She watched the children from her sitting position on the sand. They were playing in the water and on the
beach, running and laughing. Isabelle recalled a time, when she was very young, doing the same things. The world had seemed
such a simple place back then. Her life had never been easy but she still held out hope that one day a handsome prince would
come along and take her away from all her problems. That prince had never come but at least she had learned a few things along
the way. She had become self-reliant. Dreamers never prosper.
With a smile, Isabelle glanced over her shoulder to the
porch of Mauriri and Leani's home. The couple were out front, trading affectionate barbs, and cleaning up after the party.
It was a little late to celebrate her birthday but Isabelle sincerely appreciated the surprise. David had approached her a
little earlier in the day, obviously in on or having organized the waylay, and asked Isabelle to come to this area of the
island. He had his eye on a mare, he had said, although Isabelle could not guess what David Grief would do with a horse. She
should have known better.
Grief had been good about not asking her too many deep questions about Samuel Pederson. However,
he had been there to see the man taken away in handcuffs by Lieutenant Morlais. It had been more than difficult for Isabelle
to turn Samuel in but when she confronted him and he laughed, telling her she must be mistaken, Isabelle knew there was no
turning back. Not only wouldn't he initially admit to the deception but he became angry and cruel. Pederson actually accused
her of having an affair with Grief, the two of them setting him up for a fall. He had said as much to the police. However,
in the end, Pederson admitted his involvement and was tried, convicted of war profiteering and embezzlement.
and her business had been exonerated entirely, the jury convinced Pederson had acted on his own. She doubted she'd get off
as easily if she hadn't the backing of Grief and so many of her friends on the island. Colin and Clare were stellar characters
witnesses and even Lavinia sent a letter to the magistrate, explaining how Reed Enterprises was instrumental in the on-going
prosperity of many of the local businesses in Tahiti. Isabelle had been really surprised and touched by Lavinia contribution
but she was always a woman of character and, for that reason alone, Isabelle respected her.
"Hey," Grief suddenly appeared
and sat beside Isabelle on the sand. He handed her a small package, wrapped with white tissue paper.
belated birthday gift."
She tore the tissue away and read the label of a small bottle of brandy.
Isabelle looked at Grief, slightly puzzled.
"The first bottle of brandy we ever shared together." he
explained with a smile.
Isabelle laughed. How could she forget? Grief had brought the spirit to her, so long ago now,
while she and a few other prisoners were in route to New Stanton, to be imprisoned for their crimes. They then drank together
in the cargo hold and talked, among other things. He had been kind and deceptively noble back then. "It's been over a year
since we shared a drink alone, David. Do you recall what happened last time we indulged?' she baited.
He looked out
at the ocean, watching the crashing waves and seagulls, and smiled, "I remember."
Their kisses had been quite passionate
Isabelle's smile weaken and she grew thoughtful, "You've been a good friend to me." she said, "And one day
I hope to find myself completely contrary to you."
Puzzled, Grief looked at her profile. "What do you mean?"
once came to you while we sailed on The Rattler and told you that I thought the two of us made sense. We have the same ambition
and zest for life. We desire the same things. Do you remember what you told me?"
"You said you subscribe
to the theory that opposites attract."
Grief frowned, angered by his choice of words. She had come to him late at night
and he was groggy. He knew he wanted her but, at the time, was involved with Lavinia. Of course, that didn't really mean he
couldn't have a tryst. Both he and Lavinia had had their fair share of affairs but he held back with Isabelle for reasons
he couldn't quite fathom at the time. She was beautiful and willing ... but she wasn't someone he could just have an affair
with then toss aside. Like Lavinia before her, Isabelle rated more than a one night stand, even if she didn't know her own
value back then. If he couldn't give her his full attention, his whole heart, they couldn't be together at all. It seemed
such an odd thought coming from him back then but now he understood it completely.
With a snap of her wrist, Isabelle
opened the small bottle of brandy and took a sip.
Yet, whether she was aware of it or not, Isabelle had changed. She
still had ambition and lofty ideals but she had grown a softer side. Perhaps it had always been there but he chose to look
the other way when it presented itself.
A chilly breeze was in the air, sweeping through their hair. A wet mist from
the ocean touched their faces. Grief placed a comfortable arm around Isabelle's shoulders, to warm her against the cold. Isabelle
looked at David and passed the bottle to him. She smiled when he took a swing and gave it back to her.
only person I've ever told this to ..." Grief began, " ... but there are times when I can actually be wrong."
Isabelle took a last drink from the bottle and resealed it. "You've told me a secret so I'll tell you one." she said, "I know
I should be heartbroken over Samuel and although I'm so very disappointed with what he did to me I'm not sorry he's gone.
I'm not sure I was ever really ever in love with him. Not like I thought. Maybe I was just in love with the idea of being
in love. He came to me when I was most vulnerable. And," she added, "he was good in bed."
This time Grief laughed,
"I like you priorities, Isabelle."
She rested her head against his shoulder, "One of these days someone will come along
and I'll know it's right. That day just hasn't come yet."
Again Grief looked out into the ocean, this time slightly
'Or maybe he's closer than I think.' she added, mentally.
"Happy Birthday, Isabelle." Grief said.
you, David." she whispered back.
They watched the sun set.
(For those of you who like this ending and don't feel you need to read further the story has ended.
However, for those of you who are currently scratching their heads and saying: "What, this is it?" ... please go to the Epilogue)