Tragedy on a small Island cuts a deep swath.
On Stirling, the losses of years past still hang in the air because the human drama played out on such a narrow stage. Whether death came to a summer kid drag-racing on Old Post Road or a Scaler who tried to save a Centenarian from a burning house, it didn’t matter. The whole Island grieved. The land shivered, and time just stopped for a while.
The tragedy that struck the Island in 1970 was so great, however, it drove an Islander away.
Luma Ortiz-Barnard had been hearing stories about Stirling Island since she met Nate Barnard at Boston College when they were students, but Nate had never brought her to the Island and, to Luma’s knowledge he hadn’t gone back there either.
In their 20s, working at dull corporate jobs in Boston, something had begun to change between them that went past the platonic achievement they thought they’d accomplished.
Luma had always assumed Nate’s blood was far too blue to mingle with her fresh immigrant veins, so she never allowed herself to go beyond friendship.
In time, each of them noticed disturbing sparks which pulsed upon brushing hands or they found themselves stopped in dopey pauses preceding magnetic pulls that felt a lot like passion.
When one of these moments left them both dizzy, Nate suggested Luma come to Stirling Island with him.
Luma said: “No!” - and she said it so emphatically that Nate was stunned.
“It’s the only place we can make sense of what’s going on here, Luma. I want to live there, and it’s not an easy thing to do.”
“Why is it about where you want to live? And what’s this living together stuff anyway? I haven’t even slept with you yet!” Luma bristled.
“Well, I want you to live with me Luma, so of course, I want you to sleep with me,” Nate said softly. “But if you’re to marry me, which I also want you to do, I have to know you can live on Stirling Island.”
Two days later Luma’s knees shook when Nate led her by the hand past the pilings at the East Ferry berth. It was after dark on an April weekend. Luma could smell the lilacs and apple blossoms and see glistening white anemones popping out from gardens as her eyes adjusted to the pearly glow of the Island.
Haloed light came from beams of the moon bouncing off white and pastel cottages lining Eastern Shore Road. Nate and Luma strode along, stepping to the rhythm of the bay slapping on Stirling sands.
“Is it paradise, Nate?” Luma whispered into the windsong.
“Just at times, Luma,” Nate said. “But then, at those moments, it’s more than that - it’s magical.”