Romance Fiction posted October 8, 2014 Chapters: -Prologue- 1... 


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Closing in on the final chapter

A chapter in the book Enchanted Balcony

Enchanted Balcony Part VI

by Loren (7)


Closing words from the last chapter:
My Lady gave another nod of her head as she watched James lift Camille up into the wagon. Her master then came around and stroked her muzzle and bent to remove her hobbles. She nodded again as he swung up into the driver's seat next to Camille.

Chapter VI



"Wait!" Camille suddenly called out.

"What?" James asked, pulling My Lady to an easy halt.

"My grandfather, there." She pointed to a lone figure just coming into sight under the yellow light of a lamp post. "Grandfather, it's me, Camille," she waved excitedly. "Up here in the wagon."

The man walked up to her, smiling. "Camille, what a pleasant surprise." He looked at her carriage with some astonishment. "And, in an iceman's wagon no less."

"Oh, Grandfather, it is so good to see you; and I can explain it all. But first," she turned to James, "Grandfather, this is James. James, this is my grandfather, Judge Henderson -- the one who started the garden on the balcony."

"Ah, the enchanted balcony. My pleasure, Sir." James nodded.

"And to you, Sir." Camille's grandfather bowed. "Call me Judge, as that is how I am most often referred to."

"In only the most respectable manner, I'm sure," James replied.

The judge laughed. "One can only hope, my friend; but still a most discerning, diplomatic and welcomed answer. I commend my granddaughter's choice of a companion. "

Camille turned to James. "James, please help me down so that I might greet Grandfather properly."

Moments later Camille was on the ground hugging her grandfather with James standing behind her. Her grandfather's skin was cool against her own as she brushed his cheek with a kiss. "Did you come to see Mother?"

"I did, but first, what is this?" He waved his hand over the ice wagon. "Are things such that now you've become a journeyman?" He winked at her. "Or, is this fine looking chap out to carry you on a moonlight ride in the conveyance of his trade?"

"There is so much I want to tell you." She took his hands and turned to James, her voice giddy. "I even danced tonight and now James is to carry me through the park in his horse-drawn wagon."

The judge nodded his approval toward James while looking Camille up and down, "As you've no gloves, one can only assume your mother does not know of this clandestine adventure you are about to undertake."

"Please don't say anything to Mother."

His mouth curved into a smile and he made a zipping sign over them with his fingers. "My lips are sealed."

She kissed him on the cheek and whispered, "Thank you." She pulled away. "James helped me water the plants on the balcony. From water melted from the ice he carries."

Her grandfather looked at the gold and blue logo announcing the name of James's business. "Brigadoon Ice, I see."

James removed his cap. "Aye, Judge. Ice cakes newly harvested from Brigadoon Lake."

"James said that some even call his ice magical," Camille added.

"He does, does he?" He glanced at James. "You might find it odd, but about fifty years ago, when I had just moved into this apartment, a gentleman, much like yourself, sold ice from a cart bearing the same name -- Brigadoon. He also sold me water to start my garden on the balcony." He paused. "Any chance it might be the same company."

"Aye, Judge, most likely my grandfather, James O'Flannery. I was named after him and he after his grandfather who came here back in 1845 to escape Ireland's potato blight."

The judge nodded. "Remarkable resemblance, you and your grandfather. He was a good man, James; you've every reason to be proud of your legacy." He turned back to Camille. "This will come as a surprise to both of you I'm sure, but James's grandfather even introduced me to your grandmother. A lady customer on his route, who he said was down on her luck and needing a good attorney. She was one of my first cases."

Camille looked over to James, astonishment in her voice. "Did you know?"

"Nay, I di nawh."

Camille turned back to her grandfather. "I ... I don't know what to say, this entire night has been, I don't know, so ... so ..."

"Providential," James helped.

"Yes, providential." She paused, looking at her grandfather. "But then you won of course .... the case I mean?"

"I did, but more than just the case. I also won her heart." He sighed in remembrance and looked up to the apartment, the light from the balcony window illuminating his face. "I can assume your mother ..." He stopped with a look of surprise on his face.

"What is it, Grandfather?"

"Is that a calico cat," he pointed, "there on the railing?"

"Yes, he's a stray; just wandered into the apartment tonight. Made himself right at home, as if he owned the place. Why?"

"Nothing, really. It's just that ... about the same time James's grandfather sold me his ice, a cat just like that -- a stray -- wandered into my apartment. I was courting your grandmother at the time and she took a liking to him, insisting I keep him. She named him Gus, because it was August -- just like it is now."

Camille looked at James. "This is ... is amazing. Do you know what happened to him -- Gus?"

"Well, he continued to live with us after we were married and when your mother came along, she and Gus were inseparable. Never saw such a bonding. Lasted a good eighteen years until your mother went off to college."

"And then what?" Camille pressed.

"We don't really know. Ole Gus just sort of wandered out of our lives like he had wandered in. I've heard cats have a sixth sense about life and he may have sensed he was dying; he was a good twenty years old by then. Possibly, he wanted to die in dignity and spare his family the grief." He shook his head. "Didn't work, however, your mother and grandmother cried for days --they were both inconsolable."

"And you, too, I would guess?" Camille said.

"Yes, I admit I had a soft heart for that ole vagabond. Somehow, missing him in life is different than missing him in death." He looked back at the ledge of the balcony. "But looking at the resemblance of this one, I've a feeling ole Gus did alright for himself. How does your mom feel about him?"

"She doesn't know about him yet. And I don't know if I'll be keeping him. Like I said, he just wandered in tonight. Maybe he won't want to stay. But, I would keep him in a heartbeat."

"Hmm, I see. Well, anyway, I'll have to tell Mrs. Henderson. She will be pleased, I'm sure. Tell me, have you named him?"

Camille laughed. "That's what's so amazing -- he actually, named himself. You see he talks; at least he talks to James anyway. And the calico said we may call him Gus."

"Indeed, Judge." James added with candid assuredness. "He said it is his practical name, as peculiar names are held most secret -- shared among only cats themselves.

"Hmm, sounds like a quote from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, The Judge paused "You know, James, shortly after your grandfather introduced me to my future wife, he sort of disappeared. A few days later another iceman came on the route and I asked him about the Brigadoon Ice Company. The purveyor said he'd never heard the name before. Said this had been his route for well over five years. Naturally, I was concerned and did some research at the court house under public records." He looked directly at James. "Do you know what I found?"

"No, Sir, I do nawh."

"There was no such business listed under that name."

"Maybe it was an oversight," Camille offered. "A new business, not yet recorded."

"I thought so too and dug deeper. Went to the library to examine local and state land grants and various geological surveys, but still couldn't find any mention of a Brigadoon Lake. It was like it never existed. Yet, I knew it must as I had bought the ice cleaved from its waters -- even started my balcony garden with its waters."

James nodded. "It is a little known lake -- its waters a bit exclusive, you might say."

"Yes, I guess I would have to agree with you there. But seeing you here, your pristine wagon displaying the same logo of some 50 years past, I must say your family must know what they are doing. It is impressive, curious of course, but certainly impressive."

"Aye, Sir, it is." James answered, looking up at the balcony.

The Judge followed his gaze to see Gus looking down at him. The cat then jumped behind the railing -- into the shadows -- and disappeared. "Yes, very curious indeed."

"About Mother," Camille began, breaking the ensuing quietness.

"Yes, as I was saying. I've come to call on her. Your grandmother will be here shortly as well. She stopped at the little market down the street. She's buying some chamomile tea; according to her, it soothes the nerves and is also good for conversation." He watched his granddaughter for a moment. "Which I'm guessing she very much needs about now."

Camille hung her head. "I ... I think Jimmy's death has brought back painful memories of dad." The judge nodded and Camille went on to tell him about her mother's rudeness toward James.

The judge turned to James. "I'm sure it's hard not to take personally, James. But believe me, her behavior is more a defense about the possibility of losing her daughter than it is about you. Camille is everything to her."

"Camille and I have just met," James answered. "And I am not offended by her mother's words."

The judge nodded and turned back to Camille. "Your grandmother was much the same way when your father began courting Rose Marie. She confided in me once that she pictured him as a magician about to magically make someone she cared deeply for to disappear. She was very, very protective of Rose Marie, but unlike your mother, she did not have a death to compound it, nor the fact that her daughter had a disability that others might mock and come to break her daughter's heart on pretense."

"I would never do that, sir."

"The judge observed James' features. "I don't mean to embarrass you, James, but one can't help but notice the scar on your face. It is in the shape of a horseshoe. May I ask is this the horse that has disfigured you?"

"Aye, Sir. It is. And of the eye," he gestured to the drooping eyelid, "I see but shadows."

"And you kept her, regardless."

"Aye, I have and will continue to do so."

The judge studied him for a moment in the light falling from the balcony. "You are a good man, James."

"Nay, no more than most."

"Possibly, my friend. But we are judged by the decisions we make. Especially decisions made from the heart." He nodded toward My Lady. "Keeping her was a decision of your heart, wasn't it?"

"Aye, Sir. It was. Neither am I ashamed to admit it."

"Fair enough," the judge responded. He turned to Camille.

""He's a good man, Grandfather." Camille added. "Mother has no right to be so disapproving of someone I just met, even if it is by chance."

The judge laid a hand on her shoulder. "To you it might just be a fleeting and chance meeting, but to your mother it's the beginning of possibly having to let go of something she holds as precious," he nodded towards her, "you." Your grandmother and I will speak to her. She will come around, I'm sure."

A shadow from the balcony fell over them. They looked up to see Rose Marie standing at the railing, staring down at them. Her body was framed in shadows.

"Father, is that you?" Rose Marie called out. A wisp of hair had blown across her face and she brushed it aside.

"Yes." The judge called back. "Your mother and I have come to call. We'll be up shortly."

"But who is that with you?" She leaned forward, hands on the railing. "Camille, is that you and that -- that iceman?"

"James, Mother. His name is James. And he's taking me for a ride in his wagon."





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Thanks again for all the readers who have been following this romantic tale. If all works out Chapter VII should be the last segment.

As always, edits are welcomed.
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Artwork by CammyCards at FanArtReview.com

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