I had wanted to see Aunt Guinevere and Mom on Wednesday, but I had to work most of the day and was absolutely exhausted when I got home from the office. Being a paralegal isn’t easy, especially when the lawyers you work for are the only ones in town. At least I get to see the library a lot. I have my Aunt Guinevere’s love for books and Mom’s love for research and the virtue known as patience.
When I arrived at Aunt Guinevere’s house, she and Mom were having breakfast on the spacious porch.
The porch is wonderful at all times of the year. It seems to be set into the house because the dining room looks out over the porch on the left and the parlor on the right. Both have curtains of pale rose lace with a rosebud design. Three steps lead up to the porch. It is enclosed with a white rail with slender, twisted poles that are painted a pale, pale rose. There’s a little, round wicker table to the right of the door, at the parlor window, with four wicker chairs around it. All of them are painted pale rose. In each corner is a potted miniature rose plant, all of them producing pale rose blooms with faint streaks of white and an ivory center. The pots are a deep forest green and a matching watering can sits next to the pot near the door. In the center of the table is a tall, slender vase made of crystal with a rose design. Aunt Guinevere had put in two long-stemmed roses, both pale rose, with the stems carefully entwined. With them was a spray of baby’s breath on either side and a wild rose the color of the pink in the sky at sunset carefully inserted between the entwined roses. A gardening magazine lay open in front of Aunt Guinevere, but she wasn’t reading it.
Mom was sitting next to her. They each had tea in a pair of white cups rimmed in ivory on pale rose saucers. On an ivory dish with a pale rose flower painted in the center was a small stack of toast. They each had a smaller matching plate with scrambled eggs and sausage.
“Hello, Miriam,” Aunt Guinevere called out to me as I walked up the walkway.
I waved in return with a cheerful smile. When I reached them, I kissed both on the cheek and then sat next to Mom.
“Sorry I didn’t come by yesterday. I had a lot of work at the office.”
Aunt Guinevere patted my hand. “That’s all right, Miriam. Are you working today?”
“This afternoon. Shelly, Matt’s wife, asked him to stay home during the morning because an uncle of hers is coming by and she wants Matt to be there to welcome him, too. Andy, Matt’s partner, has the flu, so he won’t be in. It’ll just be Matt, the secretary Donna, and I. I probably won’t see you again until tomorrow.”
“Of course, Miriam,” Mom said with a smile.
“Is Jules coming by?” I asked.
“Yes. He should be here soon,” Aunt Guinevere said, gazing past me to the driveway. “But, knowing him, he overslept and should be here in an hour or two.”
Mom took a sip of her tea. “He has the worst sense of time. Just like his father.”
I put my hand over Mom’s and gave it a gentle squeeze. Aunt Guinevere smiled sadly.
“Is something wrong, Auntie?”
She looked startled. “Oh, no, dear. Nothing’s wrong. I just miss your father and Geoff. It’s been years since that fateful flight, but it doesn’t seem that long ago.”
“Of course not,” Mom said with a sigh. Then she looked out to the street. “Here comes Jules.”
Ten minutes later, my brother joined us with a bright smile, until Aunt Guinevere told him she wanted a few bookcases moved into the parlor.
“More bookcases?” he asked faintly, following our aunt into the house.
Mom smiled and she and I gathered the dishes and took them into the house.
“I’ll take care of the dishes, Mom,” I said, turning her from the sink. “You go help Aunt Guinevere.”
Once she was gone, I turned to the dishes, my thoughts firmly back on the locked door. Why on Earth is that door bothering me?
When I finished the dishes, I went to the south hallway and exited the house. I stared out over the wildflowers to the lavender curtains with those large, yellow daisies. I frowned, remembering my curtains had been made of the exact same kind. Did I have some sort of connection with the room? I certainly hoped not. It made Aunt Guinevere so sad.
“Miriam? Where are you? Miriam?” Aunt Guinevere called from one of the second story windows.
I tilted my head up and shaded by eyes from the morning sun. “Down here, Aunt Guinevere,” I called up to her.
The pale rose curtains in the window directly above the window with the lavender curtains, Aunt Guinevere’s room. Auntie opened the window and stuck her head out.
“What are you doing out there?”
“Doing? Oh, I’m just looking at your flowers, Auntie,” I lied.
Aunt Guinevere cocked her head and shrugged. “You look at them an awful lot.”
“I like flowers, Auntie. Do you need me?”
“Yes. Come on up here, dear. You can help your mother dust the guest room.”
“The guest room? Why do you need to clean that room, Aunt Guinevere? Is someone coming?”
“Oh, no, dear. I’m just going to turn that room into your mother’s new room. We talked about it all last night. Your mother and father stayed in that room before you were born whenever they came by. That was before they moved here permanently. Your mother just wants to feel closer to Arthur.”
Arthur was my father’s name. My grandparents had always liked the Arthurian legends. Their youngest child is Lancelot, Lance for short. He lives in Washington and we hardly ever see him. We saw him six years ago when he was on his way to Mexico. His job keeps him busy and he doesn’t even have time for a family. He’s the only one who never married. But he’s happy.
When I reached the guest room, I saw Mom and Aunt Guinevere making up the bed with white sheets. Two bookcases stood on either side with a desk and nightstand. The floor was a dark wood and a round rug with a pale rose lily sat next to the bed.
“Alice, are you sure you just want the white?” Aunt Guinevere was asking.
“Yes, Guinevere. You can take all the pale rose sheets you want. After all, it was—”
Mom stopped speaking because she had just spotted me in the doorway. Aunt Guinevere looked up and blinked.
“What do you need me to do?” I asked.
Mom stooped down and came up with a damp cloth. She threw it at me and said, “You can dust the bookcases. Then I have all my books packed up in my old room. Get Jules to help you with them.”
By the time Mom’s books were in her bookcases, it was time for me to go.
“Aunt Guinevere, would you mind if I clip a few of your flowers?” I asked. She, Mom, Jules, and I were finishing up in Mom’s new room. “I promised Andy I would drop by before I went to the office and I want to take some flowers to him.”
“Yes, of course, Miriam. I know how lonely he must be, with his wife dead and all.”
I smiled. Aunt Guinevere always knew those things. She was a kind-hearted woman who always thought of others. “Thanks, Aunt Guinevere. I’ll get them myself, then I’ll leave. See you tomorrow.”
I kissed her cheek and then Mom’s before I left. I had really just wanted another chance to look at the window with those lavender curtains. I grabbed the kitchen shears and headed out the door in the south hallway, pausing for a moment outside of the locked room. Then I went outside and clipped a few vivid wildflowers, all the while staring at the window.
I don’t know how, but I felt I would soon learn the secret of that room, but Aunt Guinevere wouldn’t be the one explaining to me. Someone from the past would be.
The feeling passed almost instantly and I shivered. Who could that someone from the past be?
I suddenly felt even more compelled to find out the former inhabitant of that room.
Maybe Andy will know, I mused. Andy’s the senior partner and closing in on his fifties.
* * *
Andrew Paulson, Andy for short, is a tall, dignified man with solemn blue eyes and jet black hair streaked with white. His manner is quiet, but he’s someone you never want to see in a courtroom. He can tear apart the opposition in a matter of minutes while remaining calm and dignified. Andy’s really a very sweet man and cares deeply for people.
“Miriam, I’m glad you remembered to drop by,” he said with a smile.
“I would never forget, Andy,” I said cheerfully and handed him the flowers. “They’re from Aunt Guinevere’s garden. I thought they would help cheer you up.”
“Thank you, Miriam. That was truly thoughtful of you. Please come in. I know you can’t stay long.”
Andy took me into his study. One side is completely taken up by a large, oaken desk with a stiff wooden chair. Bookcases filled with law books dating back to when he was in law school lined the walls. The floor was a dark wood and a large rug sat in the center of the room. I was startled to see it was pale rose with an ivory rose in the center.
“Excuse me for asking, Andy, but where did you get that rug. It looks like it came from Aunt Guinevere.”
“It did. She gave it to me a year before you were born. She and I know each other rather well, Miriam. I’m her lawyer and was her husband’s, too, before he died.” Andy sat behind his desk
“Do you know what lies behind the locked door in the south hallway?”
He looked startled and I knew I had finally caught the man by surprise.
“Yes, I do know what is in that room,” he said carefully, studying me as though I was a witness on the witness stand.
“Would you tell me?”
Andy shook his head. “It’s not my place to tell you, Miriam. Guinevere will tell you in her own time.”
I was disappointed. It seemed everyone except Jules and I knew what was behind the door.