Redeemed From the Ashes—Chapter 27—Loose Lips

in book •  4 months ago

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Since I completely forgot to upload Chapter 27 last Friday as promised, you'll receive two chapter instalments this week. Happy reading!


Let no guilty man escape, if it can be avoided...

No personal considerations should stand in the way of performing a public duty.

Ulysses S. Grant

Indorsement of a letter relating to the Whiskey Ring, 29 July 1875

Chapter 27

Evelyn journeyed to the country where her husband had lived all this time several days after his reappearance. She was ready to tell him the truth, tell him what she had done during the time they were without one another. She had demanded him to tell her where he had been. Now she knew it was her turn to show him the respect he was due. He was her husband and nothing could change that.

She found him upon the sofa reading poetry by Robert Burns. The smile on his face when she stepped into the room augmented the guilt preying upon her with a thirsty vengeance. It had been a long time since she saw him this happy; yet her news would shatter whatever happiness he had left.

“Come sit, please.” He gestured to the space beside him. He put his arm around her and whispered into her ear. “Nothing in this world makes me happier than you do.”

“How have you been?” She stroked some long stray hairs behind his ear.

“Sometimes I sit here, and I cannot help it. My mind—it wanders back, back to blood, death. I even hear the guns rocketing in my ears. I try to block out the sound, but it’s no use. Only thoughts of you are what save me from insanity, knowing you are safe and alive; and seeing you drives the horrible memories away for a little while longer.”

“I cannot imagine what you must be going through. I’m so sorry that you are the one to carry this burden.

“Please don’t be. I have you.” He gazed down at her lips and back up to her green eyes. He swept her lips with his and pressed on. His gentle touch activated all her nerves to tingle, and she melted. He brought his head closer to hers and drank in her smell as he released her. “I have missed you.”

“Carl, do you not wonder what has happened to me over these past few months?”

“Yes, I do. I’m sorry I never asked. I believe I have become so caught up with the thought of having you again that I have forgotten all else. Please, tell me your story.”

“Well,” she folded her hands upon her lap. “I received a third-degree burn from the fire that overtook our home after the explosion. Someone pulled me out from the rubble. I don’t know whom. I would have liked to thank the man or woman who did so.” She lifted her sleeve for him to see the jagged scars. “I had to stay in the hospital for several weeks until I fully recovered.

“Once I did, I traveled to Dartmouth to visit my mother to see if she had been hurt. She was in full health so I returned to try to find you. I searched every medical centre on the Dartmouth side first and then the Richmond side afterward. During this search, I started to work at the hospital where I had received my operation. They were looking for volunteers. I thought that since I had received some medical training before I married you I could be of some help. That is where I became more acquainted with Betsie, another nurse on staff. We became very good friends to the point that we found an apartment and moved in together. Meanwhile, I searched everywhere for you. You were never listed as dead but missing. I could not find you. That hospital that you said you went to—well, I talked to one of the doctors. He said that he thought he had seen you, but he couldn’t be too sure; so I wasn’t sure that that was any evidence at all. I gave up searching for you in February.”

Carl sat there stoically, the corners of his lips drooping. She wanted him to scream at her, say what a horrible wife she had been. Instead he looked upon her with compassion.

“I don’t know what to say, Carl. I let you down. I gave up. Many times my conscience pounded me with ready guilt, but I ignored it. I thought I needed to move on with my life. Then Gerald...the doctor who had operated on my arm, Doctor MacCrae—he started to take a fancy to me. My heart aching for some sort of love became vulnerable to his advances. Mind you, he was never indecent, and he always treated me well. He asked to court me a few months ago. I consented, and a week ago...he asked to marry me.”

“What did you say?” Hesitation to listen to her answer was written all over his face.

“I said yes.”

He hung his head in defeat. 

“Please say something.” 

“I...cannot.”

“Carl, please.”

“I suppose I cannot hold against you the fact that you gave up on me. Blast, I gave up on you immediately. I should have been the one searching for you, but I did not. I only assumed you were dead, and I wallowed in self-pity all these months. But...I would never have thought that you would take comfort in the arms of another man so soon.”

“Carl, I...”

“What are you going to do now?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I asked you.”

She thought he would be stomping all over the room, shaking his fist at her, but he didn’t. She expected him to fight for her, but no, he gave her the freedom to choose. She did not want any of it. She had already made her choice.

She fell to her knees in front of him. She raised his chin with her fingers. “Please look at me.”

His eyes darted left and right before they tentatively settled upon hers.

“Before you left me that fateful morning, December 6, do you remember the way you kissed me in our bed, the looks you bestowed my way? I would like to know what changed you? You had finally returned to the spirit of the man I once knew.”

He answered, “When we would dine together, I would watch you when you didn’t notice. I saw that you thought you were leading an utterly miserable life with me. I thought to myself that if I wanted to make you happy, if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you in full assurance that you would not leave me, I had to try. That morning I not only tried but loved, truly loved."

She nodded. “I felt that love. I choose you. I love you. I am not going to leave you for someone else. You are my husband. You are all I will and ever want.” 

His eyes started to glisten with tears. He cradled the sides of her head in his hands. “Please don’t leave me.” 

“I won’t.”

“What will you tell...what was the gentleman’s name? Gerald?”

“Yes, Gerald is his name. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what I’m going to say to him, but I do owe him an explanation.”

“Will you stay here for the night?”

He was her husband after all. There was nothing wrong with being with him in this intimate way. She was sure Betsie would conclude why she was missing that night.“Yes, I will stay.”

He led her to his room and started to unbutton her outer clothing. “I just want to hold you tonight,” he whispered lightly in her ear, his breath sending slivers of shivers down her exposed neck.

She didn’t care what happened. She was with him again. For a long time she had missed this kind of love he was giving her. He slipped into bed and bid her come by his side. She slid in and moulded into his hunched form. He put his arm over her and held her close. In each other’s company, they both slept in peace that night. No nightmares invaded her mind, and she surmised that it was the same for him. He had fallen asleep a very short while after they had crawled into bed. His breathing moved in a rhythmic pattern. His heartbeat throbbed like a river. She was home in his arms; she was safe. How could she have ever let him go? How could she have ever lost hope that she would find him again?

***

The next morning, a myriad of country birds chanted their songs. Their symphony was so loud yet hauntingly soothing. A smile drew upon Evelyn’s face; she felt Carl’s arm around her warm body and hugged it tighter around her. She never wanted to be let go. She stayed under his umbrella for ten minutes before he was awakened by the same noise.“Evelyn?”

“Yes.”

“You’re still here.”

“I am still here.”

They put on their clothing and went into the dining room to eat. However, no breakfast was ready to eat. So Evelyn rummaged through the kitchen and found oatmeal.

“I need to go back and...talk to Gerald, talk to Betsie.”

“Yes, you must. I am not sure if you have thought of this or not, but well, I thought...let me say it this way. I found a quaint cottage for sale in this town yesterday, only five minutes walking distance from here. Perhaps we could see it together and figure whether we can afford it with the salary you have received these months.”

“I would love to see it. Perhaps we could go see it tomorrow.”

“Of course, until tomorrow then.”

She left after they had breakfast and returned to her apartment. “Betsie.” 

“Yes?” She came out of the kitchen with a towel in her hands. “Well?”

“I need to speak to Gerald.”

“What have you chosen to do, Evelyn?”

“I love Carl, and I am married to him. I would never leave him now, not even for Gerald.” 

“Good.”

“I need to go.”

“I know. Go. I believe Gerald is home. I didn’t see him at the hospital this morning.”

“All right. I’ll be back.” She sighed. “Please pray a little word for me.”

“I will.” Fear was in Betsie’s eyes.

Evelyn left immediately, bringing the ring Gerald had given her.

After one knock, Gerald answered the door. He drew her in with his one arm and planted a passionate kiss upon her trembling lips. She tried to fight against him: but his touch was too strong, and she found herself succumbing. She finally stomped on his foot.

“Aaah!” He cried, twisting and stomping his foot upon the wooden floor to fight the pain. “Evelyn, have you gone mad?”

“No.”

“Why the...?”

“Gerald, I found Carl.”

His eyes grew wide, and his lips parted open. “What?”

“Is Clyde here?”

“No, he’s out playing with some chaps.”

“The man John has been taking care of all along—that was Carl the whole time. I found him. That means I’m still married to him.” She procured the ring from her clasped fist. “I cannot be your wife.”

He took the ring from her, devastation stamped upon his face. “Can you tell me by looking me in the eyes that he has not forced you to choose him?”

“Yes, I have chosen him.”

“Why?”

“Gerald, he is my husband, and I love him. When I thought I had lost him...I thought my world had ended. Then you came along and brought me to the surface. I...I thank you for doing so.”

“You played me? Was your love for me only one based upon gratitude?” He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“How dare you say that? I did love you with all my heart. You were the key to my locket, the calm to my storm. I...I still love you. But...”

“How on earth can you love me...and him at the same time?”

“I do not know.”

“Carl is just a ghost in the past. I am here, now. I want you for my own. Please, Evelyn, I am begging you to reconsider your choice.”

She took a step near him and kissed him on the cheek. “I cannot.” She looked up into his beautiful eyes and pleaded with him to understand her choice. This—a fight for her heart—is what she had wanted from Carl in the first place. Here, Gerald was fulfilling that desire. Once done, once felt—it was extremely overbearing. Freedom or chains? Now she understood the immensity of Carl’s love.

Suddenly, furious knocking banged upon Gerald’s front door.

“Yes, I’m coming.”

“Provincial Police, is there a Doctor Gerald MacCrae residing here?” 

“Yes, I am he.”

“You are under arrest for the betrayal of this country the Crown Dominion of Canada under His Majesty Henry V.”

Gerald looked to Evelyn in defeat. The extreme pain clouding his eyes cut her to the heart. She moved not a step. He turned back his head to the authorities.“Take me.” He willingly offered his yet unbound hands. 

“Uh-hum, well, carry on men.”

“Wait!” Evelyn cried. “Don’t take him. Please!”

They heeded not her pleading.“Goodbye, Evelyn.”

The authorities handcuffed him and shoved him out the door.

“I love you.” She did not know if her words touched his ears. In a blink of an eye, he was gone.

She had never told a soul the secret he had entrusted to her keep. Someone else must have known for the authorities to find out. But whom?

Her heart ached as she had seen her love being dragged away to who knew what. She knew she would have no chance of procuring a visit with him. She hoped one day she could right the wrong she had done toward him. Yet in a way, she was relieved. She had no choice but to be with Carl. Gerald’s presence was overwhelming for her supple heart. He was gone forever. She would never see his strong jawline or the hard flint of bronze metal in his eyes. Those lips that she had kissed so many times had now vanished. She would not be tempted to run back into his arms if anything were ever to go amiss with Carl and her.

All there was to do was to move on with her life with Carl next to her side. She promised never to forget the love she had for Gerald, the love that had saved her life when she thought it had ended.

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