DRAGONJULS Storybook
     ~ Clock Tower ~
          2000 by J M Dragon e-mail:  jmdragon1@hotmail.com


Disclaimer:   This story implies consensual sexual relations between adult women as well as some male/female relations.
Language:  There is some occasional strong language.
Violence:  This one is written without violence.
Hurt/Comfort:  Have some of this too.
Acknowledgements:  I would like to dedicate this story to Alexandra, although she no longer continue this particular journey with us she will never be forgotten.
Thank you once again to Betty and 'The Dream Team', for the continuing support and encouragement. I can never express my gratitude enough.

Part One:

*********

Marisa Slater drew her eyes away from the clock tower she was seated under and considered her current status in life!

Single, forty-two years old, or young, depending on your point of view, she smiled at her own musings. She was personal assistant to the local lawyer in town. That was the new word for secretary come gopher. But, her boss was a good man and easy to work for. The money was good as well, allowing her to buy her own small house on the outskirts of town. Her car wasn’t new, but it was in very good condition. She loved the roomy station wagon, even if she didn’t really need such a large vehicle. Colleagues in the office would laugh at the enormous vehicle, which made her but a speck inside being only being five foot tall. Her sparkling pale green eyes made her plain features appear less plain when she was happy and laughter was always around her. Her rotund figure, a sliding into middle age, she had tried, but failed to overcome. She hated giving up her treats anyway.

This was her favourite place in the small town of ‘Clayton’, where she had lived for the past fifteen years. Every Sunday morning, without fail and weather permitting, she would sit under the clock tower with it’s ornate markings on the clock face and it’s pleasant chimes as it struck the quarter, half and then hour.

Over the years she had become what others must regard as a fixture on the bench under the tower that faced the pretty, well tended town garden. Which, with each season bringing it’s own display of plant life and flowers to the site. She’d even over the years made new friends, well more like acquaintances, but it had been amazing at how very diverse they had been. It made the day a little more special when she could chat for a time with others.

What she really needed and had never managed, was a close friend to share some of her free time with. Her shyness around strangers and her perceived aloofness when new people tried to break the ice with her had been a major stumbling block in maintaining any special friendships.

When she had seen the clock tower for the first time one Sunday two months after arriving to live in the town, it had drawn her like a moth to the flame. She had never understood it. Possibly never would, but
here she felt at peace. It was as as if some quarter of her mind said, she was waiting for something or someone to arrive that would change her life forever!

Fifteen years later, she was still waiting!

Checking the time, it was now close to midday. She had promised to take Agnes, her elderly neighbour to see her friends for a game of bridge at the nursing home.

Rising from the seat, she glanced at the clock, smiling wryly at the colourful figures that adorned the ornate face. It really was quite beautiful and very well preserved for being a two hundred and fifty years old timepiece, at least it would be that old next week.

“See you next week old friend. Who knows, perhaps as it’s your celebration, maybe it will be one for me also?” she whispered as she left the quiet peaceful setting and went to her vehicle.

Another Sunday had passed her by.

*********

“Quit the dramatics will you for god’s sake! I’ll go., I’ll go. OK?”  Theresa Damas shouted above the noise of her mother’s crying and her father grumbling loudly that she never did anything for them!

Theresa shook her head at that last comment from her father, which had been totally unfair. Being the eldest and single meant she had no family commitments. Not like her brother and sister, who both had spouses and children to consider. Every Sunday she came over to the house for lunch and visited the afternoon, or she would take her elderly parents on outings.

“You’ll go Terry, really?” her father questioned with wonder as he heard her agree to their earlier proposal, which, she had categorically responded “no” to for over half an hour.

She nodded wearily with a slump of her shoulders and a defeated expression appeared on her tanned world-weary, but remarkably beautiful face. At forty-six she had the lines to prove she was no longer in her twenties, but her body and manner defied it at times. During the week she would exercise every evening except a Sunday to keep her figure. Her tall six-foot frame didn’t have an ounce of fat on it. She often despised people who didn’t take care of the only true asset they possessed in this life. Working from home as a web page writer and graphic artist, she was a loner, but quite happy with that situation. Although, she was outgoing when required to be, she was happier on her own. She had never found the need to have the pre-requisite spouse and children her siblings had chosen.

“Yes, Dad, I’ll go! I better get us booked into a motel for Saturday and Sunday evening. We can leave early Saturday and arrive in ‘Clayton’ around dinner time if we take it steady.” Theresa said decisively. Once having made a decision, she went into full organizing mode, something that greatly amused her father. She would have made a good soldier.

“Oh, Darling, thank you, thank you! It means a great deal to us. Really it does,” her mother spoke softly through her tears that had streaked her cheeks.

Theresa bent down to her mother and hugged her gently.

“Yeah, I know Mom. Who knows, perhaps some of that magic might rub off on me, huh?” Theresa laughed at her words ‘magic - it would take a miracle!’

Serena Damas starred into the deep blue eyes of her daughter and sighed at the admission.

“I thought you were happy being alone Theresa?” Her mother asked her quietly; concerned that her eldest child could be lonely, when outwardly she had always seemed to be happy with her solitary existence.

“I am Mom. It was just all that talk you and Dad have been giving me about how special ‘Clayton’ was to you and that damned clock tower. It wouldn’t surprise me if I dream about it tonight!” Theresa smiled as she kissed her mothers velvety cheek, then stood up to her full height and clapped her hand on her Father’s shoulder.

“We’d better get the road mapped Dad. You know I can be a little dense when it comes to taking the right turn in strange places.”

Daniel Damas hugged his daughter and whispered “thank you” as he released her and went over to the desk to find the cited map.

Theresa walked over to the window and looked out onto the yard. The lush green grass was neatly mowed. Her mind ran over the reason for her parents upset over going to some small town called ‘Clayton’.

********

Fifty years ago Theresa’s parents had both been travelling through the town, however, each was going in separate directions. Her father had been a travelling salesman and her mother had been going to New York to see family. Her family had been trying to be matchmaker with a wealthy city banker in the city. The weather had been particularly nasty and both had stopped overnight. The next morning had dawned bright and sunny and there had been a local celebration around the centre gardens. To mark fifty years of the erection of the clock tower, a benefactor had brought over from Europe. Serena had been fascinated at the story of romance that surrounded the clock tower. For some it was a meeting place that found the other half of their soul, a chance one off meeting that had to be taken up immediately or the chance would be lost for the rest of their lifetime.

Serena had enjoyed the celebrations and her eyes had been drawn to the clock tower. She decided that, as her train wasn’t due to leave for another two hours, she would spend a little time looking it over.

As she neared the tower she was drawn instinctively to the small two-seater bench that was located under the tower itself. A tall man who looked neat and tidy in a pin striped suit and black shiny shoes was seated there. His mind was obviously elsewhere, as he didn’t hear her approach.

“May I sit for a few minutes?” Serena asked. She was shocked momentarily, as the most vivid blue eyes shot up at her from a rather ugly face she had to admit. It looked like a boxer who’d had his nose broken far to often.

“Sure,” he said quietly and moved to the far side of the seat to allow her plenty of room.

Having settled herself on the bench she clasped her hands together and looked around her at the lovely gardens and the ornate clock face. Several times she discreetly looked over to the man at her side that was starring out over the gardens. But, she was sure he saw nothing before him.

“Do you live in town?” Serena asked politely.

The young man looked at her with shocked eyes, surprised at her question.

“No! I’m passing through,” he finally said with a brief smile that changed his features, making them a little less strong was the only word she could think of.

“Oh, so am I.” Serena responded and smiled directly at him. He appeared so lonely, she felt a stirring in her heart that tried to reach out and wanted to offer him comfort.

The young man merely smiled at her again briefly and looked up at the clock face.

Serena tried again to strike up a conversation.

“Do you know the story behind the clock being brought here to this town”?

He was perplexed. Why did this attractive woman want to speak to him? Most women avoided him like the plague. He could understand that. He wasn’t the picture book handsome guy everyone wanted to take home to meet the folks. He was ugly he knew that, his acute shyness didn’t help either.

“No, I don’t is it a good story?”

“Would you like me to tell you if you have the time to listen? That is, I wouldn’t want to keep you?” Serena realised that the young man might have somewhere to go. She felt that it would be an acute loss to her if he did for some reason.

He smiled properly this time and it lit his blue eyes to full effect. Quite dazzling really, or so Serena thought.

“Please go ahead Miss. I have the time.”

“A man called Harry Clayton, who was one of the town benefactors brought the clock here fifty years ago. He had come across it many years before in some obscure European town where he met a young woman by chance as he walked by the clock. He immediately fell in love with her. It was love at first sight they said, the meeting of the other half of their souls.” Serena stopped briefly to see if the man was still listening. She was pleased when she noticed that he was waiting for her to continue.

“They planned to go and see her parents, then he was going to take her back home to America with him. But, her parents disapproved and wanted her to marry a local man. Harry was distraught, as was the young woman. They arranged to meet under the clock tower to plan her fleeing the arranged marriage and go with him to America. He waited all-night and only as the sun appeared for the dawning of a new day, did he finally accept defeat that his love wasn’t going to turn up. He went to her home for one last glimpse, but the house was all closed up and empty. She had gone and fruitless searches brought him no news. Several weeks later, he returned home to America and he concentrated on his business’s, never marrying his heart broken at the loss of his soul mate. As he aged he decided on one last trip to the town in Europe, where he had left his heart. Once there, he went immediately to the clock tower. Sitting on a bench he felt the presence of another and looked up into the now much older countenance of the young woman he loved. Not knowing what to say, they both sat side by side and held hands in understanding of years lost and no chance of ever having them back. There was a civil war raging. She had a family that was fighting, refusing to leave with him, she begged him to take the clock tower back and save it from becoming a casualty of the war. This he agreed, vowed to come back for her when the war was over.”

Serena stopped for a few moments as she looked at the face of the clock and could picture the event as if it were happening around her.

“Please go on?” came a timid request from the man at her side.

She looked into those blue eyes. Once again she felt as if she had come home.

“Of course, I’m sorry.” Serena smiled at him.

“Harry had the clock shipped back to America and placed right here fifty years ago. It has been preserved by the town’s people ever since. Not only a symbol of respect for its history, but the chance of love it represents also,” Serena said, her voice appeared to him to signal an end to the story.

Clearing his throat he turned towards her and gently laid a hand tentative hand on hers to draw her attention. Serena looked back at him and a smile played on her lips as it captivated the young man at her side. She was so very lovely not only to look at, but her spirit as well, for he was sure he could feel it reach for him.

“Yes?” She queried as the blue eyes that gazed caught her into her golden-flecked green ones.

“What happened To Harry? Did he eventually get the girl?” He enquired. He wanted to know the end of the story.

Serena looked down at the large hand that covered her much smaller one; a single tear dropped down her cheek as she gazed at the young man.

“Harry died the day the clock was dedicated to the town. He was by then an old man and his health had been failing over the period of time the clock was being erected in the town.” Serena replied softly. She felt a hand clasp hers in understanding at the tragedy.

“Harry never got the girl.” The man stated rather than asked. His voice held a note of regret.

Serena smiled through her tears for the story had touched her profoundly when she had heard it the first time. But actually relating it to the man at her side, it had taken on a much deeper meaning.

“It appears that after he died, a letter was found at his bedside from an acquaintance in the village when the clock arrived in America. His love had been killed protecting her family the day that the ship was due to leave with the clock as part of the cargo to the States.”

“A double tragedy then; for they lost each other twice,” he said bleakly.

Serena turned her hand and linked it with the much larger fingers.

“I think they were lucky for they met twice in a lifetime. Although it was a very short time together, they would always carry the memory of those meetings. Some people never take the chance of the meeting do they?”

The man was feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness as he felt the small fingers of the young woman at his side linked with his, as if they had been made to fit exactly there.

“No, some people never do. Would you?” he asked quietly, not daring to look at her as he waited for her answer.

“I would like to take the chance.” Serena spoke towards the bent head and saw it spring up very much like a jack in the box. It made her laugh at the action.

“Daniel Damas, that is …that’s my name. Thank you for the story,” he replied, a red stain touched his cheeks as he stammered out the thanks.

Serena smiled happily as something inwardly burst out to greet her. She released herself from the original handclasp, which they had both forgotten. Holding out her hand to shake his.

“Serena Anderson, it was my pleasure.” As they shook hands, it was like coming home for them both.

“Would you care to share a coffee or something…?” Daniel asked, knowing it was his only chance. He wasn’t going to let it go. She could say no, but he would at least be satisfied that he’d asked.

Serena laughed. It broke the peace of the area. To Daniel it was the most wonderful sound he had ever heard.

“Coffee would be very welcome.”

They both rose from the bench and Daniel offered his arm, which Serena took with pleasure as they moved towards the gardens and the coffee shop in the main street.

*********

Part Two:

Marisa had been working long hours during the week. She felt drained as she vaulted out of her vehicle in the drive. She had been hoping to enjoy the celebrations of a hundred years of the clock tower being erected in the town. But, she had realised on getting home and checking her diary that it was the anniversary of her parent’s death in a car accident. Every year she made the pilgrimage to her old hometown and placed flowers, tended the small plants and quietly sat and talked to the her parents about her year. Their death sixteen years ago had been the reason for her moving to a new town and making a fresh start. Being an only child, she had no other family. So eventually, she had sold off the small property they owned and used the funds to put a down payment on the house she had in ‘Clayton’.

In her heart she knew that her parents wouldn’t want her to miss the celebrations. But she decided, she would go as usual, for after all the place would not be the same for her with lots of strangers around. She could always celebrate it a week later; her the clock and it’s memories.

Agnes chose that moment to walk into the house just as she’d slipped her shoes off; she turned with a weary look on her face, but tried to remove it as she saw the frail old woman smiling at her.

It made her wonder if in the years to come that was how she would end up, relying on others for brief companionship to lighten a boring lonely day.

“Hello Agnes, had a good day?” Marisa said cheerily and went over to hug the taller woman who hugged her back.

“Marisa, I’ve had a normal day for me, nothing exciting, but now you are here, I was wondering if I could ask a favour?” Agnes knew the younger woman rarely said no.

“Go ahead, what’s the favour?” Marisa smiled at the older woman and waited patiently.

“I was wondering if you could take me and a couple of my friends to see the celebration on Sunday? I know you go every week and this week is kind of special as it’s a hundred years?” Agnes asked and locked gazes with the younger woman.

Marisa wanted to say yes, but this time she had other commitments. SsShe was, if nothing else, consideredshe was good old reliable.

“Oh, Agnes, I’m sorry I can’t. It’s my yearly visit home. It is the anniversary of my parent’s death. I go every year as you know.”

Agnes looked so downhearted at the comment that Marisa battled not to shed a tear at her disappointment.

“Oh! Yes, of course Marisa, I had forgotten, another time then. I guess I'd better leave you to pack for your old hometown. Where is that again?”

Marisa smiled at the older woman as she replied, “ ‘Trailville’, I’ll leave in the morning early and get there sometime late afternoon. Stay the night, spend the morning and travel back and arrive late evening.”

“That’s some hectic schedule Marisa.  You won’t see the celebrations either and you being such a devotee of the clock as well.” Agnes said softly as she made her way towards the door to leave the young woman in peace.

“Maybe I’ll see them in another hundred years.” Marisa chuckled as she was given a strange look from her friend.

“Stranger things have happened Marisa.” Agnes replied and went out of the door.

Marisa considered the remark as she went into the kitchen.  ‘It would be very strange indeed if she did see another hundred years.’ Opening the refrigerator, she selected a large doughnut and bit into it with relish as she considered what to have for her dinner.

**********

“Dad, I know the way out of town.” Theresa laughed as her father gave precise instructions on which road to take that would set them to the correct Interstate for their trip to ‘Clayton’.

“I know you do Terry, but it’s always better to be safer than sorry.” His blue eyes sparkled at her. She couldn’t help but smile. Her dad wasn’t the best looking man on the block. But when he smiled at you with those eyes, you could forget all about physical beauty for it was the person inside that mattered. Her dad was one of the kindness and most compassionate men she had ever met in her life.

She had often wondered how he had persuaded her mother to marry him for she was most definitely a beautiful woman. It wasn’t until she heard the story last weekend that she realised that theirs was a love so deep it touched the soul and physical beauty wasn’t and never had been a consideration.

Theresa knew that she wouldn’t feel that way about anyone. For she was often judgmental when it came down to the physical form, especially when people didn’t take care of themselves. Then again, this other half of your soul crap was just that! Romantic delusions! But, if it worked, which it surely had for her parent’s, then good luck to them. She had no such delusions when it came to love; it either happened or it didn’t, and that usually sparked with a physical attraction in her book. Not that she’d bothered much, but the odd occasion she had gone on a date it had been physical attraction.

“Yes, Dad, but I have been out of ‘Trailville’ on my own before now you know.”

Serena laughed as she heard the banter between her husband of close on fifty years and their eldest child. They had married within a month of meeting under the clock tower and never regretted one single minute together. It had just been a chance they had both been willing to take. Although her parents had been angry at first, Daniel had eventually charmed them. He had become their favourite son-in-law over time.

Theresa had always been the child that could fend for herself. It had amazed her when she had graduated the local University with full honours, but remained in the small town when she could have gone any where in the States. Although Danny’s illness when she was out fresh out of the University,  probablyhad probably had contributed heavily to her decision., Theresa had always had a mind of her own. It was a practical mind too! No time for the romantic side of life. She had once scoffed at that notion saying it was a waste of time. Now time was marching on and Theresa was alone, with her attitude as she was never likely to find anyone to share even the simplest parts of her life with.

“Mom can you believe Dad, he thinks I don’t know my way out of town?” Theresa brought her Mother into the conversation.

“Well Terry, it’s not often you venture outside of town is it. I don’t think you’ve had a vacation in years,” her mother spoke quietly.

Theresa looked at her from the rear view mirror, scowled and it made Serena chuckle.

“You look like your Father when you do that!”

Theresa scowled even more at the remark.

“Oh, Mom don’t say that! Dad looks like a boxer who’s seen better days,” the words said in gentle teasing as she exchanged a brief look with her father.

“Ah, but, we ugly ones get the most gorgeous girls. Didn’t you know that?  They feel sorry for us.” Daniel Damas explained, turned to his wife and they exchanged a knowing smile.

“Yeah! Yeah, you always say that. Must be why I never got the girl then.” Theresa laughed as both her parents looked at her strangely.

As they exited ‘Trailville’ all three were silent, each considering their own thoughts as they headed for ‘Clayton’.

*********

Marissa had been driving for four hours when she saw a sign for a diner, which made her smile. She could do with a drink and something to eat, breakfast had been a very rushed affair.

Pulling of the highway, she parked the car. She noticed that there were several other vehicles, which was usually a good sign that the place was okay.

The diner was a small place, had about six tables and three chairs at the counter, where the smartly dressed waitress was talking to a young man obviously captivated by him. Glancing around Marisa saw a table unoccupied and seated her down and waited patiently for the waitress to take her order.

Several minutes later the waitress had still not appeared and Marisa looked down at the menu for perhaps the hundredth time or at least it felt like it to her.

‘What should she do now?’ her in-built shyness rearing it’s head and not allowing her to call the woman over.

As she wondered if she should just get up and leave, Marisa saw a tall woman who was walking along with two other elderly people say something quietly to the waitress. She then opened the door and held it until the two other people went through it and they exited the building.

At that moment the waitress came over with a barely concealed sullen look on her face and asked for her order. Marisa smiled sweetly at the waitress, her mind going over that brief sequence of events. Had the tall stranger seen her agitation and intervened on her behalf? Or, had she known the waitress and said something totally unrelated?

As far as Marisa was concerned, it was the later; that had a far more romantic feel to it and it made her happy anyway.

“Terry thank you for asking that horrible waitress to see to that child. She looked positively timid didn’t she?” Serena Damas said warmly to her daughter as the settled back in the car.

Theresa smiled briefly, “No problem Mom.” Although she was thinking the timid woman really should have got up and done that herself.

Daniel Damas gently touched her shoulder and his eyes held hers as he saw her brief scowl at her Mother’s words. Shaking her head, she gave her dad a wry smile and started the car.

“Clayton, here we come.” Theresa said in a jovial manner. How on earth had her parents ever managed to bring such a cynic into the world?

“I’ll second that,” Daniel Damas said as he settled in the back of the car next to his wife. They snuggled up together; a nap would suit them just fine about now.

Theresa glanced in her rear view mirror at her parents. Her eyes held tenderness as they rested on their happy profiles.

**********

Marisa arrived in ‘Trailville’ late afternoon. As with most things she attempted, something went wrong. Her front tire had burst sending her into the side of the road. Fortunately, there hadn’t been any other traffic. She after an hour of cursing and klicking at the wheel-nuts, managed to change it for the spare.

Now, as she approached the town, it felt familiar again, as if she’d never left. That shouldn’t have been such a surprise. After all, she had lived there the best part of twenty-seven years. Most of that had been good memories. Well all except for the high school graduation dance, which had been one of the worse nights of her life.

“Marisa, you have to go to the dance darling, it is something you can look back on later in life and smile and laugh at the evenings entertainment.” Sally Slater said to her only daughter, patting her on the shoulder in a comforting way.

“Mother it wouldn’t matter if I went or not. Let us face it, I haven’t even got a date!” Marisa responded in agitation.

“Not everyone will have a date. Please Marisa, you will thank me in the morning, I promise.”

Marisa glanced at her mother and saw the warm green eyes look at her pleading.

“Mother for you I will go, but the first sign of being uncomfortable, I’m coming home.”

Her mother had taken her shopping to the Mall for a new dress. The emerald green creation had looked beautiful on the hanger in the store, but truth be told, on Marisa it looked like an old sack. They had bought it anyway, as it was getting late and they had other things to do; namely a hair appointment.

Her hair had been cut shorter than normal and Marisa looked into the mirror that early evening and wondered what the hell she was doing.

James Slater her father had dropped her at the building that housed the dance and whispered how beautiful she looked.

Marisa had smiled, ‘yes, but you’re my father’. Words she spoke silently as she bravely went towards the hall and the obvious enjoyment of the many already inside.

Here she was eighteen years of age, still frightened of her own shadow. But if it made her parents happy, then she would try and have a good time.

An hour later having become a permanent fixture at the wall side and only managing the odd conversation with some classmates who she was sure felt sorry for her, she looked at her watch for the time.

“Could you tell me the time please?” An unfamiliar voice spoke to her directly.

Glancing up she was starring at a tall woman, who had the most engaging eyes and a smile to match. She was extremely beautiful and her figure reminded her of one from a model out of a magazine.

“Yes, yes…it’s…its nine o’clock.” Marisa stammered out and watched for any reaction from the woman.

“Thanks.  Pretty boring dance, wouldn’t you say?” came from the tall woman Marisa guessed was at least three years her senior.

“I suppose.” Marisa breathlessly replied, her heart hammering at talking to a stranger and she certainly was that.

The stranger turned to the younger woman and looked down at her and gave her a small smile.

“My kid sister wanted me to come with her so that she wouldn’t be on her own. Some chance of that, as soon as we entered the building, the guys were all over her. Then again, that’s Cally for you.” The stranger stated as she looked over to a table that was packed with people.

“Are you talking about Cally Damas?” Marisa asked in awe. The girl was the most attractive person in her year, and every boy wanted to take her on a date.

“Yep! The one and only. Do you know her?” The older woman asked. Her eyes were now concentrating on the younger woman in front of her.

“No, that is yes…that is.” Marisa trailed off. What did you say about the most popular girl in school?

“Make your mind up. You either do, or you don’t?” her voice giving away a hint of boredom at the conversation.

“She’s the most popular girl in our year.” Marisa stumbled out, wondering if the tall woman would leave now.

Then Marisa was captivated by the gentle throaty laugh that emanated from the tall woman.

“Oh, that’s great! Wish I’d known that before she conned me into bring her here,” the stranger continued to chuckle and then saw her sister wave at her to come over.

“Guess I’m wanted. Thanks for telling me the time. You might want to come over and join us?” Without a backward glance at Marisa, the tall women moved towards the table. It made Marisa feel bereft, as if she was losing something important.

“Bye.” Marisa said softly; so softly she knew that the tall woman couldn’t possible hear her. How could she go over? Yet, she wanted to so badly.

Marisa looked around her at all the smiling happy faces.  She then glanced to the wall side that was predominately the establishment of the supervision for the evening, who also appeared to be enjoying themselves very much. Was she the only one who was lonely in this room full of people?

A loud peel of laughter was heard from the table that the tall woman had gone.  Marisa couldn’t help but look in that direction. There she saw the tall woman laughing and having an animated conversation with her sister. They appeared to be looking in her direction. Not sure if they were talking about her, she looked away, but the need to know was just so overwhelming that she walked closer to the table and picked up a little of the conversation.

“…Cal it’s not what you think.” The tall woman said, her laughter still evident in her voice.

“Don’t give me that Terry. I know you better. You always did seem to go for the small ones.” Cally Damas giggled and she gently cuffed her sister under the chin.

The tall stranger called Terry grinned and shook her head. “Yeah! But, I would rather have mine with defined curves in all the right places and who can hold a conversation.”

Marisa was stricken at the words. She couldn’t help the small sob that escaped her lips as Cally Damas looked over her sisters shoulder and saw her there listening.

Without waiting to hear or see more, Marisa fled the building. With tears tracking her cheeks, she walked the two miles home in total despair. Never again would she ever go to a dance again!
 

That hadn’t been a pleasant dance. She had lied to her parents saying she’d had a good time, when really it had been one of the worse of her young life. Still twenty-four years later, it had the power to sting. She had never forgotten it or the tall woman who had inflicted the pain.

She parked her car at the motel that she used every year. It was close to the cemetery and was in a quite and pretty part of town. Here she was again!

*********

Theresa Damas was leaning against the door of her motel room watching the night sky. It was one of the few things she found totally relaxing. After the pleasant meal they had recently consumed, it was a good way to settle the meal before she went to bed.

Her parents had bid her goodnight and gone to their motel room. They were both in their late seventies and the journey had taken its toll on them.

Now, she watched the darkening sky, which was illuminated in places by the small specs of light that were the stars shining in the distance.

“Hey Terry thinking of taking a trip to the stars?” Daniel Damas said and his eyes sparkled into hers as she turned to look at him.

“Thought you were going to bed?” Theresa said and smiled back at her Father.

“Well, your Mom and I were talking and suddenly I had an urge to ask you a question.” Daniel said quietly, his face showed a sense of seriousness about it.

“Must be a powerful question if it stopped you from snuggling into bed early with Mom.” Theresa replied, and then grinned mischievously at him.

“I guess it is.” Her father said and moved so that they were shoulder to shoulder both looking at the sky.

“Go ahead then Dad; I’ll try to answer you.” Theresa continued to look at the sky, but she was gearing up for the question. It had to be important or her Father wouldn't have ventured back out.

“It’s kind of delicate in nature Terry. So, I don’t want you going off on a tangent with me.” Daniel knew his elder daughter so well. If she didn’t like something, she would either clam up or be sarcastic with the rejoinder.

“You’re not going to get the answer Dad, unless you ask. So, fire away.”

“You said something in the car earlier that your Mother and I have been puzzled about. We were kind of wondering if, what we thought you meant, was what you really meant?”

Theresa gave her father a puzzled look, ‘was he talking in riddles?’

“I think you need to be a little clearer. I said plenty of things in the car coming over.”

“Yeah, yeah I know you did, but this was about you not getting the girl,” her father spoke so fast Theresa wasn’t sure she heard him right.

“Not getting what girl? Dad what exactly do you want to know? Spit it out for gods sake.” Theresa wasn’t much for prevarication. Straight talking usually was her way. She hated it when people didn’t get to the point.

“Are you interested in women?” Daniel Damas said quickly and waited, not attempting to gain eye contact with his eldest child.

Theresa couldn’t help herself. She laughed loudly at the comment and shook her head. So, that had been on her folk’s minds for the last six hours?

“Yes. Of course, I’m interested in women, but I am men as well. Have to live and work with both sexes Dad.”

Daniel this time did look her straight in the eye and tried again.

“Theresa Damas are you attracted to women?”

Theresa was stunned at his remark. She’d had her wild days in college true. It was also true that she’d flirted with some women, but there had also been the men in her life also! She just hadn’t bothered much since college. Her dates had been so few and far between; she wouldn’t like to say which side of the fence she might end up on.

“I could be offended and say, no I’m not. Then again, I could be relieved and say thank god my secret is in the open.” Theresa smiled slowly as her eyes filled with a distant memory. “Truth is Dad, I guess I’ve never taken the time or had the inclination to find out for sure.”

Daniel let out the breath he was holding and placed a comforting arm around her shoulders.

“If you ever do take the time to find out Terry, know your Mother and I only want to see you happy.”

Theresa nodded her head and rested it on his broad shoulder.

“I know Dad. Thank you.”

“Anytime child, anytime.” They spent the next ten minutes in companionable silence watching the night sky sparkle at them.
 
 

*********

Chapter Three:

Marisa had placed her flowers on the graves and replaced the few plants that had died, and then generally finished tidying up the area. Considering it had been a year since her last visit, it wasn’t looking bad at all.

“You know Mom, I was thinking of the high school dance you made me attend and how I didn’t tell you how embarrassing it was for me. Strange how something can just pop into your mind like that isn’t it? I wish I had told you then, maybe we could have worked something out that made me more confident. But, I didn’t. I haven’t ever been confident. Heck even waitress’s don’t see me walk in the door.”

Marisa chuckled at her own whispered words. After all, she was hardly the size you could miss. She had hardly been the slightest of build, even as a child. However, over the last ten years, she had acceded to the fact that, although exercise and keeping fit was good for people, she preferred to have the treats of eating any food she wanted; regardless of the weight she piled on. Who did she have to please anyway but herself?

“I hope you two aren’t laughing up there at me. But, if you are, I know it will not be anything other than in a good way. Dad you would have been proud of me yesterday. I had to change my own tire. I swear they put those wheel nuts on to stay.”

Marisa looked around her and saw a well-dressed woman coming her way with a child. The boy looked no more than eight years old. They were both talking animatedly. The boy was juggling something in his hands. As they came on her level, the boy dropped whatever he was juggling and it rolled at her feet.

Picking up the small rubber ball, she waited for him to come closer and held it out to him.

He grinned at her and shyly came forward to take his ball from her.

“Say thank you Terry,” the well-dressed woman said quietly to the boy, who glanced her way and then back at Marisa, but remained silent.

“Terry, the lady is waiting.” The other woman persisted and Marisa was sure she’d seen her someplace before.

“It’s okay, no need for that.” Marisa replied and smiled at the boy, who gave her a long thoughtful look and smiled back.

“Thanks. He’s a little shy and doesn’t like strangers, but by the looks of the smile on his face he appears to have taken a shine to you.” The woman said placing a gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“Well, he’s in good company then if he’s shy, I am myself.” Marisa was sure she had seen this woman before, but couldn’t quite place her.

“Do you live close by?”

“No, I’m visiting for the day. I live in ‘Clayton’. You probably haven’t heard of it.” Marisa said quietly and continued to smile at the boy affectionately.

The other woman smiled at Marisa and then chuckled softly.
“Yes I’ve heard of it, coincidentally my parents and sister have just gone there for a weekend visit.”

“Small world.” Marisa grinned at the woman and almost asked her name, but something stopped her at the last minute.

“Yes, it is, we often walk through this part of the cemetery in the morning. Terry seems to like it and he usually comes with his gramps, but today of course they are not here.” The other woman said, apparently quite content to talk for a few minutes.

“Some people find cemeteries rather morbid places.  I’ve always found this one to be very peaceful.” Marisa, for the first time in years actually felt quite comfortable conversing with the woman. Maybe it was the small boy who looked totally at peace in the surroundings. Or, maybe it was the fact the woman looked vaguely familiar. Whatever it was, it felt good to talk to her.

“Did you live around here at one time?” The woman asked and sat down at the nearby bench as her son continued to watch Marisa tend the flowers as the woman spoke. “I hope you don’t mind a little conversation with a stranger. I sometimes forget that some people like to keep to themselves.”

Marisa couldn’t help but like this friendly woman. There was something totally enchanting about her.

“That’s fine. The company is appreciated. I was born here, but moved to ‘Clayton’ a year after my parents were killed in a car accident. I wanted a fresh start. There was a good job there for me, so I took it.” Marisa continued to tend her flowers at the graveside as she spoke and was pleasantly surprised when the small boy knelt beside her and touched her hand.

“M…ma…may I help?” The child called Terry stuttered badly over the few words.

Marisa looked over at his mother briefly who eyed her son with a tenderness that shone out of her golden-flecked eyes.

“Sure. Will you hold these plants for me Terry, while I find a place for them?” Marisa gave the boy a bright smile and he gently held the plants she gave him.

“Have you any children of your own?” The woman seated at the bench asked Marisa as she looked at the furrow of concentration on her son’s brow.

“No, never been in a relationship that could sustain one. I think it’s a little late for me now.” Marisa’s voice held a hint of wistful quality about it.

“Thought I wouldn’t at one time myself. Then I found myself married and we had Terry here a year later. We also have a daughter Serena, who is five. She’s the apple of her father’s eye and they have gone to have the car washed and will pick us up shortly.”

Marisa smiled at the woman and nodded her head. “Serena is a beautiful name.”

“Yeah, named after my Mother. Terry here is named after my sister, well kind of anyway. She’s called Theresa, but Dad always called her Terry, so it kind of stuck in the family. You know how that is?” The other woman smiled and laughed at a memory.

“Actually, no I don’t. But I can imagine. I know this might sound strange, but I’m sure I’ve seen you before.” Marisa finally expressed the question that was bugging her.

The other woman laughed at the comment.

“Well, if you were brought up here that’s quite possible. It isn’t exactly a big town now is it? I’m sorry my name is Cassandra Sinclair.  Damas was my maiden name, Cally for short.” The woman rose from her chair and coming close to the area Marisa and Terry were working on and held out her hand.

Marisa rose and caught her breath. After all these years to come across one of the Damas sisters and the one she was actually in school with all those years ago. She was nothing like she remembered. Here before her was a mature and friendly woman, who obviously had patience and compassion if her looks and touch towards her son were anything to go by. No way was she the connected, overly confident and insensitive girl that Marisa had seen at the high school dance.

Well people changed as they got older, had she?

“That explains it then,’ Cally quirked an eyebrow in question. ‘My name is Marisa Slater. You won’t remember me. I wasn’t in your league at school.”

Cally gave her a long look and then recognition dawned on her as she pulled a wry smile.

“I remember you,” she said quietly. Her eyes although looked towards Marisa, her thoughts were obviously elsewhere.

“You do?” Marisa asked astonished that she could possibly remember someone that she had never met formally.

“Yes. You had a profound effect on my big sister at our high school dance. Pity you ran away. I’ll never forget it. Theresa was upset at the time.” Cally spoke slowly as if she were relieving the moment.

“I don’t understand we…that is your sister and I had barely met she didn‘t even know my name.” Marisa was shocked at Cally’s statement. Surely she was getting her mixed up with someone else.

“At the time she didn’t know your name that’s true; but she found out later. Unfortunately our father was taken seriously ill and Terry had to concentrate on that, or I’m sure she would have looked you up and apologised. Terry wasn’t talking about you that night you know. I was ribbing her about one of our mutual friends.” Cally supplied and waited as she saw several emotions cross Marisa’s face at the explanation.

“Why?” Marisa asked desperately, it had been Theresa Damas’s joke at her expense that had her flee from the building that night. She had never come to terms with it. Now, this woman was telling her something that could have changed her life all those years ago had she chosen to take the chance to confront the tall woman.

“Why did Terry like you? Who knows with Terry? She rarely makes friends with anyone. Yeah, she’s outgoing if she wants, very beautiful, but she is very, very selective when it comes to friends she wants close to her.” Cally ruffled her sons sandy hair as she looked at her with an innocent expression.

“I thought she was having fun at my expense.” Marisa replied, her voice weak, even to her ears.

“No! That would have been something I would have done all those years ago, but not Terry. She’s very forthright, but not a bitch. Pity she’s in your hometown right now.  Maybe you could have found time to go for coffee or something, for old times. Kind of ironic that she is there and you are here. Fate I guess.” Cally gave her a sad smile.

The sound of a horn tooting at the gates brought Cally Damas-Sinclair to attention. She grinned widely at an average looking man waiving at her from the vehicle. Marisa also heard a girls voice shouting for her mother.

“Guess that’s our lift. Terry, thank Marisa for letting you help her; Daddy is here to take us home.” Cally touched her son’s shoulder, smiling directly at him as she explained.

Marisa looked at the two of them as they prepared to leave her. She was left with a feeling of acute loneliness. What it must be to have family to go home to.

“Thanks for the company and…Cally when you next see your sister please tell her… tell her….” Marisa didn’t know what to tell her. What did you say after twenty-four years?

Cally smiled at her, ‘I’ll tell her you said hello. Have a safe journey home Marisa. If you are in our part of the country again, please call me.” Cally handed Marisa a gold embossed card with her name, address and contact numbers.

Clutching the card she answered the woman. “Thank you Cally. Perhaps, I will.”

“Hope so, come on Terry, Daddy is waiting.” She took her sons hand and he turned to Marisa with a shy smile.

“T...th..thank you for letting me help.” Terry said slowly, and then went on his way with his mother. They both waved toward Marisa as they neared the gate and the car.

Marisa sat back on her haunches and contemplated what Cally Damas had relayed to her. It made her feel as if she had lost a part of her life to a stupid comment. Hadn’t she though, in many ways? Never having tried to overcome her shyness or her defence mechanism that triggered with new people. It had all really started all those years ago. My god what a waste!

“All these years Mom and Dad, I have lived with that rejection. Had I really confronted it at the time, it wasn’t like that at all! What a fool I’ve been. Such a coward as well.” Her words held the despair she had felt coming over in recent months. It washed over her like a tidal wave. Would she sink? Or would she swim? That was the question! She really didn’t have an answer to that at all.

***********

Theresa watched the festivities with half an eye as she also, watched her parents walk hand in hand around the clock tower talking to each other. They looked as happy today as she suspected they looked all those years ago. Love really was a very strange thing.

She’s had difficulty sleeping last night with her father’s words roaming ceaselessly in her head as she tried to sleep. Her body needed it, but her mind wouldn’t give in. Now looking over the well-kept gardens and the ornate clock tower, she could imagine that it had significance to a few people. Those around this town obviously had great pride in their piece of history.

She had often wondered herself what it must be like to experience that kind of devotion. But that was fanciful thoughts, she hadn’t had any of those for years; too many years she suspected. Her father had been right on one thing. Had she found the right woman, she would have taken that path. But she hadn’t found either woman or man to make her feel that much emotion. The nearest she had felt to a dramatic stirring had been at her sister’s high school dance. That timid plain creature had struck something in her subconscious that, even today, she had the odd regret about never having followed her and making things right. She had always thought there would be another chance! There never had been one. She had become far too cynical as the years passed to even think about it other than whimsically.

God only knows why she was thinking about Marisa Slater now. But, her image and her gentle smile and those sparkling eyes came into her thoughts without any help. The fact that she still recalled the timid woman’s name never ceased to amaze her. However, she did, and it always brought a smile, however brief to her lips, especially when she felt lonely. In the last few months she had been feeling acutely lonely. Not that she would admit that to anyone, not even her parents. It was something she was just going to have to live with.

Glancing around the various faces, she knew there wouldn’t be anyone she would know. But, perhaps there was a face in the crowd that she could commit to memory and use in one of her next freelance assignments.

“My dear would you mind holding this for me a moment?” An old woman passed Theresa a stick, and then stood up on tiptoe to try to see the mime artist that was currently entertaining the people.

Theresa was slightly taken aback but muttered, “Sure,” as she took the stick from the woman, then waited for her to settle herself someplace she could see the artist.

“I still can’t see. Is he good?” The old woman asked the much taller and younger woman at her side.

Theresa considered the question for a few seconds and nodded her head. “Yes, he’s very good actually, very entertaining.” Her eyes looked over the mime artist and then back to the old woman, who was starring at her intently.

“Typical I can’t see because I’m too short and too old to push people out of the way and the guy is great,” the old woman said her voice filled with laughter.

Theresa laughed at the comment and a thought came into her head.

“How would it be if I pushed for you? I fit the bill, don’t you think?”

The old woman grinned at the tall stranger and held out her hand.

“Now, that’s an offer I’m not going to refuse. My name is Agnes Reed. What's yours stranger?" The old woman asked as she clasped the taller woman’s hand in greeting.

“Theresa Damas, my parents are on a pilgrimage of sorts and I’m the chauffeur,” her voice sounded resigned, but relaxed at her task.

“A dutiful daughter huh? Well, then they brought you up well I see. I haven’t any children. My friend who would usually do this for me is out of town this weekend. Kind of sad really, for she loves that old clock tower, but Marisa is a dutiful daughter also.” Agnes said and looked at the shoulders of those in front of her.

“Marisa? I knew someone called Marisa once…so let’s get you into a seeing position shall we?” Theresa took the lead and shouldered and pushes and cajoled people until Agnes had a prime view of the artist and any other entertainment that might come their way.

“Thank you Theresa Damas. I hope your Marisa was as gentle and kind as mine is.” Agnes didn’t look at her new acquaintance she watched fascinated as the mime went on his routine.

Theresa starred at the woman and a feeling of sadness invaded her spirit.

“I’ll never know for sure, but that’s how I think of her.”

Theresa moved away and back towards the clock tower and saw her parents sitting on a bench under the clock face. Perhaps they had had enough?

Walking towards them, she smiled, as she got closer. They seemed in a world of their own as she looked at the linked hands. To her it had always been a symbol that they were connected in a way that defied logic. Even as a child she had seen it and had known that no matter what happened, her parents would never leave each other. They were always going to be together forever. That was as a child, but now as a mature woman she had to admit, she still saw it and it made her feel in her later years that she was missing out on something; but, she was loath to admit it. Then again, she only wanted what her parents had; anything else just wasn’t plausible to her.

Her kid sister Cally had been that way also. She had married in her early thirties, later than most would have envisaged. Cally was a very beautiful and confident young woman, but she had seen love her parent’s style and that was what she wanted. Until it came about, she had always been happy to just play the field. Then Chris Sinclair had come along, six months later they were married. Twelve months later, Terry was born and became her godson. She was still amazed at how she involved herself with her godson. His shyness normally something that was acutely annoying to her, was very endearing in her nephew. His speech impediment was also a trait she would have put up with off-handily a few years ago. Now, she went with him to some of the classes to encourage and help him.

So what happened to her?

“Hey Terry, did you enjoy the show in the gardens?” Serena asked quietly. For years she had been worried about her eldest child. Something had changed her. It had been a change that was small, but far reaching and it had coloured her life ever since.

“Hi Mom. It was good. Rather surprising for a small town, but then again, what do I know? I live in a small town also.” Theresa laughed and went over to kiss her Mothers cheek.

Daniel Damas looked at her and then to the clock face.

“Terry do you know what all the pictures on the clock face represent?” Her father questioned as he smiled at her vigorously shaking head.

“How the hell would I know Dad? I’ve never been here before!” Theresa answered patiently and looked at the ornate clock face.

“Sorry Terry. I forgot you haven’t seen the place before. Somehow you seem at home here.” Daniel said absently.

“Ah Dad, just because you found Mother here doesn’t mean the same is going to happen for me.” Theresa continued to look at the paintings on the face of the clock. She felt a deep connection to something here. Shaking away the thoughts, it must be because of her parents bond. That was all!

“Perhaps. Do you feel anything?” Daniel persisted.

“It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that’s true. It does make you wonder a little about life.” Theresa allowed her eyes looking at the two women close together who held a child.

“Yes. It is Terry. It calls to you doesn’t it?” Her father inquired.

She looked at him and scowled.

“Don’t be ridiculous Dad. I’ll see you at the car when you want to go back to the motel.” Theresa said with a hint of steel in her face. With a last look at both her parents and the clock tower, she speedily walked away towards her car.

“So, it does bring out unwanted emotions in her Danny! I wonder what they are?” Serena asked softly to her husband.

“Perhaps we will never know Darling. Hope she takes the chance when the opportunity presents itself, as we did.” Daniel picked up his wife’s hand and kissed it with a deep loving emotion.

“I think she will take the chance Danny. She’s our daughter after all.” Daniel looked at his wife and kissed her tenderly.

“That she is Darling. I couldn’t want for a finer daughter in this life.”

*********

Marisa had an uneventful journey home. When she saw the porch light Agnes had thoughtfully put on for her appear within view she heaved a heavy sigh of relief. It had been a long day. Her mind couldn’t stop going over what Cally Damas had said as she pulled up the drive and stopped the car.

It was now eight in the evening. She was hungry, but far too tired to cook anything. She knew that her refrigerator was a bit bare and needed stocking up also. As she entered the house and pressed the buttons to deactivate the alarm system, she thought about a pizza. Yes, a pizza would be good. As the best place in town was only three blocks away, she decided to walk and stretch her limbs after the long session in the car?

Glancing over to Agnes’s house, she saw that the lights were still on in the woman’s sitting room. Once she’d purchased the pizza she would go over and have Agnes relate to her about the celebrations for the clock tower.

Ten minutes later she walked into Romano’s and was greeted by the ever-smiling face of the elderly owner. Steve Romano had set up the business thirty years ago. He and his wife Cecilia had taken pride in the successful business. They could have expanded, but had never felt the need. If people wanted their home cooked fayre, then they would be happy to wait a little longer as the happy couple prepared it.

“Ah, Mari you have not been here for a long time. How have you been?” The old man hugged her in a friendly greeting and shook his grey haired head at her in mock chastisement.

“Steve, it hasn’t been that long! I was here two weeks ago.” Marisa laughed gently. She loved the old man who had become one of her few friends along with his wife. They had taken a deep interest in her, but knew that her innate shyness prevented the woman from letting them into her life on a closer basis, but they kept trying.

“You look tired Mari. We did not see you at the celebration today?” The old man looked at her closely and saw the dark smudges under her eyes that indicated her tiredness, not to mention the red-rimmed eyes after all that concentrated driving.

“It was the anniversary of my parents death Steve. I go back home once a year. As it is, fate decreed it would be today of all days.” Marisa said her voice resigned, but not reproachful.

“Yes! Yes, of course. Sorry Mari, so what will it be tonight?” The old man smiled warmly at her, his eyes compassionate.

“House special for me, no anchovies.” Marisa said without taking a menu, after all she had been coming here for over fifteen years.

“I remember no anchovies! You think this man old is losing his memory?” The old man chuckled jabbing a finger at his own chest.

Marisa laughed and her eyes sparkled. It lit up her plain face; it was like a beacon in the dark. Simply beautiful!

“How long do you think it will be Steve?” Marisa eyed the diners in the small restaurant. It was busy, but not packed to the brim so that you couldn’t move. Her eyes scanned all the regulars. Some she gave a small smile to as they recognised her and others that she didn’t know and looked like people who were passing through.

Still scanning the small area her eyes went back to the table in the far corner, funnily enough her favourite table in the room when she actually dined here. She was sure she had seen the three people someplace before, but couldn’t quite place them, an elderly couple with a younger woman.

“We are busy as you see Mari. But for you, I will say no more than twenty minutes. Let me tell Mama her favourite customer is here.” The old man scuttled off into the kitchen area leaving her alone with a faint grin on her face at his remark.

Blue eyes caught hers from a distance and the woman who was seated with the elderly couple appeared to look right through her and then the eyes became thoughtful. Did the woman know her?

The woman began to say something to the elderly couple that had their backs turned to Marisa and they both turned simultaneously to look at the object of their companion’s words.

Marisa could feel herself blushing at the obvious observations from all three of them; surely it was rude to stare? Marisa thought and saw the woman rise out of her chair and she noticed immediately how tall the woman was, how tall…tall…tall that was it! She was the woman from the diner on the highway yesterday-what a small world.

Suddenly Marisa was engulfed in a bear like hug as the large proportioned arms of Cecilia Romano went around the startled younger woman and crushed her in a warm embrace.

‘Marisa we have missed you. Papa tells me you have been home?” The woman said, genuine sympathy evident in her tone.

“Yes, I went home, Mama. I missed the celebrations. I did so want to be here.” Marisa said wistfully.

“I know child, I know. Perhaps next time.” The older woman said and then she removed her arms and whispered she would only be a minute and headed for the table where the tall woman had risen.

Marisa watched as the tall woman, who the more she watched, the more she felt that she knew talked to Cecilia Romano. Maybe it was her age and she was getting forgetful-it could happen!

Turning away towards the padded bench to await her meal, she looked down at her hands and lost herself in thoughts of the past. Not realising that Cecilia was coming back towards her and she was smiling broadly.

“Mari, the lady over at your favourite table asked if you were alright? She said you looked lost.” The older woman softly chuckled as she had put the tall woman’s mind to rest. It had been a very strange, but thoughtful and caring question.

Marisa was shocked at the woman’s concern and felt incredibly foolish as well. Surely she didn’t look lost! Did she?

“Mama, I don’t look lost, do I?” her eyes beseeching the older woman to tell her the truth.

“No, no of course not child. But, you do have that innocent air about you. Perhaps she thought she knew you?”

“She did!” Marisa said her voice carrying a little so that the customers at the table closest to them look up at the plaintive words spoken.

“You know her Mari?” The older woman was intrigued.

“No. Not exactly, but I feel like I know her. I don’t recall from where exactly, except I did see her and the elderly couple with her in a diner yesterday, perhaps that’s it.” Marisa tried to answer the question.

The older woman smiled, but she wasn’t convinced. “If that is what you think child. I must go or Papa will think I have abandoned him.” She kissed the younger woman on both cheeks and left her still digesting the conversation.

Marisa turned puzzled eyes over to the table, and was again caught by the blue stare. Her breath caught as a tendril of recognition seemed to touch her deep inside. It felt as iIf she had a connection with the woman, but why? How? It didn’t make any sense, not any sense at all!

The timid woman who had walked into the small restaurant fascinated Theresa Damas. Surely it wasn’t that much of a small world? Her eyes had latched onto the other woman’s green orbs and a vague recognition made it creep into her un-conscious.

There was nothing about the woman that would have made her a friend or more likely a close acquaintance, as friends didn’t fit in her life these days, if they ever had. No! She was far too out of shape in her opinion and she certainly looked like she could do with some exercise to get her body into better physical shape. She was a plain woman as well, nothing to create a lasting image. You could basically lose her in the crowd; add to that, she was obviously acutely shy, if yesterday was anything to go by. Yet…something was drawing her to the woman. This hadn’t happened in years. Well, it had only ever happened once before and she had never taken the chance to clear that misunderstanding up. Her parents had asked her what she was staring at? She had explained that the timid woman from the diner had walked into the building and looked lost. That was the only word she could think of to describe how the smaller woman looked to her, it was those eyes.

Her parents had told her to go and ask the woman if she needed help. Perhaps she had broken down, or something like that and needed help. As it was the proprietor had seen her and told her that the young woman lived in town and everything was okay.

Theresa had seated herself, but kept taking discreet looks at the woman as she saw her being engulfed in a bear hug from the older woman.

“You okay Terry? You’ve gone quiet on us.” Daniel Damas asked his daughter, knowing she was still looking at the young woman they had helped discreetly yesterday.

Theresa looked up and gave him a brief smile. “Of course I am Dad. Just thinking that’s all.”

“Mmmm and who or what are you thinking about?” Her parents looked at her with a speculative gaze.

“Just general thoughts. What time do you want to leave tomorrow morning?” Theresa asked them and picked at her food, which, although appetising had no appeal to her at the moment.

Her father looked at her with a piercing serious glance and gave her a wry smile. “We’d like to have one more walk round the clock tower if that’s okay with you. Then we could head out of town. That work for you?”

“Yes. That will work, but what time?” Theresa looked at her parents and gave them her full attention as she smiled at them.

“Eight in the morning should be a good time. We can spend an hour looking round the tower again, have breakfast and then leave town after the morning rush-hour has gone.” Daniel stated as he picked up another piece of his pizza.

“Eight it will be then.  We should be home by early evening.” Theresa glanced back to where the woman had been standing and they locked eyes once again.

Scraping back her chair, Theresa excused herself and walked quickly towards the other woman who was now being given her takeaway by the elderly man who had originally shown them their table.

Just as she was about to get to her destination a group of people descended from nowhere and she was engulfed in the flow and beyond pushing them out of the way she had to wait impatiently for them to file past her.

As she went on her way she was dismayed to find that the timid woman was no longer in the building. ‘Damn’

Looking around her she felt at a loss to know what to do next and was surprised when a hand went to her shoulder.

“Do you need anything?” The old man asked with a smile. His wife had rapidly told him about the events with Marisa and he had found it very mysterious and romantic.

Theresa gave him a look that would have made most turn away from her, but he didn’t. Her intimidating stare couldn’t faze him at all.

“No. No, that’s okay. Perhaps you could direct me to the restroom?” She finally replied, the only thing she could think of.

“Sure, down the small corridor, first door on your left.” The old man smiled and winked at her.

Theresa gave one more look at the exit and then went towards the restroom, shaking her head at her own foolish mind.
 
 

*********

Chapter Four:

Marisa woke up earlier than she expected. It was five in the morning and she wasn’t due in the office until nine. Her rRepeated attempts to go back to sleep had failed. Picking up a book to read had only made her feel restless again. So, she had finally succumbed to the wakefulness and showered and changed, it was still only seven!

Walking around her house she tidied up the few magazines that were out of place. She sat down and looked at the commemorative publication that Agnes had brought back from the celebrations for her. Sitting back in her chair, she began to read all about the history of the clock tower, going back to it’s original beginnings and the reason it had such a decorative clock face.

Two hundred and fifty years before:

“Lord Tiber wants you to make a clock tower for a wedding present for his forthcoming bride.” Counsellor Reltor spoke softly to the young clock maker in the village of Ensor.

Samual Kemp looked up from his close inspection of the clock face he was working on and smiled slowly at the ageing first Counsellor. It was a rather unusual request, but he had heard that the bride to be of the Lord Tiber was a beautiful young woman and full of life. He wanted to produce something to match the beauty and he was sure he could do it.

Sometime later, the clock tower he had worked so hard day and night to produce was finally ready for the first viewing by the Lord and his bride to be.

Samuel had waited for this day to see the beautiful woman who was to be the new Lady of the village. As she walked with the Lord Tiber towards the clock tower she gently lifted her veil and Samuel was shaken at the plain features of the woman all had said was beautiful beyond measure.

He had built this wonderful clock tower to represent her beauty, but she had none to speak of. Some how, it deflated his joy at the new creation. He left the happy couple to wander around the tower. He sat down in his workshop and contemplated why many said what they did about the beauty of the plain woman in the courtyard.

“You have built a perfect gift for me Clockmaker Kemp. How can I ever thank you?” A voice that he was immediately drawn to asked him quietly from the doorway leading to his workshop.

Samuel Kemp looked at the plain-featured woman and saw the warm friendly smile that she wore. It brought a light to her pale green eyes that made her suddenly appear, if only briefly, beautiful.

“Thank you my lady. It was a great honour to undertake the task for the Lord Tiber and his bride to be.” Samuel answered her and his deep blue eyes locked with her pale green ones. He was transported into a world of feeling that he had never experienced before.

“I would ask one thing, if it is possible?” Lady Francis Archadia inquired her voice pitched only for his hearing alone.

Samuel continued to be drawn to the woman at his doorway. “Please, Milady, what would that be?”

Lady Francis this time smiled deeply and Samuel could not take his eyes from her. She connected at a level in him, he did not understand.

“Is there someone who could paint scenes depicting love on the clock face? I know it is very beautiful as it appears at the moment, but would it not become that much more a symbol of love if it were so?”

Samuel knew the answer to that immediately, he nodded his head and had a beaming smile covering his face.

“Milady, I will personally undertake the task for you, but that would delay the clock being ready for the wedding.” Samuel pointed out and his stomach fluttered at the prospect of the woman now in his sights marrying the man who was happily talking to his First Chancellor.

“I will discuss it with the Lord Taber and we shall see. Thank you Clockmaker Kemp.” Lady Francis turned on her heels and went back towards her husband to be.

The wedding approached and Samuel had worked at the expense of all other working projects to paint several scenes on the clock face. To him, it was a labour of love. He had fallen in love with the Lady who would come to his workshop and see his efforts everyday. They would talk briefly, but mainly, she would sit and watch him work, a soft smile always on her face should he happen to look up from his devoted task.

On the day before the wedding, he was putting the finishing touches to one of the three scenes he had introduced to the clock face when the Lady quietly entered his workshop and stood watching him silently.

Samuel felt something stir in his senses. He looked up from the painting to the close proximity of the lady he couldn’t get out of his mind.

“Milady, I wasn’t aware that you were in the room. Forgive me for being so rude.” Samuel jumped up from his chair and he rocked back. He was so close to the woman, who now invaded his dreams, that she put out a gentle hand to steady him.

He couldn’t stop himself he reached around her and his eyes captured hers and a question was asked and her eyes responded as they shared their first kiss. For them both, it was a kiss that produced a need neither of them could assuage with one kiss.

“Milady, I’m sorry!” Samuel said breathlessly as he pulled away from the woman he had held however briefly in his arms.

“Why?” Whispering in wonder as Lady Francis touched fingertips to her lips that still felt the pressure of the mans lips.

“You are engaged to the Lord Taber Milady. I’m a lowly clockmaker. It is wrong!” The man nervously pointed out to her.

“Yes. Yes, I am Samuel. But you are no lowly person to me! You have come to mean so much to me my heart breaks at the thought that from today, you will be lost to me.” Her heart was reaching out, hoping he could find a solution to their dilemma.

Samuel moved forward so he could trace gentle fingers over her plain features that would never ever be plain to him. They would always hold the gentleness and light that had a connection to him that he felt only she would ever hold over his heart.

“I…I…Milady, it can never be! I will never be lost to you. I will always be with you as the hands of the clock tower slowly travel around. The love that is shown there, you and I will know it portrays our love, however short lived.” Samuel spoke softly as he rested his chin on her dark black hair and then tenderly kissed her once again to emphasis his words.

“Samuel would you say my name?” She watched his smile light up his handsome features and she would hold that picture forever in her memory.

“Francis, I love you.” Samuel could hear footsteps approach and he released her and smiled gently into her eyes.

“I love you Samuel. I hope that in the future, others will look at the clock and take a chance to find romance. It maybe their only chance.” Her words brought the painful truth, that here and now, their romance was doomed to never come to full fruition. The future, oh the future, through his clock tower and his love for the woman who it was commissioned, might one day bring together other lovers.

First Chancellor arrived at that moment. “Milady, we have been looking for you and I see we should have come by the clockmakers immediately. Samuel have you finished your gift to Lord Tiber’s Lady?”

Samuel looked at the older man and gave his a shrug of the shoulders. Then turned to the woman who had moved towards the doorway and stood with light streaming in behind her that gave her a wonderful glow in the morning light.  An image he would remember for the rest of his life.

“Yes, First chancellor. Tomorrow on the day of the wedding as requested by Lord Taber, I will set the chimes to mark the wedding.” His voice held a reserve as he mentioned the wedding.

As the wedding day dawned the clock struck it’s first chimes to herald the hour of the marriage and so began the story of the clock tower.

Marisa sighed as she wondered what had happened to the clockmaker and the Lady, did they ever meet up again? Did he ever marry? Who else had seen love around the clock tower? The questions just invaded her mind as she looked at the clock and saw it was eight; time to consider going to work even if she would be early.

***********

Her parents wanted to take one last look at the clock tower. Initially,  Theresa, Theresa had said she would stay in the car, but the sad faces of her parents had changed her mind. What did it matter? She wouldn’t ever see the clock tower or this town again!

Walking over to the bench she sat down and looked up at the clock face and the faded scenes that were portrayed on the face. They were of a couple of young lovers who were embracing, a couple who were being torn out of their embrace by the elements and the final one of a man looking longingly at the face in a window of a woman who was far away.

She was so preoccupied that she failed to notice someone come towards her until they spoke softly.

“Would you mind if I sat here for a few minutes?” Theresa looked up and began to say no problem, but the words died in her mouth as she came face to face with the timid woman who seemed to turn up at the most unusual times.

Marisa smiled as the women she recognised from the diner and the pizza restaurant last evening. There was something else. She had seen her before; that she was sure of it. It was those eyes.

“May I sit?” Marisa tried again and the smile she gave lit up her eyes to great effect.

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Theresa finally found the words and couldn’t help but stare at her. This had to be some strange coincidence that this woman was sitting next to her.

“Are you visiting for the first time?” Never one to start a conversation, Marisa found that she wanted to talk to this woman. It was important, she didn’t know why, but it was.

“Yes, my parents met for the first time here.” Theresa said as she turned to look at the averted profile of the timid woman, recognition finally dawned on her who this woman reminded her of.

“That’s a good reason to visit then. The clock tower has a history of romance. Should you be willing to take it, that is? Unfortunately, not everyone does.” Marisa spoke towards the gardens and noticed the elderly couple that she had seen with this woman at her side on the previous occasions.

“My parents did. They have never regretted it once.” Theresa replied absently, her mind going over, could this be ‘her Marisa’ from all those years ago. She had certainly changed!

“I know one or two people who have said the same thing.” Marisa’s voice held a wistful quality about it.

“Well, I guess this old time piece has seen many such scenarios in the past.” Theresa was now looking at the clock, but her thoughts were chaotic. All these years and she was now face to face with the woman who had the ability to make her forget all her preconceived ideas about beauty. For the woman before was certainly not that, at least not physically, in anyway!

“I read about such a story. I guess the first story about the romance behind the clock tower. Would you like to hear it?" Marisa asked tentatively.

Theresa smiled brightly at the woman at her side, whatever it had been drawing her to this woman before it was intensified at this close proximity. “Please carry on, I would like that very much.”

Marisa began to relate the original story, as she’d read it only an hour earlier.

**********

Daniel and Serena Damas amiably walked around the clock tower. As they came within a reasonable distance of their daughter sitting alone at the bench, they decided she needed company. However, just at that moment, a young woman walked up and began talking to Terry and quickly seated herself beside her.

Exchanging knowing glances, the elder couple decided that another nice, quiet stroll through these pretty gardens opposite would be a pleasant way to while away a time to allow their elder daughter a chance!

As Marisa came to the end of the story, she turned to see if the woman at her side had been listening and was relieved to find that she had.
“I’m sorry. Did I bore you with the story?”

Theresa smiled at the woman and shook her head. “No way! It was a wonderful story. You have a marvellous voice for story telling. Do you have more?”

Marisa smiled back, their gazes locked again and this time they didn’t turn away they stayed like that. Without knowing why, Marisa took a chance and reached out a hand to gently touch the face of the woman so close to her.

“May I ask your name?” A heartfelt plea invaded her voice.

Theresa could feel the heat of the caress, knowing she wanted it to continue and wanted the woman to talk to her again. She had such a beautiful voice. “Theresa…Theresa Damas and you?”

Theresa watched fascinated as the other woman drew a sharp breath.

Marisa was captivated! Here, after all these years was the woman who, had little did she realise, haunted her thoughts and actions. “Marisa, Marisa Slater!”

Theresa couldn’t believe it. She reached out a hand to touch the plain features of the woman before her, giving a satisfied sigh. Her Marisa had always been wonderful to her in the deep recesses of her soul. The woman before her was no longer a fantasy. She was real and in her minds eye, she was so very beautiful.

“I know you!” Theresa breathed out.

“I know you also!” Marisa responded.

Each smiled happily at the other.

Daniel and Serena Damas looked over and saw the interaction between the two women and they exchanged happy smiles.

“I guess our eldest might be the chance taking type after all Darling.” Daniel whispered into the ear of this wife.

“Yes! I do believe you are right Danny. Maybe there are going to be two happy endings in our family with the clock tower. We can but hope,” Serena replied and gently kissed her husband as they contemplated when it would be wise to disturb their daughter.

Not yet! But soon. Let the clock tower weave it’s magic first.

**********

End


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