With Lelia’s constant companion away at school she appreciated the extra hours at work. Not only for the money, but it kept her busy, filling the void of vulnerability and loneliness she suffered without Samuel by her side. Writing the letters to Sam helped, except they didn’t ease the loneliness in Lelia’s heart. To fill the emptiness, she once again began to hang out with her old girlfriends from school, who were also chumming around with Owen. “Lelia Elizabeth, don’t be too late tonight. Will that Owen-fellow be with you girls this evening? ” A commonplace question from her mother.
Mother! ” Using her proven sarcastic tone that stopped her mother from any further questioning, always left Lelia rolling her eyes, wondering why her mother cared about Owen’s presence with the group. The first “dates,” if you could call them that, were always with Owen and at least two or three other girls plus Lelia. Without question, Owen loved all the ladies. Often the group went to the movie theater, however the most significant part of the evening for Owen remained the long and leisurely walks home. The popular young man took his time as he dropped off each of the girls, one by one.
Natalie was the one that overheard Lelia telling Sylvia an intimate secret; for once she didn’t mind living at the top of Franklin Street Hill, since it made her the last one dropped off at home. There was one night when her mother had forgotten to leave the porch light on, and Owen surprised her when he snuck a kiss, not only that, but she felt his hand “accidentally” brush against her breast at the same time. Natalie told Pricilla she had half a mind to write to Sam Truman and tell him all about it. According to the gossip, mid-October was when Owen and Lelia became “quite the item.
Suddenly, there were no longer dates including the other girls. The girls in town sulked; the handsome Owen now stood unavailable. “Lelia stole him. ” At least that’s what Sylvia heard two of the pouting girls discussing. “I like you a great deal. ” Lelia stared Owen squarely in the eyes as if she had more to say, but didn’t. There had been a “however” in her tone, and perhaps she wanted to say: “However, I’m still in love with Sam. ” Owen didn’t hear the “however;” he merely grinned at this impetuous redhead who emerged not only stunning, but a little out of his league.
After all, she and her family were everything he and his were not. They owned their own home, they had attended church and school; they’d lived and worked in the same town for a lifetime. The Russell’s had the family and friends of a well-established life. Owen’s family didn’t have any of those things. Eventually, as if without notice, Thanksgiving arrived, and that’s when she found out. It only happened once, but as everyone knows, once is all it takes; Lelia was pregnant. While the reality of the pregnancy sunk in, Lelia’s mind wrestled out of control, she knew there were no choices to make.
Horrified, she knew she had to divulge the nightmare to her parents. Her thoughts went to her mother, “My dear God; Mother will be hysterical. ” And, true enough, Marion Russell remained devastated. “Oh Lelia, my dear child. ” Her mother repeated that same phrase around fifty times, driving Lelia mad, all the while pacing up and down the hallway and around the kitchen, shaking her head and rubbing her hands together, as if in doing so, it might all go away. Lelia’s dad spoke decisively, more matter of fact. “You and Owen have no choice; you’ll have to marry,” he hesitated only a moment before adding, “and soon.
The tears were already plopping onto the kitchen floor before the newly pregnant Lelia had an opportunity to escape up the stairs to her bedroom. With one colossal plunge, she flung herself onto her bed as the inconsolable tears went face-first into her pillow. “Samuel, my dear, sweet Sam, how in the world will I ever tell him? What in God’s name have I done? It simply can’t be true. ” She sobbed into her pillow the rest of the night. Some of the letters she had written to Sam at the Academy were not as honest as they could have been.
In addition, when she told Owen she would be breaking up with Samuel over the holiday, she didn’t actually mean it. Without a doubt, Lelia felt ashamed about what had happened with Owen. She didn’t know for sure how it had transpired. Furthermore, after the night “it” took place, Lelia felt dirty and sinful, trying her best to pretend nothing had ever occurred with Owen. Of course, there were times when she had wondered what it would be like to make love, but, nothing like that had ever occurred between her and Sam. In spite of it all, Lelia still loved Sam. She wanted to marry him, not Owen Bauer.
However, there was no chance on God’s great earth for that now. The wedding plans were not at all what Lelia had dreamed of as a girl. There certainly would not be a church wedding. Also, it had been Owen’s idea, not Lelia’s, to stay with her and her parents for a few weeks, while the speedy wedding arrangements were carefully calculated, to coincide with the due date of the baby. For Owen, the security he reaped from staying in the Russell household felt comforting: the exact opposite of the life he’d experienced growing up, and in direct contrast to how his presence in her home had Lelia feeling.
Nivan Burgess, the best and only true friend Owen had, still lived in their hometown of Damariscotta. When Nivan heard that Owen’s father, George Bauer had taken ill, rumors alleged he’d had a heart attack, although no one knew conclusively, Owen’s devoted friend took it upon himself to hitch a ride to Cutler Harbor so he could pass the news on to Owen. The day Nivan arrived with the news, he assumed Owen would not waste any time hitching back to Damariscotta with him. However, Owen’s reaction was mysterious and didn’t make sense to his friend.
Choosing the security of the Russell’s home, over going back to see his father, he didn’t want to leave. Instead, he sent Nivan back to Damariscotta alone. The fact is, Owen hadn’t returned to Damariscotta for several months, not since the day he found out about Lelia’s pregnancy. The day before Christmas arrived, with a dazzling sun glistening on the freshly fallen snow. It was unusual for the harbor to have a charming snow cover in December, though it did look queer with the few blades of bright, green grass sticking up through the wintry show Mother Nature had provided. Mother thought I should ask you, any word? Is your father better?
Don’t you think you should try to visit him before our wedding next week? ” “Jesus Christ, Lelia. Don’t you think I have enough on my mind, without that? Leave it be. I’ll get to him when I feel like it. Leave it to hell alone. ” Owen leaned intimately into Lelia’s face, oddly Lelia thought he was going to kiss her, but instead he grabbed her delicate shoulders, he shook her hard, saying, “Stay out of my business, and don’t worry, you’ll meet the bastard. ”
With that, Owen let go of his bride-to-be, storming away from her and out of the parlor. As he grabbed his overcoat from the rack in the front hallway, he stopped, glowering back in Lelia’s direction. In leaving, he slammed the door with such intensity, it sent the oak-framed mirror hanging beside the doorway, swinging in a seesaw-motion. Until that moment, Lelia had never seen one pinch of anger in Owen, appreciating only the quiet mystery to the man. “This is horrible,” she fretted out loud. Clearly, she could not imagine what she had done to upset him so much.
All the commotion left Marion uneasy too, as a result, she hollered from the kitchen: “Lelia Elizabeth, was that Owen I heard leaving? ” “Yes, Mother. ” Lelia scuttled up the stairs to her room, trying to hide the swelling tears trickling down her flushed cheeks. Not more than a few hours after Owen’s outburst, he returned, in better temperament, to the cozy house on Franklin Street. Walking into the kitchen, the heavenly aroma of smoked fish simmering in milk and butter (their special Christmas Eve dinner) caused Owen’s stomach to rumble with hunger.
The demanding sound of a knock at the front door interrupted Owen’s hunger. Startled, Marion flinched her shoulders, looking quickly at her daughter. Like a chain reaction, Lelia jumped too, dropping the potato masher, sending chunks and sticky flecks of potato all over the floor. The insistent knock alarmed them all. It was the Captain who took action; hurrying to the persistent rigor of the knocking. His baritone voice brought the family a sense of relief when he cheerfully bellowed down the hall, “Owen, it’s a telegram for you. ”