We had dinner with Aunt Guinevere. Mother was absent because she had acquired a virus during the night and Aunt Guinevere was forcing her to stay in her room. Jules was there with his neighbor/girlfriend (he won’t tell me which) Sylvia Ryan, the youngest child of Dr. Ryan.
The dining room was of medium size with a wood floor. There was a door leading to the kitchen that was always kept closed and double doors leading to the front hall. Along one side was a rectangle table with a vase of flowers from her rose garden (pale rose). The round table in the center was made from cherry wood. Uncle Geoffrey had made it for Aunt Guinevere for their first anniversary. The eight chairs of the same wood were made the year after. Aunt Guinevere had spread a white, lace tablecloth over the table. The table was set with white plates with a design of lilies of pale rose. White cloth napkins lay beside each plate with a fork, knife, and spoon on it.
Dinner was very simple with roasted chicken seasoned with fresh herbs from Aunt Guinevere’s herb garden, fresh greens from the market, and baked potatoes topped with butter. Aunt Guinevere had baked a cherry pie for dessert.
It was after dessert when we were sitting in the study when Sylvia asked where the bathroom was.
Aunt Guinevere paused before answering. “There’s one in the south wing,” she said slowly. “The one upstairs isn’t working. Miriam, would you take her?”
I knew why she had paused. The bathroom was in the south wing and the study was in the north wing.
“Of course, Auntie,” I said.
Sylvia, a redhead with gray-blue eyes, and I stood. I lead her from the room, by the staircase, through the living room, and finally into the hallway. The bathroom was the middle door of the five on the left side. While Sylvia was in the bathroom, I sank into the chair across from the locked door, the chair with the deep rose cushions with pale pink roses. I stared at the door pensively and wondered what was behind it again.
This was unusual for me. I had long ago accepted I would never find out what was behind that door, but for some reason I felt a pull to the door.
“Miriam?” a voice said.
My head jerked up. Sylvia was standing in front of me with a puzzled expression.
“Miriam, are you all right?” she asked, concerned.
“Uh, yes, of course. Why?”
“I’ve been calling your name over and over, but you didn’t answer.”
“I’m sorry, Sylvia,” I said with a sigh as I stood. “Come on. We really should get back. Otherwise Jules will be coming after us.”
“I did come after you,” a voice said.
We turned and saw Jules standing a few feet away.
“Aunt Guinevere was becoming concerned of your fate and asked me to come by and see what was going on.”
“Sorry, Jules,” I said. “I was just staring at the door.”
“Miriam, that door has been locked for a long time and will continue to be locked. Why are you suddenly so interested?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know, Jules. Come on. Let’s go.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When we got back to the study, Aunt Guinevere asked what had taken so long. She had refilled our cups with warm coffee or tea, depending on which we had been drinking. Sylvia and I had been gone for about a half hour before Jules had been sent.
“I’m sorry, Auntie,” I said. “I just sort of zoned out for a while.”
“For fifteen minutes? That was a long bathroom break, dear.”
“I really am sorry,” I insisted.
“It’s that door, isn’t it, Miriam?” Aunt Guinevere asked sternly, peering at me over the rims of her glasses.
I was startled. “How did you know?”
Aunt Guinevere sighed. “You always had a fascination about it, Miriam. Ever since you and your family moved in. You never asked or said anything about it, but I knew it weighed heavily on your mind. I could tell because your would get a far away look in your eyes whenever you passed that door.”
“I didn’t know you noticed.”
Aunt Guinevere only smiled and fingered her pale rose shawl. “You were always like a daughter to me, Miriam,” she said softly.
I leaned forward across the coffee table and gently lay a hand on hers with a smile. “I’m glad, Auntie. You were always a second mother.”
Then I leaned back and Aunt Guinevere turned to ask Jules a question and my mind returned to the locked door.
“Miriam?” a voice said after what seemed to be hours upon hours.
I turned my head. Sylvia had spoken and it had only been a minute.
Sylvia moved closer to me on the sofa and spoke softly to me.
“Would you happen to know if Jules thinks of me a lot?” she whispered nervously.
Ah, so Sylvia did like my brother.
I smiled at her. “Actually, I wouldn’t know. But, by the way he’s watching us right now, I would say he’s thinking of you right this second.”
Sylvia glanced over at him. Jules was indeed watching us. She gave him a bright smile and Aunt Guinevere turned to look at me. She smiled and winked. She, too, knew what was going on.
Then I stood and announced I had to go.
“Oh, not yet, Miriam,” Sylvia said pleadingly.
“I have to. I need to be at the office early tomorrow. Would it be all right if I come back tomorrow evening, Auntie?”
“Of course, Miriam. Now go say good night to your mother and be on your way,” Aunt Guinevere said as she adjusted her glasses.
I went over to her side and leaned down to kiss her cheek. Then I left the study and hurried upstairs to say good night to my mother.