Today’s prompt for Story a Day is setting. And I’m using one of my new WiPs, In the Moonlight, for this one. And the house is based on the one I grew up in until I was about seven, with some changes.
I pulled up to the house and just sat in the car for a moment, taking all of it in. I’d spent just about every summer. I should know every crook and canny it without a problem. But, I hadn’t been here much the last few years. I’d been too focused finishing college as soon as I could. I was planning to visit Aunt Adriane after graduation, spending a few weeks with her. But, now she was gone.
And the house was mine.
I shook my head at that and stepped out of the car. It had been a week since I’d found out she’d left the house to me, but I still couldn’t of it like that. This would always be Aunt Adriane’s house. I ran my hand over the rounded top of one of the posts of the gate letting me in from the sidewalk to the yard. I could have driven around the back and parked on the grounds. Aunt Adriane had the old barn on the edge of the property turned into a garage several years ago.
And I would pull my car around eventually. But, for now, it was fine just where it was. As I moved through the gate, everything felt like it had gone silent. That wasn’t completely true, though, I guess. Plenty of birds were singing, and I saw a couple flying between trees along the fence. But, Aunt Adriane had employed more than a dozen people right up until her death. But, she’d released them all from their contracts to her in her will, even paying them what they would have earned through the end of the year, unless they chose to stay.
That one had really pissed Dad off. Especially since she hadn’t left him a penny.
Now, I only saw two people waiting on the front porch. I wondered if there were more inside. Or was this it? I thought about what Dad had said when I was packing my things. That this house couldn’t be run without all the employees. A maid and the old groundskeeper. Were they really all who had stayed? I really didn’t want Dad to be right.
I’d hoped to walk around the grounds before I headed into the house. But, with them waiting for me, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I headed for the stairs, running my hand over the lion’s head carved into the post next to the stairs. I’d always loved these decorations, the attention to detail. Aunt Adriane had never found when they’d been added to the house. Maybe I’d be able to do that this summer before I decided what I was going to do.
I glanced up as I approached the porch. The roof came to a peak there and again even higher. The second floor had what I’d always thought of as turrets. One on each side of the house. And a widow’s walk on top of the third floor. I’d never been allowed all the way up there. The door to the third floor had always been locked.
The old man smiled at me. “Welcome home, Ms. Reisner.”
The words had warmth spreading through my chest. Every year when I’d stepped out of the car my parents sent me in, he’d been there to greet me with those same words. And that’s just what it had always felt like; home. Certainly more like home than my parents’ house ever had.
“It’s good to be back here, Mr. Bailey,” I told him.
I thought I heard a soft snort at that and turned to look at the girl–no, woman now- standing beside him. But, there was no sign of the derision I’d thought I heard in the sound. She was still as cute as she’d been every summer I’d been here, though there was no smile on her face today. I was pretty sure she didn’t want me to be here.
“I’ll go get your things out of your car and have it brought around,” Bailey said. “Ms. McCarthy can show you around the house.”
Nola. I remembered her name was Nola. She turned from me then and went to the front door, pulling it open. The hinges creaked and sent a little shiver down my spine. It had always been like that when first walking into the house. But, once inside, it always felt more welcoming. The scent of something sweet met me as we started through the foyer.
“Did Ms. Thomas stay as well?”
That brought Nola to a halt in front of me, and I nearly fell into her. I caught myself, but it was close. I was almost close enough to make out the subtle scent she wore. Then, she was walking again, and it was gone. “Yes, she stayed,” Nola finally said as she led me past the stairs. “She figured you’d need someone to cook for you.”
There was that derision again. So, she really didn’t like me. I didn’t know why. I didn’t think I’d ever treated her badly. Unlike my dad, Aunt Adriane had always insisted her employees deserved respect, whereas Dad didn’t seem to think much about them at all. But, I definitely sided with Aunt Adriane’s view.
“You don’t have to show me around,” I told her. “I remember my way around this place and how to get to my room. If you have better things to do, I can get there myself.”
Color flushed up the back of her neck, and I nearly cursed at myself. I hadn’t meant to embarrass her. I just thought I could avoid any more torture for both of us.
“I don’t,” she said softly. “If you’re tired from your drive, I can take you up there.”
I’d like her to…No, I really shouldn’t be thinking like that. “You’re just acting like you want to be as far from me as possible. I’m giving you that option. I’ll see myself up to my room.”
She looked like she might say something, but I turned and started back for the stairwell. It would be better this way. She was technically my employee. And I didn’t even know if I’d be keeping the house at the end of the summer.
There was no point in getting attached.