A Man on an Island Ch. 05


"Hey," Cale said, ignoring her remark, "you said that you can feel it when Paul is messing around? I'm not doubting you, but -- "

"Can I borrow your cellphone for a second?"she asked. Cale shrugged and he handed it over as Sylvia fished a little notebook from the pocket of her jacket and reached up for the map light button. "Nice," she smiled, "a decent signal." She dialed carefully.

"Who are you phoning?" Cale asked.

"Paul," she said with no emotion in her voice, "eventually."

"Hi, Stu?" she asked, and after a moment, she smiled, "At her place? So he's still there as far as you know?" She waited as she listened to the reply before she chuckled, "Awesome. I hate what I'm doing, but you guys are the best. No, you got what I asked for. So you're gone then? Ok, thanks so much. Bye."

She hung up and began to dial another number, "Now I'm calling Paul."

The line rang a three times and she smirked when the Voice Message cut in, "Just a wake-up call, Honey," she purred into the cellphone, "You're busted -- again. Three strikes and you're out on your ass. Don't come home. I'll have you served at the office when my attorney can arrange for that."

She disconnected as Cale looked over, "Whoa ... "

Sylvia held up three fingers, "Two more than he was worth. I'd have ditched him the first time, but I had zero money, our daughter was only five, and he sweet-talked me into giving him another chance."

She consulted a different page of the little book and dialed again. It rang a few times and then she heard a voice, "Hello. Cale?"

"Nope, it's Sylvia. I'm just using Cale's phone. Could you please hand the phone to Paul -- if he hasn't fallen asleep?"

Cale's head snapped around a third time and his eyebrows were headed for his hairline. It looked a little absurd to Sylvia, who had to turn her head away as she reached for the overhead map light button to turn it off.

"Paul?" Kate asked, "You mean your husband? He's -- "

"Yeah, Paul, or maybe you know him as Paolo. He's right next to you in your bed, as of about two minutes ago, Kate," Sylvia said coldly, "You ought to close the blinds. I'll send you the photos at work if you like, but I might make a mistake and send them to the Human Resources department just as easily. I imagine that even crows like the ones you work for have a mission statement and rules to abide by.

Just tell Paul not to come home. He doesn't live there anymore and I've already had the locks changed. I don't want him back when you get tired of him and his phony bullshit Italian stallion act -- if you aren't already. Just so you know, you've spent more time in Italy than he ever has, He's never been there. And you can go to hell, yourself. This is one bridge that will stay burned."

She pressed the disconnect button and handed it back to Cale. It rang in his pocket a second later and he pressed the ignore button. When he looked again, Sylvia was looking out of the window and wiping her eyes.

"Are you ok, Sylvia?" He asked.

She nodded, "The first time felt like a knife in the guts, but I tried, thinking that It must be me. The second time that it happened, I decided that it wasn't me, it was just him being a horn dog and wanting what he should know better than to try for. I still took him back, but I told him that it was the last time."

She looked down for a minute, "Now I'm more pissed than hurt over the attempts that I made to fix something that wasn't broken. I should have just called it a day the first time. I'm still upset and I am hurt, but not as much as I used to be, I guess. I'm REALLY pissed at my cousin. Anything for a pat on her little head. I've listened to her bitch over how that old boy's club treats her, and yet she jumps at tearing down somebody's dream? It makes me mad at Paul all over again for being so stupid.

She'll get what she wants and he'll wonder how he ever agreed to it -- and then he'll want half of the farm when I won't take him back, but it's not that easy. He thinks that I own the farm, but he's wrong. There's no way that he'll ever get that, but I won't tell him."

She looked over, "Sorry for the rant, Cale."

Cale smiled, "You just let it all out. I don't mind."

They made it through the empty drive-through and decided to eat in the truck. Rufus decided that he liked it when Sylvia fed him a small French fry now and then.

"You were asking me something," she smiled, "Oh yeah, how do I know? I'm not sure that I ought to try to tell you, since I really doubt that you'd believe me, but unless Paul's been screwing around with a whole lot of women, there have only been the three times that I felt it as it happened.

Still," she shrugged, "You're my best friend, so if I can't get you to believe me, there's likely no hope that I could get anyone else to.

The land that the farm is on," she said, "A lot of the land in the area was surveyed into 50 acres sections, since that was a good-sized family farm back in 1800. Many of those sections were given to British army and navy people as the other half of their pensions, so rather than get their whole pensions, they'd take half and show up to ask for the rest as land to begin to farm on with their families.

My ancestors didn't do that. They just showed up and they bought four parcels together. As the years went by, they bought up a few more, which is why they owned over nine hundred acres at one point. I'm down to about five hundred eighty now and I want to keep it like that if I can.

There were two parts of the same clan and I'm going back about six hundred years," she said as she fed another fry to Rufus, "In Scotland, they were the McDonnells and in Ireland, they used the original name of Mac Domhnaill, but they were the same. Not all of them were uh, regular folks. Every once in a while there'd be a 'Great Witch Hunt' and a McDonnell or two would get caught in it.

My part of the family just got tired of it after a while and after a few showed up from Ireland, they all shuffled off to the New World to hide out a little easier, I guess. They never were a bunch of upside-down pentangle people, but if everybody in town is looking to burn somebody and you're a little different..."

"Well, what were they?" Cale asked, "You mean like Wiccans?"

Sylvia laughed and shook her head, "No, but the word 'witch' is a brush that paints a wide stroke, isn't it? Nobody really cares anymore and people aren't as close with each other as they used to be. There have always been wise women and men in the villages and towns of Europe, people you'd go to for advice and help in little ways that were not obvious. They were known as fey. Some of them were known to be nuts, and most were known to have quiet little abilities and skills.

A good number of my family were like that. So they came here and dispersed a little and most tried to fit in like anybody else. They probably still do. You know me as Sylvia McDonnell, but that's not my true name -- there's just no point in trying to confuse people."

Cale was listening and he was a little surprised, "Well, what's your name then? If we've been friends all this time, I'm a little disappointed that I never knew it."

"You heard it when my grandmother spoke to me, Cale," she chuckled, "or weren't you listening? Think back and tell me what she always called me. It wasn't 'Sylvia', was it?"

He looked down and then he looked at her, "She called you 'Sheelah', but I always thought that was a pet name of something."

"That's my name," Sylvia smiled, "I think Gramma liked to say it because I was named after her. We just have different middle names, that's all. She's Sile Maura Mac Domhnaill, and I'm Sile Muirren Mac Domhnaill."

"Are you angry, Cale?" she asked, but he shook his head, "No, I don't think so. But I am feeling a little left out. There was a time when you and I were lovers, and I thought that we were honest with each other, that's all and I mean that a little softly. Try to look at it from the view of a seventeen year-old kid before that summer when we were eighteen and living in each other's skin. Now I find that the name that I kept on my lips for the whole year wasn't the right name?" He grinned then, "I'm just kidding, mostly."

"I'm sorry and I never meant to hide anything from you. It was just something that we did then. I used a sort of anglicized version for when I went to school. Now, I'm mentioning it because of who we are to each other, Cale." She fished around in her pocket and came up with her wallet. She unfolded it and held it out to him and Cale looked.

"This is official?" he asked, and she nodded, turning a few of the little vinyl pockets over until she found the one that she wanted, "My birth certificate."

"Jesus," he muttered.

"Nope," she grinned, "I'm happy being Sylvia to most everyone, but to Cale Taylor, I want to be who I am, Sile Muirenn Mac Domhnaill."

"Sheelah?" he asked and she nodded, so he shrugged, "Ok. That is a pretty cool name, though."

"Seriously?" she asked, "You're not angry?"

He laughed, "No. I'm just afraid now that I'll never learn to say that correctly. Damn," he said almost to himself, "that is a nice name -- at least when you say it."

He didn't know what he'd said, but it got him a kiss from her, "You can call me Sylvia," she said, "I just really wanted you to know my real name, more than anything. Paul never gave a shit as far as I could ever tell."

"So you just knew it when he was messing around?"

She nodded, "Yes. If I'm with somebody, I care about them. We've got all sorts of ways to tighten that. I don't think that it would have made the slightest bit of difference to you from the way that we were even that first day when you stood in my mother's kitchen, but you were in the middle of a bunch of women who believed in a different force of nature, that's all.

Old Amy and my grandmother were distant relations had both been married since forever, and they loved their men, but they also loved each other, which was something else not really looked on very highly at the time. But both of them liked you in a heartbeat, and my mother did as well, so while I sat daydreaming, they tried to -- not force -- that's much too strong a word. Let's say that they tried to get some nice thoughts of me into your head.

When it was time for you to get into the back of that truck, I could have kissed you until the church bells rang, but I'd never have had the nerve. It was Gramma who told me to do it -- if I wanted you to come back the next summer. I wouldn't call that witchcraft."

Cale chuckled, "It sure worked though."

"Well there was nothing to help us at the end of the summer," she said a little sadly, "I often wish that we could have stayed just like that."

Cale nodded, "I always have that wish whenever I think of it."

"So anyway," she said, wanting to change the subject, "there's the legend of Cù Sìth, the otherworldly dogs who are supposed to protect us on our land. The legend says that there is always only one, but I always thought that it was the same one, and that's apparently not the case," she grinned at Rufus who was trying to force the fry that she held in her fingers to float toward his mouth by staring at it, "and there's nothing to be read anywhere that says that they like fries.

I always used to see one for a moment, but it you looked really hard, they'd fade into the woods. The only one that I've seen in a while was Rufie when I was out riding and that was before he moved in with you."

"You think he's -- whatever you said? I dunno about him being otherworldly," he laughed, "He eats way too much for that."

She laughed a little as she reached behind her to tousle Rufus' head, "I'd love to think he is, but the way that I was told about it all, Cu Sith is a legend in a lot of places in Scotland, and in most of those legends, they aren't friendly and if you see one, it usually means that someone that you know will die soon.

The Cu Sith in the stories of my family was a large black hound who hung around and protected people. I heard some stories of lost children being herded home. And anyway, it was said that Cu Sith of the Mac Domhnaills never left the land because they couldn't. Rufus isn't exactly on the land, is he? He's here with us."

She turned her head, "But I'm glad you're here, Rufus, no matter what you are. I'd never be able to eat my bonus fries without you."

Cale's expression hadn't changed to this point, but now he looked confused. "Bonus fries?"

"That's what my daughter Siobhan always calls them. They're the fries that fall out of the cardboard container and land in the bottom of the bag."

"I'm still a little stuck over this 'feeling things' as they're happening," he said.

"It comes as little clues and thoughts," she smiled, "at the strangest times. Like when I'm feeling miserable and the one friend that I really need then shows up and hides in the hallway, feeling like he's eavesdropping when he shouldn't be, but there's nothing much that I can do about it but feel foolish myself because I'm sitting there not even dressed since I didn't expect you to come home then."

She said, "Well, we'll have to figure that out, I guess. In the meantime, I've got my hands full with the mess that I've started here for the next little while. I feel like shit and I also feel really betrayed by my husband and my own cousin."

As they drove back, they were quiet for most of the trip as Sylvia looked out at the darkened landscape. "Would you do me a favor?" Cale asked quietly and she looked over with a nod.

"I think that I can see that all of this might get a little rough for you," he said, "You know that I'd do anything I could to help you, but we live a half a mile apart. I'd like to be near you now -- if I could, at least until you're not angry or upset. I won't get in your way and I won't even suggest any ideas of how to handle things better bu-"

"Please let me stay with you," she interrupted with a smile, "I think I need that. I won't even get in your way," she chuckled as she rolled her eyes. She took his hand then, "It feels really good to still have you as my best friend."

"Can I ask you a question?" he said and she nodded.

"Why were you throwing all of those women at me? You know me, I have enough trouble considering one at a time."

She looked out of the window for a moment, "Because I want you to be happy and have somebody to love you. Those are my friends, and I know them as good people. I'd want them to be happy too. I didn't mean to bury you or anything. Was it wrong?"

No," he smiled, "It's just that I uh, ... I work a lot slower than that. I felt like a gameshow contestant for a while there. They're all wonderful and they didn't do anything wrong individually. I just couldn't handle six. I know that you're not ready to be in the market, but one day, I hope I get a chance to be in your life in a larger way. I'm still in love with your face when you smile at me."

She turned to look over, "Really?"

He sighed and he squeezed her hand a little as he drove, "Yeah."

"Well," she laughed, "just see if I throw any more women your way, then. I just know what'll happen if I do. One of them will bag you eventually and I'll have to wait another twenty years."

There was a bit of an awkward silence then until Cale looked over, "You meant that, didn't you?"

"Yes," she groaned, "It just slipped out, ok? Look Cale, I --"

"Uh-uh," he chuckled, "I heard it. I'm taking that to mean that I just have to be patient. Good things come to those who wait. I'll give you maybe a decade to decide before I get antsy. The way that I figure it, over twenty years and I learn that the girl that I loved so much is even more enchanting than she was before and she's got more names that Carter's has pills. I can't wait to see what I'll get to learn about you then."

The silence fell again, and then she asked, "You meant that, right?"

He looked over briefly and nodded, "Yeah I did -- well not the part about waiting and learning. I guess I'm saying that I know that you've got a lot on your plate right now. I guess I'm saying that once you get everything ironed out, I'll still be here."


Cale waited at the door while Rufus was thinking about peeing and if he decided that, then he'd need to decide exactly where that might be done to best effect. Sylvia watched him, thinking about things. She got the stove going nicely again and with another look at him, she pulled her pants off and pulled the bottom of the old sweatshirt lower.

She had no intention to do anything, but she wanted to feel the way that she'd felt before he came home. This was her favorite sweatshirt and she'd nursed it through all of the years. She was upset and when she was this way, there was nothing better for her to wear. Other than her legs from a bit above her knees, there was nothing to see and anyway, they were old friends.

Even so, she felt a little uncertain and she didn't really want him to get the wrong idea. She looked down as her knees as she thought it over and she decided that it was Cale, so she forgot about being concerned.

"Thank you," she heard him say and when she looked up, he was smiling as he closed the door.

"You mean about the shirt?" she asked, and he nodded, "I just love to see you like that."

"Well I've decided that I'm staying near you and I was going to sleep in this anyway. Where am I going to sleep, by the way?"

He shrugged,"Anywhere you want."

She laughed a little, "Alright," she grinned and pointed, "I want to sleep -- and that's the word that I mean, sleep -- with you, right there."

He looked, "Right there, as in, right there on the floor?"

She nodded, "About the only thing that you and I didn't do right there was sleep. I think it's long past time. I'm sure that you've got all the cushions that we'd need right there on the couch and that chair and that one and -- "

"You're really serious, aren't you?" he asked with a grin, "I'd love that. I probably won't be able to move in the morning, but why not?" He looked a little concerned for a moment after that, "But I think that we should ... I don't know to say this ..."

"Well I do," she smiled, "I want to sleep with you. That means that I want to lie down next to you and sleep. I want to hug you a little, but that's all. You don't have to look so nervous."

Cale was relieved, "That's what I thought you meant. I just didn't want you to think that I wouldn't want ... " He threw up his hands, knowing that he was only going to be digging himself a hole, no matter what he said now.

She got up and walked over, "I know what you mean and thank you," she said as she kissed him for a moment, "That's someplace that we shouldn't get near right now. I always felt so good when you used to hold me. That's all that I want, Cale. I've just had my nose rubbed into my own foolishness. I have the best friend I ever had in you and I know that you'd do anything for me. I want to sleep next to you and I know that I'll feel better. I already do, just because we're here."


The bed was an air mattress that Cale thought of and dragged out, thankful that it still held air, and there was the moment when she looked at him as he wondered what he ought to be wearing here. "It's me, Cale," she laughed, "there's no need to get formal. You always used to sleep in your underwear, so that's fine with me, but I don't care anyway. What do you usually wear to bed these days?"

She watched him for a moment and she giggled, "Right. That would be fine with me too."


"I wanted to ask you," Sylvia said as she crawled back from banking the woodstove down for the night, "What happened to you? You've changed a little. I see you as a bit unsure of yourself -- not with me, but with other women. It's no big deal, but I'm curious."

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