About Music and DeterminismbyFred190666©
Note from the author: Hi Everyone. This is my first - and probably only - story. It is in small part autobiographical and, of course, mainly a VERY corny fantasy. It had been brewing in the back of my mind, for a while now, and I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
**** Something in the Air ****
It was a cloudy, windy August day on Harkers Island. Mea watched from her office window, at the National Seashore Visitor Centre, for any newcomer stepping off the Cape Lookout Island ferry, faintly hoping to haggle an early lunch break from this quiet, and slightly boring, work shift. Alas, the coming of a lone visitor soon dashed that hope and, although the man was walking at a rather brisk pace, she had plenty of time to observe his demeanor and judge his appearance before returning to the visitors welcome desk.
(Maybe early forties and obviously not from around here... another paddle foot more dressed for a golf course than a nature resort.)
He was about as tall as she was, around 5ft. 9 in., with short trimmed and clean cut dark brown hair, a soft, clean-shaved, face and a warm smile that dug a cute dimple in his cheeks. He was looking at her now, and she saw his smile broadening as she headed back to her desk.
Matthew took it all in as he walked, deeply breathing a sea breeze he had not tasted in decades; the sight and feel of wind, cloud and gently clashing waves rushing back countless memories, all happy ones, of an ancient life on the water. He felt uncharacteristically embarrassed by his apparel - a golf polo and way-too-loose trousers, from last year, that his belt struggled to keep in place - but he figured it would have to do.
(What a view! and God this feels great! Come on Matt... even if this blows in my face, it will still have been worth it.)
As he opened the door, humming to himself "Something in the Air", he gasped due to another sort of view altogether. The hostess at the visitor center, which he saw looking at him through a window a short while ago, was so stunning she instantly befuddled his train of thoughts and sucked the air out of his lungs. He had to remember to breathe and neither drool nor ogle.
(Relax, Romeo, she belongs in a sleepover with Emily, not in your ancient and useless dirty mind... I'd be lucky if she tolerated my small talk...)
"Good day, Sir, and welcome to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. My name is Maria Elena, what can I do for you today?"
(Ah... French-Canadian) Mea thought.
"I am sorry... I know I'm coming unannounced and totally on a whim, but I was GREATLY hoping to catch a wild horse sightseeing tour" Matthew continued, this time in an impeccable English that was almost without accent.
Mea instantly lost her smile and sighed. "I'm very sorry Sir, but the wild horse sightseeing tours must be booked in advance and the next one will take place on September 14th. Would you like me to book you a place for then?"
Matthew softly sighed, radiating immense sadness. It was obvious to Mea he was pondering his next response to avoid venting his disappointment towards her, for which she was already grateful. "Thank you, Maria Elena, that is sweet and kind of you to offer but unfortunately I will be gone from Beaufort by then... don't fret, I knew it was a long shot at best; I will try my luck watching from the ferry. At least I had the presence of mind to purchase binoculars before coming here!" As he finished his reply, he forced back his smile, as if wanting to project benevolence and reassurance towards the desk employee. Mea softly flinched.
(Spurned tourists driving in from 1 000 miles are NOT this nice... what's the deal with this guy?)
"Sir, if I may, where are you coming from?"
"Well, Maria Elena..."
"Please, call me Mea."
"All right, Mea, technically, I am hailing from the Inlet Inn, where I arrived last night. However, in more general terms, I am coming from Gatineau, a town in Quebec across the river from Ottawa. That being said, in a chronological chain of events, I drove from Myrtle Beach yesterday."
"Wow..." Mea giggled "... this is simultaneously very precise and confusing."
"The story of my life." Matthew retorted, this time with his smile back in full radiance and his soft brown eyes connecting with her gaze for the first time. Mea was almost unsettled, as his gaze, while radiating gentleness, was intense and piercing, almost as if he was trying to achieve a direct soul-to-soul contact. "To make a long story short, my very best friends on Earth, all three of them, kidnapped me last week for a two-car, guys-only, no hold barred, golf excursion at the shrine, the Elysium, the Acropolis of all Quebec golfers: Myrtle Beach South Carolina. What they failed to anticipate, in their brilliant and much appreciated plan, is that a lifetime of playing 1-2 rounds of golf per year has left me with a passion for the game that is singularly devoid of talent. So, after two days of watching their 300 yard drives and suffering in silence their patiently waiting for me to finish each and every hole, I begged off and explained I needed to finish the trip alone, alluding I would do a tour of Civil War Memorials - for which I knew they would leave me be."
"But this is not a..."
"In all fairness, Mea, I did stop over at Charleston, to see the fort there. You know, the one whose battle the movie Glory is based on. In addition, after leaving here, I was intent on driving the scenic route through Virginia and Pennsylvania, looking at the Shenandoah Valley and, of course, Gettysburg. But you are absolutely right, Mea, the reason I gambled a stop here is far more personal and visceral than civil war remembrance."
Mea waited this time... she was sure now he would finish the tale.
"Thirty six years ago, when I was almost twenty years old, dad, mom and I arrived on our sailboat, from the Bahamas, straight in Beaufort inlet at night. The sight of the horses grazing at dawn had always stirred me to the very core of my soul and it will remain etched in me to the day I die, and maybe linger after that, if such a thing is possible. I was hoping to relive that."
Mea was awed and she discreetly checked that her jaw remained shut.
(Wow... Nicholas Sparks don't even write lines like that... wait a minute, 36 years ago and almost 20...)
"Please, call me Matthew"
"Matthew, you do know you really don't look your age, do you? You really are 56 years old?"
"Ah, well yes, actually... but thank you Mea, such a compliment coming from such a pretty young woman, warms my heart. Aside from a robust health, I have indeed been blessed with a baby face and the rest of my youthful appearance I owe to my perpetual, and often self-deprecating, clowning around. However, I really should let you back to your duties. Thank you, Mea. Both meeting you and this lovely chat made the trip worthwhile. I wish you well and, forgive my geekiness..."
(No way, he's not about to ...) she thought, as she watched Matthew model his hand and fingers
"Live long and prosper". Matthew smiled, more faintly now, and turning around to leave.
(Mea, girl, this is nuts)
"Matthew... I don't understand, if you love golf so much, why did you need to be kidnapped for this thing?"
"Because my friends were worried I was mourning my late wife far too long, too much much and too intensely." By now, the smile had faded to nothing. Matthew obviously dreaded having to admit it.
(COME ON!!! SERIOUSLY!?!)
Mea ran after Matthew. That man did not walk, he strode.
"Matthew! Wait! ... if anybody asks, you're lost..." Matthew looked at Mea grabbing a bag of gear, plus what was obviously her lunchbox, and running up to him. He waited, perplexed "... and I'm on my lunch break". As she pointed him in a direction different from the ferry pier, he was genuinely puzzled but, all the same, he followed her unquestioningly. He was silently chiding himself, however.
(Granted, you were always trusting, Matt, but you're not thinking with the head on your shoulders right now. Shame on you.)
When Matthew caught up to her, she handed him a lifejacket and guided him towards the Park motorboat. Instinctively, having executed such maneuvers hundreds of time, Matthew placed himself on the dock, ready to cast off. Pleasantly surprised, Mea started the engine, gave the sign and Matthew confidently climbed onboard with the mooring lines. He settled them, guessing correctly where their storage space was, and stood silently beside Mea, breathing enthusiastically the salty air and obviously enjoying the occasional brine splash.
(Wrong, Mea... he really has sea legs. Maybe you can ask later)
Matthew broke the ice. "Look, Mea, whatever it is you are doing, thank you from the bottom of my heart... but you should maybe let me warn your supervisor or something. I couldn't bear having you catching grief for your attentive and caring gesture". He managed to look concerned while keeping a beaming smile.
(Does that man ever speak in three word-sentences? Or without superlatives?)
Mea returned his smile and, for the second time in less than an hour, Matthew lost his breath. That smile outshone the Sun. "You're sweet, Matthew, but really it's OK. It was a boring day and they do give us the big 50/100th birthday speech about making an exceptional contribution to tourism, which I figure I am doing right now... to a very deserving tourist might I add. Besides, what could happen between me and a 56 year-old French-Canadian gentleman on an undeveloped island full of horses?" Matthew giggled. No, actually he chuckled. Eventually, he lost it and downright laughed. All the while Mea, catching on, was blushing furiously.
(Really, Mea, flirting? What is wrong with you girl? GET! A! GRIP!)
Thankfully, Matthew let the double entendre slide. "Tell me, Mea, what does the 50/100th birthday stand for?" He asked while still giggling.
"2016 is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and the 50th birthday of the Cape Lookout National Seashore".
"Thank you for that information. I will fall asleep less ignorant tonight."
Mea had to leave his graze to monitor her approach to the East End of Shackleford Banks but kept on talking, looking dead ahead. "Somehow, I get the impression that happens every day. What is it that you do, Matthew?"
Mea briefly turned her head, wondering why Matthew was speechless.
(I am actually having a conversation with that nymph. I will surely go blind, or worse...)
"All right, here goes nothing... it is a pleasure to meet you Mea, my name is Matthieu Carmichael, M.Sc., and depending on the time of the week you seek to know, I used to be an environmental auditor, a nightshift security guard or a lecturer. Currently, I am retired and about to relive my youth alongside an angelic guide. Now, do we berth in or do we anchor?"
"The pleasure is all mine, Matthew. I am Maria Elena Cordoba, park ranger and part-time angelic guide, and we will berth on that small pier over there. I suppose I can trust you with the lines?" He was rubbing off on her already... and she first saw him less than 60 minutes ago.
"Aye Aye, Skipper". It was not said mockingly. Matthew meant it and went at it.
(Wrong again... he CAN speak three-word sentences.)
A short while after, they were both walking up the sand dunes of Shackleford Banks, Matthew obviously ruining his shoes in the process. Somehow, he guessed the object of Mea's disapproving look. He blurted, in a soft voice:
"I'm sorry, I don't have an emergency marine nature kit on hand for golf kidnappings, nor is my laptop on perpetual standby for park schedules, rates and booking procedures." Mea smiled inwardly. She'd guessed as much.
"Well then, be advised that the banker horses are protected by law. You do not talk to them, cuddle them, feed them or bother them. Fortunately, today is very cloudy so I don't have to worry you will burn that white skin of yours to a crisp. Do you have insect repellant?" Matthew shook his head negatively. "Golfers!" Mea smirked. Then she promptly proceeded to coat both of them from her supplies.
While climbing and crossing the dunes, Matthew took advantage of several occasions to fully admire Mea. He had already noticed her lovely hazel eyes, a tint very pale, almost verging on light green, that he had never seen before. He was already bedazzled by the soft warmth and glow of her smile. Discreetly, he could now take in the shape, tone and strength of her legs, her gorgeous figure, not as voluptuous as his beloved Lupe but still a very inviting and pert breast line, even under her uniform (probably C cups, maybe Ds) and her chestnut, curly, hair currently tucked under her hat. He saw the perfect tan that belied her Latin heritage and her outdoors living. And, for the first time in years, yes, even before Lupe's passing, Matthew felt his loins stir and was silently worried. He guessed her age in the early twenties and silently cursed himself.
(Don't lose it! Don't lose it Matt! But... my God, LOOK AT HER. What do I do?)
Matthew was saved by the appearing horses and, while he was gazing far away, Mea took her turn to check him out. Matthew had barely 2-3 greys on his head of hair. No firm tone in the arms or the abdomen, the man never was a sportsman. Well, maybe nice legs and butt, but both were hidden by the baggy pants. He was wearing them either by choice or was in the process of losing weight. A renewed glance at the slightly too-wide shoulders of his polo hinted at weight loss. He did not boast vainly about his baby face: freshly shaved and only blemished by a small scar on its left cheek, over the smile's dimple, Mea literally felt the urge to caress it.
(What is wrong with me? How can this be?) She was asking herself, fearing she already knew the answer.
"Are they all palominos in color scheme? You called them banker horse? Is that an actual species?" Matthew whispered, fascinated.
"Most of them are and yes it is. We believe they descended from domesticated Spanish horse stock that survived here, stranded from shipwrecks. In addition to protect them, we also try to maintain genetic diversity, preclude inbreeding, and prevent overpopulation". From that point on, Mea reverted to her traditional park ranger guide routine, thankful for the distraction. Matthew was drinking every whisper and seemed to be pondering the ramifications of each and every one of her sentences. He was also blinking his eyes and drying them. However, aware of the passing time, he finally relented.
"We really should be heading back, Mea, we are pushing our... I mean, your luck". To his astonishment, she sighed in regret, agreeing silently. To his utter amazement, she then started to inspect the body hair on his arms. He managed to disguise a short moan as a questioning expression. "Tick check" Mea replied, timidly smiling. "Now please do the same for me". All this time, she had to resist the urge to blush.
On the way back, on the boat, Mea took out her sandwich, offering half to Matthew. "I hope you like smoked turkey breast on rye". Matthew was mollified and objected, but only in principle, as the combination of high emotions and the great outdoors left him famished. He had never tried rye bread with anything other than smoked meat, and was soon chewing in such utter delight, he almost managed to be the first human being to ever truly purr. Getting a grip on his bursting heart, he took a deep breath and said, in full earnestness:
"Mea, what you have given me today is beyond thanks and repayment. I will be forever, and ever, in your debt. English, and indeed even French, do not have proper words to properly express and convey my gratitude. But tell me, why did you do so much for me. This gift of yours is waaaaay beyond the call of duty and tourism".
This time, Mea lost the battle with her blood flow and blushed. Furiously. She looked at her feet, took a very deep breath of wet, saline hair and gave the only answer she could. "Matthew, I don't know why, but I trust you will not laugh. I beg you, please don't laugh, it will be the death of me if you do. I'm about to put my heart out there, alright?" After a silent assent, she continued. "I wish my pappi could be like you".
(MEA, GIRL, ARE YOU CRAZY!!??!!)
Sea legs or not, Matthew was floored and almost fell overboard. He actually grabbed her hand for leverage. The gesture was short-lived, as both felt the electricity in it, flinched and let go. Matthew was breathing far too quickly.
(Don't screw up... don't screw up... she trusts you, trust her, worry afterwards...)
"I would adopt you in a heartbeat, and be proud of you every day". Then, watching her melt before his eyes, he did indeed worry. "Sorry... I know nothing about you and your life, but...".
"No excuses, no regrets", she interrupted him. "You are kind and considerate and I was very happy to share this afternoon with you. My condolences for your late wife... now go, we need to berth and we both need to go." Both were struggling with weak smiles and wet eyes.
"Thanks..." he said while going forward with the lines, while saying "... her name was Penelope, she liked to be called Lupe. I really do seem to be falling for Latin beauties, don't I?"
Mea managed to dock... barely. Minutes later, back on land and after pulling herself together and fixing herself up a little in the washroom, Mea made a report as phony and believable as can be to Dave, her supervisor, and settled back at her desk. Seeing a familiar face and set of pants walking out of the men's room and coming toward the desk, she became simultaneously overjoyed, irritated and nervous.
"Did you miss the ferry?" she whispered at barely audible range.
Completely ignoring the question, Mathew announced "Bonjour Mademoiselle. I would like to climb the lighthouse please. Are these people over there part of the next self-guided tour?" He was smiling from ear to ear while reading the postings behind Mea. The smile was returned, as if a wattage competition was on.
"Why, yes indeed, sir, general admission is 8$, thank you."
"You're welcome. Say, is there a box or somewhere I can make a donation for this absolutely amazing place? To help with expenditures, upkeep, maintenance and what not..."
Mea silently pointed to the donation teller and Matthew walked away, miming "Thank you" repeatedly. She saw him again at the end of her shift. She was barely surprised, but by now a little worried.
(Now look at the mess you made... you turned him into a stalker!)
Matthew pointed at the lighthouse and declared for all to hear "What a view". Then he waited for the ferry nonchalantly. She figured he would wait to be on the boat to come speak to her and she was right, after what looked like considerable breathing exercises, or maybe rehearsing a speech in his head.
"Hello again. Mea, please forgive me as I know I am behaving like a pesky lunatic right now... and do know you can wish me away at any second... and please know that, especially after your lovely gesture today, I would never willfully cause you harm or betray your trust, but... well..."
(Poor sod... this is almost fun.)
Mea was grinning now, watching him ramble and try to reach an imaginary, and very elusive, goal. "Yes, Matthew?"
"I would like to buy you an early diner, seeing as we both are surviving on half a sandwich right now. My treat... your choice of venue, obviously, since I don't know Beaufort. Then you can go back and forget about me right afterwards. What do you say?"
(Why would I want to forget you, you fumbling old charmer?)
"Yes... as in yes for diner? or do you have another question?"
"Yes for the early diner, silly. Since you stay at the Inlet, I suggest Clawson's. It will be close by and it's a local fixture in Historic Beaufort."