Silence permeated the air. It seemed even the birds muted their song as the two men looked at each other. Neither was willing to broach the subject that hovered so heavily between them.
It was Arthur who finally broke the silence.
“We thought you were dead,” he said softly.
“Aye, I almost was,” Stephen replied, “but as you can see I am very much alive thanks to the generosity of the good padre and his staff at a mission near St. Augustine.” After filling his lungs with the sweet scented air of the Georgia shoreline to their maximum capacity and releasing it ever so slowly, he continued, “I believe we have a lot to discuss.”
Arthur closed his eyes and slowly nodded his head. The moment he came down from his height of elated joy at the discovery that his good friend was not lost to him and realized that Stephen’s being alive meant Elizabeth was not a widow, he knew that he would eventually have to have this conversation. He had been dancing around the subject while he waited for the right moment. Now he wished to be anywhere but here. For surely nothing good could come of this conversation. They were both in love with the same woman. Such a curse should not befall two men who loved each other so.
“I love her,” Arthur sighed.
“As do I,” Stephen replied in a calm manner that belied the torrent of emotions within him.
The distant figures of Bishoff and Ollie as they slowly made their way on foot down the trodden path toward the two friends grew larger and more distinguishable as Arthur filled Stephen in on how he came to purchase Elizabeth at the Charles Town slave auction. Stephen listened intently, interrupting only on the rare occasion where he required a little more explanation to be clear on the occurrences.
Arthur watched his friend’s facial expression carefully while he spoke. He knew Stephen almost as well as he knew himself. His friend was genuinely tormented by what his wife endured. The moistness in his eyes hinted of the tears of agony that he was crying inside. He questioned if his own love for Elizabeth was as strong as that of the man before him. Perhaps his friend had love for his wife that equaled his love for his sister. He thought yes.
Foolish innocence and wicked deceit took her from the only man she loved.
Copyright 2015 Ailene Frances
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Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Earth Wise Books; First edition
(December 19, 2015)
Paperback: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
Paperback $13.99 eBook $4.99 $3.99