Saturday, April 28, 2012
Looking out the window of his high rise office, Jamison Bentley was tempted to tear up the letter he had received from his old friend, Oscar Crowley. He didn't see much of Oscar anymore. His father had been a college friend of Oscars. He knew Hillary had corresponded with him until her death a couple of years ago. Jamison always admired the old guy but any thoughts of Camden Corners brought sadness to him even after all these years. He loved Hillary and the life they built together with their two sons but Caroline Watson remained on his mind and in his heart since the first time he laid eyes on her. He knew her daughter, Grace, would be grown now probably with children of her own. He often wondered if he had pursued Caroline just a little longer if she would finally open her heart to the love he was offering her.
Seemed two young marrieds were looking for an architect to build their dream house on property left to them by an uncle. Eventually they wanted to build a winery and looking further down the road, a hospital in Camden Corners. Such ambition for these young people. Jamison hadn't drawn up plans for a residential dwelling since he started in the business over 20 years ago. His sons had followed in their dad's footsteps and had become architects too. Maybe he should just hand this project over to them. Something stopped him from doing that and before he knew it, he was on the train leaving for Camden Corners.
The Hightower boys had left the designing of the new home to their wives. They knew they wanted to build a house big enough for several children. They would have a joint living area and kitchen and two separate wings. Their plan was to have four bedrooms in each wing. They could always build on if they needed more in the future. The Bloom twins weren't getting any younger but they would welcome any future children with open arms.
Jamison was surprised to see how much the town had grown since he had been here. The Opera House had been one of his first architectural creations. He recognized it immediately. He had to admit, it was still a fine looking structure. Jamison rented a horse and carriage and was given directions to the Hightower property. He avoided passing by the Watson House on his way. He needed to brace himself to see Caroline again. He wondered if she ever married, if she ever thought about him. Probably not. She never answered his letters which would indicate that she wasn't interested back then and she certainly wouldn't be interested now.
Jamison arrived at the site and introduced himself to the Hightowers. He remembered the Bloom twins from years ago and couldn't help but marvel at how wonderful they both looked. They were still identical but each had an air of loveliness about them. A far cry from the dowdy young girls he remembered. He was introduced to Lucinda McCoy. He thought he detected a twinkle in her eye as she shook his hand. The girls knew exactly what they wanted and Jamison knew it would be a simple task to draw up plans for them this evening and present them the following day.
Lucinda spoke up “Mr. Bentley, I'm sure you will be requiring lodging for the duration of your visit. I happen to be residing in a lovely room at Watson's B & B and I am quite sure Mrs. Caroline Watson has a vacant room in her home. I would be more than happy to escort you to her establishment.”
Jamison felt his heart beat a little faster. Oscar had generously offered to shelter him while he was in Camden Corners but he couldn't seem to say anything but, “I would appreciate your assistance, Miss McCoy.”
Lucinda was full of chatter on the way to the Watson house. Jamison barely heard her voice over the beating of his heart. They stopped in front of the home and Lucinda suddenly remembered she needed to pick up her daughter at her friend Iris' house. She could see Caroline in the garden and she was sure Mr. Bentley would be able to find his way to her.
Jamison walked slowly to the garden gate. He could see her tending the rosebushes. She was as lovely as the day he kissed her so many years ago. He stood where he was and watched her for several minutes. Caroline had the feeling someone was there and turned her head. She thought she was imagining seeing Jamison Bentley standing at the entrance to the garden. Her heart skipped a beat and she was afraid to speak. Jamison walked toward her and took her hand. They looked into each others eyes and the years disappeared. He bent his head to kiss her and she didn't resist. They stood in the garden for the longest time, neither daring to speak for fear they were in a dream that could end at any moment.
“Mother, are you back here?” called Grace.
She stopped in her tracks when she saw her mother in a gentleman's arms.
Caroline stepped back and tried to regain her composure.
“Hello Grace dear. You remember Mr. Bentley don't you? Of course, you don't. You were much too young. Jamison, this is my daughter Grace. She's married to the Evans boy.” Caroline knew she was babbling and couldn't stop herself.
Jamison said “I remember Grace. You were very little when I was in Camden Corners. You have become a lovely young woman. You look very much like your mother, don't you?”
Grace wanted to chuckle. Her mother and this handsome stranger were acting like school children who had been caught stealing kisses. She had never seen her mother in the arms of a man before. Grace and her new husband Ted had been a couple for ten years. They knew they would be married one day but that day didn't seem to be happening. A stranger came to town one weekend and caught Grace's attention. Grace saw through the randy young man and knew Ted was the one for her. Ted realized his love for Grace was all he needed. He didn't know why they had put off being married but decided the time was right and they became husband and wife. Grace had a suspicion that she was going to be making her mother a grandmother but this did not seem the time to make that announcement.
“Mother, I came by to see if you were available to have dinner with Ted and me this evening but I can see you are busy. We will make it another day. Mr. Bentley, it was nice to meet you again. I'm sure you will enjoy your visit to our town.”
Grace bid farewell to the couple, turned and walked down the street to visit with Emma Patterson. She knew her mother had tea quite often in Emma's Antique shop and wondered if she knew anything about her mother's gentleman caller.
Caroline finally felt her composure return. She suggested Jamison join her in the parlor for a cup of tea. He held her hand as they walked into the house. He wasn't about to let her change her mind again. That kiss told him all he needed to know. Caroline still loved him, he was sure of that. Caroline didn't let go of his hand until she needed to free it to pour the tea. She was sorry she didn't have anything stronger to offer Jamison. She thought he could probably stand something and she wouldn't mind a drop of whiskey herself.
Jamison told her about his life with Hillary and the boys. He had given up on their love and Hillary happened along. He did his best to make a good life for his family but Caroline was always in the back of his mind. Caroline admitted she felt as though she was betraying George's memory.
“It took several years before I realized that George loved me more like a daughter than a wife and he would have wanted me to find happiness with someone else after his death. By then, I knew you were married and that was a closed book. There has never been anyone else in my life.”
They were talking and laughing when Lucinda and Cassandra came in the front door. Lucinda was grinning and Jamison realized now why he had seen a twinkle in the young woman's eye when they first met.
He said aloud “I wonder what prompted Oscar Crowley to contact me about designing the Hightower house. Oscar knows I haven't specialized in houses in many years.”
“And to think,” replied Caroline, “I never told a soul about my feelings for Jamison until I told my young renter here.”
“I think you picked the right person to tell, Lucinda seems to be able to get right to the heart of the matter.”
“Yes, she does and now we must encourage her to follow her heart too.”
“I'm working on it” Lucinda said with a wink.
Just then there was a knock on the front door.
“Well, if it isn't Mr. Nick Rossi.” Caroline said as she introduced the two men.
Nick apologized for barging in but he just happened to be taking a walk and wondered if Lucinda and Cassandra would like to join him for dinner at his sister's house. He knew it sounded lame when he said it but he just knew he wanted to spend the evening with Lucinda.
“I have dinner on the stove and it will be just me tonight if you take Lucinda and Cassandra away. Jamison,” she said softly, “I hope you will join us tonight too.”
“I would be delighted, but only if you will allow me to help. I'm not a gourmet cook like my friend Nick here, but I am a whiz at boiling water.”
Cassandra wanted to help too, so all of them walked to the kitchen where the men were given aprons. Nick plopped Cassandra on the counter next to a big pot of vegetable soup. He showed her the art of adding just a pinch of this and a dash of that. She giggled as he kissed his fingertips exclaiming “magnifico” and waving his hand in the air. She did the same thing several times until her mother told her that was quite enough with the magnifico. Everyone was talking and laughing and enjoying their little adventure in cooking. It continued as they all sat down. Cassandra said grace and thanked God for her new family in Camden Corners. They all were sorry to have the evening come to an end. Jamison was retiring to his basement room. The room had its own entrance and was not accessible through the main house so there would not be any talk of impropriety when a single man stayed in the boarding house. He held Caroline's hand and told her twenty five years was long enough to wait to make her his wife. They planned to make wedding arrangements in the morning after he dropped off the plans for the Hightower house. As he passed by the hydrangea bushes, he heard a rustling sound.
“You'd best secure the trash barrel, I do believe the raccoons are hungry tonight.”
Nick said good night to Lucinda and Cassandra. He turned and started walking away when he heard a little voice
“Good Night Mr. Nick, I love you.”
This little girl could pull on his heartstrings more than any child he had ever known. He turned around, bent to his knees and said
“I love you too, Miss Cassandra.”
Lucinda thought she detected a little tear in his eye. The three were standing on the porch steps when they heard a sneeze.
“I don't think that's a raccoon in those bushes” said Caroline as she pulled back the branches and saw four little eyes staring at her.