“Honey, I found something. Yes, I’ve found something. All that I ever wanted, I found in you. Everything, everything about you makes me wish for the days gone by.”– Marvin Gaye
Wesley waited patiently, checking his watch every few seconds as he stood before the large French styled door. He knew that he couldn’t have been tripping, couldn’t have been seeing things. He hoped the face he’d spotted would be the one to answer.
A face he’d never had the pleasure of laying eyes on, in a town of people he knew from as far back as his youth. He’d passed this home, a palace sized mansion resting idly in the center of town, the only home along the circle of busy shops and businesses. He knew of the family that had owned it for decades; still, he’d never laid eyes on the raven-haired beauty that stared down at him with such longing in her eyes.
Had she always been there?
“Can I help you?”
Wesley looked down and stared into the face of a matronly woman, short and stout with a look of annoyance etched across her face. “I’m not sure. See, I pass by here every day on my way to St. Mary’s Cathedral. I can’t say that I’ve ever paid much attention to your home before, though I’ve always known about, I’m assuming, your family and your family’s history.”
“Why yes,” she nodded, stepping outside. “My family is quite a strong pillar in this community, the main reason for a lot of the growth that has occurred over the last sixty years. Why, if it weren’t for my grandfather and great-uncles, we might still be a little fishing community with nothing to offer to those surrounding us. But that doesn’t answer how I can help you?”
Wesley smiled, nodding his head as he apologized. “This is going to sound silly, Ma’am, but I was glancing up. Looking at and for nothing when I saw something I’ve never seen before. Well, someone I’ve never seen before.”
Her look of annoyance became one of fear, the color seemingly draining from her face as she took a few steps back into the house. Her hand on the door, she pulled herself together and spoke curtly. “If you’re one of those people that believe the lies about this place being haunted, you can go where people believe in such things go.”
“No Ma’am, that’s not what I mean, think, or believe at all. I know full well that she wasn’t a ghost or an apparition or anything of that nature. I suppose I’m just wondering if I were only imagining, if my eyes were fooling me with a rare and strange type of mirage.”
The woman huffed. “Your eyes have certainly fooled you, Sir. And I’d thank you to not come back to this house with such foolishness.”
Wesley nodded, apologizing before he turned on his heel and made his way down the path and back towards the street. When he heard the front door close, he looked back towards the window. Memorizing it’s location. He would look again on his way back home.
Sadie’s heart sank, sadness washing over her face as she watched her aunt shut the front door. He had seen her, and silently she stood hoping that he would make up a reason to come inside, to look around, to find her.
Still, she found fault within herself. Why hadn’t she run down the stairs, interrupted the conversation, made her existence known to someone from the outside for the first time in her life.
Preparing to return to her room, she was startled by one of the main housekeepers, a young woman not much older than Sadie herself.
Though they weren’t close, not truly friends, she was the only one who tried to understand what Sadie was feeling. Had encouraged her for years to get out and try things on her own. In ways, Sadie envied her. In other ways, she admired and drew upon her ways for inspiration. She was the reason Sadie had become so emboldened lately. She had planted the seed of freedom with her own slight rebellion.
“Hey, nice to see you out. Would you like something to eat? Can I get you anything?”
“Not anything I actually want. Thank you very much though, Tanya.” Stopping just as she’d begun to walk, Sadie turned to Tanya. “Don’t you ever get tired of being here, working for someone you barely ever see? Working for someone else who doesn’t even treat you right?”
Tanya smiled politely, unsure of how she wanted to answer. “Bills have to be paid, Ma’am. And whether I like it or not, a lot of jobs, especially housekeeping and maid work, don’t pay as well as working for your family has paid. Nothing your aunt says to me could upset me enough to make me turn away from my job. I appreciate it greatly.”
Sadie sighed, unconcerned with any one speaking in a safe manner. “I’m not asking to rat on you or fire you. You could be living here for free for all I care. I want to know about you. Don’t you have dreams outside of here? Anything other than working for someone that will soon be gone?”
Tanya lowered her head, choosing to push the last portion of Sadie’s question out of her mind. “I do, actually. I design clothing. I’m saving up to buy the shop way on the other end of the town circle. Been saving for a year now, trying make sure I have enough to purchase the building, and to pay up the rent for at least a year. Not to mention needing money for all of my materials and equipment. Until I get what I need, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, so long as you’re here. And that’s how I honestly feel.”
Sadie smiled warmly, and perhaps for the first time since Tanya had met her it was a real smile. “I’m going to get out in the world and live my life.”
“Does Madame Isabelle know that? What does she think?”
“I don’t care what that old bitty thinks. She figures since she ran my parents’ life into the ground, that’s where she’ll run mine too. And I almost let her, but I’m so tired of being here. I’m gonna see as much as possible too.”
Tanya did the first thing anyone around Sadie had ever done. “If you want me to help you, to take you places, let me know.”
Sadie’s face lit up. “And how will you get away with that? She’s always watching y’all like a hawk too.”
“Mm, you just leave that for me to worry about. For now, come on. We better get you into your room before your aunt starts her tirade about you speaking to the help.”
Sadie gently touched Tanya’s arm, giving a serious look. “You’re not beneath her or anyone else in this world. You’re not less important, and you’re more than just ‘the help’. Don’t let her tell you or make you feel otherwise.”
For the next few hours, Sadie sat at her window, watching people as they walked about lazily beneath her window. Some stopped to look within the windows of the shops that lined the area. Others stood around talking, laughing.
It seemed they’d just gotten a late start with the day, no doubt waiting to see if there’d be a bit of coolness to relax in, and reluctantly made their way outside when no such relief came.
The cool breeze she’d found earlier had pushed its way through and left behind pure heat. Beads of sweat slid down her legs, leaving sticky residue once it settled and dried.
She was just about to get up, find herself a bit of relief from the heat when she saw him again. This time, she kept herself out of sight, watching as best as she could from the corner her windowsill.
When it seemed as though he were going to pass right by her home, he stopped. A few paces from her window, looking around again before his head tilted and his eyes moved in her direction. He stared intently, for a long while before he trekked the path to her front door again.
Noticing this time that there were no cars parked within the garage that occupied the lot beside the mansion, Wesley took it upon himself to see if he’d get different results with this visit.
He knocked once, and then once more. Turning around, he looked out into the center of the street, wondering if others had made stops here. If they’d ever seen movement in that second-floor window, if they’d ever grown curious as quickly as he had.
“Hello Sir, how can I help you?”
This time, the voice was youthful. And when he turned to the door, he found the smiling face of a young girl, much politer than the first woman. He saw from the way she dressed that she was someone employed within the home. “Um, is the lady of the house still here? The older woman. A bit stern and gruff in her attitude towards others.”
“No Sir, Madame Isabelle is out for a few. But if you’d like to come in and wait, she should be returning in another thirty minutes or so.”
Looking down at his watch, Wesley nodded. She wasn’t who he cared to see. But all it would take was a few minutes to gather if he was losing his mind or not.
Accepting the invite inside, Wesley followed the young girl into what she called the parlor area. A much grander version of his living room, he thought to himself as he looked around.
“I hope this won’t grate your nerves, but with a guest in the house, I kind of have to sit with you. Watch you.”
“She trusts no one?”
“Not at all.”
He chuckled, nodding his head as he was told he could have a seat. The couch was rather stiff, but he made himself comfortable, looking around at the paintings and photos that adorned the wall. None of them held an image of the face he thought he saw within that second-floor window.
“Might I ask you, Young Lady, has this house always been occupied?”
She nodded. “For as long as I can remember, and undoubtedly much longer. My parents worked for the family for years, and when I turned about thirteen, I began working within the home too.”
“And do you simply take care of the house?”
“Among other things, yes Sir. It’s a rather large estate. Much larger than it appears from the outside, and there’s all types of duties that I and others complete throughout our day. Mainly helping Madame Isabelle keep the home in shape so that it doesn’t fall into despair. It’s such a lovely place, and you know it doesn’t take much for these old homes to fall apart.”
From behind the bottom of the staircase, Sadie watched as Tanya sat with and casually spoke with him. She’d willed herself to tip-toe down the stairs, moving quick enough to hide herself behind the thickness of the case, peering around it’s corner every so often at the sound of his voice.
It was like velvet brushing against her skin, caressing her as it lifted her back to a place of excitement. He spoke softly, in a proper manner with the absence of arrogance that she’d become used to from the people that surrounded her.
She peeked again, enjoying the sight of his smile as he and Tanya traded small quips back and forth about her aunt’s attitude.
Tanya, feeling the presence of eyes on her, looked over her shoulder, catching Sadie just as she hid behind the staircase again. She smiled, refocusing her attention. “I’m sorry Sir, what’d you ask?”
“I was wondering if I could use your restroom, if there’s one here downstairs.”
Tanya grew nervous, clearing her throat as she stood. “Well… sure, but please make it as quick as possible. It’s just around that staircase, turn the corner and there’s a short corridor. It’s the second door on the left.”
He nodded. “Thank you kindly.” Wesley stood to his feet, assuring her that he wouldn’t disturb anything, taking somewhat large strides towards his destination. As he turned the staircase, he looked from left to right, knowing for certain that he wasn’t seeing things. He’d spotted a face peeking around the corner, though it was just a glimpse as he laughed and turned his head.
Just to give off that he’d found the restroom, he opened the door and closed it loudly. Instead of walking in though, he moved down the corridor a bit more, hating that it ended with a tall wall filled with a hideous panting of the stout and angry woman that had greeted him earlier. Turning around, he stopped, spotting her as she stood beside a large vase and the tall table it rested on.
She was real, her breath hitching as her chest rose and fell. His eyes traveled from the curls that crowned her head, to her eyes, to her slightly parted lips and down her body. The shade of yellow on her dress that complimented skin that reminded him of caramelized brown sugar suggested a bit of sunshine, something he was certain she could be in the overcast sky of a lost man’s life. It stopped above her thighs, presenting them in a way that made it hard for him to take his eyes away. Still, they moved down her legs until they reached her bare feet. His eyes trailed back up, meeting hers, becoming lost in them. “Hi.”
She mimicked the low, slow and even way he spoke, a bit of a country twang escaping her lips. “Hi there.”
The character Wesley was formally introduced in the Snippet below.