Home » A Wasted Life » Short Stories » The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter One

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter One

Alice had become accustomed to anxiously awaiting word from her beloved husband when he was away on business. She was always overcome with joy when the letter carrier handed her an envelope.

Their unexpected, unlikely romance began on a chilly day in November, some five years earlier.

Having been trusted with her father’s brand new Model-T Ford, Alice had taken it for a spin uptown to do some shopping. She was high-spirited, unorthodox, spunky, rebellious, and courageous almost to a fault.

Being seen driving a car was not the first time she had raised eyebrows.  She once donned a pair of trousers and pranced through town as if she hadn’t a care in the world.  That daring event prompted a visit from the local clergyman, who prayed for her immortal soul, and only after the threat of arrest for “cross-dressing,” did she return to wearing the more fashionable and acceptable style of long frocks.

Women were supposed to be prim and proper, be seen and not heard, and stay at home. But Alice was never going to follow the cookie cutter idea of what was expected from the female persuasion. She was the epitome of a rebel.

She was daring, and not afraid to try anything, but she was not yet familiar with the potential hazards of driving on an unpaved, snow-covered road. Alas, before she knew what was happening, the car slid into a ditch. While pondering which would be the most frowned upon…waiting all night, unchaperoned and guarding the car in the bitter cold, or leaving it and walking home in the bitter cold, she was suddenly distracted by a handsome young man who stopped and offered assistance.

He introduced himself as Jacob Harper.  When she told him her name was Alice, without a second thought, he said, “Well, Miss Lissy. Let’s see if we can get this car of yours unstuck.” Alice had never cottoned to nicknames and was properly incensed when someone dared to shorten her name to “Ally,” but for some unexplained reason, this handsome young man’s moniker didn’t seem to bother her. Actually, she rather liked it.

After relentless prodding and careful persuasion, Jacob was able to coax the car back onto the road.  Clearly smitten, he said, “this is what you might call serendipitous.  I made a wrong turn on my way home, you were stuck in a ditch, and here we are, together on the side of the road.”

A polite suggestion to follow her the rest of the way home to insure her safe arrival, was met with a flirtatious smile, a genteel refusal, and a reminder that it was not she who was stuck in the ditch.

“Indeed you are right,” said a not yet ready to surrender Jacob.  “Let me make amends by treating you to a cup of hot chocolate and a Bonbon at Tierney’s tomorrow.”  He smiled playfully as he said, “maybe I could come fetch you, lest your car get stuck in a ditch again.”

Alice found Jacob to be decidedly bold, and also thought him to be a bit full of himself, but she was never going to settle for a run-of-the-mill, “fancy man,” as gentlemen folk were often called. After what she considered to be an appropriate amount of hesitation, she found herself agreeing.

She was intrigued by his self-assurance and daring suggestion that only after a brief encounter, they should meet again. “Fine,” she said.  “I live in the big white house at the end of the road, and you may come fetch me at three.” Jacob was smiling as he watched her drive down the road, and as the car crested the hill, he couldn’t see that she was smiling, too.

When Alice finally got home, her Papa expressed concern about the lateness of her arrival.  She didn’t dare betray herself by admitting that she had gotten stuck in a ditch, so she fabricated a story about being so enamored with the new frocks on display at Granville’s Department Store, she completely lost track of time.

Her Papa, an astute man, looked at her and said, “are you sure you were only looking at new frocks?”  Alice smiled and said, “Papa.  You know me so well.  I really was looking at frocks, but I was also looking at a somewhat handsome young man.”

“Tell me about this young man who has obviously captured your attention,” Papa said.

She began to describe her gallant rescuer, who unbeknownst to her Papa, had also rescued his car, but she didn’t tell the whole truth.  In her version of the story, it was she who was the heroine. “He took a wrong turn,” she said.  “I set him on the right path, and tomorrow, as a way of thanking me, we are going to Tierney’s.  His name is Jacob Harper and he’s fetching me at three o’clock.”

Her Papa could see a glow about her. He knew that his young man had to be something special to have turned his young daughter’s head.

Alice was a beauty.  She had a double row of impossibly long lashes that framed coquettish, hyacinth-colored eyes with golden flecks that seemed to dance around her pupils when she blinked.  Her long, slender neck was accentuated by her porcelain colored, heart-shaped face that required only the slightest bit of rouge to give her the appearance of a modest blush.

Alice’s defiance of confining rules did not convey when it came to the dictum that long, loose tresses were not respectable in public.  She wore her thick, dark hair swept up, held in place by a jade-colored dragonfly comb given to her by her late grandmother, and she had no need for the commonly used “rats,” designed to increase hair volume and make it appear fuller.

She vehemently resisted the wearing of a restrictive corset, just to achieve what she considered a ridiculous Empire silhouette.  Her small, twenty-inch waist was as she said, “a gift of nature and had no need for such torturous apparel.”

Alice was unable to sleep that night, nervously anticipating her rendezvous with the aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching young man.  She was not easily charmed, but something about him seemed to touch her on an almost mystical level.

The next day, even though tired from the lack of rest, Alice counted the hours until the clock struck three.

At three o’clock sharp, Jacob arrived, driving a three-wheeled, open carriage Motorwagen, wearing a stylish, knee-length topcoat.  His trousers boasted cuffs and were meticulously creased, both front and back. He wore a stiff collared shirt and a four-in-hand tie.  On his head sat a soft, felt bowler hat with a rounded crown, which he tipped when first seeing Alice.

“Good afternoon, Miss Lissy,” he said with a broad grin.  “My carriage awaits.” Having never seen such a contraption, she asked about its origin, as she hoisted up her long skirt and gracefully slithered onto the lush red leather seat. She smiled as Jacob gingerly placed a woolen blanket on her lap.

“It was designed and built by a mechanical engineer named Karl Benz,” Jacob said.  “It’s powered by a single stroke, 4 cylinder internally combustible engine, housed in a steel horseshoe frame.” He further proudly boasted, “it has a top speed of almost ten miles an hour.  I find it to be quite delightful to drive, that is unless I happen to be out during a rainstorm.” He smiled and said, “then, as you would imagine, it’s a bit uncomfortable.”

When they arrived at Tierney’s, he ordered two cups of hot chocolate and two Bonbons.  Alice was mesmerized by this young man and found herself lost in thoughts as she watched his playful interactions with the young female server.

He was a deliciously striking man, with dark hair, aristocratic eyebrows and cool, seductive ice-blue eyes.  An impeccably trimmed mustache rested above his generous, provocative lips.  His strong hands were meticulously well-groomed and seemed to bear no signs of callouses, often indicative of hard manual labor.

Alice finally gathered her senses enough to ask what he did for a living. “I’m a structural engineer,” he said, “and I dabble a bit in metallurgy.  Are you familiar with the Worth building?”

Alice said, “is that the big building around the corner from Granville’s?” Jacob smiled and said, “yes.  I helped design it. I hope to someday be famous, not necessarily for elegantly pleasing buildings, but more for safe, sound buildings that will withstand the test of time.”  He smiled as he said, “I want to design buildings that will still be here a hundred or even two hundred years from now.”

Jacob wasn’t the only one who was smitten.  Alice could hardly contain her eagerness to know more about this exciting, thoughtful young man but alas, the hour was growing late and it was nearing time for her to return home.

With the promise to call on her again, Jacob dropped Alice off at her house.  He walked her to the door, kissed her hand and said, “until we meet again, Lissy.”

To be continued____________________________

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