Suzanna’s Surrender, by Nora Roberts
Bar Harbor, 1965
The moment I saw her, my life was changed. More than fifty years have passed since that moment,and I'm an old man whose hair has turned white, whose body has grown frail. Yet my memories arefull of color and strength.
Since my heart attack, I am to rest every day. So I have come back here to the island – herisland – where it all began for me. It has changed, as I have. The great fire in '47 destroyedmuch. New buildings, new people have come. Cars crowd the streets without the charm of thejingling carriages. But I am lucky to be able to see it as it was, and as it is.
My son is a man now, a good one who chose to make his living from the sea. We have neverunderstood each other, but have dealt together well enough. He has a quiet, lovely wife and ason of his own. The boy, young Holt, brings me a special kind of joy. Perhaps it is because Ican see myself in him so clearly. The impatience, the fire, the passions that were once mine.Perhaps he, too, will feel too much, want too much. Yet I can't be sorry for it. If I couldtell him one thing, it would be to grab hold of life and take.
My life has been full, and I'm grateful for the years I had with Margaret. I was no longeryoung when she became my wife. What we shared was not a blaze, but the quiet warmth of a bankedfire. She brought me comfort, and I hope I gave her happiness. She's been gone for nearly ten
years, and my memories of her are sweet.
Yet it is the memory of another woman that haunts me. This memory is so painfully clear, socomplete. No amount of time could dull it. The years have not faded my image of her, nor havethey altered by a single degree the desperate love I felt. Yes, feel still – will always feelthough she is lost to me.
Perhaps now that I have brushed so close to death, I can open myself to it again, let myselfremember what I have never been able to forget. Once it was. too painful, and I lost the painin a bottle. Finding no comfort there, I at last buried my misery in my work. Painting again, Itraveled. But always, always, was pulled back here where I had once begun to live. Where I knowI will one day die.
A man loves that way only once, and only if he is fortunate. For me, it was Bianca. It hasalways been Bianca.
It was June, the summer of 1912, before the Great War ripped the world apart. The summer ofpeace and beauty, o fart and poetry, when the village of Bar Harbor opened itself to thewealthy and gave refuge to artists.
She came to the cliffs where I worked, her hand holding that of a child. I turned from mycanvas, the brush still in my hand, the mood of the sea and the painting still on me. There shewas, slender and lovely, the sunset hair swept up off her neck. The wind tugged at it, and atthe skirts of the pale blue frock she wore. Her eyes were the color of the sea I was sofrantically trying to recreate on canvas. They watched me, curious, wary. She had the pale andluminous skin of the Irish.
The moment I saw her, I knew I had to paint her. And I think I knew, as we, stood in the wind,that I would have to love her.
She apologized for interrupting my work. The faint and musical lilt of Ireland was in the soft,polite voice. The child now in her arms was her son. She was Bianca Calhoun, another man'swife. Her summer home was on the ridge above. The Towers, the elaborate castle Fergus Calhounhad built. Even though I had only been on Mount Desert Island a short time, I had heard ofCalhoun, and his home. Indeed I had admired the arrogant and fanciful lines of it, the turretsand peaks, the towers and parapets.
Such a place suited the woman who stood before me. She had a timeless beauty, a quietsteadiness, a graciousness that could never be taught, and banked passions simmering in herlarge green eyes. Yes, I was already in love, but then it was only with her beauty. As anartist, I wanted to interpret that beauty in my own way, with paint or pencils. Perhaps Ifrightened her by staring so intently. But the child, his name was Ethan, was fearless andfriendly. She looked so young, so untouched, that it was difficult to believe the child washers, and that she had two more besides.
She didn't stay long that day, but took her son and went home to her husband. I watched herwalk through the wild roses, the sun in her hair.