“All right then. We’ll begin tomorrow. But we need some sleep tonight. Goodnight, Kyla,” he brushed his lips against my forehead and stood up.
He took me by the waist and lifted me off the counter, and I returned the goodnight. I crawled under the warm quilt in the bed and sighed contentedly. This day had been wonderful.
Kyla’s eyes were still closed but she could hear everything. The sound was wonderful. The cottage had a tin roof, and a gentle rain was drifting onto it. The sounds echoed into her ears, and she sighed contentedly. Then Kyla realized she was not the only one to be content. Slowly, she turned around and met Orlando’s eyes. He grinned and touched her cheek affectionately.
“I wanted to see how you would react if you woke up next to me.”
Kyla smiled but said nothing so she could listen to the sound of the rain. Orlando brushed a hand across her cheek smoothing aside a few straying curls blocking her eyes. Kyla sighed contentedly as he gathered her in his arms. She molded perfectly into his arms, and it seemed she was made for them. Orlando brushed his lips against her forehead, and she wondered if her grin could be any wider. It seemed so when she felt Aurora’s soft tongue licking her neck. Kyla giggled and turned to scratch the puppy’s ears. He then amused himself by playing with a stray piece of string. Kyla sat up and hugged her knees to her chest and smiled coyly at Orlando. He brushed aside her hair and placed a tender kiss on her neck. As he traced his fingers against the spot, he asked, “Tell me more about your parent’s faith and how it influenced you.”
“Well, when my mom died, I was very young. I still remember her; she was very beautiful. My father loved her very much and so did I, but he refused to remain in a state of self pity for my sake mostly. He knew a girl needed a mother, and he did marry again. My stepmother’s name was Fiona. She was a lovely woman, strong in spirit, shining in faith. Are you sure you want to hear all this?”
“Absolutely,” he took her hand and traced his fingertips along her knuckles.
“I was in a state of anger still when she arrived, and I guess I made it difficult for her to love me, but she was compassionate toward me since I had lost my mother. Well, Fiona developed a tumor, and it spread rapidly. There was nothing anyone could do. My father decided to move her to Florida since it was warmer, and she could be near the ocean. Even though she was given several treatments including chemotherapy, and those long golden curls of hers were taken away, Fiona was still happy all this time. She never complained about her situation and seemed glad in fact. Once, when we were out swimming, I apologized for the way I had acted to her, and we had a discussion about my mother and Fiona’s situation. She told me the reason why she was so happy all the time, and that it was not just happiness but joyfulness.”
“And what was the reason?” he asked.
“She said that when you’re a Christian even if you have rough times, and even when you know you will have a short life and die quickly, we always have something to look forward to.”
Orlando looked into her eyes. “What is that?”
“Eternal life with God,” she smiled. “We also know that everything works out the way it should.”
“It gives you hope?”
“Kyla, I think I am beginning to understand. There are still blank spots, but you’re beginning to fill them up.”
He grinned and slipped an arm around her waist and another under her legs.
“What are you doing?” she laughed.
Kyla slipped her arms around his neck as he led her out of the room and out of the house. The rain had passed by this time, but the sand was still damp. His feet touched it, and he made his way for the hammock. Gently, he set Kyla down and went back into the house saying he would be out shortly. When he did come back out, he was holding two bowls of strawberries and cream.
“I thought of bringing you breakfast in bed,” he handed a bowl to her, “but I thought you would enjoy the hammock more.”
“Thanks, I do.”
“Would you like to say a prayer?”
She nodded and said thank you for the day, for the food, and for the ocean and then began eating. The strawberries were large and sweet, and she couldn’t think of a better breakfast food. When she was finished, she set the bowl on the sand beneath her, and Orlando began swinging her gently at first but then faster until she was holding on for dear life and laughing. Orlando finally stopped and leaned over. Her lips parted slightly, and she swallowed as his lips met hers. He kissed her it seemed forever before he finally stopped and lifted her from the hammock again. A silly grin was plastered on his face.
“What?” she asked.
“You taste like strawberries and cream.
She rolled her eyes. “What now?” she asked.
“Well, we could go out swimming or snorkeling. Or we could explore the Crystal Caves.”
“The Caves sound nice. Can I take a shower before we go?” she asked.
He nodded and kissed her cheek briefly before she scampered off to the shower. As Kyla let the warm water caress her skin, she thought about Orlando again. You made a deal to trust him. One side of her mind said. Of course I trust him! At least, I’m going to try. I mean, he did say we’d take it slow. But maybe you should end it now before it gets really serious. He won’t give up his acting for you, Kyla. You know that. If he truly loves me, he would. Whoah, whoah! The voices in her head argued. Why are we talking about love here? I thought it was already getting serious, that’s why. I mean he has kissed you already, and kissing can lead to other things. Well, then perhaps you should just ask him not to kiss you anymore. But I like it when he kisses me. Exactly!
Finally, Kyla blocked the voices from her mind and just ordered herself to enjoy her time with him, but to remind him to keep it steady. She didn’t want a frantic tumble and a shy goodbye.
“What do you think?” he wrapped an arm around her shoulder while his other hand held a lantern.
Gold and silver stalactites hung from the walls their ends dripping liquid cave kisses onto Kyla’s face. They were delicate and fragile, and Kyla suspected would break off in her hand if she so much tipped a finger upon them. The crystal stalagmites and stalactites surrounded a beautiful lake, and when Kyla leaned over with the lantern, she could see her reflection. The water was so clear that she could see straight through the bottom of the fifty feet of water. Certain minerals besides crystal also rested within the cave such as pyrite. Kyla thought many of the stalactites and stalagmites looked like towers and dragons, and she longed to touch one.
“This is beautiful, Orlando. The water is so clear.”
Kyla looked again, but this time, she noticed a faint shining light issue from the water. She narrowed her brows and knelt inspecting it again.
“What is it?” Orlando asked kneeling beside her.
Kyla dipped her hand into the ancient water and withdrew the object. It was a ring very similar to the other except this was a silver ring set with golden runes. Orlando took it from her hand and observed it with renewed interest. He then noticed the other glowing upon her hand.
“I have seen these runes before,” he said.
“They are ancient elvish, Kyla. And this is not some toy ring. This is real gold and real silver, and it’s glowing.”
“Some craftsman probably made them with special fire and just set it in the cave.”
“Where did you find the other?”
“In the ocean.”
He looked at her. “Why would anyone take such a valuable item and cast it into the ocean? The salt would erode it, but obviously it hasn’t.”
“What are you saying?” she asked her eyes beginning to widen.
“Could it be possible?” he fingered the ring delicately.
“I don’t want to think about it,” she stood up. “Those dreams have already been terrifying me, and I want to leave. Just put it back in the water.”
He grabbed her arm and made her face him. “What dreams, Kyla?” he repeated again.
Kyla related to him the dreams she was having for the past couple of nights always resulting in a cloaked figure telling her they would be together soon.
“Kyla, perhaps if we tried them on together…” his words trailed off when he considered the ridiculous idea.
“Orlando, there is no Middle Earth! It’s not real!”
“There is no harm in trying them on. If you know it’s not real for certain, then why are you afraid of putting on a little ring?”
“I’m not afraid. I already have mine on.”
“Then you won’t object?” he asked.
“You can do what you want. Nothing will happen.”
Orlando nodded and slowly slipped the ring onto his finger. At first nothing seemed to happen, and the glowing diminished. But then, a radiating beam of light issued from both of the rings. The light conjoined shooting into the crystal cave lighting the darkness with gold and silver. The water once dark was now luminescent. The light slowly dissipated, and Kyla and Orlando were left standing alone in the Cave.
“See nothing!” Kyla turned.
“You call that nothing?”
“It’s a trick. But we’re not in Middle Earth are we? Come on. I want to leave.”
Orlando sighed and followed her out of the passageway, which was supposed to lead them out of the cave. Instead they found themselves in another cave passage except it was smaller .
“Did we take the wrong one?” asked Kyla.
“We must have. Come on. Let’s go back to the lake.”
However, they couldn’t find the lake. Every time they attempted to go back the way they had come, the cave played tricks upon their minds, and they continued to wander forward and further. Finally, Kyla stopped to rest upon a large rock nearby.
“I didn’t think these caves were this big.”
“They’re not,” he replied.
“What do you mean?”
Orlando trailed his hand upon one of the stalactites nearby and broke off a piece. He held it in his hand, and Kyla realized it was not crystal but a blood ruby jewel.
“Maybe there are rubies here,” she suggested nervously.
“Then there must also be sapphires.”
Orlando held up the lantern to one of the walls, and the sight nearly undid Kyla. Beautiful jewels of different colors flashed before her eyes. With one breath, Orlando blew out the candle in the lantern, and the room was even brighter than before. Gold and silver flecks sparkled off the walls. Kyla touched her hand to one of the walls, and her palm was riddled with the same flecks. She shrank away frightened, but Orlando seemed interested. He broke off another jewel this time a sapphire and slipped it into his pocket along with the ruby. He broke off a few other jewels in the cave, and when he came to the white opal, he set it in Kyla’s hand.
“Perhaps we can put it on a chain someday,” he suggested. “I’m sure these jewels will be worth a pretty penny when we get back.”
“Back where? We haven’t left anywhere. This is just an undiscovered section of the cave we stumbled on, and it’s filled with pretty jewels and sparkles. And I want to see real light again. I’m sick of this darkness.”
Orlando took her hand and raised her to her feet. He knew she was confused now and at an emotional stage since the images of the dreams continued to float around in her head. Orlando drew Kyla to him and held her in his arms caressing her hair as she laid her head against his chest. He knew this wasn’t the time to talk of her father, but he knew she was breaking apart. For so many years, she had been strong. She had to be strong, and she was exhausted from it. He knew his life was simple and easy compared to hers. He had never felt the pain of losing a truly dear loved one to death. Now, she wanted to be weak. She wanted someone to hold her. She wanted to be loved now.
But even as he held her, Orlando noticed a faint gleam of light issue into the cave. They instantly began walking toward the light hoping to find some way out of this cave, and they did. Orlando and Kyla issued through one last opening and found themselves within a lush green forest. The sound of the sea was nowhere near, and there was no smell of salt. The stars shone above them in beautiful unrecognizable patterns. It was something Orlando had never seen before, but it was very familiar to him anyway. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and continued to walk without even knowing where he was walking to.
“I don’t think we’re in Bermuda anymore, Kyla,” he told her.
“I think I figured that out already,” she snapped but instantly regretted it. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
Kyla listened for a long moment and then suddenly heard the most beautiful sound in her life: water. They quickened their pace and weaved through the massive trees. Finally, they came to a small but rushing river. It seemed mystifying and beautiful to Orlando, and for good reason. He knew this place with a mere glance.
“Kyla,” he gripped her shoulders. “I know you recognize this place even as I do. This is the Ford of Bruinen.”
“It can’t be. It just can’t!”