audrey has worked hard enough today and we aren't that busy this afternoon. Why don't you two enjoy the afternoon together.”
The young couple walked hand in hand to the gallery. When they approached the front door it was standing wide open. Jack remembered locking it behind Daphne. They entered the shop and discovered the walls were bare, the easels were empty. Not one painting, sketch or photograph was left in the entire shop.
Daphne” Jack uttered under his breath. “Audrey, I am going to New York City. I can't imagine why she took all of the artwork but I won't let her get away with it. Not so much for me but Tony Marino's photographs were here as well as other artists works.”
I'm going with you. You don't think I'm going to let that witch get her clutches into you again do you?”
After a quick stop in the Pub and a visit to Doc McMillan, Jack and Audrey were on the 4:45 to New York City.
Daphne had just arrived in New York City. She was waiting for a carriage to take her and her newly acquired artwork to the studio she'd set up for Jack. She expected he would be following her on the next train. What she didn't expect was that he wouldn't be alone.

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