Time seemed endless. Nothing was wrong and nothing was right. The leaves crackled under numerous horse hoofs. The crisp autumn winds ran its nipping breath through the wooded park. Children riding their ponies laughed gaily filling the air with natural melodies and making the pedestrian peoples' hearts light. Anne smiled; at peace with this lovely, perfect moment. Lost in her imaginings, she was slammed abruptly to a halt.
"Whoa, Miss! Pardon me." Two strong hands clasped her small shoulders to steady her. Pulling what remnants of composure her startled condition would allow, she straightened and looked up into mesmerizing pools of everglade green.
"No it was my fault I'm sorry Mister…?"
Anne gasped as this handsome stranger's face became familiar. "Edison, is that you? I haven't seen you in the longest time!"
"I'm sorry Miss, but do I know you?"
She frowned. "You haven't forgotten your old best friend, now have you? I am forever hurt you would not remember the only girl who beat your marks in classic literature, writing, and geography. And that's not mentioning the endless games of cards you insisted we play because I bested you every time."
Recognition bloomed upon his tan masculine features and a slow smile that bore straight clean teeth grew. "Anne Gregory, I never thought I would see you again. I almost didn't recognize you; you've grown so much."
Anne could not refrain a gentle laugh. "Thank you; I could say the same for you. If it wasn't for your eyes I wouldn't have recognized you." She smiled up at this old friend. He was almost a stranger to her. "Manhood seems to have agreed with you."
He smiled warmly. "Why thank you, Anne." Pausing, he looked around the park at the other people slowly passing by. He glanced back down into the girl's friendly hazel eyes. "Would you care to join me for a stroll? It's been years and I would love a chance to catch up." He asked offering his arm.
Anne smiled as he tucked her small hand into the crook of his arm and slowly began walking through the sunlit park. "I don't know quite where to begin, Edison. It's been ages since you sailed away." She still recalled the day. Her father had offered a sailing position from his company to Edison and he'd immediately accepted. Since then she had often wondered what he was doing, where he was in the world. After several months, however, those thoughts ceased and memories began to fade into murky amorphous shadows. It grew to a point where she practically forgot about her old friend. Now here he was walking with her like old times. It almost didn't seem real.
"Well the park is a large size; we have enough time for anything. Ask away."
"Alright, what is it like to be a sailor?"
"Actually I'm not a regular sailor. I've recently been promoted to captain."
"Oh, well! Congratulations are definitely in order. Does being a captain agree with you? What do captains do?"
"Instead of hoisting the anchors or swabbing the decks like a regular sailor, I study maps and make decisions. It requires more thought and time than physical prowess." He turned to gauge her reaction and she was deep in thought. "What are you thinking about?"
"What is an anchor and what in the world is swabbing?" She asked innocently. That wasn't what she was thinking at all, but it was the first thing she could conjure to not seem so suspicious. Theater was her forte.
"Your father owns a shipping company and you don't know that?" He looked at her in disbelief. Anne rewarded him with a smile and shook her head.
"Since you left a lot has changed. My father has submerged himself into his work, and he won't allow me to help in any way with the company. What little I knew when we were children, I have mostly forgotten." This was partly true. Her father was busy with his business all the time, so they didn't have the usual father daughter relationship. They were just people that lived under the same roof. Although, she and her father did share one common love, the sea. No matter how old she grew she would never forget a single moment of the voyages or vessels she sailed as a child. Such forgetfulness was nearly impossible, short of amnesia.
"Yet, you still remember how to properly insult me?" That earned him a stern look, but they resumed their stroll. He squeezed her hand and frowned. "This must be hard on you, Anne. I know how much you love the sea…" He paused and sighed slightly. "Pardon me if you feel this is none of my concern, but there seems to be something else on your mind. If I remember correctly, you always were the actress, although you could never pull the wool over my eyes for very long."
She sighed and looked from his face to the leaves littering the path. "Edison, why did you leave so abruptly? Why didn't you tell me?" She paused looking up at him briefly once more before turning away. "You have no idea how much it hurt to learn you were leaving on the day of the voyage and not be able to even say goodbye."
"I'm sorry. I had no idea it affected you so greatly. My father and I were not on very good terms with his constant drinking and gambling. You have to understand, I had to leave. I promise, I'll make it up to you someday." He said quietly.
"You were like a brother to me. And more…you were my best friend aside Monique. It hurt us both, you leaving like that. She loved you." She hated how melancholic their cheerful conversation had become. He would most likely be sailing away again soon and she didn't want their memory of such a lovely afternoon to be clouded by such somber conversation. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up. It's in the past. I want this afternoon to be joyous so let's not dwell on such sad times."
A sharp pang shot through his heart. He could never forget Monique. His father had disapproved the match, but he still loved her, despite her French background. He cleared his throat and half smiled. "You are quite right Anne. What of our schoolmates? Eileen Henderson, Alexandra Agot, and Maggie Short? "
"I wouldn't know. I didn't dally with those incoherent, addlebrained girls much after or even during grammar school. I have to admit I was never close to any of them. We have all lost touch." She smiled. "Besides it would not be possible to care any less than I do. That is how low a level they had in my regard."
"I should have known. You always were more of a tom-boy, weren't you? Moreover, I must admit that I am having a hard time recalling their faces. What I should have said was how are our friends?" He grinned right along with her.
"The men are all married and boring I'm afraid. Cupid seemed over-eager with the lot of them, the poor fools." Her nose wrinkled in mock disgust.
"And what of your ambitions for love? You use to wish someday you would fall in love with a rich merchant and sail into the sunset never to be seen again. What happened to that Anne?" He grinned down at her, but she remained firm-faced
"She realized first hand what happens to people when they become so engrossed in love, and then how tortured they are if their mate were to die. Only a fool would gamble away so much happiness with such a dangerous endeavor."
Edison's smile fell as the connection was made. He had forgotten how blunt she was when she wanted to stress a point. It caught him off guard. Her words made him recall his friend's past. She was referring, of course, to her parent's marriage. It had been a decade since her mother caught influenza and passed on while she visited her relatives down in Georgia. She still took it hard or at least her father still suffered…carrying his daughter along with him in his grief. He thought of a million cheerful subjects and how he could change the way this conversation was heading.
She must have been thinking the same thing fore her eyes lit up and she said. "You must tell me of your adventures! What places have you seen? Is it true about the French and English?" She was suddenly a ball of questions. "Is it true about a treaty being made?" Her little hands clutched his arm tightly in her excitement at finally hearing the news straight, without the innocent clouded version she heard in lady's drawing rooms.
"Yes, the conflict in Europe is real. Although, there has been no treaty signed as of yet"
"It all seems so exiting! Especially you being a captain, talk about adventure. I wish my life had adventures."
"From the shore it seems so. Your father may not feel the same. Several of his ships are at risk. The British and French want supplies and are even willing to co-own American shipping companies." The path they were on split, and they made the turn for her home. "It's dangerous. There is some concern that the conflict could reach as far as American soil. Perhaps not even Boston is safe."
"Oh, it sounds serious." She mused. The turn of the century had been so bright. The United States had doubled in size thanks to Napoleon's generous offer of the Louisiana Purchase to President Jefferson back in '03, but in 1811 things were becoming gruesome, it seems a war was in the process. She prayed to God that it would cool off before anything drastic became of it. Edison seemed to feel the same way.
"It is serious, gravely serious."