“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting some on yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Scott paused and scrutinized his reflection in the room’s lowboy mirror. From the donned quizzical expression, an onlooker might guess this looking glass gentleman had forgotten how to proceed with his thin black tie, which sported only one loop entangled between two fingers.
I was whistling.
The man in the mirror couldn’t remember the last time he’d caught himself absentmindedly whistling a tune. Winnie claimed that much like a tea kettle, whistling gave people a way to let off simmering steam. Scott raised an eyebrow with the thought of his impending trip east - simmering steam, indeed.
The few lines to Harlan Garrett hadn’t been easy ones to write. Scott’s Boston return would include celebrating the very subject that had caused a stubborn silence between the two men.
I hope this letter finds you well.
I believe the time has come for us to mend broken ties, a difficult accomplishment to take place across thousands of miles. I’ll be accompanying Kinsey and Mr. Seth Westcott to Boston on the 17th. I bring with me happy news and an overdue apology.
Apology. When dealing with his grandfather, Scott had learned at an early age what hills were worth dying on. This seven letter word wasn’t one of them.
Eyes settled on Jane Stanford’s invitation, propped up against a deflated chef’s hat that rested on top of the room’s dresser. A grin pushed Boston travel out the window while fingers regained knowledge of their mission and completed the bow tie. Revisiting last evening’s conversations spurred Scott’s nonsensical whistled lilt to resume.
A luminescent moon ruled over the full potential of the universe, dimming the stars it shared with the evening sky. Considering the late hour, Scott appreciated the moon’s assistance with maneuvering from one flickering street lamp to the next through slumbering Sacramento. Uncertain of the path to Emily’s residence, he allowed the young lady’s hand nestled in the crook of his arm to be their subtle guide down the wooden boardwalks.
“Mr. Lancer, I seek your forgiveness.”
“For insisting I wear this on my next cattle drive?” Scott’s teasing query coupled with the display of a chef’s hat held in his free hand.
“No. My decision on your baker’s billycock stands as dictated.” Emily’s soft smile proved difficult to spy in the low light, however, it shone in the cadence of her words. “I’m referring to my abrupt words to you regarding the Mercy Train…” A pause coaxed out a weighted sigh. “I misunderstood your expression of concern by calling it pity.”
“Stop.” Scott’s feet halted while Emily took an additional step before realizing forward movement was no longer an option. With her hand still captured in his offered arm, the baker-now-escort gently turned the young lady to face him. “Miss Browning, I have a theory. Misunderstandings don’t necessarily need forgiveness. They simply require the time to be understood.”
“You speak with authority on the subject.”
“I’ve had plenty of practice with misunderstandings.”
“I highly doubt that, but, thank you. Please know, my previous abrupt words appreciate your current kind ones. And may I suggest we test your theory and make time for more time.”
What good’s a theory if it can’t withstand the test of time?” Shared smiles resumed the couples’ stroll.
“So tell me, sir, what’s your theory on Mrs. Stanford’s dinner invitation? Is the woman being guided by the stars above?”
The moon playing hide and seek with a few clouds allowed Scott’s eye roll to go undetected. “In a way, yes, but not by the heavens above our heads. You see, many times my little cousin, Kinsey, considers herself the center of the universe, at which point I firmly plant her feet back down to earth.”
“Ah.” Emily’s slow nod confirmed a memory. “Miss Furlong. I remember meeting her at the gala. She’s charming!”
Scott’s eyes resisted another roll. “She’s a meddler.”
“Wait. Are you saying she and Mrs. Stanford are -”
“Ca-hoots?” Emily’s laugh echoed down the empty boardwalk.
“One of Kinsey’s often used words which has now wormed its way into my vocabulary. Of course, I could be wrong and all of this is just a delightful coincidence.”
“Hmmmm. I don’t know how well you know Mrs. Stanford…”
“I had the honor of matching wits with the woman over a game of billiards.”
“Oh, I do hope no money was involved.” Emily lowered her voice. “Rumors are she cheats.”
Scott’s laugh took a turn bouncing down a deserted street. “Only a few insights were gained, not finances.”
“Then you’re aware there are no coincidences in the presence of Jane Stanford.” Pondering, Emily’s index finger briefly tapped her cheek. “Perhaps it would be a good strategy if we remained silently innocent so we can observe while the cahooting stars guide our fate.”
“Ho-HO! Lancer! A military strategist! With kissable lips! Unheard of!”
I’m aware of the rare find here, George. The escort slowed the couples’ pace. “Agreed.”
“Besides, I’d hate to disappoint them.”
Stopping, Scott released Emily’s arm to present himself front and center. “Miss Browning, I try my damnedest never to be a disappointment.” His hand rose, cupping the young lady’s chin and tilting it slightly upward. Sensing mutual anticipation, Scott leaned down and tenderly brushed Emily’s lips with his own, prolonging his stay for only a moment. It was, by far, the sweetest kiss he’d ever been gifted with - chocolate icing not required.
“Mr. Lancer,” Emily’s whispered tone hinted dismay. “I believe in being truthful.”
Righting himself, Scott’s heart stood on a cliff ready to dive into the pit of his stomach. “Of course.”
“We passed my home quite some time ago.”
Emily’s sheepish grin brought his heart back in from the ledge.