Another snippet of the work in progress, as I revisit Belleview and it’s highly unusual inhabitants.
Several hours later, Chloe stepped out of the last bus, and walked up the sidewalk alongside the high wall of Belleview. She stopped and looked up at it, painted in the warm orange of the setting sun behind her. She thought that she should be dreading coming back here. Especially in light of the conversation she’d been having with Mark, discussing quite seriously the kinds of monsters she might encounter. It wasn’t frightful, though. She was relieved to see the ornate iron gates, and although they were closed, she knew that the little side door would be open for her key, and then… she hurried on towards it. The street was more dangerous than anything inside the cemetery.
Her heart was racing when she closed the old oak door with it’s hammered iron straps, painted black by her own hands after she’d painstakingly cleaned them of the rust they’d developed. Once she’d turned the big key, and then pushed that back into her pocket, she relaxed. She was home.
Her own apartment was over the big stables, which had once held black horses and hearses. It still had a pair of hearses, one shiny steel, the other covered in dust and cobwebs and there were no horses left to pull it anyway. Which Chloe rather regretted. She’d have loved to have a pair of horses to tend. Not that the sprawling cemetery wasn’t more than she had time to do, anyway. But horses! She sighed, and instead of heading for her stairs to the studio apartment, she made her way to the big house where she’d find her boss. She had suspicions her boss wasn’t – fully – human, but she’d learned he was more trustworthy than most people, so she didn’t care.
Chloe let herself in to the small door at the side of the house, rather than going to the grand double doors at the front. The front was where funerals had once been held, and now it was never opened. She wondered as she looked around the spacious office and library, when the last funeral had been held at Belleview. Mr. Cruor was not in the office. Chloe wandered over to take a closer look at her favorite painting. It hung on the wall between two big bookshelves, with a pair of armchairs arranged under it to allow people to sit in them and talk to one another. The painting was a sprawling landscape of vivid greens, with trees sweeping out of sight in the midground, and a meadow in the foreground. Behind them… she let out a little hiccup of air as she stared at the painting.
Mr. Cruor appeared beside her, soundlessly.
“The birds moved.” Chloe informed him. She felt stupid as soon as the words were out of her mouth. Of course he could see that. And he probably knew…
“The painting does change.” He had his hands clasped behind him, and was leaning forward slightly to study it with her. “It reflects the seasons, you know.”
“I… didn’t. It’s fall?” She fumbled for the right way to respond to him.
“Where it was painted, it is spring.” He turned to face her then. “The Snowy Mountains, in Australia, Miss Brandt. Shall I have Miss Dear bring tea?”
Chloe realized he was hinting that she should stay. And a flash of intuition told her that he might be as lonely as she was, despite his advanced age and general…
“Yes, that would be nice.” She answered him. A bare hint of a smile touched his thin lips, and he turned away, walking toward the hall door. Chloe watched him, thinking that he didn’t move like an old man, in spite of his thin silver hair and gaunt, lined face. His back was straight and while he moved with slow dignity, she thought that was more the way he was than any need to be poky.
Chloe headed for her usual spot at the table in the middle of the room. Unlike her last visit, where it had been heaped with books, it was bare and polished, the gleaming wood smelling of lemon oil and beeswax. Miss Della Dear, the Victorian era skeleton turned housekeeper, maintained the big house spotlessly. Chloe had a small qualm when she thought of the mess her own apartment was in. Sitting, she looked around the room, which could have stepped out of the pages of a magazine, if the magazine had been something about English houses. Chloe had the vaguest idea of the style, but this didn’t feel like anything American to her. At least not like her home or any other she’d been in growing up.
I was prompted this week by Becky Jones with “[Character] stared at the painting. It looked different today. The birds had moved around.”
I prompted AC Young with “At first she thought the little bundle of sticks, grass, and moss was a blown-down bird’s nest. ”
You can read all the prompt responses, or join in on the challenge, at More Odds Than Ends. It’s fun, and it’s a great way to flex your creative muscles!