Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hillside the Novel - Chapter 1

Hillside Museum July 6, 2009

Nate walked into the foyer of the atrium carrying a flat of geraniums, his eyes drawn to the portrait glowing in the morning light. “Hello, beautiful.” Her name was Anna, and according to the date at the bottom of the painting, the year was 1909.

“You talkin’ to me?” Rennie said, coming up behind him. He swung around and hesitated a moment before answering, “Of course. Who else is here?” He silently cursed his lack of attention. He didn’t realize she had come into the atrium.  

“Just checking to see if you’re done with the planters. There’s still a lot of stuff left to do.” 

“I know, I know,” he said, one hand coming up to knead the back of his neck. “I’m working on it.” 

“Not fast enough, Nate.  I’m worried it won’t all get done,” she said as she walked towards the door.

 “Like I said Rennie, I’m working on it.”  Nate wasn’t sure he could accomplish what was expected of him. This job had been in his family for more than 100 years, starting with his great-granddad Nathaniel, the head gardener when the museum had been the manor home of the Harris family.

 Nate reflected back on his conversation at the first of the week with Rennie, the Events Coordinator for museum. “Nate, your job’s on the line.  If the grounds at Hillside Museum aren’t in perfect condition for the 100-year celebration next week, the Board’s going to replace you.” 

 No pressure there. He loved this place, had grown up here in the caretaker’s cottage with his parents and two older brothers, and had spent countless hours with his dad and granddad in the green houses and the gardens as a boy. 

 He glanced up at the portrait of the young girl. She looked to be in her early twenties with curly dark hair and violet eyes, dressed in a long cape of iridescent purple. Around her neck was a beautiful sapphire pendant.  Her lips were curved in a shy smile, and her eyes seem to follow him wherever he went in the room. In the palm of her hand she held a gold band inset with rubies and pearls - a wedding ring perhaps - holding it as if offering it to him. Yeah, right.

Nate carried the geraniums to the back of the atrium, positioned each one in the planter, and carefully smoothed the rich dirt around its base. He found solace working with his hands in the soil. He recoiled suddenly as he felt a jolt of electricity, and looked down in confusion at the ring in his palm. It was a gold band with rubies and pearls, like the ring in the painting. 

 He walked back to stand beneath the portrait. The ring was no longer in the girl’s palm, it was in his.

He clasped the ring tightly and closed his eyes. A sense of her hopelessness washed over him sending his mind into turmoil. He looked back at the portrait. What was happening?  Damn, he didn’t have time for this. He glanced around to see if Rennie was still in the room. Alone, he put the ring in his pocket and turned to leave.

 It was then he heard a woman softly crying. He couldn’t stay in the atrium any longer.  He wasn’t capable of dealing with this much distraction and uncertainty right now. He left the room, closing the door firmly behind him, without looking back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hillside the Novel - Chapter 5

Mary stood, pressing her palms down the front of her skirt, smoothing the fabric.  She walked calmly towards the front door of the manor to answer the insistent knocking there.
She knew she had to maintain control of the conversation. George had been found dead in his carriage at the side of the road the day before. Ashen but standing tall, she met Alfred’s gaze.
“I’ve come for Anna.  We are to be married as our families agreed.  I will be moving the date forward, since you are without protection now that your husband is gone.”

She looked into his eyes and saw the lack of compassion there, even as his words belied it. She knew he was in some way responsible for the death of her husband. He would not get his hands on their daughter.

“I’m sorry Mr. White, but Anna is no longer here.  She has been sent away to safety.  Anna will not be marrying you now or ever.  Good day to you.”

She slammed the door and quickly bolted it, leaning back against its solid support. She could hear him yelling outside as he walked to his carriage.  The housekeeper peaked from behind the library door. “Is he gone?”

“For now.  For now.”  She needed time to figure out what to do next.  She would talk to Nathanial. He would help her with a plan.