Welcome back to Tuesday Tales. With Christmas Eve less than a week away, I’ll bet that, like me, you’re scrambling to get things ready. The decorations are up, the gifts bought and boxed or bagged, but the house still needs cleaning and i have the last of the groceries to buy, but I’m looking forward to the holidays and the arrival of 2018. May your Christmas, or whatever celebration you have at this time of year, be everything you want it to be.
This week, I am continuing with Same Time Next Year. After Twyla’s initial memory of seeing Michael for the first time, the dam bursts, letting out all the pain and sorrow she’s kept bottle up inside.
Twyla cried until she had no tears left. She wept for her innocence, her gullibility, and her years of loneliness. She shed tears for Ethan, William, her father, and even her mother. But most of all, her sobs were for herself and the life of lies she’d led to keep secrets and people’s memories sacred. Maybe once she finished this book, her opus, she would experience the catharsis she needed and find a way to forgive him and herself. Then, and only then, would she be able to lay the burden of lies and guilt aside and die in peace. This was why the Lord had spared her. She had unfinished business, and once she discovered the truth, as unpleasant as it might be, she would finally be able to rest.
Of course, it all depended on her sketchy memories and Michael. Mavis had said his sister would be here. Maybe she would have the answers Twyla needed. If he’d never gotten her letters … Why did she persist in hanging onto that tiny glimmer of hope?
She huffed out a breath and flipped onto her back as her conscience crawled out of its hiding place, putting an end to this pity party. Did she have the right to destroy others at the expense of her own peace of mind? Of course not. Once she finished this book, during edits—done well before she would send a single, solitary page to Caprice—she would disguise the characters so that none of the people who truly mattered to her and a few who didn’t, would see her, or themselves, in the story. She might even opt to write under a pseudonym, considering this book was way different than anything else she’d penned.
Her pillow soaked, she tossed it onto the floor, reaching for one of the other ones on the bed. That was the advantage of a king-size bed—there was lots of room to stretch out, lots of pillows to use, but what she wouldn’t give to be held in the arms of a man she loved and who loved her. After William had died, she’d had offers for dinners from single men in their social group, but memories of Michael held her back. She could’ve gone looking for him, but hadn’t. The reason was simple. She didn’t want to discover that she’d been right. That all she’d been was a summer fling, a notch on his belt.
Unable to sleep even though the storm was now nothing but a gentle rain, she got up and padded back to her desk. Settling in front of the computer, she continued where she’d left off.
If ever a man could be described as a god, he was that man. I stood there as mesmerized as a doe in the headlights. The words to the Four Seasons’ newest song ran through my head. Try as I might, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, and as far as the rest of me went, my stomach was doing flip-flops faster than the acrobat at the circus I’d gone to last month. He couldn’t be real, and yet, there he was. This was it—that Juliet first seeing Romeo across the room moment I’d dreamt of. Did I believe in love at first sight? What teenage girl, raised on the Disney fairytales of the day, didn’t?
As the minutes and hours crawled by, the crowds thinned. I’d been coming to The Captain’s Inn for most of my life, and yet suddenly the workings of the lock were of immense interests to me. He wasn’t muscular by any means, but the red serge jacket strained across his shoulders as he wound the chain around the wheel to open and close the canal doors. Tiny beads of perspiration dotted his brow.
Unable to do anything but watch him, I sighed as he pushed back his dark blue shako, as I later learned the hat with black leather peak and chin-strap was called, allowing strands of his dark auburn hair to slip out and plaster themselves to his forehead. The odd-looking, brimmed cap had a regimental design on the front of it, and the strangest looking tiny white-and-red pompom standing on end at the front of it, not in the center the way one would expect. It seemed to dip forward and back with every movement of his head. It looked funny, but the idea of laughing at him simply didn’t occur to me.
My gaze traced the single-breasted red tunic, dwelling on each of the eight brass buttons and white piping down the front. In contrast, the dark-blue collar was edged in white, matching the pointed cuffs trimmed with white braid that ended in a complex knot of some sort. The bottom of the tunic was slightly flared, closed by pleats decorated with white cloth at each side of the front and two large buttons. His dark blue pants were tight fitting, with a red welt down the outside seam. What a contrast to the picture Ethan had sent of himself in uniform.
In the afternoon’s heat, that uniform must’ve been hotter than hell, but he moved along doing his job as if he didn’t have a care in the world. The only sign he gave that he knew I was there was a quick glance my way every now and then. Hot and thirsty and aware my parents had to be wondering where I’d gotten to, I was about to leave to go back to the cabin when he saluted another guard and headed my way.
Held by the direct gaze of the most gorgeous deep blue eyes I had ever seen, I stood there as he approached, nervously glancing over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t heading toward someone behind me.
“Hi,” he said, smiling, displaying pearly white teeth. “I’m Michael Morrison. I haven’t seen you around before. I would never forget hair the color of flames like yours.”
I reddened. I hated my hair—no, hate wasn’t a strong enough word. I abhorred it, and no amount of pleading would convince Mother to let me dye it any other color.
Fearing my voice as well as my commonsense had deserted me, I smiled, closed mouthed to hide the hideous braces on my teeth—something else that would change come September.
“Twyla Lancaster. I’m staying at the inn with my mother. I come here each summer, but I’ve never seen you either.”
He laughed, the rich sound of it wrapping me like a warm cloak on a cold day.
“That’s probably because I’ve spent most of the last six summers at army camp—the first three as a cadet, the last three as a student at RMC—but if I’d had even the tiniest inkling that you would be here, I’d have come home.”
He was a smooth talker as mother would’ve said, but I was so flattered, it never occurred to me he could be just stringing me along.
“RMC?” I asked. I’d never heard the acronym before.
He’d said it as if it was supposed to impress me.
“The Royal Military College in Kingston. You obviously aren’t from around here. Judging by your accent, my guess would be you’re American. From New York?”
“New Jersey, actually.”
“Well, Jersey, I’ve got a twenty-minute break coming up. How would you like to join me for a soda?”
His gaze begged me to say yes. My knees twitched.
“They’ve got a small area at the back of the store, but if you’ve been here before, you know that.”
“I’d like that,” I managed to mumble.
Where was the femme fatale, blasé attitude I’d practiced? I tried again for that nonchalance I didn’t feel, hoping he wouldn’t see how pathetically needy I was.
“I’ve never seen the canal guards dressed like you are before,” I continued, trying to sound suave and sophisticated. I was failing miserably, and I knew it.
“The uniforms are replicas of those worn the year of Confederation. The damn thing’s hotter than hell and itches, but we only have to wear them today and on Sundays. Tomorrow, we’ll be back to our regular khaki shirts and pants.”
He eyed me up and down, as if trying to imprint my flowered sundress onto his mind.
“You look as cool as a cucumber. That green almost matches your eyes,” he said, his eyes filled with an appreciation I couldn’t miss as his gaze lingered on my curves as it I were a Hollywood star and not the short, slightly chubby girl I was. Pride was the only thing that kept me from swooning at his feet.
Twyla giggle out loud. Had she really been that easily impressed? How pathetic, but after months of living with parents who’d barely noticed she was alive, in the house with them, the attention—any attention—was flattering, feeding a hunger she hadn’t even known she’d had. But the signs that things wouldn’t move along smoothly had been there. She’d simply chosen to ignore them.
That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts on Tuesday Tales.