Cassandra on the Island: Sweet Williams

The following is the fourth section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous sections here.

Sweet Williams

Another map was found and the word spread through across the island like the hurricane of ’77. Gossip and stories could be heard on any street corner where at least two adults were standing.

“…it was in a chest, I hear…”

“…Yes, and it took a gold key to open it…”

A third person walked up. “Did he have it analyzed yet?”

“No, he doesn’t want to risk having it fall into someone else’s hands.”

A fourth person with a young boy joined the conversation. “It’s a fake.”

“What? How can you say that?”

The fourth person put down the groceries he was holding. “It’s always a fake.”

The first person sat up straighter in his chair and squinted his eyes at this intruder. “Reverend Jonathan, doesn’t your religion teach you to have faith?”

Jonathan sighed. “Faith in God, Mr. Reginald, not in gold treasures hidden by a mythical pirate.”

Mr. Reginald (The local historian) ran his hands through his thick white beard thoughtfully. There were many things Mr. Reginald didn’t mind, but one thing he didn’t like was someone questioning what he considered the gospel truth of the island. This was his religion, and these stories were his gospel to share with the congregation. “Reverend, I insist the legend of Captain 2-Finger McGillis is not a myth.”

Jonathan reached into his bag and handed out a piece of candy to his four-year old son, who sat down happily and began to tear open the package. Jonathan turned his attention back to Mr. Reginald. “Okay, okay, Mr. Reginald, let’s look at the facts.”

“Fine.”

Jonathan had had this conversation with numerous islanders over the last week. If he had to convert each of the people on the island one at a time, he didn’t mind. “Let’s begin then, first, Captain 2-Finger McGillis with the flaming red hair, buried his treasure by himself someplace on this island.”

“Yes…”

“With only two fingers?”

“Yes, and I don’t see what the problem is with that?”

“They were both pinkies!” Jonathan had to hide back his laughter.

Mr. Reginald adjusted his bifocals. “Get to the point, Reverend.”

“A man with only two pinkies, first carried a chest of gold onto this island with no help, mind you, that is right? By himself?”

“Yes, by himself,” Mr. Reginald was starting to feel embarrassed, but he was not about to let himself look like a fool. These were facts. These were his facts! “Yes, he was all alone. He killed and ate his crew.”

Mrs. Stevens laughed quietly.

Jonathan waved at her to stop laughing. “Which is another point I plan to bring up later! He then carries this large chest onto the island and digs, Digs!, a hole in the ground.”

“Yes.”

“So deep no one on the island has yet to find it.”

“When you have a job to do, Reverend, why not do it right?”

“Explain how he drew the map.”

Mr. Reginald paused. He hated crowds and one was beginning to form around their conversation. He took out his old handkerchief and wiped his forehead. He looked down at Jonathan’s son Peter, who was staring back up at him. “Well,” he said, “It’s like when you lose one of your senses, your other senses improve to compensate.”

The Reverend smiled as he allowed this image to enter his mind. “So you’re saying after Captain 2-Finger McGillis had all his other fingers bitten off by that sea monster…”

“With the two heads,” Mrs. Stevens interrupted with a laugh.

“Yes,” Mr. Reginald said. He leaned in towards Peter. “One head for each hand.” He made a snapping motion with his hands. He always enjoyed telling these stories to children and was known for putting on quite a show at the local library. His storytelling was also well known for creating nightmares for the children.

Peter gasped at the thought.

The Reverend sighed and tried to draw Mr. Reginald’s concentration back to him. “Yes, after the sea monster bit off his fingers, you’re saying his pinkies became strong enough to replace his other fingers?”

“Exactly!” Mr. Reginald stated triumphantly. He sat back and relit his pipe. In his mind he felt he just won the debate.

Unfortunately for him, Jonathan didn’t see it that way. “Now explain this one to me. How did he accomplish all this in 1660 when the permanent historical records in Ireland stated he died in 1609?”

Mr. Reginald’s face fell. He was stunned. “He did? How did you… How…”

Jonathan smiled. He picked back up the groceries and took Peter’s hand. Peter stood near his dad. “The records are everywhere, Mr. Reginald. Good day.” Jonathan smiled at the crowd and slowly walked to his car.

They were driving home when Peter asked his father, “How did you know that?”

“I didn’t,” Jonathan said, “I made it up.”

Peter gasped. “You lied?”

“No,” Jonathan said with a snicker, “I made it up. It’s different.”

The treasure was not the only bit of gossip that hit the island that summer. When Jonathan first heard the rumblings, he first thought it was best to ignore them. He didn’t even tell Cassandra there was talking. Someone claimed they knew Cassandra.

Cassandra was always a wonder to many of the older, respected residents of the island. A woman with no explained wealth and past walked in and bought one of the oldest cottages on the island, “The Peace Cottage.” Many in the historical heritage committee were upset that it was sold without even a background check on her. The sale was approved by Mr. Monty (one of the strongest members of the committee and it was his land), so there was really nothing they could do to stop the sale.

At least those worried members of society were quieted when she married Jonathan and he moved in with her. When Peter was born a year later, it only cemented many of their newly-founded beliefs that she fit the cottage and the island perfectly. However, it didn’t stop the speculation on her past and wealth and where it came from. So when the rumor spread that someone “knew” her, many of the old stories once more were reborn around the town. And it could also easily be said that this new story, beat out any that people came up with before. Dark, seedy, and now a wife of their reverend? Could it be true? Really? Amsterdam? A mistress? It can’t… Right?

Jonathan first heard about this stranger with news from Alisha and Duke. Supposedly, the stranger saw her on the beach and placed her face. “Anyway, he figured out later that day where he knew her from and he told his brother-in-law. They tried to do some searching online, but Cassandra was always careful with names and pictures. But it didn’t stop them talking,” Alisha explained. “Well, Duke heard it at the store.”

Jonathan got up off the chair in his office (It was located in the basement of the church). He sat on the edge of his desk and looked at his two friends sitting there. Duke was holding Alisha’s hand. Duke looked nervous and that was never a good sign. “I don’t know what you expect me to do about it?” Jonathan paused and then finally added, “I’ll talk to Cassandra.”

The treasure maps were multiplying. Jonathan had seen the madness for the treasure before on the island, but never like this. He was about to leave for the day when Mr. Reginald burst his way into the office and sat down in front of him. Jonathan allowed his mind to wander (Is it the real story? Or is it another crazy made-up one? Alisha is certain this one really knows Cassandra…) as his guest ranted for about ten minutes. Finally, when it sounded like he was ending, Jonathan paid attended.

“Where are the maps coming from, I’d like to know,” Mr. Reginald finished with a strange hint of glee. “Now, no one knows which is the real map. It’s complete madness out there.”

Jonathan sipped his coffee and nodded his head. “I find this all frightfully interesting, Mr. Reginald, but I am about to leave.”

Mr. Reginald leaned forward in his chair. “But you understand what I mean, Reverend. No one knows what is real since everyone seems to have found a map. They can’t all be real. But what if one of them, only one, was the real map. Think of it. What would you do with that? Is a worthy secret? Would you share it?”

“Mr. Reginald,” Jonathan said as politely as he could, “None of them are real. There are no real maps. There’s no real treasure.” Jonathan really had to get a secretary. He would have to ask Alisha about that. She always seemed ready to volunteer and help around the office, but getting her to help full-time would be a hurdle all by itself. “Now, I need to finish up here, if you don’t mind.”

Mr. Reginald was thoughtful for a minute and then stood up. “I understand. We’ll talk later; we’ll need to talk later. You have enough going on with all the stories around town and all…”

Jonathan looked up annoyed. Is this about Cassandra? “What stories?”

“Oh, nothing, I’ll talk to you later,” Mr. Reginald tipped his old felt hat and left the office.

Jonathan sat back in his chair. First, Alisha and Duke and now Mr. Reginald. He promised himself he would have a discussion with Cassandra about it that evening before dinner.

“We just say it’s a lie,” Cassandra said quickly. “If they ask about the money, I just say I inherited it. From an uncle maybe, I don’t know. People would rather spread tales than ask around here.” They were on her sailboat and Jonathan couldn’t help but be impressed by how quickly she had an answer for the situation. For over five years, he had had a chance to prepare for the possible moment. He didn’t, maybe it was some form of denial. So even though her answer was straight to the point, he couldn’t help but be impressed.

Actually, everything Cassandra was doing was impressing him at that moment. She was eight months pregnant and she was controlling that sailboat like nothing was out of the ordinary. Just that day she had vomited, took Peter to preschool, did gardening, rested, picked up Peter, made dinner, and now it was 5 PM and she was sailing. Incredible.

“You said, Mr. Monty knows about [He tried to think of the best way to refer to it] your past.”

Cassandra sighed. “Mr. Monty? Yes.”

“You said he threatened you?”

“Well,” Cassandra thought back to the party so many years ago when she talked to Mr. Monty via the phone. Such a strange moment and so long ago. “It was kind of a threat.”

“Kind of?” Jonathan was getting nervous. He glanced back at his son. He was sitting in the stern of the ship coloring. His head was bobbing to the Beatles music Cassandra had on the stereo. At that moment, Jonathan would have given his right arm to be a child again.

Cassandra looked at Jonathan. She tried to give him a reassuring smile. “Mr. Monty has background info on everyone on this island. He said he could release the information but he was more interested in how I dealt with the situation of keeping it a secret. And it all turned out well. Look at us. Look at Peter. We’re happy. Who cares what others think?” She lightly touched his face and then turned her attention back to the steering wheel. “This is much easier than it looks, I swear.”

Jonathan turned to look out to the horizon.  Why is this not easy? It was never easy for Jonathan. Is this about sin? Do I feel guilty? Do we both own the sin? Is lying the answer or is that another sin? What am I doing here? He loved Cassandra with all his heart. There was something about her from that first moment he saw her and when she told him about the past…Well, it definitely wasn’t an easy evening for either of them. It was the day after their first date and she knocked on his door. She came in and slowly told him about her life. She said she would understand if he didn’t want to see her again. She understood if he was disgusted by her. All she wished is that if he was done with their friendship, he didn’t tell anyone and left her alone. All she wanted was to be alone. She felt that she had earned that.

Jonathan couldn’t just let her disappear out of his life. He took her hand and that was that. If he can’t forgive, what does that say about him or his faith? He above all others should have the strength to forgive and accept and move on.

Her past paid for this boat. It paid for the cottage that we are living in.

The dinner that evening was quiet. Except for the occasional bad joke Peter heard at preschool, everything had a very normal feel to it. For some reason, Jonathan didn’t feel right with it being normal.

He needed to get out. He needed to breathe. So once he had allowed his stomach to set, He grabbed his old gym bag and headed to the high school track.

There was something holy about running for Jonathan. There was something about how time could slip away while the track forever was in front of him. It was a point for him to lose count of the number of times he went around the track. It was a point for him to lose track of time. It was a point for him to forget his name. And that would have been the case that evening (Can I be okay with the lie? Who does it hurt really?), but something happened. “What the…” was all he was able to say before his face smacked into the ground. He had tripped! He looked back.

There was a large hole in the track. Someone had dug a hole in the track, his high school running track! He looked around. That wasn’t the only hole. There must have been dozens.

Jonathan tried to get up. “Ah, my ankle!”

He hopped back to the other side of the track.

Jonathan was cleaning the back of the church. He really should get more help, especially now. It is hard to mop when your right ankle is sprained. He was hopping on a slippery wet floor. It was just asking for trouble. He looked up at the cross on the other end of the church. “I’m expecting you to keep an eye out for me,” he said.

The cross didn’t reply.

Someone walked in from outside. Jonathan put down his mop and tried to see who it was through the glare of the new sunlight. “Hello?”

“Hello, Jonathan can I come in?”

Jonathan smiled. “Sure Citizen Kane, the church is always open for you.” Citizen Kane was the nickname Jonathan had for the only real writer and editor of the local newspaper. Kane (Whose real name was Ray Morrison) sat in one of the pews.  He took off his fedora and placed it on his lap.

“I keep getting calls, Jonathan at the paper.”

Jonathan put down the mop. There was something foreboding about this conversation. “What about?”

“Your wife,” Kane said. “They are about your wife. A story is growing, one I would’ve never expected. In the past I would’ve laughed, but…”

“But what?” Jonathan hopped over to the pew and sat next to him. “What are they saying about her?”

“I’m not going to do justice to the stories by voicing them to you. I’ve heard three different people on the same story. They all seem to be linked to her past. They each place her in Europe.”

Jonathan tried to control his expressions (Now there are three talking? How is there more?) “What are they saying?”  Jonathan asked.

Kane didn’t answer. “I like Cassandra a lot. I like you a lot Jonathan. I’m not going to run any of these stories and I’m not going to do any investigation into it.”

Jonathan was relieved. Almost too relieved. Could Kane notice? But for Jonathan it was hard not to hold back his happiness at that decision. “That means a lot to me, Kane.”

Citizen Kane smiled to himself. He always hated that nickname, he only allowed Jonathan to get away with it. “I just wanted you to know.” He patted his leg in a friendly manner and got up. “It won’t stop the rumors that are going around, but it will definitely take away any of their credibility.”

“Thanks.” Jonathan said. He was too stunned to reply. This had to be one of the kindest gestures he had ever had a person perform for him. And he didn’t have to lie or even ask.

Kane nodded and walked to the door. He pointed at the ground on his way out. “You missed a spot here.” And then he was gone. Jonathan looked up at the cross and smiled. “I was talking about watching my mopping, but that will do,” he said.

He got up and slowly began to once again mop the floor. At that moment, Jonathan felt as close as he ever felt to being visited by an angel.

“A harp?” Cassandra laughed.

“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Alisha looked hurt. They were on Cassandra’s sailboat. Peter was quietly and happily sleeping in Alisha’s arms. He was probably too old for falling asleep like that, but he didn’t mind and she didn’t complain.

“But why a harp?” Cassandra asked.

“Well, I saw it in a movie and I thought it would be interesting to…”

Cassandra cut the engine and turned to face Alisha. “It was a Marx Brothers film, right?”

Alisha’s face went red. “Oh, no, it wasn’t, it was…”

Cassandra clapped her hands and laughed interrupting Alisha. “Yes, it was! You were watching Harpo Marx play and you wanted to be like him.”

“I don’t want to be like him,” Alisha said timidly. “I just thought it was a beautiful instrument.”

Cassandra pretended to count on her fingers. “That makes… What? I think I lost count.”

“Five.”

“Seven,” Cassandra corrected.

Alisha sighed annoyingly. “Okay, fine, seven.”

Cassandra laughed again. “Seven new instruments in four months.”

“I just thought it would be nice to learn a musical instrument,” Alisha defended, “better myself. Express myself through music.”

Cassandra started to raise the sail. “Oh, I don’t see a problem with that,” she said between pulling on the rope. “But the instruments you choose are…”

“What is wrong with the harp?”

Cassandra stopped and latched the rope in place. She turned to Alisha. “No, I don’t have a problem with the harp. But the bagpipes?”

“My ancestors are Scottish and I thought…”

“And the timpani drum set…”

“I heard that the island’s concert band was looking for timpani and….”

“And that thing from Australia…”

“I liked that one, until it broke…”

“And the two violins…”

“Well, one was a cello…”

“Sounded like you were torturing a cat.”

“Duke said it was pretty….”

“He would, And that damn harmonica?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“All you knew was Amazing Grace!”

Alisha sighed. Peter moved a little in his sleep. “Let’s put him down in the bedroom.”

Cassandra tucked him in the bed in the boat and went back up to join Alisha on board. “I don’t know what effect you have on him, Alisha. But he always sleeps so soundly when you’re around.” Cassandra sat once more behind the controls. She loved her sailboat.

“So you’re out sailing everyday?” Alisha asked.

“I can’t explain it,” Cassandra said, “But the baby seems to like it.”

Alisha stared out to the sea.

“Did you tell my husband this news?” Cassandra asked quietly.

“He wanted to know,” Alisha said. “I thought it only fair.”

Cassandra nodded her head.

“How’s he taking it,” Alisha asked. “I can’t tell.”

I’m not surprised,” Cassandra said quietly. “Jonathan doesn’t get angry, well, he doesn’t show it. Usually when he’s angry he will sit and play the piano. He doesn’t say, but usually I can tell. He plays Beethoven. He never yells or swears. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him ever use a swear word. He just plays Beethoven.”

Alisha nodded her head. “Will you leave if it gets worse?”

Cassandra had not even considered that thought. “Alisha, this… this will fade like the other stories.”

Alisha kept staring out to the sea. “I’ve been thinking of going.”

Cassandra stared at her friend. She had known her for over eight years and she would never have expected her to say that. She reached over and patted her hand. “Don’t worry, Alisha. It shouldn’t come to that. All it would take is some time. All it is is gossip and rumors. It’ll fade. Give it time, running away is only giving them the proof they want.”

Alisha didn’t reply.

Cassandra sighed quietly. The baby began to kick again. She pressed her hand against her stomach. “It’ll be okay, Lucy,” she said to herself. “It’ll be okay.”

Jonathan was playing Beethoven on the church’s organ.

Jonathan was not the kind of person to deal with injury well. It only accented a week he felt he was losing control over. He had received three anonymous emails just that morning asking about Cassandra’s past. “What are you hiding?”  they each demanded, “Just tell us what she was doing. How did she get all the money?”

He was playing louder now.

Those emails each felt like a pinch on his ankle, harder and harder. He also had two messages on his answering machine, but those were from Alisha. He sighed bitterly as he rewrapped his ankle for the eighth time that morning. She couldn’t be helping. There was no way her continuous snooping was letting this fade. Kane’s decision had definitely made these stories less believable, but it didn’t stop them. A hushed murmur seemed to follow him whenever he entered a public location. People stared. Oh, people would still say hi to him, but now they had a look in their eyes that Jonathan had trouble reading. It was somewhere between skepticism and sympathy.

He made a mistake in the song, but kept going. Was he playing faster than normal?

And to make matters worse, someone was digging in the church’s lawn last night. The maps going around couldn’t have been that accurate because the person had dug in at least twenty locations. First the track, and now his church. He was beginning to feel like he was being stalked by a person with a shovel.

Cassandra….Why didn’t he see this coming? A scandal was going to come from this union someday, right? And a story like this could spread to the mainland. God, why can’t they just leave us alone? All it would take is one piece of evidence and everything would tumble… He was a smart man, he would think of something before it got to that.

It was with these thoughts running through his mind that someone tapped his shoulder. He jumped and turned around. “Yes?” he said aloud.

“That sounded nice, Reverend.” It was the Deacon’s wife, Mrs. Stevens and the Anti-Mayor. “Can we talk to you for a minute, Reverend?”

 

Cassandra had never known Jonathan to swear, but if she could have read his thoughts at that moment she would have heard some interesting words. “Sure, you are always welcome,” he said with his best fake smile. This is going to be painful.

Mrs. Stevens was looking as pleasant as ever. The Anti-Mayor, well, she was looking like the Anti-Mayor. She was wearing a tight red dress, sunglasses and holding her little dog, Mr. Tickles (Strangely it was a female dog). “You aren’t busy then?” Mrs. Stevens asked with a smile.

“Never busy for two such important members of my congregation,” Jonathan said. The Anti-Mayor is being pleasantly quiet.Odd.

“Oh, I heard about your injury! How is your ankle?” Mrs. Stevens asked. “Do you need someone to come around and help?”

“I’m fine,” Jonathan said. That was a blatant lie. I’ve never seen Mrs. Stevens look so nervous beforethe Anti-Mayor must be behind this meeting.

The Anti-Mayor coughed in an urgent manner, stroked her dog and asked. “Can I cut to the chase?”

Mrs. Stevens looked embarrassed. All Jonathan could say was, “Whatever you wish.”

“We want to talk to you about Cassandra.”

“My wife?” he asked. “What about?”

The Anti-Mayor was not filled with patience that day. “We’ve been hearing stories around town.”

“What kind of stories?” he asked with a confused expression on his face. I know exactly what they are talking about. Why am I acting?

“Stories about her past, before she moved to the island.”

“Embarrassing stories,” Mrs. Stevens interjected in a hushed whisper.

“I’m sure you can’t believe everything you hear,” Jonathan said.

“Oh, I’m sure that is true, “ Mrs. Stevens nodded her head assuredly at Jonathan and at the Anti-Mayor. “I’m sure it is.” Jonathan’s quick answer seemed to be all she wanted to hear.

“I would still feel better if I knew what she was doing before she came to the island.” The Anti-Mayor wasn’t satisfied with the quick answer unfortunately.

I’m going to have to turn this around. Jonathan turned his attention to Mrs. Stevens. “What are the stories?”

“Oh, too hideous to mention,” Mrs. Stevens said. “Especially in a church.”

“I think it would be fine this time.”

“Well, I hear she used to make movies,” she said quickly.

“Movies?” This was a new one to him. The story must have been changing like one of those telephone games children played in school.

The Anti-Mayor sighed. She was getting bored. She liked things punchy and to the point. “Adult movies.”

Mrs. Stevens whispered. “Yes, sex movies.”

Jonathan leaned forward in his chair. “I can assure you my wife did not make sex movies.” That was definitely true. Cassandra never took part in that industry, at least not intentionally. Cassandra did tell him once that a video she made with her boyfriend back in college got distributed once (After she broke up with him, his giving it to a website was an act of selfish revenge), but from how she made it sound, it definitely didn’t count. So he could say with all due honesty, Cassandra did not make sex movies.

“A story about a Reverend marrying a woman of questionable past could be quite a headline,” The Anti-Mayor said. (I was thinking the same thing earlier.) “All these stories about sleaze and sex around town could not…”

Jonathan interrupted her. “They are just stories. As fictional as the stories about the pirate treasure. Now Mrs. Anti-Mayor I don’t believe all the stories about you.”

Her face turned as red as her dress. “I’m sorry?”

“And if any of those stories were true they would be more scandalous on the mainland then a Reverend and his beautiful, pregnant wife.”

The Anti-Mayor was too stuck on the first part of his short speech to see how he masterly turned that around (Three years of debate in high school.) “What stories?” she asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jonathan said, “Since I’m sure they aren’t true. And I, personally would never support such silly claims against a friend by voicing them out loud.”

Mrs. Stevens had a hard time keeping up. She looked back and forth between the two of them. It was like she was watching a tennis match between professional players. She quickly raised her hand like she was in a high school classroom. “Are you talking about the frat party stories?”

The Anti-Mayor turned on her friend. “What frat party stories?”

“Now ladies,” Jonathan said assuredly. “I’m about to head home for dinner. Now if you don’t mind.”

“Yes, of course,” Mrs. Stevens said with a smile. For her, the conversation seemed to have gone very well.

“I want to know about these stories,” the Anti-Mayor said angrily. She followed Mrs. Stevens out the church.

“I’ll tell you in the car,” Mrs. Stevens said to her.

Jonathan turned back to the organ, but he didn’t feel like playing music anymore.

“Lucy was kicking again,” Cassandra said from the bathroom.

“Huh? Who?” Jonathan was lost in his own thoughts and had trouble keeping up. This was happening to him a lot lately. He grabbed the bag of frozen green beans and held it to his ankle again.

Cassandra came out of the bathroom. Her hair was wet and she was combing it. She was wearing his old college sweatshirt and a pair of sweat shorts. “Lucy. Your daughter?”

Jonathan looked up from his ankle. “Lucy? I thought we were going to try and think up a better name.”

“What’s wrong with Lucy?”

“I had an elementary teacher with that name. Didn’t like her. Bad memories of multiplication tables.”

“But I like the name Lucy and she seems to like it,” Cassandra said rubbing her belly.

“Oh, does she?” Jonathan asked. “And that’s another thing. How do you know it’s a she?”

Cassandra smiled. “A woman knows these things.”

“Sure they do,” Jonathan said. He bit his lip and threw the bag of green beans on the ground. It looked far more dramatic than he would have liked.

Cassandra was taken aback by the action. “Are you okay?”

Jonathan couldn’t make eye contact with her. “Mrs. Stevens and the Anti-Mayor came to my office today to talk about you.”

“What did you say?” Cassandra sat on the edge of the bed next to him.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Did you deny the allegations?”

“Cassandra,” Jonathan said. “The stories are rabid. They came in with a new one actually. Something about you making movies.”

“Well, that one is definitely not true.”

“Yes, I know that,” Jonathan said frustrated. He hopped up and moved to the chair in the room away from her. It was a small gesture, but Cassandra caught it.

“Are you okay? You look more in pain than when you were first hurt. Are you putting too much weight on it?”

Jonathan didn’t say anything. There was so much he wanted to say. There was so much he wanted to confront her on. Why did she do those things? The money! This entire room was the result of those sins! God, there had to have been other options in her life she could have taken. Why that career? 

“Are you fine?” She asked again. “Honey?” she asked quietly.

A soft thud.

“Did you hear that?” Jonathan asked quickly.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Cassandra sighed.  Was he trying to distract the conversation?

Another soft thud.

“There it is again,” Jonathan said pointing.

“I heard it too,” Cassandra sat up in the bed. “It sounds like it is from outside.”

A third soft thud.

They made eye contact with each other. A momentary look of fear crossed both of their faces.  What was someone doing to their home?

Jonathan staggered quickly out the doors. By the time Cassandra had reached the doorway of the bedroom, Jonathan was already at the bottom of the stairs. She was shocked that he could have moved so quickly. “Wait, Jonathan,” Cassandra called after him. He didn’t reply to her as he threw open the front door.

It was Mr. Reginald. Old Mr. Reginald with a shovel was digging in his wife’s flower garden. Jonathan was overcome with anger. “What are you doing?”

Mr. Reginald didn’t notice the look of anger on his face. “Jonathan! Great!” He stopped shoveling and walked over to Jonathan. “I was going to tell you, honest. I tried to in your office, hinted I had news about something, but you were distracted so I decided to wait for another time.”

“What are you doing?” Jonathan didn’t move. His fist was shaking in anger against his leg.

Mr. Reginald smiled unaware of the anger in front of him. “This is a secret. Total scout secret and all. You can’t tell anyone. I got the map.” He was excited. It was obvious he had been waiting a long time to share this news with someone. “I’ve got the real map. I found it in some of the historical documents in the museum. All those maps everyone else is running around with are all fakes. I made them. I made them all. See, I figure if everyone else is digging and looking around, no one would notice me digging for the treasure. That’s why I couldn’t tell you, see? It worked out perfect with you criticizing me in front of the grocery store like that. I couldn’t have written it better myself. The treasure is here, Reverend. Here in your wife’s garden! It was here the whole time. The whole time.”

Mr. Reginald  paused then, waiting for that inevitable exclamation of joy from Jonathan. He expected everything from a dance to Jonathan running to get a second shovel… What actually did happen, he didn’t expect in the least. The stress had suddenly snapped Jonathan. “Get the fuck off my lawn,” Jonathan mumbled with a word he had not used in years.

“What?” Mr. Reginald whispered. He leaned in closer to hear Jonathan.

“Get the fuck off my lawn!” Jonathan repeated louder.

This was not good, not good at all. He could wake up neighbors with a ruckus like that. Mr. Reginald motioned for him to quiet down. “Jonathan, hey, not so loud, you’ll wake people up.”

Jonathan was furious. He hopped closer to Mr. Reginald in a threatening manner. Mr. Reginald backed up quickly. It didn’t feel safe to be close to Jonathan even if he only had only one good leg on him. “There is no treasure! There is no Captain 2-Finger McGillis! There is no chest full of gold and jewels! Get off my lawn! Get out of here!”

Mr. Reginald was on the sidewalk. He stopped backing up. Jonathan turned away from him and hopped back to the garden. He grabbed Mr. Reginald’s shovel and threw it at him. Mr. Reginald quickly covered his head with his hands and jumped down as the shovel flew over his head into the street. “Hey! Are you mad?! You almost hit me!”

People were starting to take notice, not that Jonathan cared. Heads were sticking out of windows up and down the street. Cassandra didn’t dare move from the porch. All Jonathan could think about was the violation of Mr. Reginald. He moved threateningly forward. “And I don’t want you spreading any more damn rumors about this treasure! I don’t want you talking to people about digging in my wife’s garden! And you, and no one else has any, any!, rights getting around here! Around her! Talking about her! You hear me! Leave her alone!”

“What are you talking about?”

“She’s my wife and I love her! And if I ever, ever!, hear another bad word, I’ll…” He stopped. There was a crowd nearby. He looked back at his wife on the porch (still wearing his old sweatshirt and still very much pregnant). He pointed at her. “I love her. So any gossip or rumors about her past stops here!” He slowly started hopping to her. “She’s my wife, she’s my soul. And I love her more than anyone ever will know.” He stood on the bottom steps of the porch. He looked up at her. “It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters about the past. I love her and that is all anyone in this town needs to know.” He paused. “I love you, Cassandra.”

Cassandra, leaned over the side of the porch, cupped his face in her hands and softly kissed him.

At that moment, all that existed for Jonathan was that kiss. He didn’t hear the neighbors leading Mr. Reginald away from his lawn. He didn’t hear Mr. Reginald demanding for Jonathan to just hear him about the treasure. He didn’t hear the neighbors mumbling to themselves and disappearing into their houses. Jonathan didn’t hear any of it at all.

All that existed was that kiss.

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