With apologies for another Betwixt' chapter for any of the generous (and patient!) readers and reviewers of 'The Land of Heart's Desire'.
In what has been a difficult week personally, with the passing of a dear friend, here is refuge and solace in these stories and in this community.
I thank each and every one of you, reviewers and readers alike, and particularly my dedicated long-term and unfailingly supportive reviewers. I am still very behind in paying
forward your multitude kindnesses, and I apologise sincerely. Thank you also to my fabulous beta reader who has assisted me again in helping to drag this over the line!
I thank everyone too so very much, in reviews, reads and PM's, who was so supportive of my first M effort x
My friend would have been so supportive of these endeavours; she would have been the first to log on and follow, and would have been her very own cheer section.
To my everlasting regret I was too shy in telling her and then too late to be able to.
So this is to my lovely Ms C, who loved to read, who loved to discuss, who loved a good cry over a good story, but who also loved a happy ending xxx
'Since this was written and needs must be'
Their industrious exploration of the attic at Ingleside has unearthed a curious mix of both trash and treasure; promising photographs they pile reverently for perusal downstairs; assorted letters, invitations and correspondence and a few more mildly hysterical old local newspaper editions; some medical ledgers; a collection of mouldering exercise books featuring little stories and poems; several old-style handwritten recipe books; a diary of one Bertha Marilla Blythe of indeterminate age Anne leaps upon with initial alacrity that soon settles into a troubled wariness; endless church circulars; an inordinate series of bills and receipts; more books and school readers to fill another wall-to-wall shelf downstairs; and piles and piles of papers that threaten to disintegrate as soon as they look in their direction.
"There's nothing here," Anne announces despondently, having only half-heartedly looked into the last box and then sat back on her heels, wiping her forehead with the back of her wrist. "Nothing on Shirley Blythe, apart from the details your dad wrote about his war service downstairs. And certainly nothing that refers to Kit."
David pulls himself up to his full height, almost brushing the crossbeams of the attic with his curls grown wild and wayward in the heat, and places dusty hands on slim hips.
"We probably wouldn't ever find anything anyway. It's not as if there's going to be a neon sign here proclaiming the way to the details of forbidden lovers from last century. That sort of thing isn't usually advertised in Glen Notes."
"You think… they were already lovers?" Anne questions, perturbed frown line in place, and David inwardly groans to himself for possibly the twenty fifth time.
He fears there has already been far too much talk about sex today as it is. And kissing. His father and her mother he can currently not bear to think about. Gillian's summer thus far, or whatever part of it he has reluctantly and stupidly clicked on when checking Facebook and Instagram, seems to consist of her posing provocatively with huge swathes of friends in a series of increasingly skimpy clothing. Before they had come up to the attic Anne had gone to the bathroom and he had idly checked the Whitman for any more clandestine letters and had thumbed, incredulous, through a few nigh pornographic poems, and now can't get some choice phrases such as 'Singing the muscular urge and the blending…' or 'the hungry gnaw that eats me night and day' * out of his beleaguered, frazzled, hormonal brain. Let alone which similar section Anne had possibly been reading when he had come downstairs to see her jump like a startled rabbit. And now that he has even voiced thoughts about kissing Anne there seems to be nothing else he can contemplate when looking at her, particularly when the stifling, still air up here has caused her thin cotton dress to form to her slim body in a way that is possibly illegal in some parts of the world.
He lets out a breath that is in every way a frustrated comment on his present circumstances.
"I think…" he tries to tread carefully, "that they had been through a war. I don't know if they thought they might even meet up at the end of it- I don't think Shirley thought that, anyway. That he would even survive it. And he very nearly didn't. So perhaps they had to make the most of what little time they had…" He is aware of the irony concerning their parents, but it remains unexpressed. He is even, further, aware that he has known this girl for a day and now hardly knows what the summer might be like for him without her and certainly would rather not find out. How long are they even here for? In the Glen, let alone on the Island? He feels the pressure on his chest at the thought of not seeing her, and his fractiousness at being indoors all day is heightened by the mild absurdity of them wasting what remains of this glorious afternoon spent instead in sorting through one hundred year old heirlooms in his attic.
Anne's look is thoughtful now, if not pensive; the mystery really matters to her, he is fast realising, and he would do anything to help solve it for her but they cannot ring his father and they have no other leads. Flight Commander Shirley Blythe was a brave and highly decorated pilot who would indeed have come back from the war to encounter every fawning female between the ages of fifteen and fifty; David can't imagine the torture of enduring that, knowing he could never have the one he really loved. It seemed as if Kit loved him in return… did societal pressures force her into a marriage, as Shirley almost wills? Did she fill up her own family tree with children, and her children's children, whilst the image of Shirley Blythe dangles on their Blythe tree downstairs; alone; cast adrift? And what of all that talk of prison and Hell? Did Shirley mean in terms of adultery, then or in the future?
The questions are pointless, now, at any rate.
"Let's take anything useful downstairs," he finally determines, and they clamber down with a vastly reduced number of boxes, accompanied by the disconcerting tang of mildew, dust and sweat, which seems to cling to them.
"Will your dad mind all this stuff being down here?"
"Hardly. You just watch him try to resist going through it himself."
She smiles and glances down at the letter, still resting on the table; temptation or taunt? It is halfway to six pm and he is not only filthy but famished and not a little fed up. Should he suggest dinner out somewhere? Is that too forward? Or order in pizzas? Go out and catch a movie? All of those things have date stamped all over them, and he is unsure how that knowledge would be received, and even if he wants that to be his intention. But he must suggest something. Something where they weren't fourth cousins on the family tree, or even sleuths trying to puzzle out a great family secret. But just a guy and a girl.
He is interrupted by the ringtone on his phone. He tries to answer it before she catches on but her surprised smile shows that she recognises the tune.
"Anne.. I had better get this. Excuse me."
It is Max, and as his excitable spiel starts to unwind like a spinning top revolving, it is all David can do to not reach down the phone and kiss him.
"That sounds great. We'll be there. See you around eight."
"Dave? We're? What the?"
"Later!" he laughs despite himself.
As he turns back to her she is all smiling grey eyes wide on him.
"'Nature Boy'?" she asks.
He blushes faintly. "You like Bowie?"
"I guess so… I don't really know a lot of his stuff. But my mom really likes Nat King Cole. He did Nature Boy first, actually."
"But you like David Bowie?"
"Well, sure…" he hedges, thinking that, yet again, he is gabbling confessions to her, like a stream overflowing the riverbank, when, really, he confides in very few. But she seems to be a truth serum to him.
"My ma was the real Bowie fan…" he explains. "During her cancer treatment at one stage I was home from Redmond, and her phone died and I gave her mine for a few days… we didn't want her to be without a way to contact us if she was too weak to get to the landline… Anyway, she changes my ringtone and half my settings. Posts one or two insane things on Facebook posing as me… and, well, when I realised what she had done… well, I couldn't change the Bowie. It was one of her favourite songs. I think it reminded her a bit of Dad…"
Anne is giving him that look of hers… soft and knowing and lovely, and it makes his throat throb.
"That's a very sweet story."
"Yeah, well… my ma was like that. Pretty irreverent. And I think she completely named me David because of Bowie, you know."
Anne's laugh is warm. "There was a David Blythe, though… right at the very top of the tree. A doctor, too, here in Glen St Mary."
"Yes, I know… Dad thinks that's whom I'm named after."
"OK. Let him have that."
"Yeah, guess so." His sad smile flashes.
They stand awkwardly. He glances inadvertently at the copy of Whitman on the table and her eyes follow his gesture, and when hazel flashes back to grey the green shines very bright against the new tint to her cheeks and he knows she might have read some choice phrases herself.
'The mystic deliria, the madness amorous…' *
"Ah… that was my mate Max on the phone," David offers instead. "Also my, er, cousin. First cousin that is, so no relation of yours, and no need to look anything up on any tree. Max Meredith. Ma's brother's son."
Anne smiles hugely. "Michael Meredith had a Max?"
"Yeah. Sort of like the Kardashians. There's Max; he's close to me in age and in the middle. He has an older sister Megan and a younger sister, ah, Madison, but mostly we call her Maddie."
Anne is still grinning. "Far be it for me to throw some shade at a little alliteration."
David thrusts his hands into his pockets. "So I was wondering if you might want to meet them? Max and Maddie that is. Meg is off with her boyfriend down in New England, I think. They met at Redmond and have been together forever. But there's a house party on at the place of another of our friends, and the others will be there."
It was a casual enough invitation to his ears; casual enough for a distant relative he only met yesterday. Perhaps there was something in his tone that gave the words more meaning; there was definitely nothing casual about her response.
"Oh… that's… wow. That sounds really, um, fun. It would be nice to meet some of your Merediths… but I…"
"Hey, Anne," he holds up his hands in surrender. "No pressure! Really. You've probably met all the assorted townsfolk you want to meet in twenty-four hours…"
"No! that's not it! I just… I look a mess. I'm covered in dust. I'm not fit to be seen and I… I can't go back to change."
Her face has reddened appropriately, and he shoves his hands back into his pockets yet again, not trusting they won't reach to wipe that smudge on her cheek and declare her a little perfect as she is.
"Well, I'm absolutely needing a shower or I won't be fit to be seen either, I can tell you that much. You could sponge out your dress and I can shove it in the dryer while you have a shower yourself. We have three showers in this house so we're pretty covered. I believe you've seen one of them already…" he grins. "I'll order us a pizza and then we'll head out around eight. We can text the parents to let them know, and I can drop you back to the hotel… well… whenever."
There. Perfectly casual.
She gnaws her bottom lip. "Do you have a hair dryer? It's just that my hair goes a bit mad if I don't dry it properly. No one is wanting to see that."
He bites back another grin. So there was a slight curl situation happening for her, too. He wouldn't mind seeing that, truth be known, but he is trying to encourage her to come, not have her screaming for the hills.
"Well, personally…" he smiles wryly, raking his long fingers through his own hair, "I find that excess hot air on my follicles is somewhat counter productive to the desired result. But I'm sure I can find Ma's old one for you."
He waits downstairs for her and tidies halfheartedly. His earlier text to his father explaining their whereabouts tonight remains unanswered, and he rolls his eyes. They have followed his plan to the letter; he feels human again and boyishly excited to be escaping the house; he does not want to think that this feeling has anything to do with her. By mutual decree they are going to leave the letter safeguarded in the Whitman and tucked back on the shelf, till such time as they can both sit down with his father and obtain some answers. So he is looking over the letter one more time, thinking what he would have done if he was bereft Shirley Blythe, loving someone so much he feels the best way to show this is to let them go… that love, for him, was 'feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!' **
That is not what it is?
Something startles those hazel eyes wide.
Oh God. You're kidding.
He reads the lines again and again, and then the entire thing, again. But it is there; hidden between the lines; submerged just beneath the waves and yet proclaimed as brightly as if a flare across the water.
'To stand up beside you someday and hold my peace while you marry someone else? I can't even bear the thought, let alone the reality.' ***
To stand up beside you. At your wedding. To someone else.
To stand up beside you someday is what a friend, a best male friend, does when a guy is getting married.
It is what a Best Man does when his best friend gets married.
Was it possible for a woman to be a Best Man? A Best Woman? A Best Mate? It happened now, of course. But he didn't need to consult his father to know it wouldn't have happened in 1919.
So then Kit was a… man?
And Shirley Blythe was … gay?
And now he is scanning back over the lines… of the tortured proclamations made clear; of the love and longing and hopelessness made understood…
'It is too hard. I can't come home knowing that you can never really be mine. Would you, if such a thing were possible?' ***
'To see you every day - so near and still so hopeless?' ***
'To stand up beside you someday and hold my peace while you marry someone else?' ***
'This way, no one will ever find out and you'll never have to worry about prison or Hell or any of it ever again.' ***
Oh, Jesus… he breathes. What were the homosexuality laws last century? Archaic; that's all he knew. Hard labour. Oscar Wilde and later, people like Alan Turing. Jesus. Two gay blokes in the Glen after the first war. Jesus.
Shirley Blythe, dangling alone on the family tree.
'I'm sorry… if this is the new world, there isn't much in it for us, is there?' ***
David expels the breath he has been holding. Poor, poor Shirley Blythe. Poor Kit. He fought a war and helped defend the Empire and nearly died and yet they would still throw him in jail for loving a man.
David has friends who are gay; at Redmond, certainly. Probably here at school too, though if they were they had still kept that to themselves. He has even carefully and considerately extracted himself from a few same gender propositions over the years; his looks and demeanour have always attracted a little notice, from either sex it would seem… Suddenly his own world is looking much rosier; dare he say it, easier. He can handle the MCAT. He can share stories of his mother. He can cope with seeing a few photos of an old girlfriend. He can certainly worry less about his not-so-lonely father. He can go to a house party with his fourth cousin and not have it mean anything or have it mean everything and the world will keep revolving. He can look at Anne Ford and think about kissing her.
Oh God… Anne.
Anne would freak out about this. Anne would march them back up to the attic and bury them in a fruitless search for not a Katherine but perhaps a Christopher… and they would never get out of here. And they would never cozy up on a couch tonight together or have a slow dance to some song together or hold hands together or stare out at the sea together or do all the things that Shirley Blythe and Kit could never do.
He would show her, tell her, tomorrow. The past could wait till then.
And if he is wavering, she makes the decision for him; he is folding the letter back up; he is shoving it carefully into an unseen page in the Whitman and then back to its place on the shelf as she descends the stairs; fresh as a daisy and pretty as a peony and smelling newly of lilies.
He swallows carefully.
"So, ready for an adventure to Four Winds, Anne Ford?" he greets her.
My mate doesn't live in the Glen. He's in Four Winds. Home to your summer house and a stone's throw from the lighthouse too. If you are very good I'll even show you the infamous home of Captain Jim your family saved. As long as you don't charge me admission."
He catches her scowl which may be Ford but is also a little Blythe, and deftly dodges her thwack on the arm. He knows her smile as they head off isn't nearly as affronted as she tries to make it. And when he looks down on her intently those grey eyes that are very Ford but perhaps something else again look back to him, and he feels that even their mutual great great Uncle Shirley couldn't help, in this moment, being a little pleased for them.
Anne feels the warm, reassuring pressure of his wide hand at the small of her back steering her through the crush of the crowd; people either side of the Four Winds harbour obviously don't see many parties or else this Jake MacAllister is an uncommonly accomplished host. Everywhere there seems to be grinning and good cheer, and a fair percentage of this is directed at David, who is frequently waylaid by fellow locals sharing excited greetings, much in the way of groupies at a rock concert. Anne can't decide if this annoys her or not; whether she is pleased to be a satellite within orbit of his popularity or whether his reflected sunlight is too piercing for her senses and her own ego.
Soon these musings won't matter; David indicates a lookalike boy and girl with black hair and arresting dark blue eyes, and there is a delighted squeal from the girl and a very familiar grin from her comrade.
"We thought you weren't going to make it, you dog!" the girl hugs him enthusiastically. "We haven't heard from you for days!"
"I'm sure you've survived, Mads," he deadpans, turning to fist-pump the guy.
"Anne, these are my cousins, Maddy and Max. Guys, this is my friend Anne from Toronto."
Two pairs of blue eyes turn to regard her interestedly, though Max Meredith is the first to recover himself, offering a likewise large, tanned hand.
"Hi, Anne. Nice to meet you."
"And you, Max."
"Hi, I'm Maddie!" the girl adds unnecessarily but with immediate good humour and a winning smile. "How do you know David?"
"We met yesterday," he interrupts dryly. "She was trying to steal my tree in the Valley."
Anne turns to him with an arched brow and grey eyes flashing green, knowing his teasing is a test.
"My mom and I are holidaying on the Island," she explains dutifully, with her own wide smile. "I have relatives from here, though that was ages and ages ago. Although it turns out I'm distantly related to David, though I hope you won't hold it against me."
Max's laugh is quick and delighted, and David grins appreciatively beside her.
"Well, Anne, we're all related to David, so only sympathy for you there. Though if you're from Toronto it means you're not related to us, so better and better."
Max Meredith gives a smile that could be silky if his twinkling eyes didn't betray him, and his sister links her arm companionably through Anne's and directs them towards the kitchen for some drinks.
"Word is about your Dad has made a new friend as well…" Anne hears Max begin speculatively behind them.
"Yes, and that would be Anne's mom," David replies, and she can only imagine the warning glare he gives to his cousin on her behalf, but by the time she meets his eyes again he winks at her, and that bird in her belly begins to flutter again.
David stays close to her all evening, ensuring her underage-ness is not tarnished by any actual alcohol passing her lips, which would be condescending in the extreme only he chivalrously sticks to soda himself, and only relinquishes her when Maddie whispers all the gossip to her regarding any eligible locals, dragging her off to introduce her to some of them, or Max the would-be musician pulls her up from the couch they have all sunk into for an impromptu air guitar challenge.
"So… having fun yet?" David shouts into her ear above the music, cheekily invoking his greeting earlier in the day.
"Want to ditch and go see some local attractions?"
She is torn, thinking of the surprisingly good time she is having in the company of those whom, three days ago, she did not expect to tolerate, all so different from her pretentious Toronto crowd. And then she is unable to resist the gleam in his hazel eyes, which is part challenge and part promise.
The indecision does not last very long.
"Sure!" she gulps.
David makes their apologies, giving garbled half truths about big sightseeing in store and needing to get her back to her hotel, whilst Max waves from the corner where he is engaged in earnest talk with another friend and Maddie keys her number into Anne's phone with a firm command to have her ring first thing tomorrow so they can arrange their own girl-friendly sightseeing. And then David is waving to Jake their goodbyes, and Anne pretends she doesn't see the host's grinning thumbs up on her periphery, and they are out the door and down the road and then there is nothing before them but a smattering of houses and the occasional streetlight and the red sandstone cliffs and the dark and the night and the sea.
"It's not that far to walk to the light, if you're up for it," David offers with a careful casualness, to Anne's ears at least.
"Oh, no, I'd love to… it seems a travesty I have been here three whole days and not seen it yet," she laughs easily.
"Has it only been three days? It feels like forever."
"In a good way, of course!" he backpedals quickly. "I only mean that… well, you seem to belong here." The last is offered with a darting look back to her and a voice that has lowered as if heading underground.
Anne can make no adequate reply, and is relieved the night has swallowed her blush.
"Ah… thank you for taking me to the party…" she offers herself, a little desperately.
"Thank you for coming."
"Well, thank you for thinking of… argh!" her words are lost in her surprise as her foot slides on the slippery red gravel heading down the hill and she nearly ends up greeting the road with her posterior, but for David's quick reflexes as he grabs her arms before she goes down.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah," she breathes heavily. "Um… thanks. Stupid ankle…"
"Have you hurt it?"
"No. It just is a little weak, that's all. Sometimes it just throbs for no reason, as if I've broken it and can't remember."
"No – and that's the stupid part. I can't remember doing anything to it at all."
He grins, relinquishing his hold of her arms.
"We're a bit of a pair, aren't we, Anne Ford? Your ankle and my scar?"
She laughs more uneasily now, still a little embarrassed. "Practically the walking wounded."
"Well, so that you won't live up to that part… here." He reaches for her hand and takes it securely in his own, his brown hand dwarfing hers, and the warmth shoots through her, chasing along her veins and hurtling headlong towards her heart. "I'll steady you."
Her response is strangled in her throat; infact it is caught somewhere in her chest. Yet other body parts would answer him more succinctly; her fingers thread with his as of their own accord and his hold tightens ever so slightly.
They resume walking, more slowly now, enough for her to properly take in the vista dipping down before them.
She can feel him watching her reactions carefully.
"It gets me every time."
Anne nods. "It feels wilder here." Like 'the night winds are beginning their wild dances' **** she thinks, but does not say. "Less tamed and more… more… unknown and unknowable. It's so breathtaking." She doesn't see her grey eyes large and shining in her pale face.
"Yes. It is." His voice floating across to her is low and throaty… practically a growl.
The cool breeze off the ocean stirs her hair, and ruffles his own, and then he stops and turns her.
"Do you see that little white house up there? The one with the light on?"
She squints in the gloom. "Yes, I think so."
"There's your House of Dreams, Anne."
"Pardon?" she smiles confusedly.
"Oh. Um, that's just what we call it, in our family. Your summer house. We have insane names for local things that have been passed down. The valley you came to yesterday has always been known as Rainbow Valley, for instance. And the summer house is the House of Dreams. Don't ask me to explain this whimsical stuff," he grins good naturedly.
Anne stares up reverently, to 'the little white house nestled against a big, whispering fir-wood,' *****looking for all the world like a 'creamy sea-shell stranded on the harbour shore.' ****"The House of Dreams…" she breathes. "Do you think it was, for the people who have lived there?"
She thinks of the Fords, down through the years, beginning with Owen and Leslie. She thinks of Owen's grandfather The Schoolmaster, who built it for his bride, when he only had love and faith and haunted dreams to sustain him.
David chuckles at her earnestness. "Who knows? I guess it would have to be, with those views. Though I think your grandad's real estate agent has marketed it more along the lines of Little Jewel in the Crown of the Gulf."
Her look back to him is duly horrified, and he laughs delightedly.
"Who do you think named it? John Selywn and Persis?"
He shrugs broad shoulders. "Possibly. That would make sense."
She knows she is a little transfixed, but can't pull away.
David follows her gaze back up to the snug white house and then looks back to her, smiling fondly.
"C'mon, Anne Ford…" he tugs at her hand still in his. "I vow to get you to your House of Dreams. But in the meantime, To the Lighthouse."
The Four Winds light, mystical and magical in her mind's eye, is both as magnificent as she has imagined and yet as startlingly ordinary as she has feared. It gleams starkly white with its darker trim; a monolith rising out of the spur of sandstone cliff; ****** a sentinel to a seafaring history gone but not yet forgotten. Her family has seen to that; for the first time she is truly proud of their efforts, properly now understanding them herself, however misinterpreted and maligned by others; her grandfather Tom and her father Alex; Fords safeguarding a legacy that they helped write so that everyone could remember.
They walk around the broad base, her hand still in his, and stare out to the silvery sand shore of the bar, and the other side of the channel with its long, curving beach of red cliffs, rising steeply from the pebbled coves. It was a shore that knew the mystery of storm and star.****** David is quiet as she tries to process the play of light on the water; the stretch of a pale half moon over the vast, inky darkness of the sea; the wind which breaks the sea's surface into long, silvery ripples, and sends sheeny shadows flying out across it, from every point and headland, like transparent wings. ******
"I think I want to be a lighthouse keeper when I grow up," Anne finally manages, in a voice halfway between shudder and sigh.
David turns to her, the light catching the warm flash of his eyes. "You wouldn't be lonely?" he asks, his smile wide and gentle on her, his hand unable to help the squeeze to hers.
"I'd have a dog. Or a cat," she replies airily.
"Sure," he agrees indulgently.
She sees his look to her, and feels his thumb brush across hers, and something ancient and powerful wants him to reel her in, locking his arms around her, answering this call she hasn't realised she had been making to him since their meeting under the oak; drumming, thrumming, beating. He is a breath away from doing it too; she slips from his grasp, eel-like and suddenly elusive, coyly doubling back to the proud brass plaque by the doorway; the proclamation of 'Ford generosity and local community spirit working together to safeguard the light and its history for future generations.' Anne traces pale fingers thoughtfully over the words, and particularly over the name of benefactor A T Ford; her vague shadow comes to mingle with David's as he stands behind her and they both stare at the dedication.
"It was kind and well meaning for them to do it, your dad and grandad," his voice threads through the night towards her. "It was crumbling and rotting from the inside. Another year or two and there'd be nothing original left to save. It had been abandoned for decades. Some local volunteers had tried to maintain it as best they could, but it needed money, and fast. It was a shame we couldn't have raised the money locally, but it would have taken us years."
Anne swallows with difficulty. "We were so burned for it, though. My dad was burned for it. He never come back to the Island after. He never showed me all this…" she flickers a glance around her, and her voice catches.
"Is it not enough that you're seeing it with me now?" the low voice behind her breathes.
"Yes…" she gulps, her face flooding with color. "Do you think we can see inside it, though?" she diverts, smiling shyly, and moves from the heat of his words, trying the front door, rattling it determinedly.
He has stepped away, hands deep in pockets, and lounges now laconically by the entranceway.
"Sure you can see inside, Miss Ford. Tours twice daily, eleven and three."
"That's not what I mean…"
"I know that's not what you mean…" his smile flashes, but his eyes are shaded. "I don't fancy writing convicted for breaking and entering on my medical school applications, thank you."
"Where's your sense of adventure, Gerald Blythe?"
His hazel eyes narrow both at the challenge and the tease.
"Right then, Rapunzel. Stand aside, and I'll get you into your damned tower."
She watches as David tries every lower opening and every window lock; he passes large hands over the outer building as if feeling for clues; he jogs out of sight of her around the entire perimeter. He is gone for ages.
"David?" she bleats several times, ineffectually, her words carried off by the wind.
Finally, there is a scuffling from inside, and his curly head appears through the glass at the top of the door. His very satisfied grin is rather magnificent.
"David! You did it! I can't believe it!" she is appropriately incredulous.
"A piece of cake, worryingly," his voice is muffled. "Get your grandad onto better security, would you?"
"David! Let me in!" she is shaking the door off its hinges in excitement.
"What's the password?"
"Oh, you're kidding me!"
"You wish I was!"
"Oh, God, I can't believe this! Please!"
"Wrong track, Miss Ford."
"Um… bibbity bobbity boo?"
He laughs at her delightedly through the door. "Closer."
"David! Come on! Um… Open Sesame?"
"Um… I Am Sherlocked?"
His dark brows fly up. "Oh, that's very good. Full points there. But no. Think, Ford, think! Have a bit of faith here."
It is a clue, and she glowers at him through the glass. Faith? What?
"Just believe me, Anne…" he sings out from behind his barricade. "You know you want to…"
Oh, damn him!
"I Want to Believe!" she flares, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
There is a chuckle, and then locks clicking and the definite sliding of deadbolts. Finally, the last lock, and then he is swinging the door open, grin unrepentant, hazel eyes alight with laughter.
"There, was that so hard?" he smirks.
Their footsteps sound loudly as David follows her, having shut the door carefully behind him, still brushing himself off from his commando-style crawl through the one barely open lower window round the other side, having dragged over a rock to stand on in order to haul himself up and through and then jumping down to fear he has tripped an invisible alarm. But then reminding himself, with a breath, this is the realm of Four Winds, PEI, and relaxing enough to pace quietly through the surprisingly spacious lower floor before meeting her at the door. He can't remember the last time he was in here; it is a place that locals loved long ago, now ironically the realm of camera-toting tourists and the odd visitor on a Life-book-inspired literary pilgrimage. But the age-old allure of the place reverberates; the heavy-booted shuffle of Captain Jim Boyd as he went about his solitary business almost echoes in their ears; as does the image of the quiet camaraderie of nights before a very different hearth in a most unusual home.
Anne is made so lovely by amazed, wondering eyes partially hidden by a russet glimmer of hair as she looks around, agog, that its all he can do to redirect his own eyes – and his thoughts – back to the intriguing artefacts in glass cabinets – a curious mix of curios – and the information and photographs displayed in the foyer. The little gift shop is shrouded in darkness but there is a soft dim light that illuminates the history of the light and the inevitable mention of Captain Jim, Owen Ford and the Life-book. They stand side-by-side reading what they mostly know; Anne turns to him, her brow delightfully arched, repeating a phrase he has only just read himself.
"'Captain Jim and Owen Ford were introduced by their mutual friends, Dr Gilbert Blythe and his wife Anne, who were longtime and beloved residents of the local area, first in Four Winds and later Glen St Mary', she grins at him.
"Yeah, we must have paid the Historical Society for that one." He appears nonplussed but is secretly pleased by the acknowledgement.
"So the Life-book may not have come about except for a Blythe or two."
"We all have our little part to play…" he sighs, smiling beatifically.
"Gilbert was another Blythe doctor? Because your ancestor Jem was a doctor too… and I think a sister of his and Rilla's was as well." *******
"Yep…" he replies mournfully. "And my grandpa James in the day. So, you know, no pressure there."
There is an entire section dedicated to the lighthouse keepers themselves and, on occasion, their accompanying families, and of course a very generous panel on the ubiquitous Jim; the fond description of him from the Life-book of 'a tall, somewhat stooped figure, yet suggestive of great strength and endurance; a clean-shaven face deeply lined and bronzed; a thick mane of iron-grey hair falling quite to his shoulders, and a pair of remarkably blue, deep-set eyes, which sometimes twinkled and sometimes dreamed, and sometimes looked out seaward with a wistful quest in them, as of one seeking something precious and lost.' ********
The large photo is the famous one of him, taken by Owen Ford himself standing at the door of the lighthouse, looking across the gulf *********and reproduced in every edition of the Life-book from the first, but Anne stares at it as if seeing it anew; transfixed.
David turns to the copy of Tennyson's Crossing the Bar, atmospherically printed beside the images of the old seafarers, reading the words aloud in the hushed environs.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar. **********
"Captain Jim loved that poem…" Anne breathes reverently, as if to herself. "He liked to hear it towards the end… he marvelled that Tennyson could capture what it meant to be a sailor even though he was not of course a sailor himself…" **********
"I didn't know that he said that," David smiles quizzically.
"I… I didn't know that I knew he said that, either…"
"It seems he was a rare old fellow…" ****** David offers thoughtfully.
"He was… he was…" Anne's eyes spark with tears, and her voice shakes.
"Anne? Anne?" David's worry is in his voice, and he grabs for her arms, turning her to him. "Are you OK?"
Anne blinks at him unseeingly, and finally registers his concerned hazel eyes on hers.
"Oh… um… yes. Sorry."
"I thought you were going into one of John Selwyn's trances there."
She is flustered now, and he has her hand again, trying to direct her away gently.
"Anne, how about these display cases instead? There are some very cool things in here, actually."
They stop by the first; 'a wonderful, full-rigged toy schooner' ******and she stares again, and looks up to him, haunted and white-faced .
"No… I think… show me something just for us, David," she almost pleads.
He squeezes her hand firmly. "Then come up and see the light."
The make a slow progression up the many winding stairs, feeling they are leaving the world behind with every echoing step. There are low lights built into the recesses of the walls but there is a deep, dreamy darkness between, and the headiness of their illicit adventure is heightened by their breaths taking in the old, stale air. David holds her hand in his as if heading an expedition into the great unknown; leading the way to protect her from peril; not daring to let her go. His touch anchors her, and she gladly accepts the pressure, wondering if he can feel her pulse racing, wondering if the last two days have been a strange hallucination and she will awaken soon in her bed, with his smile and his look and his touch only something she has half-dreamt and tried desperately to remember.
They reach the top, which opens out onto another door, and behind the window they see the mighty light, dwarfing the room, dormant and unused for years, yet perhaps only slumbering itself, awaiting the time when it might flash its great bright eye in watch across the gulf again.
The door holds further deadbolts; if it contains a lock, too, then it is hopeless, but luck and laxness is on their side, and the deadbolts slide away thunderously, and they are inside with the light, unable to contain their grins.
Silently, they look about; noting the small bookcase and the spare desk with its great ledger opened in display; it is a diary of the lighthouse keeper, meticulously maintained, and curiosity might have caught them but they have had enough of artefacts today, and are instead both drawn to the vast window and the grand, great spectacle below.
David hears Anne's delighted gasp of amazement and thinks he might half love her already.
They stare for long moments out to the sight of sea and stars; of water breaking against rocks beneath them; of the dark ocean before them as it heads out to hug a faintly discernible horizon. All of the world might be contained in this one view; all that is and all that was and all that will be.
"There aren't any words," Anne finally chokes out.
David releases a long breath. "No."
"For any of this," she turns to him, her heart in her eyes.
He swallows with difficulty. He knows, of course, what she means. "No."
She holds his searching gaze with her own.
"You'll have to stop looking at me like that, David…" she whispers.
His smile is soft, and he raises a dark brow. "Oh? Like what?"
There is a pause for several beats. He waits. He has made the decision hers.
"Like…" she takes a steadying breath, "like you want to k– "
He has stepped towards her; they have no need of the remaining words, which are caught now inside him. His mouth is on hers in a pent-up breath given back to her, his large hand cupping her pale cheek, her soft shell pink lips yielding to his, and he tries to remind himself of the barrage of words in his head…trying to shift through yes and yes and yes to find careful… gentle… slow…
He pauses; he reminds them both.
He breathes; this is better. This is slow and steady and careful and gentle and lovely. This is him remembering her instead of himself; this is her shift from startled surprise into sweet stuttering surrender against him; this is his hand at her narrow waist, securing; this is … wait… her hand reaching up to his hair, her fingers curling into curls…
This is him learning, smiling against her mouth, that he might not have control of anything anymore…
They are kiss for kiss, body to body, breath to breath, growing in a knowledge of one another that is both ancient and new.
They pause; breathe; break.
He thinks: It's not usually meant to be like this…
He realises: Perhaps it was always meant to be like this…
Her shining grey-green eyes are a view unto themselves, as is her knowing blush, as is her gently curving mouth, and he has no words for that, either.
Perhaps words are not needed. Perhaps there are no thoughts you could put into words, anyway. Perhaps Shirley was right.
Anne Ford, fourth cousin, girl beneath yesterday's tree, girl of last night's dreaming and woman of this moment's revelation, takes his hand, slowly bends to kiss his scar, and then tugs him back towards the door.
My chapter title is from Robert Browning's poem 'The Last Ride Together'.
*Walt Whitman 'From Pent-Up Aching Rivers', Leaves of Grass (1892)
**William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (Act 1 Sc 1)
*** Shirley's letter to Kit; from elizasky's 'Dispatches' Chapter 52: 'Thoughts into Words'. Referenced with her kind permission.
****Anne's House of Dreams (Ch. 5)
*****Anne's House of Dreams (Ch. 34)
******Anne's House of Dreams (Ch. 9)
*******Talking here of Di Blythe, following on from elizasky's continuity in Dispatches and The Happiness We Must Win
********Anne's House of Dreams (Ch. 6)
*********Anne's House of Dreams (Ch. 39)
**********Alfred, Lord Tennyson 'Crossing the Bar' also referenced in Anne's House of Dreams (Ch. 35 and Ch. 39)