She sat reading a book. When she turned the page, a slip of paper floated to the floor.
What could that be?
She bent to pick it up. The edges were yellow and the paper was thin, fragile.
If you have found this note,
it means we have been separated and my heart is yearning for you.
Remember how we pledged each other our love?
I’ll never stop loving you as long as I live.
If you have found this note,
I am searching for you.
I’ll never stop searching until I hold you in my arms again
and kiss your soft, sweet lips.
Oh, what a romantic, heart-wrenching note. Who is Alex and who is his darling? Oh, to be loved like that. She closed her eyes and imagined a gentleman with black hair and deep blue eyes searching, calling. She put her hand to her heart.
She opened her eyes with a start.
“Clarissa, are you all right?”
“Yes, Father, I am fine. I was just lost in my thoughts for a while.”
“Well, it’s almost time we should be going. Please go and prepare.”
She arose, tucked the fragile note into her pocket and went to her room to dress for the party, thoughts of a devoted Alex still on her mind.
* * * * *
She and her father rode in the carriage. She felt her father’s eyes upon her before he spoke.
“Clarissa, I do hope you will find one of the young men at this party to your liking. You are quickly approaching the age where it will become harder for you to find someone suitable to marry.”
She sighed. She hated these parties. Her father paraded her around and introduced her to one young man after another, all from good quality stock, of course.
All so young and arrogant.
“I know, Father. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be difficult, but I don’t want to marry just to increase our fortune.”
“Clarissa, you must let go of your silly notion of romance. If we find you a good match, you will learn to love him, and he, you.”
Clarissa turned to the window willing the burning tears not to spill over. Her father didn’t understand. Times like these she wished her mother was still here. She was sure her mother would understand. Oh, how she missed her.
The coach stopped, interrupting her thoughts. She pulled herself together, took one last deep breath and smiled at her father. “Well, maybe this time, we’ll both find what we’re looking for.” Her voice sounded more confident than she felt.
* * * * *
As Clarissa looked around, she saw no new faces in the crowd. She tried not to show her disappointment. Several young men approached and asked to put their name upon her dance card. She smiled and allowed them to write their names.
It wasn’t that these young men weren’t attractive. Many were even kind and polite, but they just saw her as a prize, a possession, and she wanted to be so much more than that. She wanted to be a gentleman’s most valuable treasure. She wanted to be cherished.
When there was a break on her dance card, she made her way to the veranda doors. She looked around to be sure no one noticed and then slipped out for a breath of air.
She walked away from the doors to the railing and peered into the lovely garden below. She could smell the magnolia and she breathed deeply of their heady aroma.
“Oh my darling, it is you!”
Her hand flew to her breast. She could barely breathe. It couldn’t be. Before her stood a handsome man with black hair and deep blue eyes. Was she about to faint? Was she dreaming?
“Alex?” It was barely a whisper.
He closed the distance between them and took her in his arms. She breathed in the wood scent of his shirt.
“Oh my darling, I had begun to fear I’d never see you again, but I couldn’t give up.” Then his mouth claimed hers in a tender kiss that spoke of his longing.
When their lips parted, she clung to him breathless and weak-kneed. Had he released his grip on her she surely would have crumbled to the floor.
How could this be? His arms felt like home, and his kiss. . . his kiss was familiar. But that note. It had been old. How could she and this man be the couple the note spoke of?
“Oh, Alex, how long has it been?”
“My darling, don’t you remember? We have been apart since the war. Your father would not allow you to marry a man who’s family sided with the Yankees.”
The Yankees? The Civil War? But that was a hundred years ago.
“I will not lose you this time, Clarissa. I cannot. I will die if we part again. Please say you’ll run away with me if your father will not give his blessing for us to be wed?”
Her head was spinning. This couldn’t be real but it all felt so right and something inside her remembered him. She took his hand.
“Come, we shall go inside and you can ask my father for my hand now.”
His eyes grew round.
“Don’t worry, my dear Alex, if he refuses, I will leave with you anyway. I won’t lose you again.”