Beautiful in its Victorian era design, the century old wooden house on St. George Avenue easily caught the attention of all those that passed by. Refurbished, it could be featured in any number of magazines that showed glossy pictures of southern porches on grand old houses framed by moss draped sprawling oaks.
But presently, it was in need of repair. The white paint on the wooden siding was flaking and peeling, chalky with age, with the occasional board misaligned due to rot or the rusty nail holding it, having come loose. The black roof and black shutters were sun bleached and now gray, both needing replacing.
A set of wide stairs, warped with the sun, led to an even wider porch. The new rocking chairs looked out of place in the antiquity and long neglect of the veranda, as did the newly planted palms in the recently bought glazed porcelain waist high pots.
The oversized, front double door signified the grand entrance. Exaggerated in its proportions, it’s gaping maw seemed eager to consume and devour any and all guests that would enter. Large paned windows kept a watchful, hungry eye on the world and all those that walked by the house. A octagonal tower, artfully integrated within the architecture of the house, rose high, exceeding the roof lines of all the houses in the neighborhood, rising even higher than the sprawling oaks of the quaint historic town of St. Augustine.
The house had been tested by time, having survived over a hundred and fifty years of the harsh Florida sun and other ravages of nature, including a total of three direct hurricanes and one insignificant fire.
History graced its halls and rooms. One would expect romantic images of ladies in frilled shirts, chokers, long dresses and men in top hats and jackets to fill the house. These people of yesteryear would converse in a more dignified drawl, speaking of how the orange crop faired the past season, of the shark sighting off the coast or how the train schedule was rearranged to accommodate even more visitors to their beautiful southern paradise. But these conjured visions of yesteryear were not the case with this house, for there was nothing well within it’s walls of the secrets they hid.
The families that had resided within its walls were unfortunate souls, for the house, always a house, never a home, had not been kind to any of them. This house and its history, which stained rather than graced its halls, was shrouded in a veil of darkness, known only to the few that were familiar with its obscure and dark past.
The house had been passed through the hands of a total of seven owners. Two had gone mad and locked up in the local asylum; three had committed suicide, one of which had been the drunkard Willoughby who had gone on an infamous bender in which he attempted to rip the house apart with his bare hands after he had killed his wife and children, and then himself.
One suicide was of notable significance: Pierre Lefluer, the playboy tycoon. He had made his fortunes in agriculture and was at one time, a rival of Henry Flagler of the railway industry in the early days of frontier Florida. Curiously, Lefluer threw his fortune, future and life away when he simply left the house early one morning, walked through the cobbled streets of St. Augustine and into the ocean, drowning himself.
In the teens, when it was a boarding house, there had been a modest investigation into the disappearance of several residences. But nothing ever materialized from that inquiry and those people were forever lost to memory and time.
In 1930, while vacationing in Florida, Johnny the Hand, the infamous Chicago mobster, along with his gang, the East Side Boys, had a notorious shootout at the house, slaughtering everyone except Jimmy Bart who escaped death that day, but not insanity. In whispered tones, he murmured of spirits that made the gang mad. Initially, it was assumed he meant booze, but Jimmy Bart clarified that it wasn’t alcohol spirits, but rather, ghost spirits. He was killed two days later for such absurdities and the belief that he had shot everyone at the house in order to be promoted within the unlawful organization.
In 1942, one owner had unsuccessfully attempted to burn the house down, but was thwarted by a busload of World War 2 recruits who happened to be passing by, all jumping in to douse the blaze and wrestle the mad, frenzied, babbling owner to the ground before police could arrive and lock him up in the for arson of his own domicile.
Absent from history, before the house was built, was the story of the Timucua squaw that had lost her mind, killing her mate and infant child with a stone axe at the spot.
Nor was it written in the exploratory travel logs of the Spanish explorer and settler, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the strange stories of the natives and the warnings of the locals who forbade his trespassing on to this unnatural spot.
In all appearances, the house seemed normal to the observer or those that passed by, but it was far from that.
Often times, a lost tourist, having strayed a bit too far from the local hub, wondering the historic neighborhoods, would, as they passed by on the street, hear a curious, subtle beckoning whisper in their ear. Perhaps, once they glanced at the house in uneasiness, if they were attentive enough, they would, out of the corner of their eye, see a shadow that flitted behind the curtains of an upstairs window; a shadow that didn’t quiet register as a shadow. There would an unconscious uneasiness that directed the curious to keep strolling and not to turn and look back, to take their next step along the sidewalk a little quicker, leaving them with an unsettled feeling of deep dread and despair, only to turn their head to make sure they were leaving the house behind.
And so it was with Kyle, a feeling of deep dread and despair welled within him as he gazed upon the house, having slowed his truck to a slow roll. In his trepedatious heart, his first instinct was that he hoped against hope that this beautiful and magnificent historic structure was not his destination.
He told himself that his unease was attributed to the recent string of calamites that had disrupted his life. But he knew he was lying to himself, for the dominating sense of anxiety he felt at the moment was attributed to a history he shared with the owner of the house.
Or rather a lack of history with her, he thought disappointedly.
Dismay and despair that gnawed at the back of his mind and amplified, telling him he didn’t want to be there, urging him to keep driving, to keep going and return to that dark cramped motel room where he had come from.
But he had given his word. At least until he had stayed a few days, not committing long term.
At the moment, his word, this truck and his tools in the back, were all he had.
He stopped on the deserted street next to the curb.
Verifying his destination, he looked at the street sign in his rearview mirror.
He affirmed he was parked at the crossroads which his sister said the house sat upon, St. George and Charlotte Street.
He sat, unmoving, uncomfortable in his own skin. He let out a belabored sigh, feeling as though he were about to suffocate in the reality he found himself in.
Here, in front of the house of an unrequited love, his feelings of pettiness were even more amplified by the great expanse of a lawn and long walk to the large front steps and the sheer size of the large house, making him feel more irrelevant than he already felt in his menial life.
He imagined the house was a living entity that was mocking the irrelevance that was Kyle: the tower on the side of the house was a cocked top hat, the houes top windows were eyes, the porch a mouth and the porch rail, teeth. The house, in Kyle’s mind, grew in height and mass, hovering over him, laughing at him and his insignificance, challenging him, daring him to take on the task that was rehabbing and fixing this house for the girl who he had always loved, but who had never loved him back.
He blinked back the despair and frustration, putting the silly image out of his mind, relying on the hope that this house project was the turning point in his failed miserable life. He told himself, as he had been doing for the past couple days now, that this could be a stepping stone, the one job to put him on his path that built his self-esteem and career back.
It was for Krissa, the Holy Grail of all women, the secret love that had shaped his life.
This opportunity, of possibly rehabbing a century old historic house, was a gift presented to him on a silver platter; now, having showed up, all he had to do was follow through by putting on a brave face and do this task ahead of him.
But he was not sure that he could even do that. He wasn’t even sure he could get out of his truck right now, fear and insecurity held him in a suffocating grip.
He had an overwhelming fatalist feeling that any further exertions or efforts on his part would be met with complete and utter failure. He didn’t want to attempt to tackle this new opportunity or start on this new journey for he was sure it too would only fail, as he had so magnificently failed in life.
He was a broken man that didn’t want to proceed in life. All he wanted to do was crawl up in a ball and pass away, longing for the dark miserable motel room in Miami he had been living in since he had lost everything just six months ago. He lost his vey beautiful fiancée due to the loss of his once very successful development company and lost his company due to a very unscrupulous embezzling business. Shortly after that, the bank had taken his house.
But, he told himself, he was here and should at least go through with what he said he would do. Which wasn’t much. So unsure of himself, he had not even committed to fixing the house, only saying he would inspect it and give an estimate of what the rest of the house rehab would cost. From his understanding the house was in a transition state, the rehab having been started, but there had been an unfortunate interruption.
Out of the blue, two days ago, Stacey, his older sister, had called, surprising him; as did her informing him that she was now living with Krissa in St. Augustine because she and her husband, Rick, were separating. But it shouldn’t have surprised him, he knew their marriage had been rocky the last they had spoken right after his business had folded. But he hadn’t talked to her in the months since, had not gotten any updates from her, shamed at his spiraling, wrecked life.
Her call had been one with purpose. She wanted Kyle to get out of this rut she knew he was in and come to St. Augustine, stay at Krissa’s and complete the rehab of the house, fulfilling her and her late husband’s dreams of turning it into a bed and breakfast.
This news of Krissa’s husband’s death shocked and surprised him, but he said nothing, acting unfazed as Stacey told him that he would have a room and board as well as a good paycheck every week. Kyle, not wanting his sister and lifelong crush to see the extreme depravity of his situation by accepting the work she was offering, had declined.
But Stacey persisted, pleading with Kyle, telling him that she was going crazy at the house and needed him there for support.
Like a good brother, Kyle had relented, but made it clear that he was only agreeing to come for the weekend to evaluate the house and visit with his sister, lend his support and see Krissa, and then decide if he would stay on and help.
But he didn’t think he would stay. In fact, he was sure he wouldn’t be staying. His pride would not allow him to accept the work, not wanting Krissa or Stacey to think he was so deplorable that he needed this work. He wanted to return to Miami where there was a strange comfort in that small dark motel room.
He curled his lip, gritted his teeth exemplifying his emotions and sat staring, not at the daunting house, not noticing the passing shadow in the upstairs window, only staring blankly, seeing his failed past and frightening future, not wanting to proceed by getting out of his truck, not wanting to take the next step, not wanting to face Stacey and especially, not wanting to face the beautiful Krissa.
His hand went to the ignition to turn the key so he could drive off the nearest bridge.
But he was stopped by a high-pitched screech.
His hand held fast the key without turning, realizing the sound had come from the unoiled front screen door as it now banged shut.
His face went flush, thinking Krissa had spied him sitting in his truck, and was now coming out to welcome him in.
He looked in that direction, feeling embarrassed.
But it wasn’t Krissa coming out to greet him, it was a little girl, oblivious of him sitting in his truck, as she nimbly stepped out on the front porch.
Kyle knew instantly it was Krissa’s child. Her conspicuous blonde hair, which could be her mother’s, was the first clue. Dressed in a cute outfit was another indication she was Krissa’s, for Krissa always dressed cute.
From the phone conversation with his sister, Kyle knew the child’s name was Cassandra; Stacey telling him the child was four or five, he couldn’t’ remember which. Maybe she was six?
She daintily danced about on the front porch, swaying her body and head as if she were a fairy with wings and was magically floating through the air.
And just as abruptly as the child had started these motions, she ceased, seemingly realizing she was not a fairy, just a little girl, without wings, on her front porch, neither flying or floating.
Disheartened, she plopped down on the front steps, propping her elbows on her knees, she put her head down on her crossed arms and her body gave several disappointed heaves.
Kyle realized she was sobbing.
He felt bad for the child for she had lost her father only a few months ago.
His heart hurt for her.
So overwhelmed with pity he was for the child, Kyle forgot about his own hopeless existence, his own daunting fears, the embarrassment that was his life and opened his truck door, and went to her.
Though her heaving and sobbing diminished, she kept her head buried in her arms.
Getting closer, Kyle could hear her snivels.
He paused just short, so as not to spook or alarm her. “You must be Cassandra” he said softly.
She jolted, startled, looking up.
So much for not spooking her Kyle thought, wondering if he could do anything right in life.
The child quickly wiped her tears, revealing a displeased look on her puffy red face, not happy to have been disturbed, embarrassed that someone had caught her crying.
Her look transformed to one of discernment: a pinched expression attempting to determine who this man was. With squinting eyes, the sun in her face, she was not able to make him out.
Kyle stepped into the shadow of the porch to ease the glare in her eyes. “Hello young lady, my name is Kyle Allbright. I am a friend of your mom’s. And your godmother, Aunt Stacy, is my sister,” he said in a very adult manner, sticking his hand out for a handshake.
She was highly uncertain, for no adult had ever offered to shake her hand because she was just a kid. Surprised and pleased she was being treated in such a grownup way, she quickly stuck her hand out and vigorously took Kyles.
Returning the grasp., Kyle was gentle with her small, soft delicate hand in his much larger calloused one. He shook it lightly announcing with earnestness and a a smile that even surprised him “Good to meet you Cassandra!”
A smile cracked her face as she shook his hand back energetically, making it count, for this was the first time she had ever shaken hands. Her sadness forgotten for now, she was delighted and surprised that an adult was treating her like a grown up, for she had always been treated like the child she was. “How do you know my name?” she asked.
“Stacy told me all about you. She said you were beautiful, and she certainly wasn’t lying. You are indeed a beautiful girl.”
“Thanks,” she said, feeling happy. “Do you want to see my mom or Aunt Stacey? They are in the house,” she asked, starting to move to get up, to go get them, eagerness evidenced in her willingness to please this stranger who was being so kind to her.
“Goodness no!” he said exaggeratedly. “I want to talk to you! They are boring grownups! Who wants to talk to those chatty birds!?” he embellished his reply. His own sadness forgotten for now, he took a seat on one of the lower steps, surprisingly enjoying this interaction with the child. And by extending the inevitable reunion of he and Krissa, he could calm his nerves a bit more.
Cassandra giggled at the fact that this man was calling her mom and Aunt Stacey birds. “Chatty birds!” she gleefully repeated and giggled again. She was happy that this adult stranger wanted to stay in her company.
“How old are you?” he asked. He realized that he was still smiling.
“I’m five!” she meekly replied.
Kyle pouted and scrunched his face, looking at her sideways.
She smiled at this face he was making, unsure what he was doing.
“You mean you’re not five and half or five and three quarters? You’re five? Just five?”
“My birthday was two weeks ago,” she said at this man’s silly antics.
“Well, good for you then! Happy belated birthday!”
“Belat…” she tried to sound out the unfamiliar word.
“Belated!” he helped her.
“Belated!” she happily repeated. “What does that mean?”
“It’s means I’m late telling you happy birthday.”
“Belated!” she repeated, pleased to know a new word.
“What did you get for your birthday?”
“I got a doll,” she said, her smile slipping slightly.
Kyle noticed this and asked “Well, where is your doll?”
“It’s upstairs. I don’t like her!” she said, almost defensively.
“Why not?” Kyle asked, surprised that a little girl didn’t like a doll.
“It watches me!”
“Watches you!?” Kyle responded, unsure of her comment.
“Ya, I put a pillow over her, so she can’t. But she takes the pillow off and still watches me.”
“Well, what else did you get?” Kyle asked, wanting to shift the subject, not caring where the doll conversation was going.
“I got an iPad!”
“Cool!” Kyle said, excited for her.
“But mom won’t let me bring it outside!” she said a little dejected.
“That is probably smart.” Kyle said. “You don’t want to damage it!”
“But it doesn’t work in the house sometimes. The battery dies. But sometimes it works.” She explained and then started, but couldn’t recall his name “Mr. …?”
“Allbright, Mr. Allbright. But you can call me Kyle. Or if you want to be fancy, you can call me Kyler,” he said making her smile. Seeing this smile, he continued. “Or if you want to be really fancy, you can call me Mr. Kyler Shannon Allbright,” he said.
She giggled, saying “You have a girl’s name!”
“Shhh!” Kyle dramatically put his finger to his lips and hunched over as if he were sharing secrets. “Don’t tell anybody!”
She giggled even more at his embellished antics.
God, he was having a good time, he thought. He was glad that both his and the child’s moods had shifted from mutual sadness to this shared happiness.
“You’re funny Mr. Kyler Shannon Albite,” she said, butchering his name.
Kyle found this amusing. “Thanks Cassandra. What is your middle name?”
“Cassandra!” She said and giggled.
“Then what is your first name?” he asked, laughing with her.
“That is beautiful! Savannah Cassandra,” he said in exaggerated awe.
“Mommy and Daddy named me after the place they met and fell in love,” she said excited to relate the story, but her face had fallen at the mention of her deceased father. “But Daddy is not here anymore.”
“He’s here, but he’s not,” she said. “Daddy tries to keep the scaries away,” she said sad. And then she added “He does a better job now that he is in the in-between.”
Kyle recognized that she was not using the word death, but just an allusion to it, knowing she was having a hard time dealing with her father’s passing. He felt truly sorry for the child, whose lip suddenly started trembling.
Not wanting to see her cry again, not wanting to see her sad, rather wanting the giggles, laughs and smiles that they shared just moments ago, he forcibly, desperately, changed the subject “Can you climb that tree over there?” he pointed to the large Camphor tree, whose organic mass of many shiny leaves and furrowed gray and brown bark stood as tall as the house.
She looked up, glad to be distracted from her sad thoughts. “I’m too small. I can’t reach up to it,” she said, meaning the first limb.
“Oh, sure you can!” Kyle said, certain she could.
“No, I can’t!” she replied with sure declaration, convinced she wouldn’t be able to for all her previous attempts at climbing the tree had all come in defeat.
“When is the last time you tried?”
“Oh, prolly six months ago!” she threw a time out there, not even sure of the concept of six months, only knowing it was a while ago but wanting to sound smart in front of Mr. Kyler Shannon Allbite.
“Well, six months is a long time! You prolly grew a lot since then!” articulating her mispronounced words just as she had said them. “I mean, you are five years old now after all, aren’t you?” he said flatteringly, heartening her.
She looked up with a bright glow and new hope on her face, not having thought that with another birthday, she was older and taller which meant she now might indeed be able to climb the tree.
Seeing the spark in Cassandra’s eyes, Kyle urged her “Why don’t we see?”
She jumped up and ran the distance to the gigantic specimen.
Following the child, Kyle looked at its large scale, equally tall as the house. He thought it lent a pleasing sense of balance to the space, its natural structure contrasting with the house, it’s living tissue and organic form contrary to the flat surfaces of the orthogonal angels of the house.
Cassandra stood at the base of the large trunk, wholly dwarfed by its size, intimidated by the first branch, sure this proposed feat was impossible. She cast a doubtful glance back at Kyle.
His sure smile was returned with an unconvinced smile.
Kyle nodded his head in encouragement. “Go ahead”.
“Im’a dandy dandy!” the child squealed as she perched herself on the very branch she hadn’t been able to reach before, in awe as to where she was, and what she had done. Not believing it, she turned to Kyle for verification.
“You did it!” he said gleefully.
“I did it, I did it!” she said excitedly bouncing on the branch, holding tightly, her now sure and proud smile beaming.
Nearly three and a half feet off the ground, she looked up at the many branches above her, seeing the possibilities that presented themselves now that she had surmounted this first one.
“Go ahead!” Kyle said, seeing the possibilities as well, recognizing her spirit of exploration. “But not too high! I don’t want us to get in trouble with your mother!” he presaged, wondering if her mother was even keeping a dutiful maternal eye on her daughter.
With bright eyes and an anticipating smile, she stretched for the next branch and clasped it, clambering up unassisted.
“Lookie Mr. Albite, Lookie!” she said even more excited at this point of ascension. She was shattering her expectations, climbing further than she ever thought she would or could.
“You are so high!” he implored her, excited and happy for the child.
“I am! I am so high!” Determined, she started to go higher.
“Cassandra Savannah! Get down from that tree!” a voice called from the porch.
Kyle distantly recognized it as the voice of an angel and instinctually turned his head.
His heart swelled. And he fell in love all over again, probably harder than the first time he had ever laid eyes on Krissa, all those years ago.
Looking at her, he thought she was more beautiful now than she had ever been, maybe even more so with age, her maternal status lending an adorability and sexiness found with mothers. Her face was flush, as he always remembered, never having had a need for makeup, though she sometimes wore it, as she did a little today. Her blonde hair was cut in a cute bob, more easily manageable, Kyle thought, now that she had more responsibility of being a mother and less time for her own self, she most likely styled it that way; and it certainly was styled, for she was always about style and looking cute, as she was now. Her still slim form meant she stayed in shape, the birth of her child not having spoiled her body. Her lime tank top accentuated her breast, bigger than he remembered. A denim skirt, cut just above her knees showed off her legs. Legs that he had imagined running his hands up and down, caressing and parting to rub what was in between.… “Damn, she was gorgeous,” he thought as his libido and loins became aroused.
Just like the first time he had seen her, she seemed to ignore him, not even acknowledging Kyle’s presence.
Krissa withheld her greeting towards him, as she stood stationary, expectantly waiting while her daughter descended the tree.
“Baby, I was going to take pictures of your cute outfit and and post them and can’t have you getting dirty.”
So much for the fantasy of Krissa running into his arms and declaring her love for him Kyle thought as he glanced from her to the child who was still mounted on the second branch, a dour look on her face, her adventure cut short by her mother’s commands.
Kyle instinctually reached up for the disappointed child, who stretched out to him and went into his arms. He gingerly but assuredly grasped her small frame, swinging and setting her lightly on the ground. His heart hurt seeing the definite look of dispiritedness on the small child’s face, exactly what he felt when Krissa had not acknowledged him.
Trying to assure the child, he said “It’s ok Sweetie.”
The child’s return look was full of doubt.
Finally acknowledging Kyle’s existence, Krissa said to him “Kyle Allbright! You were always a bad influence on the ladies!”
And now, standing in the shade of that great tree, he wished he had not come to St. Augustine, for there before him was the love that he never had, the unanswered crush that had not returned his affections, the dream that had never materialized. A blaring example of another failure in his miserable life.
But he was here, awkwardly looking at the woman he always loved from afar, holding the hand of her child that was not his.
The situation was even more awkward for Cassandra had not made a move to go to her mother. Rather she stood stationary by Kyle’s side, clasping tightly to his hand, her feet firmly planted on the grass.
He looked down at the child and back to her mother, wishing it wasn’t as uncomfortable as he thought it was.
He took action, stooping down to the unmoving child who was hesitant to go to her mother, possibly fearing retribution for her transgression of climbing the tree, Kyle thought. He whispered to her “Come on.”
The child hesitantly started. Within seconds, their pace was synchronized, her small tread matched Kyle’s slowed pace, as she walked in stride with him down the lengthy paver walk to the house.
He looked down at the child and couldn’t help but smile at this tender moment, warming his heart and seemed so natural to him.
Looking up, he saw that it also warmed Krissa’s heart; she looked like she was melting as she observed this adorable scene of Kyle holding her daughters’ hand, both walking in step towards her.
When they hugged, when his arm touched hers, when his chest pressed against her ample breast, when her hair went into his face, when her smell, her signature feminine scent that he always remembered, filled his nostrils Kyle felt a warm chill pass over his body as his heart fluttered and his knees were suddenly weak. He forgot that this was the woman that broke his heart and molded him, he forgot about his troubles in life; he forgot everything and just knew that his presence existed in their embrace.
He was again a teenager infatuated.
But deep down in his soul, an instinctual voice cautioned him that he mustn’t fall under her sway again for it was dangerous for him.
He reluctantly released his hold and backed out of the hug, not wanting to.
Surprising him and supplicating him and supplicating his hope for love, there was a slight hesitation, a reluctance, from her to end this hug as she held fast to him for a moment.
And in his muddled mind that had played romantic situations of the two of them a million times over, he thought maybe there was something there? Maybe his love would be requited after all these years.
And his self-preservation obstructed his amorous wonderings and suggested that possibly she just wanted comfort, missing her husband, she simply needed a surrogate hug from any man. Or was she manipulating him as she had done so in the past, as she did with all people?
Stepping back from the hug, she exclaimed, sounded excited “Look at you, you’ve grown up and gotten buff from the last time I saw you!” She grabbed his bicep, feeling the large bulge. Her flirting continued as she looked him over. “Fine specimen of a man you always were Kyler Albright. Your hair looks great!” she bantered on, complimenting him, running her hand through it, her fingers electrifying him, emboldening him, giving him hope for love.
“You look great yourself,” he started his own gushing praises. But he stopped, not wanting to get swept away with the unrealistic adorations of his imaginations by giving her embellished compliments, he instead turned to the child behind him and said, “And Cassandra is a beautiful angel.”
Hearing this, the child still standing on the sidewalk, not having mounted the steps yet, crossed her arms over her chest and rocked back and forth on her heels, unsure how to take the accolade Kyle had given her.
“Come here dear.” Krissa beckoned her docile daughter. “I don’t want you getting dirty out there in that tree.”
Laboriously, the child climbed the steps, reaching her domineering mother’s side, seemingly cowed. Her mother tussled the child’s golden locks once she was in arms reach.
“She knows she is not supposed to climb that tree,” she said looking down at her.
“Sorry. I didn’t know.” Kyle said subversively, immediately wishing he had not said anything at all, for he again felt like he was the passive, timid high school kid in love with the older college girl.
“It’s all right. We just won’t do it next time,” Krissa said, casting a disapproving look to the child.
Seeing Cassandra’s face fall at her mother’s words made Kyle’s heart hurt. She had just begun to conquer that tree, he thought.
Her mother reiterated “I wanted to take your picture in that cute outfit and post them, I can’t have you getting dirty and sweaty!” she said, straightening the child’s dress.
Maybe to subvert Krissa and his undying suffocating affection for her, or possibly to please the child, he knew not, Kyle suggested, “Maybe we can put a swing in it?”
The child’s disappointed look turned to one of momentary glee, as she looked to Kyle and then her mother for approval, whose answer was not as definitive as she would have liked “We’ll see.”
Kyle saw that the child’s fleeting happiness and hope was again dashed with her mother’s most surely dismissive remarks.
“Mr. Kyle might be staying with us for a while. How do you feel about that?” Krissa asked Cassandra, oblivious of the child’s disappointed disposition.
The child took to rocking on her heels again, nervous of the attention that both the adults were giving her, again not sure how to answer. Internally she was joyed at the idea that Mr. Kyler Shannon Allbite might stay with them because she liked him bunches.
Seeing the child was not answering, Krissa looked back to Kyle, “Well, I’m glad you’re here at least!” and gave a laugh.
“Smiling Kyle!” his sister’s voice came from behind the screen door within the darkness of the interior of the house.
Kyle looked up and saw his sister emerge from the shadows, pushing open the screaking door and stepped into the light of the day.
The two siblings greeted, hugging affectionally.
“Damn Kyle, you’re not so slim anymore!” she proclaimed looking at his now muscled frame, having bulked up in the several years since she had last seen him.
“I know right? He’s really gotten big!” Krissa agreed, admiringly and playfully ran her hand over his large pectoral muscle as she turned to go in the house saying, “Come on, let’s get out of this heat.”
Kyle’s heart, of course, wanted to jump out of his chest at Krissa’s suggestive touch, his self-preservation forgotten. His internal romantic screamed for joy which was interrupted with the question of how long was a widow supposed to mourn before she started flirting again as Krissa was doing now.
And his romantic projections pushed that aside with the thought that maybe the two of them could slowly move into a relationship over the appropriate time and could live happily ever after here at the bed and breakfast.
And he cursed himself for having fallen in love all over again.