Isabelle's Burden

She lay on the flat of the Rattler, her eyes closed, absorbing the rays of the sun -- and memories.

Isabelle thought of the nuptials last week.

Lavinia wore flowers in her unbound hair and a long pastel colored sarong. Nilo, her new spouse, wore a colorful traditional skirt for the formal Polynesian ceremony but exchanged it for white pants with an open-neck cream colored tunic for the reception.

Lianni could not attend since she was in her final month of pregnancy. The trip to the highest hill on Matavai, where Nilo Rumha’s beautiful home was situated was not, even in a well padded wagon, an easy trip. However, Mauriri and the children made the journey and promised to come back and tell her everything.

“I won’t be a fixture like I used to be at the bar.” Lavinia told her friends after the wedding toast, “My great uncle Kiki will be there most of the time. I’ll stop by a few days every couple of weeks, just to make sure the girls are keeping themselves out of trouble.”

Everyone laughed, including Nilo who took his bride into his strong arms and hugged her fondly.

David and Isabelle, who stood to the back of the reception room, also laughed.

Isabelle looked up at David, “Are you all right?” she asked him. He had been very quiet. He was happy for Lavinia, she was sure, but Isabelle also knew he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t think of what might have been.

Grief looked down on her and grinned, “Never better in my life.” and he draped an arm around Isabelle’s shoulders.

She believed him then and still. Isabelle heard David’s soft soled shoes walk across the deck of the Rattler, approaching her, “Thirsty?” he asked.

Isabelle opened her eyes and chuckled when she saw him holding a champagne bottle and two crystal glasses. “When did you bring those aboard?” she asked him, sitting up as David gave her the glasses and crawled onto the flat with her.

He popped the cork, “Just before I sent the dinghy for you.”

“You are full of surprises, Captain.” Isabelle lifted the glasses and watched as he poured.

“Still?” he asked, with a wink.

Her tone grew low and sultry, “Oh yes. And your surprises never fail to delight.”

They clinked the crystal and gazed at one another while sipping.

They were docked off the coast of Wikiwa, enjoying a little time for themselves after a short drop off of much needed provisions for the small island community.

“Are we celebrating something, David?” Isabelle asked when it seemed he was distracted.

Grief looked out to sea, thoughtful. “We could be.”

Curious, Isabelle put her glass down on the ledge of the flat and pushed it smoothly away, “Continue.” she said.

“We’ve been together as a couple for over six months, Isabelle.” He did not look at her as he spoke.

“I can count the days and hours if you’d like.” she teased. “Say what you want to say, David.”

He looked at her now and chuckled. He should have known better. Isabelle was one woman who truly admired directness. “You know how I feel about you.”

“Yes.” She waited.

“It’s been my experience that women need more. I don’t want to make the same mistake twice, Isabelle. If marriage is what it takes to keep you with me always we can start planning the moment we return to Matavai.”

Stricken, never suspecting that matrimony was on his mind, Isabelle took a moment to digest what David just said, “You’re proposing?” she asked, just to be certain.

“I love you.” he spoke, honestly.

“And I love you too.” Isabelle murmured, “But … marriage?”

“You don’t want to marry me?” Grief suddenly sounded a little offended.

Understanding that her reluctance might have struck a prideful nerve, Isabelle took the glass and champagne bottle from Grief’s hands and placed them aside. She softly pushed him down on his back on the flat and looked down at David, smiling. “It’s not that I don’t want to marry you. I’m just not certain I’m ready for wedded bliss. Perhaps next year … or the year after that …”

“What you’re saying is you want the future to take care of itself.” Grief closed his eyes and groaned, remembering when the same agreement was made in a past relationship. “Why do you always make it so difficult for me to make you an honest woman, Isabelle?”

“Independence. It’s what makes me so sought-after. “ Isabelle laid her hands on his chest and laughed sweetly. “The difference is … it is me, David. History won‘t repeat itself.”

His eyes opened and he looked up at the beautiful face, the dark hair tinged with gold from the sun, and that smile … a smile that could make a man forget all his ancient troubles.

“I know you were inspired by Lavinia and Nilo’s wedding, David. And down deep we want the same thing -- and when it’s right we’ll know it. It’s just not right at this time. I know it. You know it.”

“And in six months?” He lifted a hand and brushed her heavy hair over a trim shoulder.

“Ask me again. If it’s right you can help me pick out a china pattern.” Gently, she caressed one of his cheeks.

“You’re very smart.” David said.

“And you’re very handsome.” She laid her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, and felt David’s arms come around to hold her.

“And talented.” he added and stroked her hair.

“Very.” Isabelle murmured.

Closing her eyes, Isabelle thought of William. He would give her away at the ceremony …



(January 2005)