(This was way back in the house, straight ahead is the kitchen.)
Ever catch sight of a vintage car off in the distance motoring in your direction? Like a 1955 PV544 Volvo, all rounded curves and chrome accents (substitute any vintage vehicle here – I happen to appreciate old Volvos and pink VW Rabbits). Your mind fills in the details the distance renders indistinct, thus allowing your eyes to perceive a thing of beauty rolling closer.
(There’s always a but….)
The nearer the throwback to bygone days comes, the more knackered it appears – the grill’s held in place by a length of wire, the entire body is pockmarked with shallow rust flecked dents and several visibly distinct stratum of grime augment the chipped/scratched paint.
Cinderella turns into an Ugly Stepsister in a matter of moments.
Apparently, this phenomenon can also afflict substantially sized manors – because not even the chirping bluebird of spring could put the bloom back on this sprawling heap of lichen smothered stone and peeling paint I pulled the Princess in front of.
Me (ogling): “This house looks like the Lavender Lady’s destitute cousin!”
Beatrice (looking up): “It does rather.”
Me (resisting the urge to count every missing pane of glass): “Who are the people standing with Mr. John Dupree?”
Beatrice (following my gaze): “For curiosity’s sake, are you going to keep referring to Dupree so formally?”
Me (chuckling): “Yes. Unless you happen to know his middle name?”
Beatrice (lips twitching): Unfortunately, I’m unaware of his middle name and those of today’s clients, the Von Haeville sisters, and their lawyer Mr. Ottoman.
Sighing in disappointment at Beatrice’s lack of information, I concentrated on wedging the Princess into a tight spot at the end of the turnaround without grazing the bumper of the stately black four-door in front of me while leaving enough room for my roommate to open her door.
Me (engaging the handbrake and shutting off the ignition): “I’ll wait here until you’re finished….”
Thinking I’d use the time to peruse the images of Little Ben’s plans on my tablet, I started to dip my hand between the console and my seat when Beatrice redirected my plans by refilling my lap with blueprints. Which she then requested my help in rerolling – the entire twenty-five pounds worth.
The steering wheel didn’t prove a hindrance at all.
Ten minutes and one paper cut later, Beatrice then “invited” me to meet her clients (in other words: double as her pack mule). While working up a sweat, hauling reams of assorted paper products, and an extensive tool kit up the weedy drive, I contemplated Beatrice and Wood’s divergent definitions of light-duty (btw my chest felt fine).
On the upside, the greeting I received from the statuesque blonde Von Haeville sister cooled me right off…
Miss Von Haeville (regarding me with the same expression I reserve for a wedge of Limburger cheese): “And you are?”
Beatrice (smoothly cutting in): “This is my girl Friday.”
Mrs. Von Haeville, the Elder (and designated spokeswoman of the three sisters apparently): “Miss…Miss…I don’t think I caught your last name.”
Beatrice (with a smile that showed all her teeth): “Just call me Ms. Beatrice.”
Mrs. Von Haeville, the Elder (face flushing): “Fine. Ms. Beatrice, the presence of an assistant here today, is entirely unacceptable…”
Huh. I’ve never heard anyone emphasize a word like that outside a costume drama because it didn’t take a linguistic anthropologist to decipher that ‘assistant’ really meant ‘The Help’.
Mr. Ottoman (placing a hand on the mature woman’s mink cuff): “Ms. Beatrice, what Mrs. Von Haeville means to say is the family is not comfortable with an additional individual outside you and Mr. Dupree aware of the details of today’s activities.”
Wordier, but not much better.
Beatrice (in a tone which wouldn’t melt butter): “If you want me to find what you’ve lost, she stays.”
When Mrs. Von Haeville, the Elder, started sputtering (and the other two murmured darkly behind her), I seized my chance to spend the day studying Little Ben’s plans. (Snuggling under matching afghans in the Princess sounded more enjoyable than succumbing to hypothermia under the sister’s frigid stares inside.)
Me (bobbling my burdens): “If you don’t want me in the house while Beatrice works, no problem. Just show me a surface I can set these down on, and I’ll wait in my car until she finishes up.”
Six sets of eyes swiveled my way.
Mrs. Von Haeville the Elder (issuing a curt nod): “That’s acceptable.”
Beatrice (saccharine smile aimed at the Elder): “Why don’t you take a stroll around the back garden instead? Get some fresh air? There’s even a fenced family plot if you’re interested. I cleared the area two weeks ago. Interestingly, the same day I requested these blueprints – that were couriered over this morning.”
Mr. Ottoman (glancing between his indignant client, my unblinking roommate, and me): “That’s a fair request. Who wants to sit in a car all day? Why don’t we head inside and get started…”
The next half-hour featured much toe-tapping and harumphing while the three of us set down and up Beatrice’s plans in the musty, cavernous foyer. When we finally finished, Miss Limburger escorted me past an assortment of empty, moldering rooms to the backdoor.
Me (pausing on the threshold): “Any idea how long this will take?”
Miss Limburger (holding the door open): “No.”
Turning back to ask where to find a ladies’ room in this rabbit warren, my nose left a print on the dusty pane of glass set into the closed door (which possibly possesses the only hinges in the entire manor that don’t protest when used). Miss. Limburger, without meeting my wide-eyed gaze (but wearing an infuriating half-smile), threw the deadbolt, turned on her heel, and walked briskly out of sight, leaving my flabbergasted self standing in the midsts of an overgrown kitchen garden, mouth hanging open.
Way to keep it classy lady.