PART 1 ~THE BEGINNING~
I’d been driving around for weeks looking for just the right one. Taking a turn, I chanced upon a street I hadn’t driven before. Driving slowly I spotted a For Sale sign in the window of a house set back nestled amongst several old oak trees. With one glance I knew it was the one for me. I thought about parking in the driveway but felt it might be considered to be intrusive to any occupant. I wanted to get a good feel of the place and parked at the curb then walked toward the house.
The neighborhood was quiet and peaceful. The broad street was lined with old elm trees and on large lots were beautiful older homes. It looked almost as though it were from a different time. A sense of excitement and déjà vu swept over me.
Walking up the long expanse of front lawn I spotted what must be an old coach house in the back. Like the rest of the neighborhood the main house was old, but well kept, and built in the Victorian style. I smiled when I saw the large wrap around porch complete with spindled railings. The original brick facade had been covered with shingles painted a very pale yellow with green shutters, and there was a steeply pitched roof over dormer windows.
Different colored gingerbread trim in the traditional style was predominant. Just the right amount. Not too much so as to make it appear gaudy. The double-entry door was offset to the side of the porch. Upon a closer look the house appeared to be vacant and I peeked into one of the windows to see built-in cabinets of fine polished wood. The floors were long planked hardwood with beautiful rugs here and there. I was in love and knew I had to have it.
I grabbed my cell phone out of my bag and called the realtor. Mr. Robison was there in less than fifteen minutes.
Before we entered he turned to me and said, "I need to disclose to you that the original owner died in this house. It was a long, long time ago, but even though the laws have changed, and we no longer have to reveal anything that happened more than fifty years ago, I feel morally obligated to tell you. Some people are squeamish about such things."
"Well I'm not. Not in the least."
“This particular situation is a little different. In this case the man committed suicide. Some think when someone commits suicide their spirit remains. That thought tends to drive potential buyers away. It’s a shame because this house is one in a million. There aren’t many left that have been kept in their original state. Actually, I can’t think of another that’s on the market at this time. Most people nowadays want houses that have been upgraded. When that happens the house loses its charm. I’ve seen it happen over and over during my thirty years in this business,” Mr. Robison said.
“Then it’s their loss. They'd be better off buying a tract home. And, back to the original subject, those who are nervous about the possibility of a spirit dwelling within are uneducated and foolish. If his spirit is living in the house, and it might well be, it’s nothing that would frighten me. He must be a tortured soul to commit such an act. But, from what I’ve learned from diligent study, sometimes they want to remain in the same surroundings, attempting to live the life they wanted again. Perhaps to have it end differently. I wouldn’t be alarmed should I encounter him. I’d welcome and befriend him. Do you know how old he was?”
"He was a young man, thirty or so they say, I’ve shown this house to several prospects who refused to even enter when I told them how the original owner died. I was losing business and my own curiosity of the subject prompted me to study about it also. I learned pretty much the same as you did. In the late 1800s, many people felt they had the answer to this question, and that they had experienced proof of the existence of the personality after death. Spiritualism was at its peak of popularity at that time and it was believed that sometimes a spirit will not go on for reasons such as the fear that their existence will end, fear of the unknown, fear of going to hell or being judged for their suicide. These spirits are bound here because of their own fears. They remain at or near the site of their death. Some remain confused and don't know or accept that they have died. They remain in the time frame they knew, and wait to make contact with someone who will be responsive to them.”
“Are there any conditions that would prevent me from gaining a clear title if I decide to buy the house?” I felt an excitement coming over me. I didn’t believe in the mythical ghost but a spirit world I could believe in. Several years ago my elder sister’s husband hung himself in their garage when he found out he had incurable cancer. She told me many times that she’d feel or hear him, and I believed her. That was when I started reading all the material I could find on the subject. “Any covenants or restrictions?” I added.
“He, his name was Maxwell Covington, left an ironclad will. Actually, in today's time it would be called a trust. It stated that his family and their descendants could occupy the house for as long as they wanted, providing it was kept well maintained and the furnishings intact. In the event that there were no family left, the sale of the house including its contents was left in trust to a law firm to dispose of. The last occupants were his great grandnephew and his wife but they had no children. When he died she stayed on but passed away earlier this year. So, to answer your question, there are no present covenants, restrictions or anything else preventing you from gaining a clear title and doing as you wish with the property and its contents."
I stood there for a minute feeling emotions unfelt before.
"The house is furnished?"
"Yes," Mr. Robison replied. "Everything has been kept in accordance to his stipulations. It’s just as it was when the last occupant died. The only things removed were clothing, toiletries, food, etc,.
"May I see inside?"
“Follow me,” he said. “This is an expensive piece of property. I hope you’re aware of that,” he added after another quick glance at my 10-year old car parked at the curb. Then he inserted the key into the door.
I didn’t bother to reply. I wasn’t concerned with the price. I had inherited a great deal of money when my father passed away a few years back and I’d invested it wisely. Plus my interior design business was very successful and becoming more so as time went on. Whatever the price, I could afford it. I didn’t flaunt my wealth and lived a simple and frugal life. I’d learned the hard way by marrying a man who was more interested in my portfolio than he was in me. Hopefully, with the purchase of this house, my life and my lifestyle would change. Being the owner of such a house would require it.
We entered into a large foyer furnished with a few paintings of excellent quality depicting the English countryside, a Victorian style sofa, and an end table with a lovely Tiffany lamp that I knew was the real thing. There were also three large plants in what were obviously antique planters. I noticed the plants needed watering. As we ventured further into the house I was surprised at how clean it was. There wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere. Even the windows glistened, and it smelled fresh. I mentioned this to the realtor.
“Caretakers come by once a week and air the house out as they're cleaning," he explained.
"Someone needs to tell them to water the plants once in awhile," I replied." Where's the kitchen?" He led me to it and after gasping at the perfection of the spacious and well appointed room, I found a pitcher, filled it with tap water, went back to the foyer, and watered the thirsty plants.
"That was a nice thing for you to do Suzanne. I've been meaning to water them every time I come here but somehow I always forget."
"Sue. Please, call me Sue."
"Sue it is then, and I’m Jim. It really is a lovely place, isn't it? I'm glad my wife didn't know about it or I'm afraid we'd be moving right about now." He smiled.
He didn't have to sell me. I was hooked in the foyer but walked along with him as he pointed out the highlights such as the butler's pantry, stained glass windows over window seats, beautiful ornate mirrors and furniture an antique dealer would sell their soul for. "Go ahead, make my dreams come true," I thought to myself.
Upstairs there was a large master bedroom suite complete with,two large walk-in closets one of which had a mirrored dressing area and was obviously intended for the mistress of the house. Across from the master bedroom was another bedroom that was sparsely furnished. "How odd," I thought. The room had a desolate look about it. Off in a wing of their own were three smaller bedrooms perfect for guests. Above it all was an attic. I passed on seeing the attic and told him I'd like to make an offer to buy.
"But you haven't seen all of the grounds yet, only the front. They really are something you should see."
"All right. I guess I should." I was glad I had.
Everything was beautiful. There was another covered porch in the same design as the front and it was beautifully outfitted with wicker furniture. In the yard was a gazebo with what looked like morning glories covering the top and dripping down the sides, many trees some of which were fruit bearing, a rose garden in dire need of pruning, a vegetable garden also in need of some major care, and even a hot house. I could picture my family and friends gathered in groups around the yard. "I'll have a play center put in for my nieces and nephews, a couple of swings for them hung from the trees, and a cooking center make out of old brick," I thought to myself. My mind was quickly filling with plans. Not plans to change anything, just to bring it up to it’s deserved standard and a few additions for my own anticipated needs.
"Ready to go to my office?" Jim asked. "The price is firm. It was set by the court so no bargaining for this one."
I didn't even ask how much. I had to have the house. Something told me it was where I belonged. All my life, including through the one marriage, I had looked for where I belonged and now I'd found it. Who knows, I was still young, and I might marry again and have children. This would make a wonderful family home. I felt there was something about it that would make happiness contagious.
I moved in two weeks later. It was an easy move. I gave all the furniture from my previous home to my family and friends. All I took were some household items I felt I couldn't do without, family pictures and momentos, and my clothes and other personal items.
The next day I went shopping for groceries and odds and ends, and then spent the rest of the day getting settled. About six o'clock I made myself a light supper of an omelet, sliced tomatoes, a glass of a very good wine and ate at the large old wood table in the center of the kitchen. Finished, I washed and put away the few dishes and utensils I’d used, and then took my glass and the rest of the bottle of wine and went upstairs to explore the heretofore unseen attic. It was neat but packed to the rafters with boxes and odds and ends of furniture. Where to begin?
PART 2 ~THE MIRROR~
Removing the dust cover from a chair I took one box down, opened it and began to explore the contents. It was full of very old records in their original covers. "Worth a fortune in today's collector's market," I thought. But I had no intention of selling them. I then spotted an old Victrola record player, wound it up, and the strains of Moonlight Sonata, filled the room. I sat in the chair, sipping my wine and let the music float over me. Then I played The Blue Danube and couldn't resist waltzing around the room.
One particular box seemed to be calling to me. A long rectangular shaped box that was well sealed from dust or mice. I opened it to find it full of beautiful clothes. Clothes a sophisticated lady would wear to go dancing many, many years ago. Each one was in a dress bag for added protection. I took out and undid the fasteners on the first one. It was a beautiful long dress of flowing blue. "How appropriate," I thought with a smile.
I rewound the Victrola, let the strains of The Blue Danube once again play its magic, and gave in to the impulse to put the dress on. It fit perfectly. Also in the box were a pair of blue dancing slippers encased in a silk bag. I slipped into them and they too fit perfectly. I thought I felt an arm go around my waist as I again began to waltz around the tight confines of the room and became slightly light headed. Sitting back down in the chair I took another small sip of wine and felt a drowsiness come over me. Setting the half-full glass on the table, I rested my head on the back of the chair and let my mind drift to the times when this wonderful house was first built; a time when women wore lovely ball gowns and couples waltzed the night away in splendid surroundings.
Suddenly I was in a baroque mirrored ballroom. Across the room I saw a couple waltzing as if they were one. He was wearing an impeccably tailored tuxedo and she was wearing a long flowing dress of blue moire silk. Her blue eyes had flecks of gold in them just as mine do. On her ears were blue topaz earrings and around her neck a matching necklace of gold and blue topaz. She also had blonde hair just like mine. Suddenly she put her head on his chest and her step appeared to falter.
Gently, he led her to a chair by the wall and then went to the refreshment table. He poured a snifter of brandy for himself and a small glass of red wine for his wife. "Here, my love, this will perk you up. Just a few sips, okay? I knew this would be too much for you in your condition. Remember, the doctor said you need to be careful."
"I know," Clarissa replied reaching for the wine and taking a small sip. "But Maxwell, my dear, Elizabeth would never forgive us if we didn't come to her engagement party. As her sister it's my duty to be here. And, you know how much I love to dance with you. I just got light headed for a minute. It's to be expected when you're in my condition. I'm surprised it hasn't happened more often."
"Once was enough," Maxwell replied as he sat down in the chair next to his beloved wife and downed the brandy in one swallow.
Just then Clarissa's hand began to tremble and the red wine splashed on the bodice and down the skirt of her dress.
"We're going home," Maxwell said firmly. "You can explain to Elizabeth the next time you see her. It's home and to bed for you my dear."
Outside in the fresh air, waiting for their footman and the buggy, Clarissa felt a little better but still light headed. She'd be glad to be at home. On the way there Maxwell said, "Tomorrow I’ll take your dress to the dressmakers. They can remove the stained part and replace it with new material. Since it’s new they should have more material on hand."
Clarissa beamed. “Oh, I do hope so Max. I love this dress.”
Early the next morning, while Clarissa was still sleeping, Maxwell took the dress to Mrs. Morton, the dressmaker, who assured him she'd have the dress repaired and good as new by early evening and would deliver it on her way home. “My coachman goes right by your place,” she told him. Just as promised, at five that evening she arrived with the dress. There was no visible sign of it ever having been stained or repaired. Maxwell carefully hung it in Clarissa’s closet along with her other ball gowns.
They had a good supper of mutton, potatoes, greens from the vegetable garden and strawberries with clotted cream for desert. Afterward, they were in the sitting room when Clarissa said, "Maxwell, I feel tired. Can we retire early? I don't know what's the matter with me. I slept late this morning, took a long nap, but I can barely keep my eyes open. I wanted to spend this evening finishing the embroidery on this coverlet, but it will have to wait until tomorrow."
"This is my first experience, but I believe it's expectant mother's fatigue my love. I think I'll stay up for awhile. I'd like to finish reading this book. But, up to bed you go," Maxwell led his wife up the stairs, helped her wash up, undress, found a warm nightgown for her, slipped it over her head, lowered her to the bed and tucked her in. She was asleep in a matter of seconds. He kissed her lightly on the forehead and returned to the sitting room to read. About 10 o'clock he too retired.
In the middle of the night Clarissa tugged at his arm, "Max. Maxwell . . . wake up! I'm bleeding. I'm bleeding badly. You need to get the doctor."
Maxwell quickly pulled an overcoat over his night clothes, hitched up the buggy, and at break-neck speed headed for the doctor's house. Thankfully it was only about a half mile away. The doctor rode back with Maxwell and held on for dear life when the horse and buggy took the curves at a full gallop.
Arriving at the house Dr. McCoy instructed Maxwell to stay downstairs and he rushed up to where Clarissa was. Her face was white and she didn't seem to be breathing. He listened, no heartbeat. Pulling back the bed covers he saw her pooled in her life's blood.
Maxwell took one look at the doctor descending the stairs and knew. He screamed Clarissa's name and collapsed into wracking sobs. Attempting to console him, Dr. McCoy said, "Mr. Covington, I'm so sorry. There was nothing I could do. She was already gone when I got to her. It was a hemorrhage. These things happen in pregnancies and we don't know why. She was further along than we thought. I’d say about four months. I brought Clarissa into this world. She came early and she never has been strong. There was no way either could be saved. I'll walk home and in the morning I’ll make the necessary arrangements for you. Is there someone I can contact to come and stay with you?”
“No. I need to be alone. I can have the butler drive you home if you like.”
“Thank you but that’s okay, I need to get some fresh air, and you need to rest, but don’t go into your bedroom Mr. Covington. Trust me, you don’t want to."
As the doctor was leaving Maxwell barely noticed he was carrying a small bundle wrapped in a towel. He didn’t know it was the tiny body of his son. He wasn’t thinking about anything but the loss of his beloved wife.
Clarissa’s funeral was a large one. She was much loved in their community and the church was packed with relatives, neighbors, and other friends. Her casket of mahogany and brass was lined in beige silk and she was dressed in a lovely cream colored dress with her mother’s cameo pin at her neck. Even in death she was breathtakingly beautiful. The cloying scent of the flowers in baskets everywhere on the alter and lining the aisles of the church were making Maxwell nauseous. It was a nightmare for him and he thought if one more person said to him, "I’m so sorry. She was so young," he'd go stark raving mad.
He didn't go mad but he never recovered. Once the mattress and bedding were disposed of and replaced, he had all of Clarissa's things packed and stored in the attic, their room locked, the key placed on a nail in the attic, and he isolated himself by moving into the spare room across the hall. The room they had intended to be the baby’s nursery. It was a fairly large room. The only items they’d purchased for it so far were a bed for the nanny they’d hire, one dresser, a lamp, and a chair. The first night he tried to sleep in that room the vision of the bundle the doctor had been carrying began to haunt him, and the nightmares began.
His meals were brought to him on a tray by the housekeeper. He seldom ate anything. During the fifth evening of his seclusion in the room he swallowed a full bottle of sleeping potion and washed it down with a large snifter of brandy. The housekeeper found him the next morning. He was smiling.
My neck was stiff from sleeping with my head on the hard surface of the back of the chair. The last thing I remembered was listening to the music and relaxing into the mood. "A long busy day, and the wine, must be what made me fall asleep. Time for bed."
Getting up, I slipped out of the dancing shoes and began to undo the laces on the front of the blue dress when I saw splotches of what appeared to be red wine on the bodice and down the front of the skirt. I glanced at the table next to the chair where I’d been sitting and saw that my wine glass was empty. “Oh, oh, now you’ve done it. You must have spilled it as you were dozing off,” Frantically thinking of where I could take the dress to have the wine stains removed I suddenly remembered . . . I had been drinking white wine.
PART 3 ~THE MEETING~
Having lived most of my life in San Francisco I'd grown use to the occasional jolt of an earthquake of small magnitude. They were a way of life. You either got used to them or you moved away. This morning I’d been awakened by a small tremor and out of habit rushed to stand in the doorway of the bedroom just in case it was a prelude to "The Big One." There were no more tremors but after being awakened in such a manner the adrenaline was pumping. There was no chance of returning to the comforts of my bed.
I'd slept restless with recurring dreams of the happenings of the night before. But, like all dreams, it was slowly fading away. The morning fog had lifted and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge promised to be magnificent. It was still part way dark at 5:30 am and I was sipping my coffee and thinking about the renovations I planned to make for the coach house. My friend, Alex, was a contractor and someone I dated now and then. I'd do the design of the interior and felt confident that he and his crew would do an excellent job.
In between searching for this house I'd interviewed several couples to hire as housekeeper and handyman. I needed a couple who would want to live in. Finally I hired the Lawsons. Betsy was a retired bookkeeper, and Mike had just retired after working for 35 years as a school custodian. They were looking for a live-in position that would allow them to work together. I felt they'd be perfect and their references were impeccable.
I wanted their quarters to be comfortable for them and was going through the designs in my head, but the blue dress kept popping into my thoughts. I didn't know if the red wine stains were part of a dream or had actually been there. I really needed some time before I ventured into that attic again, but I had to get the dress to a good cleaners as soon as possible.
During my travels house hunting I'd seen a dry cleaners closer to the center of town with a sign in the window stating, "Any Stain Removed From Any Garment. Satisfaction Guaranteed." They didn't open until 9 o'clock so I'd have to wait. The sun was out now, but I knew it would be chilly so put on a warm turtleneck sweater and jacket over my other clothes, grabbed my pruning shears and a large gardening basket and I ventured out to the back gardens to prune the roses and see what I could do with the neglected vegetable garden.
While I was dead heading the bloomed roses to insure reblooming the thoughts of the attic and the dress kept prodding at me. "I guess you better go check it out," I reluctantly mumbled to myself. stood up, and retuned to the attic.
I remembered that I had carefully laid out the dress on the top of its storage box before leaving to go to bed. When I returned to the room the dress was there but there were no stains. I thought, "How can that be?" I remembered those stains and how I felt thinking I had destroyed such a beautiful item. I knew I had been drinking white wine. Is it possible that white wine could have changed the color of the stain? "No!" I adamantly said out loud.
I picked the dress up, held it in front of me, and walked to a standing boudoir mirror in the corner. As I was wiping off the dust and cobwebs from the mirror with a gardening rag I had in my pocket, I saw a shadow move behind me. Then, "Clarissa."
Hastily I turned around and replied, "What?"
"You responded to your name," a tall man said.
"I responded to a voice, not a name. Who are you?" I never had before, but I thought I might faint.
"I'm Maxwell Covington and I've been waiting a long, long time for this moment."
"I don't know who you are or what you're doing in my attic, but my name is Suzanne! Suzanne Cummings. And you’re not Maxwell Covington! He’s been dead for generations. I want you to leave. Now!"
"I can't leave. I live here."
“In this attic?"
"Yes, and anywhere else in the house I choose to."
"Anywhere?" my mind was envisioning all the possibilities of invasion on my privacy.
"I allow and respect your privacy but other than that I go where I please, when I please. After all, it is my house."
Now I knew it was just a matter of time before I fainted.
"This is my house! I have the papers to prove it."
"Actually," he said with a smile that would melt any woman's heart, "It's our house."
I just stared at him for long moments. Then into a heap on the floor I went.
"Clarissa, come back. You're okay. You've just had a shock is all." Then he helped me up off of the floor, brushed the hair out of my face, and led me to the mirror. On the way he’d picked up the blue dress. “Here, hold the dress in front of you and wait a minute.” He then went to a rather large jewelry chest in the corner and retrieved some items along with the dancing slippers that went with the dress. I stood there transfixed, wondering why I was going along with whatever was happening.
“Close your eyes and lift your arms,” he softly said. For some strange reason I wasn’t alarmed. I felt him remove all but my bra and panties and was grateful that I’d put on a pretty lacy set, “How lovely you are. Just as I remember.” Why wasn’t I embarrassed? I didn’t know. It all felt natural. He slipped the dress over me. After fastening it he had me slip my feet into the matching dancing slippers. He piled my hair on the top of my head and secured the mass of blonde curls with an ivory hair comb. I then felt his hands at my ears and then at the back of my neck. I began to tremble. “Okay, you can look now.”
If I hadn’t fainted just before I surely would have then - around my neck and at my ears was the gold and blue topaz jewelry.
“You’re stunning. Just as I remember. Do you trust me?” Maxwell asked.
And beyond all comprehension and common sense I did. “Yes, I trust you.”
“Wonderful! Now, forget everything you think you know. We’re going to take a short journey. Have no fear. I have no intention of losing you again. Just trust me. You’re going to meet your destiny.”
With that said, he put his arm around my waist and I had a flashback of that same feeling the night before. Also holding one of my hands we waked straight through a wall of the attic room with not so much as a whisper of sound and we were then in the same ballroom I’d seen last night. I looked back and all I saw were the beautiful walls of the room, the baroque mirrors, and the two of us waltzing as one person. I looked into his eyes, saw myself reflected there and told him so.
“That’s because I’m part of you and you’re part of me. You’re in my soul, and I’m in yours.”
“My god in heaven, what’s happened?” I was trembling. “I must still be asleep. There was no tremor that woke me. This is a dream.”
“It’s no dream my love. Don’t you see now? You are Clarissa. Following your death from the miscarriage you’ve lived three other lives in preparation for this one. You had to live those lives in order to learn, to be open and prepared for our reuniting. At the time of my passing I was given the choice to walk towards a soft white light, walk through it and be in the great beyond, or to remain here and wait for you to evolve. I chose to remain and wait for you. Come, let’s sit down and I’ll explain more to you. Would you like a glass of champagne?”
“I’d very much like a glass of champagne, a large glass. But please, no red wine.”
Maxwell smiled his charming smile and went to fetch our drinks.
Quite suddenly I was very calm. There was something about the situation that made me know it was real and that my life as I’d known it was going to change.
He returned carrying two large crystal goblets. I drank half the contents of mine in one long swallow.
Maxwell took my hand, kissed the palm and said, “We’re soul mates Clarissa. I know you know what that means. You have a choice to make. Whatever you decide I’ll abide with it. We can either stay in this time frame but your won’t lose the baby, we’ll have a good life, and more children. Or, you can chose to return to the life you woke up to this morning and in a very short time I’ll join you there. Take your time and think. I won’t rush you.”
“I don’t understand Maxwell. How is it possible that you could join me?”
“I was given that choice when I died. I took it and have been waiting. While I was waiting there was no sense of time passing. I was in a state of suspension until you walked into the attic last night. If you choose to go back to your life as it was this morning our souls will eventually join and we’ll live a happy life. You’ll give me three strapping sons and one daughter who will look like you. Either way, we’ll be happy and together. Together for eternity.”
Suzanne thought long and hard. Finally, she replied, “These times we’re in now were not easy Maxwell. There were diseases, plagues, lack of people’s rights, poor educational systems, wars, and people died relatively young. I wouldn’t want to live like that. I will if it means being with you, Suzanne now knew that she was hopelessly in love with him. But it’s not what I want. I have a family, obligations, and a life that I like. I want to return to that life.”
“Very well then,” Maxwell replied. “We’ll return and I’ll come to you as soon as I can. When I join you I’ll have no recollection of the events of today after you found the dress unstained. I’m going to leave now my love. I ask that you wait a minute or two and then walk out the door of this ballroom. When you do you’ll be back home, in your vegetable garden.” In an instant he was gone.
She did as he asked, left, and with no recollection of the events with Maxwell, was kneeling in the vegetable garden pulling at the invading weeds when her cell phone rang. She took off her gardening glove, reached in her pocket and answered. “Hello? Suzanne Cummings here.”
PART 4 ~THE CONCLUSION~
“Sue, this is Alex. I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you down. I won’t be able to do the construction on the coach house. My mother suffered a stroke last night and I’m leaving for the airport to go to New Jersey in just a few minutes.”
“Oh, Alex, I’m so very, very sorry about your mother. Of course you must go,” Suzanne replied.
“I located another contractor for you, a good friend of mine named Jack Douglas. He’s excellent and specializes in refurbishing and restoring Victorian homes. You’ve probably seen his signs around town. He should be calling you soon.”
“You take care Alex. I’ll pray for your mother and I’ll look forward to Mr. Douglas’ call.”
She returned the telephone to her pocket, finished the weeding, and returned to the house.
Finished with her lunch, Suzanne was planning out the rest of her day when the telephone rang. She rushed to the hall, picked up the receiver and said, ‘Hello?”
“Mrs. Cummings? My name is Jack Douglas. Alex said he’d called you about me and I’d like for us to get together and see what it is you need done. My schedule is light now and it would be a good time to start a project. Could I come by this afternoon at 2 o’clock?”
“Could we make it two-thirty? I’ve been working in the yard most of the morning and I’d like to take a shower and freshen up a bit.”
“That works for me Mrs. Cummings.”
“Please, call me Sue.”
“Okay. And I’m Jack. See you at two-thirty Sue. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Me too.” And for some unexplainable reason she was.
Suzanne showered, washed her hair, blew dry it, and let it fall in it’s natural slight curl around her shoulders, put on a clean pair of jeans and a warm magenta colored sweater. Then she applied her makeup being careful that the lip gloss went with the color of the sweater, put a gold chain around her neck, and hooked small gold hoops in her ears.
She was in the kitchen at the table going over some brochures when the doorbell chimes rang. “Good sign, he’s right on time.” Her heart skipped a beat when she first saw him. He was tall, dark haired, blue eyed, and incredibly handsome. His hair was worn a little long, had a slight curl, and just touched the collar of his blue work shirt that was tucked into a pair of designer jeans. "He looks like one of those old Marlboro ads," was her first thought.
“Hello Sue. I’m Jack. You look familiar, have we met before?” he asked.
They stared at each other for long seconds and then she replied, “No, I don’t think so. I’m sure I would remember.”
She led him in and to the kitchen. “I'm using the table as a work station until I can get my home office organized,” she explained.
“What a splendid room,” he said as he pulled out one of the pressed-back chairs and seated himself.
“May I offer you something to drink?” Suzanne asked.
“It’s a little early, but I’ll take a beer if you have one.”
“Never too early for a beer, and what’s a refrigerator without a good stash of it on hand,” she replied with a smile. “I’ll join you.”
Just as Suzanne was reaching into the cupboard for glasses Jack said, “That’s okay, out of the bottle is fine with me.”
“Ahh, a man’s man,” she thought.
They talked awhile about her plans for the coach house and then went out to inspect it. On the way there Jack said, “This yard is like something out of a magazine. Very unusual for a house in this city to have this large of a yard.”
“I know. It’s one of the reasons I bought the house. So far there isn’t a thing about this property I don’t love. I plan to spend the rest of my life here.”
“Who can blame you. I wouldn’t want to leave it either.”
Suzanne felt the sense of déjà vu come over her again.
They spent over two hours going over ideas. Decisions needed to be made about whether to use refurbished or replicated materials, where to put the windows, what to use for a walkway to the main house. The original coach doors would have to be removed and a nice front door and porch built in their place. Rooms needed to be partitioned off for a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Then there was the issue of a fireplace. It could get very chilly in San Francisco and Suzanne wanted the couple to be comfortable. There was also water and electricity to be added.
As they continued their discussion the costs were mounting up and ringing in Suzanne’s head like a cash register on a sales day at Macy’s. She justified the expenses by reminding herself she didn’t know if the couple she’d hired would work out, or how long they would stay, and the place might be used as a guest house for her family some day.
As they were returning to the main house Jack suddenly asked, “May I take you to dinner? To celebrate our collaboration?”
“I’d like that very much,” Suzanne replied.
“Is tonight too soon? Do you like Thai food? There’s a new restaurant downtown and it’s terrific.”
“Tonight will be fine and I love Thai food,” Suzanne replied.
For reasons unknown to either of them Jack suddenly took her hand, and hand in hand they walked back to the house.
Jack’s crew worked long hours until dark seven days a week, the renovations went smoothly and were completed in a short four months.
Betsy and Mike Lawson moved in the first Sunday after completion and began their duties as housekeeper and caretaker. On the first day Suzanne knew that selecting them was the right choice.
One week later, on a bright and warm day, Jack and Suzanne were married in the gazebo. The yard was filled with family and friends who watched the bride walk towards her beaming soon to be husband. Suzanne was radiant in a long flowing blue silk dress.
[This message has been edited by Word Weaver (03-24-2011 09:31 PM).]