Bill’s house wasn’t far outside of the city, but it set far enough back from the main road to be considered secluded and the property was surrounded by trees. I had never been there before. It was beautiful.
We drove through the break in the trees down a long drive way. The property was well cared for, manicured lawns with beautiful spring flowers. The house itself was two stories but seemed to sprawl among the trees, like a god among followers. I counted three balconies, a wraparound porch, and a dozen windows at least before we pulled up to the front of the house.
I climbed out of the car as the driver started unloading my few bags from the trunk. My wardrobe was sparse, and I only owned four pairs of shoes. The boxes from my apartment, full of my art supplies and books, had been delivered yesterday. I had more bottles of paint and rolls of canvas than articles of clothing. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, but there had always been more important things to pay for.
The grand double doors swung open and a tall, thin, stern looking woman stepped between them. The dark, polished wood framed her, made her look more intimidating, as if that were necessary. She looked to be in her mid- to late-forties, though she was mostly free of wrinkles. She reminded me of my prep school headmistress in her tight black pencil skirt, white collared blouse, and tight bun. The only striking difference between the two was the shoes. Mistress Hepburn would never wear 4 inch heels.
My impression of her softened when she smiled warmly at me, and extended a hand. “Ah, Miss Bryanna Campbell, how are you? How was the drive?” She asked as I took her hand. Before I could answer she started speaking again “How silly of me! I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Julianna Hardgrove. I was Bill’s personal assistant, and I run most things here. I’ll be guiding you through the conditions of your godfather’s will, and making sure you are comfortable during your stay. Your things have already been taken to your rooms.”
“Rooms?” I managed to interject,
“Oh yes. You have a bedroom-where your boxes of books and pictures are- and an art studio- where your paint, canvas, and clay are. Your clothes and things-” she glanced disapprovingly at the two shaggy duffel bags on the floor “will be taken up to your room while I give you a tour of the estate.”
A young man stepped into my vision, taking my luggage away. Julianna stepped back from the doorway, giving me room to enter the large foyer. The floor was red hardwood and bare of any rug or carpet. The walls were a warm cream color. In the middle of the far wall was a grand stair way- made out of the same wood as the flooring- framed on either side by two hallways. A round, black iron chandelier hung low, heavy and looming, above the only furniture. The table was place in the center of the room, in front of the staircase. It was massive, carved wood, about waist height, and about 4 foot long. I studied it for a moment. It felt odd to have such a table in an entry way like this, with no chairs. Perhaps it was used as a buffet table for an event.
I realize that Julianna was waiting for me. My mouth had been hanging open for a few minutes as I studied my new home; the boy had long since gone up the stairs with my bags. I felt my face flush under her gaze.
She was still smiling at me. “Bill never showed you his home, I am guessing. Many of the guests have the same reaction the first time they attend an event. You will get used to it. This, of course, is the foyer.”
She lead me through a door on the right hand side of the foyer, into a plush living room. The carpet was black, and even through my shoes I could tell it was thick. The couch, loveseat, chairs, and ottomans were all deep chocolate leather. Again the walls were painted cream, but now they were dotted with dark wood shelves holding pictures and other objects. There was a large bay window with a bench made of the same leather as the furniture on the western wall. On the eastern wall, across from the loveseat next to the door we entered by, as a TV taller than I was, and at least as long. The northern wall was consumed by a fireplace built out of dark red brick.
“This is the living room, of course. There’s a half bath through that door.” She pointed before turning and leaving the room. I trailed behind her during the tour, feeling like I needed a map. She showed me where several guest rooms were located, the kitchens, servant quarters, two offices, a gigantic library, and past a door that lead downstairs to basement that contained still more rooms. Finally, we went back up the stairs and down the long hallway to the bedrooms.
“There are two rooms left to show you, your room and Bill’s room. This room,” she opened the door and walked in “will be yours.”
The room she showed me was a spacious yet sparsely decorate bedroom, bigger than my entire apartment. There were two sections to the room, with two doors leading off from the main space. The first section was meant to be a social area, with a dark red loveseat and matching round sitting chair, separated by a black and glass square coffee table. There was a tall lamp in one corner, shining on an overstuffed, red lounge chair. The carpet was once again black. The walls here were primer white, instead of the pretty cream color from downstairs. The other half of the room was the biggest surprise of the tour, and a comforting piece of my childhood home. The carpet was a plush deep red, with large flowers in light shades of pink, yellow, and blue.
I turned and stared and Julianna. “The carpet… It was in my room growing up… How…?”
“Your godfather, I think, always planned for you to be here someday. This room has been unoccupied with that carpet for many years. The walls are white so you can choose what color to paint them, add your… personal touches.”
The rest of the room contained a large canopied bed, coverings to match the carpet, and pillows matching the flowers. Bags and boxes of my belongings were stacked neatly in one corner of the empty space. Again the walls were primed white, ready for my paint.
“The door on the left is your closet. I took the liberty of providing some clothes for various events, but you can look at those later. The other door is to your personal bathroom. Bill’s room… I will give you the key to. You can explore it in your own personal time. Nothing has been touched since he left the last time. It is your decision what to do with the contents. For now, take time to unpack and relax. Dinner is 3 hours from now; someone will come escort you to the dining room. I suggest you take a moment to clean up and change into something… more suitable for dinner guests.” She looked at my clothes again with a sour look, before turning to leave and shutting me my room.
I collapsed on the bed, suddenly very tired. The trip and tour had exhausted me.