Greetings and Salutations!
For several years, I've been a regular contributor to the alt.tv.dark_shadows newsgroup and related forums. I've also been a Festival volunteer since 1998, and met many of you, though you may not have known it at the time. (I DID tell a couple of people!) I was also at the 1997 Festival, my first, where I made what I thought was a rousing little speech but apparently was an embarrassing, eccentric, off-putting gaffe. (Mea maxima culpa--- I guess I tried too hard.) Oh, well, those of you who weren't there, or do not possess Dave Brown's video of this golden moment (if you do, I thank God you can't see my face!) can judge for yourselves:
"Since I first watched DS, I've looked beyond the supernatural plots
and situational ethics, trying to find a higher road amid the mayhem,
And I believe I found it.
"To be beaten and broken but never destroyed;
To be tempested and travailed but never overcome;
To forgive more than can be forgiven;
To take one last shot at redemption---
"These are NOT Bad messages!
A character in a DS story I wrote says,
'If believing in good things makes me a crackpot, so be it!'
Thanks for listening to THIS crackpot.
God bless us, everyone, and,
DARK SHADOWS RULES!"
This is the story of which I spoke, COMMONPLACE EVILS....The notorious "Gone With the Wind" of DS fan-fiction, alas....The novel, the first three and one-half chapters of which I presented to fan-fiction publishers, whom I THINK found them so long they would have occupied a book of their own! I won't complain, since I brought this on myself, but it took over three years to complete (and even now, I still edit and tighten it up here and there.) I did my level best to reconcile as many discrepancies, contradictions, discontinuity, you name it, in the old show. (Now you know why I'm so good at doing this on the NG! It's like how one gets to Carnegie Hall--- practice, practice, practice!) I admit I excluded some characters who were fan favorites, in favor of bringing back some short-term characters whom I've always felt got short shrift. (However, SPOILER! for you Quentin lovers, IF you're VERY, VERY patient, He DOES show up, EVENTUALLY. VERY, VERY Eventually!)
I broke all the rules I was ever taught about writing ANYTHING here. No outline, no clear idea where I was headed, until I got a valuable piece of advice from my late sister. "Write the last chapter before you go any further," she said. As it happened, I HAD been visualizing the final chapter (including Quentin!) the way I had the first ten chapters, at work. The "visions" were almost three-dimensional. I went ahead and wrote it, and it gave me the focus I was looking for (and, save for one major change, it stands pretty much as originally written.)
You see, I had NEVER intended to write a huge DS novel. I was just going to write a simple story about how Barnabas and Julia finally get things straight and get hitched. However, like every other plot that ever existed on DS or any other soap opera, this required a catalyst. In the end, the catalyst--- a clever, prescient, utterly with-it niece of Julia's, was the solution. She was to be my answer to the guileless, sometimes-clueless, easily victimized ingenue governesses.
I threw in the secondary element, which was to elevate Willie Loomis from the back-burner where his character had languished toward the end of the modern period of DS. He was my favorite character for some time as it was. This brought me to another cute idea---when I used to watch John Karlen on "Cagney and Lacey", playing the ever-dedicated keeper of the cop-wife's home-fires, I would think, "This is what Willie would have aspired to if he ever grew up. Not a leader, but a support system, counselor, whatever."
This is an idea that just grew and grew--- it basically wrote itself, because once I applied the idea of writing the last chapter to stand on its own, I wrote a few more crucial chapters the same way, and needed a controlling theme to string them together.
It hit me one afternoon---an epic battle between good and evil fought in claustrophobic spaces and involving a threat to innocent children, plus a couple of centuries-old curses (yes, I know, how original---NOT!) This made the task much harder, but it was do-able. It made for a good excuse to try to explain my theories about Nicholas Blair. It was a perfect opportunity to introduce a Native-American element which was lacking in the original DS (slavery also, but that's for another story.) It made for a great forum to explore my ideas about morals and ethics, what I believed about religion at the time, and the applications of grief in regards to siblings and between parents and children.
I got to write about my ideas about marriage and relationships in several different styles, a stretch because I have never been married, and eschew relationships. I was also able to throw in what I had learned about unplanned pregnancies, antiques, Greek mythology, colonial architecture, VietNam and old New England towns....
I've liberally used Dark Shadows characters, but added many of my own, besides Julia's long-lost niece. I tried to fit them into the landscape, a setting to which I've also added new places, with as many sinister goings-on as any secret room at Collinwood or the Old House. (If Dan Curtis and I should ever get into a fracas over the division of HIS intellectual property and MINE, we'll settle it over a friendly game of "Risk", the Game of Global Conquest. Or, better yet, "Battleship"! If I win, I'm taking Willie and Eagle Hill Cemetery. If I lose, I'll just take MY people and use them in a story about the Mafia--- plenty of rich family history, unsolved mysteries, disappearances, and deaths galore!)
And for those of you who didn't care for the occasional randiness of Lara Parker's book, you WILL be happier, for the most part. There IS some sex, but very little graphic stuff (I assume my readers know about the birds'n'bees) until it's time to get rough in the last part-- PG-13 DOES turn to "R", but again, there's no detailed grunt-by-groan descriptions, even here. (This isn't meant as a major slam of "Angelique's Descent", much of which I liked and thought worthwhile. This is to delineate differences and address concerns.)
No gratuitous gore, either, ditto--- I believe the THREAT can be more frightening than the reality, though there IS some bloody violence---just comes with the territory. Everything fits the situations, at least---writing my own story, I don't have to accommodate actors who want to quit my show, or need to get rid of them, either, by inventing extreme, no-turning-back exits for their characters. Keeps the mortality rate pretty low! Though, as a writer friend once told me, I WOULD have to kill off at least one character I really liked, and preferably one of my creation. It became necessary to bop off SEVERAL. It HURT when I wrote those chapters!
So, in conclusion, I hope you bear with the LENGTH and SCOPE and WORDINESS. It's not as full of "BAM!" as the TV version--- like the first six months of DS, it may drag a bit, but this was necessary to establish characters and most of my major themes, which involve the consequences of choice and decisions, and maturity. After a while, the supernatural payoff starts kicking in. Consider this the "contemplative" side of DS; when you get your fill of the more action-packed fan-fic, and want to cogitate on the deeper aspects, then get comfortable and lose yourself in MY alternative DS universe!
ACHTUNG! ATTENCION! As I've stated, ALL characters, places, ideas and plots SPECIFIC to the ORIGINAL "DARK SHADOWS" program are copyrighted by DAN CURTIS PRODUCTIONS. You'll soon learn which of the lot belong to LORRAINE BALINT. The point IS, like Mr. Curtis, I will NOT tolerate any attempts to steal and profit from either venture.</P>
This is STRICTLY a NOT-FOR-PROFIT work of FAN FICTION. (Though if it inspires you to donate to a worthy charity, that's up to you.) Hard copy of earlier drafts exist, and excerpts have been shown to the ShadowGram/World Of DS ladies, and several of my closest friends, as
well as having been broadcast over the alt.tv.dark_shadows NG.</P>
***Also, a note about some changes I was compelled to make: As I've stated, I tried to fit the jagged pieces of DS continuity together, as huge and frustrating a task as re-assembling Humpty-Dumpty. In this effort, I made a few minor changes of my own, but at least I'll be
upfront about them.
First, I've given Professor Stokes a different college to take time off from teaching. There having been, as of 1968, no "Rockport University" (unless that's where one goes to learn comfy-shoe-making), I've assigned him to a more logical choice, U. Maine at Orono, located approx. 30 miles from the likeliest location of fictional Collinsport, and 10 miles from real-life Ellsworth, which WAS frequently mentioned on the old show, and which is visited in my story. However,I don't think that venerable institution (founded in 1865) has EVER had a parapsychology department! So his specialty is a bizarre cross between comparative religion, astral physics, and abnormal psychology. Almost the same thing, if taken in total.
As a trade-off, I invented a new fictional town, Chartville, and gave some creative names to various Collinsport streets.
In my earliest drafts, the story started in late 1972, which would have allowed David Collins, as played by David Henesey, to be 16, ready to drive and hassle girls for dates. However, as I wanted to fit a Vietnam subplot in, I HAD to back up to 1971. (This cut out some appropo references to Watergate, BTW!) So, I aged David Collins by an extra year, granting him license to cruise and romance (or at least try to) the younger ladies that much sooner.
I also threw in some lyrics at crucial moments, a very Soap-y thing to do. In this part, I've borrowed from Buffy Sainte-Marie ("Until It's Time For You to Go"), the Everley Brothers ("Let It be Me"), Janis Joplin ("Turtle Blues" and "Get It While You Can"), Big Mama Thorton via Janis Joplin ("Ball and Chain"), Cat Stevens ("Bitterblue", "Oh, Very Young", "RubyLove"), Nilsson ("Remember"),and "What Child Is This?"/"Greensleeves".
Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Insults? (use the latter sparingly!) Please e-mail:
Finally, this book and page are dedicated to the memories of my late brother and late sister, and departed friends:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are NOT as they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
"Dust thou art, to dust returnest"
Was NOT spoken of the soul!
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a Hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, however pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead!
Act, act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God overhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of Time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
sailing over life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing--
learn to labor and learn to wait.
----Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
And now, to begin....
Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease
And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair.... . . William Blake
1971---It was an unusually warm October afternoon in Collinsport. Such an afternoon in coastal Maine was like an empty present, an Indian Summer type of day without the colored leaves. It was even a little humid, making the insistent, overhanging sea breeze smell somewhat rancid.
"Geez, I thought salt air was supposed to be invigorating. I wonder why it smells more like a sewer," thought a young girl standing on the porch of a cottage overlooking the bay. She was looking out toward some small fishing boats that were heading for the docks almost directly below. "Maybe," she theorized, "that stink comes from the dead fish they don't use-- I'll just bet they just chuck 'em right back into the water down there.... That's just the solution those inbred local yokels would take towards Waste Management!"
The girl sighed, and flung herself into an old, musty-smelling loveseat squeezed into a corner of the porch. She was bored, and just recovering from an outburst of temper. Said outburst had been directed at her aunt, with whom she was spending this school year. Spats with her aunt, whom she really loved dearly, occurred seldom. This time, the girl was felt more confused than justified about having argued her case.
The dispute centered around preparations for the little dinner party her aunt had planned for this evening. Earlier in the week, it had been agreed that the niece would prepare the salad, the side dishes, help with the baking, and do a little quick housekeeping besides. No problem there; the girl did these tasks at home, and she liked to cook. Some of the work had been accomplished the day before. When the aunt came home a little early from work on the day of the dinner, she and her niece prepared the main course together. They worked amiably enough; the recipe was an obscure delicacy culled from an antique cookbook inherited from the girl's great-grandmother, and both fussed over the details.
The real hassle began when the meal was ready. The aunt insisted that her niece "dress up" for the dinner party, as she was about to. The girl said she didn't see the point of it. She could see changing her blouse because there were sauce stains on it. But the thought of putting on the fancy, frilly "sister of the groom" turquoise dress she'd had to wear to her brother's wedding (chosen by her mother, who also snuck it into her suitcase) was, well, gruesome. "What's wrong with just a fresh blouse? My embroidered jeans didn't get dirty," she pleaded.
Her aunt looked heavenward (since her niece had arrived, she had been "scanning the skies" quite frequently) and sighed. "Cellie, how many times must I tell you? Our guest is a very old-fashioned sort of fellow, and he's simply used to seeing people dressed up for dinner, as he does himself. But, I swear you'll like him anyway, he's full of those romantic historical stories I know you'll enjoy---just go along with it this one time."
"Geez, Aunt Jule, you know I look positively pathetic in that baby dress! And those White tights! I don't want to look like a thirteen-year-old just so you could impress your boyfriend!" Cellie declared. Then she stopped, shocked. Her Aunt Julia looked like she was about to cry!
Her aunt folded her hands like she was about to pray, and when she began to speak again, she made a couple of little choking sounds. "Cellie, sometimes you still talk like a thirteen-year-old, instead of someone nearly eighteen," Julia said hoarsely. She collected herself, and went on. "Mr. Collins is not my �boyfriend', as you so elegantly put it. He is, however, my very best friend---"
The girl couldn't resist one more dig. "Well, is Hallie's Uncle Elliot your boyfriend, then?" This time her aunt displayed real anger.
"Cellie, I don't have to discuss this with you at all. That's enough, already. Get in your room, and change into that blasted dress!� I don't want to hear another word, young lady!"
The niece thought, "Oh, God, now she's calling me 'young lady'.� I guess she'll be threatening to send me home, and I just barely got here!" This not being her intention, she became abjectly apologetic almost immediately. "Geez, I'm sorry, Aunt Jule, it's just that, we never really , you know , act like an adult and a kid together. I forget that I'm not just fighting with my girlfriend, or my mother either. I'm really sorry, and I'll go change into that old dress."
Julia Hoffman didn't have to be a psychiatrist, or a mother, to understand how largely such seemingly trivial matters loomed with adolescents, and how they tended to over-react to adult admonitions. She knew that Cellie was a little defiant, but, after all, it was almost considered normal teenage behavior, and they'd never really had a serious argument before. So, she said, "Cellie, I AM on the verge of calling your parents and telling them that I'm sending you home. But, I will grant that you have a point about our relationship---- I've never really had the full-time care of a young person before. Look, go change into the dress, be polite to Mr. Collins, and we'll discuss these matters in the morning, before I make my final decision."
That was how Cellie, dressed in her scratchy, ruffled frock, ended up sprawled on the musty little sofa on the porch of her aunt's ocean-cliff cottage. She couldn't believe that she had let the argument get out of hand like that. It should not have, because of the sensations she had experienced as soon as she taunted her aunt about Mr. Collins. They were part of a phenomenon Cellie had been getting used to since shortly before her thirteenth birthday, almost five years ago.
It wasn't a pain exactly, more like a pressure, though at times it could become acute, as it had in the moment before Julia almost burst into tears. The sensation was accompanied by, not exactly hallucinations, but flashes of different colors when Cellie blinked her eyes. It wasn't an illness; without giving out too many details, she had, over the years, dropped subtle hints about her "symptoms" to her parents and teachers. She had been examined, interviewed, and tested by a platoon of physicians and psychologists, who pronounced her both healthy and sane, though "highly sensitive to her environment."
It was much more than that. Cellie was empathic, able to sense, and (after some practice) identify what people were feeling, almost before they were aware of it themselves. This ability, which only lately Cellie had been learning to control, was strongest when she felt close to someone, although she could pick up, or "read" as she called it, strong tremors of emotion from strangers. Over time, she could classify the different emotions, even if they weren't openly expressed, by the colors she saw during her "rainbow spells", her name for her "condition'.
For example, she saw anger, not as red, but as a gas flame, blue-violet with a queer yellow flicker, which varied in intensity, like the pilot light on a stove: the more yellow, the more anger. Envy, which often ran together with frustration, was not green, but a mauve-grey; hope was green. Red was the color reserved for love, from the gentle rose of altruism, through the bright pink of parental affection, through the deeper, shinier reds of romantic love. This was the color Cellie felt when she chided her Aunt with Mr. Collins's name.
Why she had to go further and drag her friend's uncle's name into it---Cellie couldn't understand herself. Her ability had, over the years, made her more sympathetic and restrained for the most part; it had certainly made Cellie back off from disputes with her parents and her older brother. However, it couldn't completely override her streak of perversity, or her occasional use of her talent to advance her own interests.
Cellie could sense attractions between her friends and members of the opposite sex, and would, if it was to her advantage, arrange "accidental" encounters for interested parties. If all went well, she received the spoils of their gratitude (one satisfied "customer" offered to swipe the answer sheet for the math exam, but she wasn't about to go that far.) Still, her talent had its limitations.
She was not telepathic; Cellie could "read" emotions, but she still had to make her best guess about her subject's thoughts and motivations. She came to know that how people felt was frequently at odds with how they thought and acted. (This was often a good thing, but Cellie felt frustrated when she believed it wasn't.) And she wasn't clairvoyant; she couldn't predict the outcome of her machinations. Then there were those people who either could not or would not be "read"; some could hide or masquerade their true feelings very well, almost as if they knew they might be read. (Cellie believed that her psychiatrist aunt's years of professional discretion had blocked her from "reading" Julia's emotions until now.)
As Cellie went along, though, her successes exceeded her failures. She had taken full advantage of her parents' guilt over their impending divorce, in order to move in with her aunt. She was not just looking for freedom; she needed to escape the constant interplay of negative emotions, which made her physically exhausted. And now, she had almost gone and spoiled the whole arrangement with her tantrum!
Her petty anger at Julia spent, Cellie pondered how she could help her aunt, whom she truly loved (and in whom she had hoped to confide about the scope of her "rainbow spells.") For, even when she had ulterior motives, she did enjoy helping others with her "talent." As a child, she'd brought home stray kittens and wounded birds; when she discovered her ability, she simply expanded her venue to include human subjects.
For all her manipulations on behalf of her friends, Cellie wasn't too knowledgeable about the Love thing as it applied to herself, never mind a mature lady like her aunt. Oh, she'd had some dates, to movies, dances, and school sporting events, but nothing clicked; her parent's warnings that she was too young to get serious with anyone seemed almost superfluous. Cellie was only sure of two things: That when she found someone, he would have to be easy to "read", and that he wouldn't mind it, well, too much (She believed in being honest with a prospective husband.)
Cellie believed that day was a long way off; in the meantime, there was Julia's problem to deal with. There was the question of Hallie Stokes's Uncle Elliot, who was a professor on sabbatical from Maine U. at Orono. He lived up the street with his orphaned niece, who was in a couple of Cellie's classes at Collinsport High School. Hallie had become Cellie's first Collinsport friend, and the two not only shared free time together, they both got cashier jobs on the same shift at the new Eagle Superette Grocery Store. Hallie and her uncle often came to the Hoffman cottage (which Julia had leased in anticipation of Cellie's visit, after a long sojourn as a houseguest on the Collins estate.) Elliot Stokes was consulting with Julia about the book he was writing about the psychiatric implications of occult practices
At least, that was his stated intention; after an hour of reference-checking, he would stay and have tea with Julia while the two girls walked up and down the road. While gossiping with Hallie, Cellie thought about her aunt and Elliot, who, she had sensed, had increasingly red feelings toward Julia.
Oh, well, Cellie reflected, while she sat on the porch waiting for Mr. Collins, perhaps her aunt would be more forthcoming about these matters when they had their talk in the morning. She looked at her watch. "Geez, it's after seven already," she thought to herself.
"When will the guest of honor arrive?" It had gotten a little cooler, finally--- the sun had gone down --- and Cellie rose and turned toward the door. She was going to ask if her aunt had a sweater or shawl that would go with the dress. ("Hide it completely," was her real thought.) Her hand was on the latch, when she heard a car come down their street, and then a large station wagon pulled into the driveway, next to Julia's green Volkswagen Beetle.
"Aunt Jule! Are you ready? I think he's here!" Cellie called to her aunt, who was still in her bedroom.
"Greet him, bring him in, and offer him something to drink---I'll be out soon!" came the muffled reply from behind the closed door.
Cellie walked down a step, then saw two men emerge from the station wagon. One was older, well-dressed, wearing an unusual cape, and carrying a cane with a shiny handle. The other was younger, long-haired, casually dressed in a grey sweater and jeans. Cellie thought he looked vaguely familiar; then she realized, he was one of her least favorite customers who often came down her cashier aisle at the Superette. The two seemed to be arguing quietly as they came up the wooden walkway stairs from the driveway (though the yard was small, the house was set on a hill about twenty feet above the street.)
Cellie became uneasy. She had been expecting one man, but the sight of the other, who'd made her so uncomfortable at work, and the fact that he WAS acquainted with her aunt's "friend", made her step back up, and into the house. She locked the screen door, a rather absurd precaution.
The older man was the first to mount the steps, and stood before her. Cellie studied his appearance up close: he was sort of good-looking, though his face was pale; but his hazel-brown eyes had a sad, gentle expression. He wasn't as tall as he'd seemed from a distance, but his way of carrying himself increased his stature. His layered cape, the girl thought, reminded her of something Sherlock Holmes might wear, and his cane's shiny handle, it turned out, was tipped with a silver wolf's head. On the hand that held the cane, he wore a heavy gold ring, set with a large oval onyx, on his index finger.
Cellie must have been standing and staring for a bit too long. The older man finally spoke first. With just a hint of impatience in his voice, he said, "Barnabas Collins at your service, young lady." His deep voice had an English accent. "You are Miss Cecily Hoffman, I presume? Your Aunt Julia is expecting me for dinner."
She found her voice. "Ye-yes, Mr. Collins. I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were bringing a friend---" She could feel her face turn red.
"Ah, you mean my employee, Mr. Loomis," Barnabas replied. "I was just about to explain---"
Julia called from the bedroom, "Is he here, yet, Cellie? Who are you talking to out there? I'm coming out!"
Cellie hastily unlocked the screen door and opened it for the two men. Julia emerged from her room just as they stepped in. Her niece noticed that she was wearing the rose-colored silk blouse and dove-grey linen skirt that she'd worn to Cellie's brother's wedding (and which Cellie had admired as much as she despised her own outfit.) The colors softened the angles of Julia's face, and made it seem less pale, while subduing the wine-red tone of her hair. (Cellie wished her turquoise frock would do the same for her own fiery tresses.)
Julia cried out, "Barnabas, it's so wonderful to see you again! How are you?" and nearly ran to his arms. Cellie, standing aside, felt like her chest had been hit with a blunt instrument, and a kaleidoscope of colors whirled inside her eyelids, whenever she blinked. First, she "saw" her aunt's emotion--- bright, shiny, fire-engine red. There was no doubt about what that meant.
Mr. Collins's reaction was as interesting as it was confusing. When he had first arrived, Cellie found that he would not be "read"---well, for a brief moment, she managed to sense a deep midnight blue, the sign of deep, long-term sorrow. Then it passed. But now, with his defenses down, Cellie saw a maddening mixture. The dark blue was ever-present, but flashes of mauve, green, orange flickered; and, floating up every now and then, like a bay leaf in a large soup-pot, a strong red light came and went. "Why, he's absolutely seething," the girl thought, as she watched them embrace. "I think that he really does love her, in his own way."
While Cellie pondered about the possible reasons why they didn't act on their feelings, Julia stepped back from Barnabas, who replied, "I am very well, though in England, the dampness brought me a little ache now and then. It wasn't enough to spoil my trip, of which I will tell more later. I would like to apologize for being a little late. My car broke down in front of the Antique Shoppe. I had it towed to the garage, and Willie left Carolyn alone at the Shoppe temporarily, in order to give me a lift up here."
"You're not a bit late," Julia said, happily. (Cellie was amazed---was her usually cool-and-collected aunt actually simpering?) "The food is warming in the oven. I haven't formally introduced you to my niece, Cecily. She's my brother Walter's daughter, from Boston. I wrote you about the circumstances of her visit here."
"I had the opportunity of chatting a bit with your lovely niece." His voice became quieter. "I'm sorry about her parents' troubles---it's a most unfortunate thing. Sadly, it's becoming more common these days." Barnabas said this carefully, while glancing gently towards Cellie. She was really starting to like the man---he said she was "lovely" as if he really meant it, he didn't mention how she'd kept him waiting on the porch, and she knew, after having "read" him, that someone who'd endured as much sorrow as she believed he had, would probably treat the subject of her parents' divorce with kindness and tact.
"Barnabas," said Willie Loomis from the doorway, where he had stood, forgotten during the excitement of the reunion. "What time shall I pick you up?" He had a soft voice with a light Northeastern accent---Cellie couldn't figure out if he was from Maine or Vermont. Yet, there was a tinge of other regions in his inflection.
Julia spoke. "Willie, you went to all the trouble of bringing Barnabas. Unless you have other plans, I'd like you to stay and have dinner," she offered. Cellie reflected that it was pretty generous of her aunt to open what she'd obviously planned as an exclusive evening of cultivating Mr. Collins.
Willie looked at Barnabas, with whom he'd had a small disagreement about work on the way to the cottage. "I--I don't think so, Julia." He looked nervously from Julia to Barnabas, of whom, Cellie was surprised to sense, he seemed somewhat afraid. "You see, Carolyn is still holding down the fort at the Antique Shoppe, and I was planning on taking inventory of the estate sale things I picked up in Bangor last week. Seems I just keep putting it
off," he said unhappily.
Cellie studied him. He was shorter than Barnabas, and looked thin, but that may have been because he had on such a baggy sweater. His light, fine hair framed a round, boyish-looking face with small but bright blue eyes, though Cellie guessed he was at least thirty. His anxious expression was, Cellie thought, a perfect reflection of his inner feelings.
He was a surprisingly easy "read." Cellie's insides fluttered, and she saw many flashes of the "pilot lights" of anger, of varying intensity, flaring a little when he looked at Barnabas. These were followed by the mauve tones of envy and frustration. Cellie believed that Mr.Loomis---Willie ("What a name for a grown man," she thought)---might be dangerous, and she became anxious. Then he looked directly at Cellie, and, for the second time that evening, felt like she'd had the wind knocked out of her.
She saw orange weaving around his other colors. This was lust, she knew. She had come to sense it in even the shyest of her dates, though she seldom felt it herself. She tolerated it, up to the point when a boy got insistent, and then she'd stop seeing him. She had taken on the surface sophistication of her Boston friends, but she really didn't didn't feel ready to deal with lust yet, and she didn't like sensing it in Mr. Loomis, either. She remembered the last time he got into her checkout line. He kept staring at her in a way he apparently thought she wouldn't notice, and now he was practically leering at her. Well, with her aunt and his boss present, Cellie doubted there'd be any trouble tonight, at any rate.
Then, suddenly, the orange was gone, and Cellie again saw mauve-grey, this time with a little red, and those sad midnight blues . This indicated confusion and uncertainty to her. Mr. Loomis must have felt it was hopeless after all, she thought, and she didn't feel afraid any more. She began to feel a little sorry for him, standing there as though waiting for a jury verdict, so she smiled at him in what she hoped was a reassuring manner. He half-smiled back, and Cellie suddenly thought he looked rather cute. She believed he was dying to stay to dinner (she had seen enough of his paltry grocery orders to know that he'd probably only have a sandwich to see him through a long night of inventory-taking.) "What to do?" she thought, then her aunt spoke.
"Oh, Barnabas it's seven-thirty. Why can't Willie call Carolyn and tell her to close the Shoppe a little early this one time, so that he can stay to eat? Then he can go back to do his inventory. I'll take you down to the Shoppe afterward, and Willie can bring you home from there."
"Well, Julia, if you don't feel imposed on, I suppose we can do that," Barnabas replied. He turned to Willie. "Go ahead and call Carolyn, and be sure to remind her to pick up some office supplies when she goes to Ellsworth tomorrow."
Cellie could feel Willie's lightening of mood (though his expression didn't change at first) as he answered, "Thank you, Barnabas," and went over to the phone in the tiny parlor of the cottage. Julia beckoned to her niece, who went into the kitchen, and carried out the various dishes, setting them on the oversized table, already set, which filled the small dining area. Cellie looked toward Willie, who was almost beaming as he hung up the phone. There was no partition between the dining room and the parlor, and he came up directly towards the girl. She got nervous again, and moved nearer to her aunt, who was pouring champagne into four goblets on a side table.
Julia announced, "Before we sit down to dinner, I'd like to propose a toast. Cellie can join in this one time." Cellie handed the glasses to Barnabas and Willie, who, apparently concerned that his attentions to the girl might be noticed, tried not to look at her much. With her glass raised, Julia continued, "May we never be parted for long, and always return safely to our friends from our journeys." They all took a sip from their glasses. Then Barnabas spoke.
"I would like to toast our hostess, my dearest friend, may our friendship continue to grow and deepen for many years to come, and may our acquaintance with her charming niece prove as rewarding." Barnabas and Julia drained their glasses, while Cellie still sipped tentatively, not sure she liked the dry, sweetish grapey fizz. She did like the warm feeling that began to fill her inside. She observed that Willie had stopped with the second sip.
Then they sat at the table---Julia sat across from her niece and moved her chair closer to Barnabas, who sat across from Willie. Cellie made a point of leaning away from Willie. She didn't have any idea of where she wanted this little game with him to go, and she wasn't about to encourage him. Anyway, she wanted to listen to Barnabas and Julia, and try to figure out where their friendship was headed.
There was little small talk as they passed around the salad, and bread that Cellie had baked the night before. Both Barnabas and Willie complimented her when Julia told them that her niece had made the bread and elaborate salad, with what the girl called her "secret recipe dressing" The main course was a beef dish that Julia had adapted from her grandmother's recipe, with the sauce that had stained her niece's blouse. To accompany that, Cellie had invented a spicy potato dish, which, to her surprise, was a hit with their guests. Willie, she noticed, had a real taste for the stuff, and it looked as if there would be none left over.
Over dessert and coffee, Julia drew back from Barnabas as he conversed with her niece. She watched Willie, who sat back in his chair and calmly surveyed the scene. Julia thought she'd seen him looking at Cellie, and she was a bit uneasy. She remembered those days, not so far in the past, when Willie's behavior around women was cause for concern: she'd heard of his obnoxious activities when he first arrived in Collinsport. Then he had "encountered" Barnabas, and Barnabas's vampire curse had dictated Willie's later actions. Barnabas's detrimental influence had evaporated when the curse was lifted, and, Willie's whole attitude was seemingly transformed.
He and Barnabas had become sort of friendly. Barnabas trusted Willie to help with the antique business he and Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes had begun to fill the void left by the destruction of an earlier such establishment (as well as the deaths of its owners.) Carolyn had insisted on Willie's participation. And Willie's social life, after one disappointment, had evaporated also. (No other outcome was likely; the weeks-long depression he'd suffered then, precluded his return to a hospital janitor's job he'd held in Portland, and the relative anonymity he'd enjoyed there. No respectable woman in Collinsport would give Willie the time of day, outside his immediate acquaintance.) As far as Julia knew, his whole life revolved around the Shoppe. She sighed, deciding that Willie was simply looking at her niece as he would at any pretty girl, and, hopefully, Cellie would dismiss his attentions.
In any case, Cellie wasn't paying attention to Willie. She was engaged in an animated discussion with Barnabas. He asked her, "So, are you planning to study for a medical career like your aunt?"
Cellie thought a moment before she answered. "Well, Mr. Collins, it just may be that psychiatry or, at least, psychology, may be my calling. I sort of know a lot about how people are feeling---you could call it intuition, or something." She sighed. "But I also love studying history---I even like reading the dry, boring stuff about politics. I might consider making history my major, if I should discover a demand for history instructors."
Barnabas smiled. "Well, Cellie, I've been reading some contemporary historical books, and there seems to be a market for both historians with psychological insights, and psychologists with historical perspective. I daresay you will find your niche."
"My aunt tells me that you have an impressive knowledge of history, Mr. Collins," Cellie said. "Especially local history, and English history. When you were in England, did you tour the better-known historical sites, mostly, or did you get out to the countryside?"
"I was fortunate enough to have time enough for both," Barnabas replied. As your aunt may have told you, I am from England, but, like many people who've spent their lives in what are considered to be tourist attractions, I seldom had occasion to visit any. However, after having lived here for some time, I returned to my old home, as eager as any first-time visitor. I spent some time in London, touring the Tower, the cathedrals, palaces, museums--- places you've seen in books. They are quite impressive, of course, but I found my forays into the provinces just as interesting.
"I spent a week in the ancestral village of the Collins family, in the Norfolk area. I met some distant relatives, who pointed out a half-timbered style cottage where the first Collinses to come to the New World, Nathaniel and Isaac, were born. I was introduced to the lady of the house, who was happy to show me around the place. It was built around 1510, on the site of an older Collins home that had stood there since the Norman Conquest. Unfortunately, the older house had burned to the ground. She led me to the church, where a certain Sir Jacobus Collins, who died in 1440, had a carved effigy of himself in full armor erected over his tomb inside. But I found my living relatives just as interesting as the memorial brasses of the deceased ones. They still live very simply for these modern times, but are healthy, sensible, well-humored, and, to my surprise, a decidedly unsuperstitious lot."
`Cellie asked, "Why were you surprised?"
Barnabas answered carefully, "Because, my dear Cellie, ever since the first Collins arrived in New England almost three-hundred fifty years ago, my family, and our estate, have been considered the locus of supernatural phenomena of all kinds--- from ghosts and witchcraft, to even more exotic and unpleasant events. My English relatives have heard about the reputations of those they call their "Poor Puritan cousins across the Pond." They theorize that it may have something to do with an excess of family pride, a lot of gossip and coincidence, and, perhaps, Divine vengeance for early offenses committed by Nathaniel against the Indians."
"Wouldn't it be neat if there was some way one could find out for sure?" Cellie asked, dreamily. "I mean, it wouldn't help the past Collinses any, but if a situation arose today, there might be a resolution."
Barnabas looked at her a little warily, and replied, "Such a prospect is as improbable as it is interesting, and, anyway, I haven't heard of any problem at Collinwood lately, that would demand such a resolution."
Cellie had sensed his unease at her light-hearted proposition, but was determined to show friendly interest. "I guess you're right, Mr. Collins--"
Barnabas offered, "Please, call me Barnabas."
Cellie understood that to be a disarming tactic, but accepted it, for what it was worth.
"--Barnabas. In any case, I would sure enjoy reading some local history."
Barnabas offered, "I would be delighted to share some of my private collection with you, Cellie. I have material you won't find in a library. If your schoolwork and job schedule allow, you are always welcome to visit the Antique Shoppe. Call me at my home, and I'll bring you some books. I take it you haven't been down to the shoppe since you've been here?"
She replied, "My Aunt Jule wanted to wait 'til you were back so you could show me around."
"Well, I suppose Carolyn or Willie could have guided you. Carolyn, at least, has become very knowledgeable about many of the items. But it's true that I have expertise in some of the older pieces you might be interested in. We could start tomorrow afternoon, after you finish your shift at the Superette, though any day would be fine. I'm usually in after eleven, inspecting the inventory and checking the books."
Willie squirmed a little in his chair at this point, and Cellie again felt his resentment. Did Barnabas believe Willie was stealing from him? she wondered. She answered, in what she hoped was a friendly voice. "Tomorrow would be fine, Barnabas. I get out of work at four-thirty. I just cashed my check yesterday, and I'll take any opportunity to shop!"
"Of course. I'll see you around five, then."
"Barnabas, it's a pleasant night, why don't we take our coffee out on the porch?" Julia suggested.
"That would be fine, Julia. " Barnabas rose, cup in hand. He went out the front door.
Cellie offered, "I'll stay in and start cleaning up."� She thought her aunt and Barnabas should spend some time alone.
Willie said, "I'll carry in some dishes for her, then I'll be on my way."
Julia looked at him like she was about to protest, but said, instead, "Well, don't take too long, Willie. I'll set the coffee things on the little table outside." She went into the kitchen, followed by Cellie, who carried a couple of plates to the sink. She whispered to her niece, "Just keep an eye on him." Cellie watched her aunt go out again, coffee pot and trivet in hand.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Out on the front porch, Julia poured more coffee for Barnabas and herself, then sat across from him. She kept thinking of little ways to avoid gazing at him with anticipation; she lit a cigarette, drew her sweater around herself, glanced into the house now and then, and took yet more coffee. Still, she always came back to watching him, whenever it seemed he was trying not to look at her. The moon was bright, and it cast shadows which emphasized the lines and hollows of his gaunt face, but to Julia, this evidence of his blessedly normal aging process made him even more attractive. (Quite unlike the rolls and wattles of Elliot's face, though his twinkling eyes and warm smile could be appealing.)
"So, you were uncomfortable in England, in spite of the interesting surroundings?" she began.
"I'm afraid so, Julia," Barnabas replied. "Ah, rheumatism.... another one of the joys of normalcy," he joked ruefully. "Not that I'm really complaining, but it did detract from my pleasure in the trip to my, er, 'native land.' Thank heavens there were still enough of the landmarks I remembered from when I visited there on my Grand Tour in 1784! Plus, I took the opportunity to see if there was any necessity to doctor some more documents. Fortunately, my passport DID pass muster with the authorities. Europeans are such sticklers for I.D. papers, what with all the coming and going between the countries."
Julia protested, "That's not a major problem in this country, at least---"
"At least, so long as nobody checks up on me too deeply," Barnabas sighed. "With any luck, there will never be a need for anyone to investigate me again. I want to enjoy what's left of this mortal life we both worked so hard to regain, lonely as it's been sometimes. Lonely as it's been, since you decided to move out of Collinwood, and declined to join me on my trip. Mind you, I'm not complaining about your wardship of your niece. But you were already planning to move, before you agreed to take her on."
"I had to leave, Barnabas," Julia said. "Elizabeth would have liked me to stay on forever. But I had to be independent again. Plus, travelling to work from Widow's Hill Road was a challenge in bad weather. But I stayed in Collinsport! I like it here, and it's good for Cellie."
"She could have lived at Collinwood, like Hallie and Amy Jennings did."
Julia's face darkened. "No, I doubt that would have been such a good idea.You've seen, as I have, the kind of things that can happen to young girls in that place! It eats them alive, I think. Hallie and Amy are well out of there. Even if nothing's happened up there since we fixed things earlier this year, I feel more comfortable raising my niece in a neutral zone. I made a point in the past, of not getting my family involved in what we were going through at the time. At least this way, I don't have to worry about what might happen between Cellie and David. She's met him in school, and she seems to like him somewhat. Still.... I'm not saying he'd cause trouble for her, but he's not a little boy anymore, and she's hardly a child, either---"
"No, and it's to her credit. I'm sorry you feel that way about Collinwood, Julia. You and I had some pleasant times there, after our travails were over. I daresay, Cellie would have. She's obviously keen on history. She's not exactly demure, that I will say, but neither does she strike me as being giddy or heedless. She seems like the type who can fend off unwelcome advances, though, perhaps, if she becomes better acquainted with David, she might not find his unwelcome. IF they're honorable, of course! I'm sure she's going to be a lady of great character---like her aunt."
"Thank you for that compliment."
"I don't give you enough compliments, Julia," Barnabas said. "Considering what you've done for me in the past, with so little reward---" He leaned toward her.
Julia also leaned forward, eagerly. Perhaps this would be the time.... If only she was sitting next to him on the loveseat. She could reach for his hand, and---
"But you are getting some rewards now, having the delightful company of your niece, a resurgent career, and Elliot's companionship....How are you two faring, since I've been gone? Has he proposed again, Julia?" Now Barnabas sank back in the loveseat. There was a sound of resignation in his voice.
"Well.... " Julia replied on a sigh. "We do spend a lot of time together, doing research for his book. Elliot's become softer, and a bit less full of himself, since he's had to deal with Hallie's problems without Elizabeth's intervention. He can be good company. I'm not sure it's enough to marry on, though!"
"He loves you. He told me as much, before I departed." Now Barnabas sighed. "Maybe it would be prudent for you to accept him, Julia. I do know how fond you are of me. I will always be fond of you. But you know how it is with us. Upon the least excuse, I become Don Quixote, mounting my tired hobby-horse, and tearing after whoever I fancy as my Dulcinea. I confess, I was somewhat attracted to that daughter of Elizabeth's college friend, who visited Carolyn this past summer. Mercifully, I discovered her lack of depth before I made the mistake of acting on the feeling. I am getting older, but little wiser. The risk remains. It's a pesky holdover of my former condition. Even if you can accept it, I should not like to violate our mutual respect by foisting it upon you. Elliot would never betray you in that manner. Go on with your life, Julia. Marry him. We will all still be friends."
"I'll consider it," she said quietly. After few minutes, she glanced at her watch, and said, "All this talk of risky romance and unwelcome advances has made me realize--- Willie still hasn't gone, yet! He was only supposed to clear the table and bring the dishes to Cellie to wash. He obviously didn't go out through the back door. We would have seen, and heard him drive away."
"Oh, Julia, you don't think he's doing anything to Cellie! As I observed before, she hardly seems the sort to suffer a fool gladly, and, well, there are few more foolish than Willie."
"I don't know what to think! He may be reverting to what I've been told were some of his old ways. It's been nearly a year since your curse was removed for good. You feel normal these days, and that's just fine. But in HIS case, true normalcy might be risky."
"He hasn't been around ANY woman since his fiancee left him," Barnabas said. "Believe me, if he had, and I didn't find out for myself, Carolyn would, and she'd report it to me."
"That's just what I'm worried about. I'm going in to check on them." Julia picked up the now-empty coffee pot with a decisive motion.
"Be calm, Julia. Ask Cellie to come out here, even if the dishes aren't finished. We have a rapport. Perhaps I can help you deal with her, as I know I'll have to deal with Willie."
Julia went back into the cottage.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Julia had first left the kitchen, Willie came in, bearing more dishes, to where Cellie was already washing and stacking the first installment.
He said, "I really appreciated the meal. I'll stay a while and help you clean up some." He waved Cellie to one side, rolled up his sleeves, and began to wash and stack the dishes in a methodical manner, while she dried.
The thoroughness with which Willie washed each dish made Cellie remark, "You don't have to sterilize them. We won't be needing them in surgery or anything." For a second, he looked as though he might get angry, but she smiled at him in her most appealing manner. He relaxed, and gazed at her in much the same way as he did at the store. She turned her face toward the stack of clean dishes.
Cellie said, "I'm sorry I said that. Thanks for the help, Mr. Loomis." She felt uncomfortable.
"That's okay. It was kind of funny. Please, call me Willie," he answered, handing her another dish.
Cellie brightened a bit. "No, I don't think I'll call you Willie."
He looked a little hurt. "Why not?"
"If you don't mind, I'll call you Will instead. No offense, but I think 'Willie' is kind of a silly name for a mature man. In fact," Cellie said, mischievously, "If I were you, I'd insist on being called 'Will' or 'William.'"
"Oh, I should, should I?" Willie smiled. "Well, I happen to think 'Cellie' is a silly name for a grown-up young woman, and I'd like to call you Cecily---" he faltered, "if you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind," she said reassuringly. "It sounds so nice when you say it." He looked more cheerful. Cellie continued, "Where do you come from, Will? I can't place your accent."
"From Vermont, originally, but I left it pretty early," he answered hastily. Cellie sensed his reticence, so she tried another tack.
"Well, what did you do before you came to Collinsport? For a living, I mean?"
"I've done all kinds of jobs. I even worked on ships that went all over the world. You could say I've been all over the place, ever since I was in the Army.... his voice trailed off.
Cellie prodded, "I take it you had some trouble in the Army?" She couldn't understand why it suddenly became so important, but she had to know. She got a blast of blue-yellow sensation.
Willie had a plate in his hand, and started to shake it. Cellie was afraid he'd either throw it or break it.
"Yes, Cecily, I had a lot of trouble---I was always getting into fights, and one day I fought with the wrong guy--- I got thrown out! And, since you're so curious, I've done plenty of things that weren't very nice, and I've been in and out of jail since I was a kid! I made a lot of messes since I got here, that I tried to clean up. Some of the people I made trouble for gave me another chance. I do the best I can, but it's been hard, getting people to trust me. I'm surprised Julia and Barnabas haven't come back in here to find out why I'm not gone yet." Willie sighed. "I'd just rather not talk about that stuff anymore."
When she felt he was truly calmer, Cellie said, "I'm really sorry, Will, I didn't mean to sound so nosy. What you did in the past is past." (Even as she said this, Cellie knew it would take some work to believe it herself.) "I've had my problems, too, you know? My parents splitting up and all. It's not much compared to what you've been through, but I was just asking a simple question."
"I'm sorry, too, Cecily, I just get touchy when someone brings it up, you didn't mean any harm. Let's talk about something else," he suggested, while picking up the plate he'd been shaking when he first got angry--- Cellie had been so anxious, she hadn't even noticed at what point he'd laid it down!
"I've seen you a lot at the Superette," she began hesitantly. "You seem to prefer coming down my checkout aisle."
"Yeah, it makes it easier to spend all that money, knowing I'm going to hand it over to a classy lady like you," Willie answered easily enough.
"That's why I wore this swell dress," Cellie joked, "I was hoping to impress an important customer like you."
"You look real nice in that dress, no kidding," he said sincerely. "It really brings out the color of your hair. I like red hair." He pointed to Cellie's waist-length braid. "You should wear your hair loose."
"I would, but it gets into everything, yet I would really hate to cut it," she replied.
"I'll bet all the boys follow you around, the way you look." Willie suddenly turned red. He studied the plate in his hand. "Got any boyfriends?" As soon as he asked this, he blushed darker. "I'm--I'm sorry. I don't know if I should have asked you that. You don't have to tell me, I guess."
"That's okay. It's not a state secret. Nothing is in a small town, it seems. Besides, you just told me something really upsetting, and see? I took it pretty well."
"Well, just to be fair, I'll tell you first, I'm not married or divorced or engaged or--or anything at all." Willie turned away from Cellie, and dunked the plate he held into the soapy water. The girl saw mauve-grey around him--- felt the surge of his frustration.
She replied, sympathetically, "I'm not seeing anyone special, either. After all, I haven't been here too long. I hang out with my girlfriend Hallie Stokes mostly, but this guy named Jack Knowlton takes me to the movies and the pizza place." Cellie caught Willie's eye, and wrinkled her nose. "I'm not pizza-crazy like all the other kids. It's hard living in a town with no Chinese restaurant. I just love Chinese food."
"There's one in Ellsworth, I think" Willie said, sounding more confident. "Hallie Stokes.... I know her some, from when she lived at Collinwood for a while at the time I did, when I worked for Barnabas there, before we got the Antique Shoppe. And Jack--- I know his folks--- you have to watch out for these local guys." Cellie thought he talked about Jack a little too fast, but he changed the subject again. "You go to Collinsport High.... did you ever meet David Collins? He must be, what, sixteen by now? He goes there."
"Yes, Hallie introduced us. He seems pretty cool. But we don't see him much; he's on the football team, and he's, like, a year-and-a-half younger, besides."
"I guess things haven't changed much since I dropped out of school, what with the different 'clicks' keeping to themselves." Willie sighed.
"Will, do you ever regret dropping out? You could go to night school and finish," Cellie suggested, "if it bothers you."
"It doesn't really bother me too much," he replied. "Maybe someday I'll go, if the right person helps me.... I got a lot to do, with the Shoppe, and Barnabas...." His voice trailed off again. "It's hard, working with Barnabas, sometimes."
Cellie gently inquired, so as not to provoke him, "What does that mean?"
"I think you know, already. He acts like I steal from him, or something.... Well, the truth is, I lose stuff, or forget where I left it, more like. He knows that!"Willie seemed on the verge of getting angry again, but cut himself off so abruptly, Cellie became confused. But she didn't interrupt his recital. "Look, I shouldn't complain," he continued. "Barnabas and me, we go back a ways. We get along okay for the most part, but he's not used to owning a business, I guess. He lost track while he was on his trip, and he can get real nit-picky.... Like I said, it's hard, sometimes, with Barnabas. Someday, maybe, I'll tell you about how I got involved with him.... But I'll be okay, I guess." He handed her the last dish, which she dried, and stowed in the proper cabinet.
Cellie thanked Willie for his help. He said, "It's been really nice, talking to you like this. I don't talk much with anyone anymore, except Carolyn at the Shoppe, once in a while. You know, she told me Julia had her niece living with her. I didn't pay a lot of attention at the time. I thought she was talking about a young kid, I guess. I sure didn't know it was YOU. I didn't think I'd ever get a chance to really talk to you." He turned red again.
Cellie replied, "When I started noticing that you were jumping into my checkout line so often, I confess that I DID ask Hallie if she knew who you were, and she said, 'Oh, that's just Willie Loomis. Don't worry, he won't give you any trouble. He just, um, likes to WATCH, like he needs to see you're doing it just right'." Cellie smiled at Willie quickly, to forestall any negative reaction to this anecdote. He just shrugged. "She DID mention you had once worked at Collinwood, and then, at the antique place. I'm sorry I didn't own up to the knowledge sooner, but she didn't go into much detail, anyway. I guess we'd have met, sooner or later. But when you came up our driveway, and seemed really chummy with my aunt's best friend, it took me a minute to get used to the fact it was you.... I certainly had no idea we'd get so well-acquainted."
Willie asked, "Is that supposed to be good, or what?"
"Good, I think. It's been nice, talking with you." Nicer than she'd expected, she thought, in spite of some of the things he'd said. But then, she figured, maybe his were just standard grievances. God knew she had plenty of her own, about her own job at the Superette, and yet, she stuck with it.
Willie said, "You talk to me like it really means something to you."
"It does, Will." Cellie glanced at him, then looked toward the floor. She felt her face turn red.
"'Will and Cecily'. I like the sound of that." He took her hand in one of his, and touched her face with the other. Cellie was flustered, especially since she began seeing oranges and reds behind her eyelids. But he wasn't pulling her, and she wasn't scared. He lowered his face near hers and kissed her--- on her cheek. For a moment, he looked as though he was about to kiss her on the lips, when they heard a noise. Cellie stepped back quickly, pulling her hand from his. Her Aunt stood in the doorway, with the empty coffee pot in her hand.
"Willie," Julia said, with a slightly annoyed tone, "We were wondering why you're still here." She had an accusing look, and Cellie could sense the hackles rising in both her aunt and her new friend. She spoke up quickly.
"Mr. Loomis stayed a while to help me with the dishes, in appreciation of being asked to dinner. We got all of them done, dried, and put away, in record time. We talked about work and school and stuff. He comes into the Superette quite often, so we're sort of acquainted." I hope she buys that, thought Cellie, who was fighting hard not to turn red again. After all, they hadn't done anything wrong!
Willie looked at Cellie for the briefest moment out of the corner of his eye, and with an effort, calmly added, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was going to stay so long, but there were a lot of dishes. I didn't think it would take too much time to help her wash them. I'm going now. Thanks again, Julia, for dinner, and good night. And you too, Cellie." Cellie watched him go out the door with the blankest expression she could manage. She was secretly proud of the way Willie had controlled his anger.
Julia considered the situation. She knew she was partly responsible; she didn't want to create a scene, refusing Willie's offer of help outright, in the first place. Willie was a fact of life anyone who knew Barnabas had to deal with, sooner or later, and it didn't pay to put him on the defensive. She didn't think his help for Cellie was just a friendly gesture, but the dishes were all done, so it was obvious that nothing else could have happened in the past twenty minutes. She wondered if Cellie was interested in Willie. He didn't seem the type to appeal to a normal young girl, but Cellie had shown a streak of rebellion lately. Julia began to think that it might be a good idea to send her niece back home, in spite of her parents' situation.
Oh, well, Julia thought, I'll tell her in the morning. She asked Cellie, "Are you going to join us on the porch? Barnabas was wondering if you would. I'll make extra coffee."
"Only for a while, Aunt Jule. Will you need me to go with you when you run Barnabas down to the Antique Shoppe? I'm kinda tired, and work starts tomorrow at ten, and I thought you wanted to talk to me before then."
Julia thought riding alone with Barnabas might be a good idea--- it would give her a chance to ask him to keep an eye on Willie, when Cellie went down there after work. (She would allow her niece this one treat before she sent her home.) "Of course, you can stay home when I take Barnabas."
Cellie went out on the porch, carrying a coffee cup. Barnabas stood up when she came in. How old-fashioned that is, she thought, and she sat on a wicker chair across from him. When he was
seated, Barnabas said, "I understand that Willie helped you with your chore. He didn't bother you, did he?"
Cellie answered, with some asperity, "No, he didn't bother me!� I got the same line of questioning from my aunt. We washed the dishes! We talked about stuff. He was pretty nice in a wierd way, but it wasn't a big deal. Poor guy seemed kinda sad to me." She faced Barnabas with a contrite look. "I'm sorry I'm answering you like this, forgive me! It's my fault people find it easy to tell me their problems, I guess."
Barnabas answered, "No-one's accusing you and Willie of anything. But you are very young, and Willie can be worrisome when he goes looking for sympathy. In some ways, you seem more mature than he. "
"Well, he told me right away about his jail time and some of the other things.� Maybe he didn't want to mislead me about his intentions.� I mean, I feel sorry he's had trouble trying to straighten out his life, but not to the point of having big-time romantic notions of helping him save himself!"
Barnabas chuckled. "Well, Cellie, that sounds sensible to me.� By the same token, I doubt that Willie could share in your teenage enthusiasms, whatever they are these days. I will, however, speak to him about this, find out 'where he'scoming from', as they say."
"Well, Barnabas, that's okay, but, like, go easy on him, you know? He didn't do anything wrong today, really. I mean, he didn't even know he was going to stay to dinner in the first place, and it was nice of him to help me. Please?"
"I'll take it under consideration. I certainly won't argue with him tonight."
Julia had been listening at the door, coffee pot in hand. She didn't think her niece's advocacy of Willie was extreme, but, to be on the safe side, she would consult with Barnabas, and call her sister-in-law before talking to Cellie in the morning. She walked onto the porch and sat down next to Barnabas.
Cellie's alarm was set to go off at eight, but she intercepted it a half-hour early. Cellie had spent a restless night, tossing and turning, thinking about the problems that she couldn't have anticipated a scant twelve hours earlier, that had suddenly become of such vital importance. Worry about being sent home, worry about Julia and Barnabas worry about never seeing Willie again--- all had kept Cellie from getting more than three hours of sleep. The anxiety plagued her as she had her morning coffee, as she took her shower, as she dressed for work. She dreaded the outcome of the impending talk with her aunt.
Cellie came out of her room, dressed in a sweater and dark slacks (the Superette allowed the female help to wear pants, but no jeans or hip-huggers), and was attaching tiny gold studs to her ears as she walked to the living room. There, she found her aunt, on the phone; she heard Julia say, "Now, Janice," a couple of times, so it was clear that Cellie's mother was on the other end of the line. The girl stood quietly in the doorway until Julia, who appeared somewhat exasperated, said, "Alright, Janice, I'll check back in a week, with both you and Walter, " and hung up the receiver with a sigh. She looked up at her niece. "Sit down, Cellie," Julia said.
The niece sat on the easy chair across the room from her aunt. "Well, how did it go with my mother?"
Julia sighed again. "Your mother has finally moved out of the house, into a small apartment near where your brother is living, near Boston College. Your father found a buyer for the house, and when he gives your mother her half, she will be looking for a larger apartment for both of you to live in. In the meantime, your father will be going on a lecture tour that he's been committed to for some time, and couldn't get out of."
"You mean, his girlfriend wouldn't let him get out of," sniffed Cellie. "I guess as long as he can't see our family for a few weeks, she doesn't mind it even if it means she doesn't get to see him much herself. How's Mom taking it?"
"That's another problem," Julia replied, dismayed that Cellie was obviously not in the habit of talking to, or writing to, her own mother. "If you had bothered to talk to her recently, you would have found her in a bad state. She says she's on tranquilizers, and can't calm down enough to look after you or search for a job right now."
Cellie looked at the floor. "It's not that I don't care, I love both my parents--- I just find it easier to communicate with them through Ernest right now."
Julia was sympathetic. "I'm trying to understand, Cellie. It's hard, not only on you and Ernest and your parents, but on everyone who knows and cares for them. How do you think I feel? Your father is MY big brother, and I always looked up to him, never thinking he could be capable of such irresponsibility. And I've always been fond of your mother. Well, the upshot of all this is, Cellie, that you will continue to live with me for a while yet. Some of the problems we have may simply be the result of the newness of your situation. Maybe when you get used to life here, you'll make more new friends, and develop new interests. That brings me to the subject of Willie Loomis. I talked with Barnabas last night when I was taking him down to the Antique Shoppe. He thinks I'm forseeing problems that may never come to pass, and that I'm not giving you enough credit for having common sense."
Cellie said, more defensively than before, "I told you, Mr. Loomis didn't come on to me. He helped me out. We made small talk, that's all. No big deal. He seemed okay, but I don't think he's any competition for say, Jack Knowlton, or some of the guys I went with in Boston."
Julia answered, "That may very well be, but you have to be careful around Willie. I must tell you, Cellie, I have treated him for problems he's had in the past.� I think I can tell you, without breaking confidentiality, that some of his troubles involve women. I have no idea if he's truly resolved these issues, because, as far as I know, he hasn't had any kind of a relationship in over a year, and then, for some years before that. The best thing you can do, then," she continued, "since it will be impossible to avoid him completely, is to be friendly to him in only a very general way, and not let yourself be alone with him. I'm not saying these things just because it's an adult's job to spoil your fun. But you've gone through some very bad times lately, and I want your stay here to be as normal and happy as possible under the circumstances."
At this point, Cellie knew she didn't have to worry about going "home" to her unhappy mother or her seemingly unconcerned father. (She might have been willing to stay with her brother, but he and his bride both worked and went to school at crazy hours, and had only a tiny, two-room flat.) Reassured by this knowledge, Cellie was prepared to be gracious. She said to her Aunt, "I guess you're right, Aunt Jule, I'll be extra careful around--" (she almost choked on the name) "Willie. And, Aunt Jule?"
"I just wanted to apologize again for my nasty cracks about you and Barnabas and Professor Stokes last night. I mean, I'm so wrapped up in this triangle thing my parents are going through, that I'm worried that you might also be having, you know, love troubles."
Julia was silent as she considered her niece's concerns. Cellie knew it wasn't because Julia was angry about her curiosity. "Why, she's just as confused about her feelings as I am about mine!" thought Cellie in amazement, when she "read" her aunt's emotions. When Julia finally answered, she chose her words carefully.
"Cellie, I will tell you just how complicated friendships can be. It's true, I do have strong but different feelings for both Barnabas and Elliot. You may be sensitive enough to have guessed--- I've been in love with Barnabas ever since we met years ago. But, after having gone through many experiences with him, I have come to accept that he will never feel anything for me but devoted friendship. And as for Elliot, I know he has a great affection for me--- so great, in fact, that he's proposed to me at least half-a-dozen times over the last year. But I kept putting him off, always hoping that Barnabas would--- I had hopes last night---" Julia stopped, fighting to control her voice---"Well, now I'm on the verge of accepting Elliot's latest proposal. I'm getting older, and having you here, even with your problems, makes me realize what I've been missing by not having had any sort of family life. Elliot and I will be happy enough, and it would be good for you and Hallie."
Cellie wondered just what being "happy enough" entailed. It didn't sound very satisfying. It would be nice, of course, to have Hallie in her family. Cellie had only known Hallie for a few weeks, yet she was beginning to feel almost sisterly towards her. Still, both girls would soon be finishing high school, and their future plans might take them in very different directions. Then what would become of Julia and Elliot, and their "happy enough" arrangement? And what about Barnabas? Cellie had reason to believe that he was finally coming around to a new appreciation of his longtime companion. "What does Barnabas have to say about all this?" she asked.
Julia replied, "He's told me, often enough, not to put my life on hold--- that he stands by, and supports, any decision I make. Of course, I won't see him as often, or alone. But he is also a friend of Elliot's, and he is fond of Hallie. He is also becoming fond of you. He will not be cut off from us, by any means."
Cellie asked, "When would the wedding take place? Will it be a big celebration?"
Julia smiled sadly. "I would have liked a fancy ceremony with all the trimmings. I've certainly waited long enough for it. But, with all our family troubles right now, it would be best to keep things simple. A month or so should be more than enough time to prepare."
Cellie thought, "Maybe there's still time.... If only I can think of something.... and also figure out how not to leave Hallie's Uncle in the lurch." She looked at her watch and stood up. It was nine-thirty, and the Superette was a twenty-minute ride down winding beach roads. Cellie asked for the keys to the Volkswagen. Julia, who seldom worked on Saturdays, and who didn't even need to go grocery shopping with her niece working right there in the store, handed them over readily. Cellie left the house quickly, jumped in the car, and was soon speeding towards Collinsport.
Saturday was the busiest day of the week at the Superette; Cellie and her co-workers called it "Zoo Day." (Cellie had once heard that Collinsport had the lowest percentage of registered voters in Maine. She thought that if the registrar set up a booth by the checkout on Saturdays, and offered double coupons for signing up, there would soon be 100% voter turnout in Collinsport; there was that volume of customers.) "Geez, " Cellie thought, "Some of these people are so pale, it must be the only day of the week they get out of the house. Either that, or they really are some of the 'living dead' the kids at school here joke about."
She didn't see Willie today; for the first time ever, she actually missed him. She saw Hallie at her register nearby, but they didn't get a chance to talk until lunchbreak. Cellie asked her friend if she wanted to join her at the Antique Shoppe, but Hallie and her uncle were going out of town after work, and wouldn't be back until Sunday night.
Finally, it was four-thirty. Cellie punched her time card gratefully. Part-time jobs at the Superette were highly coveted by Collinsport youth, but anyone who worked there always came to feel that he or she had put in a very full day. Cellie got into the checkout line with a can of soda and a bag of corn chips. She hurried out to the Beetle, and ate quickly. Then she drove downtown. The Antique Shoppe was located on a quiet sidestreet, one of the oldest buildings in the oldest part of town. Cellie looked at it before she got out of her car.
The storefront jutted out from the main building, which looked as if it had been constantly rebuilt over the years. Barnabas had told her that the whole place was at least two hundred years old, and had always served as a business establishment of some kind, beginning with a blacksmithing operation that had lasted over a century. The great fireplaces it must have once had were taken out when, at some point, the place was converted into a general store The building had been vacant for about twenty years, until the first of a series of souvenir and antique stores began to occupy it.
There had been a number of proprietors over the years, until the elderly owners of the last business closed shop. This was due as much to the competition provided by the young and energetic Philip and Megan Todd in their new store a block away, as by any infirmities the older couple may have suffered. Upon the untimely, puzzling and tragic passing of both Todds, Barnabas and Carolyn, both seeking a profitable outlet for their greatest interests, saw the possibilities of such a venture. As Philip and Megan's own store had been destroyed in a fire, the Collins cousins bought the older building that once housed the Todds' former rivals. Willie, who was at loose ends after his broken engagement, joined reluctantly, convinced by Carolyn, who was herself still grieving over the murder of her husband. He was allowed to take over the living quarters in the back of the store.
To everyone's surprise, he was a big help---he seemed to have a knack for locating potential merchandise, and he did most of the physical labor. (Barnabas did not, however, let him handle anything on the business end, and he didn't encourage Willie to mingle with the customers unless they needed him to move something. Barnabas utilized his services while keeping him in the background, sometimes over Carolyn's protests.)
Cellie got out of the Beetle, which she had parked directly in front of the entrance, and entered the Shoppe ("Geez," she thought, they've got to come up with a snappier name than Antique Shoppe.")
The door had one of those jingling bells that alerted anyone working in a back room, but once the bell stopped ringing, Cellie could not believe how quiet the place was. A couple of well-dressed people were examining an elaborately carved chiffarobe in a corner, but they spoke in hushed voices, as though they were in church. A junior-sized grandfather-type clock ticked away, each small sound magnified in the surrounding silence.
When Cellie looked around, she was reminded of one of those cluttered illustrations in an old edition of any Dickens novel.� There was a kind of loose organization: large furniture to one side, accessory furnishings close to the windows; various lamps and sculptures in the middle of the showroom floor. Cellie glimpsed a rack of old clothes (Carolyn Hawkes's specialty) near the stairway to the living quarters, and a large glass case full of jewelry. Someone was bending down behind the jewelry case. Cellie stepped closer, and saw Carolyn, whom she had met a couple of times at her aunt's cottage, arranging some pocket watches on a lower glass shelf. Cellie asked, quite seriously, "Excuse me, Miss, but have you seen Little Nell around here lately?"
Carolyn stood up and faced Cellie, smiling mischievously. "If it's Mr. Quilp who wants to know, tell him to take a long walk off a short pier." She took up a dust rag and began to wipe the counter down. "Just another day in the Old Curiosity Shop. How's it going with you, Cellie?"
"Okay I guess. You know, this is a pretty relaxing place to hang out after Zoo Day at the Superette."
"Too relaxing, sometimes. It's almost like working in The Store Time Forgot. I keep telling Barnabas, if it doesn't get livelier in here, I'm going to bring in my stereo and play some Rolling Stones albums."
"No, I like this. I wouldn't change a thing, except, maybe, the name. Too bad 'The Old Curiosity Shop' is already taken. Antique stores shouldn't be noisy and glitzy," Cellie said, surveying the scene.
"Well, I'm sure real life in the past was noisy, if not glitzy," Carolyn replied. "I shouldn't complain, though, the ambience around here does seem to draw in the customers. I'd better go tend to those two," she said, indicating the well-dressed couple at the chiffarobe, who were looking back at her as though they'd made up their minds. "Barnabas is in the office, near the stairs." She pointed at the door.
The younger girl went to the door and knocked. She said, "It's me, Cellie."
Barnabas let her in, then walked over to a big, old wooden desk, and closed a ledger he'd been reading. He regarded her with that same benign expression he wore when he'd talked to her last night. Cellie said, smiling, "Long time, no see. Here I am, pay envelope in hand, ready for the grand tour."
Barnabas, apparently charmed by her attempts at humor, replied, "Nothing is more welcome here than a cash customer. No worries about bad checks and overcharged credit cards. I remember my father once told me I had no head for business, but in the past few years I've managed to learn that much."
Cellie asked "So, your father was a big business type?"
Barnabas answered, "You might say so--- he was the consummate business man, almost to the exclusion of all else. And I was the scholarly son who had little interest in adding to the family fortune, at least in that fashion."
Cellie had a "rainbow spell" at that moment---she felt the repressed sorrow, the dark greens of shame--- then, of course, it vanished quickly, as it always did with Barnabas. She said, sympathetically, "I'm sorry about that, it must have been pretty tough for you. But you seem to have made up for it."
"Yes, you could say I've overcome my past. We've had a few setbacks, but working in a field I know and love so well makes it all worthwhile. Come, let me show you around."
As they left the office, Cellie asked, in low voice, "Barnabas, is Willie around today? You two didn't have a big fight after all, did you?"
Barnabas, while he was a little concerned about the Willie--and--Cellie situation, thought it would blow over if he and Julia didn't display too much anxiety. "Willie is working downstairs right now, but he will come up shortly. I had a talk with him last night, as restrained as you suggested. He assured me that he had no ulterior motives in your regard. If you want to talk to him once in a while, that's all right. Apparently, he felt you gave him some good advice."
"I told him he might feel better about himself if he could get an equivalency diploma. If he's considering it, I'm glad," Cellie said, in some relief. She had worried about how Barnabas would deal with Willie.
"Well, that's settled. I have some bud vases behind the display case that I had sent back here while I was still in England. Some of them are almost two hundred years old, but so many were produced during that period that I've priced them quite inexpensively. Of course, as time goes on, they may come to be worth a good deal more. Attrition is to the antique business, what 'location' is to to real estate. Since it's your first visit and you are Julia's niece, I am prepared to take a 'deep discount', as they say on the radio, to your benefit. Interested?"
Barnabas was really enjoying himself, Cellie thought, delightedly. She wondered if he'd ever displayed his sense of humor around her aunt--- Poor Aunt Jule, she could use a good laugh. Cellie said to Barnabas, "Of course I'm interested. It beats the daylights out of a trip to Filene's Basement!" At that moment, as if on cue, Willie stepped out of the Shoppe's basement, and stood quietly, watching Cellie's and Barnabas' merriment. He felt a little confused and resentful. His talk with Barnabas had not gone as easily as his
employer had related to Cellie.
"Don't spend too much time with the girl. If I hear this goes further than kitchen chats,
it won't go well with you, Willie. She's underage, and she is Julia's niece. She's having a difficult time, and neither of you needs any more trouble."
Willie had protested, in his rather weak way, that it wasn't like that at all. "She thought she could help me with my problems, like Carolyn. When you tell someone smart like that about your troubles, they always say 'Go back to school' like that fixes everything.
I guess that's all she knows about. But she just meant to be nice." Willie accepted Barnabas' restrictions, but he had one surprise in store for Cellie, and for this, he'd enlisted Carolyn's help, so that Barnabas would have no business getting sore about it.
Cellie sensed Willie's presence before she heard it. Again, she was amazed at how easy it was to "read" his emotions. She looked up at him, giving him what she hoped was her most "generally friendly" smile. Willie simply nodded at her with a half-smile. Barnabas observed this wordless exchange, and didn't see anything to be concerned about. Cellie turned her attention back to him, and Willie passed into the kitchen area.
After a while, Cellie, to whom Barnabas had given a two-hundred-year-old English bud vase (she bought another "for a song") and with some borrowed journals under her arm, said goodnight to him. He went back into his office and closed the door. Just as Cellie turned to exit, Carolyn came in from the kitchen, and asked if she'd like some coffee before she left. Cellie was thirsty (as well as a little hungry), so she walked into the large kitchen with Carolyn. Willie was standing by the table with a big grin on his face. Before him, on the table, stood four small, white cartons with thin wire handles.
As Cellie approached the table, she caught the mingled aromas of spiced meat, vegetables, and soy sauce.� She gave a happy yelp. "Chinese food! Oh, Will, you remembered! This is the greatest! How--- when did you get it?"
Willie said, happily, "I called Carolyn when I got back from your Aunt's last night. I knew she was going to Ellsworth for Barnabas, so I asked her to stop at that place I told you about, and pick up whatever she thought you would like, since we were expecting you tonight."
Cellie turned to Carolyn. "Thank you so much for taking the time!"
Carolyn smiled at both of them. "It was no trouble at all, really. By the time I'd finished my errands in Ellsworth, I was hungry, anyway, so I had lunch at the Chinese place before I ordered your stuff. I'm not too familiar with the cuisine, so it helped me decide what to order for you. I should really thank you, for giving me an excuse to try it. Now I just can't wait to go there again."
Cellie said, "Maybe you could start a combination Chinese take-out and antique store. You know, eat a little, buy an antique, and in an hour, you're ready to eat and buy again. This place would make a fortune." She still stood looking at the cartons. She reached out to pick them up. "Well, thanks again, I guess I'll get going. I had a good time."
Willie said, "You can stay a while and eat it here, if you want. I had it in the refridgerator, but I can heat it up quick. Plus, you were expecting some coffee.... or would you rather have tea? That goes with Chinese food."
"Oh, if you already have coffee made, that'll be fine. But really, Will, it's too much trouble, I'll just take the food home."� Cellie peeked inside the cartons. "Wow, Carolyn, you must be psychic. Szechuan beef with snowpeas, and eggroll, are my absolute favorites."
Carolyn had been quietly watching both of her friends. "So, it's 'Will', is it?" she thought. Cellie and Willie already seemed to have a special way of talking to each other, almost cozy. Carolyn was dismayed, feeling like she'd been asked to help promote some forbidden activity. She had become fond of Cellie. And as for Willie, well---
Carolyn had mixed feelings about him. He had been quite unpleasant, nasty, and sleazy, when they first met. Willie had then been a "protege" of Jason McGuire, who had come to Collinwood to blackmail Carolyn's mother, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. When his own early schemes collapsed and he had come under Barnabas's influence, Willie had a series of ups and downs, nice one minute, vile as he had always been, the next. After he'd survived being shot by the police for a crime (kidnapping) even his "victim" wasn't completely convinced that he'd committed, and enduring confinements at both the state mental hospital and then, at WindCliff sanitarium, he became more docile.
The next couple of years brought on more positive changes; Willie had become likeable, if somewhat weak. He worked hard to live down his past, and Carolyn felt if he could find another woman who could endure his ways and didn't fear his history, he might eventually be considered fairly normal. Carolyn had, briefly, felt an odd attraction for him in the nightmarishly empty months following her husband's death.
It was during this period that she'd convinced him to join in the antique shop venture. Nothing happened between them after all, partly because Willie was given to moping, either about his broken engagement, or about the departure of David's governess, Maggie Evans, whom he'd once fancied (and who'd been the victim of the kidnapping for which Willie was suspected, though the two had, somehow, become friendly!) Carolyn was, ultimately, grateful when her ardor had cooled without incident.
And now, Carolyn observed the interaction of Cellie and Willie, not with jealousy, but concern. Like Barnabas and Julia, she believed something could be starting; unlike them, she wasn't sure she condemned it. If only Cellie was a few years older....If only Willie had a cleaner slate.... If only she didn't have to worry.
Willie had convinced Cellie to eat the eggrolls at least, but Cellie insisted on eating them cold, and saving the rest for later. He sat across from her, and motioned for Carolyn to sit down, but Carolyn, who heard the doorbells, decided it was safe enough to leave them while she tended to the customer.
"I have to leave you two kids alone now, " she said brightly. "Behave while I'm gone." When she'd left the kitchen, Willie took the opportunity to move his chair closer to Cellie's. She didn't draw back.
In between bites, she commented, in a conspiratorial whisper, "They all act as if you're the Boston Strangler, about to add me to your list of hapless victims." She took a sip of coffee. Willie'd made it just as she liked it, as strong and bitter as espresso. She said,
"I could drink this coffee all day. When Aunt Jule makes hers, it looks and tastes like dishwater, and she hates it when I make it my way."
Willie was pleased by her compliment and her gratitude for the food. He refused when she offered him some. "I can't eat that stuff anymore," he said. "I had enough crazy food when I was going around the world. I'd rather have those potatoes you made yesterday. It kind of reminded me of something my mother used to make, only yours was spicier."
Cellie wanted to hear more about his family, but was wary of his reaction to any questions. Instead, she said, "Well, I'd have to make a whole new batch. You darn
near cleaned us out last night."
"I wish you could come over here and make some for us. I mean, I really can cook if I want to, I used to do it for Barnabas and some short-order places I worked in, but it's not much fun, cooking fancy for oneself," Willie said plaintively. He leaned closer to Cellie, and looked directly into her large, grey eyes.
She looked right back into his smaller, bright blue ones. They gazed at each other for a minute or so. As he had the night before, Willie reached out and drew her face a little closer. He kissed her slightly parted lips. She kissed him back, then pulled away.
"Why did you stop, Cecily?" Willie asked gently.
"I--I have to, Will. You probably heard the same thing from Barnabas as I heard from my aunt. 'Cross the line, and it's all over!' I go back to Boston, and you're out the door! I want to stay here. I don't want anything to happen to you, either. I sort of want a normal life right now, and I know I'm still too young for--- a lot of things. Do you understand, Will? Maybe this isn't exactly the right time for us--- if there is an 'us.' I mean, I only came here a few weeks ago, I saw you in the checkout line, with no personal contact, and I only really met you last night, and now it seems like everything's changed in twenty-four hours."
"Yeah, I do understand, Cecily," Willie said dispiritedly. "It's all going a little too fast for me, too. One time, it wouldn't have been fast enough, but now--- I'm getting older, I guess. But I don't agree that you're too young for anything. You still have some kid ways about you, but I'll bet you got more sense about things than a lot of older people. I'll tell you what," he said, a little brighter now. "It's gonna be tough for me, but I'll back off for now. You just go on with your senior--high school stuff, go around with some boys, whatever. Find out what you really want. You'll still be coming by here, we can talk the way we've been doing. I'll be more careful. I got no intention of being pun--- driven out."
"Thanks an awful lot, Will, for everything, I mean. Now that I know you, I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't at least have you as a friend." Cellie looked at her watch. "Geez, it's almost seven already! I've got to get home. I have some homework I'd like to start tonight. You know," she observed, "Carolyn's been with that customer quite a while."
"I think she was giving us a little time together. Carolyn's been through a lot herself. Her family always gave her a hard time about the guys she went with, then she married that Jeb Hawkes against their wishes. Then, boom! He was killed right before her eyes. It's taken her forever to get over it." Willie sounded sympathetic.
"That has to be the most awful thing--- being powerless to save someone you love," Cellie shuddered. "There must be something that can be done to help her feel better." ("And I'm just the one to attempt it," she thought.)
"Well, unless you can conjure up a really super-great guy, I'd say you have your work cut out for you," Willie answered her, smiling. ("How did he know what I was thinking?" Cellie wondered.)
" 'Well, tomorrow is another day,' " she quoted in her best Scarlet O'Hara accent.
"I have to go now, Will." She picked up the remaining cartons. "Thanks again for the Chinese food. I'll have to bring you some potato casserole next time I come by." She patted his shoulder as she passed his chair. He placed his hand over hers, and she stood gazing down at him for a minute. She leaned over, thinking he wanted to kiss her again, but he released her hand.
"Good night, Cecily, take care of yourself out there."
"Good night, Will. I'll see you in the checkout line at the store. " Cellie left the kitchen. She went out and said goodnight to Carolyn, who was counting some of the day's receipts. She wondered where Barnabas had gone.
"Oh, he left a while ago, after that last customer came in. Don't worry, I told him you were having a quick cup of coffee before you left. He's none the wiser."
"Nothing happened anyway. Thanks for everything, Carolyn." Cellie happened to glance toward the glass display case. She noticed that it was totally empty. She asked, "How come the jewelry counter is cleaned out? You couldn't have sold all that stuff in an hour!"
Carolyn studied the receipts in her hand. "Oh, Barnabas does that--- he loads 'em all in a security box and locks them in a safe at his house. I guess he's afraid of a break-in---they're the easiest things to steal and fence, obviously. We've got an alarm that rings in the police station, but by the time they got here, it would be too late."
"But, isn't Will here after--" Cellie stopped. She suddenly realized why Barnabas took the jewelry with him.
Carolyn said, evenly, "Oh, he goes out after work sometimes, I suppose. He can't be here all the time."
"Well, it must be a hassle, rearranging those things, day after day."
"It adds some variety to the job, putting them in a new order everymorning," replied Carolyn with a smile.
"Oh, well, I'd better get going," said Cellie. "I'll be around next week, when I've finished these books Barnabas lent me."
"I'll be seeing you, then. 'Night, Cellie."
" 'Night, Carolyn." Cellie exited the shoppe, jumped in her car, and zoomed home. She ran past her aunt, who was sitting in the living room. Julia merely murmurred a brief reply to Cellie's greeting, then, without further comment, resumed her reading. Cellie, grateful not to be interrogated, went into the kitchen, heated the Chinese food, and took it into her room. She was dismayed to break open the fortune cookie and find it empty.
By the middle of the week, back in her familiar routine, Cellie was feeling much closer to normal. The tumultuous sensations she'd experienced with Willie now seemed to be far in the past. And the mistrust she'd sensed in her aunt evaporated now that Cellie was safely "in step" with her peer group. And yet, now, when she joined her classmates' eager discussions about football, or the homework load, or how out-of-touch the teachers were, Cellie somehow felt disconnected, as if these concerns were too trivial in the scheme of things. Something had changed forever, and she scrambled madly to get her old point-of-view back.
One easy way (or so she thought) would be to socialize and accept as many dates as her schedule would allow. By Tuesday afternoon, she had a Friday nightget-together planned with Hallie and her friend David Collins at his home, Collinwood. Although David was younger than the girls, Cellie had discovered she had an affinity for his eclectic interests and odd sense of humor, most unusual in a boy of sixteen. Plus, he'd just gotten his driver's license, and his father, Roger, had given him a car for his birthday (which automobile, a new but ordinary-looking Buick, was more to Roger's taste than his son's.) David hoped to have an opportunity to terrify the girls with his driving "skills." (Cellie remarked to Hallie, "I think he just plain wants to 'drive' us crazy." Hallie, who was always a bit on the nervous side, tended to agree.)
As for Saturday night, Cellie had acccepted yet another date with Jack Knowlton. She liked him more than anyone she'd gone with in Boston, and he had a way of intimidating any other Collinsport boys who would have asked her out. Jack was tall and rather stronger than most of the other boys, in part due to the fact that he spent most of his time away from school on the lobster boat with his father.
But what really set him apart was his truculent attitude, which may have been a result of his parents' bitter divorce. Jack had gone to live with his father Al, soon after Al left Jack's mother, Melinda, who spent a lot of time in bars, and was said to live an indiscreet life not to be discussed in polite company. Al had remarried, and Jack did get along with his stepmother, Nancy, whom Cellie had met, and liked.
Cellie identified with Jack's troubles, although in his case the guilty party was his mother. At any rate, Jack, who appreciated her sympathy, curbed his arrogance for the most part when he was around Cellie, and hadn't yet made a "move" on her. Cellie wondered what Jack would do if he ever found out that she had kissed Willie Loomis. Jack seemed to have something against him, calling him, in conversation, "Crazy Willie." Naturally, Cellie, who felt she was getting to know Willie, tried to change the subject when it came up, but it was easier to keep quiet than to get Jack to drop it.
In spite of all this, Cellie would see Jack, simply because he was the only one who kept asking her. (She didn't know about his strong-arm tactics against the other boys.) She knew he had some "red" emotions for her, which had kept the pesky "orange" ones at bay, and she didn't want to discourage someone who was making such an effort to make something better of his life. He was, like his new girlfriend, one of the top students in their class.
Julia wished Cellie would see other boys, but she was won over by Jack'sconstant announcement of his future plans. "I'll be the first Knowlton man to finish high school, and the first to get to college, and the first in eight generations not to fish or catch lobster all his life," he would say, with what Cellie sensed was an almost pathetic pride.
"Well, what will you be, them?" Julia would ask, herself entranced by his determination. (It sometimes seemed to Cellie that her psychiatrist aunt put her professional insights on hold when she wasn't at work.)
"I'd like to be a lawyer. I'll also be the first Knowlton man in all that time to live somewhere else than in Collinsport. Maybe I could practice in Bangor, or Portland, or maybe, " he would say, looking at Cellie, "In Boston, someday."
Well, a dazzling life with this Knowlton Man was far in the future ("the farther the better." Cellie thought.) There was still the week to be lived through.
Friday arrived, much colder than the Friday before, but the skies were bright and clear. Cellie was on her way out of the high school building at three o'clock, when she suddenly stopped in front of the Guidance Office. She remembered her suggestion that Willie should study for an equivalency diploma, and thought she'd ask Mrs. Texeira, the Guidance Counselor, some general questions about how it was done. Since she was supposed to stop in the Antique Shoppe to return the old books to Barnabas the next day after work, arriving equipped with knowledge and some preliminary paperwork would give her an acceptable excuse to talk with Willie.
Cellie rapped lightly on the opaque glass door. She heard Mrs. Texeira walk to the door. If someone was already with her, her practice was to open the door a discreet five inches and ask the visitor to come back later. Today, there was no-one and she opened the door wide. She smiled at the girl as though Cellie was the one person Mrs. Texeira wanted to see most. But then, that was just her way with everyone, the trait that got her voted "Most Popular Faculty Member" in the yearbook five years in a row, ever since she'd arrived here, in fact.
"Cecily Hoffman," she began. She had the slightest Portuguese accent. "How nice of you to visit. Do come in, I'm not expecting anyone else, as it's the day's end."
"I'm not keeping you, I hope, " Cellie said. "I'd just like to ask a few questions."
Mrs. Texeira answered kindly, "Not at all, Cecily. I'm in no hurry to get home. My son, Jorge, won't be back from the Superette till six." Mrs. Texeira, a widow, resided with her son, a manager at the store where Cellie worked, and her daughter, a nurse at the local hospital. "And my Fatima is working the late shift."
Cellie was reading her emotions while she talked. Mrs. Texeira wasn't as cheerful as she appeared to be. While she conversed with Cellie, the older woman's eyes strayed to a silver-framed family portrait on her desk. It displayed a younger, thinner, darker-haired Mrs. Texeira (Her first name was also Fatima), her two good-looking children when they were teenagers, and a short, stocky, but kind-looking man whom Cellie assumed was the late Mr. Texeira, who had died six years earlier, back at the family's former home in New Bedford. (When his widow spoke about him, she always said, "My Joao, such a wonderful man.") "Poor Mrs. Texeira, if only there were some nice older Portuguese guys around, " Cellie thought.
She came out of her reverie, and got to the point. "I have a friend who dropped out of school about--oh--at least fifteen years ago, I guess. He's finally settling down in his life, and he was thinking about working toward an equivalency diploma. How would he go about it?"
"We do run some G.E.D. classes here in Collinsport, although they're not in great demand here," said Mrs. Texeira ruefully. "It must be something in the salt air." She smiled again. "It would depend on the grade at which your friend dropped out, how his marks were up to that time, how much new material has been added to the required curriculum, that sort of thing."
"Would a--a jail record figure into that determination?" Cellie looked directly into the Counselor's eyes.
"Just who is this friend of yours, Cecily?" asked Mrs. Texeira, with deep concern in her voice.
Cellie knew she had to answer. "Willie Loomis, ma'am, he works with my Aunt Julia's friend Barnabas Collins at the Antique Shoppe. They came to dinner at my aunt's house last week, and the conversation turned to school stuff. He mentioned that he'd dropped out of school, and he might like to go back. I thought I'd do him a little favor and find out what was involved."
"Did he ask you to, dear?" The counselor inquired gently.
Cellie thought, "Oh geez, not Mrs. Texeira too! Poor Will." She replied, "Not exactly, but whenever he talks about it, he looks like he wants to but he's, you know, too embarrassed, what with his reputation and all." She hoped the explanation would pass muster with the good-hearted Guidance Counselor.
"Well," Mrs. Texeira began, "I've heard some things about him since I've lived in Collinsport, but, from what's been going around lately, apparently his situation is much improved. I would have to meet him myself, before I passed judgment. Listen, Cecily, I know young people want to save the world, but they must be careful about the parts they choose to save. That having been said, I can see no harm in giving you some papers to take to Mr. Loomis, brochures and applications, and then, if he's still interested, tell him to call me, and we may be able to set him up in some classes next semester, if not here, then in Ellsworth. Will that be all, today?"
Cellie contained her enthusiasm well. "Yes, thank you so much, Mrs. Texeira."
The counselor went to her desk, opened some drawers, and drew out an assortment of papers, which she fastened with a huge paper clip and handed to Cellie. "This should be enough for a start. Now, scoot." She was smiling again. "I have to work on my schedules for the November conferences."
Cellie stuck the papers in her ring binder, and went outside. She caught a ride home with Hallie, who was picked up by her Uncle Elliot. Hallie said, "Uncle Elliot will take us up to Collinwood tonight, he says he needs to see Mrs. Stoddard about something. It's just as well, I didn't like the idea of David driving along those winding roads to bring us, then take us home."
"That David shouldn't have been allowed to get his license until he was at least twenty-five," opined the Professor, with a little humor in his gruff-sounding voice. "I shudder for the other drivers and the pedestrians of this fair city."
"I think we'll all survive, Professor," answered Cellie brightly. "It beats the daylights out driving a broomstick, which, I'm given to understand, was the preferred mode of transportation for some of his ancestors."
Hallie shuddered, "What a thing to say, Cellie. If you'd ever lived in that house you wouldn't joke about things like that. I was a wreck while I lived there, before Uncle Elliot rented the cottage."
"Poor Hallie," Cellie thought with wry sympathy. "She's still under repair." She sometimes wondered how her friend was coping with life in the real world. Hallie (Hannah Lynne on her birth certificate; her sole act of boldness was insisting that everyone call her by the name she'd invented for herself at age four) had been the cherished only child of Elliot's brother, born to her parents when they were already middle-aged. She had been sheltered beyond anything even Cellie could imagine (and Cellie, the baby of her family, had been sheltered and pampered indeed---until high school, anyway.) Hallie had only gone to private schools, when she wasn't being tutored at home. Then her parents had died in a horrible plane crash just over two years ago. They had left Hallie in the care of her mother's sister while they went on the fatal trip (for their silver anniversary) and she remained with her aunt's family until her uncle found out his company was transferring him to California.
She was then sent to live with Elliot, who'd remained in the general area the Stokes family had come from. (This pleased Hallie, who had become dreadfully afraid of airplanes.) When Elliot had to commute thirty miles to and from the University, his friend Elizabeth Stoddard invited him to bring his niece to live at her home, Collinwood. Elliot brought Hallie back to live with him when he went on sabbatical, and he thought it would benefit the shy girl to attend the local high school with David Collins (who'd been ejected from three private schools within seven months of Maggie's leaving, as much from homesickness as from mischief-making), and then, to get a part-time job with her new girlfriend, Cellie Hoffman.
Hallie was a pleasant-looking girl, with straw-blonde hair, but always, with the most worried expression on her face, and the shakiest hands. Cellie wondered where Hallie'd found the courage to work in the Superette, and to keep at it in spite of the mishaps her anxieties brought on. She dropped things (but many items were now packaged in plastic, so she seldom broke anything) and she messed up her register a couple of times. It must have been her devotion to Cellie, who always seemed so brave, (and who kept talking the manager out of firing her) that kept her going.
"Oh, Hallie," Cellie said cheerfully, "Take it easy. You know, David jokes about his family that way all the time. It's probably the only way he can stand it."
Hallie sniffed, "Well, I hope he doesn't pull any pranks on us tonight."
Her uncle said, "Don't worry, Hallie. Cellie will defend you." He pulled into the Hoffmans' driveway. "We'll pick you up, Cellie, around seven."
Cellie replied, pertly, "That'll give me time to gird myself in shining armor to do battle for the fair Hallie."
Hallie turned red, but managed to answer, smiling, "Get cracking, Joan of Arc. See you later." Elliot backed out of the driveway, and drove down the street.
Julia wouldn't be home from work until after Cellie had left for Collinwood. Cellie ran into her room, and tucked the G.E.D. papers into the old books she was going to return to Barnabas the next day. She knew that Hallie would be dressing up for their visit later. This really annoyed Cellie, who'd looked forward to exploring David's house in her sturdy jeans. Fortunately, she'd had the opportunity go to Collinsport's only department store, and bought two skirts, another blouse, and dark stockings, so she could bury the turquoise dress deep in her closet.
She ate some leftovers, then flung on the new violet blouse and black skirt, and a wide yellow belt she already owned, and was more than ready to go when the Stokeses came back at quarter-to-seven. She threw on her heavy suede jacket (the air outside had a frosty feel) and ran out. Hallie, who wore a lacy-collared sky-blue dress under her best grey wool coat, eyed her friend's ensemble with amused scorn. She remarked, "That outfit does some interesting things with color, Cellie."
Cellie stood beside the car with her hands on her hips. "It's what the well-dressed Joan of Arcs are wearing these days, forsooth. Check out my belt of bravery."
Hallie said, with a laugh, "That shade of yellow's enough to frighten the most stalwart spook, I'm sure. Get in the car, already."
Elliot chuckled at the exchange. Cellie had a way of bringing Hallie out of her shell. He was glad she would be around after he and Julia were married--- Julia had finally said "Yes" during a brief visit earlier in the week, and asked him not to tell Hallie or Cellie right away. He'd gone one better; he told her not to make an announcement until he had a chance to buy her a proper engagement ring. Julia protested that it wasn't necessary, but she was secretly pleased to be able to enjoy this bit of tradition. Elliot planned to take her to the jeweler's the next week. He didn't say much on the long ride, until they were near Collinwood.
Cellie gaped at the sight outside the car window. She had seen large buildings around Boston, of course, and her mother had taken Cellie and Ernest to Newport a couple of times, to tour the immense "cottages." But nothing prepared Cellie for the sight of the rambling mansion that seemed to cling to the hill like a huge reptile. "Geez, who designed that place--- Frankenstein Lloyd Wright?" she asked.
Elliot smiled as he answered, "Impressive, isn't it? That's what they call the "Great House" of Collinwood. It took over two years to build---it was finished in 1796, but there have been many renovations and additions over the years, so there are about forty rooms of various sizes. However, the family actually occupies only twelve at the present time."
"Wow. And that place where Barnabas lives---the Old House? Where's that?" Cellie asked.
"It's about a quarter of a mile from here, closer to Widow's Hill, overlooking the ocean. It's much smaller, of course, but interesting in its own way. It was built around 1700, but it, too, has undergone many changes. I'm sure Barnabas will invite you to visit someday soon." Elliot parked his car in a small lot near the large oaken front doors. He and the two girls went up the granite steps, and he rang the bell. One of the doors opened. An anxious-looking woman in her fifties, dressed in a housekeeper's uniform, stood in the doorway.
She said, "Good evening, Professor Stokes. The family is in the drawing room. Hello, Hallie. And this must be Miss Hoffman." She stood back to admit the guests.
Professor Stokes said, "We call her Cellie, Mrs. Johnson. Cellie, Mrs. Johnson is, shall we say, the major domo of Collinwood."
"Oh, Professor, you do go on," Mrs. Johnson said with a worried smile. "That's 'housekeeper' in plain English to you, Cellie." She walked across the foyer to another set of doors. This time she opened both of them wide. Several people were ranged around a large fireplace in the center of a surprisingly simply-furnished living room. An elegant, dark-haired woman of about the same age as Mrs. Johnson, and who wore a simple black dress and pearls, came forward to greet them. Her smile reminded Cellie of Mrs. Texeira's.
"Elliot! How nice to see you. And Hallie, dear." She embraced Hallie, who looked almost happy.
Elliot said, "Elizabeth Stoddard, I'd like you to meet Cecily Hoffman, Julia's niece."
Elizabeth took Cellie's hand. "So you're 'Cellie.' Carolyn has told me so much about you, I feel like I'd know you anywhere."
David Collins, who had been standing nearby, remarked, "It's the hair, Aunt Elizabeth. Everybody knows Cellie by her hair." He slouched around in his expensive sportcoat paired with worn Levi's. Cellie stared at HIS hair, which he'd somehow been conned by a hairstylist into permitting the construction of a bizarre, pseudo-Afro froth. With sideburns!
"Oh, David, don't be impertinent. And stand up straight." Elizabeth and Cellie then turned to a middle-aged man in a double-breasted suit who stood by an open liquor cabinet. "Cellie, this is my brother, Roger Collins, David's father." Cellie looked at Roger, David, and Elizabeth, (and, remembering Carolyn and Barnabas), and decided that, beyond a general "aristocratic" appearance, these members of the Collins family didn't resemble each other all that much; certainly, not as much as the almost solidly red-headed Hoffman clan did.
"Miss Hoffman is speechless with awe, I observe," said Roger half-sarcastically. Cellie realized where David had learned his sense of humor. She was a little dismayed when Roger looked at her out of the corner of his eye. She blinked a lot to get that orange light out of her mind.
David snickered, "She was taking in all the 'awe-ful' sights."
Cellie found her voice. She didn't need her "rainbow spells" to tell her that David was going to push things so far that the whole evening would be spoiled. She said quickly, "I'm just very interested in my surroundings. I mean, I've toured in mansions, but nobody lived there anymore. Was this place ever, you know, in full operation, with all the rooms in use?"
Elizabeth answered, "The last time almost all the rooms were used was at the turn of the century, and that's mainly because of the servant population at the time. Ironically enough, our family's success in the fish and lobster canning industry led to the decreased use of the rooms. Most of those who would have come to work on the estate, ended up getting jobs in the cannery, or joined the company fishing fleet that supplies it. Then of course, there was the Depression--- we didn't lose much ourselves, but it wasn't practical to keep the whole place open. Many rooms have been closed since I was a little girl. Roger here keeps suggesting that we have some of the West Wing taken down for safety's sake, but it would be a tremendous expense, and we may re-open it someday, if David or Carolyn decided to raise a family here."
Cellie wondered if there was some way she'd get to see that closed West Wing. Knowing David, that was a distinct possibility, though Hallie, who had already seen it, and was still frightened by it, might object strenuously. Roger said, "Well, Elizabeth, I have a dinner engagement in town, I must get going. David," he addressed his son, "For God's sake behave yourself and don't upset these young ladies any more than you have to."
"You have a swell evening yourself, Father," David replied sulkily. He never could figure out why he and his father got along well enough in private, but when others were around, Roger felt compelled to banter with him in that sarcastic manner. Sometimes it was funny, but when it came out of the blue, it was just embarrassing. Cellie, who stood by, read dark greens for shame, and mauve-grey, for frustration, in David. She couldn't get close enough to Roger to do the same, but thought that, maybe, he just wanted to show everyone how he could joke with his son as though they were both grown men together.
Elizabeth said quietly, "Don't spend the whole evening at the Blue Whale, or at those new taverns on Main Street, Roger," as her brother walked close to her.
Now Cellie caught a reflection of what David had felt, in his father. "These people," she thought, "just pass humiliation on down the line until it hits the ground and ricochets." She felt uncomfortable. Having her "gift" was a burden at times. Still, she liked Mrs. Stoddard, in spite of her bossiness. After all, she was Carolyn's mother; mother and daughter must have had some positive things in common. And Cellie knew that Hallie adored her.
Elizabeth turned to Hallie, David, and Cellie. "I'm going to the study to talk with Elliot. You young people amuse yourselves. There's plenty of refreshments in the kitchen. You can go upstairs, but stay in the occupied area." She and Elliot left the room.
Hallie said, "Well, what is this big evening you have planned, David?"
David looked at Cellie with a mischievous gleam in his brown eyes. "Last one in the West Wing is a rotten egg," he chanted in a childish manner.
Hallie said, "Now David, you know I won't go along with that."
David replied, "Well, Hallie, you don't have to come, but I just wanted to show Cellie some 'awe-ful' sights for a little while. Then, we'll do whatever you'd like. It's only fair, since you've already been up there, and she hasn't."
Hallie said, "Cellie, don't go with him. He'll lure you into a storage room and lock you in for an hour."
David said, "She lies like a rug. I only lock girls in storage rooms for a half-hour. I lock 'em in closets for an hour."
Cellie said, "I'm game if you are." After all, that's what she'd come for.
David replied, "Great. If you lovely ladies will come upstairs with me, we'll get this show on the road." The girls followed him back throught the foyer. They stopped for a moment, at the foot of the grand staircase, in front of a portrait Cellie hadn't noticed when she'd first come in. David said to her, "I'll bet you'll just never guess whose ancestor this was."
Cellie studied the picture of a rather haughty-looking young man in eighteenth-century clothing, wearing a sash covered with medals, and that distinctive onyx ring. She said in some amazement, "That's Barnabas's great-great whatever? Geez, I guess looks like that were built to last, like this house. I don't get it, though," she said, puzzled. "He wasn't a war hero or something, was he? The time seems wrong--- the 1790's were sort of between wars for the new U.S., and I heard he was gone before the next one."
David said, "Oh, that was painted to impress his girlfriend Josette, I think. She was the daughter of a French count. Well, she ended up marrying old Barnabas's uncle anyway, and then killed herself. Her picture is at the Old House. You'll have to get our Barnabas to show you whenever you get over there."
"Geez, another happy tale from the Collins family history."
"I got a million of 'em," David snickered. He and the girls went upstairs, and stopped in front of his room.
Hallie declared, "I go no further than this."
David told her, "Well, then, you have to make sure the adults think we're all in my room. Play my stereo really loud. Sing along if you have to. In fifteen minutes, go down to the kitchen and bring up a tray full of snacks--- don't let Mrs. Johnson help you. We should be back in my room before anyone's the wiser."
Hallie sighed. "Alright, David." She knew the drill by heart. She went into the room, opened a certain drawer, handed David an old brass key and a flashlight, and closed the door. In a minute, David and Cellie could hear the sounds of a Janis Joplin album coming through loud and clear:
"Sitting by my window, lookin' at the rain.... . Feels just like a ball.... and chain...."
"Wow, you liked Janis too!" Cellie said in admiration. She had a whole collection of the recently-deceased singer's albums, among others, which still lay in her suitcase at her aunt's cottage. Julia didn't share her niece's taste in music.
David led her by the hand to a door at the end of the hall. "Yeah, and some real blues and jazz stuff. I've found some neat old records in here," he said, as he unlocked the door. He turned on the flashlight. Cellie took his arm, a little nervous now, as he closed the door quietly behind them. They went a little way down what David told her was once the hallway to the servant's quarters. Cellie made out a lot of clutter in the darkness, as well as a few strategically-located spider webs. Cellie wasn't afraid of spiders as a rule, but having them parachute down before her eyes was another matter.
"Scared yet?" David asked gleefully.
"Geez, no. David, sometimes you are so immature, even for your age. You told me I'd see something interesting," Cellie sniffed.
David said, "I'll show you something interesting." Suddenly it was dark. He must have turned off the flashlight, thought Cellie in annoyance, preparing herself for his next move. She wasn't prepared enough. David grabbed her in a painful embrace and kissed her, sloppily, practically all over her face. "Now, who's immature?" he laughed, releasing her quickly. Cellie slowly wiped her mouth, then swung out in the darkness. She scored a hit; David yelped in pain and turned the flashlight back on.
"You hit me in the neck!" he wailed.
"Well, look at it this way, David. If you get a bruise, you can tell all the guys on the football team that I gave you a hickey." Cellie continued, "If this is what we came here for, I'll kick you in the sitting-down place, and break down the door with my bare hands to get back."
"No-no, we'll go on. Sorry, Cellie. I didn't mean it, really. I was just--- I guess I should stick to locking girls in closets, huh?"
"I don't know David--- you sure can get pretty mean. You never pulled that with Hallie, I'll bet," Cellie said. She had been too overwrought to "read" David earlier, but now she gauged the sincerity of his apology, before she followed him further into the gloom. She scanned the dark greens of shame he generated, and decided that he meant it. "You should find another girlfriend, pal."
"Why can't it be you?" David pleaded. "So you're a little older, but at least you like some of the same things I do, more than the girls my age. And as for Hallie---You're right, I never would try that on her. She'd have called in the National Guard by now. Or my aunt. Same thing, almost." He became fearful. "Are you going to tell anyone?"
Cellie felt sorry for him the same way she'd felt sorry for Willie. "No, David, not even Hallie. Just, you know, don't.... And as for the other thing, you know I'm sort of going with Jack Knowlton right now."
"Well, that fixes it. I'll bet you don't know what he does to other guys who try to ask you out."
Cellie was suspicious. "You're not just saying that because I'm turning you down?"
"This is God's truth. Jack threatens them, and they fall back. He probably wouldn't do the same to me; his dad sells his lobsters to our company, and, who knows? Maybe Jack thinks I might hire a hit man or something."
"Well, I'm seeing him tomorrow night. If what you say is true, maybe it'll be the last time."
"Hope he lets it be the last time. Then, how about it?"
Cellie tried to think of someone else who would be interested in dating David. Then she remembered; on Tuesday, Cellie had been standing at her locker, talking with a pretty blonde sophomore named Maureen Danvers, when David sauntered by, and pulled Cellie over to ask her about Friday. When Cellie had returned, she was surprised to suddenly "read" the other girl, whom she didn't know very well. Cellie could sense Maureen's jealousy of her, and her frustrated infatuation, even though she smiled and chatted as before. Cellie said to David, "Why don't you try asking Maureen Danvers out sometime? I'll bet she'd be thrilled. Only, you know, no wild embraces with her, at least not right away."
"Maureen.... oh, yeah.... Sure, if I see her around."
Relieved, though puzzled as to why a wealthy, attractive, bright boy should require such prompting, Cellie said, "Great. Now, can we go on? I hope to see something spooky before we have to get back to Hallie."
David took her hand, and led her a short way down the hall. He turned into a room, furnished with a dusty dresser with a small, stained mirror above it, and an empty bedframe against the wall. There were some small framed pictures clustered on a nightstand, as well as an broken oil lamp. Cellie examined the pictures; many were of people in servant's garb. She turned to David, and stepped near the bedframe, when her foot caught a loose floor board, and she fell; the floorboard flew up and exposed what looked like a book underneath.
"Cellie! Are you okay!" David cried as he lifted her from the floor.
Cellie said, a little catch in her voice, "I think I only hurt my dignity." She looked down at the cavity in the floor, and reached for the book.� "Geez, look at this! I'll bet it's someone's diary!" she exclaimed. David held the light to it,and Cellie brushed off cobwebs and a couple of silverfish that crawled on it. "It looks intact," she said, lightly flipping the pages.
I can't make out the writing, it's too dark in here. Hey, David, can I take this home for a couple of days? This is cool. Maybe it's about a secret scandal!"
"Or about what they served for lunch every day," David replied dismissively. "Go ahead, take it. Have a blast. There's no time limit, I mean, this isn't the library."
"Thanks, pal. Let's get back to H.Q."
They walked out of the room, and headed back up the hall, when they saw what looked like a whitish mist float up before them. Cellie clutched her friend's hand, but, oddly, she felt no fear. "David," she whispered, "what is that?"
David's confident voice suddenly wavered.� "I'm not sure, but we're getting out of here now." Cellie wondered why he was so nervous. After all, this was his family home, and he should have known what they might see; what ever that misty stuff was, it didn't act like it would harm them. Cellie tried "reading" it, but got no impressions. Then it began to assume a definite shape.
A little "girl" stood in the mist. She was dressed in a long, shiny white, high-waisted gown, and appeared to be wearing a big ruffled bonnet.� She had long straight, dark hair and a plaintive, eager expression on her face. It was then that Cellie got a powerful jolt of pure emotion; she almost felt ill from the "child's" yearning. Cellie felt compassion; as one who loved exploring the many ancient graveyards in and around Boston, she was acutely aware of the heart-rending frequency of child mortality in the past. "Poor kid, I wonder how she died," Cellie thought. She doubted she could help the entity as she would have helped a living child, but it was a nice idea, anyway. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the mist dissipated and the "child" vanished.
"David," Cellie whispered,� "Who was that?"
David who was hurriedly unlocking the door they'd come through, answered evasively (so Cellie believed), "If it was really anything, it was probably a servant's child. I'm sure they dropped like flies in those days."
Cellie insisted, "David, I think you recognized her. Come on, tell me."
David got the door opened, and sighed with some relief. "Okay, if you must know, she reminds me of a--a "spirit" I used to think I saw when I was a little kid. Her name was 'Sarah', I think. In the past couple of years, I began to think she was just an imaginary friend or something."
Cellie said, "Well, apparently, you were wrong. Tell me, is she, like, a good ghost or a bad ghost disguised as a cute little kid?"
"Oh, good. Very good. I never understood why she still hung around here when it was obvious she could have gone on to the next level, or whatever. But she was always looking for her brother, if I remember."
"I guess she hasn't found him yet. Was she a Collins?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. She's buried in this huge mausoleum with her parents in the family cemetery. You'll never guess whose great-great-great aunt she was. Barnabas's. His ancestor, the one in the portrait who went to live in England before 1800, was her older brother."
Cellie said, sympathetically, "Well, no wonder she can't find him. Too bad they can't send each other 'ghostcards' or something." She smiled gently. "Seriously though, that's a pretty sad story. I hope they hook up someday."
As they walked back, David asked Cellie if there really WAS a mark where she'd slapped him. "It's just kind of red now, no bruise," she assured him, but he plucked up his collar around it anyway. They soon stood outside David's door, from which could be heard the sounds of his Grand Funk Railroad album.
"That Hallie, she's a trouper. I know how she hates this music," David remarked, as he slid the key under the door and gave it a push, his signal to Hallie that he had returned. Hallie opened the door quickly to admit them.
"Thank God you're back," she said with relief. "Mrs. Johnson knocked a few minutes ago, but I fended her off. I think she's suspicious, though. She acted like we were having a pot party in here or something. What took you so long?"
Cellie said, breezily, "Oh, nothing much. I almost killed myself tripping in the servants' quarters, we found an antique book, then we saw a ghost."
Hallie turned pale. "Well, thank goodness I didn't go with you. I've had enough of that excitement to last a lifetime. Let's see the book."
Cellie held it out. "David let me borrow it, but I'm sure he'll let you have it after. It's a diary or journal."
Hallie examined the little book. "I can't read this scribble. If you can, you'll have to translate for me when I get it. All I can make out are some dates."
David said, "Well, there's nothing Cellie likes better than a challenge. Hey, Hallie, I got a great idea to make up for the crummy time you had tonight."
"What, a trip to the funeral parlor?" Hallie was really learning from Cellie, it was obvious.
"Well, no, that's for next week. Seriously, I thought it would be fun to go down to that 'Koffeehaus' that just opened up, tomorrow night, and hear some really interesting music. I was thinking of asking Maureen Danvers---" David looked at Cellie---"And since Cellie will be out with Jack again, maybe they'd like to join us. Come on, it won't be like you're the odd person out--- we'll just be a big crowd of friends out together. And, who knows?" David suggested, "Maybe you'll actually meet somebody cool there."
Hallie looked doubtful. Cellie said, encouragingly, "Oh, come on, Hal. I heard it's actually pretty nice there, not too much trouble. " She thought it would be easier to break off from Jack if she was safely in the company of friends. "I hope I can convince him to go there," she thought.
Hallie made up her mind. "Yes, why not? I don't have any plans, and I'm sure Uncle Elliot will let me go with you and David."
"Then it's settled," said David happily. "Hey, Hallie, did you get something for us to eat? I'm ravenous."
Hallie indicated a tray on the night stand, stacked with cans of soda and snacks. She and Cellie sat on the bed, while David slouched into the desk chair. Then Hallie said a most surprising thing.
"So, tell me about this ghost you saw." She asked it brightly, but with a tiny smile.
David glanced at Cellie with an expression she instantly understood. In spite of Hallie's seeming nonchalance, perhaps assumed to better fit in with her apparently more "courageous" friends, it might be better to minimize the incident. Cellie got the idea that, even though David might have baited Hallie's anxieties in the past, he had since accepted that this was the mode of allaying them.
"You know how this place is, Hal," Cellie finally said. "I don't know what YOU might have seen here---"
"To tell you the truth, I'm not sure that I REALLY ever saw anything--- it's kind of fuzzy to me now, actually," Hallie admitted. "Like a dream you can't remember, but you still have the FEELING."
"You know what it REALLY was, Hallie?" David said with a wicked grin. "You know how most people see stars when they trip or smack into something? Well, here at Collinwood, when people fall over, they don't see stars, or moons, or little Planet Saturns. They see GHOSTS." He was relieved to see her smile at what even HE thought was a lame joke.
"Or those kamikaze SPIDERS!" Cellie added. "Hey, that 'Koffeehaus' place is set up in a pretty old building, I hear---"
Hallie cracked, "EVERY building in this town is 'pretty old'! That's because the last time they tried to build a new one, it snowed in July--- July 1850!"
As they cackled at Hallie's remarks, David and Cellie felt that a minor crisis had been averted. The talk turned to their plans for the following evening.
Cellie was allowed to use the Volkswagen the next day. She put in her time at the Superette, and was on the road to the Antique shoppe at four-thirty. She had a lot on her mind.
She was thinking about the strained phone conversation she'd had with her mother in the morning, before she left for work. Janice Hoffman, once a bright, upbeat, dedicated parent, had sounded even more listless than Julia had prepared Cellie to expect.
"I saw your dad yesterday at the lawyer's office, honey," Janice said. "He looked good.... he said to send his love to you, he'll see you....in January, I think he said."
"Aw, Mom, that means I'll miss seeing him at Christmastime," Cellie replied, deeply disappointed. She didn't know if it was self-pitying to lament the end of their formerly lavish holiday celebrations, but she couldn't help it. "That's just another fringe benefit of divorce," she thought bitterly. "You can take a rest from all that tiresome cooking, baking, and decorating---and imagine how much money you can save on presents."
"Well, honey, by then I'll have a better place to live, and you can come spend Christmas with me---if I get my share of the house money by then.... and if I feel better. It'll still be nice, with the two of us, and Ernest and Lillian."
"Mom, do you think I'll get to live with you soon?"
"I don't know right now, Cellie.... I still get pretty upset, but the doctor won't give me any more tranquilizers. He says I have to learn to get along on my own, without a 'crutch'.... Julia agrees."
"Maybe you'd be better if I was there to take care of you," Cellie offered.
Janice's voice got a little stronger when she answered this time. "I wouldn't dream of such a thing, darling. You're so young, and even if you could help me, I would rather you had some kind of normal senior year. I'd hate to ruin your grades or separate you from your new friends. I may need your help someday, but for now, you'll be better off with your aunt. And I'm better off trying to learn a little independence."
After the call, Cellie was ashamed to admit to herself that she was glad that her mother didn't seem to want her to come "home." Aside from the daily grind of schoolwork, and her wearying job at the Superette, her life in Collinsport had suddenly become extremely interesting, with new places to explore and unusual friends to distract her.
Cellie arrived at the Antique Shoppe. She quickly scooped up the old books and the school papers she'd brought for Willie, and dashed in. She saw Carolyn talking to several customers about the old dresses on the rack near the stairs. Cellie caught snatches of the conversation as she went to Barnabas's office. Apparently, the customers thought that the clothing could be rented for a Halloween party they were invited to, and Carolyn was patiently explaining that while she wasn't renting out costumes, the clothes were so reasonably priced that they'd never regret buying and keeping them.
"Some of these embroidered skirts, for example, if cared for properly, have actually risen in value, and yet, the initial investment is little more than the price ofrenting, say, a tuxedo for a wedding."
Cellie knocked and entered Barnabas's office. As usual, he rose when she came in, which gesture never failed to impress Cellie. "There's something to this manners business after all," she thought. She said, "I've got your books, Barnabas. I had a great time with them. There was even mention of that Nathaniel Collins you told us about last Friday. From what little is known about him, he seems to have been quite an unhappy character."
"Indeed he was," answered Barnabas seriously. "As you've read already, he came to Ipswich in Massachussetts first, took a bride there, then came to this area when the religious strictures of Ipswich were too much for him to take, not to mention all the regulations that had developed about trade."
"Plus, he liked the Indians, which didn't sit too well with the 'Brethren', I guess," Cellie observed ruefully.
"Well, Cellie, relations had deteriorated between the early settlers and the Native Americans in this area. At first, of course, the Indians didn't really understand the scope of the white man's ambitions in this land. Not that they were naive or devoid of ambitions of their own, mind you, but the Europeans who came here at first seemed to be no real threat, starving and dying almost the minute they reached shore. They had weapons, horses, and other items that their native hosts came to covet. So, the Indians were willing to share resources and knowledge, knowing that, even if they didn't have the upper hand, they were evenly matched, at least in the beginning. With all their new weapons and beasts of burden, the whites might prove to be useful allies against more aggressive tribes."
He continued, "And it all changed once the Europeans adapted to the conditions. They didn't need as much help, and they could pick and choose from a variety of Indian allies. The Indians came to resent the property divisions imposed by the newcomers, as well as the new diseases and other disadvantages of interactions with the whites. The Indians knew the English and French settlers didn't get along. Everyone played one group against another. And so, began a long period of strife, which ended in the virtual decimation of the Native population in New England."
Cellie asked, "I suppose, then, there was some justification for the 'Brethren' not being too sorry to see Nathaniel go?"
Barnabas said, "I have no clear idea. Some said he'd helped the Indians who had participated in some raids on isolated farms. It was also said that Nathaniel had been invited to join in some Indian rituals, the most benign of which were still considered forms of witchcraft. Remember, the English had learned to live in the new land, but it was still a very scary place, and any dissention or individuality was seen as a threat to the whole colony. Any regret at his departure was reserved for his young wife, Arabella, who was the beloved daughter of an Ipswich elder. It was said she'd married against her father's wishes. She gave birth to a son, seven months after her wedding, not at all an unusual occurance in those days, and just two months after she and her husband, with a few other banished dissidents, sailed up to a location they'd heard of in the largely French settlement in Maine."
Cellie sighed, "And the reason nobody remembered the baby's name was that he was massacred, along with his mom and most of the other settlers, a few months after they got to Maine."
Barnabas said, "Save for Nathaniel, who led a retaliatory raid on a nearby Indian camp with the survivors, and then disappeared. And his younger brother Isaac, who had joined him at the Maine settlement, and who was inexplicably absent the day of both attacks."
"So Isaac was actually the ancestor of the present Collins family?"
"Yes, though his twin brother Ishmael, left behind in England, was later to contribute, at least to my particular family line. His descendant, Naomi, married Isaac's descendant, Joshua, and became the parents of my ancestor, also named Barnabas, whose portrait hangs in the foyer of the Great House."
"So, you're sort of a 'double-Collins'."
"Well, that hardly doubled the family luck," Barnabas sighed. "The bad personal fortune my family is famous for began way back in the 1600's, after those two massacres, long before MY ancestor's travails. We've always been successful in the material realm, but, even given the many hardships and premature deaths of that era, it's clear that the Collinses have suffered almost disproportionately over the years."
"Oh," said Cellie, recalling the night before, "that brings me to what else I wanted to tell you. I went to visit David at Collinwood last night---what a place!---and I did see that portrait. That double bloodline must be pretty strong stuff, because, except for the frilly clothing, anyone might say it's YOU in the picture."
"That HAS been a common observation," Barnabas replied, with the slightest hint of impatience, as though he'd been asked about it so often, he was tired of the subject. "Just a trick of genetics, I suppose. I am a bit of a throwback to that ancestor in many ways, what with my interest in family history and antiques. By the way, I DO have a far more recent portrait of myself, which I happen to think is a much better likeness. Perhaps when you see it, you'll come to feel it's a more accurate reflection of the man you know."
Cellie thought Barnabas was a tad defensive about the whole thing; she thought it wonderful to have such proof of an unbroken line of heredity. But then, given what he'd already told her about the history of the area, perhaps a sensitive, superstitious person might have reason to resent constant reminders of such an uncanny resemblance; it was in line with what he'd told her about this "locus for supernatural occurrences." This made her eager to share the rest of her experiences from the night before.
"Not to change the subject, Barnabas," Cellie began, "but something else happened which kind of has to do with that picture--- When David was showing me around, I--we--we thought we saw an apparition or something." She gazed at Barnabas, who appeared to be seriously interested. "It looked like a little girl. She seemed so sad, but it's always sad when a child dies, of course. David said he thought she was Sarah Collins, the younger sister of the Barnabas in the portrait. David said she stayed around because she missed her brother after he went to England. I know something about how that feels." She thought of Ernest. How dreadful it would be if she was cut off from communicating with him!
Barnabas appeared to be deeply moved by the story. He sighed, and this time, Cellie got a brief "rainbow spell." The familiar shame, sense of loss--- all she could figure was that Barnabas must also have had a similiar incident in his own life. When he spoke, his voice was a little husky. "I know it must be difficult for you, not being able to see your own brother as often as you'd like. Still, these days one has the telephone, and relatively fast mail delivery, and airplane travel in case of emergency, none of which was available for the unfortunate Sarah."
"What do you know about her?"
"The family history states that she was born to her parents late in their lives. They were so preoccupied by their own interests that her older brother often acted as her parent, giving her lessons, and generally showering her with affection, which she reciprocated. She was described as a virtuous, intelligent, and charming child of great promise which was never to be fulfilled."
"How did she come to die so young?" Cellie asked sadly.
Barnabas seemed to hesitate before he answered. "I've given you some idea of the kinds of influences that seem to hover about my family. The 1790's were a time of great confusion at Collinwood--- there was a series of unwise marriages, unexplained deaths, and accusations of witchcraft. It was during this period that the first Barnabas Collins felt compelled to leave for England without saying goodbye to his sister---in fact, without even telling her he was going. She thought she saw him one night, and slipped out to find him. She became frightened of something she'd seen, but she would never tell what. Instead, she got lost on a cold, rainy night, and when she was found, she was already ill with pneumonia, from which she died. Of course it devastated her brother when he heard, but he'd lost his opportunity to explain to her what had happened to separate them."
"I guess she'll always be waiting for that information. Too bad. She deserves to move on to the 'next level', as David called it, to find peace."
"Well," Barnabas's tone was lighter now, "it's kind of you to show interest, even if it seems to be
too late to help. " Now, he changed the subject abruptly. "Would you like me to bring you some more books?"
"Thanks, but not right now. I have a couple of big tests coming up this week, and, anyway, David lent me this old book we found around his house. It's got a lot of cribbed writing which will take some time to decipher. I'll have to show it to you when I'm done, then maybe we can check other references for the period. The dates in this journal run from 1838 to 1840, that much I can read."
A shadow passed over Barnabas's face when Cellie mentioned the dates, and she got an uncomfortable "jolt" from her friend, which she couldn't understand. Barnabas DID have a noticeable tendency to over-react to incidents from the past, as though he'd been there, and recently at that! No wonder Aunt Jule had such a hard time pinning the guy down to talk matrimony! "Who knows," Cellie thought, bemused, "maybe he has a crush on some historical woman he read about."
Barnabas said, "I should like to examine the journal when you've finished, and of course you can call on me for assistance, and any other books you need. I'll have to say goodbye for now, I have some important phone calls to make before I leave for the day." He led her to the door, and opened it for her.
Cellie said, "Thanks again for the time, Barnabas. I always feel like I've learned something new from you, and yet it doesn't wear me down like history class sometimes does. Maybe it's because you really CARE about it."
Barnabas smiled. "I wonder how many budding historians have been 'turned off', as they say, by the mode of teaching employed by indifferent instuctors? I'm flattered by your interest, Cellie. Never stop asking questions, even if you don't get the answers you seek right away. I'll be seeing you soon, " he said, closing the door. After she'd left, he sat at the desk, and gazed at a small, framed silhouette of a young girl. "Sarah," he thought, "Little Sarah. Can it be that you've forgiven me, and that I will see you once more in this life?"
He sighed wearily, then reached for the phone. He dialed Julia's number.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Cellie felt it was safe to seek Willie. She cornered Carolyn, who looked very pleased with herself, as she'd managed to sell several outfits to the costume-seeking customers. Cellie started by telling Carolyn all about the big evening she had planned with Jack, Hallie, David, and Maureen. When Cellie felt she'd reassured Carolyn about her preference for socializing with her peer group, she asked where Willie was.
"Oh, he's in the back yard. You can wait in the kitchen for him. I have to start recording today's sales in the ledger." Carolyn waved Cellie and her papers toward the kitchen door.
Willie entered almost immediately after Carolyn left the room, as though he'd been waiting for her to go. He looked happy enough to see Cellie---he'd only gone through her checkout at the Superette once this week. Cellie handed him the clipped bundle of G.E.D. papers.
"What's all this?" he asked, puzzled. "This doesn't look like a bowl of your potato recipe." He half-smiled at his joke.
Cellie answered, a little breathlessly, "Pamplets you can read, and papers to fill out if you're interested in getting an equivalency diploma. I talked to the guidance counselor at my school, Mrs. Texeira. She says if you have any questions, call her, and she said you could start classes either here or in Ellsworth."
Willie was touched by her eagerness, but answered, "Thanks, anyway, Cecily, but I told you I didn't have much time for that--- plus, I think I would need a lot of re-teaching before I even set foot in those classes." He saw her face fall. He felt contrite; obviously she thought she'd done him a great big favor, and look how he showed his appreciation! So he said, "Don't get upset, Cecily, I'll make a point of reading all this stuff. Maybe this is the time to do something about it. I don't have anything going on but working here, I could probably make the time."
Cellie looked happier. "I didn't want to put any pressure on you, Will. I just thought it might be worth a try, that's all."
Willie replied, "Well, just remember, if I go and I start nagging you and everyone else for help with my homework, you'll only have yourself to blame." He stepped closer to her, and fingered her braid. Cellie raised her face to his. He looked as though he was about to kiss her, but froze when they both heard Barnabas call Willie. He said, "I guess you better get going, kid. I'll call that counselor--- her name and number are somewhere in here, right?"
Cellie nodded. She whispered, "See you later," and quickly left the kitchen, just before Barnabas came to look for Willie.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was eight-thirty at the "Koffeehaus", the newest hangout for Collinsport youth, and already the former textile warehouse (which had once served Collinsport's only garment factory, long since closed) was packed with a seething, restless crowd. High school teens shared the cramped space with bored college students and off-season tourists, as well as a few hardy adults tired of the tacky jukebox at the Blue Whale Tavern, or the sleep-inducing Muzak in the bars on Main Street. All of them wanted to hear some kind of live music. And at the Koffeehaus, proprietor Pavlos (who'd run similar operations in tourist traps around the country since the late fifties) promised (and delivered) "music as live as it gets, man!" His formula for success was simple---beer on tap and wine, BYOB for the adults if they wanted hard liquor, bitter espresso for everyone else, an informal amateur hour, followed by an uneven mix of the greatest and sorriest local bands from Bangor to Boston.
David , Maureen, and Hallie had pushed their way into a tiny booth, and defended the empty seats until Jack and Cellie came in from the packed parking lot. Jack shouted to Cellie, "You sure you want to stay here? I was hoping we'd go someplace quieter!"
Cellie shouted back, "There's no-place else I'd rather be. Besides, it would be a waste of the cover charge to leave now!" Jack looked disgruntled. He'd only given in because he'd heard that it was easy for minors to smuggle in booze. He had hopes of being alone with Cellie later, so he would put up with it for a while.
David hollered, "Guess what! Maureen and I signed up for the amateur hour! I'll bet Cellie would just love to join in!"
Cellie shouted, "I dunno, pal, the pipes are rusty since I haven't been to choir practice!" She had a queasy feeling that Jack wouldn't like it very much if she sang, then she suddenly decided, "So what!" She asked David, "What are you doing, anyway?"
Maureen shrieked, "I'm gonna play 'Till It's Time For You To Go', and David's gonna do 'Turtle Blues' ! They have a guitar and a piano you can use, but you have to bring your own harmonicas!"
Cellie considered. "How about I join David when he does the blues?"
David seemed miffed. "Think I can't handle it myself, Torchtop?" he bellowed.
Cellie answered in kind,"No, Muffinhead" (This was in reference to David's new "hairstyle") "But it's probably too late to sign up to do anything already! Oh, well, you can call upon my services if you whiff out!"
Jack seemed pleased that Cellie would not be calling further attention to herself so long as that twerp Collins kid managed to finish his screechy song himself. He didn't know why he was so jealous of anyone who even talked to her; she didn't act much like a steady girlfriend, at least not yet, but she wasn't a flirt, either. He didn't want her up there on the stage, not even in front of this cheesy crowd who would forget all about her tomorrow. Jack fueled his stormy thoughts with discreet sips he took from a tiny bottle he'd been carrying under his coat.
Alas for Cellie, she was so distracted by the racket that she hadn't focused on her date's emotions since before they'd walked into the place. She knew Jack was irked, but they were in a lively crowd, and she hoped he would soon get into the spirit of things. Instead, she faced Hallie. "Are you going to play something?" she yelled.
Hallie, who looked about as spooked as she had at Collinwood the night before, said, "You know I'm tone-deaf, Cellie! I guess I'm just watching everybody else!"
Cellie could barely hear her. Maureen excused herself from the group, as her name had been called by Pavlos on the dingy-but-well-lit stage. The small blonde girl stood beside the burly, youth-fully dressed older man. (Cellie thought she'd never seen so many different chains on one neck, as she saw on Pavlos's.) He said, "And now I present Maureen, a golden-haired songstress, who offers a rendition of "Until It's Time For You To Go', by Buffy Sainte-Marie, one of the classics! Maureen, choose your weapon!" He indicated the guitar and the piano.
Maureen lifted the twelve-string guitar, hoping it was tuned, and wishing she'd brought her own. She looked out at what seemed like a sea of faces. She had never performed in front of more than a few people, friends, mostly. She closed her eyes, whispered a prayer, and launched in. Her voice was wobbly at first, and, as she'd feared, the guitar was out of tune. No time for that now. She sang as loudly as possible,
"Yes we're different, worlds apart,� We're not the same.� We laughed and played , from the start, Like in a game. You could have stayed outside my heart, But in You came, And here you'll stay, until it's time For you to go. Don't Ask why of me, Don't ask how,
Don't ask forever of me, love me, love me now...."
As Maureen finished the last verse, Pavlos, who was as relieved as she was, deadpanned, "We can never ask why or how or forever of such a fleeting gift. The lovely Maureen, everyone!" He signalled the crowd to applaud. They did a bit more; they whistled and catcalled. Poor Maureen looked like she craved death. Cellie began to get rather angry.
David was up next. He'd taken piano lessons since he was five, so he felt he could handle the elderly-looking instrument. And he was right. The piano was properly tuned, at least; his vocals, however, were shaky. Maureen would havegone back up for his sake, but, aside from her humiliation, she wasn't familiar with blues music.
Cellie had sung along with her "Cheap Thrills" album so many times, she thought if she could get David to play in her key, they could wing it. She caught her friend's eye, and he nodded, defeated. She rose, and worked her way through the crowd to the stage. Along the way, she unlatched the clip that held her hair in a loose tail. "That ought to distract 'em," she thought grimly. She had forgotten Jack, who'd disappeared into the men's room during Maureen's song.
She had a brief chat with Pavlos, who nodded at her shaking pointed finger. She said something to David, who began to play again. They took it up from where he'd left off, so as to leave enough time for the other volunteer acts.
"I'm not the kind of woman to make your life a bed of ease, no-no-no,� But if you just wanna go out drinkin',� Won't you invite me along please?"
Cellie had fun swinging her hair and moving to the beat, but she had suddenly become self-conscious about the lyrics. It wasn't quite the same as singing alone in her bedroom. She was happy when their turn was over, although the applause was deafening. Oh, there were the hecklers, but at least she felt the response suited the material. She and David ducked back into the crowd, only to face Jack, who looked extremely upset. They heard Pavlos call for an encore by the "Fantastic Flame." Cellie winced, turned and waved back, and shook her head "No."
They got to the booth, where Hallie was attempting to scream a private conversation with Larry Torrance, a very tall guy who was in her Math class, and who had joined the group during the song. Cellie announced she was going to the ladies' room. Hallie and Maureen stayed put, and Cellie struck out on her own.
The lavatories were in a relatively quiet corner near a rear fire exit. There was a line, however, so Cellie leaned against the wall to wait her turn. Just then, Jack walked by, grabbed her hand, and pulled her out the door.
"You know I didn't want you to go up there, singing that slutty song and shaking your ass at everyone, " he said angrily.
"Well, too late. I did, it's over, and it was lousy anyhow. Let's go back in--- I'm sure those girls will open the door for us, if we bang on it hard enough." Cellie moved back toward the fire exit, but Jack pinned her arms and held her against the wall. "Geez, Jack, let go. Okay, we won't stay here, let's just tell the others we're going. I want to go home anyway." Cellie fought to maintain control; her senses were in as much pain from the waves of his anger as her arms and back were from being held so tight. She struggled and tried to kick, but this was no friendly tussle in the dark, as she'd had with David. Her eyes burned from strong inner lights of yellow-blue and orange. But she wouldn't cry; she believed that would cloud her mind and give Jack some kind of advantage.
Jack kissed her in much the same revolting manner as David had, only he meant it. Cellie smelt liquor on his breath. Funny, she didn't remember seeing him drink anything but espresso. That long trip he took to the john.... Cellie never stopped moving; she tried to jostle them both toward the fire exit. This was difficult, as he kept pinning her to the wall, and grabbing at her under her coat. Finally, they seemed close enough. Cellie managed to lift one leg , and she gave the door a thunderous kick.
Fortunately, the sound of the hollow metal door could be heard echoing in the restroom passage. Some girls swung the door wide open. Cellie made out David and Larry coming through; evidently they'd seen Jack and Cellie going outside. David would have guessed what was going on. The two of them tried to pull Jack away; he managed to push them aside. Cellie's vision was blocked; she didn't see right away whoever finally got Jack away from her. She had been half-crouched on the ground, but she slowly rose on her own. She saw Pavlos (who always kept an eagle eye on his place) and Willie, holding Jack. Pavlos whispered to Willie, and they let him go. "Oh, God, not Will. Jack will be furious. Cellie thought, her heart sinking.
Pavlos took Cellie's hand. "Are you alright, little Flame?"
Cellie forced herself to smile. "Yeah, I just got a little dirty, that's all. Thanks so much for the help." She noticed that Willie had disappeared into the building; he obviously didn't want to risk a confrontation with Jack, who wasn't really sure who else had pulled him off Cellie, but was looking around anyway.
Pavlos whispered to Cellie, "I know that fellow who helped me, I told him to leave quickly. I will deal with this. You go home with your friends." Cellie, with David and Larry, went back inside. Fortunately, most of the crowd was unaware of what had just taken place. They joined Hallie and Maureen, who, when they were told, insisted on leaving right away. They went out the front door, which opened onto a street a block away from the one where the Antique Shoppe was located.
Cellie, who'd been looking for Willie, thought she saw him walking up the street. She whispered to David, "Take 'em out to the parking lot and meet me out here in a few minutes." David, worried that Jack was still around, protested. Then they heard Pavlos bellowing at Jack. "He'll be busy for quite a while," Cellie assured her friend. David went back to the other girls, and Cellie ran up the street after Willie.
She caught up with him as he rounded the corner. "Will, wait up!" she called.
He turned to look at her. "Cecily, don't follow me. Jack might see us, or someone else."
Cellie said, "Don't worry about Jack. Pavlos is giving him such hell, I doubt the drunken jerk will even remember where he was tonight."
Willie sighed. "I'd like to believe that, but take it from me, you'd be surprised what you still remember the morning after."
Cellie studied him under the streetlight. "You did stuff like that when you were younger, huh?" She asked in a neutral tone.
"Yeah, yeah. You want all the gory details?"
"No. I mean, you're over all that, right? I don't hold it against you. Maybe Jack'll get beyond this, too. Only I won't be around to find out."
"Oh, so this was supposed to be the last of Jack for you? You're not doing this out of gratitude for me, or anything?"
"Of course I'm grateful, but I made up my mind about Jack last night. I heard some stuff about him that bothered me. I guess his reaction to my little performance capped it."
Willie smiled. "I figured he might get mad from that. I was watching the whole time."
Cellie got a little nervous. "You're not following me around yourself, are you?"
"Not really. I go to the Koffeehaus once in a while anyway, I know Pavlos a little. I admit, when I overheard you and Carolyn earlier--"
"You did follow me!"
"I was just curious. I mean, if nothing happened with Jack, you'd never have known I was there, I swear. But that was some show you put on. Just goes to show, you have to be careful around some guys. I can take a joke, so can Pavlos and David, but Jack---"
"Okay, okay. I learned my lesson. No more 'Turtle Blues' for me. Thanks a lot, Will. " She stood closer to him, and kissed him on the cheek. "My hero."
"Now, go back and kiss Pavlos, " Willie chuckled. "You know," he said more seriously, "You're something. You kept your head and you got up before anyone reached to help you. I don't remember Boston girls being so tough."
"Must be that red-head temper they're always talking about," she replied in a faltering voice. The strain had finally caught up with her. "I need a vacation from being tough." She leaned her head against his shoulder.
He drew her behind a large tree, and held her loosely. Her arms rose to return the embrace, and this time, they really kissed. Cellie saw the oranges and reds popping when she shut her eyes, but some of the colors were her own. Willie buried his face in her loose hair. "Cecily, Cecily," he whispered. He pulled away from her. "Hey, you better get back to your friends. I'll walk you back." He took her hand and led her back around the corner.
David, who was alone in his car, drove up to the curb. Willie opened the door for Cellie. Before she stepped in, he whispered, "We'll figure out some way to see each other alone sometimes." She answered quietly, without hesitation, "Yes." More loudly, she said, "Goodnight, Will, thanks again." She looked back at him, as David headed back toward the Koffeehaus parking lot.
Cellie asked, "Where are Maureen and Hallie?"
"They're sitting and talking with Larry in his car. I suggested it myself before I came to get you. I don't think Hallie would snitch on you and good old Willie. That Maureen, though--- she's a nice girl but I noticed she loves to gossip. The whole school would hear about it by Monday noon."
"The whole school--- and Jack. David, does it bother you?"
"Aside from the fact that I'd trade places with Willie in a second, not much. He did some bad stuff, but that's quite a while ago. He's kind of like a whipped dog now.� Anyway, he never really gave me any trouble, or Hallie when she lived with us. But watch it. Whatever you do sure won't sit well with your aunt, or Barnabas, or a whole lot of other people." David drove into the parking lot, next to Larry's car. Maureen and Hallie got in, and tried to get Cellie to talk about
the fight, and where she'd gone after. David said, "She's really tired. Don't bug her." That was true enough---Cellie began to doze off before they left the lot.
David drove pretty slowly, and dropped her off first, at her aunt's home.� Horrified at the girl's disheveled appearance, Julia all but shouted, "Cellie, what happened to you!"
Cellie, still dazed by exhaustion, replied, "I was mauled by the Knowlton Man."
Julia got very few details about the fight from her niece. She pulled out her medical bag, hoping to examine her, but Cellie waved her off. "The worst thing that happened was when he smacked me to the wall so hard---my neck and back are sore, and I think my arms got bruised---but he was stopped before he did anything else." The girl got up from the easy chair she'd collapsed into, and headed for her room. "I'm just gonna get some clean clothes and run myself a nice hot bath, okay?" Julia did convince Cellie to take something for the pain.
She watched her niece, who walked slowly, but still stood straight. The spirit hadn't been knocked out of Cellie, that was obvious. Julia had wanted to call the police, but if they hadn't been called to the Koffeehaus in the first place, it seemed pointless, especially if Cellie insisted she was alright. There was also no point in threatening to send Cellie back to Boston; after all, she'd done nothing wrong herself. That kind of trouble could happen just as easily, perhaps more easily, in a large city, and Janice would be unable to deal with it right now. If Cellie could only avoid Jack, and stayed away from the Koffeehaus for a while, the whole incident would surely blow over. Julia sighed resignedly.
Cellie slept till Sunday noon. Her aunt let her relax around the house, and eat in her room. Cellie studied her history notes for a while, then she examined her clothes from the night before. Fortunately, the sturdy suede jacket looked intact, and it had saved her blouse and belt. But her new black skirt had a deep frayed spot along the hem, where it had been pulled along the old brick wall. The pantyhose were also a loss, and her boot had a broken heel (That, at least, could be fixed.) "I wish I could make that jerk pay for that skirt! Ten dollars down the toilet!" Cellie mourned. She lay back on the bed, sniffling a little. She reached for her notes, then saw David's old book, and grabbed that instead. She thought deciphering the contents would take her mind off things.
She opened the tiny volume (she noticed that it had once had a lock, but the closing strap had worn away) and picked out words from the cribbed scrawl, so unlike the copperplate script one associated with penmanship of the period. Cellie got a line magnifier from her desk, and turned on the desk lamp. Now she was getting the hang of it. The writing was more like print running together, as though someone who only knew how to print tried to simulate script. As she read, Cellie thought that was close to the mark--- the writer used the homely phraseology of the uneducated, and had misspelled quite a few words. Still, those words had power.
The writer (still unidentified) was describing the death of his wife in early 1838. "My belovd Margery departed this life after sunriz March 3, 1838, ae. 73 yrs. 4 mos. 2 dys., peacef'ly in her sleep. She was my dearest wife, devottd mother to our late son Amos, kindly to his late wife Martha, and best grandmo. to our granchildren Timothy and Carrie. She was devout and alway welcome where ever she went, the light of my life now exting." (The whole word must have been beyond him) "How such a GOD-Fearing woman shuld have cleaved unto a reprob." (Reprobate?) "such as I, and had such Faith I wuld rise above my old life, is a mystery I can but humbly thank the LORD for shewing such grace to an old sinner. I ask for HIS help to be to my grandch. somthing of what My Dearest was."
Cellie was wiping away a tear. The light of his life! Poor old guy, whoever he was. She wondered why he referred to himself as a "reprobate." "He must have been in jail for a while," She thought, and was reminded of Willie. "Well, this fellow made a new life for himself, whatever he did, and so could Will I suppose.... if he had a, what did they call it---a 'helpmeet'...." She read on, the rest of the afternoon, till she got halfway through 1838. She learned that the writer was one Benjamin Stokes, longtime servant of the Collins family, and direct ancestor of Professor and Hallie Stokes.
Cellie remembered hearing the Professor say that he'd gathered all of Old Ben's journals for inclusion in his family history, except for this last, which he had little hope of turning up. Well, he was in for a surprise, but Cellie wanted to finish reading it first. It gave her a little satisfaction to be one up on her friend's uncle, and all because she had gone with David into that forbidden room. It occured to her that Barnabas would be interested, as Ben mentioned "When I served Mister Barnabas" a few times; that would have been the first Barnabas, the one who left his sister and went to England. Well, she'd keep that "under her hat" for a while also; she'd show Barnabas when she was through.
Cellie began to read her history notes again (the test was on Tuesday) and was occupied till around six, when her aunt knocked on her door. Cellie opened it a crack.
"Cellie, are you dressed?" Julia asked.
"Not really, but I could," Cellie replied.
"Then get dressed and come on out for a while. Barnabas stopped by, he was concerned about you. Don't worry," Julia smiled, "You don't have to put on the turquoise dress." Cellie, amazed at her aunt's attempt at a joke, giggled a little as she heard her aunt go down the hall. Cellie threw off her robe, and carefully tucked her brother's old T-shirt that she'd been wearing into a pair of jeans. She pulled on a sweater, and trotted out to the living room. Barnabas (as usual) got up from the sofa when she came in. She went right up to him.
"Cellie, I heard all about your misadventure from your aunt, and also from David, when I was up at Collinwood earlier today. How are you feeling? That brutish boy should have been arrested." Barnabas put his hand on her shoulder, and looked right into her eyes, with his sad, worried gaze. Cellie suddenly had another brief "spell"; Barnabas gave off a bright pink emanation; he was concerned about her in a nearly paternal fashion. Cellie was touched. She tried to reassure him.
"I'm sure they made it sound more dramatic than it was. I was really scared, but today, I'm just a little achy. I suppose the owner of the Koffeehaus could have called the police, but no lasting damage was done, and Mr. Pavlos may have scared Jack more than some policemen. I hope Jack doesn't do anything like that again. His folks, Al and Nancy, well, she's his stepmother but she's more like a mother to Jack, I'm sure they'd be pretty mad, if they don't know about it already."
Julia said, "I hope you don't mind too much, Cellie, but I did take the liberty of calling Jack's parents. They did hear it from Pavlos last night. They're going to send Jack to live with his cousins in Bangor for a while, so he won't be around the school bothering you."
"That's a relief," Cellie sighed. She went to sit in the easy chair.
Barnabas resumed his seat next to Julia.� "You must be careful, Cellie," he said. "I heard that you were very brave and resourceful, but that worked by a lucky chance. It's such a dangerous world these days, and many people forget their own dignity, and then try to tear down the dignity of others. That's nothing new, but in the old days, some protection was available to the young and inexperienced."
"Oh, you mean chaperones!" Cellie said with a mischievous grin. She tried to picture a line of elderly ladies monitoring the rowdy goings-on at the Koffeehaus.
"Well, that may no longer be a practical solution to the problem. I'll admit, it's difficult to reconcile the need for security with respecting the rights of the unoffending majority whom one would make secure."
"I'd say that Mr. Pavlos might start by hiring some bouncers, discreetly, of course," Julia offered. "It's hard for someone from a large city to come here, thinking that it's a small town where they won't need extra precautions, only to find out that certain problems are the same everywhere."
"That's true," said Cellie. She wanted to change the subject, and she wanted some coffee. She sprung up, and said, "Would anyone like coffee? I'll go make it."
Julia warned, "Alright, but use half the scoops this time. " To Barnabas, she commented, "Cellie likes her coffee rather too strong."
When Cellie went into the kitchen, she heard Barnabas say, "I have the same problem with Willie. Carolyn and I literally race him to the kitchen to fix the coffee before he gets near the pot. It's odd, because otherwise he's an adequate cook."
Julia said, "I remember. Well, so's Cellie. Maybe it's a common quirk among some cooks. " (Cellie, in the kitchen, felt a little indignant. Her aunt and Barnabas sounded like two aristocrats discussing servant troubles. She fought off a fleeting urge to make some really deadly espresso. She tried to understand. She and Willie were almost like problem children who required extra concern, she reflected.)
Barnabas said, "I do miss your frequent visits to the Old House, Julia. You'll have to bring Cellie. I'm sure she would be interested in the place, and I doubt Elliot would object. Cellie has a true feel for the past, I can tell. She is a lot like you in many ways. You must have been much the same at her age."
"I don't know about that. I was independent, but with strict parents, and an equally strict older brother, at least until recently--" Julia broke off for a moment, controlling her anger about Walter, "I was hardly defiant. But then, given Cellie's background, I suppose I might react as she does to circumstances. She's really been less trouble than I expected." (Cellie thought that was an odd compliment, but she'd accept any at this point.)
Barnabas said quietly (Cellie strained to hear) "I already think very highly of her, as you know. Sometimes, I think that, perhaps, someday, it might be worthwhile to share the truth of some of our experiences with her. I believe she would understand, and sharing the knowledge might prove useful. Another generation will have to take up the burdens we once accepted, now that we are getting older." ("What on earth did that all mean?" Cellie pondered.)
Julia answered carefully. "Well, hopefully, we can put that off for a while, till she's more mature and responsible. She's certainly courageous in a way. Fortunately, as you observed recently, there haven't been any problems at Collinwood that require such attention."
Barnabas said, "Perhaps she'll be called on to help in the larger world."
Julia shuddered. "I hope that day may never come. There are enough commonplace evils to deal with." Cellie walked in, at that moment, coffee service in her arms. She poured the coffee, and asked her aunt and her guest how they liked their coffee fixed. She stood by, smiling innocently, as they took their first sips.
"Cellie, I just can't believe this!" Julia said. "How did you do it?"
Barnabas smiled at Cellie. "This has to be one of the best cups of coffee I've ever had."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Cellie felt well enough to go to school Monday. She'd made up her mind to make a big joke of her scuffle with Jack, if anyone dared to mention it to her face. She doubted anyone was terribly sorry to see him go, and if what David had told her was true, she'd probably be swamped with date offers. She was dismayed by both prospects. She knew it was necessary for Jack to be brought up short before he got into real trouble, and he was lucky Pavlos hadn't called the police. But Cellie tried to remember her basic sympathy for Jack and his ambitions. She intended to see Mrs. Texeira sometime this week to talk about the situation.
And as for those date offers---maybe a week ago, Cellie would have been delighted to finally have a real choice, as she'd had in Boston. But what a difference a week made---now, almost in spite of herself, she was starting to think about only one. She couldn't understand her own attraction to Willie. She considered all that went against pursuing a relationship with him, including the probable objections of everyone she knew. She considered the logistics of planning any private meetings with him. It didn't matter. In a few short encounters, she had transcended her anxieties and discomfort around him. Even if she had to go around with other boys as a cover for a while (well, Willie had told her she ought to, at first, though she didn't know how he'd feel about it now) she knew there would soon be an "us."
Cellie passed a surprisingly peaceful day at school. There were some hushed titters when she went to the girls' lavatory, and a couple of girls actually asked her what had happened at the Koffeehaus, but apparently without prurient interest. Two boys, freed from Jack's domineering presence, did ask her out. She put them off, making the excuse about studying for the two tests, as well as her schedule at the Superette.
Cellie wasn't going to work this afternoon--she'd told the head cashier that she had to study for tests, and the head cashier respected her enough to change her schedule around, but Hallie, who wasn't in her history class, was going in. Elliot gave Cellie a ride home anyway---Cellie usually took the schoolbus, but he drove the two girls to work during the week, directly from school. (Julia, in turn, would drive them home.) Before he dropped Hallie off at the Superette, Elliot mentioned to the girls that he was going with Julia to a conference in Ellworth on Thursday evening. (Actually, he was taking her out to select an engagement ring; they were both holding to their plan to surprise everyone with the news.) Hallie had already heard about this trip, and had plans to occupy herself in her uncle's absence.
Cellie's school-day work schedule gave her this night, Wednesday night (she and Hallie planned to study together for the next day's science test), and Thursday night off. (In return for the adjusting her schedule, Cellie had agreed to work till closing on Friday night, and traded a shift with a girl who had plans for Saturday evening.) Cellie thought that, since she would be done with all her tests by Thursday, and she had to work those weekend nights anyway, her aunt wouldn't mind if she went shopping for a new skirt and visiting for a while on Thursday night. She asked Hallie, "What are you doing Thursday P.M., Hal?"
"You know, I have to work till six. Maureen asked if you and I would go for pizza, then sit in on cheerleading practice. She's after us to sign up. She said she's dying to see how your red hair would look with the blue-and--yellow uniform."
"I dunno. Hallie, pizza sounds okay" ("Oh, for some lo mein," Cellie thought) "But, well, you know I'm not crazy for that cheerleading thing. But it might be good for you, get you out more, get you to make some noise, meet some football players---" Hallie turned red "--and you sure don't have to sing. Maybe I'll go down to Brewsters', I need a new skirt. You're not mad at me if I bow out on the cheerleading, are you, Hallie?"
"Of course not. But what will you do?"
"Tell you what. If something more interesting doesn't turn up, I'll be right at your side, yelling, 'Rah-rah Collinsport Thunderbolts!' with the best of them."
Elliot dropped Hallie off at the Superette, then drove Cellie to Julia's cottage. Julia asked what Cellie was going to do Thursday. Cellie decided she'd call up David and see if Maureen would mind if she visited him. But that's not how she put it, exactly, when she suggested it to her aunt. "I'll probably call David to see if he'd like me to visit him for a while. First, though, I'd like to go to the store to replace the skirt Jack ruined, then Hallie invited me for pizza with Maureen, and, who knows? A few of the cheerleaders. If I can't visit David, I'll probably go with the girls to watch cheerleading practice."
"Well, go ahead and call David. Maybe you and he can visit Barnabas at the Old House for a while, if Barnabas isn't busy. Just let me know for sure. I trust you with the car."
Cellie ran to the phone and dialed, hoping that David's father wouldn't pick up the call. David answered. "What's up, Torchtop? Calling boys, I see. Whatever shall Willie say?"
Cellie turned her face toward the window, so that her aunt wouldn't see her blush. Fortunately, Julia went to her room at that moment. "Geez, David," she hissed quietly, "You'd better be alone right now, Muffinhead."
"Don't worry, Cellie, I'm in my room. What can I do my favorite redhead?"
"Just how hot and heavy are you with Maureen at this point?"
" Not much. I'm not going steady with her. Why are you interested?"
"Well, I was wondering if I could stop by your house around seven, Thursday night? Or are you studying for a test?"
"What, me study? Seriously, no. I'm not doing anything, and Maureen will be at cheerleading practice."
"I know. She and Hallie asked me to come along, and I might end up there if you can't have me over."
"A fate worse than death for you, I'm sure. Of course you can come up. My dad and my aunt won't mind. My aunt would love to see you. And maybe we could stop in to see Barnabas. He usually gets in around seven-thirty, after the Shoppe closes."
"Yeah, my aunt suggested we see him. I'd like to see him, as well as a little of his house."
"Okay, we'll do that. We can also explore a little more of the west wing. Who knows? Maybe we'll see Sarah again. Or maybe a nice surprise will come your way."
"You'd better behave yourself, pal. I'll see you Thursday. I have to call Hallie now, and tell her something that won't get Maureen mad. I'll give you the cover story later, in case Maureen says anything to you."
Cellie called Hallie. "Hal, I'll see you at the pizza place for a slice or two, but David invited me up to Collinwood for a while. Think Maureen will get upset?"
"I don't really think so. I mean, when we were waiting for David to pick you up at the Koffeehaus, Maureen enjoyed talking to Larry, probably more than I did."
All clear, then, though Cellie felt a little sorry for David. Well, that was something he and Maureen would have to work out themselves, though Cellie had thought Maureen was crazy for David. Maybe he hadn't lived up to her over-inflated romantic expectations. Or maybe she just didn't share his taste in music.
Cellie aced her two tests, and when she'd finally gotten to talk to Mrs. Texeira, she was reassured that Jack would probably be alright at his new school, and that Cellie shouldn't blame herself for his problems. "Confidentially, he's a troubled young man," the guidance counselor said. "Maybe a change of scenery will do him good. Being caught this early in his career may well be for the best."
Cellie went to Brewsters' and got an identical black skirt to the one she'd lost. She ran home, but she didn't change. She didn't want to act like she was going on a date after she had her pizza. She went to the pizza parlor, gobbled two slices, and was on the long, winding road to Collinwood. She glimpsed the rambling mansion as she drove slowly up Widow's Hill Drive. No matter how many times she saw it, she knew she would always be impressed by the sight.
David's Aunt Elizabeth answered the door herself, somewhat to Cellie's surprise. "Oh, we don't stand on ceremony here," Elizabeth said, "It's just like any other home, whoever is nearest the door answers it." She walked to the top of the grand staircase, followed by Cellie, and called to
David, whose room was just down the hall. "I'll tell you, though, " she continued, "I'm seriously thinking of having an intercom system installed."
Cellie smiled at that remark. David came out of his room, and the three of them went down to the drawing room. Elizabeth chatted with them for a while. She sympathized with Cellie's ordeal, and was delighted when Cellie told her that Hallie was visiting at cheerleading practice. "Hallie's come a long way. I know it sounds cliche, but she's made a lot of progress coming out of her shell," Elizabeth commented. Finally, she said, "I understand David is taking you to the Old House for a while. Say hello to Barnabas for me. David, no side trips to Widow's Hill in the dark. We've finally had cement walks laid down, a safety rail, and a few lights, but you're better off on the main pathway," she told Cellie. She left the room.
"I'll bet you're dying to see the moon from Widow's Hill, " David snickered.
"Oh, David, wait till I've been up there in daylight first, and gotten some bearings," Cellie answered sensibly. "I don't want to slip off the cliff until I've had a chance to become a widow first."
David behaved himself, taking Cellie down the long, but well-lit main path to the Old House. On the way, he whispered, "Let's not stay too long. I have something planned for us at home." Cellie had her doubts about that, but agreed.
Cellie found the Old House an interesting architectural mix; originally, it must have looked like Mount Vernon, or some other large, but simply-built colonial mansion. But, along the way, the outside had been stuccoed, and a row of columns added, in a kind of Greek-revival style. It wasn't very large, certainly not compared to its successor on the hill.
"You should have seen it just before Barnabas moved in. It was a wreck, but it was fun to play and hide in," David said. "Then he came, and Willie went to work for him, and between the two of 'em, fixed it up pretty well. Later, Barnabas had electricity and a phone and stuff installed, but he still prefers candlelight when he's alone. Which he is, most of the time, now that your aunt and Willie don't get up here much. Mrs. Johnson comes down here and helps out, sometimes."
"Maybe he likes to be alone," Cellie said.
"I sometimes wonder." David rang the bell.
Barnabas opened the door, smiling at them. " David. Cellie. Elizabeth said you'd be stopping by for a little while. Come in." He looked at Cellie. "Welcome to my home, dear. How is Julia?"
"Oh, fine. She told me that she'd be calling you tomorrow afternoon at the Shoppe. She went with Professor Stokes to some big meeting in Ellsworth."
"Aunt Elizabeth says hello, too, Barnabas. You weren't busy or anything tonight?" David asked.
"Well, not right now. In a little while, though, Carolyn will be calling me back from Augusta. She went there to attend an estate sale, and while she was there, actually met a couple of potential customers for items we carry exclusively at our shoppe."
Cellie heard David sigh, probably with relief. He'd get to spring his silly surprise on her sooner than he'd hoped for. She said, "Well, that's okay, Barnabas.We don't want to impose."
"Come in and sit down for a while, anyway. I miss having company up here. I'm only sorry that I won't have time to take you around the house tonight. We'll have to arrange another visit soon, with your aunt, of course. Would you and David like coffee or tea? I'm afraid I don't have soft drinks, but there's juice."
Cellie said, "Oh, if you have something already made, that's fine with me." David agreed. Barnabas went into the kitchen. While he was gone, Cellie studied the large, modern portrait he'd told her about, which hung over the mantle. There was, naturally, the freedom of brushstroke and lack of stylized organization common to modern impressionistic portraiture. But the newer painting had one curious detail in common with its more constrained predecessor. Both artists, two centuries apart, had captured the same curiously closed-off, almost detached, expression in the eyes of both Barnabas and his ancestor. And yet, when Cellie looked into her friend's eyes now, she only saw kindness, though sometimes tinged with that mysterious sadness. So much for mere paintings being a true "reflection" of ANY man.
She made out the artist's signature at the bottom. It read "S. Evans '67". Cellie remembered that Julia had a picture of a lighthouse, signed by the same artist, whom her aunt had told her went blind shortly before his death the following year. He had also been the father of David's last governess, Maggie Evans, who had since moved out of town. Cellie wondered where the portrait of the first Barnabas's "girlfriend", Josette, was kept. That, she hoped, would be part of the promised "house tour."
Barnabas soon returned with a tea tray. While he poured out the cups, he asked after Hallie and her uncle, and also asked Cellie how she was doing at school, the usual small talk. He then asked her how she was coming along with reading the diary. Cellie was still keeping the writer's identity a secret, so she merely said, "It was tough going at first. The man who wrote it printed letters, then strung them together to look like script. But he was an interesting person. He misspelled everything, but the message comes through loud and clear."
"No clue as to his identity in the book so far?" Barnabas asked.
"I'm working on it," Cellie answered, in an effort to merely evade, and not lie outright. She felt a little guilty about it, but she was almost through 1839, and the 1840 section was short, so she'd be able to tell Barnabas by the end of the week.
Just when they'd finished their tea, the phone rang. "That must be Carolyn," Barnabas sighed, "I'm afraid we must end our little visit. Please come back soon." Cellie, who felt sorry about leaving him like that, embraced him, to his pleased surprise. "Goodnight, my dear, I'll be seeing you soon. Now I must get to the phone."
David commented, as they went up the path, "You really like him a lot, don't you?"
"I just feel bad. He is lonely, and I don't think even he knows what to do about it," Cellie answered sadly. She then thought of her aunt, and sighed.
* * * * * * * * * * *
David and Cellie were quietly walking around the west wing. "Okay, where's the big surprise? Or are you just looking for a closet to lock me in?" Cellie demanded. Then, around a corner, she saw a glowing light. "Oh, David, is that Sarah?" She'd hoped to see the spirit again.
"Something better," her friend assured her. There was someone sitting on a blanket or an old rug, who stood up when when two friends approached.
Cellie tried to keep from shouting. "Will! What are you doing here?"
Willie said to David, "I thought you said she wanted to see me tonight!"
"Of course I want to see you," Cellie said. "David, from now on, don't play these games. Geez, I almost had a heart attack."
David was smirking in the dim light. "Oh, Cellie, don't pretend you didn't hope that I'd do something like this. That's what friends are for, Torchtop. And what the heck, I think Willie here deserves a chance, like you gave me a chance with Maureen. Even though I don't think that's going to work out. Anyway, I'll be hiding in my room for a while. I'll be back in time, before my family gets suspicious. Thank God it's Mrs. Johnson's night off." He disappeared around the corner.
Willie and Cellie stood looking at each other for a minute. Willie said, "You can go after him, if you're afraid. I won't stop you."
"I'm not afraid. I just didn't think we'd really get to see each other alone like this, and I wanted to."
Willie pulled on her hand. "Well, we might as well sit for a while." They sat, a little apart from each other. "I don't like it when he calls you 'Torchtop'."
"Oh, don't worry, I have a pet name for him, too. I hate his perm, so I call him 'Muffinhead.'" She giggled.
Willie chuckled. "I hope he doesn't pull any more tricks, while you're here." He put his arm around her shoulders. She moved closer, and put her head on his shoulder. "How's it going, Cecily? I was worried about you, but until David called me, out of the blue like that, I didn't know how else I could find out. I was afraid to call you.� I didn't want to ask Barnabas. I had to listen in when he talked to Carolyn."
She replied, "Oh, I was fine. Jack hurt my back a little, and ruined my dress, but that was all. His parents sent him away for a while, so I had a peaceful week at school. By the way, Will, did you ever look at those papers I gave you?"
"Yeah, I did. They're pretty complicated. I called that Mrs. Texeira today. I'm gonna see her next week. I still haven't made up my mind completely, but I didn't want to disappoint you." Since the counselor hadn't mentioned his call, Cecily assumed that he'd called later in the day. She was so overwhelmed right now, it was hard for her to focus on his sincerity. She sighed.
"Even if you don't go through with it, it'll be okay, honest," she said.
"I am. You'll see," he promised. Willie pulled her closer.
Cellie wondered if this was a good time to ask him about things she wondered about. She had relaxed enough to "read" him, and decided he was calm enough. "Will," she began, "you sort of know a lot about me already. Why don't you tell me about your family? I think you know by now I'm
not going to get mad or scared by whatever you tell me." He tensed up, and Cellie became uncomfortable from his grip.
"I should tell you something, I guess," he said in a resigned tone. "It goes like this. My folks were mill workers. They always had some other jobs going, too, cause they had the six of us. I was oldest, and I got four brothers and a sister. Well, my Dad drank, and was a hot-head. I guess I take after him some. He gave my mother hell, then he left when I was thirteen or so. My mom had to really scrounge for us, then. I didn't get to school much after that, cause I had to help take care of the little ones, along with my sister who was just eleven. The littlest one was in diapers.
�I hung out and tried to help, but when I was sixteen, I left school for good, then a while later I joined the Army. You know how that turned out. I really haven't seen much of my folks in all that time, though my sister, Fran, calls me now and again. She's still in Vermont, with her family, and my youngest brother, but the others are scattered all over. My Mom died a year ago. That was the last time I was in Vermont, just before she died, and then her funeral. The little guy, Paul, he's just been drafted. I hope he does better than me in the Army than I did, but most of all I hope he doesn't get killed in VietNam."
During Willie's story, Cellie wound her arm around his waist, hooking her finger into a belt loop. He had relaxed a great deal, but she knew what she had to ask him next. "Will, what kind of things were you arrested for? Did you ever really, you know, hurt anyone?"
"You really mean, am I going to hurt you? No, I don't think I could do that." He pulled away from her. "After I was tossed out of the Army, I got in trouble doing petty stuff, public drunkenness, break-ins, vagrancy once or twice. In between times, it was kind of funny, cause then I'd get a real job, pumping gas or working in a diner or on a farm, simple stuff where they didn't check your record. Sooner or later, though, I'd get an itch to clean out the till, or slip into someone's house, or get in some stupid fight, usually after I had a few drinks. I usually managed to skip town before I got busted.
"Then, I still had the notion to see the world, so I started to work on ships. I was getting pretty good at hiding my background, getting fake passports. I did okay, as long as I was on board doing whatever job I was assigned to. The only times I got in trouble was when we were in port. There were some bad times---I got into some real ugly fights.... I don't like to talk about that. I still had itchy fingers, too. I got caught out once, in New York, and went to prison for eighteen months, the longest single stretch I ever did. But I was lucky most of the time, not too many of the charges stuck, and I'd be on my way. If I was thrown off one boat, there was always another going out, that either needed help so bad, or was carrying a little something extra they shouldn't have, so nobody asked a lot of questions.
"Well, on one of these ships, I met this guy who claimed he had a really great scam planned out for some rich lady he'd been blackmailing for years. I didn't understand it all, but this guy, Jason McGuire, told me there'd be great pickings for me if I went along with it. To start me out, Jason and I ran a couple of scams together. He was into other stuff, too, the smuggling and even worse, but he didn't get me involved in things that needed a lot of brains. I have to admit, I really had a good time when we scored big. The women really came running---I'm sorry I mentioned that, Cecily. It was a long time ago. When we were out of money, and we couldn't get anything going, we'd hook up with another shipping line. We'd just finished a run down to South America when we came up here. Jason almost got to marry Mrs. Stoddard, that's who it was, and I almost got to rob her blind. But it didn't work out. I got caught out by Barnabas first---" Cellie felt him shudder "--and Jason, he--he disappeared. Just as well, I guess."
"And since then?" Cellie demanded.
"I still did some awful things. I--I helped someone bother this girl who used to live around here. This man tried to make her stay with him, and I didn't want any part of it, but he threatened us both. In the end, she got away, scared to death, and sick, but we didn't do anything else to her. I took the blame for that whole mess, got shot at, and sent to the state bin, and then, WindCliff. I had some trouble after, um, 'adjusting' to things, but since then, it's three years almost, I've been 'cleaning up my act', as they say. I don't drink much, or even smoke anymore, in case you didn't notice at your aunt's dinner."
Cellie leaned away from Willie, considering what she had been told. She knew the sensible thing was to get up, grab his lantern, and go back down the passage to get out of the west wing (she was sure she'd find the way.) Even if he did something to her, David would come back eventually to look for her. But then, Willie would probably drag her out through some forgotten exit and---
Cellie forced herself to think in a straight line. Of course Willie wasn't going to do anything to her. He leaned back, away from her, and said, "Go on, you can even take the lantern. I know my way out of here. You wanted to know all that stuff, and now you don't trust me anymore, either. It's too bad. Telling it to you was actually a relief for me---sort of a warm-up for when I have to spill my guts at the Pearly Gates." He looked sad, much as he had the night Cellie had met him. Cellie knew some of the sadness was just self-pity, but she also "saw" the dark greens, and then, red and a little orange. She sat back, leaned against his shoulder, put her arm around him, and rehooked her finger in his beltloop.
She said, calmly, "It was all just too much for one sitting, I guess. I hope you're not planning on seeing the Pearly Gates till we're both at least a hundred. So, Will, how long is it till you get to be a hundred?" She smiled at him again.
"What?" he asked, puzzled, then understood. "I'm going to be thirty-four, come April third, next year. Just when do you turn legal?"
"I'll be eighteen March thirtieth. That's pretty neat, our birthdays are so close, it'll be easy to remember," she said brightly.
Willie pulled her closer to him again. "Cecily," he whispered, are you afraid of me anymore?"
Cellie shook her head no. Willie reached behind her head, and found the clip that held it in a tail. He pulled it off, and draped her hair around her face. He turned her around to face him, and began to kiss her gently at first. He held her tight around the waist, while he stroked her face, and tangled his fingers in her hair, with the other hand. He pulled her down to the blanket they'd been sitting on. He was leaning over her, kissing her neck down to her shoulder. Cellie was doing the same, pulling his head lower. He undid the top buttons of her blouse.
Sudddenly, Cellie felt a tightness in her chest, as if she couldn't breathe. She saw too many colors when she closed her eyes. She reached out her hand and grasped Willie's wrist. "Please, stop," she whispered. To her surprise, he did. He was frustrated, she could tell, but she sensed no anger, as there had been with Jack. It was odd, but she believed he was---relieved?
"I'm sorry, I can't breathe," she whimpered. "The floor is hard on my back."
Willie looked down at her, and decided she was telling the truth. He bunched up part of the blanket, laid his head on the makeshift "pillow", and pulled Cellie to him, till she rested her head on his chest. Cellie curled up to him. He stroked her hair. "This sure isn't a good place, or time, either, Cecily." He thought for a moment. "If we keep seeing each other, you know where this is going to end up."
Cellie murmurred, "That's fine with me. I'm going to keep seeing you when I can. I don't think I can feel this close to anyone else."
"It's funny, the few women I've been around who could stand me for any length of time, were all kind of wierd. Before I shipped out, on the boat where I met Jason, I had a girl who threw me out because I kept breaking her stuff when we fought, which was all the time. She must have been pretty wierd to have put up with it as long as she did. Only once or twice did I find a nice girl who wasn't scared of me. The last one left me because I couldn't break free of--of this town. I wanted to go, I had another job, but in the end---I ended up staying here."
"Well, I like this town. I'll stay here forever if you really want to stay here."
"What about your big college plans?"
"I could go to that place where Hallie's uncle teaches. I never wanted to go away to school, anyway. If I'd stayed in Boston, I'd have gone to college right there, where my brother and his wife go now."
"You don't know what you might want to do someday, Cecily. You could stay twenty years, then look back and think you could've done something else. Then you'd get mad at me for keeping you here."
"Me, mad at you? Perish the thought," she said, loyally.
"I'm just giving you fair warning. If you don't leave me alone, I'm not going to leave you alone, either. Maybe it's not right, but that's how it is." Willie looked at his watch. "It's around nine-thirty. When d'you have to be home?"
"Oh, before ten-thirty. I just have to beat my aunt and the Professor to the cottage." She snuggled closer. "Maybe David can help us get together again. I'll probably have to help him find another girlfriend, though. Will, what should I do if other boys ask me out, now that Jack is gone? It'll look funny if I turn everyone down, till I'm, as you put it, 'legal'."
Willie was silent for a few minutes. Cellie could sense he was seething again, but he held it in well. He finally answered, "I'm not going to stop you from doing anything. I know you'll want to go to the games and the prom, and all that. It burns me up not to be able to take you out myself right now. But if you just want to go out with someone to a dance, and you don't think that's using somebody---"
"That's no answer at all. I'll just have to go out with groups, I guess." She leaned over and kissed him. "Hurry up, March 30th," she sighed.
They saw a light coming around the corner. They sat up. The light blazed right into Cellie's eyes. "Geez, David, you know I have to drive, and now all I see are spots!" She rubbed her eyes. She and Willie stood up.
"We're in luck, Torchtop," David laughed. "Nobody suspects a thing, but it's getting late." He aimed his flashlight at her blouse. "You'd better button up, Cellie, before someone suspects we've been having the 'wrong kind of fun' on our 'date'."
Cellie turned around, blushing, fumbling with her buttons. Willie's angershook her insides. "Don't you EVER talk to her like that again, do you hear me?" He grabbed David by the collar. Cellie moved quickly to block Willie from hitting him.
"Will, that's the way we always talk to each other." She shielded David as best she could, and looked directly at Willie. She could feel him relax. He let the boy go. Cellie turned to her friend. "David, you sound more like your father every day. Save the sarcasm for when we're talking by ourselves." She stopped herself from saying, "You know how Will is," but it hung in the air. She felt like she'd had to learn two different languages, Willie-speak, and David-speak.
David said, defeated, "I'll wait around the corner while you say goodnight."
Willie clutched Cellie tightly. They kissed for such a long time, that David said, "Hurry up, already!" Cellie glanced at the floor for her hair clip, found it, and was soon trotting briskly behind David, looking back as much as she could.
"David, are you mad at Will?" she asked fearfully. Her future meetings with Willie depended on his answer.
"No, Cellie, I know how Willie is. Don't worry, your little secret will stay safe with me, and I'll still help you arrange your meetings. Us rebels should stick together. But if you help me find another halfway-decent girlfriend, that would go a long way to repay the favor. I mean, even though it didn't work out with Maureen, she was still a better choice than I would have made."
* * * * * * * * * *
Julia told Cellie that Elliot and Hallie were coming over for a late dinner Sunday evening. She gave Cellie a list and money to make the necessary purchases while she was at work. This dinner was going to be a simpler matter than the elaborate dinner they'd held for Barnabas; the Professor and his niece favored roast chicken. (Cellie was convinced that Hallie would order chicken on her pizza if it was on the menu.)
Cellie was in a fuzzy state of mind since she'd seen Willie. She knew that her aunt would notice right away if her grades dipped, so she forced herself to pay attention in class on Friday, and braced herself for more of the same in the near future. At work, she was "on automatic pilot" and had to reread her grocery list twice. On Saturday afternoon, Willie came into the store, and, as usual, made a beeline for her cash register. She fought off the sense of being flustered, but she nearly dropped a jar of mayonnaise she'd been bagging for the woman who came after Willie. "Geez, I'm getting as bad as Hallie," she thought. Maybe seeing Willie was a bad idea.
She considered writing him a note to tell him it would have to end, because she knew if she tried to tell him in person, she wouldn't be able to go through with it. But the logistics of having the note delivered (another task she couldn't face) were nearly as difficult as arranging private meetings with him. David would have to do it, and she feared discovery of the note. What if David read it? She'd never hear the end of it. Maybe David would refuse to do it. In spite of his attitude of cheerful contempt, he liked Willie. And then there was Willie's possible reaction to be feared; the expression "Killing the messenger" could take on a literal meaning, especially if Willie thought David put Cellie up to writing the note. Calling Willie was out; Julia always knew when Cellie used the phone in the small cottage, and Willie only had the phone at the Shoppe, with Carolyn and Barnabas around to pick it up before he had a chance to. "Geez, what a mess," Cellie thought.
Well, a note it would have to be. When Cellie got home, she began writing "Dear Will, I guess I should stay away from you after all", and the thought of that was so painful she burst into tears. She was amazed at herself. A couple of weeks ago, she'd never felt like this, even for the boys she had once longed to date. And now she craved the company of an ordinary-looking, under-educated drifter with a crummy reputation, a jail record, and a problem controlling his temper. She knew if she was someone looking objectively at Willie and his dubious credentials, she would decide he was not only unsuitable, but he was also less than interesting enough for a forbidden love. Okay, he was nice to her, helped her, and didn't attack her when she stopped him during their makeout session ("Eew," she thought, "Now I'm using terms like that when I think of what we did.") He really listened when she talked to him (she remembered the Chinese food) and she listened to him and tried to help him.
It didn't matter---Willie's own employer didn't trust him not to steal some of their merchandise, the younger man's protestations of simple carelessness notwithstanding. He admitted to robbing and cheating people, beating them up, and aiding what amounted to a kidnapping (Cellie wondered what had become of the man he claimed had masterminded the plot). He was dumb enough, or luckless enough, to take the blame. He had been in the mental hospital her own aunt worked in. She couldn't understand how she had come to feel so comfortable, even given her ability to sense and interpret his emotions so thoroughly, around such a person.
But she had, and she couldn't shake it. Time would go by, and she might go around with other men, but even the distant memory would have an indelible effect. She would have to see it through to the bitter end. Cellie ripped the note she was writing to shreds, and tossed it in her wastebasket.
She picked up the old diary, and read until she became drowsy. The year 1840 had not been a good one at Collinwood. The master of the house and his only son were presumed lost at sea, the master's father had lost his wits long before, and the master's widow was about to marry the dashing stranger who'd brought news of the sea disaster, to the dismay of her brother-in-law, who feared being disinherited. Old Ben had been convinced to give up his small farm near the Collins estate, and brought his granddaughter with him when he moved back into the Great House. (His grandson had been sent to college, and his granddaughter had been taught by the finest tutors, at the expense of the Collinses, in gratitude for Ben's many services to the family.)
Cellie dropped the journal when her eyelids became heavy, but she jerked herself awake to retrieve it lest the brittle pages crack. Having no page numbers to guide her, she simply resumed reading from where the book had fallen open on the bed. Ben related how some other Collins had brought back a detestable souvenir from his own trip abroad: the severed head of an infamous criminal. "Yuck," Cellie thought, "the stuff people in those days thought up to amuse themselves before they had television."
Afterward, she slept surprisingly well. Reading the diary must have had a cathartic effect. She would have snuck in more reading, but she had to get up to help her aunt with the dinner. Gone for now was Cellie's listless, cloudy frame of mind. She even complied cheerfully with her aunt's request that she wear the turquoise dress again. However, she wore dark stockings rather than the white ones. This small change made the whole outfit look more like an adult's. She wished Willie could see her in it again. She thought of asking David for the name of his hair stylist; maybe a froth of ringlets would be an improvement over her ever-present braid. "I could be a cinnamon muffinhead," she thought with amusement.
Elliot and Hallie arrived at the cottage at five. The portly professor embraced Julia warmly, while the two girls looked on in bemused interest. Julia looked a bit flustered, then composed herself. She announced, "This is a very special occasion. I'd like to open some champagne and have a toast." She led the way to the dining room, where she poured out the champagne much as she had two weeks earlier. When everyone had a goblet, she said, "You go first, Elliot."
The Professor turned a little red as he announced, "This is a very happy occasion for me---one for which I've waited for some time. Cellie, Hallie....Julia here has accepted the latest in a long, long, line of marriage proposals. We will be getting married at the end of next month."
Hallie looked delighted. Cellie, in spite of her skepticism, put on a happy face and actually proposed the toast. "For my aunt Jule and my future uncle Elliot, may they have a happy and fulfilling life together for many years to come. And to my future cousin, Hallie, may we continue to have good times together." "Geez," Cellie thought, "how do I come up with that stuff so fast?"
The four drank their champagne. Then Elliot said, "Oh, yes, the ring." He drew a small blue velvet box from his vest pocket, opened it, and put an oval one-carat diamond on Julia's outstretched finger. Julia held it out for the girls to examine.
"That is some rock, Aunt Jule," Cellie said, genuinely impressed. She thought, "The Professor must make some serious money to spring for a stone that size." Then it occurred to her that Julia might have helped to pay for it.
"Will the wedding rings have diamonds also?" Hallie asked.
Julia answered, "Just tiny ones, but the bands are wide."
"Where are we all going to live?" Cellie inquired.
Elliot answered, "Obviously, either one of our houses are too small. There is a new bungalow-type house we were looking at that we could lease. I wouldn't want to buy at this point, because after this year, both you and Hallie may go to different colleges, I'll have to return to Orono, and Julia has to commute to WindCliff. It may be more practical to select a permanent home then, much closer to that area."
Cellie was relieved that they weren't planning to move out of the Collinsport area right away. As for college, she'd have to check with Mrs. Texeira about Orono. She had a feeling that Hallie would probably want to stick with her friend as well as her uncle, and go there too.
They sat down to eat dinner. Cellie "read" her companions. There was little that she didn't expect. The professor was full of warm reds whenever he glanced at his fiancee. Julia, on the other hand, generated the rose sensation---an indication to Cellie that she was doing the professor a favor by marrying him. However, when Elliot touched her, the rose got a little darker. "Maybe they'll get along okay, after all," Cellie thought, though she was still wistful about Barnabas. She knew she'd never feel the same warmth for the worthy professor as she'd come to feel toward her aunt's "dearest friend." Hallie's reaction was interesting. Cellie knew that Hallie would never like Julia as
much as she did Elizabeth Stoddard, but her loyalty to her uncle made the pallid pink of her mild affection for Julia flare intermittently to bright rose.
"Oh, well," Cellie thought, "the choice wasn't mine or Hallie's." She despaired of any opportunity of changing the situation. She'd learn to live with it, just as she was learning to live with her own secret.
After dinner, Cellie and Hallie walked briskly, huddled in their coats, up and down the chilly street. Cellie idly wondered if her aunt and the professor were at least hugging and kissing back in the house. She didn't know why, but she doubted it. She found it easier to imagine her aunt and Barnabas together. "Heck, it's easier to imagine Aunt Jule and Will together, for crying out loud!" Cellie believed.� She fought to keep from giggling at the thought.
Hallie said, "What's that Chessy Cat grin for?"
Cellie replied, "Oh, nothing. I'm just happy, I guess. How was cheerleading practice?"
"Well, I signed up, but with wedding preparations, I don't know if I'll have much time for it."
"I wouldn't worry about that stuff, Hal. My aunt told me a while back that they weren't planning anything big. Our family's a mess right now, and I didn't think you had that many relatives around."
"I suppose the Collinses will come."
"That's a safe bet." Cellie wondered if Barnabas would be invited, and if he would attend. "Oh, I guess so", she thought, "he probably has this code of loyalty he sticks to, even if it makes him miserable."
"That reminds me. David called me this morning," Hallie said. "He wanted to know if we were busy next Saturday. If the weather's good, he wants to go to Ellsworth Saturday evening. He'll even let you drive his car, he says. I don't know why he's asking us so early."
"Oh, he probably needs the time to convince his dad and his aunt to let him go. I don't think he's ever ventured that far in his 'Hupmobile' yet."
"That's what David calls that very beige Buick his father makes him drive. Of course he wants a Jag or a Ferrari in red or black. or maybe a nice white MGB. But, for once, I'll have to agree with Big Daddy Roger. I hear beige is very soothing to the male hormones, and that shoebox on wheels is built like a tank."
"Well, he said to tell you to call him later."
"I'll do that, 'Cousin' Hal. Let's get in, it's freezing out here."
It was early on Tuesday evening. Cellie was alone in the cottage; her aunt had gone over to Elliot's house. Cellie had just a little homework, which she finished quickly. She went into the kitchen to scald some coffee, and watch the small T.V. set her aunt kept there. (There was actually more room in the kitchen than in the parlor area, and Julia preferred that the T.V. not be the centerpiece of any room.) Cellie kept adjusting the rabbit-ear antennas and flipping the dial, but nothing interested her. She took her mug of coffee back to her room and picked up Ben Stokes's diary.
She had nearly come to the end, and would be sorry to part with her "companion." She'd perused the Stokes family history at the Professor's house, and she knew that old Ben had died, violently, shortly after the last entry was written. That made her feel worse--- he was like a wise old friend whom she couldn't save from his fate.
"I wonder if this is how Barnabas feels when he reads these old books," she thought.
Cellie went back over the pages she now realized she'd missed when she dropped the book the last time she read it. She came to an entry that almost made her spill her coffee on the bed.
"I must tell of last night, of that lady who got into the hous and scairt old Mr. Daniel, who nigh about KILT her!" Ben began. "I never saw her befor, but Mr. Daniel was in SUCH a takin, yammerin about how she was the late Mrs. Harriet, I felt a pity and hid the lady in my room. She sayd she was from the fuchur." ("The future? Poor old Ben's arteries must have finally started hardening," Cellie thought at first.) "She was waring very short dress she said they wore them like that ware she come from. I was scairt when she sayd she was lookin for Mister Barnabas. I said he"--- (there was a line he'd written, then heavily crossed out) --- "but she said we had to find him, he was surely there, becuz the tribulashun. at Collinwood now wuld have a grave effect on folks she knew living here in her time, and she knew he'd try to join her here. I got her some reg. cloze, I had left over from my late dau. in-law Martha, who was about the same as her" (He must have meant her size) "and who liked to dress well. This lady, Julia Hoffman she calls herself, must dress nice as she must pretend to be Mr. Barnabas's sister."
Cellie felt her heart pounding very hard, and she was on the verge of losing her dinner. She had a wild urge to run down the street to Elliot's house with the diary and confront her aunt. She calmed herself. She would read this through to the end. It would only take a little while longer.
Ben had described introducing the night lady to the skeptical Collinses as the daughter of the original Barnabas Collins; her "brother" was due to follow. Then there was a whole section, three pages, that had obviously been written on, but had been heavily blacked out. It was as though Ben had felt compelled to write about what he and Julia were doing on that occasion, but, having gotten it out of his system, he felt equally compelled to censor the contents, even from himself. Cellie tried scratching a little of the caked-on ink from a darkened page. A whole flake, as big as her thumbnail, came off the page, with a little of the paper. It was no use---she'd wreck the rest of the diary trying to uncover the censored entry.
There were more blotted entries, mainly concerning Julia and Barnabas, along the way to the end. Cellie tried to follow the truncated story. Apparently Barnabas had not been "himself" when his friends had finally located him. There were a series of censored entries concerning a sick young woman that Julia had to treat secretly. Ben had been amazed when he observed Julia, whom he knew to be a doctor (in a period when there were few trained nurses, never mind female physicians) giving the gravely injured girl some of her own blood.
"She sayd that in her time such things were common, that she hoped it wuld help, but she had no 'test' to tell her if it wuld work, but Miss Roxanne wuld die in any case if it was not tried." Cellie remembered that Julia was considered a "universal donor" with her type O blood. The girl fortunately got better. There were more censored sections, followed by a cryptic reference: "More like the Mr. Barnabas I remembered." Barnabas, apparently, was back on track.
Cellie read something else that made her change her mind about showing the diary to her aunt right away. Ben, who had filled the diary with so many affectionate references to his beloved late wife, was ruminating on the relationship between Barnabas and Julia. "Miss Julia is a fine lady who puts me much in mind of my dear Margery," he wrote. "She is not pretty but very handsome lady, with that red hair" (That was her Aunt Jule, alright) "my Margery had more brown in hers. But they are alike in the devoshon of their harts. If only Mr. Barnabas wuld apprec. a loyalty that never brayks down no matter what awful truth it faces, and love that is unselfish-like and waits patiently for return, like my Margery used to read from the BIBLE to me, and that she lived every day. But that is his cur(blot) fate I suppose."
There wasn't much more. Ben was all fired up about that infamous severed head, which, it turned out, had belonged to someone executed for witchcraft, and was still considered a source of bad fortune. After consulting with his master's father, and without telling Barnabas or Julia, Ben made an apparently fatal decision to rid the world of that troublesome head for good and all. "I will go down to ware it is being kept, at Rose Cottage." Those were the final words, followed by many blank pages.
Cellie sighed. "What am I going to do now?" The diary wasn't hers to keep; she could've given it right back to David, and just told everyone that it was written by some obscure laborer with a vivid imagination. But Barnabas would probably ask to see it anyway; he'd told her he treasured the observations of ordinary people as much as those of aristocrats. And there was Professor Stokes to consider; she supposed that the diary was rightfully his, as it had been written by his direct ancestor, and she knew he'd all but given up any hope of ever finding it. She made up her mind that the best thing to do would be to contact Barnabas first.
She called the Antique shoppe first. Carolyn answered. She told Cellie that Barnabas had left a hour ago. Cellie called the old House, hoping that he'd gone straight home. Six rings, eight rings. She felt dizzy. On the thirteenth ring, Barnabas picked it up. "Oh, hello Cellie, " He said pleasantly. "Did you try calling before? I had to stop at Collinwood on the way home."
Cellie's voice was weak with relief. "No, this is my first try. Barnabas, do you mind if I come up right now? There's something urgent I have to discuss with you. I don't think it can wait, and I can't talk about it with Aunt Jule, not yet, anyway."
"Cellie, are you alright? Maybe I should drive down there to talk to you."
"No, no. I'm okay. Can I come, please?"
"Of course you can. Just be careful, driving. I'll drive down to the bottom of Widow's Hill Drive to guide you up."
Cellie had driven her aunt to Elliot's, and she had to call for permission to take the car to the Collins estate. "Of course you can go see Barnabas," Julia said. "Elliot will bring me home."
Cellie grabbed the diary, and rushed out. She tried to drive slowly and calmly. She saw Barnabas waiting in his car at the bottom of the long, winding private road, and she was grateful for his guidance on this cloudy night. When they parked in front of the Old House, Cellie was feeling stronger.
Barnabas pulled a chair close to his fireplace for Cellie. She took the diary from her purse and handed it to Barnabas, then sat anxiously, plucking at the tufting on the chair. "I take it you saw something disturbing to you in this book," he said evenly. "I began to suspect it while I was waiting for you down the hill. I was expecting something like this, actually. Tell me what you've read."
"This diary belonged to a man named Ben Stokes, whom I know served the first Barnabas Collins. And from what I've read, he apparently served the present Barnabas Collins, as well as a certain Dr. Julia Hoffman, who was posing as your sister. What's going on here, Barnabas? You once told me to keep asking questions. Well, this is the big one, and I won't stop asking till I get an answer."
Barnabas sank into a chair across from Cellie. He sighed as he leafed through the small book. Cellie knew, without having to "read" Barnabas, that he felt trapped. She even braced herself just in case he tried to throw the book into the fire. Then she realized he wasn't about to do that. She sensed that, like Willie, and, to a lesser extent, her Aunt Julia, Barnabas had some need to unburden himself. Again, she would be the recipient of confidences she didn't feel ready for, but she knew she was strong enough to accept. Maybe this was all part and parcel of the "special destiny" she'd overheard Barnabas discussing with her aunt.
Barnabas began slowly, choosing each word with care. "I had honestly hoped, when you told me something about this diary and the years it covered, that it concerned the reminiscences of someone who was a good deal less involved in what transpired in 1840, than poor Ben Stokes."
"Well, David warned me it might not contain anything except daily menu plans. I really didn't know who wrote it until about a third of the way through. I was so excited that I would get to surprise both you and the professor, but I had to finish it myself first. Sorry I didn't clue you in earlier."
Barnabas smiled indulgently. "The thrill of discovery is something that shouldn't be denied to the young, but I am sorry this discovery was less than joyful for you. Yes, every word is true. Julia and I, and later, Elliot himself, visited 1840."
"How did you manage that?"
"Over the years, we've utilized several methods, involving astral projection induced by a trance-like state, mostly. But this last was the most direct and simple, yet the hardest to explain. At Collinwood, there once was a stairway through time."
"David's taken me through a lot of Collinwood," Cellie said, "and I got the feeling you could almost do that if you kept walking the corridors long enough. Where was this stairway? Is it still there?"
"It was in an isolated room in one of the cellars. It was dismantled back in 1841, after we came
'home'. You could imagine the trouble it would have made, with anyone being able to disrupt the time line."
"Then what were you doing there? What was going on that made it necessary?"
"We've never taken a casual trip to the past just to see what things were like. In each case, there was danger to someone we cared for at Collinwood, and we only went when there was no other remedy for the situation. In that particular case, we had discovered that something that happened in 1840 would bring about the destruction of both the people and the house itself. If we hadn't taken the chance, you would never have met David or Hallie, your best friends, because they would already have been dead in 1970, along with Elizabeth. Carolyn would have gone mad, and everyone else, including myself and Julia, would have been long gone, if we could have escaped the catastrophe."
"It all came from that severed head, didn't it? I know Ben must have died trying to destroy it, but you took care of that eventually?"
"Yes, and once that head was destroyed, it was as if none of the terrible things that transpired, had ever happened, save in dreams. The only people left who have a clear memory of that incident are myself, Julia, and Elliot."
"How many other people here know what you've all been up to, with all this time travel, and what-not?"
"Everyone here has been affected by these events at one time or other. My main purpose has always been to safeguard the people I care for. We've been very fortunate lately. Life at Collinwood has never been so normal."
Cellie reached toward the coffee table, and knocked loudly. "See, I believe, too," she said, smiling ruefully. "But, Barnabas, " she continued, "there's more. There's a whole section that Ben blacked out, like he was dying to tell the tale, but he had to censor it the moment it was written. It concerns when they hooked up with you. There was some trouble---he implied you weren't in your right mind, or something."
Barnabas looked at the fire. After a couple of minutes he said, "My transitions have never been easy. It would be very difficult to explain it to you now. Old Ben was always comparing me to the Barnabas he knew, and that was the only way he could express it, I suppose."
Cellie suspected evasion, but she was willing to let it go for now. "Well, Barnabas, I'll bet you didn't know how observant Ben really was." She opened the book to the passage about Julia. "Poor Ben was really crazy about his own wife. I guess he hoped you would find a similar happiness---with my aunt."
Barnabas read the entry. He sighed, and looked at Cellie. She had a powerful "rainbow spell". The small red light she had onced sensed in him swirled and fluttered, and she felt a tremendous pressure in her chest. All Barnabas said was, "In this instance, Ben saw what he wanted to see. At that time, I was to become involved with two women, both of whom later met untimely, violent deaths. This is a fate that seems to befall every woman that I've loved. Maybe your aunt is fortunate that I've never gotten romantically involved with her. I have always known how Julia feels about me. I suppose you think I lead her on, but she has always known about the women I have loved in the past."
Cellie got up, and stood beside Barnabas. She put a hand on his shoulder. "Which past is that, Barnabas? I read this silly quote once, but it applies to your case. 'The past is past and can never return. The future we know not, and only the present can be called our own.' You and my aunt are in the 'now.' I can't explain how I know it, but you care a lot more for my aunt than you let on. And now, even though she still has feelings for you, she's going to marry the Professor. He's fonder of her than she is of him, I can tell. It's the strangest rebound thing I've ever heard of. What are you going to do about it?"
Barnabas stood up, and walked to the window. "What can I do, Cellie? It's too late. Elliot is my good friend, and I know he would do anything for Julia. I don't know if I could give her the affection she has always wanted. At least Elliot will try."
"Maybe what you have to give is all she wants anyway. I don't know enough about this stuff, not yet."
Barnabas said, "That bit of insight shows you probably know more than you realize. I must think this through." He put his arm around her shoulders. "You've given this a great deal of thought. Are you thinking about a future with a particular young man, David perhaps?" He had apparently ceased to be anxious about her possible relationship with Willie.
"Geez, no. He's still too young. I'm too young, or so I'm told. I don't think it'll be that way for David and me, anyway. We have a blast together, we toss out one-liners like we're in some show, but I don't have that comfortable feeling, like I could relax around him. Not that we wouldn't do anything for each other. In fact, he's after me to help him find a new girlfriend. He's very nervous, or shy about doing it himself, even though he's rich, he knows well enough that he's good-looking, and is pretty outgoing in other areas. The other girl I found for him didn't work out."
"Well, who knows, in the future, things may turn around for you both."
"I take things one day at a time," Cellie said, thinking of Willie. "What are we going to do about the diary? By rights, I guess the professor should have it. He's been looking for it for ages."
"It's amazing that Ben's final journal even survived," Barnabas said with an odd tone of wonder and regret. "It was stolen after his death, though it's possible his grand-daughter ultimately retrieved it and hid it where you found it. But I don't recall that the stolen diary was this explicit. Perhaps THIS was a rough draft, to be edited for the 'official' version, those with which Elliot would likely be most familiar. Still, as you say, 'by rights'.... Here." Barnabas handed her the little book. "Let Elliot make of the references to Julia what he will. Perhaps he'll just think his ancestor was rambling."
"Then again," Cellie said, smiling slyly, "Maybe not."
Barnabas said, "I hope I see more of you in the future, Cellie, no matter what happens with Julia and Elliot. I've come to think of you almost as the daughter I would have liked to have."
"Well, we certainly have more in common, probably, than I have with my Dad," Cellie said wistfully. She and Barnabas embraced and he kissed her on the top of her head. Cellie had a sudden, most uncomfortable sensation, a burning, almost. She was having a "spell," yet it didn't emanate from Barnabas. "Barnabas, is someone else here? I just had the feeling we're not alone."
"Well, maybe you heard Willie. I had him doing some work around here tonight. He's been pretty busy. You aren't worried he might bother you?"
"No. Well, I'd better be getting back home. You don't have to guide me down the road. I really feel better now. Thanks for everything, I won't tell anyone anything you don't want me to, about this conversation."
Cellie waited after Barnabas had closed the door. She peaked back through the window. Barnabas was going toward the kitchen. She walked near the bushes around the window. "Will, I know you're out here. What's the matter?"
Willie emerged from behind a tree. "How did you know where to find me?"
Cellie said, "I just had a feeling. You were looking through the window, I suppose."
Willie looked at the ground. He was very tense, and Cellie sensed his anger. "I just--- what were you doing with Barnabas just now?"
Cellie felt sick. "You sounded just like Jack when you asked that. I had a problem I needed to discuss with Barnabas, and he helped me. I like him very much, and we hug when we say good-bye. Real scandalous, huh?" She said, more quietly, "Are you jealous of Barnabas, Will?"
"Well, if you must know, once he--he sort of--"
"He stole a girl from you once. Is that it?" she inquired gently. She reached out and rubbed his arm.
"You might say that." He was beginning to relax.
"Well, I guess that didn't work out, she's certainly not around any more. It wasn't anything like that. He thinks of me like a daughter."
"That's just what he says."
"No, trust me, I know. Geez, he's way too old for me, even compared to you." She was thinking in terms of twenty-five to thirty years' difference.
Willie was thinking more in terms of two hundred years' difference. He was always afraid--- one never knew when Barnabas might change back---it had happened a couple of times already.
Cellie put her arms around Willie. He held her tightly. "I just don't want anyone to take you away from me," he whispered.
"Don't worry, I'd be kicking and screaming all the way. Nobody's going to make me leave you. I'll always find my way back to you." She began to kiss him. They stood like that for a minute, then Cellie said,"I really have to go now. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be alright. I'm not mad anymore."
"Good." She kissed him lightly. "I love you, you know."
He embraced her again. "I love you, too, Cecily."
"David told you about Saturday night?"
"Yeah, I'll be there. I'm a little worried about telling Hallie, though."
"We'll take care of it. We're wonder workers, David and me."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Carolyn was alone in the Antique Shoppe, unpacking a box of old cranberry glass pieces, when Cellie stopped in on Thursday afternoon. Cellie crouched down beside Carolyn. "Need any help?" she offered.
"Not really. I was just going to throw them up on this shelf, and fuss around arranging them later." She looked up at Cellie. "Good Lord! What did you do to your hair?"
Cellie ran her hand over the fluffy red mass of frizz that exploded from behind her brass headband. "Like it? David took me to his stylist. I just got tired of the whole braided-straight look."
Carolyn said, tactfully, "It's certainly a busy look." She turned to hide her smile. She quickly stacked the various red tumblers and goblets on the nearby shelf.
Cellie said, "If you want, I'll arrange them for you. Got any cobalt ware around? It'll make a nice contrast."
"Thanks for the help. I'll go look for some blue things. I wish Willie was around today. He knows where everything is downstairs." Carolyn said, "He's been doing some work at the Old House lately, and Barnabas went to Booth Bay." She went down into the basement.
Cellie began arranging the items in groups, according to size. She left room in case Carolyn found some blue glass. Carolyn was taking a long time. No customers came in. Cellie began to sing to herself.
"Remember, it's a place from long ago.
Remember, filled with everything you know.
Remember, when you're sad and feeling low...."
She heard a child say, "My, you have a pretty voice."
Cellie thought, "How could someone have come in without ringing the bells?" She turned around, saying, "Are you with your parents? No children can come in without--" and stopped. She recognized the little "girl" she'd seen with David at Collinwood. "What's she following me around for?" she wondered. To the "child", she said, "You're Sarah, aren't you? My name is Cecily. David told me about you. You remember David, don't you?"
Sarah smiled. "I used to come to him when he was little like me. I still watch him sometimes."
"Why are you coming to me? Not that I mind, but I'm not a Collins, you don't know me. Or do you?" Cellie found it easier to "read" Sarah now that she was talking. She sensed that sad longing.� "I can't help you find your brother, if that's who you're looking for."
The "girl" shook her head. "Where is he? He used to bring me here to visit, you know, when he had the horses shod. It was an adventure. Mama said it was no place for a young lady but my brother told her I needed to know about how things were made, and who made them. I played with the blacksmith's daughter Harriet. When my cousin Daniel came to live with us, he'd come along. When he got bigger, he married Harriet."
"That's kind of nice," said Cellie.
"I don't think so. Daniel got mean like my papa and he hurt Harriet bad." Sarah shuddered. "I went away when he hurt her. I don't like it when someone I love hurts someone."
"Me, too," said Cellie sympathetically. "What makes you think your brother is around here? I thought he went to England."
"I just know I'll find him around here," the "child" insisted. She suddenly said, "You know, I like to sing too. The first song I ever learned was 'London Bridge,' but my brother played a really pretty one on the spinet. Mama said it wasn't a proper song for little ladies to hear. It went, 'Alas my love you do me wrong--' "
" 'To cast me off so discourteously'. I know 'Greensleeves'. It was such a pretty tune, that some minister made it a Christmas song that little ladies can listen to. 'What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping--' " Cellie went on for a few bars. She felt wistful for Christmas in Boston. She let the song trail off. How wierd, she thought, to give a music lesson to a ghost, and not feel odd about it. How odd to accept concepts like ghosts and time travel, without questioning one's sanity. But then, she reflected, if she could accept the reality of her "rainbow spells", it wasn't such a stretch to accommodate the other phenomena.
She heard Carolyn come in through the kitchen entrance. It sounded like she was having a hard time getting through the door. Cellie rose from the floor where she'd been sitting. When she was up, she looked toward where Sarah had been standing. She was gone. Cellie ran to help Carolyn with the box she carried.
"Did any customers come through while I was gone?" Carolyn asked.
"No. What took you so long? How did you end up coming through the back door?" Cellie had decided not to mention Sarah to anyone but Barnabas.
"Well, I got obsessed with finding some cobalt stuff. I knew we had it, but it wasn't downstairs. There's a passage from the basement that leads up into the storage shed out back. I found what I was looking for." She held out some bluish-grey pottery. "Nice, aren't they? They were in an old barn for years, and the new owners were going to toss them. Willie got them when he was out driving around one afternoon."
"I left space for them on the shelf. I'll stow 'em for you." Cellie went to work, humming again. "I would love to work in a place like this someday."
"If this was a busier place, I'd hire you. But we're already tripping over each other to serve the few customers we get. We make the real money on a couple of big sales each month. We're doing okay, but it's slow when tourist season is over."
"You need a hook to bring in a larger volume of small-time customers."
Carolyn said, "When I think of one, and if I can convince Barnabas to agree to it, you'll be the first one I call to implement it."
Cellie thought, "I know who'll be thrilled if I get a job here."
Carolyn was thinking the same thing. She led Cellie to the kitchen to get some coffee. "By the way," she said, "I thought I heard you singing Christmas carols in here. A bit early, isn't it?"
Roger Collins and Elizabeth Stoddard agreed to let David take his car up to Ellsworth, on the condition that Cellie, the most experienced driver of the three friends, was behind the wheel, at least till they got to the town. Cellie was thrilled--- not only would she get to see Willie up there, but she'd finally get to eat in that Chinese restaurant where Carolyn had gotten her take-out.
Ellsworth was less than twenty miles from Collinsport, but it was very different. There were more modern buildings, and there was a large lake nearby. David directed Cellie to the block where the Chinese restaurant was located. When they had parked, Cellie said anxiously, "I don't see Will at all, David."
Hallie, who had her doubts about the entire adventure from the start, thought, "maybe it's better if he doesn't come." When she'd been let in on Cellie's secret, she agreed to keep it, but she'd spent most of the time since, trying to dissuade her best friend from making what she called, "the worst mistake of any girl's life." She had nothing against Willie personally; when she lived at Collinwood, she doubted that he'd spoken to her more than three times, and all three times he made it clear he'd rather be somewhere else. But she knew his reputation.
When she'd remonstrated with Cellie, all her friend could say was, "I know all that. He told me himself. He's never done anything to hurt me. I only know I wouldn't feel the same about anyone else. I love him. He loves me. When I'm eighteen, it'll all be okay. You don't have to get involved with all this if you don't think it's right, Hal. Just don't say anything to your uncle or anyone. If there's a problem, let it fall on our heads."
Hallie looked at Cellie's downcast face, and thought, "she says he doesn't hurt her, and here he's standing her up." Then she looked down the street. "I think I see him walking up now," she announced.
Cellie jumped out of the car in a flash, and ran down the sidewalk. It was Willie, all right, and she almost knocked him over with her excited embrace. Hallie watched him wrap his arms around Cellie. She said to David, "I hope we're doing the right thing, letting this go on." She sighed.
David patted Hallie's shoulder. "I know it's hard to understand. But you'll have to watch how they are together. They're like two halves of a whole, or some-thing. They even act different--- Willie stands up straighter, and Cellie gets quieter. They're, like, in another world." They got out of the car, and stood by the restaurant door, waiting for Cellie and Willie.
In the meantime, Willie had pulled Cellie into a short alley, so they wouldn't have to kiss out on the street. He took a good look at her hairstyle. "Cecily, what kind of hair is this? It's all knotty and it feels like cotton candy. Can't you fix it?" he demanded.
"I know, I really hate it myself," Cellie answered ruefully. "I don't know why I let David talk me into it. I was just so tired of braids all the time. I've tried everything to level it--- water makes it frizz up worse, I used gallons of hair spray, and this morning I even bought men's 'hair trainer.' 'Greasy kid stuff!' The hairdresser told me this would last for months if I keep rolling it up. You can bet I sure won't."
Willie patted the matted pile. "You could fill a pillow with this."
"Oh, Will, quit teasing me. I know I ruined 'our' hair. It should be back to normal by my next birthday. Maybe we should let your hair grow out more, as a substitute till mine's back to normal." She pulled at his wispy dirty-blond locks. She took his arm, and they walked back to the restaurant. They took a table across the room from Hallie and David, but Cellie had to go back and forth so many times to explain the menu and make recommendations, she and Willie got themselves moved to the table behind. Cellie convinced Willie to order the sweet-and-sour chicken, figuring that would be the least exotic taste. To her relief, he seemed to enjoy it, leaving her in peace with her fiery beef dish.
After dinner, David got his car keys back from Cellie. He was taking Hallie to a movie, so that Cellie and Willie could have a couple of hours to themselves. "Just be back here by ten, Torchtop, or the Hupmobile will turn into a pumpkin," David cracked as he opened the car door for Hallie. "Have good, clean fun, you crazy kids."
Willie, who would probably never understand this way of communicating, shook his head as David gunned the motor. He walked with Cellie up the street, his arm circling her waist, hers around his to where she'd hooked her finger into his beltloop. "There's this place where I almost never see anybody from Collinsport. I want to take you dancing there." They went into a tavern overlooking the lake. There was a three-member band playing.
Cellie said, "You know I can't drink yet."
Willie replied, "Don't worry, I almost never do myself, remember?" He went up to the bar and ordered soft drinks.
They went to a quiet booth in the back. Willie pulled Cellie close to him. "We're in luck. Nobody I recognize from Collinsport here." He kissed her. "You look cute in that skirt," he said, stroking her knee.
"You look mighty cute yourself," she replied, as she stroked his face. She looked at their surroundings, and noticed that smoky mirrors paneled the walls around the booths and the dance floor; these reflected the dim pinpoints of light around the tavern. Cellie thought it resembled a large shower-stall, but she was pleased when she saw herself and Willie reflected. "Look, Will," she said, "We're both cute together."
"Not cute," he admonished. "We look just right together."
The band began to play, not very well, but they had a danceable beat. Willie led Cellie up to the postage-stamp sized dance floor. Cellie couldn't tell if he was a good dancer, but they seemed to move together correctly. Her feet had been stomped enough by her previous dates, so this was just fine with her. It was wonderful to be with Willie in a public place. He even kissed her lightly a couple of times when they were dancing. He made her laugh when he tried to sing softly to her.
"Don't take this heaven from one,
If you must cling to someone,
Now and forever,
Let it be me...."
She thought, "Well, I guess there'll be only one singer in this family." A family. How nice if they ended up getting married, she thought. She wondered if he had ever considered that.
Willie told her he wanted to take her parking, by the lake. He acted shy and hesitant, as if he feared offending her. ("We'll stay in the front seat, I SWEAR.") Cellie figured she'd come this far, with no harm, and she'd missed him holding and touching her, as he'd started to do in the West Wing. They were just about to leave the tavern when a loud fellow who had been sitting at the bar recognized Willie, who said, "It's only a guy who lives around here."
The man, who had obviously been deep in his cups, roared, "Hey Willie, been robbing the cradle?" Cellie had her arm around Willie, and felt him tense up. His fists clenched. Cellie got that horrible fiery pain in her guts, and she hated to blink because the lights she saw behind her lids blazed as bright as the sun.
The bartender tactfully tried to keep the man quiet. "Shut up, Bob," he said.
Cellie tried to make a joke. She spoke in her best old-lady voice. "The plastic surgeon said they'd be fooled, Willie!" A couple of the men at the bar thought that was just rich. She couldn't get to look into Willie's eyes, which seemed to be the best method for diffusing his anger. She pulled hard on his arm.
The loud man just wouldn't shut up. "What junior high school did you pick her up from?" Willie grabbed the man from his seat, which fell to the floor. Cellie jumped on Willie's back, and hung from his neck, calling his name. She was twisting herself into a position to make eye contact, while the bartender and a bouncer, and a couple of barflies worked to separate the two men. They dragged the heckler off to one corner. The bartender more or less pushed Willie out the door, followed by a weeping Cellie, who was only grateful that matters hadn't gotten to the point where police would have been called in.
Cellie ran past Willie, back up to the street with the Chinese restaurant. She looked at her watch under a street lamp. It was only five after nine. Fifty-five more minutes to wait for David, and it was bitter cold outside. She thought of going back into the restaurant, but she didn't want to cause a disturbance there, too. She was really frightened now. If only she knew where the movie theater was. If only she hadn't come here at all.
There was a phone booth down the street, with a phone book hanging from a cord. She walked toward it, with the intention of figuring out which theater David had taken Hallie to. If she couldn't, well, there was always the police. "Oh, God, if Aunt Jule finds out about this, and sends me back to Boston...." Cellie was about to enter the phone booth when she was pulled back. "Will, let me go! Haven't we had enough trouble already? I don't want to see you anymore."
Willie released her arm, and walked back down the street, to where his car was parked. He got in, and drove up to the phone booth. He parked the car and sat, looking at Cellie, who still stood, shivering by the phone booth. He didn't roll down the window. He just waited. Finally, she gave up, and got into the car. He didn't turn on the ignition, or move, or speak. Cellie sensed an almost dead calm in him now. She turned to look out the window for David.
She repeated, "This will be the last time I see you. I won't be going near the Antique Shoppe, or to Barnabas's house, without making sure you're nowhere near the places. And if you come up my checkout line again, I'll tell the manager to make you leave. I can't live with the way you fly off the handle whenever anyone says anything about you and me." She was feeling sick again, crampy.
Willie finally spoke, in a sad voice. "If that's the way you want it."
Cellie refused to fall into this trap. They sat, in silence, until she saw David's Hupmobile pull up in front of the Chinese restaurant. Cellie got out of Willie's station wagon, and jumped in the driver's seat of the beige Buick. At the same time, Hallie got into the back seat.
"Have a good time, Torch--" David broke off when he saw Cellie's stony expression. She put on the seat belt.
"You know I won't drive unless you guys belt up," she said in a hard voice. She needn't have worried. Hallie had been so terrified by David's driving method, she'd have belted herself to the floor if there was a belt down there. And David knew better than to rile Cellie in her mood. David looked at Hallie in the back seat, with an expression that translated to "Maybe you were right about all this."
They didn't speak at first, or turn on the radio. The road back to Collinsport was a new and straight, but very monotonous twenty-mile stretch. Cellie started to feel extremely tired. She shook herself a few times. She couldn't understand---it was only just after ten, she'd risen late, and only worked five hours today. She certainly hadn't had any alcohol. The whole ugly incident tonight was getting her down. She turned on the radio, loud. David, who'd been watching her and talking
about anything else except what she'd been doing with Willie, was asking to take over the wheel, when she blacked out.
The car rolled off the road. There weren't too many trees, but the car headed for the nearest one. Hallie shrieked. David couldn't unfasten his belt, but he reached for the wheel and gave it a hard turn, away from the tree. The car rolled along the grass. David shoved his leg against Cellie's and slammed on the brake. The car shuddered to a halt. He grabbed the key from the ignition.
"Hallie, are you okay!" he screamed. Hallie, who had scrunched down in the backseat, bracing for the inevitable, replied in a faltering affirmative. They both got out of the car, and David opened the driver's side door. Cellie was crumpled toward the middle of the seat, where David had thrown his arm to keep her limp form from sliding out of the seat belt and being tossed around. David tried to rouse her. She opened her eyes once or twice, and seemed to recognize him, but closed them again.
"Is she hurt?" Hallie asked, crying now.
"No, she seems to be in one piece, but she's like, stoned or drunk," David replied angrily. "I'll just bet Willie fed her something." At that moment, he and Hallie saw a
station wagon coming down into the gully, where they stood. "Oh, God, it's Willie," David groaned. Willie got out of his car and ran to theirs.
David and Hallie both jumped on him, knocking him to the ground. "What the hell did you do to her that made her like that!" David demanded. "We all could've been killed!"
"I didn't do anything to her! She was okay when she left me to get in your car!" Willie wailed.
David still held him down. "Don't tell me that! You gave her something! She's wasted!" All three went silent. There was a noise from the car. Cellie was sitting up, and she was calling David in a dazed voice. David and Hallie ran to her, before she tried to walk. Willie got up and walked over to join them.
Cellie looked around, at her friends, at the dark gully. She looked up at Willie, who was standing behind them.
David, in a relieved tone, asked, "Cellie, what happened to you? Did you take anything or drink anything when you were with Willie?"
Cellie said clearly, "Geez, no. I had a fight with Will, but he didn't do anything to me. All I had was a couple of Seven-ups at this place we went to. I just got awfully tired, like I did the night I was attacked by Jack. I'm sorry, I'm sorry---are you guys alright? Is the car okay?"
"Yes to both questions."
"Oh, God, I'm going to get into big trouble," Cellie mourned.
"No, you won't, Torch top. I'm not going to say anything about this. Are you, Hallie?" David asked.
"I-I guess not, David. I don't think I'll be joining you on any more of these trips anyway," Hallie said.
Willie came closer to Cellie, and took her hand. She was still dazed; she looked at him without anger or fear. He crouched and put his arms around her, and her face was hidden by his coat collar. He said, "I'm going to take her in my car for now. I'll follow you until you get to town, then I'll put her in your car again. Just go real slow. You need help getting out of the gully?"
David said, "No, I think we'll be okay." He and Willie walked Cellie to the station wagon, where they laid her across the wide front seat. Willie had the blanket he'd used at Collinwood, and he covered her with it. When he got in the car, she rested her head against his leg. He stroked her frizzy hair. She reached up and touched his hand. Willie started the car.
David drove carefully ahead. Hallie, who'd been watching Willie's car through the back window, reported that Cellie had sat up, and was leaning against Willie's shoulder. David said, "See what I mean? Two halves of a whole. A whole what, though, I'm afraid to find out."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Annette Cadieux. I think you should ask her out, David. I noticed she pays a lot more attention to you when you're playing, than to any of the other football players. And she's not a ding-dong, like some of the other cheerleaders." Cellie was offering up her latest candidate for the job of becoming David's girlfriend. And what a job it must have been--- three had already been tried, and found wanting. Cellie was afraid of failing this time; she was struggling to keep David on her side. He had become reluctant to arrange further meetings for her and Willie, since that night in Ellsworth. She'd given David a full and complete account of the events that led to her collapse, as they were walking up and down Cellie's street, the day after the near-crash.
"I don't know, Torchtop---maybe Willie hasn't gotten better after all. He just couldn't walk away from that 'cradle-robber' remark, could he? Well, I guess the truth always hurts--" David had shrugged.
"David, that's a nasty thing to say, even for you. The age difference is a big deal--- when we're around other people. But when we're by ourselves, it's like it doesn't exist." Cellie hung her head. "David, before I got in your car to go home, I told him I didn't want to see him anymore, and I meant it. But--- how can I explain---thinking of actually going through with it made my head clog up, like I was being deprived of oxygen or something--- that's how I felt just before I went out."
"It's always hard to break up, even if you know you don't really like someone." David thought of Maureen. "But you and Willie are too close even when you're not close to each other, that's the only way I can put it. I hope I never feel that way about anyone, now that I've seen it in action."
Cellie smiled sadly. "I never thought I could feel that way either---at least not for anyone like Will. Life is strange. Sometimes it gets strange in your favor. I hope it's in my favor. He's so tangled up in the way I think now."
"From the looks of things, I'd say the feeling's mutual. Willie was always a tangled sort of guy to begin with." David put his arm around Cellie's shoulder. He'd noticed she didn't cry much, not like Hallie. But she was sobbing now---his Torchtop, the tough cookie from Beantown. "I don't know if I should help you see him anymore, if it makes you sick like that. I'm starting to think you have a real problem, Cellie. Maybe you should tell your aunt. I don't think she'll get mad at you, or Willie either, if he hasn't done anything with you, you know what I mean."
Cellie became defensive. "He hasn't done anything with me! I think he's leaving that decision up to me. He's told me he doesn't want to hurt me." She looked defeated. "I guess I should stay away from him for a while. I'll make a point of telling my aunt about the blackout, but it's better if I leave Will's name out of it. I don't want to go back to Boston, and I don't want him arrested when he didn't even do anything."
"Yet", David thought. To Cellie he said, "That's probably the best thing, Torchtop. Why don't you go out with a few of the other guys for a while? Keep busy. Hallie's volunteering to serve coffee and donuts the night of the conferences. Maybe you should sign up. I'll keep Willie out of your really swelled---I mean swell---hair for a while, till you're able to make up your mind about him. Concentrate on finding me someone. This'll all blow over."
"I can at least blame you for my hair, Muffinhead," Cellie said, giggling a little now. David thought that was a good sign. "Oh, David, I just remembered. You know that little diary we found at Collinwood? I read it, and found out that it was written by a major ancestor of Hallie's. If you don't mind, I'd like to show it to the Professor. It's something he's been looking for, a long time."
"Sure. If it's their ancestor, he can keep it. It was just going to rot where it was if you hadn't, uh, 'stumbled across it'. Literally."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Cellie was as good as her word. She signed up to help out on Conference night. She began the grind of "reading" half the cheerleading squad, in her quest to find her Muffinhead a mate who wasn't an Airhead. And, most important, she did tell her Aunt Julia about her blackout. Granted, she gave a highly censored account---she left out the key information about the argument with Willie, and led her aunt to believe she was a passenger in David's car when she fainted. But what she told her was about as much as she'd been telling people about her "condition" for years. Even though Cellie minimized the incident, Julia was still deeply concerned.
"Cellie, are you absolutely sure that you've never actually passed out in that manner before?"
"No, it was the first time. I've had spells where I've felt horribly tired after I've been under some stress, like the night of the fight with Jack."
"Are you still worried about Jack coming back to hurt you? What stress could you be under at this point, other than what I already know you've been having? Are you in some kind of trouble, Cellie?"
Cellie had evasion down to a science. "Not exactly. I guess
I'm--well--- attracted to some guy who isn't-- available right now.
I get more worked up over stuff like that than I let on, I guess. And I'm going nuts trying to figure out where to go to college. I'd like to find out about that Orono---I want to stay close to this area, if I don't go back to Boston. I figure Hallie will be going there, and maybe David, if he can't get into some super-expensive Ivy League place."
"Or if he gets ejected from the Ivy League places," Julia smiled. "David's a bright boy, but he's always had a tendency to fool around, then cruise on his family connections. Still, since he's grown up a bit, he's proven to be basically decent, and he's been a good friend to you, for all he's a little younger. Perhaps you'd experience less stress if you concentrated on him, instead of someone who is, as you put it, unavailable."
Cellie thought that was just a little too close to what her aunt was doing by marrying the Professor. She kept that to herself. She said, instead, "Oh, no, David is after me to fix him up with somebody. And I'm trying to do it."
"Maybe that's what's upsetting you---maybe, deep down, you don't want to help him find another girlfriend. "
"I don't know, that could be a problem, I suppose. If he had another girl, he wouldn't be able to pal around with me, or Hallie, for that matter." Cellie sighed. "Still, Aunt Jule, you know I was having trouble even before I got here. I've had so many tests and talking-to's, and no-one's ever been able to pin down just what's eating at me. I'm just---I'm just--"
" 'Too sensitive to your environment'. Yes, your parents allowed me to see some of those reports. Perhaps it isn't your environment you're so sensitive to. Perhaps it's the people you come into contact with."
This was the closest Julia had ever come to the truth of Cellie's condition. If this had happened a few weeks earlier, Cellie would have welcomed a frank discussion. But now, there was too much at stake. Cellie didn't want Julia to guess who she was really hung up on. Cellie also didn't want her aunt to realize that she had tried to manipulate matters to bring Julia and Barnabas together. So she only agreed in a general way that her aunt could be right. Maybe someday she'd tell
her everything, even if it wasn't to her advantage, but now wasn't the time.
"Well, Cellie, all I can say is, let me know if this happens again. I can take you to doctors around the area, or even in Boston, if need be. There may be a neurological component, but I'd hate to have you subjected to a battery of tests on the basis of one fainting spell. If you have trouble sleeping or anything else, I can give you some medication."
"I wouldn't like to end up like my mother, with her pills for sleeping and waking up, and feeling happy and sad!"
"I would never let it get to that point! I'm talking about the mildest pills, but they're a little stronger than those sold over-the-counter. Are you feeling alright now?"
"Yes. I'm feeling pretty good. Not crazy-good, just regular-good. Aunt Jule, will I still be able to drive?"
"Well, I'll go along with you a few times, to watch how you do. No more long distance trips, though, for a while. Just around town shouldn't be a problem, and you'll probably be riding with David a lot, anyway, at nights."
"If I can't find him a girlfriend right away, at any rate."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Conference night had arrived. Cellie and Hallie were in the high school cafeteria, running the hospitality table with a couple of P.T.A. mothers. They were quite busy; everyone needed coffee and donuts after they'd had to face their children's teachers. When business slowed down, Cellie leaned against the wall, and stared straight at a huge, clumsily painted mural of the Collinsport Thunderbolts' logo: a vaguely Scandinavian figure in a blue horned helmet and shield (Thor, Cellie supposed) heaving a yellow thunderbolt that resembled a crimped zucchini.
It was around nine o'clock when the conferences came to an end, and the teachers trickled into the cafeteria, with some straggling parents. Cellie was amused when she noticed the parents, for the most part, sullenly grabbed their cups and donuts, broke up into little groups amongst themselves, and avoided even looking at the teachers. Mrs. Texeira, smiling serenely as always, finally came to the hospitality table. She greeted the workers pleasantly, then signalled for Cellie to talk to her privately for a moment. Mrs. Texeira said, quietly, "I finally got to meet your friend Mr. Loomis. I can't say I was impressed by him at all, but he seemed harmless enough, and he appeared sincere in his desire to work toward a G.E.D."
Cellie, who'd tried not to think too much about Willie, felt a little awkward talking about him. But she'd started the ball rolling, and she was glad he was showing interest in something outside of himself---and herself. "When is he going to start?" Cellie asked.
"Well, taking actual high school level courses is somewhat beyond him at this point. He explained about having missed a lot of school before he finally dropped out. There are some remedial classes here, but they won't start now until after Christmas vacation, and then they are subject to being called off when it snows. He still wants to go through with it. He signed up."
"I hope he follows through. It would be nice if he accomplished something positive. Maybe people around here won't appreciate it much, but then he'd have a better shot if he decided to go someplace where they don't know about his past."
"It would be difficult to live down such a past, but he may surprise everyone. Who knows?" Mrs. Texeira thought if Willie succeeded, that would be the closest she'd ever come to a human reclamation project. Mrs. Texeira patted Cellie on her shoulder. "Thank you for being concerned, dear," she said. "I should send you out
to recruit more night students. The whole town would have diplomas then, I'm sure."
Cellie heard a gruff voice saying, "Good evening, Cellie, how are you tonight?" She turned to face Professor Stokes, who stood next to Hallie. "and Mrs. Texeira. Long time, no see," he joked.
"Yes, Professor, it's just been the longest twenty minutes of my life," the guidance counselor laughed. Cellie suddenly had a little "rainbow spell." She had reason to believe that Mrs. Texeira had a crush on Professor Stokes; the rose she "saw" was shot with red that came and went. The girl� remembered the family portrait in Mrs. Texeira's office, and thought the Professor (who always gave a pink emanation these days) bore a slight resemblence to the guidance counselor's beloved Joao. Cellie filed the thought in the back of her mind for future reference. Mrs. Texeira said goodnight, and drifted off to a group of parents. Cellie noticed that she, at least, was a welcome sight to them, unlike the teachers.
Elliot turned to his niece. "Well, dear, the teachers had the nicest things to say about you." He kissed Hallie on her forehead. "I didn't see your aunt tonight, Cellie. Did she come earlier?"
"Oh, yes, and the teachers served up some choice dirt on me, you can bet on it," Cellie said pertly.
"Oh, Cellie, you know your aunt was just thrilled with all the compliments she heard about you, " said Hallie.
"Sh-sh, You'll ruin my reputation as a rebel, Hal," Cellie replied. To the professor she said, "How's it going with the diary?
I though it was fascinating."
The professor said, "Well, I've only read partly into 1838. For a fellow who didn't learn to read or write until he was almost forty, my ancestor had a way with words, no doubt of that."
"It must run in the family. Well," said Cellie, who'd begun to pick up the empty donut trays, "I'd best be cleaning up."
Hallie said, "Me, too, I guess. I'll see you at home, Uncle Elliot." She threw away cups that had been left on the cafeteria tables.
Elliot said to Cellie, "tell your aunt I'll be stopping by tomorrow." He smiled and waved as he went out the door. Cellie felt uncomfortable, thinking about what he would soon read in Ben's diary. She'd considered cutting that page out, but she believed he migh be able to tell that it was a recent defacement--after all, Ben's preferred method of self-censorship was to spill ink all over what he'd just written. Well, it would just have to stand. Hopefully, it would be as Barnabas said: Elliot would think that Ben had been rambling.
Barnabas....that reminded her! She would have to go to see him, to tell him about the latest appearance of Sarah. She would have to get David to make sure Willie wasn't around when she went either to the Old House, or the Antique shoppe. David had told her that Willie didn't understand why she was avoiding him at this time. He kept coming up her checkout line at the Superette. He didn't say anything, but he looked hurt, and Cellie felt a sickening wave of anguish--- whether his or hers she could no longer tell. The standoff would have to end soon, she knew. She'd gone out with a couple of boys from her classes, and found herself longing for Willie every minute. "I just need a little more time to be sure", she thought.
It was Sunday afternoon. Julia and Cellie were visiting Barnabas at the Old House. (Elliot had told Julia that he didn't mind if she visited Barnabas once in a while, and he'd gone out of town with Hallie for the day.) Barnabas finally had an opportunity to show his home to Cellie. Cellie thought that Barnabas had made the best use of the space he had available; the furniture and bric-a-brac truly fitted the period that the house had been in full use.
Barnabas had told Cellie that most of the furniture had been stored in the attics and cellars of Collinwood, and that he'd gone to a great deal of expense having them repaired and refinished. "It's not something we recommend for antiques that are for collection purposes," he said. "Many collectors prefer the authenticity of patinas and scratches on original surfaces. But these are for my use, and I like having them look as much as they must have when they were new. After all," he said, smiling, "they may be considered decorative, but they were created for practical functions."
The showpiece of the Old House, aside from the parlor, was a large bedroom, decorated with the life-size portrait of a beautiful , dark-haired young woman in an Empire-style wedding dress. Cellie read the brass nameplate: "Josette Du Pres Collins 1776-1797". This was the unhappy ex-fiancee of the first Barnabas Collins, whom David had told her about. "Geez, " she thought, "Imagine having so much going for you, and still being so miserable you wanted to snuff yourself at age twenty-one." Cellie thought she felt a fuzzy "rainbow spell" coming on, and tried to shake it off. "It must be the atmosphere--- I don't see any ghosts. Or maybe it's coming from Barnabas," she pondered. She asked him, "Why did you go all out restoring this room? I mean, I love it, but nobody's going to use it. It's too nice." Cellie had the feeling Barnabas would evade a direct answer, as he'd done several times before. She believed his reply proved her right.
Barnabas hesitated before he spoke. "Well, Cellie, before I came to live here, I had read so many descriptions of this house, and this room.... Actually, when I came here, it was the most intact room in the house. Most of this furniture was already here, and, according to the very thorough household inventories they kept in those days, all of it had belonged to Josette Collins. This portrait originally hung in the parlor, where mine is now. It seemed appropriate to preserve such a complete set of what amounted to relics of a tragically short life, in this manner."
Cellie asked, "What do you think will become of these things....eventually?" She hated to say, "When you die." Barnabas guessed her thought.
"Since there seems to be no shortage of antique furniture at Collinwood, I may end up leaving at least some of these items to the local Historical Society, or even a state museum. Of course, I may yet find someone" (he was gazing fondly at Cellie at this point) "who appreciates them as much as I do, and who is willing to keep the collection basically intact."
Cellie knew perfectly well he meant her. It would be quite an honor, though she didn't expect to live in a large enough place to keep them for many years to come. Besides, they belonged here, with the bittersweet memories of their lovely, lost owner. So she said, "Well, maybe Carolyn would be interested in keeping this up. I've heard her talk about this room. Or maybe David will settle down one day, and develop an interest that goes beyond cheerfully rehashing old family scandals."
Barnabas chuckled. "Then again," he said, "maybe one of them will bring home a spouse who cares for mementoes of a time long gone."
Cellie suspected he meant for her to marry David, and then live here and take over. "It would certainly be neat to live here and have all this gorgeous stuff, even if I have to dust from sun-up to sun-down, but to have to marry David for the privilege? No way," she thought. She wondered if Barnabas would be so eager to make her the custodian if she married Willie. After all, Willie had lived in this house for years, and still came back frequently to help maintain it, and everything was still here. "But maybe Will wouldn't want to have anything to do with this stuff if he didn't have Barnabas to order him around," Cellie thought ruefully, "and he probably wouldn't be too thrilled if I wanted to take care of it, either."
She and Barnabas went downstairs, to where Julia was sitting in the parlor, reading the paper, and drinking coffee. "She sure looks at home here," Cellie thought.
Julia lowered her paper, and smiled at them. "Well, Cellie, how did you like it?" she asked.
"To tell the truth, I like it a whole lot better than Collinwood. It's cozier and less confusing, and everything in here has a place and a purpose. Just what a classic Colonial home should be, really."
Barnabas said, "My father used to say, 'Waste not, want not.' Of course he carried it to extremes---I don't think he'd approve of the way I'm keeping Josette's room, so full and yet so empty."
Cellie said, "Maybe that room is necessary. Everyone needs a space in their home with a little more heart and soul than the utility areas. This room is beautiful, but it's very public." She continued, in a sadder voice, "I hope you don't think that I'm trying to sound like a know-it-all. But I grew up in a series of modern, boring tract houses, and believe me, it's hard to find a soulful spot in a split-level ranch."
Julia said, "Sometimes you have to make a space. My grandparents lived for forty years in an apartment building that became a tenement. My father wanted them to move near us, but they didn't want to leave the neighborhood. It was quite an ugly building, but their flat was full of stuff from the old country, my grandmother's needlework, my grandfather's piano. And since they lived on the ground floor, they were allowed to plant a tiny flower garden in the front yard. It was the most comfortable place I'd ever been to in my life, until I visited this house."
Cellie asked, "Where was the most soulful spot?"
"Well, it was all quite 'soulful', compared to where we were living, but the best place was in the main stairwell. At the peak of the roof, there was a large skylight window, made with big pieces of colored glass. Gold, red, blue.... if I stood there at noontime, the sun shone straight down through the glass, and the colors would be all around me. My mother thought I was silly when she asked me what I was doing, and I told her I was turning into an angel."
"You know what's kind of funny?" Cellie said. "I was always more comfortable at the home of Grandma Muriel, your mother, Aunt Jule."
Barnabas had been sitting quietly during this exchange, apparently savoring the opportunity to learn more about these two women he cared so much about. He finally spoke. "You know, until Cellie put it so beautifully, I hadn't really come up with a satisfactory answer to those who've asked me why I keep this place the way I do, now that I'm alone here, and things that happened here in the past.... " his voice trailed off.
Cellie thought about all the pasts Barnabas and Julia had been through. Why couldn't they get things together, here and now, in this house full of "soul?" Souls---now she remembered.
She knew that Barnabas had told her aunt about her "encounter," so she simply announced to both of them, "I saw Sarah again---at the Antique Shoppe."
Both Barnabas and Julia leaned forward in their seats. "When was that?" asked Barnabas.
"Last week, when I came over to show Carolyn my new, uh, hairstyle. I hung out to stock shelves while she went out to get another box of stuff. Nobody else was there. I had my back turned, and I heard her speak. I looked, and there she was, the same as at Collinwood. But talking, and she had a lot to say."
"What, exactly, did she tell you?" Julia inquired, uneasily.
Cellie wondered at her aunt's discomfort. "Well, she told me what I expected, that she was looking around for her brother. I said I didn't think I could help her out. She told me about when the shoppe was a blacksmithy, and how her cousin married the blacksmith's daughter. She was very definite about one thing."
"And what was that?" This from Barnabas, who also appeared anxious.
"She said she didn't like it when someone she loved hurt someone. She 'went away' from Collinwood for a while when she saw her cousin abuse his wife. That sounded like it was a habit with her. After all, she died because there was something she couldn't face---maybe about her brother."
"Well, you must remember, she was barely eleven then, and a most sensitive child, who had been very sheltered," said Barnabas in a sad voice.
"She wasn't too sheltered to know the words to 'Greensleeves'," Cellie smiled. "We sang together a little, until Carolyn came in and Sarah disappeared. Barnabas, why does she come to me? Why doesn't she appear to you? I mean, you're her relative, not me. That would be the most logical thing, if ghosts had any logic."
Barnabas didn't reply right away. Then he gave a rather cryptic answer. "Perhaps she considers you an intermediary, or a pathfinder. She may identify with you in some way. She came to David when he was a very troubled child, and you've certainly had your share of problems."
"I know she likes my singing," Cellie said. "Seriously, though, she's been seeking her brother for two centuries. What can I do? I'm certainly learning a lot about how you solve problems around here, but you're both closer to the situation than I'll ever be."
Julia said, "Perhaps we're too close. Your role could be to provide a fresh approach, an objective viewpoint. Maybe even a hidden talent."
Cellie became uneasy. She didn't know how far she could stretch her "hidden talent" to help a troubled spirit (however deserving), when she became physically ill from "connecting" with a troubled person (much as she loved that person.)
Barnabas rose from his chair, and said, "Well, apparently there's no hurry to solve this mystery. We'll wait and watch. When she came the last time, Sarah did not reveal immediately the purpose of her appearances, which was to protect and prevent harm to David and .... others. So, Cellie, don't worry if she keeps coming to you---at least she won't harm you. And keep us informed." He looked at his watch. "They're expecting us at Collinwood in a half-hour. If we start out now, it will still be light enough to go by way of Widow's Hill, if you still want to, Cellie."
Cellie was already at the door, coat in hand. "Okay, Barnabas, but first I have to get my binoculars from Aunt Jule's car." She went out the door.
Barnabas said quietly, "The time is coming sooner than we expected, when we will have to share the less savory aspects of our association. And I will be terribly sorry when it arrives. She is very dear to both of us, and I would hate it if the truth turned her against either of us."
"We're lucky, I suppose, that Sarah didn't come out and tell her the real reason she hasn't seen her brother lately," Julia sighed. "She died because she learned the truth about you, and she's stayed away from you because--"
"Because of all the terrible things I had done to Maggie and Willie and others.... Because I made you participate in the killing of Dr. Woodard. And lastly, because I was about to to kill YOU. You can say it, Julia."
"That was a long time ago. We were at cross purposes then." Julia fell silent as she thought about all SHE had done to Maggie, to Willie and "others" at Barnabas's behest.... The look on Dave Woodard's face in his last moments--- defiance, contempt for one who had been his friend and colleague, alternating with terror.... Then Julia stubbed the thought as firmly as a spent, smoldering cigarette. It was a discipline of minimalism and euphemism, honed in desperation, now nearly second nature since she and Barnabas had distanced themselves from these earlier events and sought a higher purpose. The method worked, though was not enough to stave away all doubts....
She continued, "We both have a lot to answer for from that time. You know I've forgiven you for all that. You've tried tpo make amends. I don't know why it's taken Sarah so long to return to you. You are probably more like the brother she remembers now."
`"Maybe she needs proof, and she believes Cellie can provide it. It's almost too much to ask of her. You didn't bring her to Collinsport to become involved in all this. And I would never have expected it."
"Well, it's happened. There must be a reason."
Cellie poked her head in the door, to see if Barnabas and Julia were ready to go. They walked along a short distance behind Cellie. Julia said, "By the way, Barnabas, I've put off my wedding until the first week of December. Elliot and I want to know if you'll still be coming to the reception. I'll understand if you don't feel that you can, but we'll miss you, especially Cellie."
Barnabas answered, "Of course, I'll come. I shouldn't like to disappoint you, Elliot, or Cellie."
They arrived at the infamous cliff, the site of many deaths over the years. The new guardrail was a welcome sight. Cellie was already standing there, with her binoculars, looking out towards a distant lighthouse.
Barnabas put his arm around the shoulders of his dearest friend, and both watched the girl. Anyone walking by, who didn't know them, might have thought they were a couple of fond parents out with their daughter.
* * * * * * * * * * *
There were only half-days of school during Thanksgiving week. And those days were mostly given over to decoration and pep rallies for the central event of the Collinsport athletic calendar, the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game pitting the Thunderbolts against the Ellsworth Wolverines. Since there was little in the way of serious classwork going on, most of the parents tolerated their high schoolers going out during the week. So, when Cellie asked Julia if she could go out on Tuesday with David, Julia didn't mind--- she was going over to Elliot's house anyway.
David met Cellie at the Koffeehaus. The place was full of high school kids, but it wasn't too noisy. Pavlos greeted them, and asked if the "Fantastic Flame" would be performing that night. Cellie shook her head no. She said to David, "I can't thank you enough for playing along tonight. I have to see Will tonight, and try to fix things up between us, before I go to Boston."
"Well, from the way he sounded on the phone, I don't think Willie will be all that happy to see you, after you've been avoiding him like poison ivy for almost three weeks," commented David. "I'll hang around outside the Antique Shoppe for a while until you're safely---and I use that term loosely---negotiating with Willie. I'll be back here by ten, so it will look like we spent the time together. This whole thing really bothers me, Torchtop. Please be careful around Willie---'feet on the floor, eyes on the door.' For once, I actually agree with Hallie."
"I'm sorry I've put you to all the trouble, David." Cellie sounded like she was going to cry. "I have to see him, you know?" She tried change to a happier subject. "So it's working out, you and Annette?"
"Yeah, for once you picked a thoroughbred, Cellie. If she didn't have cheerleading practice tonight, you'd have had to come up with some other cover story for your little rendezvous." David saw a tear slide down Cellie's cheek, and began to feel sorry for being sarcastic. "Hey, Torchtop, cheer up. If it doesn't work out with Willie, we'll stick by you, me and Hallie." They got up from their booth, and walked out the door. David put his arm around his friend. They got into their cars, and drove around the block to the Antique Shoppe. They stopped at the corner to watch Carolyn get into her car. Barnabas's car was already gone. When Carolyn drove off, they parked near the back of the building. There was a fence around the back yard, but Cellie knew Willie had left the gate unlocked. David got out of the Hupmobile to watch her, as he'd promised.
Cellie went up to the kitchen window. She saw Willie take some food out of the oven. "Oh, Geez, did I get here too soon?" she looked at her watch. It was only seven, and David had told Willie seven-thirty. Well, she couldn't hang around out here like a prowler, and it was cold. She was going in. She signalled to David, who came up to keep an eye on her first few minutes with Willie. She tapped on the window. Willie, who looked annoyed at having to interrupt his dinner, let her in. David hung back, looking through the window. He saw Willie sitting back down to eat, and motioning to Cellie to sit next to him. David decided everything was cool, and got back in his car.
It was a good thing he didn't hear what Willie was saying. "You know, Cecily, I almost told David no when he said you wanted to see me. I'm too tired to play your kid game, trying to punish me what happened that night. Why are you crawling back to me? Didn't get enough thrills dating the high school boys?"
Cellie refused to cry, as she had on the night she'd fought with Jack. Her own emotions would cloud her ability to focus on Willie's. She tried to "read" him as she fought off the waves of nausea his anger brought on. She said, "I wasn't trying to punish you. I was scared when I found out what happened when I blacked out. I didn't know if being around you was making me sick. But I've been feeling a little sicker each day I didn't see you. Going out with those guys---none of us enjoyed it. All I wanted to do was see you."
"Well, I got tired of waiting around for you. I've been going out myself."
"Oh. Well. I guess that's fair," Cellie said sadly. "Find anyone new?"
"No." Willie stared at the table. Cellie finally found what she was looking for: his anger was dying down, and she could finally see the midnight blue of sadness, and a lot of red just floating around aimlessly.
She asked, "Do you want me to go? I'm not playing a game now.� I never was. I want to stay, but if I'm just bothering you, say so."
"No, Cecily, you can stay. It's not your fault---you were real upset when I got mad in Ellsworth, and now I'm getting mad at you here. No wonder you didn't want to be around me. I can't say it won't happen again, only that I won't ever hit you, or yell at you too much. That's why I used to break stuff, to keep from hitting people. It helps that you don't scream at me when I'm like that. I really calm down faster, when you're around. I just hated it when that guy said those things about you being too young for me, but maybe it's true." He pushed his plate away, and leaned on the table with his head in his hands.
Cellie put her arm around him. "You really thought a lot about this, too? Will, it's like I told David---it's only a big deal with other people. When I'm with you I feel like we're the same age---somewhere in between seventeen and thirty-three, some place where we speak the same language. Like we're in our own country, or something." She kissed his cheek. Willie pulled her onto his lap, and leaned his head on her shoulder.
Willie sighed. "I guess you're not too young if you can think all that up." He raised his head so he could kiss her. They held each other for a minute. Then he smiled at Cellie. He said, "Are you hungry? I'm some jerk, eating in front of you like that, and getting mad at you for being here."
"No, that's okay. I wouldn't want to take your dinner. I'll be eating a lot at my Mom's in Boston. We're taking the train down there tomorrow, my Aunt and I. But don't you worry, I'll be back. Will, what do you do for Holidays?"
"Carolyn always makes sure she brings something down from Collinwood for me. I make some stuff to go with it, and sometimes we'll eat here together. Maybe next year at this time, it'll be you and me, and we can have Carolyn, David, and Hallie if you want." They did get up so that he could get her coffee.
Cellie was back on Willie's lap. She sat straddling him, so they could hang onto each other. They'd gotten to the point where they'd stopped before---he was unbuttoning her blouse. This time she didn't stop him. He pulled it open. Then he paused for a minute. He said, quietly, "Cecily, I really want to take you up to my room." He kissed the base of her throat, and a little lower.
Cellie felt very warm. She whispered, "Let's go, then. Please."
Willie stopped again. "I don't know if I should. I didn't expect to be doing this anytime soon, and I didn't get any--uh--" he was searching for a nice way to say it "--rubbers, whatever." He looked sheepish.
"Oh, don't worry about that. I'm on the Pill."
"I'm on the Pill. For six months already. You won't need 'whatever.' "
Willie looked at her in disbelief. "What are you taking those things for? I thought you were---I was--"
Cellie kissed him. "You will be the first. Maybe the last, and all the in-betweens. It's just a fad among my gang back in Boston---We all went down to the clinic and got 'em, whether we needed 'em or not. My aunt doesn't know. See?" She reached into her purse, and took out what looked like a large compact. "Camouflage.� Like in the Army."� She opened it to reveal a round pill case.
Willie looked doubtful. "I don't know. You sure those things will do the trick?" He held her face close to his. "I want you, Cecily. But I don't want to get you knocked up. I love you. I don't want to get you into trouble."
"Will, I love you. Don't worry. Please." She clung to him, kissing his neck. Finally, they got up, and he put his arm around her as they went up the stairs.
Cellie looked around Willie's room when he turned on the small bedside lamp. He kept things very neat, not that he had much. He didn't have any books around, though she saw some magazines. To her relief, they didn't look like dirty magazines. The closet was open. There weren't too many clothes hanging in there, though there was one new-looking suit, covered with plastic sheets from the cleaner's. ("Maybe that's what Will wore to his Mom's funeral," Cellie speculated.) He had some dog-eared snapshots stuck in the corners around his dresser mirror. There was a small television on a chair in the corner. The double bed, left over, with the other furniture, from the previous owners, had a plain brown blanket thrown across it. ("This could be the Shoppe showroom for Early American Motel Decor," Cellie thought.)
Willie lay down, and Cellie, stretching out beside him, leaned over him. She gently traced the lines in his face with her finger. He draped her hair all around. "It's like we're in a tent, and nobody can see us," he whispered, as he pulled her down closer, easing the open blouse from her shoulders. Every now and then, Cellie would think how odd it was, how much she enjoyed all the kissing and touching that Willie was doing, when she'd found similar advances by the young boys she'd dated so intrusive and obnoxious. She was amazed at herself for responding in kind, unbuttoning his shirt, and reaching for his zipper, without feeling embarrassed.
Perhaps it had to do with the fact that Willie didn't seem to be in any hurry. He would stop from time to time, and look at her in a way that made her think he almost couldn't believe he'd gotten this far with her. Along with all the other sensations and colors Cellie was experiencing, she detected in Willie, a sort of uneasiness, an uncertainty. His hands actually shook a little, at first, when he caressed her. She couldn't tell if he was worried about pleasing her, or if he was having moral qualms. Then she would pull him down, gently guiding his hands, and he would get back to where he left off.
After a while, Willie turned off the light. There was a little light coming from the stairwell from those he'd left on in the shoppe downstairs. Cellie saw only the silhouette of his head above hers. He whispered in her ear, "If I do something that hurts you or scares you, just tell me. I swear I'll stop." She believed he was saying this as much for his benefit as for hers. Still, it gave her the courage not to tell him to stop, even when, a little while later, she had to bite her lip to keep from crying out when she felt the pain.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Willie knew Cellie was uncomfortable. He could vaguely remember the last time he'd been with a virgin, years before he even met Jason. That girl had been around Cellie's age, and thought she was ready, but he had been younger, too, and not as patient (or loving, either.) The girl ultimately objected to his methods, complained to her parents, and ensured that Willie could never again visit the state of Missouri, once he escaped the jail where he'd been held.
So, this time, he had been going along, as slowly and gently as he could, but he could feel Cellie tense up and breathe in little gasps. He could just make out her surprised grimace in the dim light. These things scared Willie, reminding him as they did of that long-ago time, and shook his brittle confidence, recalling a more recent incident, which threatened to bring matters to an abrupt and embarrassing halt. He was afraid to go on, for fear of hurting her, yet he was also afraid to stop....
But Cellie didn't say anything, and when Willie hesitated, she held him closer until he continued. (Something the girl in Missouri certainly never did!) Finally, he was clear of the hurtful distractions. A surprisingly soothing sensation spread over his mind, and eased his tension....
Afterward, he turned on the bedside lamp. He put his arm around her, and she crawled into her favorite position, curled against him, her head almost tucked under his chin. He played with her hair. He thought it was much nicer now---softer, less snarly. Then he stroked her face, her arm, her back, down to her hips.... He studied the contrast of her smooth shell-white skin against his rough tan. He kissed her and asked, fighting to sound nonchalant, "How was it?"
Cellie was honest. "It was kind of tough at first, but it got better," she sighed. "I still love you even if it hurts."
Willie said, "It'll get better as we go on. If you want to, I mean. It's okay if you don't want to, right away."
Cellie smiled. "Oh, just give me ten minutes." When Willie had leaned away from her to turn the lamp off before, she had noticed a series of small scars across his back. Now she noticed there was a similar one on his chest. The girl touched it delicately.
"Where they shot me that time," was Willie's answer to her unspoken question.
"My God, Will, how many times did they shoot you?" Cellie was indignant. "It looked like there were at least five on your back."
"I don't know. I guess they shot me that many times when I was running away. Some of them just grazed me. This one"--- he indicated the cicatrice on his chest---" went clean through. They shot me at least twice more after I fell and was still trying to crawl away. After, I was lying on the ground, bleeding half to death, and I heard two cops above my head, talking, saying 'why don't we just finish him off, so the state doesn't have to waste the dough fixing him up'."
"What the hell did they think they were talking about? It wasn't as if you killed the girl! You and that other guy---damn him--- hurt her, for sure. But she got away and got better, right? Damn those local yokel two-bit rent-a-cops." Cellie began to cry. Willie pulled her closer, until her face touched his. Cellie sniffled a little and asked, "Will, do they still hurt at all?"
"Sometimes. There was one bullet they just couldn't get out, but they claimed it wouldn't give me much trouble. That does bother me from time to time. It hurts mostly where they hit the bones. I feel them when it's very cold or it rains."
"Do they hurt now?"
"No, not when I'm here like this with you." Willie reached out to turn off the light again---then changed his mind. He felt safer with the light on, now. He whispered, "I think your ten minutes are up."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Willie had dozed off. He woke up suddenly. He realized he was alone in the bed. He turned on the light. Cellie and her clothes were gone. He thought that was strange, that she'd just leave without telling him. Maybe David had come back. He checked his alarm clock. It was only a few minutes after nine. He got up, pulling on his clothes as he went around the rooms upstairs, calling her name. He went down to the kitchen.
He saw that her suede jacket was still hanging on the chair where she'd put it when she first came in. It was cold in the kitchen. Then he noticed the door was open. There was Cellie, in her thin jeans and gauzy blouse, standing on the porch in the cold November night, staring at the sky. He took her coat outside, and draped it over her shoulders. "Cecily," he said, "what are you doing out here? You'll catch your death." He held her from behind, his face against her hair. She wasn't so much shivering as vibrating.
"I just got too warm after a while. I needed to feel some cold air on my skin." She sighed. "I was just wondering, where do we go from here?"
Willie didn't like to be put on the spot, but he thought she deserved an answer. "Cecily, I hadn't really thought about the future, but I love you a lot. More than anybody else before. Not just because of what we were doing, but nobody ever talked to me like you, without talking down to me, and you always treat me like I'm more than a waste of space. It's almost like you respect me." He whispered, "When I wanted you, you wanted me back, and you weren't afraid."
Cellie turned to face him. "You didn't try to force yourself on me, like Jack, or like the stories I sometimes hear about you around town. You let me make up my own mind about what we were going to do. You were so careful with me. So gentle. The first time, anyway." She smiled, and leaned back against him. "And nobody ever talked to me like you do either. You get angry and sad and stuff, but you don't really duck my questions or tell me a lot of extra things in order to evade the questions, or joke around when it's not fitting. It's like you respect me! I love you an awful lot."
Willie said, "We'll see how we're doing in a few months. If we're still getting along this good, I'll marry you the minute you turn eighteen, okay?"
Cellie replied, "Could I at least finish school first? I don't think they let people go to regular classes if they're married. I mean, if you don't mind waiting a couple more months. Then I'll really have time to help you with your G.E.D."
"Sure. Why not? I'll even help put you through College if I have to. I don't mind having a wife with brains, if she's as nice as you." He pushed her hair aside, and kissed her ear. He fiddled with the tiny rhinestone stud in her earlobe. "I'm going to get you a special ring to wear, starting on your next birthday. What ring size do you wear?"
"Seven. I like my birthstone best. An aquamarine. It's green-blue, like my turquoise dress."
Willie said, "I'll have to write this all down."
Cellie said, "Since we're getting married, there's something you should know about me, Will."
He stiffened. "What, are you sick or in some kind of trouble I don't know about?"
"No, I'm not sick, or in a fix." Cellie smiled. "Not exactly, anyway. I have what you might call a little talent. It's a very on-and-off sort of talent, but I'm working on it, and it seems to work pretty well with you."
"I'm almost afraid to ask," Willie said, chuckling.
"It's not bad. It's hard to explain. Remember the night I was alone with Barnabas, and I came out looking for you?"
"Yeah. You had a 'feeling', you said. What are you, psychic? If you are, get in line. There must be a dozen psychic types in and around Collinsport."
"Not quite. I don't do futures, or minds. I do emotions. When Barnabas kissed me, I had a dreadful pain in my gut, and when I closed my eyes I saw fiery colors. I'd had that sensation before, around you. Your jealousy was so intense, I could feel it through the window. Even before Barnabas told me you were around, I suspected it."
"Is that why you passed out when you were driving?" Willie seemed to accept all this at face value. Maybe he had a suspicion, too.
"I think maybe so. I was dead-set on breaking off with you. It was so painful, for both of us, my mind, like, shorted out or something. It's very strong with you. That's one reason why I wasn't afraid of you, and maybe why I can calm you down sometimes. I don't have a serene personality, so there must be something else about me that is relaxing to you when you're really upset."
"How was it when we were---upstairs?"
"Well, I was really into my sensations as much as yours. I saw a lot of Red colors---that's love to me, and Orange---that's, uh, lust. We were very, very orange. But I could sense that yours was flickering. I wanted to help you somehow."
Willie didn't want to admit to the doubts that had plagued him, but she already knew, and she wasn't mad, or disgusted. "I guess you did, Cecily."
"If I did, it must have been unconscious. I've never actually heard that I had an external effect on anyone before. Still, I WAS clear most of the time. It's not like a faucet, that I can turn it on or off. Some people, like Barnabas, are very hard to read. He only gets "readable" when he's near my aunt, or in that Josette's room."
Willie said, "That figures. Someday, you'll find out how much that room means to him, and not just for the stuff in it." He sounded bitter.
Cellie said, "I know there's something strange about Barnabas. Can't you tell me about it, Will?" He had gotten very quiet. She sensed the return of his habitual fear and anxiety. It frustrated her, but she knew Willie had that peculiar strained relationship with Barnabas. It was the only subject he avoided talking about with her; perhaps he didn't trust her enough, because she wasn't afraid to show Barnabas affection. Someday, she hoped to make Willie understand he was really first with her in everything, and not just in bed. Pursuing that train of thought brought on a new worry. "Maybe it's still too soon to ask about that, I guess," Cellie admitted. "I haven't even thought about how it will be when we have to face Barnabas and my aunt, and keep quiet about our new--- our new situation, until we can present them with a no-doubt-about-it signed, sealed marriage certificate. I think I can pull it off. But you---"
"I'll be okay," Willie replied, hastily. "I won't be seeing Barnabas till Friday anyway, so I have some time to get used to it myself. He can kind of 'see through me', you might say, but if I keep busy someplace else, and don't look him in the eye too much.... I know!" he said, with a burst of confidence. "If he notices something's different about me, I'll tell him I heard from my old girlfriend. Even Julia might buy that. She doesn't come down here much, and I don't run into her at the Old House too often anymore. As for the other stuff," he continued, in a more serious tone, "I will tell you--- after we're married. Some things Barnabas and Julia will have to explain. It's real complicated, like science."
Cellie said, "Maybe I'll find out on my own. I've found out a lot of things, mostly about the Collinses, already. It's like finding buried treasure."
"Just don't go getting buried yourself, Cecily. If something happened to you, I don't know what I'd do." Willie turned her around, kissed her and nearly crushed her with his embrace. Just then, they saw David's car come down the street.
When Cellie went out to the street, David rolled down his window. He asked, without a trace of sarcasm, "How did it go with Willie?"
Cellie said, "I had my feet on the floor and my eyes on the door. Eventually."
The weekend trip to Boston had not been a success. Janice Hoffman was a good deal more clear-headed than she had been before her doctor started weaning her off the multitude of pills which had been living her life for her. She managed, with everyone's help, to have a decent turkey dinner. But she was still highly distractable, becoming upset when she overheard her children talking quietly about their father.
There had been no room for both Julia and Cellie at either Janice's apartment, or Ernest and Lillian's. So Cellie stayed with her mother. She was happy to hear her mother finally had a job, as a secretary at Boston U., but she worried when her mother acted as though she had a crush on her boss, whom she called by his first name, Justin.
Janice and Walter's divorce would be final in February, and Walter had promised to send Janice's share of the house-sale money by then. Walter didn't call to talk to his daughter, who hadn't seen him in over four months. When Cellie asked her mother why he didn't even call, Janice, looking stricken, said he was tied up, between handling a divorce for the wife of a Greek shipping magnate, and promoting his new book. Afterward, Ernest explained that their father was really in Cancun with his girlfriend.
On Friday, Cellie aroused nobody's suspicion when she took the bus
downtown; her destination was the clinic, where she got a fresh supply of birth-control pills. She went over to Ernest's flat. Lillian, a nurse, was on duty at the hospital. A young lawyer from the firm where Ernest was clerk, was visiting. His name was Tony Peterson, and he had come from Collinsport, where he'd had Julia as a client. He mentioned Carolyn---he'd dated her for a while some years back, and when Julia related how she'd been doing since her husband's death, he seemed concerned. Cellie thought she "saw"a little red when he talked about her, which quickly turned to bright pink when he spoke of his fiancee, Lee Anne, whom he was going to marry in January.
Julia and Cellie returned to Collinsport Saturday night. Julia's preparations for her wedding were the simplest: She and Elliot would be married at the courthouse by a Judge who was a friend of Elizabeth Stoddard's, then they would go up to Collinwood for a brief reception. Only Ernest would attend from Julia's side; Lillian had to work, and Janice wasn't up to traveling. Elliot had a couple of cousins who would be coming. Of course, all the Collinses, including Barnabas, would be present. During the week before the wedding, Julia and Cellie would be packing their belongings for removal to the bungalow, located closer to town. Both Cellie and Hallie were going to stay at Collinwood during Julia's and Elliot's week-long trip to Washington, where they were to spend part of their honeymoon attending a convention. ("Geez, how romantic. It's not even cherry-blossom season," Cellie thought.)
Cellie and Julia slaved away, packing boxes, with occasional help from David and his new girlfriend Annette, who also helped out at the Professor's house. One day, Carolyn showed up, accompanied by Willie. He and Cellie could hardly look at each other without blushing, so they avoided each other as best as they could in the small house. Once, when Carolyn and Julia were in Julia's room, packing clothes, Cellie and Willie went on the porch, hunkered down in the old loveseat, and engaged in a passionate, but brief, embrace in the cold November afternoon. "I can't wait for next week," he whispered. David had promised it would be easier to arrange meetings directly from Collinwood, while Elliot and Julia were away. Hallie would keep quiet as long as she didn't actually have to participate in another ruse.
Cellie kissed his ear, as he hid his face under her hair, nuzzling her neck. She hoped they couldn't be seen from the front window. Willie was just about to kiss her when they heard Carolyn come out of Julia's room, calling behind her, "I'm ready for some coffee, aren't you?" They jumped up, but fortunately, Carolyn turned into the kitchen before she could glimpse through the window.
Cellie whispered, "You don't think she saw us?"
Willie said, "I don't think so, but even if she did, she probably wouldn't tell Julia anyway. She'll be sure to give me hell, though, on the way back to the Shoppe, if she did. " He continued, "She's a lot like you, in a way, always thinking up new schemes to make me 'normal.' She must think you're part of the answer. I guess it keeps her from having to look for a new guy of her own."
"Oh, that reminds me. I met an old boyfriend of hers in Boston, Tony something-or-other. He's a lawyer with the firm my brother's clerking for. He talked about Carolyn like he kind of missed her, but he's engaged, darn it."
"Tony Peterson. I kind of remember him...." Willie's voice trailed of. "Well, you'll just have to keep looking out for someone, even if Carolyn doesn't. I feel sorry for her, in a way. Except for you, she's the only woman who's been decent to me lately."
Cellie and Willie went back in the house. Soon, the heaviest part of the packing was done.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Elliot had just dropped off Hallie at cheerleading practice on Thursday night. On the way back to his house, he drove by the bungalow, where he and Julia would take up residence as soon as they got back from Washington. Then, he stopped by the beach cottage to see his fiancee.
Julia was alone. Cellie had gone out with David and Annette, so that her aunt could have some privacy with her intended before the weddding. When Julia let Elliot in, she embraced him with more warmth than he was used to from her. It had taken a long time to get to this point with Julia. Elliot, while considered by his students and colleagues to be a bit stuffy, was known those closest to him as dedicated friend, compassionate and affectionate (in a shy way.) His late-life romance inspired him to be more spontaneous, but Julia was slow to respond. He had known for years about her feelings for Barnabas, even before he read the entry in his ancestor's diary. He did not think old Ben had been rambling, but took it as an account of a relationship that that had fizzled out some time ago. He and Julia had fewer problems expressing affection. He knew his love was greater than hers, but she was getting a little closer to him every day.
Then why did he feel so uneasy? He tried to tell himself it was simply a case of pre-wedding jitters, but that seemed too trivial an explanation for the doubts he experienced now. Maybe they should put off the wedding a little longer? He'd thought Julia was being too cautious when she'd told him to hold off till this, the first week of December. The plans were made, the bungalow was rented, everything was packed, the girls were ready to go.
Or were they? Elliot worried about that, too. It seemed as though Hallie and Cellie, while still friendly, had come to a parting of the ways, as if their work with each other was nearly finished. Hallie had developed enough self-confidence to work well in school, hold down her little job, and make new friends. She had even gone out, with a couple of the quieter boys she knew. She had told her uncle she might like to try attending an out-of-state college, just to see how she'd get along on her own. Cellie, the bolder of the two, had settled down a great deal, and had mentioned her desire to stay near the Collinsport area, by attending Orono. Elliot knew she was very attached to her aunt, and, lately, to Barnabas.
It always came back to Barnabas. Elliot wasn't used to thinking in terms of rivals or competition. That, he thought, was something one left behind with one's youth. But it was strange how being in love made one feel younger and more insecure. Elliot had always worked well with Barnabas during their delvings in the supernatural. It seemed, however, that something completely natural was about to come between them, whether they willed it or not.
"Julia, " he said, "are you sure about Saturday?"
Julia looked at her fiance with surprise. "Having doubts at this late hour, Elliot?"
"I'm sorry, dear. It's just that, sometimes, I think we've been approaching our wedding with too much detachment, as though it was an exam that had to be gone through to get a grade." He put his hands on her shoulders, and pulled her closer. They kissed lightly. Elliot held her for a minute. She seemed to relax with him, but she wasn't embracing him back with the whole-heartedness he tried to convey to her. He said, "There's just so much I need to talk to you about, personal things, that we've avoided up to now. You know how much I love you. I want to make you happy."
"I am happy. We'll have plenty of time for personal talk."
"Julia, there are some things we've never discussed. Like having children, for example."
"I just thought that wouldn't be an issue. We're both mid--mature, and we're quite tied up with our careers. Just your companionship is enough for me."
"Is it beyond the realm of possibility for us, Julia? I'm not out to replenish the Stokes family tree, but if something happened, even by accident, nothing would make me happier."
Julia blushed. "No, I wouldn't say it's completely out of the question. I never---I thought dealing with two teenaged nieces would satisfy the family urge." She eased her way out of the uncomfortable subject. "Hallie's easy enough to get along with, but Cellie keeps me hopping. She's calmed down quite a bit, though, I must say. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was in love, but if she is, it's with the area, the way of life here."
Elliot knew he was being stonewalled, but, as Julia said, they'd have time for deep personal talk soon. He said, "We'll probably be seeing more of her than my niece, if Hallie insists on an out-of-state college, and Cellie goes to Orono. If it wasn't considered nepotism, I'd be delighted to have her in one of my classes. I understand she's even interested in some of our more esoteric pursuits."
"I leave that part of her education to Barnabas. They have a real bond. I hope that doesn't bother you too much, Elliot."
"Of course not, Julia." (But of course it did.) "I get along with Cellie quite well myself. I'm grateful to her for helping with Hallie and I appreciated it when she found Ben's final diary. She has a gift for dealing with people. Look at David. He was almost surly for a while, but Cellie even managed to get him to lighten up."
"I wish it would go further in the future. David's what we used to call a 'fine catch.' Or were you hoping he'd interest himself in Hallie?"
Elliot chuckled. "Oh, good heavens, no. Hallie's made it clear she prefers an entirely different sort of young man. I guess David locked her in one too many closets during her stay at Collinwood. Cellie, on the other hand, would probably rise to the challenge of a locked closet, like Houdini." He took Julia's hand. "We may be on our own sooner than we think, when Cellie decides what she wants to do with her life."
Julia smiled, a little sadly. "On our own. It makes us sound like the youngsters in this case, " she commented. "Are you still worried about Saturday anymore, Elliot? I'm not."
"No, Julia. I'm sure everything will work out as it should."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Cellie had left David and Annette at the Koffeehaus, where she'd sung a far less randy Janis Joplin song to mild applause.
"Don't you know, when you're loving anybody,
You're taking a gamble on getting a little sorrow.
But then, who cares, Baby?
'Cause we may not be here, tomorrow.
So if someone comes along,
Who's going to give you love and affection,
I'd say, 'Get it while you can'...."
Pavlos, as always, tried to convince her to stay, but Cellie wanted to see Barnabas one last time before the wedding. She drove directly to the Old House. She peeked in the front window. Barnabas sat, staring at the fire. She knocked on the door.
Barnabas opened it, and gazed at Cellie with a forlorn expression.
Cellie didn't set out to "read" him, but his unhappiness gave her a heavy sensation in her chest.� The girl embraced him right there on the doorstep, in the chilly night air.
"Cellie, come in." He led her to the loveseat. They sat together, hand-in-hand. She cried a little. "Don't worry about me," he continued. "This is best for everyone. You want your aunt to be happy, don't you?"
"Yes, but I don't think she'll be really happy with the Professor. And you won't be happy, and that hurts me, thinking of you here, alone in this house full of someone else's memories."
Barnabas wondered if this was a good time to tell her the truth. But she was terribly upset. Perhaps he would in the next week, when she had a chance to adjust to the new situation. He put his arm around her. "I'll still have you to console me," he said. "And Carolyn had an interesting suggestion for a little part-time job for you at the Antique Shoppe, if you're interested."
Cellie's tear-filled eyes lit up. "What is it? I told her I wanted to work there, if you had something for me to do."
"She thought it would be nice, during this Christmas season, to serve coffee and donuts to our customers, to encourage them to spend extra time at the store. She's talked to some of them, and there is a demand for that coffee you and Willie love so much. So Carolyn went out and bought an espresso urn, and cleared out a space near the kitchen."
"You're sure people won't just be coming in, eating you out of your profits, and not buying anything?"
"I can hear my father's voice in yours. We're charging a nominal amount for the coffee and donuts, to be refunded if the person buys something. We've tried it for a week, and it's working out just fine. Don't worry, there's more to the job than being a waitress. I'd like to teach you something about the business, to talk knowledgeably about the merchandise to the coffee drinkers. You could find out what they want, and show them.� I expect you to learn to sell. You'll get a commission for every sale you make. It won't seem like much at first, compared to the Superette, but the experience would be invaluable to you later on. And it's only for a couple of weeks. If you find you don't care for it, you can probably go back to the Superette."
Cellie said, "I have to check with my aunt. And Cheryl, the head cashier, will be mad. She needs me to train all these temp cashiers she hired for Christmas. But we don't have a lot of serious schoolwork this month. I'll have more free time after school. Maybe I could work out a deal to come in a couple of days for Cheryl, and the rest of the days for you." Of course, she wanted to work at the antique store, for more than just the experience. She was looking forward to sneaking around corners with Willie.
Barnabas said, "I'll talk to you about this again, at the reception." He sighed. "That, at least, will distract me from the event."
"Barnabas, why are you going at all? You'll feel terrible, you're already feeling sorry for yourself. I just don't get this. You refuse to say anything. Is this your punishment? For what? Martyrdom just isn't all it's cracked up to be."
"Your aunt, aside from my other feelings for her, is my best friend. We both have to believe this is the best thing to happen for Julia. And as for martyrdom.... Someday I will tell you a great deal about what one man has to atone for."
Cellie considered. Barnabas, Julia, Willie.... There was a fearful secret there. She hoped she'd have the strength to deal with the time-bomb of knowledge when it was dropped on her lap.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Julia and Elliot's wedding day arrived. It had snowed a little Friday night, but the skies and the roads were clear on Saturday morning. Cellie was fascinated by the sight of snow on the sandy beach below the cottage. Her bags were packed for hers and Hallie's stay at Collinwood. Only a few essential pieces of furniture remained; these had already been in the cottage when Julia moved in, and they were intended for the next tenants, who would be arriving in January.
Cellie was dressed in the frock she now referred to as "Old Faithful"---that turquoise dress, and with dark stockings. In spite of Cellie's misgivings about the wedding, she overcame them enough to help Julia pick out a wedding dress. If it had been up to Julia, she would have worn the rose blouse and grey skirt, or bought another business-type outfit. Cellie had other ideas. Brewsters', it turned out, had a well-stocked bridal department. Cellie picked out a pale silver-grey dressy two-piece suit, trimmed with lace at the sleeves and collar, small haircombs decorated with small silvery flowers, and matching shoes. "Elliot will just fall over when he sees you in this stuff," Cellie insisted. Julia agreed. They even got a silk bouquet with silvery-white flowers.
Julia and Cellie arrived at the courthouse at eleven. Cellie, who was used to the usual Greco-Roman Revival facades of most courthouses, was surprised to see a modest two-story white structure of wood with a granite foundation. There was a pretty granite statue of blind Justice with her scales in the tiny yard in front of the courthouse, but other than that, there was little to distinguish the building from a large farmhouse. Julia told her that most of the courthouse was at least two hundred years old, and that parts of the courtroom proper were once part of a meetinghouse that was almost three centuries old, the site of early witch trials. Cellie thought it was wonderful that the townspeople saw fit to preserve the building in its original form.
"It almost wasn't saved at all," Julia explained. "An anonymous donor and the State Historical Society came through at the last possible minute, just as the wrecking ball was about to swing, and after a lot of the original fixtures had been stripped. Still, the place was brought back almost to its original form, with suitable replicas of the missing knobs and lamps. Barnabas sold the restorers many of the parts, probably at cost, if I know him. He was eager to see the project go forth. So was Elizabeth, once she saw how well it was working out. She also contributed funds, and provided the statue in time for the re-opening ceremonies."
The aunt and niece knocked on a heavy oaken door with a name-plate that read "Judge Harlen James." ("He has a last name for a first name, and a first name for a last name," Cellie thought.) The Judge, a short fellow with an attractive shock of iron-grey hair, opened the door for them. Elliot, Hallie, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Ernest Hoffman (Cellie's tall, look-alike brother) were already present. Elizabeth and Ernest were the witnesses. The Judge launched right into the marriage proceedings. He read slowly and deliberately. Hallie, who had a small camera, took a couple of pictures. Elliot made his responses hesitantly. Julia sounded like she was forcing herself.
Cellie began to have a great, unpleasant sensation, from all the negative emotions emanating from the bridal couple. She focused on her Aunt. Julia was generating a lot of crazy colors--red, green, blue-violet--was that fear? She thought of Barnabas, as she looked at Julia. "Don't do this," she longed to say. "Please...." Julia looked right into her niece's eyes at one point. The girl felt like her stomach was about to explode. She filled her mind with her aunt, the way it was filled with thoughts of Willie most of the time. The judge got to the point where he asked if anyone objected to the marriage. Cellie held her peace.
But Julia grabbed her abdomen, and groaned, as though she was having appendicitis. The wedding stopped. Elliot was helping Julia to a chair. Cellie rushed to her aunt, tears running from her eyes. Julia looked dreadfully ill. She whispered to her niece, "Get me to the ladies' room."
Cellie put her arm around Julia, and was directed down a short back hall to the restroom. The girl stood in the tiny anteroom of the ladies' lounge, her own hot cheek against the cool tiles, as her aunt retched violently in the lavatory. Julia emerged, and Cellie sat her down on the old leather couch in the anteroom. She wet a paper towel with the coldest water she could coax from the faucet, and wiped her aunt's hot face. "Lay your face against the tiles, Aunt Jule. It'll cool you off," she suggested. "I'll bet they're calling a doctor for you right now. How do you feel?"
"I don't think that will be necessary," Julia croaked. "All of a sudden, I feel better. " They could hear Elliot's voice as he knocked on the door, calling to see if Julia was alright, that a doctor had arrived and was waiting to see her. Cellie peaked out the door. She recognized the white-haired woman outside, Dr. Virginia Hurley, Julia's physician. The girl stepped outside the lounge as Dr. Hurley went in.
Elliot paced up and down the hall. There were tears in his eyes; he was certainly worried about Julia. Cellie couldn't get a clear fix on what he was feeling; she wondered if he would insist on completing the ceremony, even if the festivities were canceled. Cellie was pondering her role in this disaster. She began to lose her own self-control as she realized that she caused her aunt's attack. Her suspicion was confirmed by Dr. Hurley's assessment of the situation, when she emerged from the ladies' room fifteen minutes later.
"I couldn't find anything wrong in this preliminary examination. I'm going to bring her to the hospital for observation tonight. If we don't find anything with our tests, she'll be home tomorrow."
Elliot, who had been joined by Elizabeth, asked if he could see Julia for a minute before they left. Dr. Hurley nodded assent, and, with some embarassed hesitation, Elliot knocked on the door, and was admitted by Julia.
Elizabeth turned to Cellie. "Of course you'll still be coming home with me tonight. Your aunt too, when she's out of the hospital.� I don't know what Elliot's and Hallie's plans are."
She found out quickly enough. Elliot came out of the ladies room. His eyes were red-rimmed. He whispered something to Elizabeth. She patted him on the shoulder, murmurring, "I'm so sorry. Of course I understand. I'll see you and Hallie in a few days." Elliot looked at Cellie with dumb misery. She felt awful. She went up to him, and hugged him. He kissed her on the cheek, and shambled down the hall. Hallie came to him, and took his arm.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Julia and Cellie were back in the cottage on Tuesday night. Some of their furniture had been brought back from the bungalow. Their future plans were in limbo; they still had to be out of the cottage by the end of the year, and Julia didn't want to move into the bungalow, as Elliot had offered. There was a chance, if they couldn't get out of the lease, that they could sub-let the place.
Cellie couldn't look Hallie in the eye at school, when they both returned there on Tuesday. They both cried; Hallie from loss, Cellie from guilt. David tried to bridge the gap, but the wound was too fresh. Cellie wondered what Barnabas was thinking. He had tactfully avoided Collinwood when the girl, and then Julia, came for their brief stay.
Cellie sat in the parlor of the cottage that evening. Julia wandered in and out of her room aimlessly. As Cellie had known they would, her aunt's tests had all come back negative. Still, Julia had vomited and retched, so there had been a physical consequence of Cellie's empathic "transmission." Cellie curled in on herself. "My God," she thought, "this is getting dangerous." She, who had only wanted to help others with her ability, had hurt two people that she cared for.
She walked out on the porch for a few minutes. When she came back in, her aunt was hanging up the phone. "Who were you talking to, Aunt Jule?" she asked.
Julia replied quietly, "I was just taking care of something I should have, a long time ago." She went back into her room.
"What was that all about?" Cellie wondered. About twenty minutes later, the doorbell rang. She was astonished to see Barnabas on the step, accompanied by Willie. She let them in. Barnabas had a jazzed, anxious look about him. Cellie "read" a red sensation, but it was brief in duration. He asked, "Where is Julia? I need to talk to her." Cellie pointed to her aunt's room. He went right down the hall, knocked, and was admitted. Julia left the door open a crack. Cellie could hear muffled voices.
She went into Willie's arms. He said, "I miss you something awful." They sat together on the couch. She wept quietly. He held her, not fearing discovery. He guessed what was going on down the hall. He said, "I'll bet you're wondering why I'm here. Barnabas was so nervous when she called, he said he was afraid to drive! Imagine, Barnabas afraid of something for once."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Julia stood before Barnabas, unable to look him in the eye despite the fact that she'd insisted he come. Still, she managed to whisper, "I'm sorry, Barnabas. I shouldn't use you like this, demanding your presence, about to pitch myself at you on the rebound after humiliating one of the finest men I have ever known."
"Julia," Barnabas said, in the softest voice she'd ever heard him use with her, "I wanted to come. I awaited your call. If you had not done so, by the end of the week, I would have been on your doorstep. Don't ever say you're using ME. It is I who have used, and confused you so many times, that I broke your heart, and you ended up breaking our mutual friend's heart in your efforts to alleviate your disappointment. So, in a way, I am also to blame for Elliot's pain, far more than you.� And, be honest. You are NOT coming to ME on the rebound."
"No," Julia replied. "I went to Elliot on the rebound from you. It was an honest, practical decision though, which, remember, YOU urged me to make."
"I was a self-deceiving fool. But then, I've admitted to that crime before, when I was about to reconcile with Angelique before her death. I told you, the night of your dinner party, that seeking after the ideal was a fault of mine, which you knew all along. And all along, I've had to pay the consequences over and over, partly because even I knew, in my darkest days, when I blamed everything on my curse: The pain I've suffered WAS no more than I deserved, for the belittling way I treated even the women I loved.
�You are versed in psychiatry, Julia. Maybe you can tell me, it must have sprung from watching how my father, whom I did love but could never express it, treated my beloved mother, who was often addled from drink.... A vice she escaped to because he'd become cold to her, which is a mystery in itself! You can tell me everything's part of some immutable cycle, and that, even when my greatest problem had an end, I behaved as a martyr for nothing.� I believe that now, even without your niece having opened my eyes to my blunder."
"CELLIE opened your eyes, Barnabas?"
"She's no 'mere chit of a girl', Julia. She understands many things, without having actually experienced them, but it's something more than 'intuition.' She has an instinctive sense of what is right and just."
"And what is right, now, Barnabas? What could be made right, after all these years?"
"Attaining your true place at my side, as my wife."
Julia fought off an urge to jump for joy. She had been mentally battered one too many times, and had caused almost irreparable harm to others in the process. After all she'd gone through, she realized that she needed to know that the stake was worth the game, even though she'd called this round.
"Barnabas," she said, now looking directly into his deep, sorrowful eyes,"is this a proposal from your heart, or it is that you feel you owe it to me? Cellie's a perceptive girl, alright, but she hasn't, at least not yet, any true inkling of what we've been through together, the times we hated each other, the times I had to stand by while I watched you with Vicky Winters, with Angelique, with Roxanne, and every woman who even remotely resembled Josette! Cellie may think this is best for us, when, in truth, you could be doing me the same favor I almost did for Elliot!
"I would still be as I always was, loving YOU, doing what was best for YOU, and yes, I'm certainly not ashamed to say it, WANTING you as a lover. Would you, COULD you do that? Or shall I have to live, as your victims and other lady friends lived, in a constant state of painful anticipation? In a constant state of unreality? The only other woman who ever demanded something like a real relationship with you was the one whom you hated for so many years. You DID accept Angelique in the end. Still, she WAS beautiful, and attracted you physically, even though she repelled you morally. I may attract your intellect, and I may share many of your other interests, but I'm the first to admit I'm nowhere near like that portrait you still cherish so much. What I'm asking is, DO you love me, Barnabas? Do you desire ME, really desire ME, and not like Ben Franklin's saying that all cats are black at night?"
"What would YOU say, Julia, if I told you, I love you, that I'm not sure about the rest of it, BUT that I will make my best effort to bring happiness to your life?" Barnabas asked. "I have never acted as a lover to you, I admit. But I bring you myself, and if you're patient, we can learn to be together in that fashion. I know that sounds almost like what goes on in an arranged marriage, but many of those unions ARE surprisingly successful, as long as common interests and traits were part of the consideration of the match. We DO have many of those, Julia. Perhaps it will carry us through the rest."
"That sounds like a promise from a Jane Austen novel!" she retorted. "All that's missing are the promise of a dowry and the implications of class! I may have a few noble ancestors by way of my mother, but for many generations, I've come from people who, even if they were strict and high-minded, were down-to-earth in the most vital matters. That's what I am, Barnabas, even with all the education and the career. I was never one for frivolous relationships. I never even liked to dance with someone I didn't love. I love you. I just want you to touch me like a woman, like the beautiful women you loved. Then I'll know if it's possible."
Barnabas put one hand on her shoulder, and cupped her face in the other. He gazed into her large hazel-brown eyes, and studied her face up close. "Julia," he said in wonder, "you do yourself no justice. You have a lovely, delicate kind of alignment in your features, which is especially evident when I see it from this angle. I HAVE noticed it before, when you bent your head to read by my fire. It's so subtle, that I just accepted it as part of the scene, I suppose. It's much more noticeable now, since you've let your hair grow longer."
He stroked Julia�s hair, surprised at the softness of the wine-red waves that now reached her shoulder. She had hair this long when he first met her, but then, she had it combed back almost brutally, and sprayed into place, which had given her the severe, professional look he loathed. It was apparent that she eschewed hairspray altogether, these days.
He put his arms around her. She didn't object, and she embraced him, but in a static manner. She had an attitude of wariness still. He ran his hands up and down her back, and pressed her closely to himself. One thing that Julia always had, even he'd noticed and approved it, was a trim figure. She was much given to vigorous strolls, she ate sparingly, and, alas, she smoked (but, to his relief, not as much as she once had.) She was a good deal more slender than many women years younger than she. He had held her briefly, a few times, to console her after a defeat, to rescue her when she couldn't walk. But he'd never never felt the softness of the rest of her body before, anymore than he'd bothered to touch her hair before. He had missed so much, he thought with a massive pang of regret, as she always knew she had.
"We will miss no more, after tonight," Barnabas declared, before he kissed Julia. Her mouth opened readily under his, something she must have practiced in dreams, he thought. (To his delight, he realized that she mustn't have been smoking for quite some time, perhaps in anticipation of this moment.) He felt his body respond as it did when he'd been with other women he'd wanted whenever he was normal. I want Julia! he thought in amazement. Cellie was right. What he had to give, was all Julia had wanted, but Barnabas now wanted what his loving, obviously experienced companion had, as well. "It will be FINE, after we are married. You're going to marry me, aren't you, Julia? Please, my love...."
"Yes. Yes. SOON," was all she could say, between kisses.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"You should all be afraid," Cellie mourned to Willie, in the parlor. "It's all my fault. I ruined Aunt Jule's wedding. I made her sick. The judge said, 'Speak now or hold your peace.' I tried to keep quiet, and I did. But my insides---all I could think of was she wasn't going to be happy, and Barnabas---I don't know how, but it went out of me, and into her. Will, you should have seen her. I thought she was going to die. And the professor! He was crying, and Hallie.... I feel like dirt."
"Cecily, I don't think it was all your fault. If Julia really loved the Professor and wanted to marry him, nothing you could do would've stopped her. And you wouldn't have wanted to stop her anyway, because you know if it's real or not. I'm sorry about the Professor, but it's like with David and Carolyn. Maybe you could find him someone else, too, when he's feeling better."
Cellie pulled away. "You don't get it, Will. Today, I don't want this to happen, so I give my Aunt Jule a bad stomach ache. Tomorrow I don't want something else to happen. So what do I do next? Give someone a heart attack? It's getting out of control."
"I'm not sure about that. Maybe it's something people are feeling already, and you just bring it to a boil. Maybe it comes from you getting older. There's got to be somebody who can train you to use that---what do you call it?"
"Rainbow spells, empathic power, whatever. Who can train me? Who else is like me?"
"I don't know . If they'd gone through with the wedding, maybe the Professor could have helped you some---that's in his line. But, much as I hate to admit it, Barnabas would be your best bet. What that guy doesn't know about supernatural goings-on probably hasn't been thought up yet."
"I--I have to think this over. I can't even tell my aunt yet---I have so many secrets to keep. All of you keep telling me things I'm not prepared to know about,and I see---I see a spirit now and then, someone who isn't even family to me."
"Which spirit? Where?" Willie demanded.
"A little girl. David said she was the sister of the first Barnabas. Sarah. She like, follows me around, and she wants to find her brother. What am I supposed to do?" Cellie began to cry again. "It's okay in a way. Barnabas and David said she's good. But it's too sad and hopeless."
"It's a sign. Those bad times are coming back," Willie thought. To Cellie he said, "I believe you. I used to see her myself. But I know one thing. If good ghosts can come around, so can bad ones. You have to watch out. What you have might be what somebody wants." He held her for a while. He said, "It's sure gotten quiet in your aunt's room. " He smiled slyly. "I wonder what they're up to?"
"Oh, please. We're talking 'repression session' here. I mean, she left the door open! I'll go check, if you make coffee. Everything's out on the counter." She removed her shoes. "Geez, I hope my ankles don't make cracking noises." She tiptoed down the hall. If they confronted her, she would say she was getting some schoolbooks out to show Willie, as he was going to G.E.D. classes in a few weeks. She made it to her aunt's door, and peeked through the crack. Barnabas and Julia stood, embracing tightly. Her face was hidden in his shoulder.� They swayed a little bit, as though they were dancing to music only they could hear.
Cellie went into her room to grab some books. She figured she might as well make it look like she was showing them to Willie. She came back down the hall, and went into the kitchen. She dropped the books on the table, and went up behind Willie, putting her arms around his waist, while he measured out coffee scoops.
"So, what are they doing?"
"Nothing you couldn't take your kids to see," she laughed, "If you had any."
"We'll have to do something about that someday. Right now, should I make normal coffee or our coffee?"
"Ours. I don't think they be wanting any, for quite a while yet. Will, how would you like it if I went to work at the Antique Shoppe?"
He sat at the table and pulled her onto his lap. He kissed her hard. "Does that answer your question?"
Barnabas and Julia were to be married the week before Christmas. The Collins family, as always, closed ranks in support of a family member. Elizabeth had the most ambivalent feelings, being so fond of Hallie, who was quite distracted by the work of consoling her uncle. Hallie reported to Elizabeth that Elliot had given up working on the book he'd been researching with Julia. They ended up having to move into the bungalow, the other options falling through. It was just as well; Elliot and Hallie began taking long walks around town together, with little chance of meeting with either Julia or Cellie. Cellie, who had started to work at the Antique Shoppe three days a week, had a new schedule at the Superette that didn't often coincide with Hallie's.
Fortunately, most of the Hoffmans' things were still packed in the boxes that had been intended for the bungalow. It only took three trips back and forth to get them moved to the Old House. Cellie was actually allowed to ride with Willie, when they loaded the station wagon.
Cellie still behaved in a guilt-stricken, obsequious manner around Julia. She kept asking her aunt if she was really sure this time. Julia was a little puzzled by Cellie's attitude. After all, it was clear Cellie was very fond of Barnabas. "This time, it's the real thing, Cellie," Julia would say. "I know you talked with Barnabas about this. I love you dearly, and I certainly appreciate your efforts on my behalf, but the decision was our own."
If only you knew WHAT efforts I made in your behalf, Cellie thought uneasily. She was anxious lest she over-react to something else, and make another person sick.
The new job at the Antique Shoppe was a big help. Cellie had a steel-trap memory for information about the inventory. She chatted up the coffee customers. She brought in home-baked pastries to supplement the donut supply. She beguiled the clientele with demonstrations of obscure tools. The antique trade wasn't a volume business, but she racked up enough sales to make it seem like one.
Ironically enough, it was harder for her to spend time alone with Willie. She was working in one place or the other till eight or nine most nights. David came through for her though, making sure she saw Willie a couple of times a week. They camped out in the West Wing of Collinwood several times. One night, Cellie had off at both the Superette and the Antique shoppe. David met her at the Koffeehaus as usual, then Cellie zipped over to the Shoppe at eight-thirty.
When they were upstairs, she asked Willie, "Do you think you'll get tired of me before we get married, hon? Maybe we should spend more time, you know, talking."
"We talk plenty," he replied. "I talk with you more than all the women I ever knew put together, including my sister Fran, and she can really yack up a storm." He stroked her, up and down. "I sure wouldn't get tired of doing this."
Cellie said, pertly, "Still willing to buy the cow, even though you're getting all that free milk, huh?" Wrong question. Willie rolled away from her and sat up. Her remarks had seemed harmless enough, but she got the same sensation of anger and frustration she'd come to know so well. Willie didn't even look at her.
"Cecily, if you're going to talk about what we're doing like that, we might as well stop everything right now. I hate thinking about it that way. You know I'm older than you, and that I've been with other women, all over the world. This is probably only the second or third time I've been with someone I wanted for other things than bed. And you're the first one who knows a lot about me and what's been happening around here."
Cellie knelt behind him. She parted her hair (which got straighter every day) and draped it over both his shoulders, then she held him, her head resting against his. He couldn't resist reaching up to touch the red-gold strands. She apologized. "I was just kidding. You have a sense of humor about some things."
"This is different. I almost got married once. It took me a long time to want to settle down like that. I didn't want to be like my Dad, and it was a good excuse not to get serious with anyone. With the life I was living, it wouldn't have been a swell idea anyway." He turned to face her. "That didn't work out, as you know, and it did hurt a lot.
I thought the chance would never come my way again. Now, I got you, and this time I'm going through with it, now all that stuff is in the past. We'll do all those boring things, the house with the picket fence, the kids, the dog, everything."
"I prefer cats and canaries. Though not at the same time. I've tried that, and it doesn't work."
Willie smiled. "I'm the cat, and you're the canary." He pounced on Cellie playfully. They kissed. "It's working out okay for us."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Willie walked Cellie down to her car. They held each other for a few minutes. When she turned on the ignition, he locked the gate and went back into the kitchen. Then Cellie had a feeling she'd forgotten something. She rummaged in her purse.
Her wallet was missing. It must have fallen from the purse when she was getting out her brush after she'd gotten dressed. Because the gate was already locked, she would have to go around the front of the Shoppe, rap on the glass, and hope Willie wasn't reluctant to answer. Maybe he'd already found the wallet.
She stopped the car, and was walking to the entrance, when she saw a man standing under the streetlamp. She was running back to her car, when he called out. It was Jack. She opened the car and sat in it. She wasn't panicked anymore, but she put the key in the ignition, poised to start it at a moment's notice.
"Oh, Jack. You scared me." She didn't want to bring up their last encounter. If he was truly over her, it would pay to be friendly. "How have you been doing? Are you back home for good?"
He didn't speak right away. Cellie "saw" mauve grey, envy or frustration, orange, and violet-yellow, basically the same as Willie before she befriended him. Jack mustn't have been doing too well. He confirmed her suspicions. "I had a lousy time in Bangor. I had a hard time in class there. They do everything different. I'm back with Dad and Nancy, but I don't know if I'm gonna bother with school for a while. My real mom said I could get a job at the cannery, since I'm eighteen already, anyway. But why should you care what happened to me? It's your fault I got sent away in the first place."
Cellie became indignant. "Better sent away than sent up," she quipped. "If you had a hard time, you did it to yourself. You were really ugly that night. You had all these plans and you blew 'em out of the water. It's not too late. Did you get another girlfriend?"
"You're kidding, right? You should see those stuck-up chicks in Bangor. If you're not on a team, or you don't have a good job making lots of bread, they don't want to know you.
I can tell you're nowhere near that fussy."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Cellie became afraid again.
"Been getting it good from Crazy Willie, haven't you?" he taunted. "You didn't want ME to touch you. But, oh, do the gloves come off when you two get together. And everything else. God, that must be a sight!"
"I don't know what you're talking about. I work here now. I was just visiting for a while after work."
Jack was leaning heavily on the Beetle, so that she wouldn't start the car and drive away with him hanging from it. Cellie started to roll up her window, but he held it back. "Don't talk to me like I'm stupid. Your bosses left an hour-and-a half ago. You were in there alone with him. I can just see the kitchen window from the sidewalk. I saw you sitting on his lap, swapping spit. Then the light went out, and the one in the upstairs windows went on. So, were you sitting downstairs in the dark while Willie was playing with himself upstairs?"
Cellie felt her face turn hot. "It's none of your business. Please don't tell anyone."
He kept her from locking the door. He opened it and pulled her out roughly. "It IS my business, you slut! So, how does he do it? I've seen him in action before. I can tell you a thing or two about his favorite tricks."
Cellie squirmed around in his grip. "Shut up, Jack. You don't know anything of the kind."
"Like hell I don't," he hissed. "It was so funny when I found out he helped Pavlos pull me away from you that night. Because I did him the same favor, when he first came to town, almost five years ago."
Cellie stopped moving. Jack smiled. "I knew that would get your attention. I'll bet you're just dying to hear all about it. I can tell Crazy Willie hasn't shared all his dirty secrets with his little sweetie."
"Just tell me and get it off your chest. Maybe you'll feel better," Cellie said in a faltering voice. She couldn't understand why she wasn't able to reach in and turn his emotions against himself, as she had done with her aunt. Maybe it was because his hatred was directed straight at her. Maybe she couldn't hate enough herself. He smelt like Scotch---could that be the problem? She hoped to get
a clue from what she was about to hear. How bad could it be, she wondered, if Willie hadn't found it necessary to tell her?
"You sure won't. It'll make me feel better if I know Willie isn't feeling YOUR chest." Jack had his hands on her shoulders. "I'll bet you never knew old Willie had a go at my Mom once. Has he ever mentioned Melinda to you? I'd guess not. No naming names for him. I was thirteen then. My folks were still married. Mom used to hate it when my Dad went out on the lobster boat for weeks on end. She'd go out with her friends from the cannery after work, but she would be alone when I came home from whatever I was doing after school. I didn't like to go home when my Dad wasn't there, so I kept myself out a lot.
"One afternoon, a bunch of us were playing baseball in a vacant lot. There was a sudden cloudburst, like someone poured a huge bucket from the sky. We were all soaked in a minute. That wouldn't have been so bad, but there was lightning, so we broke up and went home. I was home a lot earlier than usual, I guess. Our front door was open, so I figured Mom was already home. I just barged in, calling her, 'cause I was hungry. Then I went upstairs, and saw my folks' bedroom door was open a crack. I heard noises. I walked right in. And guess what I saw?"
Cellie didn't reply. She was starting to feel nauseous.
"Oh, you know what I saw. Old Willie, only I didn't know who he was then, all over my Mom. Would you like to know exactly what they were doing?" Cellie pulled her head away, but Jack jerked it to where he could whisper in her ear. In spite of her resolve not to cry when he hurt her, tears ran from her eyes. Jack continued, "I just stood there like a moron for a little while, in shock or something. I'd had no idea what my Mom was up to all the times I was out. I knew Dad would be mad. I got mad. I jumped right on Willie's scrawny little back, and pulled him off Mom. He saw red. He began beating on me in a split second. I was a big kid even then, but he started first, so I couldn't catch up. He broke my nose and fractured my jaw. My Mom didn't lift a finger to help me, even when I cried for her! Then Willie stopped suddenly, like he couldn't believe what he'd done. He grabbed his clothes and left, with me laying on the floor and my Mom only just getting out of bed to haul me up."
Cellie began to retch. Jack let her go. She staggered around the Beetle. Nothing came up. She sat in the open doorway of the car, trying to think in a straight line. Why hadn't Willie told her about this? She didn't know what to think. Had he been drunk at the time? For him to stop beating someone so quickly indicated that he was straight enough to realize he was doing something wrong.
"My Dad," Jack said, "had Willie arrested, but he changed his mind. I haven't. I still hate that son-of-a-bitch. And now, you're letting him do the same things to you. " He pulled her up again, and kissed her. His hands traveled under her open coat, worked their way under her blouse. She pushed and kicked, but she was worn out. Jack forced her down into the Beetle. The shift was on the steering column, so her head landed directly on the passenger seat. Jack, not caring that it was about thirty degrees outside, and that they were on the street (even though it was a sidestreet), was pushing up her skirt, and fiddling with his zipper. She moved her head away from his mouth, and gave a yell, as if it would do any good.
Apparently it had. She heard a noise from the fence behind. Willie unlocked the gate, and shoved Jack onto the street. Cellie jumped up in her seat, slammed her door, and started the ignition. She waited. Jack got up, but he did nothing. Willie said, "I ought to call the cops on you for trying to rape her."
Jack smirked in the lamplight. "Even if they came at your call, Crazy Willie, they'd be real interested in a little case of statutory rape. The whole town would get a kick out of that, I'm sure." He saw the looks on Willie's and Cellie's faces. "Oh, don't worry. You keep from calling the cops, and I won't spread your secret on the streets." He turned and walked away.
When Jack had vanished from view, Willie asked, "Are you okay, Cecily?" He stroked her head. She shook his hand off. She gunned the motor. Then Willie understood. "He told you, didn't he? About Melinda and me and him. Cecily, I'm sorry I didn't tell you that. I just lumped it under all the other crummy things I've done. I didn't want you to think I'm a child-beater. You don't know how it was."
Cellie turned off the motor. She said, "How was it, Will? Was it as good as you say it is with me? Or maybe what we're doing isn't as interesting as what you were doing with her."
"Cecily. I can't explain everything to you. Some guys don't mess with a lot of women in their lives. Some mess with them all the time. Some guys, like me, mess with them when they're young, and then they just stop, and maybe settle down with one. That's the only thing I can think of. I had just got into town. I went out a lot in those days, while I still had a few bucks left, before Jason got me a room in Collinwood. Then I--- but that's nothing to do with Melinda. I met her in the Blue Whale. I didn't even know she had a kid. She just said her husband was out of town. I went home with her. When I was jumped, I didn't check to see who it was. I thought it was her husband. Jack was pretty big. I whupped him, but when he started blubbering for his Ma---he still had this little boy voice! I was beating up a KID! I couldn't understand why Melinda didn't try to stop me. But I got the Hell out of there.
"Her husband came back a couple of days later. He had the police pick me up, but after he talked with Jack, he came to see me in the jail. I told him what I just told you, and how Melinda just laid there. He just said, 'That damn Melinda,' and had the charges dropped. Later, when I heard he left her and took Jack, I was glad for the kid. The sick part was that Melinda kept after me for a while, whenever I happened to run into her, trying to get me to come back and finish what I started."
Cellie said, "It isn't over for Jack either. What are we going to do? He knows. I'm afraid." Willie opened the car, crouched down and embraced her. She continued, "I love you, Will. Something's going to happen to break us up." She began to cry.
"Jack might be all talk. But watch your back. You'll probably have to tell Julia and Barnabas, so they can take precautions. You and me, we'll find a way to stick together."
She said, in a faltering voice, "Will, he called me a slut. Am I a slut? Am I a bad girl? What am I now? What are you?"
He held her face in both his hands. "Cecily, you're not a bad girl. And no matter what that damn jerk says, you're no slut. You only want me, right?"
"Yes. I love you so much, and I want to marry you, like you said."
"And I only want you. The only kind of girl you are, is MY girl. He wasn't with you on that first night. I was. I made you my girl that night. And I'm your man." He kissed her. "I love you. You mean more to me than any other woman I was ever with. Everything is better with you." He paused, and rummaged in his pocket. "I found this in the bathroom." He held out her wallet. "When I didn't hear your car drive off, that's when I came down. I figured you were looking for it. As I came down stairs, I thought I heard you call out."
It suddenly occurred to Cellie that her cries for help probably couldn't be heard in the house. "Maybe you heard them in your head, hon. I was probably signalling to you, even before I made any noise you could hear."
"You can do that? Send messages ? You mean, I could 'read' you?"
"In a way, I guess. I know so little about what I have, and yet, some new ability pops up every day." She kissed him, and smiled. "You saved me again, all by yourself this time," she said.
"Well, you'd better get going. It's almost eleven on a school night."
"Thanks for the reminder, teacher." They saw David's car barreling around the corner.
David rolled down his window and yelled, "What's taking you so long Cellie? Even I'll be catching Hell for coming home so late."
Cellie said to Willie, "We'd better explain it quick, so the three of us can come up with a cover story, and still explain about Jack."
When she got home, Cellie told her aunt the agreed-upon story, which involved both her and David stopping in to see Willie, and encountering Jack. Cellie had a hard time sleeping that night, so she broke down and asked for some sleeping pills. The next morning, she overslept and had to rush through her morning routine. It was noon before she realized she'd forgotten to take her Pill. She re-read her prescription, followed the instructions, and decided no harm had been done. She took the sleeping pills on and off, for about a week.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Barnabas and Julia were married in the parlor of the Old House a week later. This time, Carolyn and Ernest, who'd brought both his wife and his mother, were in attendance. At first, Julia didn't know what to do with the wedding clothes she'd bought for her previous attempt at matrimony. She had the suit cleaned and took it to a consignment shop, and got a pale lilac dress in exchange. Cellie thought the outfit made Julia look younger. She changed her aunt's make-up around, to enhance this youthful attitude. Barnabas gazed at his bride in a kind of awe. Julia had a look on her face like she was about to get the best Christmas present of her entire life.
Cellie only got the most positive sensations from her aunt and new uncle. ("Geez, I hope I don't have to say 'Uncle Barnabas'," she thought. She almost wished she could call him "Dad." Then, she felt guilty about her own father.) She WAS getting some positive sensations from another source. She turned to look at Willie, whom, she thought, looked quite handsome, and even respectable, in the suit she'd seen hanging in his closet. He stood next to David, near a large screen near the fireplace. Cellie eased herself close to him, and reached behind her for his hand. He grasped it cautiously, looking to David for confirmation that they weren't being observed. David winked at him.
Cellie thought of the couple of times they'd somehow gotten together in the past week. Barnabas had become very protective since he'd heard the story about Jack, and insisted on driving her around to places. Even if her aunt wasn't constantly checking on her whereabouts, Cellie was too frightened to go back to the Antique Shoppe after hours. An ironic twist was that Barnabas let Willie drive Cellie around a couple of times, when neither he or Julia was available. All the extra scrutiny made Cellie, Willie, and David quite creative.
Once, Cellie and Willie managed to spend some time in her own bed at the cottage, when she'd gotten home early from the Superette, and had been surprised to find him alone there, fixing plumbing in the kitchen. He'd told her that Julia and Barnabas were up at the Old House, and wouldn't be around for at least an hour. He finished his work, and Cellie led him, protesting that there wouldn't be enough time, to her room. They were dressed and out of there a scant five minutes before they heard Julia's car coming up the drive. Cellie wondered if living at the Old House would make it harder to see Willie alone.
Well, she'd be up at the Great House for a few days, while Barnabas and Julia spent a few days alone at the Old House. David was already making arrangements for the next rendezvous, the last she and Willie would have before the newlywed couple took her on a brief trip. Julia planned on the three of them visiting down in Boston during the Christmas vacation.
Cellie and Willie had their special place in the West Wing, inside what was once a wardrobe. They'd cleaned it out pretty well, and brought in a small mattress. There was a shelf for the lantern. It was much warmer in there, than in the hallway where they'd once met.
After the wedding, there was a buffet. Ernest struck up a conversation with Willie, who acted like he'd been singled out for attention by the Crown Prince. Cellie stood by, her brother's arm around her shoulders, tossing in a remark or two. Carolyn joined them, then David. Ernest mentioned that Tony Peterson sent his regards to his old friend Carolyn. Carolyn blushed just the tiniest bit. Cellie thought she sensed a love color, that came and went, as it had with Tony. She wished they could get together, but Tony was still set to marry that Lee Anne at the end of January. Ernest said they would be coming up to visit Tony's mother, who was still working as the manager of the Collinsport Inn banquet room.
Then Ernest joined Lillian, where she and Janice were being charmed by their new family member. Barnabas motioned for Cellie to join them. He had his arm around her shoulders, as well as her aunt's. Janice was just telling Barnabas how much she appreciated his attentions to her daughter, a great consolation since Walter hadn't been having much to do with his children. (She had some hope for the future, however. Walter had broken off with his girlfriend, and had been spending time with his estranged wife, before he left for New York. He'd been unable to attend the wedding due to his schedule, but he wanted to see his daughter and sister during their Boston visit.) Barnabas thanked Janice for having such a lovely daughter, that he thought of as more than a niece.
Willie, who stood with David, looked at Cellie, so beautiful to him in her turquoise dress, who seemed as though she was separated from him by a wide gulf. Now, in a way, she did belong to Barnabas after all, and Willie feared she would be placed on a pedestal, far out of his reach.
Cellie knew his sadness for her own. She watched him walk into the kitchen. She excused herself, saying she felt an urge for some espresso. She went to the kitchen, catching David's eye on the way. He'd signal if anyone was headed in that direction. Cellie was relieved to find Willie there alone. Without a word, she went up to him, and threw her arms around his waist. He put down his coffee cup, and held her tight against the moth-ball scented vest of his only good suit.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Barnabas had given Cellie her choice of two similar rooms in the Old House, one with a view facing the ocean, and one with a view that extended down to Collinwood. "Who did these rooms belong to, or is there any record for rooms other than Josette's?" she had asked.
"Well, the one facing the Great House belonged to the man who eventually married Josette, Jeremiah Collins, the much younger brother of Joshua. By the time they married, though, he was living in the new house. And the ocean-view was the aerie of young Sarah. It was said she considered herself the guardian of every ship that came into view, and that no ship she ever watched ever came to harm, even after her passing."
"That decides it for me. Sarah's room it is. Maybe she'll pay me night-time visits. She likes when I sing, maybe I'll have to tell her bedtime stories, too." Cellie smiled wistfully.
"That's a charming thought, bridging the gap between this life and that beyond, with music and fairy tales," Barnabas replied. "If she does come to you, do let me know. I'm quite eager to see this elusive spirit." He thought, with longing, of a time when this might come to pass. How much he had to tell his sister, about how his life had changed for the better, how he no longer chased after ideal Dulcineas, but had settled for a devoted, true-hearted woman much like Ben Stokes's Margery. He was surprised at how well he and his new wife DID get along, after all her years of longing, and his of holding back from her.
Barnabas had reason to be grateful for Julia's prior experience, as well as her ability to separate herself from the situation, and deal with virtually any problem with clinical detachment. Life as a vampire didn't lend itself to the pursuit of true fulfillment, and his periods of normalcy were spent during times of such turbulence and trauma, that he'd never had a chance to experience anything like a normal relationship.
During the first couple of days, truly alone with Julia for the first time, Barnabas was actually shy around her. At night, he did attempt to live up to her expectations. When he hesitated, he recalled that sense of discovery he'd known at her cottage, the night he proposed. If she wasn't satisfied, she never let on. Instead, she dealt with the problem in much the same manner as he believed she did with the most reluctant patients at WindCliff. She coaxed, she explained, she demonstrated. Another man would have resented this treatment, and turned away, but in this, as in so many other matters, Barnabas knew Julia was right.
He was still more reserved (they even maintained separate beds), but she had proven that she was willing to be patient, now that she knew she didn't have to worry about being separated from him again. Surely, the differences they still had would work themselves out in time.
Julia did bring him, among other gifts, this treasure of a niece, who, even though she had real parents she loved and missed, was quite content to regard her aunt and new uncle as the primary influences on her life. Barnabas looked forward to sharing his great resources of knowledge with this most receptive pupil. Then, eventually, would come the great peace he believed he would feel when Cellie learned his most important secret.
He said, "As you can see, the room is well-furnished as it is, but of course, you can do with it what you want, including bringing in some of your things from the cottage. And you don't have to stay in here all the time, if it bores you. If you feel ennui with this one, by all means, move into Jeremiah's. I must say, Jeremiah did keep a fine library for his nocturnal perusal, and the collection is pretty much as he left it, fine old editions of Machiavelli, Moliere, Sterne...."
"The books wouldn't fall apart from handling, would they, Barnabas?"
"Not these. Jeremiah bought only the best-made books, as he intended passing them on to later generations. Some books are like houses. They last longest when used oftenest. I'll even recommend a few for you to start with. You claim to enjoy dry political tomes. Well, you should read the grandfather of them all. Machiavelli's 'The Prince' is full of advice, cynical to the point of satire, but sage if you read it the right way. It's the perfect choice for a budding politician, if he or she is willing to stick with it.� I understand it was useful to a favorite sovereign of yours."
"Catherine the Great! You saw my pile of Russian history books. She also favored the Greek and Roman classics."
"There are some excellent translations of those, if you wish to examine them."
"I'll get busy, right away. It's never to early to plan on becoming the first woman president of the United States."
"No midnight coups to seize power for you, I take it?"
"If you've been following the papers, reporting about the next election, or all those assassinations, American-style politics is hair-raising enough for me, thank you. How do they do it in England?"
"There are regular elections, of course, but matters are more subject to change if there is a crisis in the government. Americans may think the British are stodgy stick-in-the-muds, but they don't sit out a whole term waiting to clean up the current mess. Of course, there's a danger of jumping the gun, so to speak, but it's worked for nearly a millenium."
" 'Nothing succeeds like success,' " Cellie quoted. Barnabas showed her all the modern conveniences he'd had installed and repaired.
"This house was, as David told you, in a deplorable state when I first arrived. No-one had lived here for decades. There was no electricity, and I did without it until fairly recently. There are still rooms, which I don't use, in which I haven't had it installed, including Josette's. It just seemed appropriate to leave her room alone, once I saw all the tearing down, and repairing of the walls that had to be done, when they installed the wires. Willie proved to be good at fixing the woodwork, and after he followed the plumber around for a while, he picked that up too. I had him step up the improvements around here, once I knew you and Julia were moving in."
"Oh, yeah, Aunt Jule had him fixing plumbing at the cottage, just before we moved out," Cellie replied. She thought, dreamily, "and, boy, did I ever fix him." She wondered if she'd ever dare try anything like that right here in the Old House, and decided not. The cozy closet in the West wing was comfortable enough, and private.
"I'm sure you'll enjoy living here. I know I will enjoy having you here. You had faith everything would work out, and it has, Cellie." They went downstairs, and Barnabas held her coat for her. "No sooner will you be moved in, than we will be packing for Boston."
"Ever been there. Barnabas?"
"Once, when I was--- very young, and then, a few years ago. I was quite amazed at the changes. The high skyscrapers--- and the high crime rate!"
"That's my Beantown, all right," Cellie grinned. "I can't wait to see the big place my parents rented."
"Cellie, do you think you will soon return to Boston to live, now that your parents have reconciled?"
"Geez, no. They said it was okay if I stay on here, since I'm midway through senior year. And after I graduate, well.... I'd like to live up here permanently, I think. I like working at the Shoppe, and I'd like to go to Orono next September,if nothing else comes up."
"That's just what I wanted to hear. I'll have my dear niece around for a while yet. Let's get over to Collinwood quickly, and pick up some of your things, before it starts to snow."