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/ / The Promise

The Promise

by Debbie Stanton

Martin Tinsdale finally bid on the fabulous Warrens estate. If he could purchase it, it would ensure a successful future. So what if the palace-like home, not to mention the grounds, were too large for one person.

Once upon a time, Martin and Melody had promised each other they would marry. He couldn’t remember the reason for time passing them by. Melody’s whereabouts were unknown. All these years later, Martin was a successful attorney at the head of one of New York’s finest law firms, but that came at a cost.

The cost for Martin’s success was no time to sleep or eat, or so it seemed. There wasn’t time to have a social life, let alone find the woman of his dreams and have a future with her. He also hadn’t stayed true to himself. He reasoned that if he looked into his heart even a little bit, he would find an imitation Martin. What a farce he was living.

Martin finally took time to ask himself what he really wanted. He had to take a long walk in the country to be in the right frame of mind to figure this out. First, however, he wanted to putter in his large garden. Glad that his gardener had the day off, he grabbed the garden shears from the back closet and started to work.

Hard work with his hands proved to be the best tonic around. The whole garden was weeded and watered the whole garden. He brought in a large bouquet of flowers and set them just inside the kitchen sink and added enough water to cover the bottom. He put a stop in the drain so that he could take his walk in the country before sunset and still keep the flowers alive.

Martin had a nice, long, soul-searching adventure in the country. He walked along the country roads and smelled the crisp, clean air. A few clouds scuttle along in their lazy path across the sky, and Martin tracked their progress..

Martin even heard the birds sing. He loved it out here and wondered if England was like this. His English forefathers were probably very lucky.

Martin arrived home and immediately set out to cut down his bouquet from earlier. He was interrupted by a loud knock at the back door. In fact, the knocking was too loud. What was going on? Frustration in Martin increased.

“Yes, what is it?” Martin asked the slight woman standing on the porch. He’d never had good eye contact with people, and this time was the same. Giving her just a sweeping glance, he waited for her reason for coming to the house.

The woman said nothing.

“Come now, I don’t have all day. Why are you here? And why did you knock loud enough to wake the dead?” he demanded.

“I have a letter from my uncle, sir.” She handed him a business-sized, thin envelope.

“Well, come in then, please,” Martin said and opened the door to her.

The woman introduced herself as Kate and sat at the kitchen table without prompting. Martin sat down at the opposite end of the table and quickly read the letter. His gardener, Neal Kurtis, was getting too old to be crawling on his hands and knees most of each day. He gave his two weeks’ notice in the form of a letter because he didn’t want to discuss the retirement that he wanted so badly.

“I don’t believe it,” Martin mused aloud. He’d really be at a loss with losing Neal. Another gardener he could find easily enough, but you can’t exactly find friends quickly. Martin’s face became pale.

“Thank you for bringing this over. I’m so sorry to hear of Neal’s retirement. I’ll call him tomorrow,” Martin said, finally taking time to look at her. He was surprised, to say the least. No, it couldn’t be. He sat for several minutes without saying anything, and Kate didn’t volunteer words, either. But…

“How do you know Neal, if I may ask?” Martin asked her.

“You may ask. I’m Neal’s niece, and he asked me to deliver this letter to you,” the woman said. Something was familiar about her, and he needed to find out what.

“Oh, okay, well thanks for that. I’m sorry to be flustered. You see, you remind me of my love from a very long time ago. Her name was Melody, and she was as musical as–.”

Kate cleared her throat. “As musical as my name? Yeah, I get that a lot,” Kate said.

“How can you hear that often, since your name is Kate?” Again Martin asked what was going on here.

“Let me trim the flowers in the sink,” Kate said and popped up, making herself feel at home. Martin shrugged his shoulders.

Kate began her work with the flowers. “I hear that phrase often because my first name is Melody. I’ve been using the name Kate since I got out of university.”

Martin immediately walked to the sink, even as she turned around to ask for a pitcher to contain the flowers. He found her one then settled down.

“Are you Melody Farnham, my first love?” Martin said, his mouth hanging open.

“Yes, Martin, it’s me,” she said shyly.

He hugged her in an awkward fashion. “My gosh, I’ve wondered so often where you were. And now I can ask where you work. I’m sorry for how we got away from each other, by the way.”

Martin sat down and waited for the answer about her job. Melody sat down, too.

“I don’t work anymore because I do charity work. A very nice way to fill my time.”

“That’s great. But–how do you manage? Financially, I mean,” Martin said.

“I worked in corporate America for a long time. Then, my uncle Neal’s brother passed away, and since his wife was already dead, made me to be the executor of his estate. It left me set for life. But mark my word, I have always been a hard worker,” Melody said.

“I don’t doubt that for a minute. But why didn’t you tell me your uncle was, er, rich?” Martin said.

“Because a lot of money was not my goal in life. That’s just not who I am,” Melody answered.

“I wish I could say the same about me,” Martin said, feeling ashamed.

“Understood. But I don’t hold that against you,” Melody said.

“What I’m trying to figure out is, did you know who I was and where I’ve been all these years?”

“Seeing you today, I noticed right away who you are. But I learned about you from my uncle Neal, your gardener.”

“Small world, isn’t it? One thing remains a mystery to me, Melody. Why did Neal send you here with his letter? I don’t believe it was so I wouldn’t talk him out of retirement.”

“That’s right, that was just a cover. You see, he and I are very close. He pieced everything together. Heck, he’d even heard from me that I wondered where you now were. And about our promise.”

Martin racked his brain. “You mean, the promise to marry each other some day?”

Melody nodded.

“Oh boy. You may never forgive me for leaving you all those years ago.”

“If I do–what about the promise we made? That probably is a dumb idea,” Melody said bashfully.

“No, it’s not dumb. A future prominent attorney and successful former brain surgeon wouldn’t have made a promise like that.” Now that Melody was sitting in the same room with him, it took him some time to gather his thoughts and feelings.

“I’m so thankful you forgive me, Melody. If you hadn’t, I would’ve understood. But now it’s time we get to know each other again.”

From the time Melody agreed with that statement, they remained in each other’s lives. They dated steadily for two years, then married.

Years later, Melody, who now went by her first name again, and Martin had been married fifty years. They lived in the huge mansion which was a wonderfully large and noisy adoption home, and they did their gardening for themselves.

One evening, they sat on a white, wrought-iron settee in the middle of their garden. Just before sunset, Martin turned to Melody.

“Sweetheart, melody of my heart, I ask you this: how was I ever lucky enough to find you again? I mean, why did you decide to come back?”

“Because I didn’t love you according to what your profession was. I just always believed in keeping a promise. And so did you.”

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