March 23, 2006 at 11:18 pm #1924LaynaParticipant
At the very end of the third floor hallway stood a six paneled door bearing a doorknob of cut glass set into a decorative brass plate showing a design of leaves at the edge and about the keyhole. The door guarded the hall?s end by itself with nothing to keep it company save for a south facing window that overlooked the walled back garden below and a small landscape painting by an unknown artist opposite. Perhaps the door, as it was only a door and nothing else, cared very little. For the hall during the day bustled with three women going to and fro as the door closest to it held various household cleaning agents and an assortment of old linens used as rags. The contents behind the door ending the hall were perhaps of a more interesting sort.
Only one of the women paid much mind to the room and often laid her hand upon the door?s glass knob to turn it. The youngest of the three, which made a faerytale trio of grandmother, mother, and daughter without the binding ties of blood, found the room interesting for it was the one she called hers. A place she shared with none. A lovely rare realm filled with her secrets and hers alone.
Yet tonight a stranger bore witness to the girl?s sanctuary, though she remained blissfully unaware in his arms. Tom Walcott stood in the doorway with Riley cradled to his chest well aware of the acute feeling within himself. Her bedroom carried an intimacy he now intruded upon without her knowing. A wrongness to her ignorance in it, though why it was wrong, he couldn?t say. Instead, he pushed the thought aside for the moment and carried her in.
A white painted iron-frame bed spread with a colorful quilt of lilac, primrose yellow and soft green ribbon at the hem waited under the tall, double-hung western window. He almost barked his shin on the scarred leather trunk at the foot. His dusty boots trod over a rag-rug in muted spring greens, pinks, and pale blue covering the polished oak floor before the bed. Then very gently, he laid her down to the mattress as if she were made of spun glass and thistle down. He smoothed her hair back from her face and found himself with the thought he?d had when he first saw her in Emily?s kitchen. Pretty slip of a thing. Shame to be locked away in the service of a bishop of all bloody men.
Well, he couldn?t leave her like this. Poor girl felt like ice in his hold and even now when he bent down to touch her cheek she seemed to hold the depths of winter under skin the color of funeral lilies. He straightened up to take a gaze of her room, hoping to find something to warm her up with as he wanted to take no risk in moving her more to tuck her under the quilt. The idea of searching through her belongings appalled him.
A lonely chest of drawers, tall and narrow, with only a chipped glass vase of dried flowers angled in one corner. Cozy beneath the south-facing window was a winged chair upholstered in shabby gray velvet and balanced on legs badly nicked and gouged from earlier use. Beside it rested a spindly table, as beaten as the chair, and on its surface were the implements of writing: pens, nibs, inkwell, blotter, and a stack of inexpensive paper already bearing marks of the writer?s spidery, unsure hand. Two books sat alongside the neat stack: Lewis Carroll?s Alice in Wonderland and the Bible. A vanity table with a small, scalloped mirror and delicate stool finished the furnishings. The vanity itself held more of the dweller?s personality perhaps than any other place with its collection of hairpins in a shallow ceramic bowl, a carved ivory comb worn smooth from use and years, a fragile rose tinted bottle of perfume from some faraway place, and a few items of cosmetics all carefully arranged.
He saw nothing to cover her with and only succeeded in venturing closer to the door. While he looked at her, he couldn?t help but think of his Nan. A smile found his mouth as it always did when he thought of his daughter. Too old for faerytales now, but he was struck with how very much Riley looked like the princess from Nan?s favorite one with hair black as night, lips red as blood, and skin white as snow.
?Did she faint, Tom??
His heart doubled a beat and skipped. ?Good mercy, Emily?we?re all for spooks today aren?t we?? He laughed, though it felt somewhat forced. ?Can?t tell for sure, though it?s been a day for all of you. I?d be the last to blame her for doing so.?
Emily Clutter?s smile was wan at best. ?Seems to be so.? A sigh left her as she looked at the girl on the bed. ?You?ve done me a good turn here. The shelves and seeing to Riley. You will stay for supper, then??
?I?ve no wish to impose on you, Em. Or the good bishop?s house at all. I?m glad to?ve been able to help. She?s a bit cold, your girl here. I didn?t know?? he trailed off and rubbed at his cheek with the heel of his hand.
?You wouldn?t be. At least have a cup of tea. I?ve set Marianne to making herself busy and useful. I can fix something for you to take home. Let me do that for you.? Her smile found strength again and she touched his forearm with her fingertips. ?Please.?
?Well, I s?pose there?s no harm.? He knew she?d have her way in the end regardless. And in truth, there wasn?t harm in it at all. They?d both been widows for a long while. No talk would be forthcoming that hadn?t come before.
?Go with you, then. I?ll see to her. Poor duck.? She drew away from him in a hushed whisper of skirts to the bed where she was more needed. ?I?ll join you shortly.?
He nodded while watching how she sat on the edge of the bed and placed her hand so very light against Riley?s brow. Whatever Emily murmured he heard nothing of and he saw this was now a women?s realm where he only trespassed. He turned from the pair of them, careful to close the door softly behind him, and left for the kitchen.
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