Maidenstone Lighthouse Online - Sally Smith O' Rourke

Chapter 1

In October I came to Freedman’s Cove.

Though more than three months had passed since I’d lost Bobby, I had not yet regained the ability to cope with the everyday demands of my life in the city: I was still searching the faces of strangers glimpsed through the rain-streaked windows of passing cabs. Still hoping against desperate hope that the next tallish, fair-haired man I spotted coming toward me on the street would turn out to be my Bobby. Still forgetting for minutes on end that he was truly gone.

I suppose I was more than half-convinced then that he was suddenly going to appear around the next corner and rush to embrace me, explaining between urgent, tearful kisses where he had been for so long. Explaining why he had never called to tell me he hadn’t died after all.

Denial is the clinical term for the way I dealt with the news of Bobby’s death. Which is to say that I did not deal with it at all. Perhaps I clung so doggedly to my forlorn hope of finding him again in some familiar place because that was exactly the sort of thing that might have happened when he was alive.

And then there were my daydreams.

In my favorite waking fantasy, Bobby had come home again at last. Though I was terribly angry with him over the agonies I had suffered through a hundred lonely nights of bitter tears, the pain always melted away like springtime snow at the first brush of his lips against mine. And our renewed lovemaking was possessed of an intensity that transcended mere passion.

Afterward, naked beneath our warmest down comforter, we’d cling desperately to one another in front of a fire in the smoky old fireplace he’d kept promising to fix but never had. And after we’d ordered take-out from the little Greek place down the block, flushed from hours of lovemaking and too much of the blood-red Cape wine he’d brought from a trip to Africa, I’d listen dreamily to the details of Bobby’s miraculous escape from certain death.

For, despite what the Royal Australian Navy had reported, it would turn out that his plane hadn’t really gone down in the shark-infested vastness of the Indian Ocean after all. Instead, blown far off course by a sudden storm, and with all its radios out, the damaged aircraft had crash-landed on a tiny island, an uninhabited speck of land the searchers had overlooked because it was so far off the plane’s planned route of flight.

As he related the incredible story of his survival to me, Bobby’s mischievous blue eyes would sparkle in the firelight, and he’d somehow manage to make the entire incident seem funny and not even very dangerous. So that by the time he was describing how he had built a clumsy bamboo hut on the beach and tried unsuccessfully to catch fish while he waited for a passing ship to rescue him, there’d be tears of uncontrollable laughter rolling down my cheeks.

But that was all just in my lovely fantasy.

Because, in real life at least, six-hundred-mile-per-hour business jets like the one that Bobby had been piloting when he disappeared last July do not make forced landings on uninhabited tropical islands. And, even if they did, everyone onboard would almost certainly be killed in the fiery crash that an off-airport landing in a crippled jetliner virtually guarantees.

Grim reality is the proper term for that.

So absolutely nothing about my waking dreams of Bobby’s return was real.

Nothing but my tears at the end.

Laura, the svelte, softly tailored Park Avenue shrink I visited a few times after I realized I was slipping deeper and deeper into my fantasies, says that delusions like mine are quite common following the death of someone very dear to one’s heart, especially when there is no physical proof to confirm the awful finality of the loss.

Physical proof, of course, was Laura’s delicate way of referring to Bobby’s absent corpse. For, as she had carefully explained on my first visit, without a cold dead body to see and weep over, a funeral to grieve at or a gravesite to visit, the dearly departed tend to remain forever vibrantly alive in the memories of their loved ones.

In such cases, Laura professed, it is often death itself that seems like the delusion.

I knew exactly what she meant.

Bobby dead at thirty-two! My Bobby, who had survived half a dozen near catastrophes in his career, first as a daring young navy carrier pilot, then, later, flying tiny geological research planes