It's All Coming Back To Me Now

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Jane of Lantern Hill

Copyright: The heirs of L. M. Montgomery; song performed by Celine Dion.

There was no earthly reason for Robin Stuart, née Kennedy, to be cold.

It was November, true, but her bed was piled high with a fluffy quilted blanket, silk sheets, and enough pillows to supply an entire family. And yet she shivered, curled up into a tiny ball in the center of that huge, magnificent, Kennedy heirloom of a bed. She dared not cry, otherwise Mother would see her red eyes over breakfast and be justly hurt – because, after all, what business had Robin to be unhappy? Wealthy, pretty, popular, with a loving mother and no selfish, arrogant, good-for-nothing husband –

It was no use. She couldn't sleep without the song of the sea, the nighttime creaks of their tiny old cottage and Andrew's warmth next to her. She buried her face in one of the superfluous pillows to muffle her outburst of sobs.

There were nights when the wind was so cold
that my body froze in bed
if I just listened to it right outside the window...

The morning sun fell squarely into a small, dusty bedroom, with books, clothes and bottles scattered every which way, a worn-out typewriter sitting on a desk, and a tangle of blankets and limbs which was Andrew Stuart's bed.

He mumbled a curse as the sunlight burned his eyes; slowly, he pried them open, rubbed them with his knuckles, and hauled himself up, pushing greasy strands of reddish-brown hair off his forehead. He glared malevolently at the whiskey bottle on the floor. Now that was a trick he'd better not try again. If he hadn't already felt like death warmed over before, he certainly did now.

There were days when the sun was so cruel
that all the tears turned to dust
and I just knew my eyes were drying up forever...

"Are you quite sure you're all right, lovey?" asked Irene, looking up at him with wide, sweet blue eyes across the dinner table.

"Oh, do stop fussing, Irene," he grumbled, helping himself to a second slice of strawberry pie. "Do I look like a man in the throes of heartbreak to you? Listen, if she can't put up with me, that's her problem. I'm not about to waste time pining over a chit who runs back to her mother at the first time of trouble. You were right about her all along," he added darkly. "She wasn't worth it."

"Oh, but I never said that, Drew dear," said Irene, her eyes round with shock. "All the same... think of being able to smoke whenever you want. And you'll have all the writing time in the world."

She looked like the proverbial cat that ate the canary – and with his attention on the rich, sweet, fluffy-crusted pie, Andrew never noticed.

I finished crying in the instant that you left
and I can't remember where or when or how –
and I banished every memory you and I had ever made!

Robin's hands shake as she stands at the front door of Lantern Hill. Mother's acid-tongued taunts still ring in her ears as she reaches for the doorbell. "I suppose you think he'll welcome you with open arms? Well, I hate to disappoint you, child, but remember it was you who left him...go, break your heart again if you wish, and scorn the advice of your old mother. But I will not be there when you return."

This is for Jane, she reminds herself, and rings the bell.

The door opens and there is Andrew, larger than life, tall and strong and vibrant as ever. His auburn hair springs back from his forehead just as she remembers, and the laugh lines around his golden-brown eyes have deepened. His chin and nose, the entire structure of his face, are terribly familiar – not only because of her memory, but because it is their daughter's face as well.

She stands like a statue, her mouth dry as paper. What do you say to a man when you broke each other's hearts ten years ago, and when you still love him with all your heart and soul?

...But when you touch me like this,
and you hold me like that,
I just have to admit
that it's all coming back to me –
When I touch you like this,
and I hold you like that,
it's so hard to believe
but it's all coming back to me –

How beautiful and terrible to see each other again – terrible, because they are strangers now. It is like a glass wall between them – can this be the same man who once wrote to her that she was like 'a white tea-rose by moonlight'? Can this be the woman who used to cling to his arm as they walked down the beach, laughing in childlike wonder over the starfish and clams?

Half-forgotten memories come rushing in at the sight of that beloved face. Driftwood fires crackling with multicolored sparks. A little green cat in a shop window. His arm around her in the old wooden swing, as he read their favorite time-honored love poems in his vivid, resonant voice. Learning to swim in the wild Atlantic ocean. Kisses like white chocolate, kisses like fireworks. Magical nights on that creaky old bed, whose noise didn't matter at all because their little house was so beautifully far away.

They were Andrew and Robin, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, the rose and the nightingale. How could they ever have forgotten?

It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now:
There were moments of gold
and there were flashes of light!
There were things I'd never do again,
but then they'd always seemed right!
There were nights of endless pleasure –
it was more than any laws allow...!

It is Andrew who breaks the silence. Exhausted from several sleepless nights watching over Jane, stumbling to the door like a sleepwalker, he feels as if he has walked right into a dream. This shimmering mirage, with her golden hair and sky-blue coat, and her sweet rosy face turned up to his in wonder, cannot possibly be his Robin. He has sent her a telegram, but it is too much to hope that she would truly come. And because the lady on the front step is not real, he is free to murmur, "Robin, my darling!" and sweep her into his arms.

He still smells like tobacco and aftershave and it makes her cry. It is her half-stifled sob which makes him jump back.

"Pardon me," he says. "It's just – I'm glad you're here. I'm worried about Jane, and I - "

"Jane. Of course. How is she?"

And the two parents hurry back into the house, united in their worry over their daughter. Whatever unfinished business they may have, she comes first.

Baby – Baby –
If I kiss you like this –
and if you whisper like that –
it was lost long ago,
but it's all coming back to me!
If you want me like this –
and if you need me like that –
it was dead long ago,
but it's all coming back to me –
It's so hard to resist
and it's all coming back to me –
I can barely recall,
but it's all
coming back to me now!

"No, no and no!" Andrew snapped, tearing a bank cheque into eight pieces and tossing it in the fireplace. "How often have I told you, I will not accept money from that harpy you call a mother!"

"Don't talk about her that way! She wants the best for me, that's all!"

Robin was in tears, and it aggravated him even more. Like Irene said, she was so childish. Did she have to cry at the drop of a hat? Couldn't she see this was a matter of pride for him – that he could support his wife and daughter without the grudging charity of a hateful mother-in-law.

"She wants to rub it in well what a bad lot I am," he snarled back. "Because I can't give my wife satin sheets and a trip to France! You know I'm right."

"Oh, will you just stop?" Red-eyed and pale with fury, with a voice like a handful of broken glass, his wife was a terrible sight. "You run Mother down every day, but if I say one word about your precious Irene, you bite my head off. I know you've always loved her more than me."

Baby Jane in her crib let out a long, piercing wail. Avoiding her husband's eye, Robin went over and picked her up, crooning a lullaby in a pathetic effort to calm her down, though she felt like wailing herself. How could this be happening? They still loved each other, didn't they? So why did they keep fighting like this?
Andrew's parting shot, just before going outside to smoke, was: "At least Irene listens to me. And she can make a cake that doesn't look like it's been sat on."

There were those empty threats and hollow lies –
and whenever you tried to hurt me,
I just hurt you even worse
and so much deeper...

"Are you sure you want to go back, child?" asked Mother, cupping Robin's face in her cool, wrinkled hands. "Look at you. You're pale and thin, you jump at the slightest sound. I know you are not happy with him, whatever you might say in your letters."

Robin remembered the past few days after their latest fight, the one in which Andrew had told her to 'shut her head' and she had told him he'd never make it as a writer. He was so horribly different these days, cold and sarcastic, with none of the sparkling humor and warm affection of their early days. Like Mother said, all he cared about was his books. Like Irene said, he was too clever and educated for a shallow society girl. She had a nasty suspicion that he was glad she and little Jane were gone – no more toddler tantrums, spilled food, messy account-keeping and intrusive she-creatures interrupting his work. He would not want her to come back. Perhaps, after all, it was better if she stayed.

There were hours that just went on for days
when alone at last, we'd count up
all the chances that were lost to us

Andrew holed himself up the house and did not come out until Irene dragged him. He had many memories to relive, many what-if scenarios to design. What if he'd been just a little more tolerant, a little more understanding? What if he'd tried harder to be a good father to Jane? What if he hadn't said any of those blistering things that drove her away? Could he have done anything to make her smile again, to bring back the roses to her cheeks?

"It wasn't really you she loved, 'Drew," said Irene. "She's just a romantic, starry-eyed girl who saw you as some sort of Prince Charming. Then when she got to know you, I suppose she was...disillusioned."

"So the glass slipper didn't fit then?" Andrew remarked, wreathed in layers of pipe smoke. "Hmm. Well, if she wanted a prince, she should've looked for one among her wealthy Toronto friends."

A year later, the loneliness got too much for him; he swallowed his pride and wrote her a letter, asking her to at least consider coming back.

Robin's mother picked up the letter from the maid's silver tray and eyed it as if it were a snake. Let her favorite daughter go back to that horrid man? Never in a million years!

She tossed the letter into the fireplace without even reading it.

But you were history with the slamming of the door
and I made myself so strong again somehow –
and I never wasted any of my time on you since then!

Andrew and Robin sit together at the foot of the stairs, ready to spring up and enter Jane's room at a moment's notice. A nurse is looking after her, so they are free to speak at last. Ten years' worth of unsaid words.

"Darling," says Andrew, covering her small hand with his large tanned one just as he used to do. "I didn't mean a word of those dreadful things I said...I was angry, but I never should have spoken to you like that."

She is dizzy with joy and love and sorrow over these wasted years and concern about Jane, and his hand is like an anchor holding her to the earth.

"If I had got your letter, I would have come. If only..."

Her tears threaten again, and he holds her close, so she can bury her head in his old, tobacco-scented blazer. "My poor little love," he whispers. "Shh...I know. You're am I."

...But if I touch you like this...
and if you kiss me like that...
It was so long ago,
but it's all coming back to me –
If you touch me like this...
and if I kiss you like that...
It was gone with the wind,
but it's all coming back to me –

"Have you thought of me in all these years?" she asks, looking up at him in that appealing way.

"Have I thought about anything else, loveliest?"

That half-teasing, half-tender look is in his eyes, and the term of endearment warms her to the depths of her soul. He used to call her by unusual pet names now and then, just because, as he said, he didn't want words that so many other men had used.

She tells him how she defied her mother to get to Jane – and to see him – and he smiles. She has overcome her timidity at last; now nothing can keep them apart.

"We were just two very foolish people," he says, stroking her hair. "Is it too late to be wise, Robin?"

Instead of answering, she tilts up her head to be kissed.

It is a second wedding kiss, as solemn as a vow.

It's all coming back, it's all coming back to me now:
There were moments of gold
and there were flashes of light!
There were things we'd never do again,
but then they'd always seemed right!
There were nights of endless pleasure –
it was more than all your laws allow...

In that kiss lies the echo of all their other kisses. The first one was by moonlight, on the ivy-grown terrace of Robin's hotel in Charlottetown. She was wearing a light green organdy dress, and he told her that on any other woman it would be a green dress and nothing more, but on her it was mystery... magic. And she felt as if her heart had flown right out of her chest and landed at his feet.

They had a small wedding – just the two of them at the manse. No gown and veil, no reception, no family members. Just Andrew in his Sunday suit and Robin in a pink sundress, with a rose in her hair as soft and sweet as the kiss after their ceremony. She thought it was nothing like the wedding she had dreamed of as a girl – a long lace veil, orange blossoms, a many-tiered cake etc. – but as long as Andrew was the groom, she did not care.

Baby – Baby – Baby –
when you touch me like this –
and when you hold me like that –
It was gone with the wind,
but it's all coming back to me!
When you see me like this –
and when I see you like that –
then we see what we want to see:
all coming back to me!
The flesh and the fantasies,
all coming back to me!
I can barely recall,
but it's all coming back to me now!

The house at Lakeside Gardens is faintly disturbed tonight. Jane goes back and forth between Robin's parlor and Andrew's study on a diplomatic mission, determined to get to the bottom of the disharmony in the house.

"Dad didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Mummy," she coaxes. "He was making a joke. You know that's just the way he is. He's really very proud of you – think of those chocolate chip cookies you baked last month!"

And to Dad, "I know it's true Mummy's got a lot to learn about cooking, but she's made amazing progress and she just wants to help. When you make fun of her, it makes her feel insecure. Maybe you could apologize?"

That evening, a subdued Andrew is seen to slip out of the study, rumpling up his hair, and knock quietly on the parlor door.

"I'm sorry, Robin," he calls. "I shouldn't have said that your plum pudding would give the rats indigestion. It was rude. Won't you come out now, heart's delight? Jane and I are reading Keats."

The door opens to reveal a smiling, soft-eyed Robin. "It's all right, darling," she says. "I need an honest critic anyway. Suppose I try something simpler next time?"

"Chocolate cake?"

She laughs. "Yes. Chocolate-strawberry cake à la Jane." Not Irene's chocolate peppermint, which she cannot imitate and refuses to try, but Andrew's new favorite.

"Perfect," he says, slipping an arm around her waist as they walk downstairs to listen to their daughter's poetry reading.

If you forgive me all this...
if I forgive you all that...
We forgive and forget,
and it's all coming back to me.
When you see me like this
and when I see you like that,
we see just what we want to see,
all coming back to me.
The flesh and the fantasies,
all coming back to me.
I can barely recall, but it's all coming back to me now...

(It's all coming back to me now)
And when you kiss me like this...
(It's all coming back to me now)
And when I touch you like that...
(It's all coming back to me now)
If you do it like this...
(It's all coming back to me now)
And if we...