I arrived at Aunt Guinevere’s house at around four in the afternoon. Aunt Guinevere wasn’t at home. Mom, who was feeling much better and was making a pie when I arrived, said she had gone to visit the doctor again.
I frowned. “But she was just there last week.”
Mom sighed. “I know. But you know your aunt. If she even sneezes she just has to go see Dr. Ryan.”
“How many times did she sneeze this time?”
“Actually, she didn’t. I did, once. But I wasn’t around her when I did. I think she went to talk to him about Jules and Sylvia. Guinevere came up to my room after they had left to tell me all about it. She said you’re fascinated with the door again, Miriam.”
I sighed. “Why is everyone so stern about it? I just want to know what’s behind that door.”
Mom smiled gently and shook her head. “It’s not for you to know, Miriam. If Guinevere wants you to know, she’ll tell you.”
I was surprised. “Then you know what it’s all about?”
“Yes,” she said softly. “That door was locked three months before you were born, Miriam. Don’t ask any more questions.”
Aunt Guinevere came in just then and Mom left to check on her pie.
“Auntie?” I asked.
She turned to me and smiled. “Yes, Miriam? I wasn’t expecting you until later.”
“I know. But Matt decided to close the office early today. His partner’s sick and they’re working together on this case. Anyways, would you tell me what’s behind that door?”
“Miriam…” she said with a sigh.
“Would you if you want me to know?”
“Yes, Miriam. When I think I’m strong enough to tell you, I will. My broken heart is in that room, dear. I’ll let you know what’s behind that door when I can actually speak of it.”
Then Aunt Guinevere left to find Mom and I headed for the south wing. I pressed my hand to the wood door, staring at the pale rose walls and wondering idly why Aunt Guinevere had such a love for the color. Most of her clothes were pale rose as were most of her flowers.
I shook my head and drew away from the door. I had no right to question my aunt.
* * *
Jules arrived before dinner with Sylvia and a date for me. His name’s Jack Fielding and he’s a year older than me. He works with Sylvia’s father. The four of us were going to a seaside restaurant.
Before we left, I saw Aunt Guinevere wink at Mom and had a feeling she thought Jules and Sylvia were more than friends, because of her talk with Dr. Ryan.
That evening was fun, but the restaurant walls were painted pale rose, hence the name The Pale Rose of the Ocean. And it reminded me of Aunt Guinevere’s locked door. I’m afraid I wasn’t much fun and that was probably why they agreed to drop me off at home before they headed to the summer fair. I just couldn’t get that door out of my head.
I don’t remember ever dwelling on the door as much as I did the week before Aunt Guinevere died. (I’m not even sure why I’m in the hall today as it is).
All my life, even before we moved in with Auntie, that door had always been locked and the curtains drawn. But lately, I began to realize the lavender curtains with the large, yellow daisies never seemed faded. Did Auntie wander in there with new curtains every so often? Did she spend her lonely evenings at that ancient sewing machine, making those curtains? Did she go into that room in the dead of night to replace them?
I shook my head fiercely. I had no right to wonder about Auntie’s personal life. It wasn’t any of my business, after all. It was a secret known only to Auntie and Mom.
I glanced at my clock, a beautiful clock Uncle Geoffrey brought back for me when he went to Austria when I was seven.
It wasn’t quite nine and I knew Mom and Aunt Guinevere would still be up, probably drinking tea because they hate coffee and talking about the past as though it was only yesterday.
I used to sit in the shadows in the hall near the kitchen to listen to the past, to hear the stories they passed to each other, not long after Uncle Geoffrey and Dad died. I would sit there and cry whenever one of them was mentioned. But they never talked about the door. It was like an agreement not to talk about it was between them. They never spoke a single word about it. Never. And that night I wanted to be included in one of those conversations, like I had been every so often when I still lived with them.
The clock struck nine and I picked up the phone. They always welcomed me at nine. Before nine, it was always a private session and I always let them have that time to themselves.
I knew Aunt Guinevere’s number by heart and someone was answering within the minute.
“Hi, Aunt Guinevere,” I said brightly, so happy to hear her soft, lilting voice.
She never brought up the door, and neither did I.