Love letters straight from your heart
Keep us so near while apart
I'm not alone in the night
When I can have all the love you write
I memorize every line
And I kiss the name that you sign
And, darling, then I read again right from the start
Love letters straight from your heart
Emma woke up in Neal’s bed at his house. The sun had already come up. She was lying on her back in the middle of his king-sized bed, her arms and legs splayed out. She moved around and winced. Her ribs really hurt when she was pulling herself to sit up. It looked like Neal had removed her shoes, socks and jeans and let her sleep in her tank top and panties. He had thoughtfully laid out some of his own pajama pants for her to put on as well as one of his own undershirts.
She slipped them on and made her way downstairs. She really could use a shower but thought that food was a higher priority.
She found Neal in a small alcove in his sunny kitchen. He was sitting at his computer, typing away.
“Hi,” she greeted him. “Working on your next book?” she asked him.
“Actually, I’ve had a primo idea for an entirely new series. Get you breakfast?”
“Oh please, I’m starving,” Emma told him.
“Not surprised. They gave you a shot and you took some medication, and you went on out without supper.” Neal had already made it out to the kitchen. “Eggs, bacon, toast?” he asked.
“Got some grits?” she asked him.
“As a matter of fact I do. I used to have this girlfriend from North Carolina and she taught me all about grits.” He grinned at her and reached up to a cupboard. He brought down a canister. “If you would, get some water boiling.”
Emma helped with the preparation. She noted the time was about eleven thirty, quite a late start for her.
“What’s your new series about?” she asked him as she stirred the grits and turned the bacon.
“Well, it’s not completely fleshed out yet. It’s urban fantasy about a police detective who meets this mysterious young woman.”
“That’s different from your private detective and his forensic psychologist girlfriend?”
Neal sat back. “Hmmm, maybe I should switch genders and have the police detective the woman and she meets the mysterious man who helps her solve a case.”
“Hmmm, I like the possibilities,” Emma told him. “And just what will the mysterious man turn out to be? I mean, is he a ghost, a demon, a sorcerer or what?”
“Well, I played around with the mystery character being a ghost but then the sexual tension would be unbearable because they’d never be able to do it.”
“Unless he possessed somebody but that crosses a lot of ethical boundaries,” Emma said, taking the grits off the heat.
Neal was buttering their toast. “Maybe he’s a reformed demon, or he did something nice and the other demons kicked him out. Or . . . or,” Neal was on a roll now, “or like he’s this really powerful sorcerer who’s a major badass. Maybe he was this decent guy long ago who somehow got possessed by this dark force that gave him nearly limitless power. And now he’s all changed and evil but something draws him to this gorgeous, intelligent little police detective.”
“And she’ll be Beauty to his Beast, win him over to the powers of goodness and niceness with the strength of true love,” Emma removed the bacon from the pan.
“But he’ll still have lapses from time to time and she’ll have to bring him back into line. That could work,” Neal cracked the eggs into the bacon pan. “I’d need to collaborate a bit with someone, you know, someone who knows about the Unseen World and stuff.”
Emma considered. “Got anybody in mind?” she finally asked, pulling plates down.
Neal looked at her. “Maybe. Would you be available?”
“Maybe,” Emma held her plate out for her egg. She added some grits, toast and two pieces of the bacon.
Neal soon joined her and they sat at his cheery kitchen table. “So how are you feeling?” Neal asked her.
“Sore. But not dopey,” admitted Emma and dove into breakfast.
“So what are we up to today?” Neal asked.
“Clarissa and I are going up to talk to Rumach again.”
“You think you’ll get him again?” Neal asked.
“I think Clarissa may be able to get him talking,” Emma told him.
“She’s apparently his great something granddaughter.”
“Really. By Belle?” he asked.
“Yeah. You’re his great something grandson through the first wife, Milah.”
“The bitch on wheels? So he may not be so anxious to see me,” Neal said. “I take it he and the first wife did not part amicably.”
“Not hardly,” Emma confirmed.
“So, if I’m following this, Goldark married Belle French after his first marriage ended in divorce and his second marriage was annulled?”
Emma kept spoon feeding herself. She nodded.
“And they had a wedding night but then Goldark returned to house to help his second wife leave but something terrible happened and he never returned to Belle, in fact, he told her to get out of town and not to try to come see him.”
“Yup,” Emma confirmed.
“And there was something to do with poison and a curse that somehow confined Goldark to the house?”
“Uh huh,” Emma agreed with his analysis. After breakfast, Emma wrapped herself in Press and Seal so she could shower without getting her bandages wet. I really need to think about keeping some clothes over here, she thought. I can’t keep borrowing his t-shirts and sleep pants. And lordy, I definitely need some clean undies.
Afterwards, dressed in his clothes, Neal took Emma by Storybrooke Inn for some of own clothes including a change of panties and bra.
They then drove on to Goldark Inn and met up with Clarissa and Colin before noon. Emma just wanted to take up a couple of recorders when they would try to make contact with the elusive Master Goldark.
“He doesn’t seem to like technology,” Emma explained. “But I want to at least try to get a record.”
She and Clarissa slowly climbed the steep staircase up to the attic. Standing outside the closed door before entering the room, they turned on their recorders.
Emma was disappointed when they entered. It wasn’t the room with two beds and the bedside tables.
This room was full of shelf units with boxed up odds and ends. It hadn’t changed. Emma turned on the overhead light – might as well try to see what they were doing – the attic room was pretty dim with only the one window.
“Clarissa, why don’t you see if you can get him talking.”
Clarissa nodded and nervously she addressed the air in the room, “Master Goldark, sir. I’m Clarissa. I think. . . I’m not sure . . . I think I may be your great something granddaughter.”
The two women stood in silence.
Then they heard knocking.
“What the hell is that?” Emma asked. It sounded like a limb bouncing against the roof of the house. They stood still another moment.
“We’d like to talk to you about what happened when you came back to the house to help Cora leave.”
There was more knocking.
“Are you making that noise?” Emma asked. “If you are, will you be silent for a moment.”
Everything got quiet.
“Thank you. Now, if you’re making that noise, will you knock again?” Emma asked.
And the knocking began again.
Clarissa looked at Emma who was trying to localize where the noise was coming from.
“Thank you,” Emma addressed the room then turned to Clarissa, “It’s coming from behind this wall.” She went over to one of the inside walls.
“Are you trying to show us something?” Clarissa asked.
Emma was pulling shelving away from the wall.
“There’s a panel here.” She began running her fingers around the edges of the wood, trying to push the panel in. When it refused to budge, she pulled off her ever-present flashlight and began to pound on the edges of the panel, loosening it.
Clarissa was standing behind her.
Emma was finally rewarded with the panel dropping back and there in the wall space was an open section. It was filled with papers. Emma lifted one up.
It appeared to be an envelope.
“Oh my sweet lord!” she exclaimed. “These are letters from Belle! This wall space must have had just the right amount of protection from water and heat, otherwise they’d be dust.”
The women found a small plastic container of tree lights, dumped it out and carefully put the letters into the container. As they carried it out of the room, Clarissa and Emma both turned back.
“Thank you, Rumach,” Emma addressed him. “You know, if we can figure out what to do, we’re going to break this curse.”
The light above them flickered.
Emma smiled and flipped it off.
Neal and Colin were waiting in the parlor.
“That was quick, luv,” Colin observed. “We thought you’d be up there for an hour or more.”
“We found these,” Clarissa held out the box.
“Letters?” Neal asked.
“From Belle, apparently,” Emma explained. “We tried talking to him, but he knocked on a panel and led us to these instead. You all begin sorting these letters by years. I’m going to get these recorders to Leroy to see if there is anything on them.”
Delicately, carefully, the group began sorting the letters, first into decades. They ran from 1794 through 1841.
“I wish we had his letters to Belle,” Clarissa said. “I know my family didn’t have anything like this saved up or if they did, the letters were destroyed years ago.”
“Wait a minute!” Emma sat up. “Belle told me that she was hiding some things in the Library. I assumed she meant the diary, but now, I’m wondering. . . “ she vaulted out of the room.
“Belle told her?” Colin asked the rest of the group.
“Emma had a personal experience,” Neal told him, pleased with himself that he’d picked up the parlance of the craft. “She saw Belle on the stairs and Belle warned her that there was ‘something else’ in Cora’s room. Belle told her about coming back to the Inn to die but hiding some stuff in the library before she passed.”
Emma was in the library. She had pulled Mary Margaret into the room with her.
“Where did you find the diary?” Emma asked her.
“Oh, it was odd.” Mary Margaret went over to the desk and pulled out one of the desk drawers. “This one had a false bottom. I don’t know why we had never noticed it before.” She lifted up the bottom and showed Emma. There was about an inch space in the bottom of the drawer.
“I guess it was somewhere you could stash your real accounts if you were keeping two sets of books,” Mary Margaret speculated.
Emma began pulling other drawers out. “Here, this one. It has a false bottom too.” She lifted up the panel.
Emma returned to the room with Mary Margaret carrying the drawer. “We only have about a tenth of the letters that we found in the attic. I don’t think she was able to put all of his letters in here. I wonder if she culled them and just put in the ones she wanted us to have.” She set the box on the table.
The rest of the morning and through the afternoon (after a quick lunch of sandwiches and potato salad), the group carefully put the letters into chronological order. They then began reading through them.
“Oh lord, there’s a drawing here,” Colin held up a drawing of a young girl. “It says ‘Aramita, age 5’.”
“That was their daughter,” Clarissa said. She looked over the drawing and said, “Belle must have sent him this picture of his child.”
“This is so sad,” Colin said. “Did the guy ever get a chance to meet his daughter? Or do it with his wife again?”
Emma shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think he sent Belle away to try to save her from his fate, whatever that was.”
Neal sat up, “Here it is! I think I’ve got it. It’s a letter from Goldark to Belle.”
Cora had seemed glad to see him, greeting him in her bedroom, with no evidence of anger or bitterness. She was dressed in a close-fitting cream colored silk dress with lovely pearl beadwork. She wore a long strand of pearls. Lying on the bed was the matching jacket.
“I’ve got everything ready to go,” she told him. “My armoire, the bed and my mirror will be the last things to follow. I’ll be taking one of your ships down the coast to Charleston and settling in.”
“Cora,” he had begun. “You know I never meant for this to happen. I never meant things between us to end this way.”
“Of course not, Rumach. I know that.” Cora looked down at her feet. “You just fell in love with someone else.”
Rumach winced. “I never meant for that to happen. I was faithful to you the entire time we were married.”
Cora looked up at him and shook her head. “Not in spirit, Rumach.”
“What do you mean?” He was suddenly wary.
“The last evening you spent time with me, you called out her name. Did you know that?”
Rumach slowly let his breath out. “I did not realize that. I’m sorry.”
“I guess you were imagining that I was her.”
“Cora, I am sorry.”
“I only wanted you to love me,” Cora said wistfully, sadly. And then, she shrugged. “I am, if nothing else, a woman of the world. These things happen. Here, have a last drink with me.” She poured a glass a wine for him.
Rumach looked at the wine. “Cora. . . uh. . . the last few times I have accepted a glass of wine from you, things have not gone well for me. The first time I woke up and I was married to you and the second time I woke up in your bed after I had decided that we would no longer be as man and wife.”
“So you would refuse one last glass of wine with me?” she asked him. The woman managed to look contrite. “What more could I possibly do to you?”
Rumach gave her a derisive laugh. “I have no idea. You are most unpredictable. And most creative.”
She smiled at him, “You do love this girl, don’t you?”
He nodded. “I promise you, I never meant for anything to happen. And Belle, Miss French, is completely blameless. I took her away from her father as a way to help pay his debts and, at first, I found her very aggravating, even insolent.”
“But slowly you came to have feelings for her. And she . . . for you,” Cora supplied.
He dropped his head. “I guess . . . yes. It happened slowly. I . . . should have tried to stop what was happening. I knew it was wrong but I persisted in keeping company with her, spending time with her. She was very naïve and very trusting. And I took advantage,” he confessed.
“Of course, she’s completely innocent.” She poured herself a second glass of wine. “You’re sure you won’t have a glass with me?” She held out the first glass to him.