Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The Real Thing
Chapter Twenty Four
The Real Thing
“Roger, I need to see you this evening,” Belinda spoke quietly into the telephone.
“What is it Belinda? I have a baseball game at 7:30. Why don't you meet me at the park. You can go with me and the boys for a beer after.”
“No, Roger, I need to see you alone, we need to talk.”
“Don't tell me you are getting cold feet. Tell me what you want to talk about, Belinda, tell me now.”
“Not over the phone, Roger. I'll meet you at your apartment at 6:00.” She hung up before he could argue with her.
Belinda was having a difficult time concentrating on her work. She began to think about her relationship with Roger. She met him at a friend's wedding. She was the only one of her friends who came without a date or a husband. Roger asked her to dance. He was a nice enough fellow but very quiet, even reserved. They saw each other quite often after that. It was strictly a platonic relationship. Thinking about it now, she realized she had used him as an escort to parties and wherever it was a couples only get together. On Valentine's Day he kissed her for the first time as he slipped a ring on her finger and asked her to marry him.
She was so stunned, she could barely speak. “Roger,” she said, “I had no idea you were thinking about marriage. All this time I thought you and I were just friends.”
“We are friends but what better way to start a marriage. I am very fond of you Belinda.”
Belinda had no recollection of saying she would marry him but it did make sense. She would be 28 years old on her next birthday. She didn't feel about Roger the way Jamie felt about Mike, but maybe that would come in time.
“What a fool I have been!” she said aloud as she looked up and saw Roger standing in the doorway to her office.
“A fool to accept my proposal or a fool to call off our wedding?” As usual, Roger showed no emotion.
“Roger, do you love me?” Belinda asked.
“What kind of a question is that? I asked you to marry me, didn't I?”
“I don't remember you ever telling me you loved me and I know I never said it to you. Don't you think at least one of us should have said those words if we were planning to spend the rest of our lives together?”
“Belinda, you are being ridiculous. We are friends and companions, we aren't getting any younger, soon you will be too old to bear children, the kind of love you are talking about only happens in the movies.”
Belinda took the ring off her finger and handed it to him. “Roger, I want that kind of love. If I wanted a companion, I'd buy a dog.”
“I'm sorry you feel that way Belinda, I was going to tell you the good news on our wedding day, but I will tell you now, I have accepted a promotion in our Philadelphia office. You may want to reconsider your decision.”
“You weren't going to tell me this good news until after we were married and you expected me to be happy about moving? Roger, I love Camden Corners and I love my family. I would never be happy about moving to Philadelphia. I do wish you luck and hope you meet someone who will change your mind about love.”
“Good bye, Belinda.”
“Good bye, Roger.
Her assistant walked into the office. “Is everything okay, Belinda? Roger just stormed out of here. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was almost emotional.”
“Mandy, I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. The wedding is off. I'll be returning the lovely gift you gave me yesterday.”
“Halleluiah! Wait until I tell the other girls. Roger is not the man for you, Belinda. You can do much better than that cold fish.”
“I agree,” came a deep voice from the doorway. Alex Kelly was staring directly at Belinda's ring finger and smirking.
“Mr. Kelly, I'm so happy we agree about something. Mandy, this is Alex Kelly, we may be working on the restaurant project I was telling you about.”
“Mr. Kelly, I'm delighted to meet you. I'll leave you two alone,” Mandy walked out of the office closing the door behind her.
“Mandy, leave the door open please.”
“Mandy, leave the door closed please.”
“Stop issuing orders to my assistant, Mr. Kelly.”
“Don't you think we could dispense with the formality, Belinda? Please call me Alex. Where are we having dinner tonight?”
“You are the most exasperating man I have ever met. What makes you think I'd have dinner with you tonight or any night?”
“Because Lester P. Hemingway invited us. He said you would be choosing the restaurant, so I repeat, where are we having dinner tonight?”
She picked up a pencil off her desk and threw it in his direction. “What type of food do you like?”
“The feisty brunette type. Oh, you said type of food. Anything as long as it's steak.”
“The Merryweather has the best steak in town. Is that where you are staying?”
“Ernie made me a reservation there. I haven't checked in yet but I can always ask for two keys.”
“In case you lose one, I suppose.”
“I never thought of that. Maybe I should give you one for safe keeping.”
“You do realize I just broke off my engagement. I'm mourning my broken dreams.”
“They must have been nightmares with the dope I saw when I walked in the front door. What made you break it off today? It must have been an hour or so after we had coffee.”
“You'd love it if I said you were the reason.”
“Yes, I would. Am I the reason?”
“Let's just say I had my reasons and leave it at that, if you don't mind.”
“I mind, but I'll leave it alone. I'll see you later at The Merryweather. I think maybe I will ask for two keys. Just on the off chance that I am the reason.”
“Alex, has anyone ever accused you of being an egomaniac?”
“Just you,” he threw her a kiss as he walked out the door.
Mandy rushed in the office. “Belinda! He is beautiful. He is the reason you broke off with Roger, isn't he?”
“He wasn't the reason but he made me realize I wasn't in love with good old Roger after all,” Belinda said with a smile.
After accepting condolences and then congratulations from all of her co-workers, Belinda decided to call it a day. She wanted to tell her family and her bridesmaids about the wedding being called off. From the mail girl to the head of the firm, everyone seemed genuinely happy Belinda was not going to be Mrs. Roger Allen.
Her first visit was to her sister. “Jamie, I had no idea how many people thought Roger was wrong for me. I wonder why nobody said anything?”
“It's not anything Roger ever did. He was a decent guy, he just didn't show any feeling. Remember when we went to the ballgame and they honored the war veterans in song? Even Mike had a tear running down his cheek, but Roger didn't even blink. He just kept eating his hot dog. You and I were blubbering like crazy and he told you to stop the nonsense.”
“I don't remember that. I don't think I paid much attention to what he said or didn't say. Do you know he never told me he loved me. He doesn't believe in romantic love. He only wants companionship. I can't believe I was willing to settle for a loveless marriage.”
“At least you found out before you made a commitment. What made you decide against the marriage today? Did something happen?”
“More like someone happened. You know Dad asked me to give my opinion on the possibility of renovating the Penderghast place. Well, Lester's son knew a contractor and had him come to Camden Corners. Jamie, the man is the most exasperating human being I have ever met and the most gorgeous hunk I have ever seen. I realized if I could feel this way about someone after being with him for three minutes, I must not be in love with the man I was planning to marry. I knew I had to make a clean break.”
“Tell me about this hunk,” Jamie said catching her sister's excitement.
“His name is Alex Kelly, you will meet him tonight. Lester wants us all to meet for dinner at the Merryweather. Jamie, he suggested I take a key to his room. I can't tell you how tempted I am to take him up on the offer.”
“Belinda dear, as your older and wiser sister I should advise you against it, but I won't. You deserve to be appreciated for the lovely woman you are.”
“Thanks Jamie, you are so good for my ego. Would you come with me to break the news to Mother and Father?”
Walter and Grace weren't terribly upset to hear of the breakup. Their daughter's happiness was all that mattered. “I never did like that guy,” whispered Walter. Grace nodded her head in agreement.
The Henderson and Hemingway families were given a private room at The Merryweather. Lester had invited his sons and their entire families to join the party.
When they were all gathered together, he stood up. “I would like to make a toast to Lily Henderson who has lifted my spirits and made me realize my heart is still beating. I don't know how many years I have left on this earth, but they will be happy years since I will be spending them with my beautiful Lily.”
“Lester, don't be so melodramatic,” said Lily. “These young folks are hungry, be quiet and let them eat.”
Everyone at the table laughed. Belinda looked up at Alex who was sitting next to her. “My grandmother sometimes says whatever she happens to be thinking at the time.”
“That's a good way to be. Of course, some of us could get arrested for saying exactly what we are thinking,” said Alex as he winked at her.
Jamie caught her sister's eye and nodded her head in approval.
After dinner Alex asked Belinda if she would like to take a walk by the lake. They excused themselves and made their way through the sand to the water's edge.
“Alex, you know so much about what's been going on in my life, tell me something about you.”
“Not much to tell. I was in a relationship quite a bit like yours. We were friends who made the mistake of dating each other. After awhile it seemed only natural to talk about marriage. She wanted different things in life than I did. I was the one who wanted the white picket fence and a bunch of kids. She liked the nightlife and didn't want to give it up. We never did have an official breakup. We simply drifted away from each other. I met her on the street one day last month. She was sporting a sparkling diamond and was on the arm of an older dude who looked like he could give her what she wished for. I'm happy she found what she wanted and even happier we didn't make the biggest mistake of our lives.”
“I'm glad you didn't have your heart broken.”
Alex took hold of her hand as they walked and she didn't pull it away. “Tell me, how do you feel about white picket fences?
“I love picket fences, especially white ones.”
“I love children, especially when they come in bunches,” she laughed.
“Oh, I love bananas too.” They both started giggling. “This is the silliest conversation I have ever had.”
Alex couldn't hold back any longer he took her in his arms and kissed her.
Belinda couldn't remember when she had ever been kissed like that before. Certainly never by Roger. She couldn't break away from his arms. More to the point, she didn't want to. Something had been missing in her relationship with Roger. Not only did he never kiss her with any kind of passion, she never felt passion when she kissed him back.
Without letting her go, he took hold of her left hand. “Now will you tell me the reason you aren't wearing that ring anymore?”
“Because, I met a man who stirred up feelings in me that I didn't know I had. He made me realize I wasn't in love with Roger and I never would be.”
“Good answer.” Alex kissed her again. They walked back to the restaurant arm in arm and were greeted with smiling faces all around the table.
Alex was tempted to mention the spare key again, but thought he should give Belinda a little space. He was sure he had fallen in love with her the moment they met, but she needed some time to grieve for her broken romance. He hoped it wouldn't take too long.
The next morning, they met for breakfast. “I have restored several old houses and have learned a few tricks along the way. Maybe we could work together on this project and come up with a plan to present to Lester. He is a pretty sharp old guy. I think he knows a gem when he finds one.
“I agree Alex, I'd like to hear what you think.” She only hoped she would be able to concentrate with him standing so close to her.
“I told my grandmother I would pick her up this morning. She wants to show Mark Crowley that the old house doesn't have any ghosts in it. His father, Jack is meeting us there in twenty minutes.
“I'll meet you there, I'd like to have another look around. I have a few ideas and I need to see if they will work,” without thinking, he kissed her. They were acting like an old married couple already and he didn't even know her twenty four hours ago.
Lily was just like a child when she took Mark's hand and they went exploring in the old house. Mark was brave enough to go into the attic as long as Lily was by his side.
“Dad, you were right. There aren't any ghosts in here,” a disappointed Mark reported when he and Lily rejoined the others. “We did find some toys up there though. Old fashioned stuff. Miss Lily says there was a playroom just for the kids on the top floor. They weren't very good about picking up their toys, were they Miss Lily?”
“No they weren't, Mark. We didn't disturb them because they looked to be so fragile. Maybe we should have the girls from the antique shop come over and take a look at them. They probably belong in a museum.”
“Lily, my men won't disturb anything of value when they start their work. We have found many treasures in the old places we have restored. Sometimes it's difficult to tell if jewels or paintings left behind are the real thing.”
“I think I can spot the real thing when I see it and I think you and my granddaughter are very much the real thing.”
“Grandma, you're thinking out loud again,” Belinda said in a warning tone.
“Don't be silly, child. I am only telling you what I see. You and this young fellow are very much in love. You can't fool me, as I said, I know the real thing when I see it.”
“Are you two goin' to get mushy now?” said Mark with a pained expression on his face.
“You won't feel that way forever, Mark,” said Alex. “Not when the real thing comes along.”