A Hue of Resolution
By Josephine Hymes
The afternoon was warm and soft; soft and fragrant as the lavender spikes tossed their blue heads to the wind. It was just past lunch time. There was not a single cloud in the clearest summer sky his eyes have seen in years. For the hundredth time he looked at his Doxa pocket watch while the sun rays stroke the golden polished surface. The hands did not seem to have moved a millimeter since the last time he had repeated the nervous movement. "Insufferable slow car!" he thought, "It feels as though I would never be able to get there."
The brown hair strands grazed his eyebrow flowing with the fragrant afternoon breeze. Were he in a different situation, he could have utterly enjoyed the trip across that astonishing countryside. Nevertheless, here he was, on his way to a most decisive interview, not sure of its possible results. A characteristic expression line crossed his forehead, another subtle sign of his nervousness.
Almost a year planning this moment and when he was just about to bring his plans to fruition, he still perceived himself as fully unprepared . . . deprived of skills to accomplish the task. Ironic . . . as almost every single aspect of his life, he believed.
"Anyway, this is not a moment to lose heart. Not now. . . and yet. . ." he hesitated, "I fear all my powers will fail me when the time comes. I know I'm being too bold . . . too presumptuous to even attempt this whole affair . . ."
His thoughts were cut by the sight that was offered to him when the car made its last turn. There it was! The Hill! Not covered by snow, but green with lush and high grass, more than he ever imagined. On the top, the old, towering oak greeted him silently. It would only take the car five minutes more to go around the hill and he would be there! His heartbeat was racing up by the second.
"Certainly . . ." Terry followed still nailed to the floor, unable to move from his spot, all his articulateness failing at once. "Your . . . your friends . . . in Chicago, are they all right?" he asked, his nervousness mounting even more with every irrelevant question that he would produce.
"Oh, yes . . . they are fine . . . Thanks for asking" Candy responded and then her mind fought to find the next most suitable rejoinder. "Now you must ask about his fiancée's health," she told herself, but she couldn't command the courage to do it. Candy thought that her mind would burst in the effort. What in the world did Terry mean by coming to see her now . . . of all times? She was about to lose all self-control and feared what her tongue could do in such a state.
"Would you not sit down?" she asked after a second of silence with the last remains of wits that she had found.
With some relief for having reached a way to keep her ladylike composure, the young woman invited the guest to sit. The place, though furnished with simplicity, was kept tidy and not deprived of those charming details that female taste usually brings. Candy took the place near the window, on a small loveseat and Terry sat on an austere armchair chair just across her. Unknowingly, the young woman had chosen for their conversation the spot where the afternoon golden rays illuminated her countenance. From his seat then, Terry could muse on the picture that the young woman's unstudied beauty made in the charming frame of her countryside home. He silently revised her features, observing those tiny details that had always driven him mad. From the perky nose to the incredibly white hands that rested on her lap, everything was appealing to him. God! How he liked that stubborn ringlet grazing her right temple and that particular way in which she carried herself. In his eyes she looked like a princess, even in that simple flowered dress she was wearing. How he had longed to see her again, and now she was there, right in front of him!
"I suppose you are in the middle of one . . . of your tours," Candy started once seated, unknowingly interrupting Terry's appraisal of her looks.
"Actually, I have just finished one," he answered trying to sound collected; "I'm enjoying a break now."
"I see . . . you did have a good season, I suppose," the young woman continued. Inconsequential small talk had never been one of her best skills and it was even more difficult with her heart pounding so loudly.
"Certainly, I can say so," the young man replied.
There it was, a good vein for prolonging the conversation into safe ground, Terry thought. He needed to appease the anxiety of the moment with some neutral topic before he could open the one that had brought him to prompt such an encounter. So, for some time, he lingered talking about his latest role and work experiences, always avoiding the mention of anyone they both knew. Candy listened with attention, merely rejoining here and there when it was needed. Internally, the young woman was also making her own examination of the speaker.
"You can't help it, Terry," she thought, "You are a sight for sore eyes, whether on the poor stage of Rockstown with those worn out garments, or as the sober gentleman as you look today. Just when I think that you cannot grow more masculine and attractive you choose to appear at my doorsteps so dazzlingly fit and tall. I should hate you for this. To think that such a man was mine once!" was the regretful thought that followed in her mind. "But there is no use, now!" she chastised herself, "He belongs to another. For Christ's sake, Terry, why don't you just relieve me from this embarrassing situation and go away!" Her heart was crying so loudly that she had to double her efforts to control her rising temper.
"I can see that you've been leading a very exciting life of late," Candy told him as a way to change the course of her own thoughts, though with little success.
"Sort of . . . on the contrary, you seem to be quite settled here" he said changing the subject abruptly.
"Yes, I am . . . with all of your trips around the country and in England, my life here should appear to you as secluded and dull, I imagine."
"I wouldn't put it that way," he replied, doubting if he should voice the idea that had been nagging his mind for a while. Yet, after a second deliberation he dared to say, "I confess that I wonder for how long a restless soul like yours can keep in this station, away from the thrill of the emergency room and the challenge of surgery. What happened, Candy? What made you leave the professional pursuits you were so proud of?" he asked.
That was enough! She told herself. How did he dare to meddle in her private affairs? What made him believe that he had the right to question her decisions? What was he? A shadow from the past, intruding in her otherwise peaceful existence? How could one keep collected and civil in such situations?
"Oh, Terry, what. . what are you doing here?", she suddenly blurted stumbling through the sentence, "I mean. . . I . ." she could not finish, not knowing herself anymore.
What are you doing here?
Candy's question hung in the air for a moment, extinguishing all attempts to civility between the two of them. Terry did not find his own voice to reply. After a time that had seemed as an eternity, after all his ordeals, planning and decision making, she was there in front of him, asking that simple question. Yet, he could only think of her golden curls just hold by a pale pink ribbon as a hairband, and her big emerald eyes looking at him in astonishment. Would that earnest look mean what he needed? . . . what he hoped so dearly? Or was her sudden angry tone a sign that his visit appeared just as untimely as he had feared? Yet, her question remained in the air and apparently there was no other way, but to answer it.
"I've come to talk to you about some important matter," he finally managed to answer, averting his eyes from hers, from fear of not being able to proceed.
"An important matter . . ." she echoed, confused.
What could be so important to break the oaths that had been silently made that night in New York? "You are bound to make the happiness of another woman" she thought, "We are not to see each other . . . not so soon, at least . . . Oh Terry! It is still too soon. Don't you understand I can't see you as a mere friend, just yet?" Candy wanted to cry aloud to Terry and then flee away from his presence, to some secure place where she did not have to worry about his dangerous proximity. . . Yet, she did not move.
"Yes . . . important things have happened and they concern you . . . or at least, I wanted to believe they might be of some concern to you," he corrected himself. "You know, it's been a while since last time we saw each other," he tried to begin his explanation.
"Four years and a half," she said and then regretted having shown her memory so exact for that matter.
"It is so . . ." Terry interjected, a small ray of hope opening in his mind. "You must have heard about my ups and downs during this time. They have been publicly displayed to the world by the press, I'm afraid," the young man added lowering his gaze with a trace of shame.
"I only know a little," she answered twisting the ruffles in her skirt nervously, as she wondered, yet another time, what Terry's point was. "You left New York for some time and nobody knew of your whereabouts, then your reappeared, with great success. This is all I know," she lied. She was not going to reveal her presence at Rockstown that evening.
"I see . . .it has been a little more complicated than that," Terry replied, and for the first time forced himself to look into her eyes bluntly . . . "Candy, I am not sure whether you would still want to continue calling me your friend if you knew how I have behaved."
"No, Terry, please," she warned him . . . "Why would he want to enter into such a topic?" she thought to herself with horror. Was he there to pay some sort of penance by confessing his sins to her? She was certainly not the most proper hearer for such confessions.
"There's no need to go into such details," she said aloud.
"All on the contrary," he replied as a fresh breeze entered the room bringing the fragrance of the coming evening, "You must know what happened. It was not a pleasure cruise I went on. I lost my job. . . myself, all dignity, all sense of honor that I might have had. And this nonsensical tragedy went on just because I allowed alcohol to take control over me, trapped in a moral dilemma. Unable to make up my mind in a way to satisfy both, my conscience and my most intimate feelings, I wavered in the indecision. I thought that my only solution was to run away as if I could escape from myself."
"But your struggles are now over, as I can clearly see," interjected Candy, anxious to change the direction of the conversation. The more he got into such delicate issues, his face openly transpiring the grief he had undergone, the more she had to control herself not to run to his arms. This was unbearable! Her attraction to him was so irresistible that no matter how much he abused himself in front of her, she loved him all the more!
"In a way, you are right" he replied, "I have finally made up my mind. My dilemma is solved."
"There, it is all said!" The young woman thought. He surely was referring to his recent betrothal to Susannah, after all. Was that what he had come to say? If that was so, then it was certainly the cruelest and most inconsiderate of reasons to come all this way and disturb her peace in such a way. Candy's temper began to mount once more.
"Then I'm really glad you are so at peace with yourself by now," she rejoined with a heated undertone.
Terry immediately recognized the sudden change from bewilderment to anger. He was confused.
"Thanks for your sympathy, but if you allow me, I would like you to know that my decisions have taken me to a turning point . . ."
"Of which we are all well aware, Terry," she interrupted standing up, decided to end this senseless interview as soon as it was possible, "What are you doing here, Terry?" she repeated her former questions, this time with decision in her tone, "Have you come to invite me to your impending wedding, perhaps?"
Terry raised both of his brows astonished by Candy's sudden verbal thrust. Yet, he knew this should be coming any minute.
"You are wrong! There will be no wedding," he said coldly as he also raised himself from the chair.
No wedding! The idea rang in Candy's ears shattering all her ill-regained presence of mind.
"How so? I . . . I read it on the papers . . . It . . . it . . . was a matter of fact . . . just a few weeks ago! You . . . you two would marry as soon as you were back . . . from your tour in Europe." she stuttered.
"It was a gross falsehood," he responded, an angry spark crossing his eyes. "I won't marry Susannah now or ever," he stated firmly. "But it is not strange that those rumors had reached you. Someone was trying to take revenge on me by publishing such lies, but it will be useless. I've already had all of that nonsense contradicted. My own statements on the matter will be soon in the news as well, and the misunderstanding will be cleared up."
"But, why . . . you said your dilemma was solved . . . and besides, it was what we had agreed," she shyly added in a whisper.
"What you and Susannah had agreed, indeed, and what I had cowardly consented," Terry responded feeling that he had at last reached the point that he wanted to clear up, "Please, Candy sit again. We must talk."
Still confused, Candy followed Terry who also sat and waited for a second before he could regain strength to proceed.
"I have done a great deal of thinking," Terry said lowering his voice, a bittersweet tone overcoming him. "The decisions made back then, that night at the hospital, were all very misled, even dishonest."
"What else were we to do?" Candy interrupted. "She was there, the victim of that entire absurd situation. Were we to leave her coldheartedly?"
"There is a great difference!" he interjected vehemently. "It is fair to offer help to a friend in disgrace as an act of gratitude for former favors, but making a promise one is not really able to keep and all out of guilt, was totally wrong! Heavens, Candy, it was immoral to offer my hand in marriage to a woman I did not love . . . I could not love!" he said with a strong gesture of his hands.
"But she loved you so!" Candy argued.
"That was not love, Candy. Don't you see it?" he said bluntly, standing again and starting to pace the room. "Can you love someone and still force the object of your love to endure pain, when it is in your hands to relieve your beloved from that suffering? She was perhaps infatuated, sickly obsessed with me for some strange reason, but she certainly did not love me . . . I know it . . . I can recognize love when I see it. . . It is too grand a thing to be led by selfish motives. I know it, for I have felt it before." When he said this last phrase his face turned to her with a meaningful look she could not sustain.
"Love is sometimes overestimated, I'm afraid. It can bring the deepest grieve too, Terry," she responded as if talking to herself.
"Do you think I ignore that?" the young man said turning his face to the window, to regain some command over his emotions to continue, "but in my case, all pain I could have endured was my own doing. Had I been stronger, had I known how to act better, I would have offered Susannah all the honest help I could give without guilt, without hurting what I loved the most . . . still love the most," he said in earnest. "Without hurting you," he had wanted to say, but refrained.
"What have you done, then, Terry? Have you broken up with her? Have you turned your back on Susannah after all?" Candy asked in a desperate attempt to hold to her past convictions that suddenly seemed to crumble before Terry's words. "Is that how you have solved your dilemma? By abandoning the one who saved your life?"
"By George! Can you stop talking about her as if she were some defenseless creature, Candy? For she is far from that, I can assure you," the young man said with irritated intonation in his words. "Besides, she has not been abandoned at all. All accident expenses and her latter treatment have been paid by the Stratford Troupe. I, on my own, have provided enough for her to live as long as she pleases in a very decent style," he blurted and as he looked around the modest room in which they were. "More expensive a style than the one you seem to demand for yourself, selfless, stubborn Candy," he thought.
"I have done what I ought, Candy," he continued, "No more guilty feelings for the matter. You see, during the days I spent away from New York, some years ago, I tormented myself in indecision, but after I came back, once I got back on my track, things began to make sense."
Terry had come back to sit in front of Candy, and he was now bending his body, supporting his elbows on his knees, as if trying to come closer to the young woman.
"I suppose one sober mind works better than one soaked in alcohol," he managed to add, some trace of his dark humor managing to come afloat.
Candy raised her eyes again. "Please, Lord," she pleaded inwardly, "Do not allow him to come any closer."
"When I recovered my job and my pride, I also started to see things with a different light. I observed Susannah's behavior, her absolute dependence on me, her sick insistence to be treated as an invalid, her capricious ways, sudden changes of mood and her persistent attempts to manipulate my decisions. Believe me, Candy, she is neither the good-hearted girl you believe, nor the sort of woman I would ever grow to respect, and love."
"Did you try, Terry? Can you honestly say that you did your best to try?" Asked Candy, for though she could hardly stomach the idea of Terrence retelling his attempts to love another, she still had to ask, rather forced by her sense of whatever she believed right more than any other thing.
"I did," he said lowering his eyes again, he was in no humor of telling Candy such details, "I wanted to keep my word, leave my past mistakes behind, to make her happy as I had promised . . . to you; but I could not."
The young man knew he had to say it now, but did not find the courage. He stood up again to pace the room in silence. The sound of his steps on the wooden floor matched the rhythm in Candy's heart. The woman felt her chest was about to explode. She remembered the awkward letter she had received from Susannah a few weeks before. She had asked herself whatever purpose the actress should have had to address her in such a way. However, being the well-intended soul Candy ever was, it had never occurred to her that Susannah could have any obscure motive to write to her. Now, listening to Terry's account of her character a new notion started to form in Candy's mind.
"Was Susannah trying to make me believe that her relationship with Terrence was still standing, when he had already broken the engagement? Was that letter a desperate attempt to thwart with falsehoods all possibilities of reconciliation between Terrence and . . . me?!!"
Candy's head almost burst with those thoughts.
"If you want to know the truth, Candy," he continued, ignoring what was torturing Candy's mind at the moment, "Susannah's character flaws were not the reason that made it impossible for me to retrieve her affections, whatever name they could receive, if not love. Do you have any idea of my true impediments?" Terry finally asked, his voice almost faltering.
"Should I know it?" asked she, her heart racing up even more.
"Yes, you should! The reason is simple, it is not possible to give one's heart to another when you don't have a heart to be given anymore, Candy," he replied feeling a heat rushing through his body. "This is the important matter I've come to deal with you today," he said decisively kneeling in front of her, and then with the sweetest tone she have ever heard from him he added, "I've come to claim this heart of mine that you have in your possession, madam."
Before Candy could react he had got hold of both of her hands in his. In his touch, she could feel he was trembling.
"And if I may be bold enough with you, my love, after all my failings and cruelty to you, I've come to ask for your forgiveness. Could you forgive me for not defending my love for you as it was proper? For letting you go in so stupid a manner, when it was you and not Susannah, who had the rights over my life and heart?"
"There is no offense to forgive," she whispered as tears finally flowed from her eyes, moving him even more that he was able to bear. "There were no formal promises between you and I back, then," she mumbled.
"Perhaps there was not a formal understanding in the way of family consent, times and banns, but we both knew we belonged to each other. . . you surely knew I was yours. . . didn't you?" he asked with just a thread of his voice and still with equal trepidation he added: "I still am. I had made you go to New York with all the intention of never letting you go, no matter what," he finally confessed, caressing Candy with both, his voice and his thumbs over her hands.
"You had?" she asked looking at him with watery eyes. A light of renewed hopes shone in the green depths of her pupils. Never had he spoken to her so passionately and straightforwardly, never had she felt such thrills with the touch of his hands on hers.
"Of course . . ." he replied with his eyes blurred by the emotion, "but then the accident happened and everything became so confusing. Could you forgive me for erring so grossly?" he demanded again.
"You are forgiven, Terry," she assented sweetly, as she gave a soft squeeze to Terry's hands. The man's hopes towered up as he had never dared to dream.
"This is too much!" he whispered. "Could it be…could it be that you may be so kind as to still harbor some feelings for me? You should know by now that mine have never changed. I . . .I do love you . . . most passionately, just as much as the first day, and even more." . . . "Then, it is said", he thought; "now I'm at her mercy."
Silence reigned for a moment, torturing Terry with doubts. Had he dared too far? However, had he known what was going on in the young woman's head, his thoughts would have been more secure of his success.
"I do love you . . . most passionately, just as much as the first day, and even more."
Terry's confession, the first Candy had heard from him after all this time, was still in the air. "Sweet Jesus! He loves me!" she told herself still not able to process the whole notion. Gone were all her considerations about Susannah, worthless or not as the actress may have been; gone were her fears and her secret promises of never allowing herself to fall in love again. Terrence was kneeling just a few inches from her, holding her hands and looking at her with tenderness beyond her imagination. Then, all the rest of the world faded.
"I . . . I have. . . I have tried to stop loving you," she finally said shyly, "but it has proven to be a task beyond my powers. As to the present, I'm afraid, I still love you . . . very much, Terry."
Not able to control their feelings anymore, the young couple fell in each other arms, enjoying at last the elation of their confessed affections. She was now openly sobbing on his shoulder while he did his best to soothe her by caressing her curls and cheeks. How long he had dreamt of them both in such terms of endearment. It was now all real!
"My love," he whispered to her ears, "Please, do not cry anymore. It is all in the past. We are together after all, as it should be."
Candy raised her head to face the young man. He had lifted from his position kneeling in front of her and was now sitting by her side, on the loveseat. His face was lit up, but his eyes were full of tears just as hers.
"You are crying too," she said in a murmur, reaching with her hands to wipe his tears from his cheeks with her fingers.
"But out of joy, my love," he replied lowering his face towards hers.
Next thing she knew was that his lips were grazing her own with loving fondness. Candy would surely have fainted had she not been still seated while Terry's arms were taking firm hold of her body. It felt as if electric currents were running through her. She tried to stabilize herself by resting her hands upon his arms and gasped, unknowingly encouraging a more passionate reaction from the young man.
He had ceased to think since she had confessed that she still loved him. When he felt her parting lips under his, he interpreted it as the complete surrendering he had desired for so long. Therefore, he deliberately made the kiss mature in depth and hunger.
"She's mine! God, she's mine!" was the sole comprehensible thought his mind could formulate.
Candy was too overwhelmed to resist. Gone was the energy to react in any way different from total abandonment. She savored the taste of his warm tongue inside her mouth with an audacity that surprised her.
"So, this is how it feels to be kissed with absolute passion," she thought in a blur, while Terry kept drinking from her, tightening the embrace till she clearly felt how his heart was beating just as fiercely as her own.
The light had disappeared behind the horizon and they were all covered by the night shadows while still embracing as if there was no tomorrow. Some distant steps sounded in the corridor. Terry then loosened his hold.
"Freckles, it is already dark and we surely are missed by the ladies of the house," he said with husky voice.
"Will you stay with us for dinner?" she asked smiling at his use of the old pet name, and then felt she was not making much sense. She knew well that there was no way he could leave the place till the following day, unless she gave him a ride to La Porte, and she had no intentions of doing so.
"I will stay either here or in La Porte, till you are ready to come home with me," he answered with the first smile he had worn in a long time.
"Home?" she interjected.
"The one I have ready for you, as my wife, if you are willing to take the position."
The readers surely know what answer he received to this latter request.
"Did you ever. . ." he began, feeling curious to know more about her feelings for him during their separation, "This is, did you ever wonder if we would someday be together again?" he asked, his eyes full of wistful longing.
"In the back of my mind, or rather deep in my heart, I wished it; but all reason contradicted my desires, especially after the papers . . ."
"Oh, don't mention that dreadful article!" he interrupted her, "I almost sued the magazine for their irresponsibility!"
"How come that piece of news reached the press?" she decided to ask seeing that this was good occasion to satisfy her curiosity.
"It was Susannah's mother's doing," he said with a sigh. "She was really put out with my breaking up with her daughter before I parted for London. It was her way to get back, I think. But now it does not really signify, does it? Just have a look at my name engraved in your ring," he added with a spark in his eyes.
"When did you decide that you couldn't keep your promises to Susannah," she questioned him for the first time about the subject.
"The resolution formed in my head gradually, but perhaps I finally made my mind on a particular occasion," Terry started, averting his eyes to the moving landscape that could be seen through the window.
His memory flew back to a certain night. He had arrived home rather late after a long and tiring day. That afternoon they had started with the readings for Hamlet and the emotional and intellectual effort had left him totally drained. He entered his room and without taking off his clothes had simply fallen flat on his bed. Unfortunately, sleep would not assist him.
A long list of internal images passed through his mind while he kept his eyes closed. Three years before, he had been working in that sordid theatre in Rockstown. Now he was in Broadway again. It had been quite a task to convince Robert Hathaway to take him back. However, after a good exertion of his persuasive powers Terry had managed to get a modest contract.
The truth was that Hathaway was not as stupid as to let an actor like Terrence go, no matter how unstable the young man could be (Who could really boast of great steadiness of character in the show business, after all?). Nevertheless, Hathaway was determined to give Terrence a lesson; so, for over two years the young man had to keep his expectations lower than his talents would deserve accepting secondary roles.
Now the situation was beginning to change favorably. The Troupe had decided to do Hamlet again, but Robert did not feel young enough for the part anymore and did not have any other actor that could truly handle the responsibility better than Terrence. So, the decision was simple, the time had come for the young actor to prove if he could manage the pressure of success better than before and leave his personal problems aside. Terry had decided that he was going to pass the test this time.
As usual, the young man had studied the part intensely. He knew it by heart before the readings started and was by then undergoing the process of the psychological work. This took him long hours of analysis, research and introspection which were painful and exhausting. The last thing he needed in those days was a visit to his girlfriend and her overbearing mother. However, he would oblige them as often as possible.
Lying on his bed, Terry reviewed the different unpleasant moments of his catastrophic schedule that day. He sat up on his bed looking at the void. The moon light rays filtered through the sheer fabric of the curtains barely illuminating the room. He remembered he had hardly slept the previous night and decided to get up before dawn. When the first sun beams had entered the bedroom he had already been working on the soliloquy for a good time. Despair and loss of hope, indecision, hatred, fear and utter confusion, all those were emotions he knew well. But to organize them all to give shape to the new character, to study the intensity of each feeling was indeed a challenge. He worked steadily till late in the morning having something very light as a way of breakfast, too much to the chagrin of his housekeeper.
Then, he went out to keep an appointment with the company's artist for whom he had to sit for a portrait. The session lasted past lunch time. After that, he had eaten alone at some little café in Manhattan, and after some struggle, he had finally managed to drag himself to the Marlowe's townhouse. The visit went on as usual. They two ladies would sit with him and have some casual conversation. A few minutes after, Mrs. Marlowe would excuse herself on the pretext of some shores. It was a strategy clearly intended to give the young couple some privacy.
"You have the reading today? Don't you?" had asked Susannah with interest once they were alone.
"Yes, at 6pm." He had answered unemotionally.
"I would have loved to be there, but Mom wants to take me shopping this afternoon, she says that I must be ready for the premiere."
"You know you could be there if you wish. Any shopping you need to have done could wait for some another day," he remarked.
"Perhaps, but I would not want to contradict Mom," Susannah answered lowering her head.
"Has it ever crossed your mind that sometimes people are in great need of facing some opposition in their lives?" He asked arching his left eyebrow. Susannah looked at him wide-eyed, which instigated him to press further. "Do you plan to continue playing the obedient daughter all of your life, Susannah? Parents do make mistakes at times, you know. As a grownup, people do better using their own minds instead of always following orders."
"I know what you mean, but I could not dare," she replied getting more and more nervous with the topic.
"Then, what will you do if your mother ever fancies doing something which is exactly the opposite of my own wishes? How will you reconcile this problem?" he challenged her.
"I would rather not think about such a thing. I would not know what to do. You should be certain I love you, Terry, but how could I fight my mother? You know well how she is," she ventured to say and then got lost in the sampler she was embroidering.
"Indeed, I know her," he commented dropping the subject.
On his way to the theater Terry had thought a great deal of the hypothetical dilemma that Susannah had not dared to solve. He could not avoid making comparisons. He drew his ungloved hand in his coat pocket, feeling the familiar fabric of his handkerchief. He took it to his lips. Even if he could clearly distinct the fragrance of his own perfume on it, other scent came to his memory. He couldn't forget the one lady who had secretly preserved the same handkerchief as a token of his affection and later lost it one evening at the Baker Theater in Chicago. He remembered how she had defied her superiors that night to see him perform in King Lear. Terry knew that this lady would defy anyone and anything for his sake. In fact, she had disdained even her own happiness just to set him at ease with his conscience.
Now, in the loneliness of his room, he damned himself for the thousandth time! He had traded gold for crystal beads.
"Good! You've done it again, idiot! Back on the one subject you should be evading." he scolded himself.
Now that he had started all over, it would mean another sleepless night. Would this fight ever finish? Oh how dearly he wished to sleep!
"To sleep . . . perhaps to dream" he recited in a murmur, "But what if I could change things? What if I . . . ?"
Before that moment it had never occurred to him that things could still be different. That had been the beginning of an insisting trail of thoughts. At the beginning, it was just a timid idea. However, as days and weeks went by, Terry had found that the weaker and more dependent Susannah acted with him, the stronger his desires to cancel his engagement were. Perhaps the definitive decision had been made the day of the premiere, precisely on the very moment when he was waiting for his entrance to begin the soliloquy. Here he was, on one of the most exciting events in his career, the performance that was going to ensure him a place as a consummate actor. His heart was pounding as he remembered himself at Rockstown. It was Candy who had given him the strength to leave England in the first place, and it had been her who gave him the courage to rally again from that pitiful place in Illinois and reach this moment of glory.
The curtains opened and he began his lines. His eyes wandered along the theater as his lips produced the well-known words. In the darkness, there were so many faces looking at him attentively, some with expectations, others perhaps with admiration . . . so many faces . . . but the one he longed to see, full of love and reassurance, the one to whom he wanted to scream "This is all for you! This is the better man you've made out of me!" was absent.
"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
"And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action,"
He recited with all of his skill, and at reaching this last part, a sudden realization sank into his mind. It didn't have to be that way. He could make things differently. He did not have to repeat the same mistakes of those before him. There was a way beyond any false concept of conscience, duty and honor. All that he needed was a resolution.
"It was then when I decided that I wanted you in that crowd and much more than that. I wanted you to share with me all the victories my talents and honest work could gain and I needed you when new difficult times arose. I could not be satisfied with just the memory of the past we shared, I wanted to have you with me in my present!" he said to his wife.
"Were you not afraid of all the difficulties that would come in the way?" She asked.
"Oh yes! The one that really scared me to death was the idea that you may have already forgotten me! I dreaded to think that you would refuse me because someone else was already in my place. You have no idea how that possibility tortured me," he replied instinctively tightening his grip on her shoulder.
"Since I met you, Terry, I've loved no other, but you," she reassured him and for a good while they did not say more as he took possession of her lips.
"I met Terry on a ship. It was a foggy and cold New Year's Eve. My head was spinning because of the champagne and I was still suffering for the loss of a loved one. So, I don't think I had enough command of my good senses to learn much about him from that first meeting. However, since that encounter, he gave me the impression of being someone different from any person I had ever known. Very soon after the first meeting, his unexplainable changes of mood, his many contradictory traits, his rare smiles and his brazen manners would puzzle me for a long time during the first months of our acquaintance. Now that I think back, I have to acknowledge that he attracted me physically despite my defensiveness. I fought the attraction because he seemed so unsuitable, so different from the sort of boy I liked. Yet, as he opened his heart to me, I found that he was indeed a wonderful human being and certainly would grow to become a true gentleman. By May I was totally lost in love, but wouldn't accept it. In fact, I did not confess it, even to myself, till he left Saint Paul's Academy. Since that day at Southampton, I know that I have loved him passionately, with a force that overwhelms my reason and my will. I'm certain that this love would have outlived even if we hadn't been reunited, but now I don't have to worry about repressing my feelings. Not, anymore!"
The young woman opened the window to receive the fresh air of the morning. From her point she could see a flock of distant birds flying above the many roofs of her new neighborhood. The different noises of the city began to float in the air, as a few early passersby appeared in the scene. An unconscious smile drew on her face while she busied her hands with the blond curls that felt on a cascade over her back. It was a regular morning, but for the young woman it was the opening of the most glorious day. She had become a woman in the arms of the man she loved just the night before. Yes, it was the most glorious of days.