Friday, June 8, 2012
The Woman of His Dreams
The Village of Camden Corners
The Woman of His Dreams
As was his pattern, Ernie Black was at the housing construction site bright and early.
“Boss, as much as I would like to stay here in Camden Corners, I think the work has slowed down too much to justify keeping me on as a foreman.” Ernie said to Reggie Blackburn.
“I don't want you to go Ernie. You are my right hand man and with Josie about to make me a papa very soon, I would like to keep you on. Think about it for a few days. I understand we will be getting the okay for more housing starts in the next week or so.”
“I'll do that, boss. I hate to leave, but I don't like seeing you waste your money on me. Now I'd better get to the train station. That lumber shipment from Zeke Dalton is due to arrive in about 10 minutes.”
The train pulled into the station. Ernie was distracted by the sound of a loud wolf whistle. He looked over and saw Nettie Crowley with her arms around a woman who towered over her. Ernie caught his breath. He thought he had never seen a vision as lovely as the redhead who had just stepped off the train. It was love at first sight for Ernie Black, the confirmed bachelor.
Ernie had never paid too much attention to women. He grew up with four sisters and had his fill of the female population. When he turned 18 he left home and had been on his own ever since. He wasn't a bad looking fellow, but he never gave a woman the time of day unless it was part of the job he was currently working.
That was why he didn't know what to think when he spotted the beauty. He was finding he couldn't take his eyes off of her. She looked up and saw him gawking at her and Ernie's face turned red as a beet.
Beverly was accustomed to men staring at her. She had a very attractive face and figure and always dressed to accentuate her curves. She gave Ernie a beaming smile and he was a goner from that moment on.
Nettie noticed the exchange between the two.
“The gentleman is Ernie Black. He works on Reggie Blackburn's construction crew. In fact, I believe he is Reggie's foreman. I don't know him well but what I do know about him is that he is a very nice young man. I'd be glad to introduce you to him.”
“Maybe later, Nettie. He looks terribly embarrassed and I wouldn't want to embarrass him even further. I have a feeling we will be meeting again.” She winked at Nettie and Nettie didn't doubt her words.
“Let's get you settled at home. I think you will like your room. It is situated at the back of the house so you won't be hearing noises from the street.”
“Oh Nettie, I live in New York City. A little noise never bothered me. I appreciate your putting me up but I really don't mind staying at the Wharton Boarding House. I stayed there the last time I was in Camden Corners and it was very comfortable.”
“Don't be silly. We have plenty of room and both Oscar and I would love the company. It has been so quiet since Polly and Faith left after her marriage to Randy Burke.”
Beverly glanced back in Ernie's direction. There was something about the fellow that made Beverly take notice. She had been acquainted with any number of men in her life and even became romantically involved with a few of them. What was it about this quiet country boy that attracted her? She would have to think about it a while longer.
Ernie supervised the lumber shipment and helped the crew load it on the wagon. He found it difficult to concentrate on what he was doing and had to recount the order twice. His mind was still on that beautiful redhead he saw. He thought he could still smell her perfume lingering in the air.
Leland Harvey was in his office at 11:03.
“I'm very sorry for my tardiness, Lucinda. I don't know what has come over me lately. I have always prided myself on my promptness.”
“Mr. Harvey, there is no need to apologize. I just arrived myself. I hope you aren't ill, I know you weren't in the office yesterday.”
“No, nothing like that. I will confess to you that I have been keeping company with Mrs. Millie Stout these days. Lucinda, I shouldn't say this but I do find her a very attractive lady and enjoy her company immensely.
“Mr. Harvey, I think that is wonderful. You and Millie make a lovely couple. I wish you both the best. Millie's life has been changing quite dramatically of late and having you for a beau would be the icing on the cake for her.”
“I hope she feels the same way my dear. Please call me Leland. Better get down to business. How may I help you today Lucinda?”
“I would like to buy the houses that Reggie Blackburn and his crew are building. Seems they need to sell the ones that are already built before they are able to start on more. We have a serious shortage of homes in Camden Corners and we need to keep the building process going if we are to recruit physicians and staff for Memorial. I thought I could buy them and rent them at a reasonable rate.”
“You do have enough money to buy all the houses and then some. I admit I have made some good investments for you but you must be the luckiest person in the world. Everything turns to gold and I see nothing but profit for you. I'll start the ball rolling on the purchases. Lucinda, the day you came to Camden Corners was a red letter day for this community. I don't know how we ever got along without you.”
“Thank you Mr. Harvey...er Leland. I have Paul McCoy's grandfather to thank for the money. I'm just happy I have been able to put it to good use and I know Paul would be too.”
Lucinda left and Leland looked at his pocket watch. “It's near lunchtime, I wonder if Millie would care to join me at O'Sullivan's?”
Leland reached for his coat. “Miss Blair, I will be back after lunch. Please hold down the fort.”
“Yes sir” Miss Blair smiled. She liked this new Mr. Harvey. He seemed 10 years younger since he had been keeping company with his lady friend.
Millie was busy arranging some of the items Leland donated yesterday. Lily and Emma made sure they had accurate records of each and every item they had chosen from Mrs. Harvey's collection. Emma was sure many of the pieces dated back to the 1700s. She and Lily greeted Leland and thanked him profusely.
“Leland, I have already contacted an appraiser in New York City. He is very reputable and will be coming to Camden Corners to appraise your mother's beautiful collection. I do believe the pieces are extremely valuable. I will let you know what his determination is and we will discuss your compensation. I don't believe you will want to donate the entire sales tally to the library fund.”
“No, Emma, you are right. I will donate 10% of the profit. The remainder is to go back into your antique business. I believe there is much more left in that house. I'll gather up some crates and ask Mrs. Rollins to sort through them. No sense those things taking up room in that big old house. I don't even look at them and maybe someone will be able to use them that will appreciate them as my mother did.”
Millie spoke up, “I think you'd better just give in and accept what Leland is offering girls. He can be very persistent. I know that from experience.”
Leland smiled at her and said, “I hope you will keep that in mind Millie. I have come to ask you to have lunch with me today. That is if you aren't too busy.”
Everyone encouraged Millie to take a break. Addie practically pushed her out the door. She and Leo were very happy their friend and employer was finding happiness right here in Camden Corners.
“I wonder why it took them so long to discover each other.” Lily said.
“I don't think either of them was looking. Leland was glued to his desk at the bank and whenever he tried to see Millie to let her know she was close to being penniless, she would hide from him. I'm so glad he called on Oscar and Nettie to figure out a solution to the problem,” Addie said.
“Millie is an entirely different person since you and Leo moved in here and she opened Merryweather's. She was always pleasant but a bit standoffish. Everyone treated the Merryweathers as though they were royalty. The townspeople never got to know the real person. Now she is well liked in the community and has many friends. I'm glad her life is turning around. I think she was very lonely after Mr. Stout died. Now she has her nephew and his mother too. She seems to glow these days.”
Millie and Leland sat at a table near the corner. Both were a little shy about being seen together in public. It didn't take long for Fiona Mackenzie to notice them and ease their discomfort with her chatter. Their food came and Fiona left them alone to enjoy their meal.
They were sipping their coffee when Leland took hold of Millie's hand.
“Millie, I can't begin to tell you what a difference being with you these last few weeks have made in my life. I know I am being presumptuous to expect you to feel any differently towards me but I must confess that I love you.” The words coming out of Leland's mouth shocked even him.
He had no intention of blurting out his feelings in such a blatant manner. He pulled his hand away and was about to apologize when Millie pulled his hand back towards her.
“Leland dear, we aren't getting any younger, you know. If we are going to take the plunge we shouldn't waste too much more time doing it. I hope I'm not the one being too presumptuous thinking you were about to propose marriage.”
“I'm not sure what I was planning to do. As you know, I have never been married and haven't the foggiest notion how long a gentleman should wait until he asks for a lady's hand. I do know that you have made me a very happy man and I would be honored if you would agree to be my wife.”
“Dearest Leland, if we were in our twenties I would tell you it is too soon and we should have a proper courtship. However, we are in our golden years and I would be delighted to be your wife just as soon as possible. I wonder though, have you thought of the impact on your life? I live with two other families. We share meals and living quarters with a shop that is open daily just one floor below. You are accustomed to a large home with only yourself and your housekeeper. It would be quite an adjustment for you.”
“Believe me, I have thought of that and it sounds perfectly delightful. I have always enjoyed being around people while I am at the bank. I think part of the reason I remained long after banking hours most days was because I dreaded going home to an empty house. Even the janitor was better company than the four walls I faced. I have a plan for the house. Mrs. Rollins loves the old place. I have watched her polish the mahogany railings with such care you would think the stairs belonged to her. I would like to make the whole house hers. She and her husband live in a small cabin down by the lake. I thought I would speak with Jamison Bentley about converting the house into several apartments. Camden Corners needs affordable housing for the nurses they are attempting to recruit. Mr. and Mrs. Rollins would be able to live in one of the apartments and be caretakers for the whole place. I think Mrs. Rollins would be happy to take the nurses under her wing. What do you think Millie?”
“Leland that is a wonderful idea. Are you sure you want to give up the house you have lived in all your life? You know how protective I was of my family home and not facing the fact that I simply didn't have the money to pay for its upkeep.”
“The house never meant that much to me. I suppose if I had brought a wife home to it and raised a family I'd feel differently. Speaking of a wife, you did accept my proposal, didn't you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Do you suppose it would create a scandal if I reached over and gave you a kiss right here in O'Sullivan's?”
“Let's throw caution to the wind.” Millie said with a smile on her face.
Leland did better than that, he walked around to the other side of the table and took Millie in his arms. They could feel the other customers staring at them but they didn't care. They had both been alone for way too long and they weren't going to waste a minute more of their time together.