Kiss of the SunbyILmonamour©
Another Summer Lovin' easy read. Estragon, les mots ne sont jamais assez. Thank you for always being readily available and willing to take on the words of a rambling woman with your forever watchful eye and guidance.
"You can't be serious?"
The delicate voice was barely audible, as the young woman slumped down on the chilled leather seat. The words printed in front of her didn't make sense, couldn't make sense, and still the lawyer began to explain. Through the shock, a horribly loud clanking blocked out every other noise. On the fourth day of November, Lilly Hammond sat across from a man who had gone far out of his way to locate her in order to deliver a letter from one of his clients who had recently passed away.
She'd lived on the western side of Chicago for most of her life; finding her couldn't have been all that difficult. The papers crinkled as she clutched them tighter in her small hands. As everything began to register through the thick fog in her mind, a single tear trickled down her pale cheek. From what little noise that did cut through the shock, the lawyer said he had represented Charles Bowman up until his death two months before. All of his assets had been divided between his living children and family members immediately; however there was another portion that remained. Upon hearing Charles' name, every fiber in her body disconnected and her ability to talk disconnected also. Even though several years had passed, she could remember everything about him, and for a brief moment, thought she caught the tantalizing scent of his cologne.
Charles Bowman was the name of a man who, unbeknownst to her, she thought, changed everything. During his prime, he was an executive for a major pharmaceutical and packaged goods manufacturer, and after turning fifty-six decided it was time to say goodbye to corporate America. Lilly had been working as a receptionist at the time at a medical clinic he frequented; she often looked forward to those visits. His pale blue eyes sparkled with mischief whenever he sat down at her desk in the clinic. Regardless of the weather outside, a pair of sunglasses were permanent residents on top of his balding head. Conversations constantly shifted from travelling to children, and the way he spoke of them and the excitement of spending long holidays with his grandchildren was infectious. She remembered how he always came in just before leaving on an extravagant trip--which always seemed to extend itself. Often she wondered why he didn't buy homes wherever he traveled. Whenever she asked, he always replied in the same manner.
'My sweet Lilly, I traveled for work so much that I never enjoyed it. Gone for weeks at a time and stuck in an office, a conference room or hotel. After my wife left and remarried, our kids knew their stepfather better than I, so I worked all the harder. Now that I'm retired, I'm setting things right. With my ex-wife, our children and grandchildren.'
Her admiration for his efforts never ceased, and over a period of six years she watched in astonishment as he went about his new business. Every year, he got a little closer to his family. It wasn't as if the children had completely removed him from their lives, they simply weren't used to having him around. Since the retirement, he became available to all four kids and nine grandchildren. Over the chilly winter months leading into the holidays, he stayed in town and found himself being invited over for each of the holidays. During the summer months, he shocked everyone, including his ex-wife and her husband by arranging summer getaways along the sandy beaches of Maui. Since their divorce, they remained cordial for the sake of their kids. And especially their grandkids.
Maui. The memory snapped Lilly back to the present. She quickly wiped her nose with one of the tissues from the desk and found a small voice to speak to the lawyer. "But why me?"
The lawyer sensed her upheaval and gently patted her shoulder. "That is something only you will know. Mr. Bowman was insistent that you remained in the will. You will need to get the property transferred into your name. I can help you with this, or you can go to a court clerk, and then you will want to contact your financial institution. Ms Hammond, the property is paid in full so you do not have to put anything into it from your own personal accounts. Mr. Bowman set aside funds specifically for this property, so the mortgage and property taxes are taken care of."
For what felt like an eternity, but was less than an hour the lawyer walked her through the portion of the will which she was mentioned three times, to reassure her. Never once was he condescending or begrudged her requests. Finally she signed a document proving her acceptance and left the offices.
The air along Michigan Avenue was brutally cold as a breeze cut through her down jacket. Curbing the chill, she tugged the scarf around her neck closer for more warmth. At twenty-nine, Lilly Hammond had not been having the best year. Even as she exited the lawyer's office, life seemed to go from worse to limbo. Six months ago, she had been working overtime in the Intensive Care Unit when she got the call about her mother. Four months shy of her fifty-eighth birthday, god or whoever decided she had suffered long enough, and cancer had taken over its battle and won. She liked to think that it was because of her mother that she became a nurse. Deep down she knew otherwise. Being able to help people whenever they were ill or needing support always beckoned her. After graduating high school, she immediately started to work as a receptionist at a local medical clinic in order to get comfortable in the field. She worked part-time while attending classes at a local community college, inching one step closer to the nursing program.
It was at the clinic when she was introduced to one Charles Bowman. As if it were yesterday, memories of that first day flooded her mind and she automatically reached for another tissue. Slowly he slid into the uniform leather upholstered chair and winked at her. The strong scent of musky cologne filled the small space, which should have made her gag, but only made her grin. His charismatic charm had always appealed to her, and she remembered liking him immediately. Charles wore a warm smile whenever he came into the office to see his doctor. Every time he came in, he sought Lilly with that same traffic-stopping smile. During each of those little visits, she found herself falling into a little bit of a crush over the older man who refused to be anything but cheerful. Some years she would only see him a few times, while others he came in often. Even sick, his face beamed if only momentarily as he came to her desk to talk. On one of those stops, she learned that he had a woman-friend with whom he used to work, who was his companion on many of the getaways. He was much older than Lilly, but she often fantasized that had she been ten years older, would he have ever made a move on her. And if he had, what would she have said?
After completing the nursing program, the organization had other plans to take advantage of her new certification, and Lilly found herself hesitating over the transfer. Only because she wouldn't see Charles as often. At some point, their talks began to mean more to her than she cared to admit. The thought was heartbreaking, and when she told him about her transfer, he smiled at her and told her not to worry. Breaking rules wasn't part of her nature, but after he left that day, she quickly went into the record system and wrote down his address. Little did she know the effect that address would have on her life. Over the next five years while she rotated from the Emergency Department, Pediatrics and to her current Intensive Care, she would send cards and postcards with little notes to him. She reserved the postcards for random mailings outside of holidays when she only wanted to send a simple greeting.
Luckily she didn't have a shift that evening and was able to head straight home after the appointment with the lawyer. Lilly opened up a bottle of wine to try to fully accept what had happened. As the year was closing out, she had lost her only living family member to cancer, was working almost sixty-hours per week to curb her depression, and had just inherited a house on the western side of Maui. Her mind was racing with a million different questions, which all came back to the main and more pressing one. Why had he left a house thousands of miles away for her? How she wished that he had left a note for her with some kind of indication as to what he was thinking while devising his will.
As November quickly turned into January, Lilly's focus at work had drastically slipped. She began declining the extra shifts so she could go home, sit with a bottle of wine and read Charles' letter. The cryptic words revealed the same meaning as it did when she first read it through tear-flooded eyes. Working with the lawyer to transfer the property over to her name had proved challenging, and since then he frequently called to follow up and see how things were going. Mainly, she figured he was calling to see what she was doing about the property. During the last call, she was on a shift and could barely talk. Lilly told the lawyer she was trying to figure when to take time off. The adamant tone of his voice struck like violent blow when it filled the small device she clutched to her ear.
"Ms Hammond, once you accepted Mr. Bowman's request you assured me that you understood the conditions."
"Yes, I am fully aware of those conditions. Can I let you know next week once I have decided on the dates to visit the property?"
Reluctantly he agreed, and since then had called her on a weekly basis up until that second week in the month. The medical chart sat in her lap, in desperate need to be reviewed for the physician's orders. Frustration burned within her and she rubbed her already dry eyes with growing anger. The lawyer was right, it was time to go down and see the property. Something inside of her ignited at the thought. Emotions that were repressed for so long began to catch fire deep within her, just at the idea of getting away. Away from her job, from the stress of a now monotonous life filled with never-ending sadness. During a break, Lilly checked on her savings account and tried to figure out what it would cost to fly to Maui . The following day, she scoured the internet to look at travel plans. While entering the trip information, her fingers twitched, hesitating over the flight type.
A roundtrip getaway would get her back to Chicago in nine days, but a one-way could give a little more freedom. Lilly's fingers wiggled as she fought her inner debate on what to do. Was she really considering packing a bag and going to Maui on a one-way? Was she that desperate? Of course she would come back, but the idea of escaping was highly seductive. Twice that day she had been asked by other co-workers to cover their shifts, and twice that day she had accepted. She was overworked and tired of being exhausted. She was still young and very much alive, but felt as if she was slowly sinking six feet under. With a confidence that confounded her, she looked over the flights and booked a one-way to the island two weeks away. Logic told her she was insane, but her heart told her to just go with it.
The next two weeks flew by. From selling everything inside of her apartment to working the last of her shifts, she was crazy-busy. Everyone at the hospital was shocked by her departure, but kept their views on her departure to themselves. Several of the staff, and even some of the doctors, pitched in and took her to dinner before her last day. When the day finally arrived when she was to fly out, Lilly sat in the back of the cab and cried silently. Panic started to settle deep into her bones, but some unknown force pushed her to move forward with her plans. Several boxes were shipped out a couple of days beforehand with her belongings, while she carried one piece of luggage on the plane.
As the plane banked at Kahului Airport, the nervousness that had so earlier filled her was now replaced with curiosity. The late March air was unbelievably warm, much warmer than what was standard in Chicago. While she waited for a cab in the taxi queue, Lilly closed her eyes and took the deepest breath she had in months. There she was with a single bag and a house awaiting her: making this move was the most adventurous thing she had ever done. It terrified her and thrilled her at the same time. Minutes later she was taking in the sights of the rich greens lining the roadway. Exotic palm trees and sandy beaches teasing her eyes. The driver took her down a road that seemed to wind for an eternity, passing resorts and local beaches until they finally began to weave through the suburban side of the area. When the car came to a stop, Lilly blew out a breath and couldn't believe the sight in front of her. Mouth gaping and wide-eyed, the driver looked back at her.
With a tentative voice, he spoke with uncertainty. "This is the address you gave me, you sure you got it right Miss?"
Lilly stammered, it had to be right. She read that legal document with the address repeatedly for months and could recite the address backwards. "I'm sure. How much is the fare?"
"Sixty-four dollars, you want me to wait out here on the street for a few minutes? I don't see any neighbors outside and it's a long way back."
Trust Charles. "No thank you, this will be fine." She paid the driver, collected her bag and walked up the gravel driveway. As the cab slowly drove off back in the direction that it came, Lilly clutched the gold chain at her neck and tried to breathe calmly. On forty-two eighteen Lliili Road sat a shack of a house that was barely being held up by rickety walls. The horror began to sink in. She was almost terrified of stepping inside but could hear Charles taunting her, daring her, to see what was hiding inside.
It wasn't much. The house was an empty shell in desperate need of repair. It was small with only two bedrooms and a kitchenette off toward the back. Just beyond the kitchen was a glass door covered with sand and grime, leading to the prize of the property. The structure itself wasn't much, but it was nestled in the far corner of a private cove. Cautiously, Lilly stepped outside and couldn't believe the beauty presenting itself to her. The salt of the ocean teased her nose, a smile tugged at her face as she took off her shoes and rolled up her jeans. It had been years since she had been to an actual beach, and she wasn't about to pass on the opportunity. Excitedly, she walked down the sand toward the water, the air getting thicker the closer she got. The dampened sand squished in between her toes. As a small wave washed over her sandy feet, the motion paralyzed her as a sense of peace swept over her. Even for the briefest moment, she felt free.
There was a house on each adjoining side with space in between, and because of the natural curve of the cove, each property had their own beach separated by large rocks. Tall palm trees served as beautiful barriers between the properties. The water was a magnificent aqua, only highlighted by the pale sand. The seclusion of the beach made the shack all the more enticing.
She didn't know how long she stood there, but eventually the heat of the sun began to take its toll on her. The bright rays blinded her vision into the vast ocean side. Slowly she ambled back into the house and nearly stumbled as she saw a crystal vase on top of a purple envelope. How she could not have noticed the vase before was strange, as it was greatly out of place, but then again her attention was all over the place since she entered the shack. Lifting the crystal, she looked at the envelope and found it was addressed to her. With nimble fingers, she opened it.
My dear sweet Lilly.
By the time that you are reading this, I will have moved on. My dear girl, it has been a joy watching you grow up and I have treasured your cards along the way. Even looking forward to them just as much as seeing my own children. I do hope that you found as much in the ones that I sent you.
I must ask a favor of you. Many years ago, I bought this house but have never had the time to get back to it in order to fix it up properly. This is asking the world, and asking nothing at all. I am giving you this property my sweet girl, but by accepting it you must make it into a real home. A place you would want to live in, and wouldn't ever want to leave. Please, my Lilly, do this one thing for me. Watching you grow these past years has been more to me than you will ever know, it would be my dream to be able to look down from up above and see a home that was meant to be lived in.
Tears streamed down her face as she read further into the letter. From beyond the grave, Charles Bowman wanted her to build a house. She wondered if the lawyer knew anything about the request or if he was merely doing his job with all of his follow-ups. From the handwritten words, she understood that Charles had been watching her accomplishments from afar and praised her for them. Toward the end, he tied everything back together and informed her that there were more conditions involved. Lilly smiled through her tears and realized her benefactor was a man determined to hustle people. As if he would have been any other way. He had set up a private account for her which had a balance that remained unclear. Any and all of the expenses that were related to the house, from toiletries to new foundation, would be properly funded. At the very bottom of the letter was the telephone number to his lawyer. He instructed her to call him to arrange to make the funds readily available to her.
All of the air was ripped from her lungs. The letter fell like a feather to the floor, as the shock began to sink in. Lilly dropped down next to it and looked around at her new surroundings that were barely livable. For months she wondered why he gave her a house, and now she knew. He wanted her to build one. As if that made any sense to her. She didn't have a clue how to do anything apart from hanging pictures on a wall; building a house was going to be a catastrophe. Where would she start? Who would she contact? That dreaded fear flashed its unruly self at her and did a wicked dance at the thought of this project.
In the state of Illinois, she was a licensed and registered nurse. In the state of Hawaii, she was an anonymous woman with a dwindling savings account and nothing to lose. Charles' damn voice slithered down her spine, whispering all of the ingredients that form a house. Rather than upsetting her, she accepted her position. Somewhere inside, she knew Charles had chosen her to do this for a reason. He was a man who had a clear gameplan for everything he did: this would be no different. Maybe while she built the house, his vision would come to her. Or possibly twenty years from now, as she sat on the back patio overlooking the rushing waves it would come to her then. Either way, a house needed to be built.
The first week on the island proved to be nothing short of interesting. While she submitted the paperwork for her licensure and miscellaneous certifications to be approved in the State, she spent a few days looking for any type of work. With her little nest egg, she couldn't afford to watch the house's construction without working. That wasn't an option for her; boredom would soon creep up on her and she would want to stay busy and also meet people. Not having a car on the island was an inconvenience and on the second day, she found herself at a used car lot purchasing an older two-door coupe.
The car had seen far better days, but it was transportation. As it made its way down the street, sand had corroded the muffler and it rattled loudly with each mile crossed. Just up the street from the little outdoor fruit stand where she'd picked up some bananas and berries for a snack, she noticed a florist shop. On a whim she walked inside. With the shack being an absolute mess, it made her miss the dingy apartment in Chicago where she had flowers scattered all over. Lilly quickly started a conversation with the owner and together they talked about flower arrangements, which eventually turned to her curious move to Maui. Lilly kept the specifics of the move private, but did indulge on explaining her newfound obsession of watching the sunset. By the time she left the shop she had two giant bouquets of flowers and a part-time job. The job wasn't in a hospital and was completely opposite of what she knew, which made her want it all the more. They agreed on her working three days in the shop during the week, giving her the weekends free. Dana the owner told her that because she was new, she needed those days to explore. Lilly knew it was because the store itself was closed.