"Do you think you'll ever, like, want to come to Nebraska for a vacation?" Marisol asked, playing with the handles of her rabbit-skin backpack that held everything she owned.
"I doubt it." Macalaurë's face was turned eastward, the direction from which the bus would come. "You know that I make enough to live on, but I do not have much extra just lying around." His hand landed gently on her knee as they sat together at the bus stop, a fleeting touch, quickly withdrawn. "And I do not enjoy traveling in large buses with so many strangers."
She had expected that answer, but she'd wanted to hope nonetheless. "Then I won't ever see you again, will I?"
"That depends on whether or not you ever have reason to come back out to California," he replied. "But I think it will be a long time at the very least."
She drooped, her fingers playing with the hem of the new jacket that he had given her just the night before as a farewell gift. As the tourist season began in earnest in this small, coastal California hamlet, she was on her way east, with a bus ticket that would take her all the way to Lincoln, where she would change buses to a local that would take her home. As much as she looked forward to seeing her parents, her grandmother and uncle again, she would miss the solid, supportive silences, the exquisite music and challenging conversations with her unlikely rescuer.
"I'll write," she promised, both to herself as well as Macalaurë. She'd never been one to keep up a correspondence, but then, she'd never left anyone behind that she cared about before in quite this way.
"I will be glad to hear from you," he smiled back at her. "You must promise me to continue your music, however. You have a good voice."
"Not as good as yours." She shook her head. "But that's an easy promise to make. When I talked to Mom last week, I asked her to get me some information about the community college. They have a music department. I'll need to save up some more money before I can afford anything, but I'm going to take classes eventually – music especially."
"That is well."
"I just hope someone there can keep teaching me the harp."
Macalaurë's smile widened. "That would also be well. At least your time out here would have brought you something useful."
"My time out here was very well-spent, despite everything else," Marisol told him firmly. "I just wish…"
She hesitated. It had taken time to weasel his story out of him, and she was fairly sure that there was a lot more to it than he'd been willing to tell her. But she knew that he was as she had been, and that he would still remain apart from those he loved while she was going home. "I want you to be happy too, Mac."
One of those scarred hands ran gently over her hair. "I am happy, little one, to see you able to go home again, where you belong. And you know Caleb will not rest until I accept his offer of a room in exchange for renovating the place for him. I shall be busy, and that will keep me content as well."
"Will you go home someday?" There. It was out.
He shrugged. "That is not my decision to make." Then his finger was pointing. "Your bus approaches."
They both stood, and Marisol looked up into the face of one who had taken her in on the worst day of her life and given her back nearly everything since then. "I don't know how I will ever…"
"You can thank me best by having a good life," Macalaurë told her, his grey eyes shining in that special way they did every once in a while. "Do well by those who love you and care for you. And one day, you will have the chance to help another in the same way I helped you. Take it and know then that any debt you owe me is satisfied."
Feeling both brave and almost desperate, Marisol threw herself at him, wrapping her arms about his neck and letting his height lift her off the ground. "I'm going to miss you!"
His chuckle in her ear was like a warm sheltering blanket, and his arms around her a real treat. "And I will miss you as well. My cabin will seem quite empty now. It is probably well that I intend to accept Caleb's offer." Gently he set her back down on the sidewalk. "Take good care of yourself, and be happy, little one."
"You too, Macalaurë Fëanorion." It had taken days to learn to say his name properly, with just the right lilt.
He stood where Marisol could see him as she took her seat half-way to the back of the bus, and waved as the engine revved and her ride pulled slowly away. Her eyes remained glued to him, tall and lean and in simple jeans and a white t-shirt, until the bus rounded a corner and put him out of sight.
"That is one good-looking man!" The older woman in the window seat commented as Marisol settled herself back into her seat. "Your boyfriend?"
"No. Just a very good friend," Marisol answered, her mind playing back the events of the months they had spent together and remembering the sound of a rich voice singing words that were almost too beautiful to hear. She would love him in a quiet corner of her soul for the rest of her life, she was sure. "The very best kind."
I have so much news for you, and I wish I could be there to see your face when you read this. I'm getting married!!! His name is Tim Gantry, and I met him at the college. He was taking voice lessons, and was leaving as I was just coming in. We got together for coffee once or twice, and then he asked me out. That was last fall, and we've been seeing each other ever since. He asked me to marry him two days ago – can you believe it?
Mom, Dad, Gran and Uncle Pete all like him a lot, which means a lot to me. I think you would like him too. In many ways, he reminds me of you. He's quiet and gentle, likes to hum and sing when he's working, and can do some really neat things with metal. Best of all, though, he likes working in the hardware shop. I think Dad sees someone who might take on the family business after all.
I have some money, and I want you to come to my wedding. I want all the people that I care about to see me on my happy day – PLEASE say that you'll come? Are you still living at the Brite Spot?
Write back soon.
To my dearest Marisol, greetings.
I rejoice to hear of your engagement to your young man. Please know that, were it possible, I would gladly make the trip east to attend your wedding, complete with a song written just for the occasion.
But, little one, this time it is I who have news for you too. I am going home, at last. Just a few days ago, I received a visit from a very old friend who told me that my time apart is finished now. By the time you read this, I will have sailed. As a matter of fact, I will put this note in the post as I head for the sea and the ship that waits for me.
Thank you for brightening some of my last days on this side of the sea. Be happy for me, and have a very happy life with your young man. As for me, I will remember you, your pretty voice and lovely smile, until the stars go out.
Macalaurë "Mac" Fëanorion