April 29, 1905
After Long had shut the door behind him, and I knew I was all alone, I turned again to gaze out of the window at the courthouse; the shadows of the oaks around the building growing longer with the sunset. I didn’t want to go home; I knew Cephas and Walter Kehoe planned to stop by the office as soon as they got in — I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to run or hide from whatever it was Cephas would do to me for screwing up the Daniels case, but I didn’t have the energy anymore.
I remembered the mail from earlier this afternoon — there was a letter from my friend Van Sant, in Sterling, Illinois; and, a copy of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate.
I glanced at the front page of the paper — mostly it covered a mock trial by the law school, and the rivalry between the Stetson and Rollins College baseball teams. And yes, soon, the class of 1905 was preparing for graduation. I couldn’t believe it had already been a year since I was there, when I was the valedictorian, and my name was in every single issue of that campus paper — usually on several pages. I smiled at the memory — I was popular there; my whole time at Stetson, I felt like I was on top of the world.
I turned to the second page, and right away, Pearl Spaulding’s name on the masthead jumped right out at me. She was a reporter for the paper this year.
I felt a twinge of discomfort at the memory of that last visit to her in Seabreeze, and the last time I saw her at Stetson on graduation day. Cephas had advised me to stay away from her — not even talk to her — and I did what he said because I didn’t want to screw up my future. Ironic; here I was screwing up my own future all by myself.
There was my classmate J. Hall Brumsey’s law firm advertisement. He had a solo practice; I heard he was doing quite well for himself. I had thought about taking out an ad myself, to promote the Wilson & Wilson firm, but really, to show everyone that I was doing well. Cephas said we had too much going on here, in West Florida, to keep us busy; competition here was brisk enough. Besides, he really didn’t want to compete for business with law firms on the East Coast of Florida.
I leafed through the paper; then put it aside; I put Van Sant’s letter in my coat pocket to read later at home. I had other issues of the Chronicle in a desk drawer. I kept them hidden under a pile of papers, but I pull them out now and again, and to see what my friends are doing – I use that as a sort of achievement measuring stick — mostly I compare them to myself and what I’ve done so far, which hasn’t been all that much.
I hadn’t kept up with everyone in my graduating class — only Van Sant and Crawford. I didn’t like to admit to Cephas or anyone else that I was nostalgic and lonely for my college days. I was happy there.
Also, Pearl’s comings and goings were mentioned often in the paper. I was still curious about her, although I knew it was over between us. She must have known I still took the paper; I sometimes wondered if the notices I saw posted about her — and not many other students — was a way of sending me a subtle message of her whereabouts.
I knew where she was. Pearl knew that I knew where she was. But I wasn’t going back to Stetson, and I wasn’t going back to her. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about Pearl; eventually, I might have convinced myself that I loved her. Thing is, though, if I let her in any more closer, she’d see the real me.
And then, she’d probably leave, anyway, just like….
…suddenly, there was a clamor of men’s voices outside the office, and then front door squeaked open, loud voices, laughter — footsteps were headed down the hallway towards my office.
Quickly, I slipped the Stetson Weekly Collegiate underneath a stack of papers and correspondence on his desk, arranging them slightly askew, and put the water glass in a drawer. Truth be told, a messy desk bothered me immensely, as I was naturally fastidious, but I had discovered the convenience of a messy desk for hiding private letters, or, personal reading.
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