With My Heart In My Mouth
"Terry! I still can’t believe it! You ... you are at Pony’s home!
Run Candy, run! As fast as you can! Oh, how I wished these feet were wings to get to you at once... "
The girl burst into the small room. She was breathless.
The two women were still sitting there, sipping their chocolate. A third cup was laying on the table in front of an empty chair.
Candy looked at them in the eyes knowing they were surprised at seeing her there.
Still, without even saying hello, she asked them: "Where is Terrence? Where did he go? "
She literally dashed to grab the cup on the table. It was still warm.
"But ... Candy, what ... what are you doing here?" said Sister Mary, looking at her dear daughter with unbelieving eyes, for they all thought she was still in England making progress in her studies.
The girl did not answer and anxiously asked again: "Miss Pony, Sister Mary, I beg you, tell me Terrence is not gone."
"If you're talking about Mr Terrence Grandchester ...” said a calm and loving Miss Pony “he has just left.
He took a carriage a few minutes ago after spending some time with us this afternoon to see the place where you grew up! He said he really cares about you.”
The cup slipped from her hands and crashed loudly on the floor.
"Oh my God! He’s gone. I missed him! ,” she said, unable to hide her frustration as tears began rolling down her beautiful face.
"No, my child!" the woman comforted her like a mother. "I don’t think he's gone yet. He said he wished to climb up Pony’s Hill. "
A spark of hope was newly kindled in her heart.
"Pony’s Hill ... I must go find him immediately."
And without further ado, she rushed out of the room, as fast as she had got in.
The snow all around the house made everything look surreal, almost dreamlike.
As the dream she was cherishing right now.
She had left the school on the spur of the moment, without telling anyone. Nothing would have looked the same in London without him, without their playful bickering and laughter. Without his smile and his sweet and soulful eyes. And without his love that she hadn’t been able to reciprocate.
Her feet sank slightly into the thick white layer of snow while she hurried to climb up the hill she had talked to him about so many times, when she had told him that the place, where they often would meet in between classes, reminded her of the secret place near the orphanage where she spent her childhood. "Her" Pony’s Hill ... where she, as a child, used to take refuge when feeling sad, seeking solace to her solitude by embracing the tough albeit reassuring trunk of Father Tree.
"Please, my love, wait for me!.” She shouted as she climbed up the small track.
After a few endless minutes she managed to reach the top.
She looked around but apparently nobody was there.
She anxiously went on searching for him…then looked down, acknowledging her defeat.
She got there too late... again ...
She was doomed to run after him without ever being able to reach him.
As it happened that morning at the harbour...
While she was in his dark room at Saint Paul’s reading the short letter he had left her, she had heard two schoolmates out in the hallway saying that he was about to leave from Southampton, so she had rushed to the docks to stop him.
Or maybe to leave with him ...
But when she got there, the only thing she could do was seeing the ship sail over the horizon, taking her dreams of love with her. It was only then that she had fully understood the depth of her feelings, as loss tore her soul apart.
And for the first time, she had shouted out loud that she was desperately in love with him.
She had never been able to make him understand that...
And now ... they unexpectedly missed each other.
Candy felt her legs grow weak.
Then .. suddenly ... she saw something moving behind the big trunk of Father Tree.
She looked hard, rubbing her eyes in disbelief.
Her green eyes brought her hopes into focus.
Terrence was right there, next to the tree.
He was standing still, staring at the view. His red cloak was gently waving in the chilly wind of the afternoon. And so did his long hair.
Candy stood there looking at him with her heart in her mouth.
This time she had made it, at last!
Her Terrence was so dreamy! He looked older, almost a man.
Maybe because he had made his decision like a man, leaving school to build a future in this new country standing on his own two feet, repudiating his name just like one of the heroes of the plays he loved so much.
And first of all, he had decided to see the place where she grew up, to get to know her better and feel closer to her.
Oh, she loved him even more for his thoughtfulness!
"Terrence ..." she said almost choking. He didn’t hear her voice.
She started running to him but suddenly stopped, since she thought it best to approach him slowly without him seeing her.
When she was just one step away from him, she realised he was deep in thought.
With teary eyes, he was trying to have every detail of that view emblazoned in his mind so that he could cherish it in his heart.
Visibly shaking, she approached him from behind.
For the first time her arms followed her instincts and she tenderly put them round his waist.
"Terry, I found you at last!" she said leaning her head against his back.
He froze at those words.
He suddenly turned around, like a robot, intensely looking at her, still holding her hands tightly to make sure that she was not a figment of his imagination.
"C ... Candy ... you ... here?" he mumbled as tears of joy began to run down his face.
"I left school to make sure you would not be expelled..." he said, still in shock.
"I know ... you’ve been really selfless. But ... I couldn’t stay in England ... not without you. "
Candy took a deep breath. For the first time, she had managed to say out loud what she really thought.
But that was only the beginning of her confession.
" I run after you to the docks to stop you, Terry! I didn’t want you to leave me that way.
Your letter was too short ... like a punch in the stomach. "
"I had written you a longer one... but I was afraid that it would put you in trouble if someone read it before you and then ... I wanted to say those words when I'd see you again. I knew that one day I would come back and get you.”
"Oh Terry ....” Tears were now running freely down her face, as her growing blush made her thousand freckles multiply.
Terrence tenderly took her in his arms.
"If I had been older, I wouldn’t have left you there alone. I would have brought you along... and we would be married now... .”
The girl was taken aback by what she heard. Did he really say those words? Did they really come out of his mouth?
She looked up at him and saw him cry, just like the time she met him for the first time.
But his eyes shone with a dazzling light, two sparkles kindled by ardent love and desire.
"Candy ... I....”
Her face in his hands.
"I love you."
"I love you, Terry!.”
"I love you.” “I love you.” Their words intertwined in an embrace of sweet and new sounds, overlapping in a perfect harmony that warmed up their souls.
Candy lowered her face, while an intense shiver shook her up down inside.
"We never said that!" she whispered with a husky voice.
"We didn’t have the time to do it!" he said caressing her face with tenderness.
"We were too scared of each other!" she finally confessed.
"Maybe I would have found the courage after we kissed ... hadn’t you slapped me. I would have opened my heart to you as I was slowly beginning to do ... .”
"Forgive me, my love, I didn’t want to hurt you! I’ve bitterly regretted what I did since then...
I know I hurt you but I really didn’t mean what I said. I know you're not a delinquent and that you were not willing to take advantage of me ... .”
Terrence held her close again, shaking with emotion. Then he whispered softly in her ear: "I've never lied to you, my sweet Freckled Tarzan! I have been more honest with you than with myself! You are the most precious gift that my senseless life has ever given me.”
Then a tense silence fell on them. Their faces were so close again ...just like their hearts and their fingers that were searching for each other and softly touching.
He looked at her again with that fiery gaze.
A blazing fire broke out inside her when he drew his lips close to hers for the second time and kissed her soundly.
This time she kissed him back with no fear. Only surrender.
She followed him shyly and anxiously in that silent dance, while their mouths merged in an explosion of impalpable yet disruptive sensations. His lips were sweet and his tongue warm and soft as he caressed hers, with the delicacy and the eagerness of his adolescent passion.
She was enraptured by an enveloping vortex... as everything around was annihilated and rarefied. While lightly floating, the only thing that seemed real to her was his manly body that held her in a sound embrace... as if he were unwilling to let her to go.
That was the fire that had frightened her when he had tried several times to shorten the distance between them.
His way of loving had an intensity that devoured and consumed everything ... an unappeasable hunger.
That was his passionate and desperate way to take and possess. Terrence Grandchester was the flame burning out every shield and inhibition.
She knew she could not resist that disarming assault on the senses.
Yet ... he wasn't only that. Her Terrence knew how to be all soul and poetry ...
She felt that through that intimate contact he was paving the way to her heart, presenting her with new words to let her approach and understand him.
An uncontrollable thrill going down her spine made her feel what he was feeling...
When his lips parted from hers bringing her back to reality and leaving them both breathless, he smiled glowing with kindness and tenderness. That intense kiss had quietly sealed the beginning of their story as a couple.
She returned that ray of sunshine with the same passion and the same fulfilling awareness.
Then ... amused and curious, she suddenly asked him: “I was wondering what were you planning on telling me, before I slapped you. May I know?”
Terrence turned suddenly serious.
The glowing sapphire pools of his eyes began to throb again.
"I would have told you that your love saved me, Candy.
I was a wreck adrift before meeting you. I couldn’t make sense of my existence. I had no reason to smile or dream ...
You have filled my life with laughter and warmth. You taught me about the soft essence of loving without expecting nothing in return and you looked at me like anybody ever did, you saw the good in me... .”
"Don’t say this... you have a treasure within you that you would never spoil, even if you followed your heart. You are a person of rare sensitivity, Terry. This is the thing about you by that has always impressed and fascinated me the most. This striking contrast between your beautiful soul and the gloomy and disillusioned character that you were always so stubborn to play .”
"Do ... do you really think this of me? "
"Yes. And ... what about you? "
"You mean... what do I think of you ...? My love, you are like the gentle breeze in the spring and the hot sun in the summer.
With you I’ve come to see new colours and shades that I wasn’t able to see on my own. You’ve made my dreams come true...
And with your resolution and enthusiasm you helped me find the courage to fulfil my aspirations, making me understand that anything can be achieved if we think it possible in our imagination. That’s what you mean to me, Candy.
You are light and passion. You are tenderness and strength. Fear and discovery.
I think I’m in this world with the only purpose of loving you ... It comes natural to me, just like breathing ...
My body is longing for you like a man who cannot quench his thirst ...
That’s exactly what I felt when I kissed you. We complete each other, Freckles! Our bodies tremble upon a simple touch... and only in their embrace do our souls become fully aware about their existence.”
The girl listened to him flabbergasted but happy, as he finally let go of all his constraints and spoke these endless words coming from his heart. The very same words he thought he would have never been able to tell her.
Candy didn't think she could contain such a sense of joy in her chest.
Clearing his throat, Terrence said with a husky voice "I wasn’t kidding earlier, when I said I wanted to take you with me. I wish with all my being that you agreed on becoming my wife ... If you say yes, I promise I shall not wait any longer. We'll get married on the day I come of age. And until then, I will do anything to build our future together and give you the life you deserve.”
"There’s nothing I want more ..." she shyly replied.
"You know, I can’t offer you much right now ... except for my deep love and my utmost loyalty.”
"I’m perfectly happy with it….We will grow up together, building our future standing on our own two feet.
And we’ll face it together. We’ll pluck up the courage and face life with a smile... .”
"You ... you ... you ..." he said, taking her face in his hands again. "I don’t know who sent you on my way but I'll be grateful for the rest of my life."
Instinctively, they both sat down in the shade of Father tree. The extensive and impressive branches offered a natural shelter from the snow, where the ground was not wet yet.
Holding their hands, side by side, they started talking about their plans for the future.
"What are you going to do now?.”
"I’m going to New York, Candy. I want to be an actor. "
"I was sure you’d do it sooner or later" she said with sincere appreciation.
He was not surprised to hear her words. No-one else in the world knew him as deeply as she did.
"I want to make it on my own. I refused my father’s money and repudiated my name to free myself from that oppressive burden of duties and hypocrisy and to have the freedom to choose my own path. I know for sure that my destiny is acting.
But I don’t want to rely on my mother’s name to enter this world. I respect her too much and I don’t want to be a coward. I'll audition with any company I find until somebody in Broadway notices me! I already chose my stage name. From now on I’ll be Terrence Graham for anybody willing to applaud me ... I don't know how long it will take, Candy ... but I'm sure I'll be able to make this dream come true.”
"Yes Terry, I believe it too" she reiterated, recalling the intense emotions she experienced in Scotland while he read out loud his beloved Shakespeare with eagerness and inspiration. "You're a born actor, Terrence. One can feel it from the intensity of your emotions and ability to convey them to anybody listening. It won’t take long for Broadway to see your talent, I’m sure of it.”
"Thanks a lot," he said, holding her hand even closer. "Knowing that you believe in me gives me the strength to overcome any obstacle! I'll write to you every day, I promise. I guess you're here to stay ....”
Candy looked into his eyes with a resolution that impressed him.
"Actually... I came back to America to follow my own path too, Terry. Just as you are doing. And Albert did. You made me seriously think about what my line could be. And ... slowly ... I made my decision, too... .”
"Are you saying that you would like to work ...?" he asked her, even if that didn’t come as a surprise to him.
"Yes, my love, I'd like to be a nurse! I've thought about it for a long time and I came to the conclusion that this is the right job for me. It’s hard and serious, almost a vocation, but it is a useful and dignified way to be at the service of others and to help those who suffer bringing some comfort to those in pain. I feel it is the right choice for me... .”
Terrence looked at her with great esteem. It was just the ideal job for his Candy, so concrete and with no frills.
But, as he often did when he stayed at a loss for words, he decided to make a joke.
"Oh my God, Freckled Tarzan, you know, if you want to be a nurse you'll have to study really hard? I cannot think about the havoc you might wreck in the boring wards of a hospital...you’re so clumsy! I already feel sorry...for those poor patients.”
"Terrence! How dare you? I hate you when you act like this!.”
Touched on a sore point, Candy pushed him away as she always did when they gleefully teased each other in between classes.
Then, regaining her composure, she stood up and said "You must know Mr Terrence Graham, that hard work never scared me! I will strive with all my strength to become a good and skilled nurse. " Terry realised he had gone a tad too far, running the risk of hurting her.
"Calm down! Don’t jump the gun ... I was just kidding! I really admire you for your choice and I'm sure you'll become a good nurse. You can turn everything you touch into something positive. You will be a smart professional and be loved by all those who will be taken care of by you. There is a real need for people like you in those cold rooms. I always thought that people in pain deserve to be treated with dignity, especially if they are sick. Even if they’re seriously suffering and there’s no way out for them, they need a smile more than ever. They are not just numbers or medical records ... .”
Candy changed countenance. Here ... he did it again ... When she tried to scold him for some disrespectful comment, he would immediately find the right words to soothe her soul. And those bold and arrogant eyes would suddenly become adoring and imploring... There was no point in reacting then. And she heard her heart beat so fast.
She thought that he had won her over once and for all. Her surrender was inevitable and clear to his smug face.
"There are many nursing schools in New York!" he said thrilled. "You could come with me and study there. So we will live in the same city and I won’t have to cover hundreds of miles to see you. "
Candy frowned, lost in thought, then nodded. "Yes ... I could ask Miss Pony for advice. She was trained to be a nurse and she'll know for sure where to refer me... maybe even in New York ."
While they both enjoyed this new possibility, snow started falling on their shoulders ... more and more intensely.
"We’d better go or we’ll catch a cold!" she said, well aware of how harsh winters might be in Illinois. "I wouldn’t mind that..." he joked kindly. "So I'll be taken care of by my favourite nurse."
Then, he opened his cloak to wrap her up and keep her warm, silently inviting her to hug him. "Come here ... there’s room enough for two.”
Therefore, keeping each other warm under the cloak with the heat of their close bodies, they slowly walked towards the house.
"You’re not going to leave right away, are you? You must spend a few days with me. You will be our guest .”
"I was hoping you'd ask it, Freckled Tarzan! I didn’t want to part from you so quickly, especially now that we’ve found each other. But you must introduce me properly to Miss Pony and Sister Mary as 'your boyfriend'! " he said chuckling, as she hugged him.
The snow was falling incessantly while it got colder by the minute.
But they couldn’t feel the cold.
As they climbed up the last stretch of the track, Candy strongly took his arm to reinforce her words. "Think about it, Terry ... what if I got there a few minutes later ... you'd be gone on that carriage. What would have happened to us then? .”
"I don't even want to think about it!" he said softly, touching her lips once more.
"Life gave us an unexpected opportunity. And I'm sure we will not waste it.”