Monday, June 30, 2008

The Choice ( a serial work of fiction) Part 10

" So, How are you doing? " Duncan swept me up once more. " Here, here- try the chocolate cheesecake - it has THREE kinds of chocolate in it, all totally decadent. I have to send to New York for one and brought the other two back from Europe." He served a slice from a silver pie server onto a small floral plate. " Doesn't go too well with cranberry juice," he frowned, adding some sliced strawberries , then pouring a small amount of a red liquid from a cruet onto the mix. "Its a strawberry liquor that I make myself in the summer. I think that you will find it delicious." He handed me a small fork and a linen napkin.

It hard not to get caught up in this man's jet stream. It wa a safe and comfortable place to be . "Your uncle tells me tha you like coffee. Dark roast, I believe. I have some incredible Turkish that Ezsebet brought with her tonight . She has been doing business for decades with this small Hungarian deli over on the Upper East Side . " His undertow swept me towards the copper coffee maker which was as elaborate as any that I had ever seen. I watched as he measured the dark beans into a glass container which buzzed them into a finely ground powder. He measured THAT as carefully as any alchemist ever measured his herbs and resins for a potion. The machine steamed and snorted-levers pulled- it was clear that he was in command of his world. Dark and fragrant, the coffee fell from the machine into a small expresso cup. This was also handed to me . And I was in tow to a corner where a small dark haired woman in a black dress was seated.

" Marya!" She stood and greeted him warmly. Pointing to me,Duncan continued " This is Andrew's niece, Rae. Rae, this ia Marya, our historian of sorts..."

" You are too kind, Duncan" laughted the older woman. Her black hair clinging to her head in small fluffy curls , her eyes were dark and I estimated her age to be about fifty five or so. She was petite but gave off a feeling of strength that was surprising. Her voice belied a small trace of French. Her skin gave off the olive sheen more often than not associated with the Mediterranan .

" I am glad to make your aquaintance." We shook hands. Her handshake was self confident. "Please" motioning to the matching overstuffed chair next to her. Thankfully, it had a small table next to it and a coaster was materialized for my coffe cup as I balanced the dessert plate on my lap. The bitterness of the espresso balanced the sweetness of the dessert.

" I am going to tell you a story," began the older woman , solemly. " And when i am done , you may ask any questions that you like. Its just that the story goes together so much better when I am not interrupted." I nodded quietly,

" You are familiar with the Christian story of Adam and Eve?"

" We aren't religious but yes, I know that mythology..."

" Well , then , logically you know that it is not logical to assume that they were the ONLY people on Earth. That there were others as well. The story goes like this.
Once upon a time, in a time of the spoken word, there lived the son of a great Shaman king named A-dam. He was a vain creature , lazy and demanding. He was frequently cruel to the animals of his tribe , taking some into the hills and torturing them until they painfully died. No one tried to stop him for he was the favorite son of his father. It was not unheard of for him to kidnap maidens and despoil them, frequently sharing them among his friends when he had finished with them. No one objected for it was common knowledge in those days that as his father's favorite son , that he would someday have dominion over his tribe and their property. No one wanted to make such a powerful enemy for it was known that his cruelty had a long memory. Mothers watched their daughters closely and quickly arranged the best marriage that was possible when they disappeared."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Choice ( a serial work of fiction) Part 9

" I suppose" began my uncle " that you are wondering where we are going and why we should do so. " Without waiting for my reply , he continued," We are going to meet with some like me who have relatives like you who coexist, usually amicably. I was talking to David, just the other night.He mentioned that I should bring you tonight. That things had changed even since he had. Particularly with a minor. That it was important that we listen to what was said and ask any questions. Marya wants to meet you. You will find her interesting, I think. She is a sort of historian for us - and mentally keeps the books. "

As he finished his sentence, he turned left into the long driveway of a good sized stucco house. There were people on the porch, some with drinks in their hands , committed to conversations already begun before we were a thought in their world. He pulled the car into the first available space and stopped. I was dressed appropriately for the evening it seemed. The black v necked dress made me look slightly older than my years.

" Andrew! You have made it after all." A tall blonde woman in a sleeveless empire burgandy dresswalked as solidly in her matching stilletto heels as if she had been bare footed on the stairs which lead from the back door. She greeted my uncle with a kiss and an embrace, then turned to me. " Come, my dear. You must be Rae. Let me walk with you- the gravel in the driveway can be tricky if you are not used to it." My uncle silently signaled his consent, indeed his approval. And I was lead away by this beautiful woman to the charming older house from which laughter rang out . He followed directly behind us as gravel became cement stairs leading to the kitchen door.

" Stop" commanded a deep male voice. " Who have we here?"

' This is Rae, niece of Andrew. She will share his adventure." replied my escort.

"Is she a virgin to the house?"

"That she is." I looked over my shoulder at my uncle. He was relaxed and amused.

" Then bring her forward". A tall medium built man with a craigy face and receeding hair line stepped forward. He was well dressed in what appeared to be a hand tailored suit for it fit him perfectly.

He looked solem for a minute. Elizabeth released my arm and stepped to the side.

" I am Duncan. 'Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely ; leave something of the happiness that you bring!' I believe that is the appropriate greeting for the occasion." He looked into my eyes and laughter shook his body.

" Thank you. I came of my own free will."

" Ah, Andrew! You did not tell me that this charming young woman was so well read. Come on in my dear, let me get you a drink. " His arm encircled me like a great gentle bear, directing me towards the lavious buffet table. He poured me a cranberry juice and handed me the faux crystal glass. ' Help yourself to anything that you like." Then he was gone. My uncle had lagged behind to speak with the tall blonde.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Choice ( a serial work of fiction) Part 8

I must have slept longer than I had intended. It was dark when I awoke and I could smell coffee coming from the kitchen. I cautiously found my way to the door of the kitchen , and uncle.

" Come on, " He urged ," we have much to do tonight." As he spoke, he set a dinner of rotissaried chicken breast crisp and brown , mashed potatoes with steaming chicken gravy and green beans in from of me. " I know," he began " that you prefer tea usually but I am afraid that this is going to be a very long night for us both." I shook my head to clear it. I sat down. I tried the coffee. It was smooth , full bodied and dark . " Eat up, Rae, we have to meet some people tonight.

The chicken smelled good. I took a small piece before adding salt. " People like you or people like me," I quiered.

" Yes" he replied then hurried off. I could hear him mount the stairs and turn into my room. Doors opened and closed on the floor above me. I heard the tap in the bath run. As he came back down the stairs, he was full of instructions. "Finish eating, have some more coffee then go upstairs and take a bath. I picked out some clothes for tonight.

' I had a shower this afternoon, I could just dress..." I pouted. He shook his head then kissed me on the forehead. His lips were cooler than my skin but not icy like the dead.

" This is special . I think that it will help. " Looking around the room , he gathered up the trash and put it into a plastic bag. " I am sorry to rush you. We WILL have to improve the way for communication..."

I drank about half of the coffee that he had given to me and finished the meal. He shooed me up the stairs as he cleared the table . I heard the back door close as I went up the stairs. Great, he had to change into whatever or die to learn to take the garbage out without being asked. Too bad that Maria could not see THAT!

When I got back downstairs, he handed me three letters. I looked at him puzzled. "Its just a precaution." Great. I sniffed, first he picks out a dress for me to wear , then I am his secretary. I took the letters.

I looked at the addresses. The first one was to Maria. The second to his attorney. The third was to my cousin , Mary. " If you would not mind mailing those the next time that you go out."

" How did you know ..." I turned and looked at him, " That I had even been out yet?"

" Haven't you?" He looked amused as he spoke.

"Yes, but ..." This was annoying. " I suppose that I am being watched?"

" Lets say that there is security in place here. That is WHY you are HERE."

" Because I am your niece?"

" And your father's daughter." He snatched his car keys from the kitchen table, and turned to go. He looked handsome in his dark charcoal grey suit. It explained why he had picked out a dress for me to wear this evening. I felt very grown up in dressed in black . my auburn hair,allowed to dry on its own, formed soft waves. I followed him out of the front door, which I locked with a definate snap of the dead bolt.
The neighborhood was silent except for the sound of my pumps on the flagstones.

" Madam," my uncle clowned bowing low as he opened the passenger door," your carriage awaits."

"Thank you , kind sir . I will be sure to tell my uncle of your good service when next we speak." I flounced into the passenger's seat. His laugh at that was deep and low as it had always been. Maybe tonight would not be too awful. He closed the door behind me. I had just snapped the seat belt when I heard the engine purr to life. He seemed relaxed.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Choice ( a serial work of fiction) Part 7

Collecting the damp towel from my hair , I reentered the bathroom which was art deco in design with a white and black tiled floor. I hung the damp towel over the edge of the tub. Looking at myself in the mirror, I was surprised how little I had physically changed for I felt in the last day, that I had changed a great deal.

I continued across the landing into the second bedroom . It was a small office of sorts with a large desk also made of mahoghany. On it sat a desktop computer, I opened the drawers- there were papers and pens, even a calculator in one drawer, but it held no clue as to who the hosts of my new dwelling might be. I turned the computer on. It was available for inhouse use but like the phone downstairs , was not connected to the internet for the phone lines were inactive in the house. I decided that this might be a good place to write a letter to Maria in the days to come. But it was too nice a day for that to stay inside.

I returned downstairs, recovered the keys from the half moon table. My jacket was where I had left it the night before, on the arm of the couch next to my purse. I fished for and found the envelope of money that my uncle had given me the previous night. I pulled a crisp twenty, secured it into my pocket , along with my pepperspray and id , slipped my stockinged feet into my sneakers. I walked to the front door, unlocked the dead bolt and returned the key to the cuphook. I stepped outside and stood for several moments on the porch. I must have been still tired because the sunlight felt overly bright bright but, I decided that there was a coolness underlying the late morning and that I would need my jacket. Minutes later , I returned outside and tried the various keys on the ring in the various locks. I even had the mate to the deadbolt. House secure, I turned on the small cement porch , walked down the stairs and across the bluegrey flagstones to the sidewalk. I took a long look at the house, noted the number 302 and the large Maple tree at the end of the driveway. I turned to my left , and decided that I would see what lay in that direction .

The neighborhood had seen more affluent times . The few residents that did venture outside were older,almost all of white or maybe Italian decent, some in wheelchairs. The gardens were well kept but it was obious that some of the owners had converted to aluminum siding which looked cheap compared to the residents who maintained their paint jobs. I felt if I were on exhibit- that they were waiting to see what change I had brought to their neighborhood. I kept walking. As I walked , I heard the sound of the Blue Tick Hound who had frightened the rabbits in the garden. He bounded up to see who I was , as I walked past his house which was surrounded by well trimmed hedges. He bumped against me in greeting. I offered my hand, palm up and he rubbed his head against it. He left me as I walked further up the street. Looking ahead, I could see that the street inclined to what appeared to be a more main street ahead. So , Uncle, let's find out what lies beyond Dracula's walls, I thought. A car passed me on the street blaring the latest violent pounding lyrics , making the joints of the car creak. I ignored it and kept on.

I had been correct. I reached the top of the small hill, and looked around me. It was a small area of shops, mostly mom and pops. I was living on Belcourt street. So now I knew where I was presently. I took note of what was available. Across the street was Colliers furniture store, to its right, there was the Sharp Spot salon which said that it accepted walk ins. Next to that , was an old fashioned drugstore, whose Rexall sign had faded after many years. A small white house had a green and gilt lettered sign which proclaimed it to be the local library. To my left, what appeared to be more houses, to my right, a small grocery store nestled back from the road in a grove of Elm, White Birch and Maple trees. It had a newspaper rack outside which bore a loud orange sticker proclaiming that if one really wanted a news paper , one had to go inside to get it. Well, a newspaper would be a place to start looking for a I headed to the small market.

The door chimes as I pushed it open. An old man watched me as I walked in. I smiled briefly and he turned back to the small tv behind the counter. I noted that the newspapers were at the counter. local produce lay in bins . I chose some fresh corn and some apples. I had not really taken the time to check, but I did not recall seeing pizza in the freezer at the house. I found the frozen foods and carried that as well as some cans of Coke to the counter. An old woman with white hair and the palest blue eyes that I had ever seen , shooed the old man out of her way as she began to ring things up.

" Where did you come from , Dear? " She asked.

" Oh , I am just house sitting for a little while, " I answered. I remembered the paper before she finished ringing me out.

"Oh that's nice. Do you have people here?" The pizza was being wrapped in enough paper bag to let me walk across the country and for the old woman to learn something about me.

" Not immediately here."

" Well, he," pointing towards the old sullen man " Is Benjamin and I am Bertha Crowell. We have owned this market for over forty five years so we know eveyone pretty much here. I noticed when you came up, that you walked. Do you live far? we do deliver , you know. " She handed me a card with their phone number on it. I pushed it into my wallet as I handed over the twenty. " Thank you, " I added almost as an afterthought.

" Pleased to meet you, " I added. " I am Rae. I am staying over on Belcourt. I am sure that we will be seeing more of each other. I reached for my bag, as she counted the change. I heard come again as I left. Must be hard to stay independent when the world was more and more being run by chains...Well, at least no one, yet anyway , had delivered the obligatory " Beware , young Miss of ...speech." But then this was twenty first century Untited States, not fifteeth century Romania or Victorian England.

The walk home was easier as most of it was downhill. I checked the mailbox for junk mail or letters for the owners. There was nothing. I opened the door, locking it behind me, hung my jacket in the closet to the left of the stairs . The groceries, I took into the kitchen. I preheated the oven for pizza, placing one of the Cokes and the newspaper on the table. It was almost one. Probably a nap would be in order sometime after lunch. I did not know what lay ahead for the afternoon and evening.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Choice ( a serial work of fiction ) Part 6

I awoke to see the sun streaming through the slotted vent windows that surrounded the sun porch where I had fallen asleep. A perky blonde weather girl was absolutely delighted that to the North of where I assumed myself to be , strong thunderstorm warnings were in effect until 9am. Her bouncy attitude was more than I could take , given my situation. I pulled myself off of the recliner, grabbed my tea mug and headed towards the kitchen, shutting the tv off as I went. Never one much for breakfast foods, I found some bread on the top of the refrigerator and some chipolte cheddar cheese inside . I found a small fry pan beneath the sink and placed it on the smallest burner. I located the coffee maker as well as the coffee. I had been expected for many of the brands were those with which I was already familiar. The coffee steamed through the filter and into the glass carafe below. The sandwich sizzled as the bread toasted nicely - good omen. I did not burn the sandwich today. I went into the dining room and took the small salad plate which I had examined yesterday. There was something homey about that plate.
Seated at the yellow formica table , I looked out of the back window that faced me. In the daylight, I could see a two car garage , a rock lined garden to the right . Three tall lilac bushes stood in the center of the garden . Surrounding them were purple iris, pansies, ribbon grass , roses of lilac grey, yellow with pink edges, brilliant reds , white and orange. Just beyond the garden was a brace of trees, and through a small gap in the tree line, I made out a small blue hill which was crowned with a radio tower of some kind. I thought that scene was perfectly framed. Still further to the right , was an old fashioned laundry pole. The garden continued around the corner , and morphed from flowers to herbs then what appeared to be vegetables. I recognized some of them , tomatoes, beans , carrots, peppers…there were other leafy things out there, that would bear further investigation later on for I did not recognize them from the window. It was obvious that the property was well cared . The grass was well cut and had no dandelions or weeds in evidence. Everything appeared to be in perfect order according to some intense planning. I wondered about the house, its owners and what purpose this place served in the bigger picture of what was. I was made welcome here, that was evident.
A mother rabbit and her three bunnies raided the garden. I watched them from the a smaller window over the kitchen sink as I washed my dishes and placed them in the drainer to dry. Running between the rose bushes, into the leafy vegetation , they provided a sense of security. Reaching for a red and white dishtowel on a nearby rack, I wiped the dishes dry . Darting through the garden , they sampled here and there- stopping for larger tastes of things that they appeared to enjoy. The baying of a neighborhood hound alerted the rabbits who scuttled for the brace then disappeared. I returned to the kitchen , poured myself a second cup of coffee . I returned the dish to the dining room cupboard . I went out of the archway and up the stairs to the right.
I turned right into the bedroom which my uncle had informed me , just the night before was to be mine while I stayed here. The mahogany rice carved bed had a white chenille bedspread and many pillow. There were 2 lamps in the room , a large touchier to the left and a smaller table lamp to the right of the mahogany nightstand. A small boudoir chair upholstered in white and pink roses sat to the right of the touchier with a small needle pointed footstool in front of it. Beyond that lay a window seat with pale rose chintz cushions. The window faced out to the front of the house , over the well kept lawn and to the street, which was quiet. To the left of the window seat was a glass doored, again mahogany , book case with many books inside including a full set of encyclopedia . To Its right , was the hot air register, curley piped reminder of an era gone by. Above that , was a small window which faced a tall row of juniper trees and through the row, the neighbor’s house next door. My eyes continued scanning to the right, where a large dark double dresser stood. It had two crystal boudoir lamps on it and was crowned by a very large mirror that showed the entire room. This was followed by two shallow closets with yet another window a short distance between them .This one facing the back garden and window seat. Its cushions matched that of its sister across the room. The wallpaper was white with tiny pink roses bordered by a ribbon scroll in darker burgundy at the top.
I placed my suitcases on the bed and began unpacking . Drawers , closets filled up quickly. I placed my Goddess statue on the dresser top , reminding myself that I needed to ask Maria about the crystal ball the next chance that I got. I put my shampoo and cosmetics in the bathroom which was next door to my bedroom. Clean clothes were laid on the bed. I found two doors to the left of the bathroom. Opening the first, I found towels of many colors. The one directly across the small landing , held toilet paper, cleaning supplies and toiletries. I removed two bath towels , a hand towel and a couple of face cloths. They did not match but it did not matter. A hot shower was in order, then I would look around outside a little. If my uncle was to return , it was not likely to be this early. The steam filled the room as I scrubbed away the grime of the journey and previous night. I wrapped my hair in a towel and hung the other, damp from my body , over the edge of the tub.
Dressing quickly , recovering my coffee cup, the contents still drinkable although somewhat cooled, I decided to check out the books in the bookcase. There were many titles by many authors. There was an unusually large grouping of Louisa May Alcott which extended beyond "Little Men" and "Little Women" to her lesser known works "Under the Lilacs" as well as Rose in Bloom. The encyclopedia were quite old as well, giving practical instruction on how to make candles and soap with lye. I loved the smell of the old books. I thought that was the smell of wisdom and experience. I continued on down the shelves to stories by HG Wells, Jules Verne, Dumas, Zane Grey and George Orwell. Assorted books on politics, philosophy , history , economics shared space with these. There was a family bible on the bottom shelf and a book of Masonic rites. I pulled out the large bible and looked at the family tree in the center. Someone had cared a great deal to keep track until about fifty years ago, then all of the entries stopped. I wondered why. I returned it to its original place. There would be time to check this out later in more depth. I certainly intended to check out the rather large tome on Richard the Third and the murder of the 2 princes as well as the one proclaiming "Rasputin , the Holy Devil".