Monday, July 4, 2011

Family Secrets

Angela’s heart was broken.  Her precious Aunt Rose had passed and she was left entirely alone in the world.  She and her aunt had been inseparable, which seemed strange to outsiders, considering the difference in their ages.  Aunt Rose took over raising Angela when she lost her mother to cancer.  Her father had long been out of the picture so it was only natural that Aunt Rose, her mother’s only relative, would step in and raise Angela.

Aunt Rose was very much like Auntie Mame.  She was a flamboyant character and believed in living life to the fullest.  Luckily for her, her first husband was wealthy and although he died very young, he left her fixed for life (so to speak).  Until she took over raising Angela, she traveled the world on one long cruise after another. People who thought raising Angela would slow down Rose McCabe were wrong.  She simply took Angela along on her journeys.  It was her belief that traveling the world would give Angela as much education as sitting in a stodgy old school room and better prepare her for living in a world that was constantly changing.

Having a full-on pity party for herself, she slumped down on Aunt Rose’s bed.  When the doorbell rang, she simply ignored it.  However, the person at the other end was persistent and the bell rang again and again until Angela couldn’t stand it any longer.  She yanked open the door so hard, it banged against the wall. 

Standing there was Mr. Duvall, her aunt’s attorney.  “What can I do for you?” she said in her best snarly tone.

Angela had never like Mr. Duvall and was always amazed that Aunt Rose did.  He was a stodgy old curmudgeon and nothing like the people who usually took care of her affairs.

“I have here some letters and a video left for you by your aunt.  I was to deliver them to you personally.”

“Well, you did. Thank you.”  She tried to take the envelope but Mr. Duvall wouldn’t let go.

“According to your aunt’s instructions, I’m to be here with you for the watching of the video and the reading of the letters.”

“You want to do it now?”

“No time like the present,” he replied as he pushed past her and walked in the door.

“I know you never liked me much, but you’re going to learn some things today that might make a difference. Where’s your player?” holding the DVD in his hand.  She led him to the living room and asked if he wanted anything to drink.

“Yes, a stiff drink, gin if you have it.”  She looked surprised but when she returned she had a glass filled with two fingers of  gin and a separate glass filled with ice cubes.

“Didn’t know if you wanted these or a mixer of any kind,” she said handing him the glass with the ice cubes.

“This is good.  Thank you.  I’m going to put the video in first and then we’ll read the letter.  I will do my best to answer any questions.”

Angela sat back in the chair  as Aunt Rose’s image appeared on the screen.  She’d apparently done this recently because Angela recognized the sweater set they had purchased on their last shopping trip before she became too ill to leave the house.

The tears started coursing down her cheeks as she heard her aunt’s voice.  ‘These are answers to questions you’ve asked many times and although I never lied, I never told the truth either.’   Fifteen minutes later, Angela’s whole world was upside down.  She learned that Mr. Duvall was her uncle.  His brother Arthur and her mother had a torrid love affair when they were younger.  He was married at the time and never divulged the fact to her mother.  When her mother became pregnant and went to him, he denied her and she married the man Angela thought was her father.  Obviously, it was a loveless marriage and his leaving was the best thing for all.

Arthur Duvall confided in his brother that Angela was his child and arranged for care for her and her mother with the proviso that Angela never learn of his identity.  William Duvall became the go between and continued as such long after Arthur’s death.

Angela was stunned, she wasn’t capable of any words only tears that continued down to stream down her cheeks.  

“I’m sorry Angela.  I know this is a shock but after Arthur and your mother’s death, your Aunt saw no reason to burden you with things long past over.  Can you read the letter, or would you like me to read it to you?”

“You read it.”

He unfolded the letter and began.

            My sweet girl.  Don’t hate me.  I always planned on telling you face to face someday when you were older but never had the courage.  This really doesn’t change anything except that you now have answers to questions and know there is still family around.  I know how you feel about George, but he is your uncle and if you’re interested there are cousins. That’s between you and George.

            I want you to take one last trip with me.  I would like you to take my ashes to a little cottage in Hope Town. A lovely name, don’t you think?  Anyway, I digress.  Hope Town is a quaint village on the island of Elbow Key, Abaco, The Bahamas. Please                scatter them over the beach at rising tide so I can ride the waves one last time.

You’ve never been there I’ve always kept it to myself. Rory and I discovered it and bought it on our honeymoon.  It’s a place we always found peace and it’s the place I always felt the closest to him.  The cottage is now yours and I hope you find your love there as I found mine.

I love you girl as my own.

 Her uncle refolded the letter and handed it to Angela.  “Do you have any questions?”

“I’m too shocked to process it right now but I may in the future.  I’m sorry I’ve treated you poorly all these years.  It’s uncanny that subconsciously I transferred the feelings I had about my father onto you.”

“It’s okay, I understand and never took it personally.  What are your plans?”

“I guess I’m off to the Bahamas.  I assume you have the details.”

“I do, I’ll make arrangements to have the cottage aired out and prepared for your arrival.”

“Thank you…I’m not sure what to call you, are you Uncle William or still Mr. Duvall?”

“That’s your choice, Angela.” 


Angela flew into Marsh Harbor and took a cab to the dock where she boarded the ferry across to Elbow Key.  She stepped off the ferry and saw a man holding a sign with her name.

“Hello, I’m Micah Jameson, the caretaker of Winston Cottage,” all said in the melodious island lilt with a British accent. “Welcome to Elbow Key, Ms. Duncan. We will be at the cottage anon.”

She loved listening to him speak, he was so very formal.  He opened the back door of the vehicle and she climbed in the front.  She could see by his expression that it miffed him because it wasn’t proper.  “I can see you take after your Aunt, Ms. Duncan.” 

“What a lovely thing to say and please call me Angela or Abby, whichever you wish.”

“I prefer Ms. Duncan.”

“Well, don’t expect me to always respond.”  He huffed a little.  “Very well.”

They turned away from the dock area and drove down a street lined with trees, turned off onto a dirt road and stopped.  Winston Cottage was painted on the sign attached to a white picket fence.  “It’s how mail is addressed here.  Each place has it’s own name rather than numbers.”

“How lovely,” she replied.  The cottage was white-washed and stood out among the island greenery, dotted here and there with brilliant yellow and red hibiscus.  Two white wooden rockers, shaded by palmettos sat on the porch.  She walked into a large room, in the center stood a stone fireplace that obviously provided the only heat needed in this warm climate.  French doors led to a large deck that overlooked the ocean, with the harbor off in the distance to the left. 

She immediately felt in love with Winston Cottage and couldn’t see how she could ever leave. The doors were open and the white curtains billowed in the breeze bringing in the wonderful scent of the floral garden and the saltiness of the sea breeze.  As she breathed in the scents and sounds of the island, a peace settled over her.

“Where would you like me to put your things, Ms. Angela?”

“Ms. Angela, that’s a start.  Why not just set them down there and I’ll decide later. I want to see the rest of the cottage first. You don’t have to stick around, Micah. I can call you Micah, can’t I?”

“As you wish.” She gave him a salute and the look that was returned was anything but happy.

She watched him go and for the first time realized he was much younger than she originally thought.  His stodginess made him seem older than his years, perhaps it was his upbringing or his station in life.  As he retreated, she noticed his muscular, tanned calves and the way his well- tailored shorts hugged his backside, all tight and crisp, just like the rest of him.

hmphf’ she said to herself and swore she heard Aunt Rose chuckle. 

Turning to her right, she walked down the short hallway to the light and airy master suite. It too had French doors leading to the deck and off to the side a small bathroom with a large shower. She walked out onto the deck and dropped into one of the lounges.  She caught sight of Micah walking down the path and her mind began to conjure up all manner of scenarios all ending with their bodies melding together.

She woke to the smell of something delicious.  Wandering into the kitchen, she was alarmed to see a short woman standing over the stove stirring a pot of something. Angela was about to call for help; the woman introduced herself. 

“I’m Mirabelle.  Mr. Jameson sent me over.” 

“Nice to meet you, Mirabelle.  I didn’t expect anyone, especially anyone to cook for me. I’ll have to thank Micah.  What are you making.”

“Conch chowder, it’s an island specialty.  There is fresh baked bread and butter, too.  Mr. Jameson thought you might be hungry after the long day of traveling.  It’s almost ready if you want to eat now.  If not, I’ll just leave it for you when you’re ready.”

“Thanks, Mirabelle.  I think I’d like to take a shower now and eat later.  Will I see you again?”

“Probably, I work for Mr. Jameson at his place and other places as he requires.”

“I see.  Well, thank you again and nice meeting you.”

Angela went off to take a shower.  She loved hot showers, the hotter, the better.  After depleting the hot water supply, she stepped out into a steam-filled bathroom and realized she’d left her robe in the bedroom. 

“OOO,” she yelled when she saw Micah standing in the bedroom.  His eyes were taking full advantage of the view of her standing there naked. She quickly retreated to the bathroom to grab a towel to cover her nudity.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m so sorry.  I didn’t expect you to pop out.”

“That didn’t answer my question.”

“I was making sure the French door’s worked correctly.  They’ve only recently been replaced.”

“Didn’t you hear the shower?”

He turned crimson, and she knew she had him.  “So you thought maybe you’d catch a glimpse of the American girl,” she teased.

Angela watched him bristle at her comment and couldn’t help but poke the bear.  “Well, did you like what you saw?”

He didn’t reply but Angela didn’t let it rest.  “I asked a question, it’s rude not to answer. Did you like what you saw?”

“Everything seemed to be in all the right places,” he replied.  She saw him smirk before he turned and left the room.

When she dressed and came out, she saw him sitting in a lounge on the deck and yelled to him from the kitchen.  “Micah, I’m going to sample some of that delicious smelling chowder Mirabelle left, would you like to join me?”

“That depends.  Are you decent and are you going to be making any more cheeky comments.” He came into the kitchen.

“I’m always decent, Aunt Rose made sure I was raised that way and as for cheeky, whatever do you mean?”

“That, my dear is a cheeky comment.  You damn well know what it means.”

“Language, Mr. Jamison, language, don’t offend my sensibilities. I have delicate ears.”

“Delicate, huh.  I think not.”

“Are you suggesting I may not be telling the truth? What must you think of me?”

“I think the American girl needs to be taught some manners.”

“Really, and just what did you have in mind, charm school?”

“Not at all, I had more of a good hard spanking in mind. Maybe if your arse cheeks were smarting, you wouldn’t be so cheeky.”  It was Angela’s turn to turn crimson.

“Yes, that’s the color I had in mind,” he told her.

She began opening cupboards looking for soup bowls.  The next thing she knew he was behind her opening the cabinet and handing her the bowls.  His hot breath on her neck didn’t do anything to tamp down the heat remaining from their last conversation.”

“Micah, thanks for Mirabelle, that was sweet.  She said she worked for you at your place and at your request.”

“That she does,?”

“That’s it; you’re not saying anything more?”

“What more do you want to know.”

“A little bit about you and this place.”

“My ancestors settled on this island back in the late 1700’s.  They were British loyalists who escaped from South Carolina during the American Revolution.  We’ve been here ever since. I was educated in London but returned home for a family emergency and never went back.  I love the island life, and I’m able to work from anywhere.”
“I didn’t even know about this place until recently. I know you’re not old enough to have known my Uncle Rory, but did you know my Aunt Rose?”

“No, I didn’t know your uncle, but my father did. He actually sold this property to him. Once, my family owned a good deal of this island.  Your Aunt Rose only visited very few times and always short visits.  I talked with her by phone quite often though about this cottage.  She always wanted to be kept abreast of any repairs needed, etc.”

“Interesting.  Would you take me on a tour?”

“If you behave?”

“And if I don’t?”

“I think you know the answer to that.  I’ve given you fair warning, and we operate under different laws than in the US, so beware.”

She chuckled and knew she was going to test the waters, after all, she was her aunt’s protegee, so to speak.

Their conversations continued in the same vein throughout the rest of the afternoon.  Angela loved listening to Micah. The sound of his voice lulled her into a faraway place.

“Are you listening to me, Angela?”

“Of course, I am.”

“What did I just say?”

“You were explaining about what’s available on the island.”  The truth was she’d only processed about a third of what he said – the rest was lost to her.

“Very well then.  I’ll leave you and will see you tomorrow.”

He left and Angela had no idea what he meant about seeing her tomorrow.  Angela spent the rest of the night unpacking and exploring the cottage’s contents.  She came across a bundle of letters, tied with a pink ribbon, all addressed to “My Darling Rose”.  Thinking  she shouldn’t read the letters didn’t stop her; she couldn’t help herself.  These had to be love letters from Rory and although she felt as if she was a voyeur, she untied the ribbon.  The first letter was dated before Rose and Rory were married.  Uncle Rory’s prose was flowery and he obviously had taken snippets of different poet’s and incorporated them into his letter.  She smiled at his attempt at romanticisim and winning over Aunt Rose.

The letters chronicled their relationship as it progressed from their first date through their engagement, marriage and finally the last letter which was dated the week before he died.  Although she shouldn’t have been surprised knowing her aunt, she learned there were times that Uncle Rory reined in his exhuberant mate and that, based on reading between the lines of his letters, Aunt Rose loved her every bit of his dominance and that at times deliberatly provoked her husband to get the attention she desired. Many of the letters included threats of severe chastisements over his knee while the others were regrets that he had to be so harsh as to use his belt to get his point across.  One letter described how much his heart hurt as he watched her gather switches from the willow tree in the back of the cottage.  “I know I have to endure bruising your flesh, but my heart will bear the marks as well, my darling Rose.  You leave me no choice.  Your well-being means too much to me.”

When Angela finished reading the last letter, she was sobbing.  A great love cut short by an unfortunate accident.  A love that sustained her aunt the rest of her life.  She hoped to be that lucky.  Angela climbed into bed, listening to the sound of the wind whistling through the palmettos and the waves crashing onto the shore.  She was asleep in no time.

The following morning she was daydreaming over a cup of coffee when Micah rode up on his bicycle. He looked as fresh and beautiful as his surroundings.  Dressed in white shorts with a light blue shirt that brought out the color of his eyes, he could have been a poster boy for Ralph Lauren. She sighed.

“Are you ready?” he called to her.

“Ready for what,” she responded.

“Did you hear anything I said?”

“I’m sure I heard some of it.  I’ll offer my full day of travel as an excuse. What did I miss?”

“You missed that we’re going on an island tour this  morning.  Mirabelle has packed up a picnic lunch and we’ll stop at Tahiti Beach to swim and have lunch before we head back here. Are you up to it?”

“I’m game.  There’s fresh coffee if you’re interested.  I’ll go get my things.”  He slapped her ass as she walked by.  She turned to him with a questioning look on her face, “that’s for not listening to me,” he told her.

“That would hardly be a deterrent.”

Good to know.”

By the time they reached Tahiti Beach, Angela was more than ready for a break. There was a beach in her backyard; why did they have to travel so far to just another beach, her butt was sore and her calves tighter than a drum.  Long bike rides weren't something she did every day and it showed.  Micah pedaled along as if it was nothing – he wasn’t even breathing hard. She let Micah haul are the necessaries to where he wanted to have the picnic.  The beach was beautiful – a long stretch of white sand, palms here and there and the sound of the waves lapping up on shore.  It was surprisingly sans people and only occasionally did she hear a bird singing its song and the distant sound of a boat engine. 

Angela collapsed on the blanket Micah had laid down and accepted a cold bottle of beer. He removed his shirt exposing a tanned, muscled chest that narrowed to a slim waist and flat belly.  She watched his tight ass and corded thighs as he ran to the water. 

“Coming” he yelled back at her before diving into the water. There was no way she could have reacted quickly enough to join him. He swam out to the bouy and back.  He looked like a sea god coming out of the water with the sea water droplets sparkling in his hair and on his bronzed chest. “Lordy, he was gorgeous and that accent,” she realized she was in deep trouble and deep lust.

He toweled off and dropped down on the blanket beside her. 

“Shall we have lunch now?” he asked

“Yes, that bike ride really worked up my appetite.  I can’t wait to see what Mirabelle fixed for us.”

When she didn’t move, he said, “I thought you were hungry.  Why aren’t you unloading the picnic basket?”

“It isn’t my basket or my place.”

“What place is that?” His lips curved into a slight smile.

“I’m your guest and as such I thought that with your proper upbringing you would naturally take the lead.”

“You American girls can really be snarly while all the while pretending you’re just peaches and cream, can’t you?”

“I don’t know what your experience with American girls has been, but my Aunt Rose raised me to be mannerly and that’s what I was being.  If you want me to unload the picnic basket, come right out and ask.  There is no need to pussyfoot around.”

He threw back his head and his laugh roared so loud that ithis loud startled the birds out of the palmetto palm and they took off squaking at the disturbance.  He went over to the picnic basket and began unloading the contents.

“I’m doing this, you can do the clean up.”

“What is it with you Micah Jamison, you just issue orders and expect everyone to jump at your command, even American girls?”

“That’s ususally the case, yes.”

“Then your education is sorely lacking, at least in my case.” He laughed again, not quite as loud this time.

“Let’s change the subject, shall we? So what do you think of our little slice of paradise?”

“What I’ve seen is absolutely lovely.  I can understand why Aunt Rose and Uncle Rory fell in love with the island.”  The last interchange restored her ability to be polite – the barbs, the claws retracted, for the moment.  She found she enjoyed being with him, he could be quite charming at times and a definite looker.

Angela wondered about Micah.  He had to be about thirty-five or more and she thought he had wounded look about him that made her think that life was not always as easy as he made it out to be. She looked out at the calm water in front of her and reflected on her own situation.  It wasn’t always as happy as she made it out to be either.  Living the way they did, she had no close friends her own age. In a way, she too was wounded.  She had a lot to think about here on the island.  Whether or not to acknowledge her new found family, whether they would accept her as part of that family or whether she should forget and move forward from here.  All ponderous decisions.

“A penny for your thoughts,” Micah said.

“I think they may be worth more than that, to me they seem monumental.”

“Life is what you make it, Angela.  You can make it easy or you can make it hard.”

“Are we back to the snarky Micah Jamison.”  He laughed that laugh that came from his toes and she couldn’t help but smile.

“Okay, no more deep thoughts.  Let’s get this show on the road before I decided to forego the bike altogether and call a taxi. Especially, since you put me charge of clean-up.”

“You know, I do believe you have no idea what it is to work hard.  I think it would do you some good.  While I’m at it,  I’d like to educate you on our ways.”

“For your information, Micah Jamison, I do know what it is to work hard.  I may not be used to physical labor, but mental labor is as difficult.  I’ll have you know, I’m a successful author and have been for the last fifteen years.  Now stick that in your pipe and smoke it.”

“Claws out again, I see.  You can hardly call working at a keyboard, hard work.”

His last statement really riled her.  She dropped the picnic basket and it crashed to the beach, contents spilled everywhere. 

“Now look what you did,” he scolded. 

“Look what I’m doing now” and she hauled off and gave him a good kick in the shins.  “I’m calling a cab.  You deal with this mess.”

He reached out and grabbed for her, catching the back of her shirt.  “I don’t think so Ms. Duncan.  You have this coming.”  He pulled her against his hip.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, let me go.”  She yelled at him and fighting him with all her might.

“Not until I teach you some manners.  I really wish I had a switch or something else beside my hand.  I fear this won’t be nearly enough of a lesson.”

He smacked her bottom over and over again. She was howling and kicking as hard as she could.  It didn’t deter him one bit, he only smacked harder.  When he took a break from punishing her backside, he switched to her sit spots. She was no longer kicking and the howls had subsided to a soft mewling sound. Micah felt the heat coming off her bottom and felt she had enough.  He stopped spanking and righted her.  He tried putting his arms around her but she pushed against him.

“Don’t you dare touch me, you big brute.  I’m going to report you to the constable.”

“You go right ahead, Ms. Duncan.  He’s my uncle and he’s heard it all before.”

“Oohhh,” she exclaimed and hurried off.  She walked passed the bikes and on to the road. She couldn’t imagine sitting on that damn little bike seat – her ass was on fire and throbbing like hell. If she had to,she’d thumb a ride back to the cottage. After all, it was a small island,  it shouldn’t be a problem.  ‘Let that jerk worry about how he was going to handle two bikes.’

She stood on the road and looked back.  Micah was bending over cleaning up the contents of the basket.  His ass was a glorious site and if hers wasn’t so damn sore from the spanking he just delivered, she might have helped him and who knows what might have come from that.  She began walking and within a few minutes, was sorry she had stalked off.  She was hot and sweaty and in her haste to leave him behind, didn’t even grab her bottle of water.  Not a single car had yet to come by and she was beginning to dispair her hasty retreat. 

She stopped in the shade of a palmetto to wipe her brow when she heard a vehicle and spotted a van coming down the road.  ‘Damn, it’s going the wrong way.’  As it came closer, it slowed and then pulled to the side of the road and stopped.

“Do you want a ride, Ms. Duncan?”  She recognized the driver.

“Oh yes, I didn’t realize it would be so hot.” She stepped into the van and plopped down on the seat wincing at the contact. Although the van wasn’t air conditioned, the breeze coming through the windows felt heavenly.  She closed her eyes for a moment and relaxed until she realized the van was driving toward the area she had just left.

“Where are you going?  Home is that way,” as she pointed behind her.

“Yes, but I’m picking up Micah first.  He called and asked if I’d come give him a hand.
For some reason,  he ended up out here with two bikes.”  He actually chuckled.