Part 16 – completely coincidental

Two months spent apart, separated by more than a thousand miles distance, seems to pose only a slight hindrance to the deepening friendship and blossoming romance growing between Van and Skyler. She calls him before bedtime most nights. They talked before her first day working as a Pleasantview police detective.

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The photo she sent of herself dressed in a midnight-blue police uniform instantly reignited restless urges Van had been working to extinguish. Although he and Skyler had remained mostly platonic during her stay at Isla Paradiso, they shared the better part of a year together inside a small living space, oftentimes sleeping in the same bed. The experience changed him, and now he is unable to ignore how empty the house now feels without her. Admittedly, there is a part of him that feels empty as well.

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Despite the various challenges and discomforts caused by the ongoing, long-distance affair, staying in close contact with Skyler has helped Van to mentally concede that any relationship he had once shared with Benita is now gone. He doesn’t understand it, but he accepts it. Van returned to Benita’s house the morning following her return from SimCity. After some angry shouting from inside the house, Luiza finally came to the door and reluctantly sent him away with an apologetic hug. Benita was not in the mood to talk.

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Resuming work as a lifeguard has also helped him pass the time he would have otherwise spent brooding. A resort on the far side of the island recently came under new ownership and hired Van upon the recommendation of a former colleague who had recently retired. Van’s new employer offers its patrons an escape from the jarring discord caused by a fast-paced, modern society. The resort is quiet and tranquil and exudes an ambiance of antiquity. This is evident in all aspects of the resort’s operation, including its architecture, which captures Isla Paradiso’s rich, historic past. Alcohol is prohibited outside the restaurant and gambling venues. This strictly enforced policy translates to fewer altercations and more families enjoying wholesome fun on the beach. Aside from rescuing the occasional child who wanders too far into the surf and calming panicking parents, Van’s new job is free from anxiety. If not for the discouraging circumstances surrounding both Benita and Skyler, his life has become essentially stress-free.

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A surprise phone call from Corinth late one afternoon serves to remedy this respite. While not wanting to cause any undue worry for Van, Corinth communicates a time-sensitive matter they must discuss. The du Pont family has decided to visit Isla Paradiso …today. Corinth had only learned about the unannounced trip himself a few hours ago. The family matriarch, Moira du Pont, was quite clear about her reason for traveling. She wants to meet Van personally. This is extremely unusual, as Madame du Pont is well over a century old and has not traveled for decades. Van is both thrilled and terrified at the prospect of finally meeting members of the du Pont family.

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The unannounced visit is already enough of a distraction on its own. When Van learns that Madame du Pont insisted upon lodging at the “Sparkling Sands” resort, his stomach begins to churn anew with anxiety. Van is certain that Omar will embellish lavishly upon his version of the scandal that had cost both he and Skyler their jobs and banned them from the property. Corinth attempted to make contact with Enzo and urge them to reconsider their lodging. It was no use, however. Madame du Pont had become fascinated with an exhibit containing archeological and cultural artifacts from Isla Paradiso; accessible exclusively by Sparkling Sands resort VIP guests. Van reluctantly agrees to meet Corinth at the resort, but can’t help but feel a large measure of uneasiness.

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After arriving, Van Listens to Corinth recount some of his more memorable encounters with the unusual and eccentric du Pont matriarch. This helps to ease the tension until Omar arrives, presumably to greet his wealthy and prestigious guests. Omar makes his presence known by hovering just within eavesdropping distance. His only communication with the men comes in the form of a threat to run Van off the property accompanied by a police escort, in spite of Madame du Pont’s specific request that he be present at her arrival. Van flatly disregards the statement, evoking his close relationship with Constable Dias; further observing Omar’s sad deficiency of testicular fortitude renders him incapable of removing Van himself. The trite response is extremely out of character for Van and it causes Corinth to swallow a fit of spontaneous laughter. Omar turns on his heal and resumes a smug vigil for his guests’ arrival.

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Omar is quick to descend upon the limousine as it arrives. He quickly comes to regret his overzealousness when the passenger door swings violently open, striking Omar with a painful sounding “whump!”, while expelling an excessively excitable young woman. She races from the limousine out onto the observation area to absorb the spectacular ocean view. Omar is left stuttering and speechless when Enzo shoves a large-denomination simoleon bill into his hand, directing him to take good care of the luggage. Van’s gaze shifts from the curious young woman to Enzo and Corinth.

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The two men have exchanged mutually urgent and puzzled expressions of bewilderment. The limousine drives off a few moments later with a dented door, emptied of passengers, and bereft of the venerable Moira du Pont. Corinth excuses himself for a moment and walks toward Enzo, then to a slightly recessed alcove near the reception area. The men speak quietly and anxiously in French, both gesturing wildly toward the young woman several times. They leave the conversation appearing no less confused than they were beforehand. Van expresses his concern, asking if there is a problem.

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Before Enzo is able to introduce himself, the young woman glides up to stand beside Van. Her unique voice dances on the air like a sweet, Irish hymn. She scolds Enzo for completely ignoring Van while he palavers with old friends. She, on the other hand, will not be so rude. Before Enzo is able to intervene, Moira du Pont introduces herself with a full and proper formal greeting. Enzo rests his face in his hand while Corinth stands speechless and dumbstruck.

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Enzo finds himself in the rather uncomfortable position of explaining how Madame Moira du Pont was unable to make the journey given her frail health. Enzo’s newly adopted daughter, Moira du Pont, asked to come in her place. Rest assured; any physical resemblance or similarity in speech, behavior, and name, of course, are all completely coincidental.

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The quartet shares brunch on a scenic patio overlooking the beach. Van apologizes several times as drunken acts of lewdness transpire nearby.

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Moira assures Van that such displays are not uncommon in France. Behaviors such as these are now commonplace, but he must not allow himself to become discouraged or saddened because of it. Similar to living in a run-down house, one must see humankind’s potential rather than its flaws. If the foundation is sound, there is no need to condemn the entire structure just because it has fallen into disrepair. With the right skills, patience, and effort; and some measure of love; it can be restored into a beautiful home once again. One must take care, however, about whom or what is allowed entry across the threshold as to avoid any further deterioration. A long and awkward silence follows Moira’s odd soliloquy, which Enzo finally dispells by paying the check and cheerfully suggesting they visit the museum Madame Moira had wanted to see so badly.

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Van had been an employee at the resort for years but never once visited the exhibit for himself. Omar kept a very strict VIP guest admittance policy on the museum. It had actually become something of a running joke among employees, who conjectured that the word “museum” was simply a euphemism for some manner of brothel. Upon finally entering, Van is truly awestruck by the impressive collection of artifacts dating back to the island’s aboriginal history. All wide assortment of items sits on display, from clay pots to ancient tools, old documents, colonial religious artifacts, and artwork spanning hundreds of years. Moira’s newfound infatuation with Van has become evident in that she has not left his side since arriving.

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She is an odd young woman, and talkative; but not in the typical sense of the word. Her voice possesses certain a musical quality that Van finds uncommonly attractive. She often speaks in riddles and metaphors, as though trying to simplify her own impossibly complex thoughts. Van contemplates this curiosity while supplementing the tour guide’s monotone script with his own historical anecdotes and legends as they were told to him by the many locals he has befriended. Van expresses his anger at the idea of keeping such a collection away from the people it would benefit most.

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As they exit the museum, Moira thanks Van for the fascinating tour and makes a point of agreeing with him. She did not want to make mention inside the exhibit about her observation of an odd inconsistency. A number of mismatched documents had been included with the aboriginal literature and poetry. They were all similar, perhaps a dozen or so, with names and colonial-aged legal jargon written on them. Her guess is that the documents are some manner of late-imperial licensure or affidavits and clearly did not belong with the aboriginal poems; some of which, incidentally, were quite beautiful. She’s already memorized the stanzas that were on display and she would love to recite the translations if Van would care to hear them.

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Van responds with an uncertain chuckle, asking how it is possible that she would know how to read aboriginal Isla Paradiso literature. Moira clucks her tongue playfully, explaining what a brilliant history teacher Enzo has been. Still, she finds it curious how musty, old legal documents would have found their way hidden among a private collection of ancient verse.

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What she finds most interesting, however, is that the name Gonçalves appeared prominently on one of those documents; and unless she’s mistaken, Gonçalves is the surname name of Van’s best friend, Benita.

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