Daniel sat on the porch steps clutching the note the darkie from Shady Oaks had hand-delivered. Caroline rarely sent him notes afraid a parent would intercept it. He recognized the sprawling handwriting that was his one true love's instantly after he broke the wax seal holding the envelope closed.
He held the envelope close taking in the scent of lemon verbena and lavender that were so familiar to him. Those scents embodied Caroline and made him want her despite knowing it was a sin. Daniel's body involuntarily hardened remembering how Caroline's felt underneath his. He had never dreamed lovemaking could be fulfilling for both the man and the woman. Listening to his married friends talk, he had been led to believe that was not the case.
At twenty-three, he was the last of the men he had grown up with to marry. No one understood what it was about Caroline that made him wait until she was eighteen. Many girls were married and having babies by sixteen or seventeen, some even younger than that. None saw what Daniel did. Her physical beauty could not be rivaled by anyone in the area. He had known Caroline for years, she and his younger brother had been playmates as children. He had always assumed the match would be made between Caroline and Archibald.
Two years ago everything changed. Caroline turned to look at him during mass, her brown eyes shimmered brightly from the sun shining through the window near her. She had smiled, just a slight upturn of one side of her mouth really and nodded in his direction before returning her attention to the prayer in process. It was bold and daring on her part, anyone in the parish could have seen her and she would have been severely reprimanded.
His life had never been the same. With one partial smile she had managed to throw his life off its axis. And now she was sending him notes more than a month after they had made love. They had met clandestinely since then, but that night would be forever etched in his mind.
Had they not been careful? Had someone spotted her sneaking into his room or back into hers? They had agreed after the night they had made love to meet somewhere more neutral. He was close to getting his father to agree to a marriage between he and Caroline, he did not want to enter into a marriage with heaps of sin already weighing heavy on it.
The alarm clock went off and Riley reached over to turn it off. It took him a moment to realize that there was someone standing next to his bed. He had gone to a frat party the night before after patrol but could not remember talking to anyone at the party beside Forrest and Graham. He had hoped Buffy might show at the party, but no such luck. She seemed to be avoiding him since the night they watched Caddyshack.
Not that he could blame her it was not exactly an impression maker to fall asleep during a date. He was not even sure it had been a date, but he wanted it to be. That brought to mind the person in his room. He was fully clothed so nothing exciting could have happened. He had not drunk at the party so he should remember bringing someone home with him.
He was trying to figure a way out of this without ruining any chance with Buffy when he opened his eyes and saw that it was neither a girl nor an adult. "What the hell?" he asked as he kicked off the covers and slid to the other side of his full-size bed. The boy was probably around seven or eight with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes looking at him very intently just then. He wore a suit like Riley had seen the boys in Little Rascals reruns wear. He shook his head and closed his eyes, opening them again only to find the boy was still there. Wildly he darted his eyes around the room, ensuring that he was indeed in his room.
"Papa," the boy said as he stared at Riley. He rubbed at his eyes with his fists and then opened them again. He looked as panicky as Riley felt, but seemed confused more than anything.
Riley knew he had to do something or the boy was going to cause a scene. Riley's military career would become stagnant if even the whiff of a rumor that he engaged in something perverse started. "It's okay," he said calmly. "I'm not going to hurt you. If you tell me your name we'll find your parents."
"Kincaide Grant, Sir," he whispered meekly. "What did you do with my father?"
"I didn't do anything with him." Kincaide crawled up onto Riley's bed then causing Riley to back away further. If Forrest or Graham were out in the hallway with a camera he was going to throttle his friends.
Kincaide placed a hand on either side of Riley's face. He leaned closer to Riley so there were mere inches separating their faces. His hazel eyes were intent as they stared into Riley's. "But he's in you."
Riley shook his head, not sure what the boy was talking about. "Are you visiting someone on my floor?" he asked. It was possible this was someone's younger brother.
He shook his head and dropped his hands from Riley's face, clutching the bed covers between his fists.
"Okay," Riley said frustrated. "Where are you from then?"
"Shady Oaks, Sir."
"What?" Riley asked a bit more gruffly than he had intended. The name sounded familiar. He knew it from somewhere, but was at a loss as to how.
"It's my grandfather's plantation, Sir, Shady Oaks. Do you know of it?"
"I, no." Riley was perplexed. Shady Oaks was the name of a place in the dreams he had been having. But that was impossible. Plantations, at least of the magnitude in his dreams, had been defunct for years now.
"Are you sure?" the boy asked quite adamantly.
"How far is Shady Oaks from here?" It could not have been too far if the boy wandered onto campus. Maybe he had passed it at some point on one of his late night road trips without realizing what it was.
"I'm not sure."
"All right, let me get dressed and we'll go outside and see if we can find your way home."
The boy just stared at him, a look in his eyes that Riley was not sure about.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com