The Caroline

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That which we most fear....

“I have come to think about it a lot over the last two years. I find that despite having looked after myself for the last few years, that I am most afraid of being alone in life, and it becomes worse with each passing year, even as young as I am. I do not like that feeling. I am also afraid now, of never being loved, of never feeling love again, of dying alone, and far from a place I might call home. There are times when that thought terrifies me, and I even dream of it. Do you think it is true that which we most fear will happen to us because we make it happen?”

“No, I do not believe that. We make our own heaven and we make our own hell right here on earth. You are too young to fear such things, or has life dealt so harshly with you that you are forced to think of them? Yet you know, love and were once loved, Miss Henstridge. You will also never be alone if am allowed to be close to you, if you will have me as a friend. At least as a friend.” Was he being too brave and risking too much to suggest that?

“Thank you. As we are now. You have already become a good friend in such a short time, and you have looked after me better than I deserve.”

“You deserve much more. I would also say that on another score, you have quite misread me. It is not so much those who might come in here who are dangerous for you, as me.” She snuggled closer into him. She obviously did not believe him no matter how often he might say it.

“And you, a man as deeply in love as you clearly are.” She was gently taking him to task. “You are saying that to make me feel wanted after what I just said about being fearful of dying alone and unloved. Kind of you but not necessary. There is—was—just one man I can love, but he is dead. He must be.”

She had returned to discussing the man she had loved and had at last stated what she had carried with her in her heart for the last few years.

“I would have heard by now if I had been wrong. Had it been otherwise he would have contacted me. I waited months for him to do so. He would have done, had he been able. He would have left a message for me in a secret place where we both left things for each other, yet he did not. After I had waited for a month, then two, I gave up hope and left. My home had become a place filled with hurt, as well as hatred, after what I began to believe.” He sensed the hurt she felt in her emphasizing that word: hatred. “My relationship with my father and brothers had always been strained. Then, it was impossible. I had to leave for my own peace of mind. I was surrounded by lies and deceit. I knew they were hiding something from me, and I began to suspect what that was. It was at that time that my brother died. I began to hate them all by then for what I became convinced they had done.” She looked up at him with tears glistening in her eyes.

“Does it shock you that I might be so callous toward my own family?” He did not directly answer her question, but spoke generally.

“Some of the greatest emotional difficulties are directed within one’s own family.” Yet he loved his own parents. He had never had either brothers or sisters, and wished that he had. He let her continue.

“I think I came to the realization that his disappearance and their wounds were rather too coincidental. They killed him. I have convinced myself of that. The night they were injured as they were was the night he disappeared. August the 23, 1868—a date that will forever be synonymous with pain and that memory. I find that I no longer believe in coincidences. My brother being here and that attempt on me in my cabin and now this. If they come.”

“Are you sure that they killed him?” He sensed the pain he caused by his further curiosity. She hesitated before answering.

“No. I am not sure. However, I believe they murdered him, though it took some time to come to that belief. I could think of no other reason why he left so suddenly without letting me know. He obviously did not leave in that way. It was not too hard for me to believe that my own brothers and father could do that. I have no illusions about what they were or were not capable of doing. They were cruel and inconsiderate men. I am sure that Robert still is.”

He quietly repeated some of what she had said but emphasized certain words. “If they did. You believe. You do not know. You obviously did not witness his death or see his body. Are you sure that he is dead?” She sighed heavily. She was still crying. He had to strain to hear her response.

Yes, even though I did not see. This simple ring, him giving it to me, and—it may have been noticed when I arrived home with it and its implication recognized. It may have caused his death and what happened, but I . . . I know he would not have left me like that unless he was dead.” It was obviously a painful subject, but he tried to draw her out.

“I think I would like to hear more if it is not too difficult even after so many years. I can promise you that it helps to speak of such hurts and to bring them out into the open, and you have spoken a lot about yourself this evening; for the first time in many years, I suspect.”

“It is still very hurtful. You speak of your own past with difficulty.”

“But at least I started to open up about it more than I ever have, as you did about your own past.”

“I would like some more of that wine if you do not mind.” He refilled and passed her the glass. Consolation did not come in a bottle, but he would not deny her it.

“Be careful. It is stronger than you realize.” She did not hear him. She drank it off without hesitation. So much talking had made her thirsty, or was she intending to deaden a painful memory? It would not work.

“Is your name really just Wyatt?” She had decided not to go further into her own pain. He could not fault her for that.

“Yes, it is now. It used to be the only name that I knew for a while until I recovered my memory of things, and by then it suited me better than any other. That is how I have been known for the last few years.”

“Nothing else?” He did not seem as though he would answer her, and she did not feel she should pry too hard. He chose not to answer. “But where from?”

“Such curiosity! I am footloose. The world is my playground. Each ship that I board is my home. I was disinherited many years ago by fate, and needed to seek my own way in life, much as you had to do. I also lost the woman I loved, still love.”

“Is she still alive?”

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