"My father was a lawyer and from what I can remember, he was very good," memories sparkling in his eyes. "My mother was a woman of her times. She presided over the home, making sure that my father and my own wants were always met. In the summer of 1918, a month after I turned 17, the government changed the enlistment age to 18. The Great War was raging and I could not wait to sign up. My mother worried every night. I heard her praying for me to change my mind."
His eyes took in the deepening sky beyond the windows before he began again. "I never got to enlist."
"Why not?" a voice asked. My voice asked. I was surprised that I was so interested in his story.
"The Spanish Influenza hit the United States that summer. It reached Chicago by September. My father died in the first wave of the illness. My mother was grief stricken over the loss of my father. She threw herself into a spurt of volunteerism with the Red Cross. She began making bandages until they asked her to work in the hospital. In the hospital," he repeated.
"She caught the influenza then. Without knowing it, she brought it back into our home and I was infected. We both ended up in the same hospital she had volunteered in. Within a week, she was gone too. Her dying words were to plead with the attending physician to save me. And save me he did. Night and day, the man placed cold compresses on me to lower my temperature. One night, I was sure I had died. The next day, I woke again and began to recover. Everyone was astonished and praised my doctor.
"After I recovered, I moved from Chicago to Seattle and then to Port Angeles. I followed in my father's footsteps and began a successful career as a prosecuting attorney. It was a moderately happy life. I was successful. I drove fast cars. I ate at expensive restaurants. I traveled around the world." His voice drifted again.
"And your family? Your wife?" I asked, tentatively.
"I never married. Please, do not misunderstand me. I had the chance. Many times, as a matter of fact. I was a quite attractive young man. Do not let this old fool in front of you mislead. I was popular," he said fishing through a wallet he had pulled from his trousers. He pushed a sepia colored photograph across to me.
In the photograph, a young man leaned against a high brick wall. Flanked by two women in light colored dress, he grinned a smile that did not reach all the way to his eyes. He was tall and fit. Athletic, but not overly muscular. His rolled up sleeves showed his well chiseled forearms and a hint of biceps. On his head, a hat was making a valiant effort to keep his hair unwraps but was failing miserably. At his feet sat a corduroy knapsack with a monogrammed "M."
I handed it back. "Why didn't you get married then?" I asked again.
He sighed deeply. "I never found my love. It was like I was always waiting for her to come walking into my life but she never did. I waited for a woman who loved me like my mother loved my father. I guess I just waited too long," he finished resignedly.
"I know what you mean," I answered absent mindedly staring out the window with the gentleman. "Can I tell you something?" I asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Sometimes, I wonder …" I hesitated. "I wonder if there is a love out there for everyone. A person you're meant to love and who will love you, too. And if there is, I wonder if I've done something not to deserve that love."
"Why would you say that? You are so young." The man's voice dripped with sympathy. "And you're beautiful, Isabella. You will find your love, someday."
"Maybe," I huffed. Questions of loyalty and love had been roiling about in my brain since I came to Forks. Eric and Mike had been vying for my attention since I arrived and I had a sneaking suspicion they wouldn't be the last. I felt nothing for these boys. Love was supposed to be earth shattering and all consuming wasn't it? I felt like oil while every male around me was water.
"Bella," he said, his voice creamy and rich. My attention snapped back to his face. His eyes burned a brilliant emerald green. The depth of those eyes startled me. "Bella. You will know love. Just be open to it. Do not seek it for it will find you."
We had been talking for so long, we had not notice that the room had began to fill again. "It's time for night activities, Bella. And I think you better be heading home," a voice broke in. I had been mesmerized by the man's eyes and had not noticed the young woman at my side.
"Okay," stammered. I looked back to my tea companion.
"It was nice to meet you, Bella," the gentleman extended his hand to shake my own.
"The pleasure was mine, Mister ..." It was then I realized I did not know his name. He clasped my hand between two of his and kissed the top lightly. Electricity shot through my arm. His deep green eyes met my brown ones. He had felt the jolt, too.
"Mason. Edward Mason. And, believe me, the pleasure was entirely mine."
I tossed and turned the entire night. Mr. Mason's words ringing though my head. What he had said was turn. There might be love in the world for each of us. Even me. I finally feel asleep watching the dawn rise and sparkle through the early morning dew stuck to my open second floor window.
After school the next day, I returned to the home looking to speak with Mr. Mason again. At the nurses station, I found Doris (who was wearing a gold name tag to my relief) and asked where Mr. Mason was.
She looked down at a letter on the nurses' station, picked it up and led me to a small room away from the residents. "Bella, Mr. Mason passed last night in his sleep. He left a note for you. Do you know what this is about?" she asked looking at me suspiciously.
"No," I answered honestly. I was dumbstruck. I had just spoken to Mr. Mason yesterday. How could he be gone?
"Alright, I'll leave you alone for now," Doris finished closing the door behind her as she left.
On the white envelope in my hand was on word: Bella. In an elegant script, the letters danced across the page. I slide my hand under the closed flap, cutting my skin at the smooth corner. The blood made a quick pool and dripped on the very edge of the envelope. I ignored it and pulled the contents out. The picture I had seen of Mr. Mason's was inside. I gingerly turned it over looking for more clues. On the back he had written:
I am glad that I waited.