The sea, it was always the sea that drew Robert back to the cape. Ah, the cool sea breeze and the warm nights watching the sun set in the west. The year was 1909 and the place is the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts. Martha's Vineyard was still a vineyard and the wealthy elite of the eastern seaboard vacation on the island of Nantucket. Teddy Roosevelt was president and the world was at peace. The Wright Brothers have flown their little toy and the entire country was caught up in the glow of the Industrial Revolution and a love affair with machines.
Everyone but Robert O'Neil, that is.
Professor O'Neil, a bookish sort, who rented a bungalow on the Nantucket shore every season in the hope that he would be able to finish writing the great American novel that he knew was trapped inside him. When not busy writing, he taught English Literature at Boston College. A touch on the graying and paunchy side, he was not the typical hero of literary tradition. At a bit over forty-five he was still a lone figure in a world of married men. It wasn't that the good professor lacked interest; it was simply that the right woman had not come along.
That his novels were a little on the racy side, one might say downright erotic, would come as a surprise to many of his colleagues, who view him as a solid sort, but lacking in imagination. If anything was missing from Robert O'Neil, imagination is not that something.
On one of his nightly constitutionals along the boardwalk Robert's attention was drawn by a commotion. It sounded like a young woman in considerable distress. He abandoned his usual route and strode over to investigate.
Lying in a large patch of brambles was a young blond woman, who was creating quite a racket, and a red bicycle, which remained pretty much inert, as a good bicycle should. Trying not to smile too broadly, so as not to bring the wrath of this attractive young lady down upon himself, Robert leaned over and offered his hand.
"You fool, can't you see that my hair is tangled in this infernal bush!" she snapped while trying not to move more than necessary.
"Well, I see that you are in a prickly situation!" He laughed in spite of himself. "I don't normally run my fingers through the hair of a young lady until I have been properly introduced. Please you may call me Robert."
"Well then," she said tartly, "since it seems my rescue will have to await your leisure and sense of propriety, you may call me Lilliana."
"I am pleased to make your acquaintance," said Robert, gravely extending his hand.
Sighing, she shook his hand warmly and mutters "Likewise, I'm sure." Looking him squarely in the eyes, and finding nothing at all wrong with the quality of green, or the keen mind behind them, she said, "Now if all the social rituals have been completed, would you be so kind as to help me?"
"But of course, my lady, but of course..." Robert leaned over and helped untangle her long locks from the brambles. Once free of the tangles he again offered his hand and pulled her lithe frame out of the brush. Tentatively he reached out to help pull leaves and thorns from her dress.
"Damn bicycle!" Lilliana delicately kicked the wheel as if it were the bicycles fault.
"I understand that they can be quite skittish creatures those accused machines." The latter was said with more than a touch of humor.
Lilliana looked up sharply to make certain that he was not making fun of her, and Robert managed to compose himself in time to look mostly innocent. Mostly.
Lilliana laughed the most brilliant laugh he had ever heard in his life and then dissolved into a fit of giggles that soon had both of them reduced to tears. Each time one of them settled down far enough to try and talk, the other burst out laughing which only served to make matters worse. Winded at least they both crumpled into a companionable heap in the grass.
Without even realizing it, Robert captured her hand and held it tight. Lilliana looked first at his tear streaked face, then at the hand, and once again gives into a fit of the giggles. He barked out a laugh of his own and they sat there, oblivious to the sound of the 'merry-go-round' on the boardwalk, or the aroma of cotton candy the breeze carried. The world around them simply gives them a wider than normal berth, but otherwise left them to their own devices.
After so much laughter, a companionable silence descended between the two as they sat on the edge of the boardwalk, Slowly the sounds and sights of the outside world crawled back into their sense of reality. Robert pulled a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and offered it to Lilliana. She dabbed gently at her cheeks and eyes, trying valiantly not to smudge her makeup more than it already was. He studiously looked elsewhere while she composed herself.
"Well, I suppose since we have been introduced it wouldn't be too forward of me to ask you to join me for supper would it?" Robert asked a hint of hope in his voice.
"Well, since we have been introduced, and you have now seen me at my worst, I suppose it would not be out of the realm of possibility to agree to join you for supper." Lilliana replied, a trace of humor still in her voice.
Laughing, Robert pulled himself to his feel and then extended his hand to help her up. Arm in arm they slowly walked down the boardwalk toward the only really good public restaurant on the island.
The Company of the Cauldron was nestled in the side of a non-descript red stone building near the fishing wharf. It was, however, the clear choice of anyone that had been on the island for any time at all as the only place to get a truly decent meal in all of Nantucket. The menu was inspired by the famed Company of the Cauldron from Florence that dated back to the time of the Medici. Chefs the world over had contributed to the epicurean delights of this small, unassuming place near the boardwalk. That such a venue and such a meal were called for by this chance encounter of two like-minded souls was without question. Their footsteps lead them here as if preordained.
Since Robert regularly dined at the Company he was a known entity, and though John the owner did raise an eyebrow at the lovely lady on his arm, he showed them to a window table as quickly as possible. Placing the menus in front of them, John was not at all sure that they even acknowledged his presence. They were so lost in each other that they closed out the world at large and stared hungrily into each others eyes.
John took one look at Mary, his wife of many happy years. The expression on Robert's face reminded him of when they had first met, and it confirmed his suspicions that Robert had found his soul mate.
It was her eyes that drew Robert in. Lilliana had eyes that were by measures both bright and alive. They drew him in like a moth to a gaslight. He could no more look away from her than stop breathing.
And it was his eyes that drew her in. Robert had eyes that had seen much of what life had to offer. They looked wise and gentle, soft and warm like an old, well worn sweater. She could no more have looked away from him than stop her heart from beating.
Richard tentatively reached across the table and took hold of Lilliana's hand. When she didn't flinch or pull it away, he gently stroked the back of her hand and marveled at the soft, silky smoothness of her skin. Her warmth surprised him as well.
"Lilliana, I didn't think it would ever be like this," Robert murmured as he boldly reached to touch her face briefly with the fingertip, all the while holding her hand with his left. "I just didn't know it could be like this."
"Robert, I have never felt so safe and warm in anyone's presence in such a short time. I have never felt this way about a man. I mean they have always been such strange creatures to me." Smiling, she colored the prettiest shade of rose.
"My lady, you have no idea how strange this feels to me. I feel as if I have known you all my life, not just, what, an hour so far?" He couldn't resist touching her face again.
Slowly they worked their way through supper. Robert had taken the bold step of ordering for her, and delighted in her surprise and joy over the dishes that arrived. They even shared food off each others plates, something that Robert would never have countenanced before this day. Somehow, it seemed like the natural thing to do with Lilliana.
Dessert arrived with little fanfare, -- warmed boysenberry tarts, served in the French style of 'al a mode'. The contrast of the warm tart and cold ice cream gave the dessert a truly continental touch, as well as bringing out the playful side in Lilliana again.
He had offered her a bit of tart, with ice cream, from his fork. Half way to her mouth a small drop of ice cream fell on her hand. Instead of wiping it with her napkin, she had offered him her fingers and he slowly licked the droplet of cream from her skin. It was the most sensual thing they had done to that point. All through this simple act of childishness, she had smiled bemusedly at him.
Robert was his heart would burst, or at least stop beating all together when he \touched her skin with his tongue. He felt urges he had thought long dead and buried. She was the single most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on, and he would have crossed a pit full of burning coals for one more of her smiles.
Gentleman that he was, Robert walked Lilliana back to the boarding house where she was staying. Though they walked arm in arm, and exchanged pleasantries, there was a tension in the air that was palpable. He was trying to screw his courage to the sticking place and ask her if he could see her again.
He could not know that Lilliana was struggling with inner demons as well. She had some small experience in the world of romance, but what she had was not at all good. Though not physically abused, she had suffered a long drawn out relationship with an entirely too controlling man. She had not given in to his advances, nor his cruel mental games once he realized that she would not give up her honor. As a result she was easily scared off by the wrong intentions. Something deep inside her was questioning whether she could really trust her first impressions of Robert.
Somehow sensing this was dangerous territory, and that it was best to go slow and keep his hands in plain sight, Robert walked her to her step and then gave her a single chaste kiss on the back of her hand before opening the door to her boarding house.
Clearing his throat more than was warranted, he said, "Lilliana, I have enjoyed this evening immensely. I would certainly consider it an honor to enjoy your company again. I hope that you can see it within you to allow me to call upon you again?"
"Robert, I would be delighted to see a gentleman like yourself again. Perhaps we can set a date and time?" She waited with anticipation tinged with dread. Her heart was pounding so that she was sure he could hear it.
"If I might be so bold," he said, again clearing his throat again, "perhaps a picnic lunch by the water on Saturday afternoon would be in order. Shall I stop by and pick you up at noon?" He shuffled his feet as if he were a schoolboy again.
Smiling another of her dazzling smiles, Lilliana said, "I would be pleased to join you for lunch. Saturday at noon it is. I can hardly wait." She reached up and gave him a demure kiss on the cheek before turning and entering the boarding house.
Once within the safety of its four walls, she slid quietly into her room and took a deep breath in the hope of stilling her racing heart. Leaning against the door she felt a rush of emotions she had never experienced before. With light steps, and a dance in her gait, she readied herself for bed.
Robert nearly skipped in his haste to return to his cottage. Humming a merry little tune as he walked in a cloud of joy and heart song, his feet barely touched the ground all the way home.
He could hardly sleep that night. Visions of Lilliana crowded his mind: her smile, her laughing eyes, her scent, the touch of her soft, warm skin... Ahhhh! Robert couldn't get her out of his head, and really didn't want to try at all.
Finally abandoning any pretense of sleep, as dawn crept softly over the fog shrouded bay, Robert arose and prepared a simple meal for breakfast. A cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast were all he felt he could keep down anyway. His nerves were so on edge that he thrummed like a bow string.
God but he missed Lilliana. Thoughts of her had kept him from sleep-- now they danced inside his head like a daydream that he hoped against hope would never end. He had heard about people in love. Hell, he had even written about it in his quaint little writings.
How far off the mark he had been! Love did make you crazy. It made you do and say things that under normal circumstances you would be hard pressed to make sense of. But in this heightened state of grace, an almost divine experience from which he hoped never to fall, he was sure that even speaking in tongues wasn't totally out of the realm of the possible.
Knowing that he would get nothing done today, and for the first time in a long time not really caring, Robert decided to draw a hot bath and try and regain his balance. While the water filled the tub, he slowly removed his bed clothes and stood in the early morning light taking stock of what he saw.
At five feet nine inches, with slightly graying short cropped hair, he tried to view his body as Lilliana might see it, if she ever did. He was a little thicker in the middle than he would have liked, but if he remembered to 'suck in' he could pass for slender. All this thinking about Lilliana had given rise to a painful erection, which bobbed up and down as he moved to finish drawing his bath.
Sinking slowly into the hot water of his tub he gave a sigh and closed his eyes to try and relax. Slowing his breathing he reached for calm, trying to find serenity. What greeted him was Lilliana's face in his mind's eye.
His breath caught as he brushed the tip of his penis with his hand. Teasingly he denied himself for as long as he could, then shaking from the effort of resistance, he gave in and stroked slowly up and down his full length. Stroking more rapidly he could feel his impending climax and he gave into it with abandon. Water sloshed about inside the tub as he climbed higher and higher. Sperm shot in heavy globs into the air and landed far up his chest, while spasms played out all over his body. Gasping a stifled cry, he felt as though he was being turned inside out by the force of his orgasm. Slowly the rigidity which had taken hold of his muscles gave way to an inner peace that surprised as much as it pleased him. Release had finally given him the calm he had sought.
Freshly shaven and dressed in a lightweight seer-sucker suit, Robert cast one last glance at the mirror as he placed his straw boater at a jaunty angle on his brow. Stepping out of his tidy little bungalow he walked down the boardwalk to the furrier where had made arrangements for a jitney and pony for the drive out to the picnic. He had chosen a place on the other side of the island. A spot where the lights of town would not interfere with the evening stars which, if things went as well as he hoped, he would be sharing with Lilliana.
Making a stop at the public market for a bouquet of wild flowers, and another at the Company where he had hired out a picnic suite for the occasion, Robert arrived at the boarding house at precisely twelve noon.
Lilliana had suffered her own trials today. Flashes of memory from the electric shock that had run up her arm where Robert had licked her fingers had caused more than a few flushes to pass over her cheeks. His scent had haunted her all night, as had the way his eyes twinkled when he held in a joke or a gentle teasing remark.
Her bed had been covered at one point with cast off outfits that she had held up to herself and then tossed aside in her search for just the right look. An expensive pair of silk stockings had been a casualty of the conflict. Finally she dressed in a white linen skirt and matching blouse. Her hair was braided and bound into a scarf, all of which was then tucked into a straw bonnet with a bouquet of forget-me-nots bound to the hat band. Her best parasol stood at the ready by the door.
His gentle tap seemed timed to match the start of the Regulator quietly chiming the hour in the foyer.
Taking a moment to compose herself, and take a deep breath, Lilliana opened the door and shyly looked into the foyer for Robert.
Robert took in the image of Lilliana as if seeing for the first time. She was stunningly beautiful. She was aglow with a light that shone from within. Her skin seemed to be so pure, so white, and her hair shown like a golden silken rope that draped over her shoulder. Never had he seen such beauty and it momentarily struck him mute.
"Robert, are you alright... ?" she asked for the third time.
Shaking himself back to the moment, and blushing a furious shade of red, he held out the flowers. Although still dumbfounded by her beauty, he managed to find his tongue for long enough to ask, "How long have I been standing here like a fool?"
Laughing brightly she answered, "Such a sweet, sweet man. Not long enough to appear foolish by my book! Are these for me?" And she took the flowers and set them just inside the door in a vase on the table.
The moment gave Robert a chance to pull himself together, and he took it. When she reappeared he was ready and offered his arm to escort her to the porch and waiting jitney.
The ride out passed with good cheer and lively conversation. Lilliana remarked that she had not really explored the island, while Robert proudly displayed his knowledge of local landmarks and the countryside.
Finding just the right shaded glen near an open field Robert pulled off the path and into the grassy area near an old oak grove. First he helped her down from the jitney, marveling at how light and lithe she was when he held her waist to lift her down. He hobbled the pony in a patch of grass and carried the picnic things over to a spot under a large oak tree.
Opening the basket revealed small feast worth of delicacies. John and Mary had outdone themselves in both quantity and creativity. Twin paper containers revealed cold chicken breast strips on a bed of romaine lettuce and mixed greens salad. These were packed next to wax paper wrapped bundle of finger sandwiches on fine wheat bread. Another carton contained a medley of fresh seasonal fruit and melons, as well as a separate carton of fresh ripe strawberries. Finally, the whole was brought together by a magnificent bottle of sparkling wine.
Lilliana helped set out the lunch repast, and rewarded him with sly glances and subtle touches while setting things in order on the ground cloth Robert for his part managed to bump into her hands, or hips more often than accident would allow for. By the time all the food was set out both of them were giggling like school children on holiday.
Lunch was shared in companionable quiet. Although few words were spoken, volumes were being conveyed none the less. After the remains of lunch were cleared, and the picnic was pulled back together and placed in the jitney, they turned as one and walked toward the shore, which had been partially hidden by the grove in which they had lunched.
Robert took hold of her hand, and she clasped her other arm around his as they walked quietly. Shore birds swooped and danced amidst waves, and an occasional fish flashed silver in the sun. Walking without any purpose soon brought them to an old piece of drift wood on the shore.
He gallantly removed his jacket, and covered the log so as to protect her skirt. They sat on the log shoulders touching and still holding hands for several long moments before Robert steeled up the courage to lean over and kiss her on the cheek.
Lilliana turned into the kiss and there was an unexpected bumping of noses. They giggled awkwardly, before that was sorted out. Again a companionable quiet descended, broken only by the calls of the birds over the distant surf.
Gently, softly at first, they explored the sensation of kissing. Each kiss growing in both intensity and sensuality so that they were soon kissing hungrily, running fingers up and down arms and backs.
He was the first to try and say something, "Where have you been all my life?"
She answered in a deeper, huskier than normal voice, "Robert, why have you hidden from me for so long?"
This caused him to laugh anew, and he jumped up and tickled Lilliana before running off toward the tree line. She jumped up and gave pursuit. Again acting like children, Robert couldn't remember when he had had more fun, nor laughed so much.
Playing tag soon lost its charm, and they both settled back in the shadow of the trees, Robert having retrieved his jacket. Lilliana rested against his chest contentedly, his arms encircling her waist and his jacket draped over her shoulders to warm her. The sun was setting and early evening was advancing the shadows toward the east.