The Lone Hearts

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a romance/adventure story about a middle aged widow woman who leads a very ordinary life till she becomes open to the possibilities again.

Submitted: January 13, 2013

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Submitted: January 13, 2013

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The Lone Hearts

Introduction

Sofia, 52, was now a widow for 2 years and had been married for 30 to her late husband Rowen. He had tragically died of a sudden and unexpected massive heart attack at the undue age of 48 and it was a shock to everyone, especially to Sofia. Rowen was Sofia's handsome, slightly younger husband by 3 years and her only best friend. Every part of him she loved looking at and never tired of his devotion to her. Rowen had long lean muscular arms that any man would have been envious of with the build of a well-trained trim boxer. They first met each other as young adults at a local factory in a small town in Ohio where they both were employed. They were drawn together like magnets despite Sofia's resistance to being attracted to a younger counter part. Both Rowen and Sofia were loners. A result of being byproducts of dysfunctional families and both were shy, kind, funny, intelligent and good looking but neither knew they were. They soon identified with each other's lone hearts. Lone hearts could always identify with each other.

Sofia was still adjusting and learning how to be single again after being married for so long. She had to face her own demons of loving and appreciating herself for herself while learning how to be a happy single woman again. As tough as it was for her, she came to realize as long as she loved herself she could face life no matter what would come her way, alone or not. She wasn't all alone in life. She had her few pets, caring siblings and her grown son Blane who was now in his early 20's. Since his father's passing, Blane had married Leah, his first sweet heart and an older woman, just as his father had done. Blane and Leah were happy but struggling as most young couples do. Blane shared his mother's washed out ash blonde hair and signs of ADD and similarly he shared his father's cognitive intelligence and pleasant nature. However Sofia and Rowen were puzzled by Blane's big boned build and strong farm boy hands, being nothing like either one of them. So it was thought he must be built like his great grandfather on Rowen's side of the family. Blane took his father's death pretty hard, but since his childhood he was always closest with Sofia as she was the one who uncovered and championed his fight with ADD.

Sofia was missing Rowen terribly as she recalled his sweet sexy grin while saying, "I love you all the bunchies in the world," parting his out stretched arms as far as they could go. Sofia was always a romantic at heart and that she could not deny and so as each year passed, she felt the despair of her diminishing chances for romance slipping away. She felt the stress of a mid-life crisis coming on because she felt cheated and abandon of the one love of her life as most widows do, but Rowen was gone and that was that.

Chapter 1

For Sofia, it all began in the summer of 6/06/2006 on one pitch dark moonless night. She was the one who found him.

Sofia had arrived home about 10 at night from a long full rough shift where she had gotten injured mid shift because a heavy wooden pallet fell and slid down her leg causing bleeding and bruising so she limped with pain during the rest of the shift. She wasn't really scheduled to work that night but out of the goodness of her heart she agreed to switch with one of her co-workers and that meant she had to work a full shift alone as well but she managed. As she pulled in her driveway her thoughts drifted to her husband awaiting her to ask how her night went. There was no one she wanted to see more. Rowen's black 1996 Chevy S-10 pick-up truck that he loved was parked in the driveway but not where he usually parked it and he hadn't left any outside lights on for her as he usually did. That struck her odd and annoyed her especially tonight because she was feeling a twinge of self-pity. Sofia limped with pain on the long side walk alongside the garage that led to the slightly raised covered porch to the entrance of the house.

She groaned to herself, "All I want to do is sit down and be glad I'm home."

As she entered the house she noticed the silence right away as her 2 dogs and a cat appeared from darkness to greet her. There was no sign of Rowen in the house so she switched on the lights and fed her pets and wondered where her husband had disappeared to. At first it was just a little concern gnawing at her as she got a sandwich and turned on the television and sat on the couch so she could relax from the pain of her throbbing leg. Rowen's father had been reported ill earlier that week so she reasoned in case something had happened, perhaps someone from his family had come to pick him up. She kept thinking he would probably call soon so not to panic just yet, but her subconscious was telling her that didn't make sense. Why wouldn't he just drive or leave a message for her of some sort unless there was no time?

During the course of waiting around for about an hour, Sofia called out for him in various places of the house and garage. When that didn’t produce Rowen, she started calling around on the phone. She hoped not to alarm anyone unduly while she inquired if anyone knew of his where a bouts, only to learn that his father was doing just fine. It was then her stomach began to churn with fear. You know when you just come to a moment that your instincts kick in but you don't want to believe them, well Sofia was at that moment. With great anguish her logic forced her to conclude he must be hurt in the yard where she couldn't see him and that thought was causing a sense of urgency and time was ticking away. She tried to prepare her mind as she walked out into the night calling his name with a poor lit flash light that was all she could find. Sofia’s fairly large property consisted of nearly 7 acres of hillside woods, and some open yard where the house was built, along with two separate good sized creeks that flowed under their long driveway. In her mind she eliminated the 5 acres of woods first in order to concentrate on searching the obvious open yard where he would mow.

"God, where could he be? Please don't let him be hurt." Sofia pleaded to the sky while listening for a groan and watching for a sign of movement.

There was nothing. While her fears began to rise, her world began to fall. Frustrated, she went back to the house and started down the walkway again when something caught her attention from the corner of her eye. She couldn't see what it was, it was too dark and the flash light didn't work well enough to pick it up. She knew deep down what it was but had to confirm her fear so she jumped into her car and pointed the head lights to one certain spot just off to the right of her sidewalk to a 2 x 5 foot tall and wide mound of dirt that grew grass as high as her knees. Behind it the yard became a steep sloped embankment downward to the driveway. A construction company they had hired more than a year ago to do some reconstruction of their home had abandon them, leaving the mound and some construction cleanup for them to deal with. The mound was impossible to mow and it had to be weed whipped so Rowen promised he would deal with it when he had time, as husbands often do with a honey to do list.

Sure enough to her horror she discovered Rowen had been hidden from view by the mound. He was lying stiff on the ground with his head resting to one side at the bottom of the mound and a slight gash on his forehead along with the weed whip beside him. Sofia couldn't believe she had walked right by him in every instance without noticing. She went to his lifeless cold body and hugged him as the pain broke her heart into pieces. Unprepared, Sofia knew it had changed her life in an instant and forever. Numb and sick, her only looped thought was what to do now? She had to leave him to make that dreaded call and she didn't want to. Some part of her was still hoping for some faint thread of life from him that she couldn't feel. Fearing to leave him, she managed to get up and go inside for a phone with a hand held because the cell phone service was lousy out in the country where they lived. When she ran back to Rowen, panic wouldn't allow her to think and her tears wouldn't allow her to see what to dial. Sofia finally cleared her mind enough to dial emergency 911. Not realizing, Sofia wailed and yelled into the phone for help forcing the 911 operator to seem almost rude and un-empathetic as the operator commanded Sofia to calm down enough to be coherent.

"I found my husband, I found my husband. I think he may be dead. I don't, I don't know!" she sobbed.

To Sofia, the 911 operator didn't seem to understand as the operator asked Sofia endless questions and tried to instruct Sofia how to give Rowen resuscitation. The thought of touching her husband's breathless lips horrified her. Sofia kept trying to explain to the operator he was cold to the touch and she couldn't move his heavy body for fear turning him over would send his body rolling down the sloped downhill embankment.

Finally the question came from the other end of the line, "Mam. Do you think you need an ambulance?"

She froze and she mumbled with hate of the truth, "No I, I don't think so."

The operator responded, "I've called for help, they will be there any minute. Stay there and watch for them. Hang on ok?" The 911 operator inquired, "Do you want me to stay on the line?"

The tears were stinging her cheeks as Sofia implored with a quivered moan, "Please!"

For what seemed forever she stayed caressing his body, kissing his cheek softly and crying as the operator could only ask if help had arrived yet. Sofia talked to Rowen as if he were able to hear. She apologized for not being there for him to save him. Her guilt was overwhelming. It seemed eternity passed till in the night she could see two sets of red and blue flashing lights that slowly snaked their way up her long, winding, graveled driveway. Then she told the operator she could hang up. As the cars reached the top of her driveway, some men were getting out of their vehicles with urgency. A tall police officer climbed from his cruiser that she did not know even as he spoke his name, and stood before her with a military stance and urged her to leave Rowen as he lifted her to her feet. Sofia was struck by the officer's blank eyes as if indifferent to the situation. He never offered any real sympathetic touch as he seemed uncomfortable and awkward with showing any. Still his voice tried to convey some sort of understanding of her feelings.

"I'm sorry mam, ah... Sofia, the county coroner has to do his job and examine your husband. I know this is hard but it is better that you leave him now."

She looked up at him uttering, "I want a full examination. What happened? Why?"

And so the process began of questions from the officer while the doctor slash coroner examined Rowen. The coroner came back with his thoughts to the officer confirming his death as a possible massive heart attack. The officer offered to help Sofia to think of contacts to be notified and to help make those agonizing calls but she wouldn't let him. Sofia knew the sensitivity of her calls to other family members so she felt it better for everyone to hear it from her. Still she kept glancing over to her husband to see when they would load his body to be taken away. All she wanted was to hold him one last time. That didn't happen for as Sofia tried to concentrate at the mission at hand, they took him away. Oddly she felt a sense of relief.

Suddenly it dawned on her that their grown son Blane, then 19, was at work and didn't know anything. How was she going to break it to him? A long while passed again while the relatives arrived and her son finally came home only to be told then of what had happened. He sat down as if drained of all life and cried and it was the first time she had ever seen her grown son cry like that. It pained her so deeply that she held him tight and comforted him as any loving mother would, which helped her to focus on what really mattered now, her remaining family.

The coroner called a few days later to verify the cause of death even though he had given her a clue the night of his death. He gave her a sense of relief as he explained to her that Rowen's massive heart attack was so severe that in all probability he had died quite suddenly and painlessly and probably didn't even know what hit him.

Chapter 2

Sofia had had many varied jobs in her life for the same amount of varied reasons. Every milestone in her life seemed to give reason for a change of careers. Some good jobs, some not so good. During the course of her life, Sofia had tried to better herself by taking a few certificate courses in health and computers but still found herself left out of the successful satisfying jobs she desired. Like so many others all over the nation from the 70's on, mass lay-offs had pushed people from job to job, from middle class to low income and from complacency to despair, especially if you hadn't managed to get a college education. Eventually like so many others, she had to take a local position in which people of no college background could apply... in the field of retail sales.

Two years slowly passed. She had gotten her current job before Rowen died but her plan had been to stay only long enough till something better would come along, but then her husband died making her feel trapped. No real job growth had happened in quite some time and none for the foreseeable future but she was thankful it gave her insurance and some job stability. She so dreaded each day spent going to work as it drained her slowly of her hopes and dreams for a better life. Sofia was creative by nature like her mom and sisters and liked to paint and write. The closest she ever came to a career that satisfied her creative side was being a computer graphics operator for a local newspaper in the creative department but was laid off from there as well. That was her breaks but she always plotted on.

Sofia wasn't what you'd expect of an older woman. All her life, she looked and acted rather young. She stood a mere 5'3" tall and was in slightly better than average shape for her age. She wore her fine, straight ash blonde hair in a short bob to surround her round face. People especially complimented her on her golden hazel brown eyes but also said she looked best when she used her catchy smile which revealed a small gap in her upper front teeth. She wasn't especially a social lite or pretty but she could maintain cute with a charm about her that people could appreciate once they got to know her. Sofia was the type that was a giver and a good listener. Her easy going philosophy was always to live and let live. She never liked talking politics, religion or gossip but wasn't afraid of speaking her mind. By choice she kept up with all the current music, fashion and news. Her biggest flaw was she didn't buy into the glass half full theory as life had ravaged her happiness many times, which sometimes betrayed her as hard. Still she tried to appear positive for fear of coming off too hard. She was grateful for her street smarts and outside of the box thinking which gave way to her quirky sense of humor. On the surface she appeared not to be a push over but certain circumstances would bring to light her fragile vulnerabilities.

Chapter 3

Sofia always thought of time as her enemy. Her eyes kept glancing impatiently every few minutes at the clock that hung above her head on the shiny flesh tone tile covered wall of the deli department. She hated the color of the tile. Like a school kid waiting for the bell to ring, she felt the work clock couldn't move fast enough to show the end of her shift. Her current position as a sales associate in the fresh department required her to wear a hair net and rubber gloves which she hated to appear in and she often had to worry about getting injured by the meat slicer or hot cooking oil from the fryers while giving continuous customer service at a high pace and often in a stressful atmosphere. Sofia’s feelings about having a job were positive but her feeling on her current position was perhaps a bit snobby to some because the deli was definitely not her dream job.

"God let me out of here," she muttered under her breath while turning her back to the customers to shield her lips so she couldn't be heard.

Finally another shift person relieved her from the long rushed day put in behind the counter. Everyone was aware this was her last day of work before going on her well earned two week vacation. In the years prior to this one she declined taking a vacation either because of company policy or because she hadn’t Rowen to share them with. This year she felt different because though time heals, she still felt time her enemy. Sofia had talked of a ‘to do bucket list’ to her co-workers and so in advance made the risky decision to travel abroad for the first time and it would be on her own. Some of her closest friends were both concerned and excited for her but knew time was passing and if she didn't do it now, then when? She felt her relief as she said her good byes to her caring and goofy co-workers, that is, everyone but Etta. After clocking out, Sofia especially made sure to tour the store one last time so she could find her Hawaiian good friend still working her shift in Connections. Etta had made a special effort to befriend Sofia not long after she had become a widow and she never forgot that. Etta enjoyed being cheeky along with her at work as that was the only way to relieve their tensions. She wanted to give her a hug knowing Etta would wish her well and it was what she needed.

At home finally, Sofia was entrenched in thought when the phone rang and the answering machine picked up. "Sofia? Hi. It's your sister Rita. Please call when you get there or if you get into a jam. Send pictures ok? Sorry I missed you. Love ya. Bye."

She heard the click and then the hum of the phone. Sofia didn't call back because she couldn't be bothered. Even though she had already packed her bags a day earlier she was checking her list and checking it twice only because she was so absent minded. This was a family trait and also a curse of growing older. She knew it would be a hassle going through the airport and was anxious yet excited about her adventure to the Bahamas.

Chapter 4

The night was sultry making Ian's skin feel slightly clammy from his body sweat and the misty spray of the ocean as he stood on the brink of the shore line of the Bahamas beach. Ian was in his early 50's and wasn’t the tall dark handsome soul that most women claimed to have as their fantasy. His statue stood 5 foot and 10 inches tall with a smallish muscular frame and personified a man of stamina and of an English gentleman. His British pale good looks were appealing and well put together. He cared for his body his whole life and visited the gym regularly so as to stay fit and healthy and it showed. Ian had a handsome smile with slight dimples which combined with his piercing blue eyes only enhanced his especially kind face over all. Ian's light colored hair was thinning as men's hair often does, but he still managed a very stylish cut to fit his personality. He carried himself well whether dressed understated or overstated mostly due to the fact of having labor and an academic background which made him likeable and accessible to all. Ian was a bit of a science geek and adventurer, sort of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and a 007 wrapped up in a modest ordinary man. He did his own chores and was particular about his things being neat and in order however his compulsion was to leave his research work area opened to chaos. He felt he had to keep his research and science magazines untouched where ever he laid them to make it handy and in view at all times just in case he needed them. Ian's philosophy didn't allow for rushed fore gone conclusions as every angle had to be properly analyzed. Many people were in reliance of his practical dependable character despite issuing his fierce independence from everyone. He was a loner for adventures sake and he felt no need for anyone to tie him down to conformity but he could not escape the conformity of his culture.

Ian reveled in the study brisk breeze that dampen his clothes and did its job to cool him down. In wonderment he gazed into the moon lit night sky that was clear and hypnotic for the stretch of stars climbed endlessly from horizon to infinity. The full June moon beams danced on the waters' surf that lapped across the beach which made the soft white sand sparkle like tiny brilliant diamonds unveiled by the oceans receding waves. The ocean filled his senses as the currents of water pulled and pushed the grains of sand beneath his sandaled feet causing him to slightly stumble as he walked in the foamy waves' edge. Under God's great blanketed universe and before Neptune's vast water world combined, he felt so small and insignificant like a grain of sand. Of course to begin with, thought Ian, just being alone sometimes can make one feel rather insignificant, especially in the presence of such vast splendor. But Ian was a willing loner who enjoyed being his own man and accepted the peaceful solitude gratefully.

The longer Ian strolled along the beach, the more the soft warm breezes pushed against his light cotton tee shirt and shorts making them appear smashed tight against his sticky skin and muscular body. He carried a water bottle in one hand and small comfy beach towel in the other with the intentions of sitting down on the beach for a few blissful hours of relaxation. Once Ian located a spot close to a grove of palm trees, he deposited his hiney in the middle of the towel as his flipped his sandals off and dug his bare feet into the sand. He concentrated on the view as he breathed in a deep breath and let out a small happy sigh. His canvas before him was of huge cargo and ocean fairing boat liners journeying to and from far off places looking like tiny reduced specs of light balancing on the oceans' surface in the distance.

Chapter 5

No sooner had he settled for a few moments when someone from behind placed their hand on his shoulder. The touch set off alarms in his body and mind causing him to react defensively as he swung around to look. Although a bright moon lit night, the moon light prohibited making out specific features from that particular angle for him. One thing was apparent; the person was of a somewhat short, slim, feminine build. Her soft hand now lifted from his shoulder as she leaned down toward him to speak. As beams of moon light hit her image it gave him a focused view of her face. He could see her dimpled chin and her rounded pleasing face. He flashed the thought the dimple gave them something in common. She had ash blonde hair and appeared approximate to his age. Her eyes were light brown almost gold in the moonlight. Her voice was soft but raspy and seemed filled with question as her words came out urgently.

"Oh, I'm so sorry to startle you. I notice you dropped something and thought I'd give it back to you. It looks to be a piece of paper. The breeze carried it to me as I was walking towards the water and saw you were the only one sitting here."

Now she smiled sweetly, "Is this yours?"

He recognized she had an American mid-western accent. She then came around to face him and dropped to both knees as she handed him the paper she spoke of. She was wearing what looked to be a black and white flowered sun dress that was slit up both sides mid-way to her hips. He could tell by her sunburned skin she wasn't use to the tropical climate. He just sat froze for a minute taking her looks in as men do. Ian's first impression was that she wasn't the most beautiful woman in the world but something was special about her. He couldn't put his finger on it but because of the warm way she presented herself, her personality was so comfortable for him. The paper she held was old in appearance as it was rather heavy textured and tattered. It looked about the regular size of notebook paper and folded equally into thirds. Ian realized that he wasn't answering so he found his voice and spoke with his British accent.

He replied with certainty..."No I'm sorry, to be honest all I have is a bottle of water and this beach towel from my resort. I'm sure it's not mine."

She tried to hand the paper to his hand as her voice cracked slightly, "But, but I saw it fly from your beach towel just a moment ago."

Ian seemed puzzled as he took the paper finally to examine it in curiosity. "Really it came from my beach towel? Are you sure?" questioning her.

Her brows tighten slightly, "Yes I'm positive. You must not have noticed." Now they both were holding the tattered paper.

Ian was holding the bottom half and she the top half while looking down from the opposite side of him.

"It looks as if it is very old with some strange words or directions maybe?" she replied looking directly at him.

"Oh by the way my name is Sofia. I'm from Ohio and here on a much needed vacation. My husband and I always wanted to come here but I'm a widow now so I decided I'll just come here alone. Ehm. May I ask what your name is?" she said flirtatiously.

"Just call me Ian." He was still staring at her. "I'm from the U K., Warrington England in fact. Please to meet you Sofia." He didn't have a clue why, but he knew he meant it. He continued with a question. "Are you enjoying your vacation?"

She blushed when he asked. "Yes I'm staying at a lovely resort near here for the couple of weeks. I just arrived yesterday." Sofia was blushing as she was slightly shy.

Sofia asked if he was on vacation as well while both clung to the mysterious paper. Ian explained that his work as a successful author of culture books afforded him to travel and explore the world, but his ethnological mind kept drawing him back to the Bahamas to experience the friendly natives and the surrounding islands.

Ian remarked, "Don't you think it's so beautiful and peaceful on this beach and..."

He was suddenly interrupted by Sofia as she displayed her ADD. "Are you staying at the Abaco’s Beach Resort behind us?"

With a wrinkled nose Ian retorted, "Yes why?"

She tried to retain her giggle, "Because I'm staying there too. Well what do you know? Perhaps we'll run into each other again. Please to meet you Ian."

She didn't know why but she knew she meant it. Then she released her half of the paper as she lifted herself from the sand and brushed it away from her sun dress. Turning a complete 360, she flashed her grand smile and gave him a wave of her hand, then faded into the palm trees till her image disappeared into the darkness again.

Ian's perfect spot to get away from everyone on Abaco Island had always been beyond the palm trees some distance away from the front of the Bahamas Beach Club Resort. He resented it had now been discovered but he returned to his view of the ocean with the paper still clutched in his hand. He crossed his arms over his bent knees and rested his chin on one wrist. He didn't really see the ocean any more as the image and smell of Sofia's soft perfume began to be burnt into his brain. Suddenly a ships fog horn in the distance broke his daze and he realized that he needed to return to his room to shower and to take a look at the mysterious piece of paper that Sofia claimed had fallen from his towel. He carefully refolded the paper and shoved it into one of his short pockets.

Chapter 6

As the morning broke, the sun light peeked through the center of the long curtains of his room. Like thieves, the sunbeams sneaked about in his room with sun dial precision till the rays lay down upon Ian's eye lids causing him to see psychedelic colors. Soon a faint repeated knock, knock, knock invaded his ears and began to wake Ian into consciousness. It was the sounds of the maids softly knocking on all the room doors in the hall corridor. He thought he had put out the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on his door so he anticipated the maids to skip his room. He rubbed his eyes to rid them of one stubborn floating red spot that was left over from the psychedelic colors that was prohibiting his eyesight. He needed a clear focus of his reading table and the mystery paper from his towel. It was right where he left it next to the laptop that he was using to research the mysterious paper as per his nature to keep everything in view. The question is his mind was who would of put it in the towel? It seemed illogical. Why not in a safe place? A sudden soft rap at his door made him slightly annoyed as his thoughts vanish completely. He was suspicious it was a persistent maid wanting to enter despite his door sign.

His ears picked up a woman's soft raspy tone he found vaguely familiar. "Ian, are you in? Would you meet me for breakfast?"

He was quick to answer because he did not want her to repeat her knocking and bring attention to his door. "Yes, I'll meet you down at the lounge cafe in a half hour. I need to get dressed. It's ok I'll be there."

He waited for a response but there was none so he proceeded to the bathroom to turn his shower on and rubbed his teeth with his finger to feel for how gross the scum had built up during his slumber. He leaned forward toward the mirror bracing his body against the vanity to gaze upon his face for flaws. A stubbly beard had formed around his chin, dark bags under his eyes, flattened down swirled hair above his side burns and locks of short hair stuck up straight like tiny flags on top of his head which made for a clown style hairdo. He moaned. He sat down on the throne to think and imagine himself waiting to enter a steaming hot shower drawn for him by his own Mr. Carson type head butler of Downton Abby in his own imagined castle. The pulsing water from the shower head rushed down his skin and he began to feel anew as he scrubbed with the provided cloth and soaps. Like usual Ian had pulled his looks together making sure his appearance was that of an aristocrat before parting his royal bathroom. Ian quickly dressed into his royal tropical attire of a tee shirt and pocketed shorts and sandals and grabbed the old worn tattered paper, stuck it in his pocket and opened his room door to an empty hallway.

Ahefty young maid was coming out of a room near his and did not look at him as she whizzed by in a rush with her cart. He walked from a short hall which led to the elevator, noting the entire resort had impressive stone slab floors throughout. He was on the 4th floor so he pushed the button for the 1st floor to get to the breakfast lounge. As the elevator door began to close he thought back to that maid and the elevator door closed shut. His stomach fluttered a bit as the elevator bounced slightly when it landed on the floor of his destination. Just off the elevator to the left was an open elegant banquet room with large glass windows allowing the sun to flood in and beyond the windows was an ocean view in the distance. Opposite of the banquet room was an intimate sitting room with lush tropical plants and a stone wall with a water fall feature trickling down it which was used as the focal point of the room. Ian wasn't interested in that room, breakfast was calling. The banquet room had a long counter row of food set up self-serve style which filled the air with smells of food pleasantly assaulting his nose.

His mind kept thinking back to that maid. Something seemed odd and it made him feel uneasy. Mostly what he observed going through the corridors were honeymooners, maids, and a few business type people. Ian wasn't sure why he was trying to observe them but he just wanted to remember those faces in case it might come in handy. As he entered the lounge he had his pick of brewed coffee, tea, warm breads, fresh fruit and an array of different breakfast dishes. He now realized how hungry he felt as his belly growled slightly and ached. He quickly scanned the room for the woman he remembered from the beach. Many people were shuffling about in his view frustrating him so he decided to help himself to the breakfast servings to recharge his energy. As he grabbed for a cup for tea, once again Sofia startled him from behind by placing her hand on his shoulder. He winced as she was beginning to form an annoying habit. Today her attire was a pretty sheer see through short sleeved button up flowered blouse with a light green tank top underneath, casual Khaki cotton pants and dainty sandals as well. Sofia smiled her unique smile at Ian and it didn't seem to matter that she had just annoyed him.

Sofia spoke up, "I'm glad to see you. Thank you for meeting me. Care to join me on the patio? I have a table there. We can chat but after you grab something to eat of course."

Sofia pointed toward an ocean view through some glass patio doors where he could see the outside tables and chairs. She walked to the patio doors and waited as he picked through the food banquet getting his usual favorites. When he was ready he followed her to the outside table. After they sat down in unison opposite of each other, he yawned and stretched. He noticed her face was slightly wrinkled from age but acknowledged so was his. She was having the American version of breakfast with coffee, scrambled eggs with ham, buttered toast and fruit jelly with a small OJ on the side. Ian's breakfast was of course healthier consisting of fresh fruit, toast with Marmite, a bowl of oatmeal and a tasty green tea.

Sofia began the conversation. "I suppose you're wondering how I found your room?"

Ian looked up from his tea with interest.

Sofia began, "After I left the beach, it felt like someone was watching me and it made me feel eerie. I couldn't see anyone but it was just my instincts. Ever since I found that paper I've been getting that eerie feeling. I began to feel I wanted to help you solve that old treasure map or whatever it is. I saw you return to the resort and realized we both shared the same floor. I didn't know your last name so I waited for you to enter your room so I could get your room number. Hope you're not angry with me for following you. Since last night I've wondered about that paper. Do you know anything as of yet?"

Just then a gust of wind blew across the table and swished her ash blonde hair across her face. Her blouse was flung open to her cleavage which revealed a necklace she was wearing with a small skeleton key hanging on a gold chain. She placed her fingers on it as if to protect it. Ian chocked slightly on his tea that he was sipping. His curiosity was getting peeked. He stuck his hand down in his pocket and looked around nervously while he checked the old tattered paper. Uh huh; thought Ian, the picture and the key were the same just as he thought. Instead of answering her straight away, he pondered if he should reveal his findings to her. He studied her face and her body language to tell if he should.

Finally the word, "Yes," rolled out of Ian's mouth with involuntary will.

Something about her told his gut to be honest with her. She seemed so vulnerable and naïve, perhaps because something about her clued him she never traveled outside of the states and she was alone and now connected to the skeleton key that looked exactly as the one drawing on the paper she had found. Ian analyzed perhaps it was too dark for her to have notice the drawing of her key on the paper.

He whispered to her, "I don't want to talk here about it if you don't mind? Let's go back to my room after we finish our breakfast."

Dressed in an impeccable waiter uniform, a tall dark skinned waiter appeared suddenly from behind Sofia's back and interrupted as he smiled with amazing white teeth. With his heavy Bahamian accent he asked, "Vas erryting to your likking? Ready for duh bill now?

Ian sternly answered first, "Yes just give me the bill. I'll pay for both."

The waiter nodded and handed Ian the bill before Sofia had a chance to protest. Sofia bounced in to Ian's face to suggest she'd be responsible for the waiter's tip to thank Ian.

"Ok, now I'm hurrying because I want to know why you're acting so mysterious," Sofia noted as she bit into her toast.

They both raced to finish up quickly anxious to get alone but sad to leave the beautiful ocean view.

Chapter 7

As Ian put his card key into the door he noticed it was ajar. He pushed back Sofia and gave her the shush signal. He slowly opened the door to peek in and listen for noise. He decided to step in. His room looked fine till he saw the bathroom. All the towels were flung on the floor and the laptop was on. Someone left in a hurry because they didn't bother to put things back into place. He went back to the door way where he left Sofia but by then she was nearly running to the end of the short hall. He took after her. She didn't notice Ian following her as she suddenly stopped in front of a door and pulled out her card key and entered. It was where he had remembered seeing the hefty maid come from. He heard her gasp.

"What the hell!" Sofia exclaimed.

As he entered he saw her room was searched as well. They stood as statues for a moment stunned. Ian was beginning to notice Sofia tended to have a somewhat sailor's mouth when excited.

"I'm so pissed. I'm going to management right now and report this!" she growled.

Grabbing her arm to keep her retained he stated, "Wait! Is anything missing? Look around your room. Did you have anything of value that you had in this room or in the safe? This isn't making sense. Why both of us?" he remarked impatiently.

Sofia looked upset, "You too? I had some jewelry and some stashed money I put in the room safe."

They went to it and she pulled on the door and it opened. "Oh damn it!" she cursed.

She pushed around some objects and some money. "Hmm, nothing missing that I can see. I took out the only thing that mattered to me, my necklace. I always wear it. It was given to me by my late husband Rowen. He told me to keep it with me always. It was a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. We were to come here together someday as he said he thought he might have some ancestry from here. He wanted to know why it was said the skeleton key on the necklace held a riddle to solve. The riddle was, 'Go to the Bahamas to look for a past that will bring you to the future.' "That could mean anything, who knows?"

Ian grabbed her arm again and pulled her to the phone. "We have to ask the Front Desk what maids were making the rounds on this floor this morning. The only way someone could search our room is if they had a master card key."

He picked up her room phone and dialed the Front Desk. He motioned for her to go and lock up his room by tossing his card key at her. Soon she returned to lock her door as well.

Chapter 8

Maids were gathering up towels and sheets to load on their carts. All looked at once at the couple that came towards them entering the Laundry room. One black gussy-mae (hefty) maid scurried past them as if she saw a ghost. Ian remembered her as the young hefty maid who scurried past him in the hall.

Then another older black woman with white hair and a warm voice spoke up. "Can ve help you?"

Her heavy Bahamas accent made her barely understandable to Sofia while she expertly folded her pile of clean sheets. The couple attempted to speak at once but Sofia won. Sofia used her smile to disarm the old maid, "Can you tell us who did our rooms this morning? We are located on the 4th floor in section B. We just want to thank her for a job well done." Sofia didn't want to elaborate with the old kind woman.

Looking suspicious at Sofia, the white hair maid laughed a chuckle. "Oh dat vould be duh new mad that just vent by you. She come here today. Don't nah her name yet. I noticed she just gat avay from you vith cut eye on you. She not going to sip sip vith you."

In the Bahamas that meant in short that the young maid appeared upset and wasn't about to talk with them. The maid was so intent on her folding that she returned her attention back to her sheets. They turned away for the hall door when Ian spotted the young maid trying for an exit door but Ian was determined to stop her progress. He ran quite amazingly well. He reached her before she could push the door open and put his hand on her shoulder and twirled her around.

"No you don't!" Ian ordered. "You're not going anywhere. What do you know about our rooms being ransacked? You were the one I saw so don’t deny it.”

The maid looked defiant as she tried to struggle free of his grip but he only tightened his hold on her shoulder even more. Sofia could tell it was hurting her.

The maid grumbled, "I gatte to go! He grabalishus. He vant to teif back what she gat." The hefty maid looked directly at Sofia. "She gat someting he vant. He promise me plenty money. I'm musse to gat to get paid."

Sofia hadn't a clue what the maid was rambling on about. "Translate Ian."

Ian was still struggling a bit with the maid but he managed to give her an explanation. "She means a man promised her money to go through your room to steal something you have and she means to get paid. He must be a bad guy that she is afraid of," Ian muttered gruffly. "I'll let you go if you tell me who paid you. His name please." he said in a cross tone.

The hefty maid looked back at his face, "He said he jook me if I told, I don't know he name, just know he biggity at the bar. He gat kerpunkle up. Meet me tief'n his wallet so make me to teif you chief." she seemed almost proud.

Ian continuing to grill her, "What did he look like? Is he from around here?"

Sofia had that puzzled look again. Ian was getting impatient from explaining but he did. "She's saying that she was lifting Mr. X's wallet while he was drunk but he caught her at it. He made a bargain with her in exchange for not turning her in but threatened her if she told anyone."

Sofia was getting nervous. They were beginning to draw attention from onlookers. She urged Ian to hurry up.

Since it worked once before the maid decided to try and barter with Ian, "Chief, vhat you gonna pay me ta tell ya?"

Ian was fed up with her and retorted, "How about keeping you out of jail. Is that good enough?"

"Muddo, ok" the maid snapped. "He bright conchy Joe, (white Bahamian), he jack vith me. His name is Kristoph Cubye. He know vhat duh key for."

Out of nowhere the resort manager said in a warning voice, "Is dere anyting vong ere?"

And just as the manager asked, the maid set herself free as Ian had to let go and she pushed through the exit door.

Ian lied. "We were just looking for a friend of ours. A Mr. Kristoph Cubye The maid said she knew him. Have you heard of him?

"Naw sir ‘aven't ‘eard of em, sorry," the well-dressed man replied.

Then the onlookers scattered knowing the side show was over and went about their business again. Ian wanted to get back to his research on the computer before Kristoph got all of Ian's findings. He wanted to help Sofia find what all these clues meant before the situation hurt her. He was finding himself a little attracted to her sweet genuine personality and somewhat nice looks. She seemed so clueless of the island which made her vulnerable and that brought out the protector in him. Years of travels on his own all over the world had learned him a thing or two. Ian placed his hand on the small of Sofia's back pushing her gently and headed to the main elevator. As the doors swung opened, he looked into her inquiring expression.

With a nod of his head he said with authority, "Back to my room. I have something to show you on my computer but I don't think it will help much till we have more information about your skeleton key. Unfortunately I have to take you on a little excursion somewhere else so sorry if it messes up your vacation.”

Sofia didn’t know if it would mess it up or not but she tingled with excitement and worry. Once in his room, all Ian could show her from his laptop was little information about a Dutch slave trader from the 18th century who was connected to the Islands and perhaps to her husband’s ancestry.

Chapter 9

Thirty minutes later Ian was hailing a taxi with a siren whistle. She just stood in silence as the taxi pulled up and both loaded themselves in.

"Vhere sir?" said the dark hard faced driver.

"To 53 East Motavo Street, please" replied Ian.

After a short silence Sofia turned to Ian, "Where are you taking me?"

He returned her eye contact, "I know someone that has been my friend for many years. She is an elder of a secret society on the Bahamas. The society is made up of people born on these islands or has ancestry from Africa that has remained secret in order to protect their ancestral heritages. She’s an expert of the history, cultural and monetary value of items that originated from these islands. You have a key on your necklace that I recognized from the old tattered paper I have. I think the maid was trying to hide that paper on her cart given to her by Cubye so she could recognize the skeleton to take from safe. But she have gotten it mixed up in my towel while doing my room and went back to look for it later. Cubye must know something about it. Mayue, the elder lady, might be able to understand the writings of these papers."

"That's where we're going?" Sofia said with a blank stare.

Before long the taxi pulled up to a small building that sold ocean shells and novelties for tourist. The shop was sandwiched in between a Bahamas restaurant and a sandals shop on a little quaint street near a public park. Climbing from the cab, Ian tipped the cabby and the cab drove away. The shop was quaint and old with interesting tropical architecture. It had an overhang roof with slim intricately wooden carved totem poles on either side holding the overhang up. An old metal bell jingled above the door way over their heads as they entered the small shop empty of customers. Sofia couldn't help but do a little window shopping as she gazed around at the beautiful shells and the handmade items sitting about on various wall shelves. An aged old kindly woman soon appeared from a smaller room behind the counter.

Instantly she recognized Ian and she gave such a warm smile. "Ah come ere and give me a hug,” and held out both her weak looking arms.

(continued in The Lone Hearts 2)


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