Updated: Oct 30, 2020
The cool November dawn air whipped at Arielle's face, threatening to cause tears to fall from her eyes as she ran across the lake's shore early that morning. The sun rose to her right, sending an array of colors cascading over the face of the water that glistened like diamonds.
Unfortunately, the sunrise's beauty was the utter opposite from her previous nights' dreams. For the past week the nightmares would reoccur each and every night, haunting her much like a ghost. Yes, she had dealt with them times before, but seven in a row, well, it was getting to be quite the nuisance. So, every morning, Arielle would take a walk out by the lake to clear her mind; sometimes she ended up traipsing at midnight. If only they would cease, then perhaps she could get some sleep.
She stopped her running for a moment to catch her breath before turning around and heading back towards the lighthouse.
After the unexpected visit from Cade's friend Edward McAllister, Arielle and Cade had been thinking up ideas for a "cover story" in case they had any out of the blue appearances from a neighbor or another old friend. She just hoped no one she knew would stop by to meet the new light keeper and perhaps recognize her. Since seven years had gone by of living alone, without anyone knowing she hadn't died in the fire as well, she had gotten used to no one knowing her and didn't want to start an uproar by suddenly appearing back from the dead. But, for the fear someone did show up, they had a story to keep from ruining Cade's reputation. They still had one problem though, they couldn't live like that long term, something would have to change. And Arielle knew what that would be.
Before Opa left, he had given her an envelope of American money she could use until all of her inheritance had been taken care of. So, as soon as she could, Arielle would use the money to find herself a place to stay and she could live comfortably until, well, until... She didn't know what.
The only logical choice would be to get married, but she didn't know anyone to marry, had never even thought about it, and she was a technical spinster at the age of twenty. Marriage was never something she'd considered before, and seven years of solitude meant a lot of considering. The only person she knew well enough to marry was Cade, but the whole point of getting married would be so that she wouldn't have to live with him, not that she minded all that much; Cade was a great guy. Life was confusing indeed. Though why did the prospect of marrying him make her heart leap out of her chest? She had already come to the conclusion that she was attracted to him, even a bit in love. But they were friends, and friends didn't marry each other. That is, unless someone found them out. But Arielle would try to leave before that happened. She did have a feeling that Cade would either learn how to cook something other than burnt sugar or would find himself a nice girl to marry. Too bad she couldn't think of anybody who could tolerate him like she did. And the thought of another girl crying on his shoulder and teasing him made her heart ache. No, we're only friends, she chided herself. Friends that lived together, a friend she was in love with.
She shook her head to clear away all thought of Cade as she neared the blue door to her home. Oh, what was she thinking? She couldn't leave there; too many memories rested at her blue door inn. But if she had been able to leave behind her first home, why could she not move on from this one?
That same blue door opened and Cade stepped out.
She felt her pulse speed up at the sight of him. Golly, he was handsome. His light brown hair was a wavy mess, his cinnamon eyes twinkled like the sun, and that smile, goodness, that lopsided grin that made her stomach turn flips.
"Figured you were out here. 'Nother nightmare?" he asked, leading her into the house.
She nodded in reply, unable to make her vocal chords work. Did she always act like a love-sick girl around him?
Cade gave her the kind of look that could make her believe he could read her thoughts.
She shivered at the idea. If he knew how she felt about him, that she loved him, well, she couldn’t imagine his reaction. Though she ought to tell him of her plans to leave, that is, if she figured them out for herself. He’d probably go crazy, beg her to stay, then eventually realize it was for the best, wasn’t it? No, she would most likely decide that it would be too hard for her to leave and end up staying until she could think of a better reason to go. Or perhaps Cade need not know. She would have contemplated her last thought had Cade not led her into the dining room and the scent of apple pie filled the air.
Arielle gasped as she spotted a pie sitting atop the table. “But, Cade, you can’t cook worth your life!” she exclaimed, walking towards the dessert to examine the food, unsure if it really was as perfect as it looked. And, of course, its flaky crust was flawlessly golden, and once she picked up a knife and cut into it, the cinnamon and sugar coated apples oozed with deliciousness. The proof of his improving culinary skills only seemed to add more hope to her heart. Maybe he would be able to get along without her. But could she live without him?
Cade proudly grinned as he handed her a plate. “I figured that, after a week of nightmares, you needed something good to wake up to. In this case, pie. And I just so happened to have a wonderful sister who knows firsthand my plight and sent me our mother’s recipe,” he explained. “I only hope I didn’t mix up the salt with the sugar,” he teased, sitting down at the table.
He was about to begin the blessing over their food when a knock sounded on the door.
Cade hopped up from his seat. “You remember our plan?” He gulped, and she could tell he was worried as to why they kept having so many visitors and why so long after his arrival. He had been there for forty days, after all.
She bobbed her head, feeling the anxiety seep in. This could be someone who had known her years ago. She hadn’t really changed all that much, a bit taller was all. Somebody could easily recognize her light German tone and bright blue eyes everyone used to comment on. But she was going to change her name, in hopes people could better recall names than faces seven years gone.
Once Cade opened the door, even if only a crack, Arielle felt all the air rush out of her lungs. The one thing they’d hoped to avoid stood at their doorstep.
A man not much taller than herself with blond hair, familiar green eyes, and that same teasing smile tipped his hat down at Cade. “Hello, sir. My name is James Barnes,” he began, the giving of his name only confirming her suspicions, “My family and I live not far from here. My wife insisted we welcome you to the neighborhood.” James ushered a beautiful young woman Arielle remembered as Betsy Collins beside him as Cade swung the door wide open, chancing a wink at Arielle, though it did nothing to calm the storm in her stomach.
James Barnes had been her friend since she was a baby; if anyone could recognize her, it would be James. And not long before the fire, Arielle had taken a bit of a liking towards her friend. Of course he would be their first visitor from town.
His wife Betsy was the one girl Arielle’d never really had the chance to become friends with during her younger years, but she remembered the girl as a sweet little one toddling around better than she could imagine her as the gorgeous young woman in front of her.
As the couple walked into the house, James gave her a smile, the kind of smile that said, “you look awfully familiar. Have I seen you before?”, but he didn’t mention anything, thank goodness. Cade led their guests into the dining room with a bit of background information on himself, trying to make them comfortable. Then he waved his hand towards Arielle, who took in a giant breath and pasted on a grin, hoping she didn’t ruin the cover she and Cade had created. “This is my lovely wife A-Katherine,” he hesitated.
Arielle, who had taken on the part of Cade’s wife, not that he really had one, walked up to her friend and acting husband and wrapped an arm around his waist, making sure she didn’t look as uncomfortable touching him in such an intimate manner as she felt. She extended her hand to Betsy, then to James, glad her old friend had found himself a wonderful wife, even though there was that thirteen year old girl inside her that wished she was that woman. She pushed aside all thoughts of her juvenile wishes, assuring herself that she’d only been infatuated by her friend back then. “It is so very nice to meet you both. Cade and I haven’t had many visitors yet, so it is wonderful to know we have nice neighbors such as yourselves,” she told them with her fake refined tone that she’d used when teasing Mr. McAllister the past week.
Betsy giggled as she gave her husband a sideways glance. “Well, we are so very glad to finally meet you as well. We’ve heard rumors about the new light keeper, though we didn’t know anything about him having a wife. I must say, you two have done a wonderful job with the lighthouse. Why, it looks practically brand new,” she commented. “Have you had any run-ins with Emily’s ghost?” Betsy’s last remark brought a teasing grin from Cade as he pulled out a chair for Arielle at the table in the center of the room. “Not necessarily,” he replied, sitting beside Arielle.
She stepped on his foot from under the table. A simple no would have sufficed, but of course he would have to be all mysterious and give a hint towards her real identity.
Fortunately, Betsy and James didn’t seem to notice. “So, how long have you been married?” Betsy questioned. So far the girl seemed to be just as talkative as Kerri-Leigh. Good, then she could talk the visit away and keep any secrets from spilling.
“Two months. We were wed just before we moved here,” was Arielle’s cheery answer. She had to thank God she had moderate acting skills, so perhaps she would be convincing enough. Even though lying had always been something that didn’t come very easy to her as it did most people. The truth was just easier to avoid than hide.
Yet another sunny smile came from the woman sitting across from her. “Jamie and I have been married for nine months now. I thank God every day for my marvelous husband that He has blessed me with,” she said and continued to go on about her and James’ relationship. About how they’d courted for only a month before he had proposed, how she’d loved him from the first moment she’d met him, which was when she was a year old and Arielle, Betsy, and James’ mothers, along with a few other women from town had gathered at Arielle’s home for a “mommies’ day”, as Mother had called it. Though all of her words drifted away as Arielle’s thoughts won the war against her ears. Could she ever find the kind of happiness with a man that Betsy had? Or would she be miserable like Kerri if she ever got married? Could Cade be the one that she was meant for? Or was she meant to live alone forever?
The questions filled her mind until Cade leaned into her ear and whispered, “She reminds me of Kerri, except happier.” His voice was laced with sadness instead of the natural teasing she had expected. Did he wish he could have saved Kerri from her marriage to Marcus? Did he pray every day that she could find happiness if not in her husband if in something else?
She nodded ever-so-slightly before turning towards him. “I know, leibling. It’s alright,” she assured him, letting the German term of endearment slip before she could stop it. The last time she’d called him darling, she had been teasing. She wasn’t kidding with him now, yet it came out anyway. How did she even know the word for goodness sake? Even still, he didn’t know the meaning, and they were acting. It wouldn’t hurt. The word didn’t mean anything, just like how Kerri called everyone deary. Then how come she wanted to call Cade her darling every day of her life?