She relaxed into the seat, reveling secretly in the warmth that now enveloped her. Soon it would be less bearable, the heat more pronounced. For now, though, she acquiesced to the laughing sun that fell across her bare hand.
She closed her eyes, imagining them at their picnic, wondering what it would have been like if her tongue had not betrayed her. They would be sitting together, somewhere overlooking the harbour, perhaps in the Old Town. It would be an ambiguously romantic locale, undoubtedly underneath a spreading elm or beech. Stuart would have imagined it was meant for him. Charles would have played the martyr and kept silent and quietly restrained. Poor Francis! She was such an outsider, still, and this would likely end that sad charade in which she had ensconced herself.
And how would she have felt? Not a little uncomfortable, to be sure. Having to play to both, one never knowing a thing and the other knowing everything. Or as close to everything as she had allowed him to know. It would have been maddening?no different really, than their last three months living together in that white house of bland emptiness.
?I hope you find what you are looking for,? she said to Charles, quietly, turning her head and narrowing her eyes.
?So do I. So do I,? he said. Now he was staring past her through the window and into the bank that solidly lined the entrance out of the city.
Despite how the gloomy events of the last half hour had clouded things, the spot in which they were parked was really beautiful. Tiny bluebells washed the green grass into a violet-blue haze, and the birch tree guarded the roadside like a faithful dog waiting for its master.
Lindsay didn?t know what to say. She had declared herself fully and finally and Charles had simply let her go. There was nothing more to say, nothing that would convince him of her impossible dream. She breathed deeply, feeling a rolling crest of sadness slowly approaching, welling up within her and emptying itself into her eyes and heart.
Charles saw it. With his little finger he wiped the tear falling down from the center of her eye, drew it to his mouth and kissed it, letting it linger on his lips. He closed his eyes tightly, straining to see something in the darkness behind them.
Lindsay quavered. It was as if this love was worthless. She felt angry; angry that all had come to ruin; angry that she had ever met Stuart; angry that she was born in Chicago; angry at her father for the horse she had never gotten; angry at love for failing her yet again. But on top of the anger was something even more sublime and strong. There was a peace about understanding the failure, as if it freed her to pursue other things that life could offer. What would those be? Would she be ready to face the world without the things with which she had built up around her? Charles and Stuart and France and all the great wide open sea lands, green grasses and small towns, crazy drunken gypsies and strange medallions?and those nights, oh those nights of cool and fog and pale ghost-like moonlight and the secret stealings, tiptoes across bare white wood and faint creaking of the outside shore, listening, listening, and finally floating to the bedroom of the man who had claimed her yet had no hold on her; the man who was to be her husband.
What had it all been worth? She was leaving in a week and a day and now that the full realization laid itself upon her, she felt helplessly attracted to all that had happened, and all that had not happened. That night in Charles?s bedroom when he had declared his love a truce and left her to the fate of Stuart Carnegie. That had been the moment of decision. She had decided then that she would leave, that she would buy a ticket for the first spring boat out of Calais. She would ride the waves back to her father and mother, deciding if she wanted to continue life with Stuart or if she would strike out on her own.
The latter presented only a dreary and cold end, likely devoid of any of her father?s wealth and certainly missing all the finer points of Stuart?s embrace which, as odious as it seemed to her at the time, offered far more in terms of material application than the former choice. She knew in her heart of hearts that there was really no decision to be made. She had given herself that other option as an illusion, a means to halfway convince herself that her decision to leave was correct.
?Charles, please listen to me.? He opened his eyes and gazed at her patiently. ?I love you. But I know what you must do. Your life is your own and you must make your way, just as I must do the same. I just want you to promise that you will never forget us.?
Charles nodded. He opened his mouth to speak but she interrupted him.
?No, let me finish,? she said. ?I would give a thousand trips across the Channel to be with you, but I know now that that is something you can never do. I understand, I think.?
?Lindsay,? Charles whispered.
She placed her hand upon his cheek and felt it tremble, and it was warm like the sun-soaked seat.
The two of them sat there, quiet and still, and the wind picked up and the scolding grasshoppers who had hatched from the early warmth and who would die when the weather grew cold again shrilled and flew away until all that was left buzzed and swarmed in anonymous insect life.