Sunday, May 13, 2012
Amanda was anxious for the afternoon to pass when it would be time for Luigi to come to pick her up for dinner at Rosa's. She wondered where everyone was. It was rare that the Mackenzie house was quiet with such a big family. She knew Mama was probably at the Burke house baking cookies. She and her good friend Nadine Burke enjoyed baking together. Between them they had so many mouths to feed that it took several batches of cookies just to make sure each child had their fair share. It gave the friends time to chat and enjoy each others company. The younger children were all in school and the older ones were most likely helping out at the Pub.
There was a knock at the door. Amanda opened it thinking it might be Luigi since he had left just a short while ago after giving her a kiss that made even her toes tingle. She opened the door and there stood Nathaniel Lancaster, III looking like a wild man.
“Nathaniel, what in heaven's name are you doing back here? We have said all there is to say between us. It's over, go back home.”
“Amanda, you and I are betrothed. Nobody leaves Nathaniel Lancaster, III. I have come to take you to New York with me where we will be married and live happily ever after. Now pack your bag and come with me.”
“Nathaniel, I am not going anywhere with you. Leave now or I will call the sheriff. I should have done that a long time ago.”
“I know why you left me Amanda. That guy Luigi stole you from me. What kind of a name is Luigi anyway. Sounds like a waiter at The Ritz.”
“And just what is wrong with being a waiter? My family runs a pub if you have forgotten. Not that it's any of your business, Luigi is an engineer and he is my friend. For the last time, get out.”
It was at that moment that Nathaniel started waving his gun in the air. Amanda wasn't afraid of Nathaniel but she was afraid the fool would pull the trigger in his drunken state and shoot her or himself.
“Do as I told you. Go pack a bag. We are leaving.”
Amanda started up the stairs trying to figure out what she should do. She knew she had to get Nathaniel out of the house before the children came home from school. Nathaniel followed her to her room. She grabbed a bag and threw one or two items in it trying to make it look like she was following his directions. She opened the top drawer of her dresser and saw her collection of hankies neatly folded in there. Ever since Amanda was a very young girl she had loved pretty hankies. Every birthday and Christmas she would receive a new one with lace or her initial or a flower design on it. She had kept these hankies all through the years. She grabbed a handful of them and stuffed them into the pocket of her skirt without Nathaniel noticing.
“Nathaniel, I'll have to leave a note for my mama and papa. They will come looking for me if I just disappear without telling them.”
“Alright, but no funny business. Make sure you tell them how much you love me.”
Amanda sat down at her desk and pulled out a sheet of paper and a pen. She slowly filled the pen with ink as she thought about what she would write. She knew they would read her message carefully.
Hope you will understand , Nathaniel and I are
Eloping. I realized that I have always and will always
Love him because he makes me happy.
Please forgive me for leaving this way.
Amanda hoped Nathaniel wouldn't see her obvious hint in the note. She needn't have worried, Nathaniel wasn't able to focus on anything. She took hold of her bag and led the way down the stairs and into the carriage. She could feel the barrel of the gun pressing into her back as she walked. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a hankie. She pretended to wipe her face with it and casually let it drop to the ground. Nathaniel told her to drive the carriage and she was happy for that since she wasn't sure he would be able to keep the horses on the road. They traveled through town and she could feel him pressing the gun a little harder as they rode by several of her friends who were waving and calling her name. She dropped hankies all along the way praying that Nathaniel wouldn't notice. A few miles out of town they came upon an abandoned cabin and barn.
“Nathaniel, maybe we should stop here and let the horses rest before continuing our journey. We have been traveling quite a way, you know.”
They hadn't gone all that far but Amanda took a chance that in Nathaniel's state he wouldn't be aware of how much time had passed since they left her house.
At the Mackenzie house, Fiona returned with a basketful of cookies just as the children were returning from school. There was a knock on the door and there stood Luigi Rossi. Fiona gave the young man a hug. Luigi was always one of her favorites. She had hoped he and Amanda would find their way back to each other one day and was thrilled to see him standing in their doorway.
“Luigi, I'm so happy to see you. Rosa was bubbling the other day when she talked about you and your folks coming for a visit. How are they? I'm so anxious to meet them.”
“The folks are fine. The big surprise for Rosa and the family is that Papa sold his property in Tuscany and it looks like they are here in this country to stay. I'm here to escort Amanda to Rosa's for a family dinner. I'm early so if she isn't ready I can come back.”
“I didn't know Amanda was home. It was so quiet when I came into the house a little while ago. Let me go up and check her room.”
Two minutes later Fiona came running down the stairs.
“He's taken her. He's taken Amanda” she cried
Luigi read the note and could see the word HELP spelled out.
“Don't worry Mrs. Mackenzie. We will find her.”
Luigi called the children and told them to run for the sheriff and stop by the pub to get their father and Mac. He ran to the stable behind the Mackenzie house and mounted one of the horses without stopping long enough to put a saddle on it.
“Luigi,” called Fiona. “Amanda has dropped her handkerchiefs along the way, she must have taken a handful with her. She is leaving a trail to follow.”
Luigi could see the trail as he rode out of town.
The children scattered in their quest to alert the sheriff, their father and brother. Within just a short while all the men in Camden Corners were following the dropped handkerchiefs out of town. Nathaniel Lancaster, III didn't stand a chance.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel was sprawled on the couch dozing off. He'd tied Amanda up before he closed his eyes just in case she changed her mind about leaving with him. He just needed a tiny little nap and then they would be on their way. The gun was still in his hand and pointed in Amanda's direction. Amanda was loosening the ropes around her wrists. Because of his state of inebriation he hadn't noticed that the knots weren't tied tightly.
Luigi reached the cabin and saw the horses and carriage parked outside the door. He quietly dismounted the horse and went to the cabin window. He could see Amanda struggling to loosen the ropes tied around her wrists. He also saw the gun pointed at her with the sleeping Nathaniel still holding it. He was afraid if Nathaniel were startled, he might instinctively pull the trigger. He tried the door and luckily it had been left open. He quietly opened it and walked slowly toward Amanda. He could see the relief in her eyes as she gazed at him. He bent down and very carefully picked her up in his arms and carried her toward the door. Just as they reached the doorway, they heard Nathaniel shout.
“Hold it right there. Where do you think you are taking my wife?”
A gunshot rang out and a bullet shattered the glass in the window to the right of the door. The sound startled Nathaniel he dropped the gun as he passed out on the floor of the cabin.
The sheriff and most of the town arrived as Luigi was carrying Amanda to safety and gently removing the ropes from her wrists and ankles.
“I thought we had a date today and here you are playing cops and robbers with your old flame.”
Sheriff Mendenhall loaded Nathaniel into his buckboard and drove him to the jailhouse.
“Amanda, you go home and rest tonight. I'm sure your friend here will be sleeping it off through the night. Come back in the morning and I'll get your statement.”
“Thanks sheriff, I'm really fine and I have a dinner date with my good friend Luigi and his family.”
Mamma and Papa Rossi were just exactly as Amanda had pictured them all these years. Mamma gave her a welcoming hug and Papa his usual bear hug that meant he approved of Luigi's choice.
The Marino youngsters sat by Amanda's side wanting to know every detail of the kidnapping. They were impressed when Luigi told them about the note with the word HELP spelled out and how she had dropped her hankies all the way to the cabin where she was being held. Luigi added a bit more drama to the story and his nieces and nephews hung on every word.
“That's enough of that talk.” said Rosa. “Let's eat our dinner and talk about something pleasant.” She squeezed Amanda's hand as Eduardo said the blessing with a special mention of Amanda and her safe return.
After a delightful dinner and and evening of playing board games, Luigi thought it best to get Amanda home. They walked hand in hand to her house where he stopped suddenly.
“Amanda, I still love you. I always have. Today, when you were in danger I didn't know what I would do if something happened to you. I know we said we would just be friends but I don't think that is possible. Mr. Weston has been talking about starting up a branch of his factory in this area. Just being with you and my family these last couple of days has made me realize that although work is important, it isn't the only thing in life. Tell me, do I have a chance with you?”
“Luigi, I do have feelings for you but it wasn't that long ago that I saw you entering your apartment in Wilmington with a beautiful blond woman. Is she still a part of your life?”
Luigi stared at her, he had no idea what she was talking about, She explained that she had gone to Wilmington to see him after Rosa mentioned he wasn't involved with anyone.
Luigi began to chuckle. “It must have been Pamela Farrell, she is the wife of my friend Leo Farrell. You remember Leo. He and his family moved to Wilmington 15 years ago or more. He did marry a very attractive blond. They live in the apartment across the hall from me. She works at Lawson's Department store and occasionally we run into each other on the way home. Believe me, she and Leo only have eyes for each other which is a good thing since she is expecting their first child any day now.”
“Oh Luigi, I have been so silly. I was so unhappy when I saw you with another woman I returned to New York and that is when I met Nathaniel. If only I had spoken to you I could have saved myself a lot of heartache and also saved myself from Nathaniel.”
“Let's not waste any more time.” said Luigi as he held her close and kissed her again and again.