If I told you that I knew Isabel Whitlow’s love affair with Ed Hightower would fail, I would be lying. I was as surprised as anyone when Isabel and Ed made it clear that there would be no wedding bells in their future. I’m probably not all that intuitive, folks, but that’s just who I am. In the animal kingdom, or at least in mine, an affair would last an hour or less, and a “commitment” never required a license, a ring, or even promises for that matter. In Ed and Isabel’s case, there was no big argument, no blowup, no defining moment that signaled an end to their days in paradise; as far as I can see, there never was a ‘paradise.’
Isabel and Ed always were, and always will be — good friends. But, except for those obligatory flashes in the early days of their growing relationship, there was never any real fire. Believe me, I was there, and having been around an active Bed & Breakfast with six rented suites for eleven years, even I can recognize human passion when I see it! These two are like a pair of well broken-in shoes, and in some ways, I would say they are perfect for each other. Before the first month had passed, they were finishing each others’ sentences and anticipating each others’ every need. But, apparently, this does not ‘a successful union make.’
I’m not a marriage counselor (I am just a dog), but even I know that their differences, though subtle, might have distanced them from their long-sought state of bliss. Whereas Ed has the first dime he ever earned, Isabel, although outwardly pragmatic, has a vulgar desire to wallow in her wealth, and she does so with relish. She is definitely much more self indulgent than Ed could ever be. Ed is, at best, a minimalist.
Although she carefully controls her weight, Isabel really enjoys eating; and she eagerly “tastes” everything that comes out of Louella’s kitchen. Whereas Ed, who carries not an ounce of fat, eats only by necessity; a very unlikely pair! Isabel is a ‘toucher’ and is a somewhat touchy-feeley person; she will hug versus shaking a hand, and it is natural for her to touch a person she is talking with on the shoulder. Ed, on the other hand, seems to be more aloof and seems uncomfortable when he is physically touched. Isabel pats and carresses me constantly; Ed, hardly ever.
When I think about it now, I remember that Isabel and Ed don’t seem to know how to ‘play.’ Each of them has a need to maintain their own space. I can tell you that Isabel takes her responsibilities at Faded Glory very seriously, and even a simple phone call can easily distract her from a moment of happiness. Ed, who is admittedly somewhat obsessive, is never more than a heartbeat away from his precious bank. I guess to say that Ed is a workaholic might be an understatement; he seems to be at work day and night. Neither Ed nor Isabel are able to pull themselves away from their businesses.
After six months, even the most mundane responsibilities at the Inn began to interfere with Isabel’s overnight visits to Ed’s Lake Chatuge hideaway. The ‘good times’ became less and less frequent as, from time to time, their physical activity became limited to running a mile or so together at dusk, and many times I was invited for the run. Isabel always enjoyed getting dressed up and going out to some fancy place for dinner with Ed. I remember that Ray was really a stay-at-home guy when compared to Ed Hightower.
Maybe Isabel’s great success with Weight Watchers exposed some of her inner longings. Isabel cleaned up her act and brought about some real changes in her eating habits and appearance. When faced with the prospect of going out to one of her favorite haunts for dinner, Isabel would ‘light up,’ and busy herself selecting her wardrobe long before Ed’s arrival to pick her up. As always, she would opt to ride in the Silver Spur, and, as always, Isabel looked as vivacious as a rich, healthy 50 year old, easily belying her 66 years.
And finally, I was there earlier this year when Ed and Isabel sat in front of the hearth in the common area with an open bottle of red wine, finally discussing their relationship. “Well, Ed, you and I may never become husband and wife, but you sure have turned out to be the best friend — and banker — that a girl could ask for. I love you in so many ways . . ”
“And what are you going to do with the rest of your life, Isabel?” Ed asked, refilling his goblet.
“I’d like to find the man of my dreams, Ed, but I don’t think he exists. As long as I can still remember Ray, I guess I have already had the man of my dreams. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to enjoy dining out every so often with my friend and partner in dalliance, Ed Hightower.”
“Well said by a lady that tools around in a Rolls Royce; remember, all I have to drive is a tired old Chevy!” Ed shot back with a wry smile. “I’m really just a rich lady’s chauffeur . . . ”
“In all seriousness, Ed, there’s got to be more to life than running a country Inn. Sometimes I get to feeling like a housemother to a bunch of city slickers! I just don’t feel like I’ve found my calling, and pretty soon I will be too old for it to matter.”
Later, when Isabel told Louella that it was over between her and Ed, Louella nodded quietly and went about punching out biscuits on her work table. Louella had probably known for some time, and she obviously saw little point in probing for the gory details — if there were any.
Micah accepted the news with some surprise, but all he could come up with was, “are you okay, Isabel?” Isabel nodded a “yes,” as she left the vestabule where he was standing, but she somehow seemed to have expected a different and more nurturing reaction out of her longtime friend and coworker.
Luckily, in her mid-sixties, Isabel is still physically fit, rich, and quite attractive. Knowing Isabel as I do, this won’t be her last foray in her search for long-term loving companionship.
Isabel is the best friend I have on Earth, and I, like Isabel, believe that in this world — we have a big part in making our own luck. Who knows; maybe there’s even hope for Yours Truly.