This little scene is a conversation between the two main protagonists in Tempo Rubato ~ Stolen Time, now on sale at Amazon for Kindle for only $.99. Also available from Smashwords.
“You really believe you were actually poisoned?” She asked in disbelief even though she had written an entire paper to prove that it might have been so.
“I don’t believe. I know.” He said. “I received the letter.”
“What letter?” She asked though she had some idea of what he was talking about.
“They were constructing a new building and according to the old ways, they needed to sacrifice a member in order to consecrate the building.” He continued. “Everyone knew that someone would be chosen. It was all supposed to be symbolic, of course. No one would actually be killed.”
“What?” She shivered at the thought. Again, this was part of the study she had made, but it sounded so much more sinister now than when it had been just a legend of sorts.
“They sent the poison in a letter.” He said. “The letter congratulated me on having been chosen for the ‘special honor’. The poison was in the letter. By the time I had opened it, it was too late.”
Elisse said nothing.
“I destroyed the letter; of course, because I was afraid someone else would be affected by the stuff.” He told her. “There was nothing that could be done. I kept hoping it wasn’t so, but then I became ill and I never recovered. Not until Frieda took me. In fact, when the two men came, I assumed that they were from the group and that the time had come. You can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be otherwise. That’s why I never much minded what happened... until you came along. I was a dead man and Frieda saved my life.”
“You’ve never told Edward?” She asked.
“Of course not!” William looked at her and smiled. “He’s a member. Didn’t you know?”
“Then you really don’t trust him?” She asked.
“I trust Edward, but I don’t trust his loyalties.” He shrugged. “I am not sure where his loyalties will eventually lie.”
“How do you know about Edward?” She asked not wanting to accept that the good psychiatrist could be a threat.
“One member knows another.” William shrugged. “There were others. Several in the orchestra.”
“Did he ever say any thing at all about it?”
“No. And that is what makes me worry.” He told her. “Edward is no mucky-muck. He doesn’t display the trappings. He exhibits no outward signs. That means he is advanced. I have thought much about this. I believe it is no accident that Edward is with me. He was sent.”
“But surely you are not a threat to this... this... group now! Not two hundred years later!” She exclaimed. “Why? How?”
“Because I know their plan.” He said simply. “I was there when it was hatched. You might say I was one of the founding fathers of it, although somewhat reluctantly. But now, as then, I am a turncoat. I am a risk. Even now they cannot allow such risks to exist.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you think they are still after you?” She asked incredulously. “What could you possibly do to them?”
“I only know that Edward is not what he seems. It’s a matter of principle.” He said and then stopped to sit on an upturned bucket that had washed up on the shore. He took off his shoes and socks and began to roll up his slacks.
“What are you doing?” She looked at him in surprise.
“I’m going in the water.” He told her.
“Do you swim?” She glanced around the beach. They had left the line of apartments and condominiums behind. There was nothing but beach, water and dunes to be seen.
“No.” He told her stuffing his socks in his shoes.
“Would you like to learn?” She asked and raised one eyebrow.
“No.” He looked up at her and narrowed his eyes.
“We could go swimming.” She suggested playfully and sat on the sand to take off her shoes.
“We would get wet.” He told her, frowning.
He watched her as she began to undress, laying her clothing carefully on the sand.
“What are you doing?!” He asked. It was his turn to be surprised. “You can’t do that.”
“Why not?” She waved one arm toward the dunes. “Who’s to see?”
“Well...” He looked around and then back at her wide-eyed.
She finished her task while he sat speechless holding his shoes in his hands.
When she had her ‘swimsuit’ on, she tiptoed down the water and waded out on the gently sloping shore until the water was lapping at her waist and then ducked beneath the waves. It was wonderfully warm and all thoughts of Edward disappeared along with the rest of the troubling thoughts that had been plaguing them. She didn’t want to hear any more about secret societies just then. It would be just what they needed, another faction out to get him.
William sat on the bucket unmoving. She waved and beckoned for him to come in. He shook his head and looked around again.
“You’re missing all the fun!” She called to him and he stood up.
At last, she had him on the short end of the stick. It was wonderful to see him perplexed and taken aback by her actions. He had always been in control even when it seemed he was not. She had felt as if she were on the outside looking in and that he held all the cards; that she could never express her own personality without interfering with his. But now he was lost. She had been in his element long enough and now she had him in hers.
She wondered if he would take the challenge and follow her for a change or if his antiquated sense of propriety would win out. She laughed and waved at him again and ducked under the water to come up with her hair wet and streaming down her back.
He pulled off his shirt. Then he made a motion for her to turn around. She turned around and waited. After a few minutes he caught up with her.
“I have never been in so much water!” He exclaimed looking around him. “It makes me feel very small.”
“We are very small.” She put her arm around his neck and allowed him to hold her up in the water. “We are so small, in fact, that no one can see us. We can’t be found. We are lost in the vastness of the sea. Never to be seen again by human eyes.”
William sank to his knees and the water came up to their necks.
“Now we are even smaller.” He told her. “But I believe there are creatures in these waters which could easily swallow us altogether whole without even tasting us.”
“There are creatures on the land that would do the same thing, if we let them catch us.” She laughed and slipped into the water to face him. She kissed him and he looked at her in surprise.
“So this is what Americans do?” He asked her.
“No, this is what tiny sea creatures from Austria do.” She told him. “Now turn around and lie across my arms. I’m going to hold you up and you are going to swim.”
“No, I don’t think so.” He shook his head. “It would not be... fitting.”
“What? There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.” She said taking his arm. “I’m going to hold you up and show you how to kick your feet so you can stay up on your own. You never know when you may need to swim for your life.”
“But you’re a lady and I’m... I’m...” He was genuinely perplexed. “You shouldn’t hold me up.”
“You won’t be heavy at all!” She frowned and ducked under the water to grab his feet, upending him with very little effort. She thought it highly unlikely that he had ever played in the water, but did not know for sure. At least nothing had ever been written about it.
He came up sputtering with his hair in his face.
“You’ve just never been in the water with a naked lady before!” She laughed at his expression.
“What did I tell you about saying never, Lisserl?” He asked and ducked under the water to grab her feet performing the same trick.
It was her turn to be surprised. She came up spraying water in his face and slinging her hair.
“There was plenty of water in Vienna... and Rome... and Paris...” He told her. “Why, they even have water in England, but you are right about one thing. I have never been in the water with a naked lady.”
He began to chase her through the water splashing and ducking her as if he had done it all his life. This lasted only a short time before the exertion took its toll and they were both feeling exhaustion creeping up on them again. The first gray light preceding the inevitable sunrise began to grow in the east. Elisse knew they could not stay much longer or they would be taking a terrible risk. She held him at bay by wrapping both of her arms around him and they sank in the water.
“Do you think we could come here to live?” He asked her.
“I suppose anything is possible.” She said in earnest.
“Do you think we could stay here now?” He asked and kissed her neck.
“I don’t know.” She thought that would probably not be possible.
“Do you think we will ever be rid of Edward?” He asked and kissed her eyes.
“I don’t know.” She could not think of William without attaching Edward.
“Do you think you will want to stay with me forever?” He asked and kissed her forehead.
“Forever is a long time.” She told him.
“Do you think that whatever is biting my toe could be deadly?” He asked and raised both eyebrows.
“What?” She looked down at the dark water surrounding them.
“You know that there is more to life than just holding onto each other.” She said running her finger down his neck. “We may not be allowed to stay together.”
“I won’t have it any other way.” He told her matter-of-factly. “I’ve been giving that some thought. I won’t have it.”
“I don’t see how you can prevent it.”
“I will find a way.” He assured her and kissed her almost desperately and released her. “Edward and the rest of them be damned. I don’t give one good care about their secrets and their plans and their science. They brought me here and I didn’t ask to come. If you will stay with me, I’ll find a way to keep you.”
“I have no intention of leaving of my own accord.” She told him.
“I have heard him professing his love for you twice now.” He told her. She was surprised to hear that and could not imagine when he might have heard the second time. Could he actually read aloud and listen at the same time? “He may have a lot to offer you.”
“He has nothing I want.” She shrugged and then shivered. The breeze had picked up and her skin was becoming cold.
“This could be very nice, it we had more time.” He told her and kissed her nose.
“We’ll have to do it again.” She agreed.
“We could do it again now.” He suggested and looked around her at the growing light on the horizon. He kissed her and pulled her into his lap, but a low whistle caught his attention and he immediately dumped her in the water. She foundered and came up to see him frowning toward the shoreline where someone was whistling to them.
“Oh, my God.” Elisse whispered and clung to him in the water. Edward stood on the sand holding up several pieces of their clothing.