Monday, April 30, 2012
Reggie's True Love
Hyacinth and Dahlia couldn't have been more pleased with the design Jamison Bentley prepared for their new home. It was just exactly what they had envisioned. Their husbands were busy working along side Nick Rossi and the crew preparing the earth for the vines to be planted and left the house design and building to their wives. The foundation was being laid as the girls looked on. The Hightower brothers insisted that no corners be cut in anything they did and those instructions were being followed. Reggie Blackburn was a perfectionist himself and as head contractor, he was watching over the crew like a hawk.
Reggie was very polite and respectful to the sisters but they suspected something in his life had made him terribly sad. Reggie came highly recommended by Jamison and the girls trusted him enough to hire the man sight unseen. Jamison stopped by the site a couple of times a day. He was always smiling and the girls suspected his happiness was the result of his marriage to Caroline Watson.
Dahlia knew she was prying but decided to ask Jamison what was troubling Reggie. Jamison had known Reggie since he was born. He had grown up with Jamison's two boys. Reggie had fallen for a young lady by the name of Elena Malone. Jamison had never seen a young boy so devoted to a member of the opposite sex. His boys were more interested in teasing the girls in town than carrying their books home from school. Elena was a very pretty young girl and as she grew she became a real beauty. Jamison thought she was a rather spoiled and selfish little girl who was even more so as she grew older. Reggie was a popular fellow through his high school years. The boys liked him and most of the girls had a crush on him but he only had eyes for Elena. Reggie worked his way though college and asked Elena to be his wife. She accepted his proposal and a big wedding was planned for the second Saturday in September.
Reggie's friends all tried to dissuade him from marrying Elena so quickly.
“Reggie, you have been going to school non stop for years. Give yourself some time to enjoy your carefree days before settling down”
What they really meant was give yourself some time to get over Elena. Reggie wouldn't hear of it. He was going to marry Elena and that was final. Just three days before the wedding, Elena was sipping a soda at the drugstore when a handsome young fellow entered the store. He was drawn to the beauty sitting at the counter and came to sit next to her. He flashed a big bright smile at the girl and told her she was pretty enough to be on Broadway and he should know because his boss was none other than Nelson Grant, the famous producer. It didn't take Elena much time at all to rush home and pack her clothes and join this young man at the train station. She planned to send a telegram to Reggie when she arrived in New York but somehow never got around to it. Reggie was devastated. The soda jerk at the ice cream counter heard every word that transpired between the stranger and Elena and repeated it to Reggie. Reggie just knew Elena would be returning to him after she realized everything she ever wanted was right here in Gilford.
Jamison realized it had been close to a year since Reggie was jilted.
“That young man should be getting over his crush on that ungrateful girl by now.” he said to Dahlia.
Dahlia and Hyacinth felt sad for Reggie. There were plenty of nice girls in Camden Corners but if he was still pining away for this Elena person, he probably wouldn't be interested in any of them.
Just as Jamison was leaving, Josie McMillan drove up in Doc's buckboard. She waved to Nick and the Hightowers as they were doing their last check of the plots before they began planting the first of the grapevines. Josie was Julie McMillan's sister. She wasn't married and had just purchased a small cottage by the lake. Like Julie, who became a doctor in spite of the fact that there were very few female doctors, Josie ventured out on her own. Most girls her age who were not married lived with their parents in the houses they grew up in. Josie was not like other girls. Thanks to a mother and father who had raised their daughters to be their own person and not what society told them they should be. Josie knew construction had begun on the new house and was anxious to see how they were coming along. She loved her little cottage but it needed some repair and she was determined to learn all she could about construction and make the repairs herself if at all possible.
She couldn't help but notice the tall good looking fellow who seemed to be in control of the project. The twins gave Julie a hug and she commented on how much their tummies had grown since she saw them just a couple of weeks ago. She was introduced to Reggie and he was quite impressed with the fact that she was interested in the construction business. He offered to let her observe and possibly lend a hand.
“Keep in mind though, I don't allow any shoddy workmanship on my jobs.”
“Keep in mind” Josie replied “I don't allow any shoddy workmanship on my jobs either”.
He apologized immediately for his insensitive remark and decided it would be nice to have a female on the job to keep him in line. Besides, she wasn't that bad to look at.
After what seemed an eternity, the day the first planting of the grape plants had arrived. The precious cuttings Nick's father had sent from Italy had also arrived. Nick had received cuttings from various established vineyards in the state and as far away as California. He had treated them with tender loving care and gingerly handed a cutting to each of the Hightowers as well as to Lucinda and even little Cassandra. They each lovingly planted their cuttings as the Marino family, all of Reggie's crew and half the town looked on and cheered. Nick had hired some of the best workers he could find and the planting began in earnest. Harold and Howard worked alongside the men as well as Lucinda who was able to keep up with the best of the them. Dahlia and Hyacinth wanted to help but their husbands insisted they stay off their feet as much as possible. Everyone couldn't help but notice the Bloom sisters had really begun to blossom out.
The planting was finally done. There wasn't much to do in the vineyards except wait and watch until spring when the vines began to grow. Nick lent a hand to Reggie and the Hightower house was coming along nicely. Josie was learning more than she had anticipated and after working all day would return home to her little cottage and put in another full day of work. One Saturday afternoon Reggie let the crew leave early. They had been working non stop for many weeks. By the looks of the growing Hightower wives, the sooner the house was livable the better.
Reggie asked Josie how her place was coming and she admitted she had run into a snag or two but she was working out the problems. Reggie offered to accompany her home to look over her work and possibly offer some suggestions. Josie was grateful for the assistance and happily accepted the offer. Reggie was impressed with the work Josie had done. The cottage suited her perfectly. Reggie felt right at home in this little house by the lake. They sat on the back porch watching the water and talking like old friends. Before long the sun was going down and although the days were beginning to shorten, they realized it was getting late and they hadn't had any dinner. Josie insisted Reggie stay while she heated up the stew she had made that morning. They sipped wine and ate the stew with a loaf of bread her mother had baked and delivered earlier. Josie finally had to admit what she had been denying these last couple of months, she had fallen in love with Reggie Blackburn.
The next morning during services at St. Peter's Church, Vicar Will announced that the ladies auxiliary was auctioning off tickets to the play Saturday night at the Opera House.
“The name of the play is The Taming of the Shrew starring one of our neighbors from Gilford, Elena Malone. This play will be performed on Broadway soon. It says here Miss Malone is a rising Broadway star.” Jamison Bentley's ears perked up. Elena Malone, was the name of the girl who left Reggie at the altar. I wonder if he knows she will be in town.
He turned to Carolyn and whispered “She will be able to play the part of the shrew without even acting”.
Carolyn chuckled. Jamison had told her Reggie's sad story. Just at that moment, Reggie was walking down main street and noticed a playbill in the window of Nichol's General Store. Taming of the Shrew starring Elena Malone.
The theater's production company arrived in Camden Corners the following Tuesday. Josie had heard the story of Reggie and his broken heart and felt the need to torture herself by getting a look at the love of his life. She and a few of the ladies in town were a part of the welcoming committee for the troupe as they disembarked the train.
Miss Elena Malone paused on the top step and glanced through the crowd. She had heard Reggie was in Camden Corners and was sure he would be at the station to greet her. Josie looked up and held back a gasp. She had never seen a lovelier looking woman in her life. With her long dark hair and flashing blue eyes, she was a true beauty.
Reggie had forced himself to stay away from the train station. He wanted to see Elena when she wasn't surrounded by other people. The pain of her leaving was still in his heart. He planned to plead his case to her. He would never interfere with her desire for stardom and his love for her was strong enough for the two of them. He went about his business and looked around for Josie. He missed her when she wasn't there. She was a good kid and his men thought the world of her. She had a cute way of smiling at him when she finished a project he had given her. He would miss her when he moved to New York with Elena. He would miss Camden Corners too as the little town and its people had begun to grow on him. Just a touch of sadness came over him but that was ridiculous, in less than an hour he would be seeing his true love again and they would be together forever. Maybe, Vicar Will would be able to marry them this afternoon.
The troupe was staying at the Ritz and had taken over the entire hotel. Reggie announced his arrival exactly one hour later. The hotel clerk rang Elena's suite.
“Have him come up, Jasper, and direct him to the sitting room.” ordered Elena. “He should have been at the station to greet me so he can just sit and wait.”
Reggie sat on a very uncomfortable Louis XV upholstered chair which was not designed for anyone over 4 feet tall.
Jasper poked his head around the corner. “Miss Malone is powdering her nose and will be with you shortly Mr. Bluebeard.”
“It's Blackburn” Reggie called out as the little man disappeared around the corner again. Reggie could hear Elena's voice inside the other room. She was issuing orders left and right. One of the hotel maids who Reggie recognized from town ran out of the room in tears.
“I've been fired because there was a feather on the floor but that feather came from Miss Malone's boa. The room was sparkling clean when she arrived.”
Reggie assured the girl that he would talk to Miss Malone and she wouldn't lose her job. Next came the busboy shaking his head. His face was red as a beet.
“Miss Malone didn't like the way I opened her trunk. She is telling the hotel to withhold my pay for the day.”
Reggie could hear commotion going on inside the other room. Every few minutes another person would exit either crying or grumbling about Miss Elena Malone. She must be tired from her trip, I'm sure after she rests, she will be fine again.
Thirty minutes later, Jasper appeared again “Miss Malone will see you now.”
He ushered him into the room. There she was, the love of his life, sitting at the mirror. She glanced in his direction and turned around. If possible, she was more beautiful than he'd remembered. She stood and walked toward him.
“Reggie, darling, so good to see you. Fetch me my robe dear boy.”
Reggie looked around. All he saw was a flimsy gown with feathers all around the neck.
“Is this a robe?”
“Don't be a fool, Reggie. Of course it is.”
Elena grabbed the robe out of his hands in disgust. “Whatever brought you to this dingy little town, Reggie? You must have been more distraught over my leaving than I ever imagined.”
Reggie couldn't believe his ears. Was this shrew really the girl he had been pining away for? He looked into her eyes and saw nothing but coldness. Suddenly he had a vision of another face. A smiling face with sparkling eyes. A cute little laugh and bouncing blond hair. What a fool he had been.
“Elena, it has been good to see you again. Good luck with the play.”
He was out the door and running down the street as Elena looked out her window watching him vanish out of sight.
“He'll be back” she whispered to Jasper.
Somehow Jasper didn't think so.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Two and Two Make a Family
After a delightful evening filled with good food and good company, Caroline and Lucinda are about to retire for the night when they hear a sneeze in the hydrangea bushes under the porch railing. They discover two children hiding there.
“We mean no harm ma'am. We were just looking for any scraps of food you might be throwing away” said the little boy who couldn't have been much more than 9 years old.
“Come out of there children. Where did you come from and what are you doing hiding in the bushes?”
Along with the boy, a little girl around 6 stepped out. They were both filthy dirty and shivering although it was a warm summer evening. Caroline and Lucinda hustled them into the house. They didn't wait for an explanation but started filling the bathtubs with warm soapy water. Caroline guided the boy to one room and took the girl by the hand into the other. She had a stack of clothing that tenants had left behind. Caroline always laundered the items and placed them in a safe place in case their owners ever came back for them. She was able to find a pair of pajamas that she thought would fit the boy and Lucinda found a nightgown of Cassandras that should fit the girl just fine for the night.
The little girl was all but falling asleep in the warm water. Caroline washed her grimy hair, rinsed her off and wrapped her in a towel before putting on Cassandra's nightgown.
“What is your name, sweetheart?”
There was no reply. Only the two big eyes staring at her. By that time the boy had emerged from the tub, clean from head to toe. Caroline wasn't accustomed to little boys but she imagined that they usually didn't get themselves this clean.
“She doesn't talk” said the boy.
The women took the children into the kitchen and started warming up the leftovers from the evening meal. They both devoured the plates of food. Caroline shivered at the thought of how long it had been since they had eaten. After they had finished eating, the little girl was barely able to keep her eyes open. Lucinda carried her up the stairs to one of the guest rooms.
“No, I have to stay with my sister. She will wake up and be afraid if I'm not there.”
Lucinda said she would sit in the room with her until he came upstairs but he would need to stay and talk to Miss Caroline before he came up to bed. Cassandra brought her favorite doll into the room to help comfort the little girl. Lucinda was proud of her daughter. That doll was the last thing given to her by her Papa and it was very special to her. The little girl woke up and looked around for her brother.
“Your brother is downstairs and will be here soon. Cassandra and I will keep you company until he comes.”
Cassandra was amazed that the little girl didn't speak.
“My Mama and I lived in New York City in a big building next to my grandfather. But, I didn't know he was my grandfather. But, he died. But, we came to Camden Corners. Camden Corners is a magic place. You will see. If you stay here you will be able to talk again. I just know it. Do you like the park? There is a big park by the water. Mr. Nick took Mama and me there. Maybe he can take you too. We will have fun.”
Cassandra went on and on. Lucinda would have stopped the little chatterbox but the girl seemed to be hanging on every word. She thought she saw a little glimmer in the child's eyes. She couldn't help but wonder what had gone on in this little girl's life that caused her to be unable to speak. Meanwhile the boy was sitting at the kitchen table with Caroline.
He said “My name is Kenny and my sister's name is Rebecca but I call her Becky.”
Caroline fixed him a tall glass of milk and a plate of cookies as he told her how he and his sister ended up hiding beneath her hydrangea bushes.
“We lived in Portersville with our mama and papa. Mama always sang songs to Becky and me but one day she stopped singing. Papa said she was very sick and it was hard for her to talk. She would smile at us and give us hugs but she didn't talk to us anymore and finally she went to sleep and didn't wake up.
Papa was so sad that he went to see Mr. Benson to get some medicine. He would bring the medicine home in a big jug and drink from the jug until he fell asleep. Papa cried a lot and didn't talk to us anymore except to tell us to be quiet. Becky liked to sing the songs that Mama sang to us but Papa told her to stop that singing or she would end up dead like our mama. Becky stopped singing and stopped talking too. The doctor said Papa had too much medicine and he went to heaven to be with our mama.
The sheriff told us to gather our clothes that he was taking us to live with our Uncle Sven. Uncle Sven didn't have any children and told the sheriff to take us to the orphanage. He didn't want his brother's brats around him. He said his brother was a drunken fool who married a frail, sickly young thing and his offspring would turn out to be the same. The sheriff took us home with him that night and let us sleep in a big bed. He thought I was asleep but I heard him tell his wife that he was going to have to deliver us to the orphanage the next day. She said it was too bad we wouldn't be able to stay together.
I couldn't let Becky be alone without me. She would be so scared. After the sheriff and his wife went to sleep, I woke Becky up and we started walking toward town. Becky was very tired and we stopped near Mr. Poulson's dairy farm. We slept in the barn and then the next morning we climbed into the wagon Mr. Poulson was filling with milk bottles to deliver to the general stores in all the nearby towns. His last stop was Camden Corners and we got off the wagon here and hid in the bushes.
“We won't bother you anymore after tonight, Miss Caroline. I can't let my sister go to the orphanage by herself. We will be on our way tomorrow, I promise.”
Caroline's heart was breaking that this sweet child was going to take care of his sister.
“You and Becky will not be going to an orphanage. You can stay here in this house until we figure out what to do.”
Caroline knew what she was going to do but didn't want to make any promises until she talked it over with Oscar Crowley. Kenny started yawning. Caroline walked him upstairs and tucked him in next to his sister.
“He said his sister would be afraid if she woke up and he wasn't there.” Caroline said tearfully.
She was determined that these children would never know fear again. She and Lucinda said goodnight to Kenny and the sleeping Becky. Cassandra had fallen asleep at the foot of the bed and Lucinda carried her into her own bed.
The next morning, Jamison was surprised to find two little faces staring at him as he entered the kitchen.
“Who have we here?”
“My name is Kenny sir and this is my sister, Becky.”
Caroline pulled Jamison aside and told him what Kenny had told her the night before. Jamison had a worried look on his face and Caroline was afraid for a second that he was going to tell her she had to turn the children over to the authorities.
She was happy when he said “They can't be sent to an orphanage. How do you feel about a ready made family?”
Lucinda stayed with the children while Jamison drove the carriage to Portersville. They picked up Oscar Crowley on the way and because it was such a pretty day, Nettie came along for the ride. Oscar had known Judge Herman Blake for a long time. He knew he was an honest man and recommended they stop to see him as soon as they arrived in Portersville. The judge was interested in the matter. He mentioned that he knew there was a small house on the outskirts of town but had no idea two children lived in that house. Sheriff Billings is a fine old gentleman but his memory has been failing him recently. He sent his assistant to fetch the sheriff. When he arrived in the office, Judge Blake asked him about the children.
“I seem to remember a couple of small children coming to the house the other day. Yes, I don't know where they went though. They weren't there yesterday when the wife went to fetch them for breakfast. Maybe their uncle changed his mind and decided to take them in after all.”
The judge and his visitors rode out to talk with the children's Uncle Sven. He refused to open the door for them and told them if they bothered him again about those two rotten kids he'd greet them with his shotgun. Jamison had to hold Caroline back. He knew she was about to bop the old man on his head for saying such terrible things about those precious children.
The judge was having temporary custody papers drawn up. The adoption would be final in a couple of months. Caroline and Jamison were grateful to the judge for his help and would he mind doing them one more favor? Would he marry them that afternoon. Judge Blake said he would be delighted and with Oscar and Nettie as their witnesses, he pronounced them husband and wife.
The ride back home to Camden Corners was a joyous one. Oscar had packed a bottle of champagne in a satchel and they drank a toast to the happy couple.
“This has all happened so quickly I haven't even had a chance to tell Grace about finding Jamison again and now we are married with a brother and sister for her.”
“We will stop by the hardware store and pick her up on the way home.”
“This calls for a celebration!” said Nettie.
Grace was thrilled for her mother and had some news for her also. Not only was Caroline a new bride and a new mother, she was going to be a grandmother in just a few months.
Jamison and Caroline sat Kenny and Becky down on the sofa in the parlor while everyone was enjoying Caroline's lovely garden. Kenny couldn't believe his ears when he learned that he and Becky would be living with Mr. Jamison and Miss Caroline. He held Becky close and whispered that they would always be together now. Becky smiled and wrapped her arms around Caroline. Caroline wondered if life could get any better than this.
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.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Lucinda and Cassandra were walking hand in hand on a beautiful Sunday morning. The birds were chirping in the trees as they passed by on their way to services at Saint Peter's Church. Lucinda was thinking back to just a few weeks ago. She didn't know where she would find the money to pay the rent on their tiny apartment in the big city. Now she and Cassandra were living in a beautiful room in the loveliest town she had ever seen. She had friends and was making new ones each day. They entered the church and sat down in the pew. Both mother and daughter were kneeling in prayer and thanksgiving for the home and family they had found in Camden Corners.
Seated behind them and to the right was Nicola Rossi and the entire Marino family. Nick's heart skipped a beat when he looked up and noticed Lucinda and Cassandra sitting so close. He had only met Lucinda one time but the attraction to her was almost overwhelming.
After services, Lucinda thought it would be fun to take a walk by the beach. Cassandra was squealing with delight when they came upon a traveling carnival with a carousel, fortune tellers and games of chance. Nick, who had been waylaid by several of his friends finally caught up with them. Lucinda was happy to see a familiar face.
The three of them rode the carousel several times. Nick won a stuffed bear for Cassandra that was almost as big as she was.
As they strolled by the fortune teller, she asked if “The little family would like to know how many more children they would have? Madame DuPont will tell you for only five cents.”
Nick laughed while Lucinda's face turned bright red.
“It is almost time for dinner at my sister Rosa's house. Would you and Cassandra like to join us today?” asked Nick.
“Oh my goodness, we couldn't impose on your family without warning.”
“Are you kidding? Rosa would be insulted if you didn't come. Besides, I saw you in church and promised her I would bring you and Cassandra back before the bread finished baking.”
“I'm hungry, Mama. May we eat with Mr. Nick today?”
“Hey, you two are ganging up on me. I'll give in if you are sure it's alright with your sister.”
Lucinda was finding out what it was like to be a part of a big happy family. She was welcomed with open arms by every one of the Marinos. Nick's nieces took Cassandra by the hand directly to the playroom where there were more dolls and doll houses than Cassandra had ever seen. His nephew Tony brought out his camera that was never very far away and started taking photos of everyone.
“Nicola, show Lucinda your garden and the grapevines. She can see what a wonderful farmer you are and what a superb vintner you will be.”
“You'll have to forgive my sister. She exaggerates when it comes to her family. According to her we are all the best at anything we do, the smartest of people and the best looking specimens that have ever been created.”
Lucinda laughed. She loved this family already. Now she felt close to two families in Camden Corners and she liked that feeling. Lucinda was impressed with what Nick had planted. The grapevines were growing nicely. Not that she knew anything about grapevines or grapes. She tasted one and it was sweet and tangy at the same time. Nick told her the vines on the left were ready to be harvested and he would be beginning the process of making them into wine. His father was a vintner in Tuscany and he had been working the fields since he was a young boy. Ernesto came outside with a glasses filled with wine made from the grapes. Lucinda thought it tasted good but had nothing to compare it to. She had never tasted wine before since she and Paul never had enough money to buy any kind of spirits.
It was well into the evening when Lucinda was able to tear Cassandra away from her new friends and all the wonderful toys. Rosa and all the family hugged their visitors goodnight.
Nick walked them back to the boarding house. Mrs. Watson was sitting on the porch and offered to take Cassandra up to bed while Lucinda chatted with Nick. They sat on the porch swing. Nick took her hand in his and Lucinda pulled it away. She apologized and said she felt a disloyalty to her husband. She knew that was absurd but she couldn't help herself. Nick apologized himself for being so forward. He admitted he was very attracted to Lucinda but he was willing to accept friendship only if that was all she was able to give. He hoped it wouldn't be too long before she felt comfortable enough to open her heart to him. They said goodnight and Lucinda walked up the stairs to her room.
Mrs. Watson was just dimming the light as Lucinda walked in to see her daughter sleeping soundly. Mrs. Watson could tell by the worried look on Lucinda's face that something was not right.
“Oh Mrs. Watson, I don't know what I am going to do. I do like Nick and I think he likes me but I feel so guilty for all the wonderful things that have happened lately. Paul worked so hard and struggled through his life and now I am finding happiness without him.”
“My dear child” replied Mrs. Watson “Allow me to tell you my story of how my guilt drove me away from a man I truly loved.”
My mother and father were married for several years before I was born. They thought they would remain childless but my birth proved them wrong. Mother was rather fragile and my birth was difficult for her. From what I remember of her she was a very tender and loving woman. I was only 9 years old when she contracted pneumonia and passed away. My father was devastated by her death but did his best to raise his little girl.
When I was barely 16, he passed too. His best friend, Mr. George Watson had never married. He took me into his home as I had no other relatives. It was considered scandalous that a young girl was living in the home of a man without benefit of marriage and therefore, at the age of 16 I was married to a much older man. He had taken me in when I had no one else. He was kind and loving and although I wasn't in love with him, I loved him very much.
Grace was born two years later and on her third birthday, George was taken from us. Money was not a concern since we had been well taken care of for the rest of our lives. The two of us lived in this big old house all by ourselves. I loved being a mother to Grace but I felt something was missing in my life. I had the idea of turning our home into a boarding house and renting rooms out to travelers and as a temporary home for newcomers to Camden Corners.
Oscar Crowley arranged a meeting with a young architect friend of his from Gilford. I remember the day Jamison Bentley came into my life. He was young and very good looking. I felt myself blush when he tipped his hat to me. He seemed to know exactly what I had in mind for this house. He took notes and drew sketches and had a plan the next day. It was exactly what I had dreamed of and work was started the following week.
Jamison arranged for all the workers that were needed and the transformation had begun. He was here every day supervising and I knew in my heart that I was falling in love for the first time in my life. The work was finally finished and I was happy but also sad because I knew Jamison would be leaving to return to his home in Gilford. The day the house was completed he showed me all the rooms and we walked out into the garden where he had built the gazebo.
The sun was setting and there was a soft breeze blowing the sycamore tree when he took me in his arms and kissed me as I have never been kissed before. Or since, I might add. I found myself kissing him back and feeling that kiss down to my toes. He told me he loved me and had from the beginning. He said we would be married as soon as possible and he would adopt Grace and we would give her plenty of brothers and sisters. It all sounded so wonderful to me but then I remembered George. The guilt took over and I told Jamison that would not be possible. I didn't love him and he should go back to Gilford and forget we ever met. I ran into the house locking the door behind me and sobbed for what seemed to be an eternity.
Jamison wrote to me several times but I returned his letters unopened. Finally, the letters stopped but my memories of him and that kiss were still with me as they are to this day. One of my roomers left a copy of the Gilford paper in his room and there was a notice of the impending nuptials of Mr. Jamison Bentley and Miss Hillary Carson. This time I only sobbed for half of an eternity.
“Oh, Mrs. Watson. What a heartbreaking story.”
“You now know my deep, dark secret that even my daughter doesn't know. Please call me Caroline.”
“I'd like that, Caroline. I think the next time I see Mr. Nicola Rossi, I may be brazen and reach for his hand this time and hope he doesn't yank it away.”
“I don't think he will” Caroline said with a wink.
“Have you ever heard anything about Jamison Bentley through these years?”
“Only that he has two sons. His wife passed away a couple of years ago. I almost wrote to him when Oscar Crowley told me that but it seemed too soon and besides, I'm sure he has forgotten all about me by now.”
Lucinda doubted that but didn't say anything. She hugged Caroline and thanked her for confiding in her. The two women bid each other good night.
The next morning, Lucinda joined Hyacinth and Dahlia. The twins were planning the house that would be built on the property.
“What you need is an architect and I think I know where to find one” said a smiling Lucinda.
“Let's check with Oscar Crowley. He will know where to find Mr. Jamison Bentley of Gilford.”