I had driven through the moonless night to get there; I desperately needed to get there. It was the one place in the world that I felt safe. Even the moon seemed to abandon me that night, in the distance, the lonely stars twinkling brightly in the sky guided me to my secret place in the cove. The clock in my car displayed two a.m. when I arrived on the deserted beach.
I sat in the car listening to the roar of the Pacific, pondering my next step. I could no longer hold back my tears and began to cry. Annie, my terrier, woke up from on the floor and crawled in the seat next to me. She began to lick the tears on my face. I took Annie into my arms because she understood how I felt. Animals seem to have a sixth sense about them.
After a few minutes of gazing at the ocean, I realized this was the place where every worry that seemed to be burying me alive was just so insignificant in comparison to the magnificence of the vast ocean.
I had journeyed to the farthest ends of the world, and I knew I would be safe. With every new wave that rolled in, I felt myself being pulled more and more into the past.
The night fog had laid an endless sentinel of white knights across the shoreline, in wait of their orders. I could feel the cold fresh air from the ocean entering my body with each breath.
There was something in the night that beckoned me to the safety of the cove.
Years earlier, my father named it the Crystal Castle because of the way the sunlight shimmered on the walls of the cove. I knew this place so well that the poorly lit path was easy to follow using my flashlight. Annie and I made our way across the dune quickly.
Once inside, I signaled Annie to come closer to share the warmth of my dad's old plaid beach blanket. Annie began to bark at the foggy figures in the distance.
“Annie, it's okay girl. It's just the fog.” I whispered into her ear as I hugged her.
The ghostly fog and Annie somehow seem to be protecting me from any harm that may come my way. It was like the fairy tales of long ago that my father told me. He always made sure that his little princess was protected.
He named those shapes in the fog my guardian angels and promised that they would always protect me. I snuggled my back into the blanket with Annie.
I pulled my father's black knitted hat tightly over my ears. The heat of the day could still be felt in the bed of sand. Trying my best not to give in to my fear of being alone, I began to pray with all the fervor that filled the tempest inside of my trembling body.
The stars twinkled ever so brightly before me like the eyes of God watching over me. I felt the big strong arms of my daddy around me. I could not move, for fear it might just all disappear. So I just laid quietly in the sand.
“Annie, we're going to be all right. I feel it in my heart.”
As a child, this was one of the last places I was truly happy with my parents. It was here that my dad sat me on his lap and told me tales of the adventures Don Quixote, King Arthur, and Mulan.
“Miss Destino, my sweet pumpkin, someday you too will have to be brave and find the courage to find your way in this life.
“Oh, my God, why?" I found myself crying as an echo from the past pulled me back into the darkest time of my life. I was back there, a place that made me gasp for my last breath of air as if the hands of time themselves were choking me.
I felt transported through time; I was paralyzed, just like that night when I lost my grandmother, Mariarosa.
I was ten again, staring through the door of my grandmother's room. I felt the darkness closing in and helplessly paralyzed by the thought of being left all alone in the world once more. My tears seemed to be my only companions as they draped my face in such misery in the darkness of that terrible, lonely night. Each breath was a struggle as my chest grew ever tighter.
The quiet, sweet squeaking of her rocker began to whisper her favorite lullaby as I prayed and slowly rocked myself to sleep. Perhaps it was only my imagination but a warm calming feeling of her presence soon put my fears to rest.
I gently cuddled myself up in my grandmother's pale white shawl with the moth-eaten holes and half a dozen silvery safety pins clipped to the bottom edge. The slow, even squeaks of the rocker soon began to lull my restless thoughts. Her old mahogany rocker pushed all other thoughts out of my mind. I drifted off to sleep to the memory of her singing and sweet musky smell of perfume of her shawl. Just as I did, when I first came to live with her at the age of five, after my parents' car accident. How could I have known back then that she would be more like a mother than and grandmother?
As I pulled the shawl tighter, I felt a secret pocket on the inside. I could feel something wiggle as I crunched it. I examined the hidden pocket more closely. I shortly managed to pull the hidden treasure from its cocoon.
It was a letter address to my grandmother from a place called Mendota, California. The note was neatly folded, and preserved in a clear plastic baggy along with a hundred dollar bill.
It was a letter from her sister, my great aunt, Chavela.
"Dear sister, I know you have been ill, and you have a granddaughter. My family is all grown up and have moved away. I have a big house here on the farm. I am sending you money to help you buy your bus tickets to help you to come live with me. Please come. Love, Chavela"
I was not alone after all. I had a family that wanted me. I showed the letter to the welfare lady who came to help with my grandmother's funeral.
My new life with my great auntie Chavela was about to begin. She loved me like a daughter and encouraged me to go to college to become a teacher.
In the autumn of my seventeenth birthday, and the day my life would be changed forever.
The morning I had been dreading, but quietly expecting and waiting for had arrived. I felt myself being pulled back into a whirlwind of a time, to a very important pinnacle in my relationship with Mr. Jonathan M. Cagney.
It was a time when I had to decide if our walk together was worth the loss he had caused in my life.
“When does love itself become more important than one's happiness?” These were the words roaring around in my head. No one should ever have to answer this question. That early December, this was the thought that wailed inside me, while I sat at the bottom step of the church's altar.
I sat alone on the steps of the church in my grandmother's muslin wedding dress. I remember pulling the pink rose petals from my bouquet one by one while watching them drop to the floor like teardrops from my soul. My tears were no longer blurring my vision, and my body had stopped trembling with pain. My destiny had finally decided to knock at my door with a vengeance.
Jonathan was a young man who had come into my life so easily. He had softly spoken himself into my heart immediately. How often I had told myself that he seemed too good to be true. His manner was more gentleman-like than I had ever witnessed in my home.
I never bother to think, “Why would someone with his education and social status bother with a plain poor Hispanic girl like myself?"
Jonathan appeared flawless with his lean, tall figure, and well-toned body. His eyes shone like the deep blue sky of a beautiful early morning in spring. His dark black hair curled with waves of ringlets just above his soft brows. He could simply look at me, and I knew he knew what I was thinking without a word from my mouth to his ear.
How stupid love can make us is quite laughable now as I sit here all alone. I wondered to myself, “How would I have treated him if he had only told me the truth about his life?”
On that crisp September morning, in the college library, almost a year ago was when he first sat across from me five tables away. I looked up for a few seconds when our eyes locked. I knew, in that ever so brief second, that I had fallen in love.
With a tilt of his head to one side, he smiled into my soul. Being quite shy, I pretended not to notice his boyish gaze and quickly hid back in my book. Within a few minutes, I noticed he had moved over to my table when he quietly sat across from me.
After what seemed like an eternity of silence, he whispered in his melodic husky voice.
"Hi! I am Jonathan Marcus Cagney the III; I am in your English 1 class."
At first, I tried to ignore him in the hope he would give up and go away.
"I sit about two rows behind you on Mondays. What is your name? I hope I don't offend you with my words, but you are beautiful.”
I looked up into his silverly-bluish eyes and whispered with a girlish stammer, “My name is Destiny Maria Destino.” I looked at my watch and got up to go.
He quickly jumped up to help me with my seat the way I had seen gentlemen behave in the late-night movies from the 1930s.
"May I walk you to class?"
He gathered up my books with his right arm and offered his other arm to me. With my palms sweating and heart-pounding in my head, we walked in silence through the library hallway and into the next building. When we arrived at the door of our class, he stopped and opened the door. Then with his arm, he promenades me into the classroom. He followed behind me and sat in the seat next to mine.
I do not remember the lecture, I only recall how he leaned his leg up against my chair and tilted his head toward me with his crooked boyish smile.
By the end of the lecture, we had been placed in the same study group for the semester project, on the topic of Shakespeare's life.
I mumbled to myself, “Shakespeare, a man of great mind and spirit. How do we condense him into 2,000 words or less? One might as well try to condense the meaning of love into one single word.”
The clouds were floating high in the sky. I watched the clouds as we walked to the bus stop, and he gently kissed my hand before I boarded the bus. I sat at the back of the bus and waved farewell as he disappeared into the distance.
That is how it all began, back in the fall of my first semester in college. After that first meeting, he and I were inseparable. I knew I was in love.
By December break, Jonathan asked me to marry him. I wanted to wait until after we both finished our education, but he felt an urgent need to be married.
His smooth demeanor shortly convinced me that our education could wait.
I had turned eighteen the previous October; he carried himself well at the age of twenty-one with the manners of someone much older.
My Auntie Chavela received him into our family without reservation. His mother, Angela, became pleased with our plans to marry so quickly. His family's wealth provided us with a small guest house to live in his back yard.
Angela arranged our wedding for Christmas Eve. It was a small private ceremony with her cousin Father Antonio Cagney in a small church.
That was the morning I stood in the empty church, at the alter waiting for him to show up.
Looking at his watch, Father Cagney said, " Don't give up, they're surely on their way."
"Are you sure they're on their way?"
"Yes, my dear. I'll go check the front door. Please sit down with your aunt, I'll be right back."
After about fifteen minutes, I began to cry. Thoughtlessly, I began to pull the rose petal from my flower bouquet. I soon hear his voice call from the entryway.
"Sweetheart, I am so, so sorry. We got stuck in traffic."
"Yes dear, we were going to call, but my phone died," said his mother.
That was four months ago. Since then, I became pregnant, which he and his mother were ecstatic about.
I had to give up school because they were both concerned that I could have a miscarriage for working too hard in school. I thought their interest showed how much they cared for me.
Until this afternoon, when I overheard their conversation in the living room in the main house. I was standing outside in the garden a few feet from the open living room window.
"Mother, you will have a family heir. So I do not want to discuss this anymore."
"Jonathan, she is a nice girl and I am sure she will be a good mother, but I want to get the best for my grandchild."
"I worry she will find out the truth."
"Give it some time. Tell her the truth later after the baby is born."
I tripped on a rock and fell behind a bush as I tried to move closer to the open window to hear.
"The truth is mother is that I have fallen in..."
"Jonathon, someone is outside the window...shhh."
I knew I had to get away. I waited for the window to close and I crawled away back to our bungalow.
Once back in my bedroom, I packed my clothes and took Annie out the back door to my old car. The one thing that belongs to me. In a short time, I was on the freeway heading for the coast.
Sitting here in the safety of my cove, I knew I was safe. I gathered the driftwood and built a small fire to keep warm. Perhaps the owners of this stretch of beach would not mind.
Annie barked at some sound in the distance. She seemed more excited than upset wagging her tail.
"Destiny, it's me, Jonathan. Is it alright if I come in?"
"What are you doing here?"
"I saw you leave the house and followed you here. I waited in the car once I saw you stop. I remembered you telling me about this place."
"Destiny, I'm sorry you overheard our conversation. I wanted to tell you myself. I needed to have an heir before my twenty-first birthday. My uncle Roger's will requires an heir. I should have told you but I thought you would not marry me."
Destiny sat by the fire quietly looking at the stars in the sky.
"You must believe me. There was one thing I did not count on in all this. I care about you a great deal."
"I think we should get going before someone calls the police about the fire."
"We don't have to go."
" I think we need to talk someplace else."
"Destiny, what I am trying to say is I love you. I bought this place for you. Remember when I was late for the wedding, that was the day I signed the papers. I had driven all night to get back in time for our wedding. It was going to be a surprise for our first anniversary."
The flicker of the firelight in his eyes couldn't hide the truth from her. She knew he loved her.
"Jonathan, come sit down with me and we can talk while we look at the stars."