Tag Archives: romance

The Mists of Time

No one knows exactly what happened on that final day or even what actually happened during the preceding weeks. He was one of the countless summer visitors that would arrive from places like Toronto by steamship. As many as 3000 people would visit Oakville in a single day. They mingled with the local folk in the beautiful summer days of that year. His name was Aloysius.

Her name was Mary. She was born on the 15th of April in the year of our Lord 1881. Her father worked in the Carson & Sons Planing Mill. He worked there for 30 years and for half of those years he carried a secret.

Mary didn’t have a mother. Or rather she didn’t remember her. She died while giving birth to Mary’s younger brother, he didn’t survive either. When she was very young Mary learned to take care of the house and her father. It’s what women did in those days, they took care of things.

Jacob was a good man, was Mary’s father. But he didn’t know what to do with his little girl. She wasn’t a little girl anymore. She was a young woman, a young, beautiful woman. Like the youth of all centuries she wanted some excitement. So on that fateful day she left the chores in her home to go for a walk in George’s Square.

Mary was positively giddy. It was a beautiful day, bright sunshine, a gentle breeze, and the smell of flowers the air. She didn’t go far; there was a park very close to her father’s work. He used to take her there when she was a small child. It was a favourite place for people to congregate. It is believed that’s where she met Aloysius.

“Hello.”

Mary turned around. What she saw made her smile and blush at the same time.

“Hello.”

“Are you from around here?” The smiling gentleman asked.

Mary blushed again. “Yes I am. Are you lost?”

The gentleman breathed deeply and put his hands in his pockets. “I have just come up from the city and I’m wondering where are the best places that I should visit. I’m only here for the day.” He looked down at this beautiful raven haired young woman, he was quite tall, “Would you be willing to show me the sites?”

Mary had been feeling the need for little excitement in her life, and here it was standing right in front of her. He looked to be a gentleman from the city, perhaps a wealthy gentleman. She was at first a little nervous but it was a beautiful day and she was feeling adventurous.

“I would love to give you a tour of the town. My name is Mary.”

“And you can call me Aloysius.”

“That is quite an unusual name.” She tried to hide her smile, unsuccessfully. Then she thought that perhaps she had been impolite.

The gentleman in question simply chuckled out loud, “I was named after my father, by my mother. It is quite a moniker.” His smile deepened. “It’s nice to be a little different.”

As the two walked through George’s Square they became more comfortable with each other. He was a young gentleman well attired and well spoken. She was a young girl, barely a woman with a girlish delight in being free.

We can’t know what was actually said when the two met but Mary kept a diary. Years later it would be found and many of the questions surrounding their story would be answered.

Aloysius was indeed a gentleman. Actually he was a gentleman’s gentleman. He was in service in the city of Toronto. Every Sunday he was given leave to pursue his own interests, whatever they may be. Once he met Mary he spent every Sunday of that fateful summer in the small town of Oakville, on the shores of Lake Ontario. They would visit the strawberry market, walk along the shoreline and picnic under the trees. Their friendship grew and over the many weeks so did their love.

During this time Mary’s father was under the impression that she was helping out at their local church. As he was not one to attend services he never questioned her supposed attendance. So he was completely unaware of the growing relationship between Mary and Aloysius. He wasn’t the only one. While they never intentionally hid themselves from Mary’s friends, they didn’t frequent areas that the others normally attended. But eventually the summer ended and so did the steamship from Toronto.

“Mary I’m asking you to come back to Toronto with me. You can live with my sister until the wedding. I know I can find you work with the mistress of the house. She is always looking for competent maids or perhaps a tutor for the children.”

Mary held the hands of the man she loved but she could not look him in the eye. “I have told my father nothing. He doesn’t even know you exist. I can’t just leave him”.

“Beloved I have to leave. This is the last boat of the season. I have no means to support myself here in Oakville. I have a good life in Toronto. We have talked about this. Let me approach your father and ask for your hand in marriage. He must agree.”

Very slowly Mary withdrew her hands from the grip of the man she loved. She still had not looked into his eyes. “I will speak to my father and I will return here shortly. The boat doesn’t leave for several hours. You must trust me. I will return.”

Slowly Mary raised her head and looked deep into the eyes of the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. Her hand touched his cheek gently, no words were necessary. She smiled and left him waiting on the pier.

When Mary returned home her father wasn’t there. She knew he sometimes went into the plant on Sundays so that is where she went. It’s difficult to know what actually happened on that tragic day in Carson and Sons Planing Mill. What we do know is that Mary died in there. She may have fallen or she may have been struck down. No one knows or no one is speaking of it.

Mary’s father would not speak of that day except to say that there was an accident. Aloysius waited on the pier but his beloved never showed and he didn’t know why. He left on the last steamship of the summer.

The next year the steamships did not return to plying the waters near Oakville for passengers and Aloysius was unable to return to Mary. He tried writing letters but they were never answered. Many years went by, Jacob mourned the loss of his daughter but he never spoke of it to anyone. Some said they often found him sitting on a chair outside the Mill talking to himself. It sounded as if he was talking to someone else but no one was nearby. There are those who said he was talking to his daughter, or the spirit of his daughter. Perhaps he was trying to atone for what had happened. Jacob never said and he died the year the Mill was closed.

Aloysius eventually married. He had three daughters, the last one he called Mary. He was never a happy man; he rarely smiled and was never seen to laugh. After many years of marriage his wife died and his daughters married and had children of their own. In time Aloysius once again visited Oakville. It had been a lifetime and the town was no longer sleepy anymore. It was vibrant and alive. Aloysius went back to the places that he and Mary had once known. The shoreline was much more built up and the main street had more stores. The house where Mary had once lived was gone. George’s Square was still there and the trees were bigger and lusher. Aloysius sat on a bench and remembered how happy he had been so many years ago and he wondered if Mary was happy now.

It was dusk when a married couple out walking in the fresh autumn air noticed a well-dressed older man sitting on a park bench. When they returned from their constitutional the gentleman had not moved. The man stopped to inquire if there was anything wrong. That’s when he discovered that Aloysius had died. He had died in the last place that he was happy.

There are those who say that on a warm summer night just about dusk if you’re very careful and very lucky you can see the misty outline of two people sitting on a park bench. One shape is that of a well-dressed gentleman, a young man and the other is of a very young woman with long dark hair.

Perhaps what they could not have while they lived, they found together in the mists of the spirit world.

 

************************************

The end

April’s Showers

 

Sept 2012 007

 

She hated her name, she hated this month, and above all she hated this rain!  April clutched her handbag a little tighter to her chest as well as her slightly damp newspaper.  It was just a few more steps before she could get out of this relentless rain and into her nice, warm coffee shop.

With a sigh April sat down at her usual table and smiled at the waitress.  She knew what April always ordered and she would bring her a coffee and a warm croissant just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.  When her coffee arrived April wrapped her chilly hands around the cup and breathed in the hot steaming aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  It was coffee, it wasn’t a Grande non-fat latte with soy milk and half fat hazelnut vanilla shavings or something else bizarre. It was just coffee: good old black, strong coffee. For the first time that day she sighed and allowed herself to relax.

This was the time of day April enjoy above all else.  She could sit and relax over her cup of coffee, she could read the paper, and she could think about the day’s events: what she wanted to do, what she should do, and what she had done.  As she was sipping her coffee and nibbling on her croissant the door opened and with it came a nasty, cold wet wind.  And all April could do was think about how much she hated this month and shiver.

The person that came through the door and intruded on April’s musing was a man.  Physically he was an attractive man: tall, well-built, muscular.  But he had one glaring imperfection: he was smiling!  The first words out of his mouth were the dreaded words that April had been hearing her whole life:

“April showers bring May flowers!”  The man smiled and shook his umbrella causing more drops of cold water to infest the room.  “I would like a cup of very hot, very strong, very ordinary coffee, if I may.”

April cringed, he was a happy man.

“I must admit I absolutely love the April showers.”  The man positively exuded well-being.  “The rain washes the world clean and leaves it smelling like spring.  What could be more uplifting than a rainy day in spring?”

The waitress behind the counter chuckled to herself.  She glanced over at April knowing full well that April was not a happy person in the morning and she didn’t enjoy other people being happy in the morning either.  It seemed to interfere with her most comfortable state of miserable.

If the gentleman in question had simply picked up his coffee and exited the café the day would have continued in exactly the same manner as it always had.  But this gentleman decided to stay and enjoy his coffee.  He looked around the room and saw only one customer.  Like a predator sensing fresh meat he moved towards April’s table.

“Excuse me Miss may I join you?”  He asked pleasantly enough.

Without raising her head she replied, “I prefer to be alone, thank you.”  Her answer was curt but not impolite.

“Nonsense, no one should drink their coffee alone.”  And the man sat.

April looked up, too shocked to actually say anything.  For the first time in her life her mind was blank.  There was no witty retort on the tip of her tongue to spew forth and lash at this intrusive stranger.  All she could do was stare and hope that the disdain on her face was clearly visible.

“As I said no one should drink their coffee alone and certainly not a beautiful woman.”  He was still smiling.  “And my name is Bill.”

April couldn’t stop staring.  She knew that in polite company she should smile demurely and offer him her name.  But she couldn’t do it.  If she told him her name he would say what a thousand other people have said to her in that same happy tone: ‘April showers bring May flowers!’  She hated her name!  She did consider coming up with an alias on the spot, something like Hermione or Persephone.  But she couldn’t do it.  She sighed, it was her lot in life and she was honest enough to accept the consequences.

“My name is April.”

As she said her name, April looked down at her coffee, her half eaten croissant and her unopened paper. She didn’t want to see the look on his face as he said those horrible words she had grown to hate.  But one second turned in to two and then three and still he said nothing.  So April raised her head and looked at him.

“I know what it’s like to have a name that is used in other contexts.  I get called the bill collector, or asked if I have heard the joke about the Billboard.  I could use the named William but it gives people pleasure to make silly little jokes about my name and it doesn’t cost me anything.  People need a little silly in their lives and I am actually quite honoured that I can put a smile on someone’s face.  It does get a little tedious sometimes but it’s still a smile.

April grimaced,  “I find it tedious all the time!  The rain is unceasing.  The damp makes my hair frizzy, my clothes get wet, my feet are constantly cold and for someone to come up to me and sing that silly song about showers and May flowers it’s horrible!”

Bill took a sip of his steaming coffee and pondered what she had said for just a moment.

“Actually I think it’s quite wonderful that you remind people of the beauty that comes about because of the rain in April.  You could say you’re an icon that helps people to remember the beauty that’s out there and that will soon be all around us because it’s the beginning of spring. I would think you’d be quite pleased.”

April heaved a sigh and shook her head.

“How can you be so happy with such horrible things going on in the world?  People are dying in other countries for political agendas we can’t fully understand.  People are getting mugged on the street for $20 in their wallet.  There are starving children in this city not just in other countries of the world and we sit here drinking our coffee as if nothing was wrong.  How can you justify that?”

Bill’s smile wavered just a fraction and he shook his head.  “You can never justify the horrible things that are going on in the world.  You can support the agencies that help those who are most in need.  And you can honour those who are fighting to protect our way of life. You can live your life to the fullest and never forget that there were those who gave up their lives so that you and I could sit here and drink a cup of coffee in relative peace and security.”

April grasped her almost empty coffee cup tighter, her croissant and paper completely forgotten.  “I can’t just shut off my mind with all the horrible things that are going on outside that door.”  April was exasperated that this man didn’t understand. What right did she have to be happy?

Bill stared at this obviously distraught woman.  There was more wrong here than just an individual’s dislike of a song.  She was so caught up in what was wrong, evil, and hateful that she was missing the most important thing of all.  He couldn’t leave this woman wallowing in this state, he had to open her eyes and make her see.

“April, I have just met you.  Out of the blue I chose to walk into this café to sit at this table and to speak to you.  Don’t you find it interesting that I would choose to come in today?  I’ve walked by this café, a hundred times and never thought twice about coming in.  But today of all days, I did.  Maybe it was the rain that brought me in.  Maybe you and I were meant to meet.  Maybe in 50 years we will be telling our grandchildren about how I picked you up in a café.”  Bill smile was quite lopsided at this point.

At first April was too stunned to respond.  But somewhere deep inside her she did respond to this very strange, very attractive man.  Somewhere deep inside her a smile was trying to burst through.

“Grandchildren? Now how do I know you’ve got the right stuff?”

Bill’s smile became even bigger.  He knew he had made inroads.

“Is that a smile I see creeping up the side of your mouth?  If it is, it is, I know it is, April you are smiling!”

April was almost smiling.  Her hands were clutched around her coffee cup as if she was holding onto an anchor, trying desperately not to give in.  She took a sip, and then looked up at her table companion.

“I know I tend to see the negative side of things, but we can never forget that the negative does exists.”

For the first time since he sat down at the table Bill stopped smiling.

“You are absolutely right April, we can never forget what horrible things are going on in this world.  But it’s also very important that we never forget what an incredible world we actually have.  There are good people here.  Everywhere you turn.  We should never turn a blind eye to what is bad in the world.  In the same token, we must never turn a blind eye or be afraid to acknowledge that beautiful things exist.  The simple act of the sun rising in the morning and its rays reflecting off the dew on a rose petal should make us give thanks.”

April looked at this strange man, this strange intruder, and she did smile. Maybe he was right.  Maybe we need to be aware of the bad things in the world and focus on the good.  It was raining today and it was cold.  Maybe tomorrow the sun would shine. Maybe today was not the best of all days, but tomorrow might be.  Maybe the showers did bring something good, something positive.  There’s another song that April thought of at that moment.  She didn’t remember the name of the song or who sang it.  But there was one line: “. . . accentuate the positive.”  That was a good thought.

Just at that moment, the rain stopped, and a ray of sunshine poked through the clouds.  The sun and the rain work hand-in-hand.  Just like we all should.

Two strangers met at a table in a café on a rainy April day, but parted as friends, smiling.

 

the end

Sweet Valentine

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Madeline stood across the street for a moment thinking about what she was about to do.  She had always considered herself an intelligent woman; she had a good career and a lovely new home.  She believed that she was mildly attractive.  And yet, she was lonely.  Her divorce had come through a few weeks ago, just before a job offer here, in what for her was a new town.  She had no family and no friends nearby.  Essentially she was starting her life over. Alright, she thought.  Change is in the air.  Let’s do it! She squared her shoulders and crossed the street to the Pet Adoption Agency.

 

When Madeline entered, a young woman behind the desk immediately looked up and smiled.  A huge, tabby, feline-like creature also looked up, yawned and promptly went back to sleep.  Upon closer inspection, it was indeed just a very large cat.  He sat, or more correctly sprawled across the top of the desk.  It seemed to be a generous desktop, but underneath this huge feline it almost looked small.

 

“Hello,” said Madeline, “I’m looking to adopt a cat.”

 

The young woman’s smile became even more pronounced.

 

“Well we can certainly help you with that.  Are you looking for any particular breed, sex, or colour?”

 

As the two women spoke, the huge cat raised its head, yawned once again and stretched out a paw to Madeline. Almost without thinking she scratched behind his ears, and smiled for the first time in days.

 

“He likes you, and he’s available for adoption.”

 

“What exactly is he?  He’s so big. It’s a he, isn’t it?”

 

The young woman behind the desk chuckled.  “Yes, he’s a cat.  He’s a Maine Coon; they’re an extremely large breed. But they’re very gentle, curious and they like people a lot.  He would make a great companion.”

 

Madeline thought about it for a moment. “Why is he here? He certainly seems well fed and content. Is there something wrong with him?” She wanted someone to share her new life with, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to take on any complications.

 

For the first time since Madeline had walked in the door the young woman lost her smile.

 

“It’s sad. He was abandoned, left alone in an empty apartment.  Someone just packed up their belongings and left. It’s awful that anyone would do that to such a beautiful creature.”

 

The anger on this young woman’s face was obvious. Madeline shared it. Cruelty to animals was one of her pet peeves.

 

“Does he have a name?”

 

“He was found with a name tag: Valentine.”

 

Madeline’s heart missed a beat. Maybe she was too much of a romantic. Valentine’s Day was just a few weeks away, maybe it was a sign that she should take this abandoned cat into her heart.  At least he wouldn’t steal her blankets in the middle of the night like her ex-husband used to, well, hopefully.

 

Several hours later, after filling out the paperwork and the cat having one final check-up, Madeline took her new roommate home. It wasn’t a long drive and Valentine was surprisingly calm throughout. She was curious to see what his first reaction would be to his new lodgings.

 

The condominium Madeline had recently purchased was quite comfortable but not overly large.  She didn’t think a cat would take up that much room.  Of course, that was before she met Valentine.

 

When she set the pet traveling case down on the floor,   Valentine refused to venture out. She peered inside but he didn’t look afraid, he was quite comfortably curled up at the back of the carrier.  With a little coaxing he did amble out and for the next hour he investigated every corner, every nook and cranny in the apartment.  Madeline made herself comfortable on the couch and watched.  Of course, there were a few times she had to get up to go and open a door or cupboard because Valentine could be quite insistent. His meowing was surprisingly loud.  He wanted to see it all. Fortunately in his wanderings he had found his water dish, his food dish and his kitty litter.  Everything had, apparently, been deemed acceptable.

Eventually Valentine returned to where Madeline was sitting, jumped up onto her lap, turned around twice, curled up into a sizable a ball and went to sleep.  Madeline smiled and figured there was going to be a substantial part of her life that would now be spent not moving so as not to disturb her beautiful tabby roommate.

 

Valentine continued to explore over the next several days.  He had to get used to his new home, and both of them had to get used to a new routine. When Madeline looked into the eyes of her newly-acquired companion, she saw intelligence and perhaps a little mischief.  His eyes were liquid gold with flecks of amber.  White and black whiskers stood out at a sharp angle from his all-white mouth.  Evidently a trait of the Maine Coon cat was a long and full coat. Valentine had that in abundance. Curling up with him on a cold winter’s night was going to be like cuddling up with a warm blanket, one that purred.

 

It seemed that Valentine had behaviours more in common with a dog than with a cat. He liked to be a part of whatever Madeline was doing.  He found it necessary to go through her clothes and the drawers they were in.  He wanted access to all the cupboards and he was not shy about telling her so, loudly.  He also liked to be fed at particular times.  Madeline felt that she should have a sign made:  “Humans Trained Here”.  Valentine was a great coach.

 

There was something else that Valentine insisted on: physical contact. He would sit on her desk as she worked, just within reach.  If Madeline didn’t pet him, then he would reach out a paw and touch her, repeatedly. He was by no means an aloof cat; he liked attention. And when he got it, he purred like a small outboard motor.

 

Valentine became her salvation.  He needed her. She came home from work every night tired, and every night he was waiting for her at the door. He greeted her with bright eyes and a welcoming purr.

 

Over the next several weeks things went well for Madeline and Valentine. Then, early one evening, the phone rang and everything changed.

 

A deep, strong voice identified himself as Martin Gordon.  “A mistake has been made and I believe you have my cat.”

 

Suddenly, Madeline’s world turned upside down.  Valentine was a part of her now, an important part.  She could not imagine having to give him up.  He was her Sweet Valentine.  She also knew that she had to listen to this man, to hear what he had to say.  The Pet Adoption Agency would never have given him her number had he been a flake.

 

When Madeline opened the door an hour later, she was presented with a well-dressed gentleman, tall, and extremely attractive. His hair curled up just behind his ears like a little boy’s. His shoulders were wide.  He obviously took care of himself.  It was almost funny but he did have his hat in his hands.  He also had a story to tell.

 

Madeline invited Martin in and he began to speak as he moved towards the couch and sat down.

 

“My mother is widowed and lives alone in England. I received a call stating that she was gravely ill. She wasn’t expected to live.  I was the only one who could take care of her affairs, her estate.”

 

He paused for a breath and continued.

 

“I immediately made arrangements with my next-door neighbour to take care of Valentine while I was away.  I thought I was only going to be gone for a few weeks.  And while I didn’t know her well, I believed Valentine would be safe with her.”

 

Martin went on to explain how his mother had miraculously survived her illness. She didn’t want to come and live with him so he was forced to make arrangements for a live-in companion. He couldn’t leave her until he was certain she would be well cared for.  As a result, he was out of the country for more than three months.

 

Madeline sat pensive and sombre on a chair across from Martin, waiting for him to continue.

 

“I made the mistake of trusting the wrong person.”

Madeline could see the pain on his face.

 

“She was a young woman and I had only known her for a few months but Valentine seemed to like her.  While I was in England, final arrangements were made for a house I had recently purchased and since Valentine was going to be living in my neighbour’s apartment I felt it was a perfect opportunity for the movers to come in and pack up my apartment. Unfortunately the woman I trusted with Valentine proved to be irresponsible.  She moved.  She didn’t want to take Valentine so she just left him. She didn’t even try to contact me. According to a neighbour, the superintendent found a cat in her empty apartment and called animal control.  I never thought an indoor cat needed an identity chip.  Obviously I was very wrong.  Now I regret that decision.”

 

It was starting to rain outside, Madeline noticed.  Perhaps it was appropriate for the mood she was beginning to feel.

 

“I was devastated,” said Martin.

 

When he returned from overseas, Martin was in a state of panic.  The young woman had not returned any of his calls for several weeks and he had imagined the worst. The superintendent didn’t know about his cat. Another neighbour told him about her move and about animal control picking up a cat.  He spent the next few weeks trying to find Valentine.  Unfortunately, there is no central database for animals and he was forced to go to each individual agency, veterinarian’s office, and pet store in his search. What he discovered was that animals were not kept for long.  They are sometimes given to other agencies in the hopes of adoption and sometimes euthanized.  It was several weeks before he happened on the right agency.  They remembered Valentine.

 

Martin looked around the apartment.  His eyes grew large.  Valentine wasn’t here.

 

“Please tell me you actually have Valentine,” he said, a desperate tone in his voice.

 

“I have him.”  Madeline’s voice was low.  She had to accept that Valentine belonged to this man.  But she didn’t want to believe it.  She had grown to love her Sweet Valentine.  The thought of giving him up brought tears to her eyes.   But as she looked at this man she could see that he also felt as she did.  They both loved the same cat.

 

Madeline stood.  A second later, so did Martin.

 

“I gave Valentine to a neighbour,” whispered Madeleine.  , “I needed to be sure, I needed… I’m sorry.  I’ll get… I’ll get Valentine.” With that she left the apartment.

 

Martin continued to stand, waiting, unsure what to do.

A moment later Madeline returned hugging the large cat tightly in her arms.  When Valentine caught sight of the visitor he jumped down, raced across the room and leapt into Martin’s arms.

 

Madeline could only watch as the two companions became reacquainted.  Martin had tears in his eyes. She could hear Valentine’s purr from across the room.  They belonged together.

 

After a moment, Martin raised his head.  “Thank you,” he whispered, but the message was loud and clear: she had lost Valentine. Unable to watch the two any longer, Madeline set about gathering Valentine’s belongings.

 

“I have… I have some food… and toys… and… and…”

 

She was trying very hard to maintain her dignity.  She would not cry in front of this stranger.  But he was taking her Sweet Valentine!

 

“Please, Ms. Bellamy—”

 

“My name is Madeline.”

 

“Please, Madeline, please sit for a moment.”  Madeleine sat as requested, but she couldn’t look Martin in the eye.

 

The moment she was seated, Valentine left Martin’s embrace and jumped into her lap.  He now wanted her attention.  And his purr was as loud as it had been for Martin.

 

“It seems we have a dilemma.”  She could hear the smile in Martin’s voice before she looked up to confirm it.

 

“We both love Valentine.  And he obviously loves both of us.  I think we need to have joint custody.”

 

Madeline could not believe her ears.  She wasn’t going to lose her Sweet Valentine!

 

“As I mentioned, I have bought a house,” continued Martin.  “It’s only two blocks from here. I’m often away on business and I am sure Valentine would love to spend any time he doesn’t spend with me, with you. We’re going to be neighbours, we could also be friends.”

 

Madeline hugged Valentine even closer.  She didn’t want Martin to see her tears falling.  Her Sweet Valentine was not leaving.  She could share him, especially with this very attractive gentleman standing in her parlour.

 

“Thank you.  I do love my Sweet Valentine and I’d love to share him with you.”

 

“It’s going to take me a few weeks to get settled in my new home.  Would you be willing to keep Valentine here and let me visit him every day?”

 

Madeline didn’t trust herself to speak again; she just smiled and nodded.

 

On her lap the object of their mutual affection looked from Madeline to Martin and purred.

 

Ah yes, thought Valentine, washing his immaculate whiskers with his paw, humans are so easily manipulated.

 

 

The end