The following is the sixth section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous sections here.
This was not a day Cassandra was looking forward to. Peter and Lucy had been gone for two weeks and, in her opinion, it was time she got up and did something. Doing this was at least something. God knows, it had to be done.
“Are you sure you don’t want my help,” Alisha asked earlier that morning on the phone. “The dust up there and your allergies.”
“I’ll be fine,” Cassandra said. “I don’t need the help.” What she couldn’t say was how much she wanted to have this moment alone, even though she wasn’t looking forward to the experience. “And you have Duke, Jr. to take care of.”
Alisha knew Cassandra was just making excuses now. Having a two-year-old following them never bothered them before. “Duke, Jr. #3 is not a problem. And Duke, Jr. #1 and #2 won’t be back from school until three, so I do have time if you need me.”
Cassandra had to fight back from letting out a laugh. Duke, Jr. #1 was almost 9 and the names still made her laugh. Granted, Alisha was almost ten years younger than Cassandra, but that fact still did not explain some of the odd things she did. “Alisha, you know you can still change their names if you want to.”
“Why would I want to do that?”Alisha had lost count how times Cassandra had brought up this issue. Yes, it was unique to name all your children Duke, Jr., but Duke liked it and Alisha liked being unique. Of course, whenever Cassandra brought up this debate it was usually her way of saying “give me some space” in the nicest way possible. “Fine, I get the hint,” Alisha said.
“Don’t take it personally, Alisha,” Cassandra said softly. “I want this moment alone. Jonathan is at work. It’s the first time both my children have been gone.” Children? Was it even fair to still call them children? Lucy was 17, almost 18, and Peter was 22… 22? That idea was still hard for her to grasp. A senior in college and it felt just like yesterday when she last played hide-and-seek with him in the yard.
“Well, you can call me if you need me,” Alisha said. Cassandra heard a loud crash of glass in the background. Alisha sighed. “It’s #3, he found my movie collector plates.”
And Alisha was gone from the phone, leaving Cassandra feeling more alone.
The house had never felt so quiet.
So Cassandra (holding a handkerchief over her mouth and nose) made the solo trek into the attic. She sighed at the state of the junk that filled its walls. Why didn’t she throw more things away? Cassandra was not planning to move all Lucy’s stuff into the attic. She didn’t want her to feel like she had lost a home. No, she just wanted to move some of the knickknacks, the things childhood left behind. She had a box filled with the stuffed animals in Lucy’s collection. She did leave two fluffy souls on the bed though. It didn’t feel right to hide Toto and Aslan in a box. They earned that space with crashes and fear and bravery in a storm.
Another box for clothes she’d grown out of, clothes she wouldn’t dare wear again and clothes that would make her blush. It was rare anyone escaped the bad fashion mistakes that snuck into the high school years.
Another box for old books. Old school texts not returned, colorful children’s books and paperbacks about daring young women during the old days of the last century. Oh, she may want them again someday, but right now it felt best to put them in a secure location. And Cassandra was pretty sure nothing was more secure than an attic. Who would dare consider stalking through that mess unless they had to?
She opened the small window in the back of the attic. The little light was nice, but the fresh air was a blessing. Cassandra removed the handkerchief from her mouth and breathed in.
She turned back around to face the junk. She had to make room. For time’s sake, she decided to concentrate her endeavors to a place near the door. And so, for the next hour, she began to move boxes. Time went by quickly and was rarely marked by anything save the occasional sneeze… Well, that was the case until she found the journal.
It was in an old box filled with supplies from Jonathan. “This must be from his desk before he moved in,” she said to herself. It must have been sitting under the dust for all those 23 years.
She opened the journal and smiled. After over 20 years, Jonathan’s handwriting had not improved a smidgen. It was still a mess.
It wasn’t until she got past the annoyance of his bad writing that she noticed what she had discovered.
Yes, I did go to Mr. Monty’s party. I gave in weakly. Well, it was either that or watching TV. It was better than that only slightly at first. No surprises. No surprises.
I’m avoiding the issue! It’s just so out of character for me to be this way, so I’m avoiding writing about it… No biggie. Just get it out. This party did have ONE notable difference.
Let me paint the picture- Another boring party filled with the regular young professionals (mostly single) that sneak around our island with the hint of desperation. So I had a lot of people to avoid. Anyway (Don’t get off track again. Control. Use the brain and concentrate), I saw someone new.
The word “Beautiful” does not do her justice. She floored me… No, literally, she knocked me down outside.
I better explain this better. When we were outside she was by the cliff talking on a Monty phone (probably to him), I (Okay, bear in mind, I was being casual) was standing by the door staring at the stars (Honest! Counting the stars!) and she walked into me, knocking me down… flat!
I don’t think she realized what she did, because she didn’t say sorry or anything.
Anyway, anyway, anyway, by the time I got up and back in the mansion, she was gone.
Seriously, she must have taken her coat and ran away.
Now… Now… is when I did some investigating. Through Duke, I learned her name was Cassandra (I met her roommate, Alisha, but I don’t think she will remember though; she had some drinks). She was new to the island and lived in the Peace Cottage.
Yes! The gazebo I read in (the one with the view of the ocean) belongs to her!
I’m stunned. It’s 2 AM and I am still stunned.
I spent the last hour walking the beach and I thought, maybe, yes maybe, if I put words to paper I could get some grasp over my head.
This is silly. I just saw this person, nothing more.
I sound like a thirteen-year-old who has his first crush. This is very sad.
I’ve been debating with myself whether to go to the gazebo or not tomorrow. This is all silly. I always go to the gazebo on Saturday morning. And who is to say that I’ll see her?
Come on, who will date a reverend besides someone very religious? I don’t even know her. I don’t have a chance. She probably won’t even consider the idea.
This is sad.
This is sad.
She’s just human. Just another human being I saw at Mr. Monty’s gala.
No, that’s not true. If that was the case why do I feel so overwhelmed by her?
Oh, good question, Jonathan….
NOTE TO SELF: Edit these pages when you decide to publish Jonathan on the Island: The Journal of a Reverend Finding Himself on an Island Lost in Time and at the End of the World.
NOTE TO SELF: You need to really work on editing that title.
“Can I watch?”
Lucy opened her duffel bag and threw it on the bed. “I don’t know why you would want to Mom. I’m just packing.”
Cassandra walked into the room. “I know.” She pulled out a desk chair and sat down.
Cassandra watched in silence as her daughter went through each drawer of her dresser slowly picking what deserved and what didn’t to follow her to college. “Did I tell you how proud I am of you?”
“Only a million times, Mom.”
“Well, I am,” Cassandra smiled. “A full ride for your singing. It’s…”
“Lucy,” Cassandra said slowly. “It’s an incredible achievement.”
Lucy studied her mom’s face. She blushed bright red, smiled and turned back to the bags.
Quiet. Too quiet.
“Do you need any help?”
“Nah, I’m good,” Lucy turned to her music player. “Do you mind if I put on some music?”
Lucy put on some modern jazz. Cassandra was always happy that she had such eclectic tastes. She liked to believe it meant that Lucy would never have a boring life. For her, there would always be something new to discover, embrace, learn, and love.
Lucy went to the closet and pulled out a full bag.
“Oh, I packed this last week,” Lucy laid it on the bed near her duffel bag.
Just like me, Cassandra thought, she likes to pack early.
Lucy opened the bag and tried to see if she could fit any more shirts into it. Something caught Cassandra’s eye. She stood up. “Just a second.”
Cassandra moved towards the bed, reached into the bag and pulled out a dress. “What’s this?” She held it up with an amused look of accusation on her face. “This is my dress.”
Lucy stuck her hands in her jean pockets. “Yes,” she said with a hint of embarrassment. “I was really hoping you wouldn’t notice that until I was gone.”
I should really be preparing for my sermon tomorrow, but I need to talk about what happened. I only got two hours of sleep last night so if I seem a little out of it, please take that into consideration. (Handwriting is worse than normal. My “H’s” barely look like “H’s.”) I did go to the gazebo this morning to read. The decision to go was not an easy one for me, but that wasn’t the hard one. No, it wasn’t the decision over the act that was difficult; it was more over what to bring and do.
I did finally just do what I always do. I wore my old sweatshirt and jeans (like it’s a typical Saturday morning reading in the gazebo). I stressed for a time over my book. I’m in the middle of rereading Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence (scandal, scandal) and I worried if I was making any awkward intentions by having that book as compared to something with a timider title.
You see what I mean about stressing about the little things?
Well, did I meet her? Yes, I did.
It was obvious she had just gotten up. She was wearing PJ bottoms and a college sweatshirt. She was holding a full glass of orange juice and the newspaper. (Clear proof that she is new to the island. I saw Citizen Kane at the party the previous night and I, and anyone that saw him, knew there would be nothing in that Saturday morning edition.)
She looked tired.
She looked frustrated.
She still looked beautiful.
So how was I that morning talking to a woman I had become instantly fascinated by? Quite well.
Looking back I think I was very cool and not silly. Yes, I was as cool as a cucumber. There is no doubt when I walked away she wondered, “Who was that nice, cordial, and polite gentleman?”
I think I may try to see her again next Saturday morning.
It was the last morning sail. The last morning sail of the full family probably for quite some time. Cassandra didn’t try to think of that fact. “Lucy has always liked to sail,” Cassandra said.
How many times has she said that, Peter thought. He still didn’t have a desire to interrupt her though.
Cassandra was at the controls. Jonathan and the kids were sitting in the stern. Cassandra was always a good sailor. “Lucy even loved to sail before she was born. When I was pregnant with her, she used to always be so at peace when we were at the sea. She never kicked; unless she wanted attention, of course.”
Now she is going to talk about Lucy’s birth, Peter thought. He took a sip from his soda and smiled. Sometimes repetitive habits can be reassuring.
“Lucy was born when we were out sailing. Do you remember that, Jonathan?”
Jonathan wrapped his arm around his daughter. “Of course, I remember that.”
“Well, I don’t,” Lucy said.
Peter remembered that day. He was rushed into the crew quarters of the ship. It sounded like hours up there. He kept wondering what his little sister was doing to his mother. Jonathan tried to explain to him that it was all part of the miracle of birth… He then noted that the certain new words Peter heard were all made up and were only supposed to be spoken in times like that… Peter remembered taking careful note to remember them.
Cassandra listened to the voices of her family. Lucy was talking about the music department of the school and what she had found out about her roommate. It sounded like Peter was giving her advice on how to deal with a problematic roommate.
Peter… Peter was one thing. He had been independent for years, but there was always something about Lucy. While Peter would sometimes feel embarrassed by his parent’s attention at school events and sporting events, Lucy seemed to relish the attention. She wanted them there… and they weren’t going to be there now. There would be missed concerts and performances. Not many, probably, but there would be some.
Saying goodbye to Peter before he left for the University of Chicago was difficult. Saying goodbye to both of them, Cassandra didn’t even want to consider.
Cassandra was glad she had her sunglasses on this morning, for it would be hard for any of them to see the tears.
It was the last sail of the full family. Cassandra pointed the sailboat to the golden sun. It hurt her eyes even through her old, big sunglasses. She didn’t mind. She looked as long as she could and then turned back to look at her family.
It was all gold; the sky, her family, all gold.
If I sound a little freaked out, I’m sorry, but I am a little freaked out… Freaking freaked out. Okay, this is the scene- The date was great. Wonderful. Had a great and wonderful time. Her friend Alisha followed us around for a part of the beginning which was odd, but that’s not what’s freaking me out. I walked her to the door of her cottage. Yes, I was going to make a move to kiss her. I was definitely considering it. And… Well, she ran. She took off like lighting!
She ran up her stairs and into her room, slamming the door.
Her friend Alisha was sitting on her couch. She looked at me curiously; I looked at her curiously. She got up from the couch (she was wrapped in a quilt), walked up to the door and said, “I’m sure it’s…. yeah.” And then shut the door.
I’m sure it’s… yeah?
I’m sure it’s… yeah?
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
I just spent one of the greatest evenings of my life with that woman and she takes off like I’m planning to hurt her. (Okay, this is definitely being edited from my journals. I don’t know how I would explain this to my readers.)
I’m sure it’s… yeah.
I need to calm down… I’m going to get a drink……………. I have a drink now. I made myself a Tom Collins. Yes, I know it’s only 11 AM, but I felt like one.
I want to see her again.
I felt something. That couldn’t have been just me, could it? I thought for sure she was feeling something for me. It felt so right. You have no idea, how right it felt and she just took off. Just took off.
What does this mean?
Did I say something? I’ve been scraping my brain trying to remember if I did. I don’t think I did. And we’ve known each other for three weeks now. Three weeks and I didn’t see this coming. If she thought she was going to run away from me like that, why did she go on the date? Was it for the food?
Okay, okay, I need to calm down. Okay? Okay, okay. I need to stop writing the word “okay.”
Let’s think this through, Jonathan. There is something else here you don’t know about. Something she has not told you yet. Something she felt had to be kept hidden. It’s not you. If it was you, she wouldn’t have gone out on the date with you… Right?…. Right?….
(There are my social work classes at work.)
I didn’t get any sleep last night. Not a single wink. I spent the entire evening pacing back and forth trying to think what I might’ve done and what might’ve happened. And I couldn’t think of anything. It all felt so right. Everything felt so right.
No sleep, no patience, no sense of reality right now.
It was such a great time. So wonderful and then she ran. Ran like she saw a ghost. Ran like she saw her greatest fear… Is that what I am, some kind of a fear for her?
It’s probably the fact I am a reverend. She could see an end already in sight and thought why bother. Why bother going through a relationship when you see the end already in sight, right?… Well, what if you’re wrong?
She is wrong.
I felt so perfect for her. She felt so perfect for me and she ran.
I need to eat something. Coffee then alcohol doesn’t make a happy soul… no peace… no peace…
She’s at the door… I’ll write more later.
How old am I now? Lucy thought to herself. 17? How old was I yesterday? 6, yes maybe, 6 and now I’m 17, just like that. She looked out at the ocean. “It looks so much bluer up here.” The occupant of the seat next to her didn’t reply.
Her brother was engrossed in the in-flight movie. It must be a comedy, Lucy thought. Or she hoped it was, he was laughing a lot. Peter was always known for laughing at movies. Lucy always thought it was just for the sake of laughing.
Lucy wished the plane had a rear window. She wished she could watch the island disappearing. “No, that’s silly,” she said quietly. “I need to leave that behind.”
A nudge against her arm. Peter smiled. He took off the headphones and whispered in her ear. “I know what you’re thinking.” He tapped her arms softly. “You’ll be fine,” he whispered like he was sharing the greatest secret in the world and it was only for her. “Welcome to adulthood, sis.” He placed the headphones back on his head and turned back to the movie.
She punched his arm lightly.
He smiled again.
She leaned against his arm and tried to fall asleep. It was going to be a long flight…
No matter what Cassandra said she did or was, I don’t see her that way.
For the last week, I’ve debated with myself and argued with myself what to do about the situation. And even though parts of my mind scream at me, I can’t turn away.
Through this turmoil, I’ve come to the truth that I love her.
I love Cassandra.
And I hope someday that she will marry me.
So much of what I once thought or set as priorities is set aside…. A great example is this journal. Any daydreams I had of publishing these journals and my thoughts on the cultural experience of Royal Carlton Island… Any attention I bring to myself and her could take away what I hope to build here with her, what I dream we could have. If she will have me….
God, I love her.
It feels so surreal to say it. I’ve had crushes in high school and dated in college, but never anything like this. I’ve always been bad at expressing my emotions. They always seem to come across as corny, like lyrics of a bad ballad, but I’ve never felt this strongly about anyone or anything before.
I want to make a life with her.
So this will be my last journal entry. It didn’t feel right to just stop writing without saying goodbye. I truly feel like I am setting off on a new road, a new path for my life. Maybe that is what this entry is? Me saying goodbye to the person I once was. That stoic quiet man, who couldn’t express his feelings, so sought answers with God… And God answered all my questions with her.
You should have seen me when I first met her at the gazebo! Or on that first date! I was giddy. It was like being punch drunk. I was so playful and witty and flirty. So unlike me. She makes me smile. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt this youthful.
It’s odd really, my writing in this journal. I’ll probably get rid them just as soon as I get around to it. (It is 30 notebooks at last count!). So why am I writing?
What do I have to say? What do you want to ask me?
1. Will you stay in the church?
Yes, I think I’m doing a good job here and will continue to do a good job.
2. Aren’t you worried that her past could haunt your job?
It’s only a job…I will still have my religion and God… I know, I know in the past I was obsessed with my job, but I have overcome that. There is more to life than work. The true worship of God is to live the life he gave us to the fullest with love always. I understand that now. The world… The world is his chapel and no matter what field I am in, I’m still his servant. And he will keep me in this position for as long as he wants me…. As long as he will have me.
3. Do you plan to have kids?
Whoa! That is jumping the gun.
4. Okay, you’re right- Do you want to get hitched?
Hitched? What a romantic term… Seriously, yeah, I do. Very much. But we are just starting to be serious. I’ve got to give it some time. Maybe in a year.
5. What do you like best about her?
Her courage, strength, laugh, smile and the fact that you can’t win a debate with her no matter how hard you try… Oh, wait, did you want just one?
6. No, that was fine…. So really, this is it?
7. No more writing in the journals?
It’s better this way.
8. Okay, if you say so… But what are you going to tell your mother?
No further questions!
So this is the last entry in Jonathan on the Island. A lot of dead trees went into this work… No more. A new beginning is in store for me. There is a woman waiting for me in Peace.
Cassandra closed the journal softly and quietly. She lovingly placed it back in the old box.
She turned away from the journal and took in the sight of the attic. All those memories, all those years collected in old boxes under dust. Old sleeping bags from camping, old punctured inflatable rafts, old toys, old clothes. Each as precious as a treasure.
She turned back to the journal and ran her fingers along the edge of it.
She quietly sat in the attic for another hour.
The dust didn’t bother her allergies at all.
Jonathan came home to a house full of lights. Candles lined the hall, the kitchen, the living room, the stairs. He laid his coat on the chair by the door and slowly walked in. “Cassandra?” he said quietly.
“You’re home early,” Cassandra called from the kitchen. “Dinner is heating up.”
She was in an evening dress, playing with the dials on the oven. “It’s from The Barclay’s Dining House. The same meal we had on our first date. I thought I would have a few more minutes. You’re early.”
Jonathan scratched his head. “Did I miss an anniversary?”
Cassandra took off the oven mitts and walked over to him. To his surprise, she kissed him passionately. Jonathan almost had to gasp for air at the end.
“Now I know I missed something,” Jonathan laughed. He sat down in his chair.”Wait! You’re not pregnant, are you? You said that wasn’t possible and…”
Cassandra interrupted with a laugh. “No.” She shook her head and turned back to the oven.
Something was reflecting from Jonathan’s plate. “What’s this?” He reached down and picked up a strange golden key. He held it up to her. “What is this?”
Cassandra looked behind at him and gave him a crooked smile. “I’ll tell you later… Let me get the meal.”
The meal smelled good. Jonathan smiled at the dish put in front of him. He placed the key down and looked up at her. “You’re not pregnant and there is no missed anniversary. Well, you got me, what’s the celebration?”
“Us,” Cassandra said. She poured two glasses of wine and handed one to him. She sat down in her chair. She raised her glass in the air.
Jonathan quickly raised his glass like her.
“To new beginnings,” Cassandra said and drank.
Jonathan drank his glass slowly.
Take a step back- Leave them to their meal. They are laughing and talking about their days, life, future.
Take another step back- Outside the cottage. They are still at the table. Jonathan has leaned over the table and is kissing her. The candles are playing with the shadows on the wall.
Take a third step back- Just another cottage… Just another house… Just another street.
Take a final step back- Just another city… Just another island… Just another world.