Dear Diary, riding off with Matt was just what I needed at that moment. Don’t get me wrong, though. I wasn’t naive enough to think he was some kind of knight in shining armor. It definitely was good timing, however.
After we were off the St. Cyr farm, he slowed the horse from a gallop to a trot. I didn’t have any idea where we were going, and I didn’t really care. It was so upsetting to me to see how Dax had reacted to Elliott’s innocent embrace. Still, I was sure he would come to his senses later. At least, I hoped he would.
Meanwhile, I was determined to enjoy the horseback ride away from the farm. After a time, we found ourselves on the beach in a pretty spot. Matt lithely hopped down from the horse then turned to assist me. Did I see a smile on his face when I waved him away and slid down on my own?
When he saw me smiling back, he tipped his hat downward and patted Kelty lovingly. He was good with horses and other animals. As an animal lover myself, I really admired that about him. Well, I admired a lot of things about Matthieu Larochette.
He had a calm simplicity about him which immediately put whomever he was with at ease. I found that whenever I was around him, if my nerves were frayed, they were instantly calmed. I couldn’t really explain it any better than that. He was just a really pleasant person.
“I guess you rode up at the right time,” I said, looking around. The coolness of the morning had given way to a heavy humid heat but it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable yet.
“I’ll admit, it wasn’t exactly an accident. I saw what happened.”
“So, you decided to rescue me.”
Surprisingly, he shook his head and removed his hat. His golden hair glistened under the hot sun. “You don’t need to be rescued. I just thought it’d be fun to give you an easy out.”
I began to laugh a little, then realized he was being completely serious. I didn’t need rescuing?
As if reading the question in my mind, he continued, “You’re stronger than you think, Blue. The way you work and don’t need help dismounting Kelty.” His hazel eyes were full to the brim with sincerity and I couldn’t look away from them. It was as if he was holding me captive. “And the way you befriended Dax and brought him back to a life he wanted to live again.”
Slowly, I began to realize that Matthieu observed more than I’d realized yet perhaps he was giving me too much credit. “I had very little to do with the progress Dax has made.”
“You know that isn’t true. It’s because of you he has ventured out of that dark place. You know it is. You know that he… has a crush on you.”
For some reason, this pricked my nerves a little. “A crush? Is that what it is?”
Matt paused after realizing his assessment stung me a bit. “What I think is that he’s never been around women before and he has nothing to base his feelings on – no frame of reference.”
“That’s harsh, don’t you think?” I snapped.
He shrugged easily, not the least bit worried that he’d offended me. “Blue, has he professed love for you?”
“He would have if I hadn’t stopped him,” I said quickly.
“Why did you stop him?”
It was a simple question. Still, I found it difficult to answer. I’d stopped Dax because I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down; at least not until I had worked things out with my family. And, if the truth be known, I wasn’t sure yet of my feelings. It was too difficult to figure my emotions out when I had the terrible, sinking feeling there was something wrong with my father.
“Blue, you’re a very beautiful woman,” Matt said. Something in his voice had changed; it was was soft, yet not weak; caressing, yet not inappropriate. “I think you will have attention from every man on the island. But that attention is not the same thing as appreciating a person, of cherishing them.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked, barely above a whisper. My pulse had quickened and I felt little beads of sweat break out on my forehead.
He glanced up toward the sun, squinting his eyes as he usually did to judge the time of day. Somehow, though, I don’t think it registered because I don’t really think he cared; he was just buying time. Finally, after what seemed like ages, he looked directly into my eyes. It was a directness I had come to appreciate about him but I still felt a little nervous.
“I care deeply about you,” he said simply as if that explained everything.
“I – care about you, too,” I murmured. Glancing at my feet, I decided to just be out with it. “Did your bringing me here have anything to do with what you wanted to talk to me about before?”
“When you rudely ran off?” he laughed, making me smile. “I think we had a miscommunication.”
“We did?” I breathed.
“Definitely.” And then he began to explain. “I wanted to show you something and see what you thought. You see, I’ve been working on the St. Cyr farm since I was a teenager and I’ve saved most everything I’ve earned. My dream is to have my own farm.”
With relief, I smiled widely and inwardly chided myself for thinking he was about to propose to me or something. I’d totally read his intentions wrong!
“I think that’s wonderful,” I said.
“You might not if you saw the farm I’m looking at. It’s really run down. But it’s large,” he quickly added. “There isn’t anything about it that doesn’t need some attention. At the moment, the cow corral and chicken coop are being rented out to Prosper Ulrich. But if I bought the place, Prosper might let me buy the animals, too, since he’s old and doesn’t much like farming anymore.”
Unable to hide my excitement for him, I said, “This sounds absolutely terrific! I could help you clean the house and yard – oh! And I could make curtains, too.” Then I realized something that made me a little sad. “But I’ll miss you. You’ve been a true friend to me.”
Gently taking my hand, a smile on his face, he said, “That’s all I needed; someone to tell me I’m not crazy for jumping into this.”
“You’re far from crazy. I think it’s so nice that you want to have something that’s yours and yours alone.”
“Hopefully, though, I won’t always be alone.”
I caught the hidden meaning of his words, or maybe not so hidden. But this time, I didn’t feel scared. I still wasn’t ready for a relationship, but I felt safe in the knowledge that Matthieu would never hurt me or put me on the spot. It felt good to know he respected me enough to not push me into anything.
“You could always get a dog!” I said brightly, making him laugh.
Matt and I explored the beach for a little while longer and he promised to show me the farm he was thinking of very soon. In the meanwhile, I told him how proud I was of him that he was thinking about his future and had saved his money. Not that this island had that many places to spend it. I mean, there was the fabric store and the general mercantile. That was about it.
On our way toward home again, I asked Matt if he knew of Nicholas Wyatt. I could tell in his response that he was curious as to what I was up to, but he didn’t say anything about that. Instead, he dropped me off at the Wyatt place and asked me if I’d be all right getting home on my own.
“Of course,” I assured him.
“Just the same,” he said as he dismounted, “I’ll leave Kelty with you and walk back.” Before I could protest, he tipped his hat at me and said, “There’s no argument there. I will feel better knowing you have her.”
And so, he left Kelty with me. I watched him walk down the road until I could no longer see him. Then, I finally turned toward the farmhouse in which Nicholas Wyatt lived.
When no one answered after I knocked on the door, I followed a little path between the house and out buildings to the back where the barn was. And that’s when I met the only man Agathe had ever loved.
Right away, when he saw me, he began talking. “Who are you and what do you want?” he demanded.
I can’t say that I’d pictured just what he might be like, but this wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, that was for sure. In response, I briskly walked up to him, determined that if Agathe didn’t intimidate me anymore, neither would this guy.
The lines on his face were deeply etched, making his rigid features stand out even further. But he didn’t really seem to have the squinty-eyed sternness of Agathe’s face.
“Hello, I’m Blue Capra.”
“I’ve never seen you.” The way he said this almost sounded like an accusation. In response, my cheeks flamed their usual red.
“I’ve been around,” I said casually. “Actually, I live with Agathe, Elliott and Dax St. Cyr.”
This had his attention. “Oh? How are – uh, how is Agathe?”
“Well, I’ll be honest with you, Mr. Wyatt, she and I were speaking about you just yesterday and her memories of you are so fond.”
His face softened almost immediately and he quickly said, “You don’t say?”
Nodding, I continued with, “Yes, it’s true. I’ll admit that before yesterday, I had no idea you existed. She and I were talking about Dax, you see, and – ”
“That poor boy,” he lamented. “That was the whole trouble. After his accident, she broke our engagement. It broke my heart that she held herself responsible and felt she had to be punished.”
I was so relieved to hear this. Maybe playing matchmaker wouldn’t be as difficult as I’d thought. “You know, it broke my heart, too. Especially with the way she still talks about you.”
“That warms my heat, Miss Capra, but what is it you’ve come here for?”
“She never got married, you know.” After he nodded, I carefully said, “And you never did either, did you?”
“No.” Suddenly, there was a darkness in his eyes as if he was feeling the pain of being thwarted all over again. “I think you should leave.”
“Oh, but won’t you consider coming over for tea?” I pleaded.
But it was to deaf ears that I appealed because before I knew it, he was shooing me off of his property. As I rode Kelty down the dirt road, a breeze came through, blowing road dust up into my face and making me cough. It was just another thing to add to my dampened spirits.
I had wished nothing more than to see Agathe happy again with the man she loved. But why did romance have to take so much effort and skill? It baffled me, it seemed, more than anything else in life.
To make matter worse, when I finally got back to the farm, there was a note awaiting me. It was the same type of paper of the previous note and I realized right away that it was from Mango and must have been put on my bed by Dax. When I opened the old, worn paper, several simoleons fell out onto my quilt.
The note read:
“It is urgent that you go home immediately. Enclosed is enough money for clothing and tickets. I have made the necessary arrangements. Be at the ferry promptly at eight o’clock p.m. I will contact you again soon through Dax.”
For a moment, I stood frozen, rereading the words again and again with no understanding. Then, with shaking hands, I counted the money. My mind raced feverishly at these new instructions and fear for why it was so urgent I go home so abruptly began to make my stomach turn and my pulse race erratically.
My first instinct was to race to Mango and ask him what this meant, but something in me knew he would not tell me or that perhaps he didn’t entirely know the exact reason but that it was still urgent. Sighing, I packed a small bag, putting the money inside and carrying it downstairs.
I was just thinking about how I needed to tell Agathe what I was doing and where I was going when someone knocked on the door. The last thing I wanted to do was to open it and feign happiness to a guest. But decorum insisted I open the door and be pleasant. No matter what I was going through, Agathe would be very dismayed if I let my manners slip.
When I saw who it was, my eyes widened like saucers and the smile on my face was genuine. Quickly, I urged our guest to follow me to the sunroom.
“Agathe! Agathe, you have company,” I said breathlessly.
“Good heavens, girl, then bring them in quickly. I have a lot to do before the council meeting!”
Slowly, I stepped aside so she could see who was behind me.
“Hello, Agathe,” Nicholas Wyatt said. He’d removed his hat and had a hopeful look in his eyes.
Now Agathe’s eyes were huge. “Nicholas!” she gasped. “W-whatever brings you here?”
“Blue invited me to tea. But I see you’ve already had your tea.”
I stood by, unable or unwilling to move. This was better than any movie! For the first time since I’d known her, Agathe was nearly speechless, her jaw gaping and her hands reaching for that handkerchief she would fold and refold twenty times out of anxiety. I looked from one to the other, filled with excitement and anticipation. These people didn’t know it, but the only thing I was missing was the buttery popcorn.
“I’ll – I’ll tell Alice to bring us some,” she fumbled. But she didn’t move to go tell Alice anything. If I’d been thinking straight and not been so caught up in the moment, perhaps I would have gone to tell Alice.
“You look just the same, Agathe. As beautiful as ever.”
She blushed prettily and for a brief moment, I saw the young girl who had been full of hope at the prospect of her future.
“You look much the same, too, Nicholas,” she murmured, the flush still there, giving her face a more youthful and lovely glow.
“I’ve a sight less hair,” he joked.
“You’re still the same, though, I can tell,” she said, still unmoving.
With tears moistening his eyes, he apparently decided in that moment to let it all out. “Neither of us married and after all this time, it’s you I always thought of and wanted.”
Not expecting him to come out and say all of that, I suddenly sucked in too much air and went into a coughing fit.
“Oh, excuse me,” I said between hacks.
But it was as if neither of them even noticed. Nicholas strode across the room and grasped her hands in the most earnest of ways. To my astonishment, she let him and even smiled as a stray tear rolled down her cheek.
“Can’t we start again and pretend we were never apart?”
“Oh, Nicholas – ” she began.
But before she could finish her sentence, he pulled her to him and kissed her. At first, she seemed startled.
After a few seconds, though, she all but melted into him, putting her arms around him.
Wiping tears from my face that I hadn’t even realized I’d shed, I sneaked out of the room to give them their privacy. As I came forward in the room, I noticed my bag sitting near the front door.
Things were looking up here, but the uncertainty of how things were at home had me feeling nauseated. Thinking of my father and wanting to find out what was happening with him, wanting to see him more than anything in the world, I found Matthieu and told him where I was going.
He seemed pleased and told me he hoped I’d be able to come back some day soon. Then he took me to the ferry and even rode with me across the water to the mainland. All the way there, he was a calming presence, gently reassuring me. I was glad to have a friend with me on this first part of the trip and I was also pleased he wasn’t doing any of the things so many do in bad situations… you know, saying things like, “Everything will be okay.” It wasn’t something I wanted to hear just now.
When we got to the mainland, there was a taxi waiting for me. Quickly, I thanked Matt, assured him I’d be fine and got into the car. As it pulled away, a light rain began to fall, the drops drizzling down the window in crisscrossed patterns that blurred Matthieu’s face.
Suddenly, the future seemed as blurry as my window. I hadn’t any idea what was in store or what had been going on with my family. But I was soon to find out.
Author’s Note: “The earth is what we all have in common.” – Wendell Berry