I walked behind Edward as he led me to his office. Why did he have to smell so good? I had resisted the smell of David and Thomas since the cinnamon on the oatmeal had been so fragrant but the empty foyer offered no buffer to that masculine scent. I appreciated that my only instinct was to sniff him. Licking was always frowned upon. I shook my head against the memories of those days when I didn’t understand what was inappropriate playground behavior.
Edward indicated a chair and then sat on the front of his desk. “What’s up?” His casual exterior was betrayed by the buzz of nervous energy coming from the core of his being.
I took the offered seat. “I’ve been reading the journals and thought it was time to share what I have learned.” I shifted, trying to be open. “Marian, the first daugher, had often mentioned the beast in her early entries. It wasn’t until Anna, her daughter, that I was able to get an accurate picture of said beast.”
Edward’s eyes darkened. I reached my hand out to his and offered calming energy. I hated to give it up but he needed it more. “Seems that the men can turn into gargoyles.” I mentally cringed. This was more difficult that I had expected and I had expected it to be in the ballpark of a root canal without novocaine. I smiled. “They don’t talk about why they came to the island. I did find a letter that suggested they left England to escape scrutiny but aside from that.” I shrugged.
“Is there mention of a treatment? A cure?” He asked, his eyes pleading. My heart broke. To live not knowing how special they were, to feel like a freak. I understood the freak part but I always had those who had come before me. To have no one, not even the pleasure cycle could stop that pain.
I shook my head. I touched his hand again, just a little more energy. “We’ll figure this out. Don’t despair, everything will be okay. I’m going to fix this.” I left him with a blank look on his face. I couldn’t give him enough to make him happy or at peace, not even if I gave him all that I had.
I changed into my shorts, my soul at war between heartache and the buzz of life around me. The morning breeze came in to comfort and I, gladly, allowed it to wrap me up. I would be useless if I let the darkness swallow me.
“Wow, you have legs.” I turned to find Meg standing in the doorway.
“I’ve always had legs. I think walking would be difficult otherwise.”
She laughed. The darkness faded with the sound. “Well, I think you could make Vivica jealous with those, at least from what I can see. I would be willing to loan you something mini, so we could find out.” She stepped into the room and sat on my bed.
“I’m okay with these.”
“Wow,” she said again, “you do have some nice legs. What product do you use?”
“Product,” I questioned.
She pointed to my legs. “To keep them so smooth.”
“Oh,” I said cringing,”I’m just naturally hairless.”
Her eyes grew wide, “everywhere?”
I shook my head and pointed to the hair on my head. She laughed, again. The laughter died off into a sigh.
“So,” I said.
“Can I tell you something,” she asked.
“Sure,” I said sitting down next to her.
“I want to go home.” Her body slumped and the cheerful girl was gone. “I’m useless. There’s no point in me being here. There’s no landscaping needed and I have nothing to contribute. I’m so homesick that I…” she stopped but I understood. This happy, beautiful woman cried herself to sleep at night.
“It just so happens I could use your expertise for a project that I just can’t get to.”
She perked up but with suspicion. “I need a catalogue of the plants on the island. There are some mentioned in the journals I am reading but I’m falling behind so I can’t go and find them all. On top of that, I think that there might be some great discoveries to be made.” I stood and walked over to the desk. “I have an empty notebook you can use. It would be great to get a professional description. You don’t have to know everything but a good description, um, some cuttings and maybe some pictures. It would help more than you know.” I handed her the book and a couple of pencils. “Imagine, you could discover something no one has seen before.”
Her eyes were bright as she looked at the book. “Thanks,” she said as she bounced out of the room, nearly running over Thomas.
“You make people happy,” he said once we walked out the front door.
I shook my head. “I don’t do anything.”
“You do that too.”
“What,” I asked.
“You make yourself look small.” We left the wide open yard for the path to the water. “Tell me about your parents.”
“Not much to tell, they are just parents.”
He stopped, holding my arm so I would face him. “What do they do for a living?”
“My dad is a software engineer and my mom is a data analyst.”
His laugh was soft, friendly. “How did you become an anthropologist?” He let go of my arm and continued down the path.
“How does anyone become anything, really? My dad’s family has this tradition. The children are given journals and encouraged to document their lives. When my dad gave me my first one, he also gave me the one he had written when he was a kid. I loved it.” The memory of that first discovery made me tingle. “So much so that I asked my grandmother about hers. She gave me all of hers except the one she was writing in and all the ones she had from those who came before. I barely slept for months as I kept going further and further back in time.”
“Wow,” he replied, “sounds a lot like what you are doing now.”
“Yeah,” I said caught in a daydream. “There’s something fascinating about other people’s stories. It wasn’t the history that interested me but them. Their thoughts about life and everything, that’s what got me. I think, sometimes, the best part was that I had thoughts that were the same. It makes you feel less lonely. It, also, reminds you that you will survive, things change.”
We stopped at the water’s edge. The gentle lap of the waves nipped at the tips of our shoes. I took off my shoes and socks, setting them out of the water’s reach. As soon as my toes curled into wet sand, I stopped. The water caressed my feet, ankles, splashing my legs with teasing sprays.
“I think it’s what I like best about you.”
My attention turned from the water to my companion. “I don’t know what you mean.” I had forgotten I was not alone.
“The passion you have for other people’s stories.” He stepped into the water beside me, his attention on the expanse of blue in front of us. “These are not a people of magic, werewolves or criminals. They are a mystery caused by generations of persecution, a result of non acceptance and ignorance. The truth is they are fierce, loyal, and a family with so much love to share that it craves breaking the boundaries and embracing the entire world.” He was quoting my book. “I don’t know why I picked up your book. There was this tiny bookstore and the book was in the window. It was all alone, this single book. And I just had to know what it was. The shopkeeper said she picked the book up at some event and loved it. She bought a whole case and that one book was all that was left.”
He shifted and faced me. “I devoured it like a mad man. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I think I practically read the whole thing to Jacob on the trip home. My next trip, I went back to the bookshop to find out more about you. I thought about writing to you and begging for more books. Two are just not enough. The articles are almost painful to read, like getting a bite of ambrosia while you are starving. Not enough to satisfy. At least there’s your blog but I don’t get to the mainland often. I’ve taken to printing off the pages to bring back here.” He stepped further into the water, his shorts soaking up the water. “I wanted you here so bad and now I find that I don’t know how to connect with you.”
I stepped up behind him as he turned. His eyes had lost the green and were darkening. I placed one hand on his cheek and the other on his arm. The circuit was hard to hold as the water shifted around us. “Stay with me, Thomas.” His hands gripped the fabric at my waist. “You are connecting just fine.” I let go of the remaining calm I had gotten from my commune with the cedar tree. His eyes lightened but the green remained absent. He leaned forward. His lips a breath away from mine.
The world shifted. I found myself slipping under the water. I was unafraid. Once I righted myself, Thomas was gone. If I understood baseball, my batting average would have been deep in the strike zone. I remained in the water, my toes digging deep into the sand. I opened myself to the world. The sun coming up over the trees to the midday position. The trees casting shadows over the water. I embraced it all.
A blue-red crab moved down the beach from the sanctity of the undergrowth. Our eyes met. I released my spirit from the confines of my body. Surrendering, I allowed myself to connect fully with the island.
My stomach growled. The sun was high above. Disconnecting had left me disoriented. I collected my shoes and walked, barefoot, back to the manor.