Love's Melody Lost
WARNING: The stories on this page are about the love between two women and may contain explicit love scenes. If you are not 21, or are offended by this type of love - do not go any further. By continuing you are consenting that you are of legal age to read further.
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Anna Reid drove with one hand holding a torn scrap of paper against the wheel. As she watched for road signs in the unfamiliar back roads of Cape Cod Bay, she tried to decipher her own scribbled writing. The early spring morning was unseasonably warm, and she had put the canvas top on the old Jeep down to enjoy the sun. The breeze that blew through her hair smelled of salt water, seaweed and ocean creatures. It was a welcome change from the heavy air and city smells she had grown used to over the years in Boston. As she followed the winding road that led ever closer to the sea, she mused over the strange turns her life had taken.
Somehow, much of the story seemed like someone elseís to her now. Looking back on the last ten years of her life, Anna felt as if she had been sleepwalking through her days. When just out of college, she had married a man who shared the same values as she and who seemed to have the same vision for the future. Anna had a degree in botany that she couldnít use, so she worked part-time in a florist shop to help defer the cost of law school for Rob. Eventually, they accumulated all the material trappings of a successful young couple of the eighties, including a renovated brownstone in a gentrified area of the back bay, a new BMW for Rob, and a Jeep for Anna. Anna had financial security, the correct circle of literate female friends, and an adequate, if not particularly exciting, love life.
Rob was content and Anna was bored. As Rob worked longer and longer hours to keep pace with the other young attorneys in his firm, Anna found herself with less and less to do. They had a maid twice a week and every modern convenience available. Neither of them had been eager for children, so Anna couldnít even mingle comfortably with the women of their social set who spent much of their time on the Commons with their strollers and their offspring. The frequent obligatory office socials became more of a burden than a diversion, and she and her husband grew steadily apart.
She couldnít fault Robóneither of them had really stopped to question the direction their life was taking, but had merely followed the conventional path expected of them. It wasnít until they had been married for nine years that Anna began to wonder what she was doing in a life that left her feeling empty. Finally, they admitted that their marriage was in trouble, and they tried counseling. They found, in fact, that over the years they had both changed, and their goals were now very different. Divorce seemed the only reasonable solution. They were both a little confused as to how this had occurred, but their parting was amicable and fair. Anna refused alimony, and Rob arranged an equitable distribution of their property and assets.
So, at thirty-two, Anna had a used Jeep, a third floor walk-up in the student enclave near Boston University, and a microwave oven she rarely used. She was nearing the end of her first year of graduate school in landscape design, and the proceeds from her divorce settlement were nearly exhausted. She needed to find work, and she wasnít certain how she could manage a full-time job and complete graduate school as well. She scoured the newspapers for a part-time position, but none seemed to suit her schedule or her skills. She was beginning to despair when she came across an ad in the classifieds that seemed possible. "Live-in house manager needed. Must do some clerical work and drive. Salary and schedule negotiable."
She called the number listed and arranged an interview. Oddly, the interview was conducted by a senior attorney in one of Bostonís most prestigious law firms. She discovered that the location was forty minutes outside of Boston and required little in the way of advanced secretarial skills. She had been assured she would have ample opportunity to arrange her duties around her class schedule. The job seemed perfect, and it was hers if she wanted it.
She accepted immediately, terminated her lease, and packed the essentials of her life. Everything fit comfortably in the rear of her Jeep. Now she was headed to Yardley Manor, officially in the employ of one Graham Yardley. Her employer, she had learned after insistent probing, was a former musician who lived in a secluded estate on the coast. David Norcross, the attorney who interviewed her, had been reluctant to provide much in the way of details, and Annaís curiosity had been piqued. Despite the mystery surrounding her destination, Anna was elated. She had a job, and her life was headed in a direction of her own choosing.
Anna eventually turned onto a tree-lined lane that led to a large old Victorian edifice. It stood alone on a bluff above the sea. The circular drive was cracked in places with clumps of vegetation attempting to displace the offending concrete. The house also showed signs of disrepair. Shutters hung askew, paint curled from the wood surfaces, and several windows on the upper stories were boarded over. She frowned at the overgrown formal gardens that clearly had not been tended in years. There was an air of sadness reflected in the decline of this once beautiful estate, and Anna felt herself immediately drawn to the place. It was as if it were a living presence in need of care. She pulled to a stop before the grand staircase which led to a wide verandah. She approached the pair of heavy ornate oak doors with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. She took a deep breath as she rang the bell.
Slowly, the doors creaked open and a small gray-haired woman peered up at her.
"Yes?" The woman inquired uncertainly.
"Iím Anna Reid. I was hired by Mr. Norcross as a housekeeper."
The little womanís face broke into a thousand tiny lines as she smiled and extended her hand. "I am Helen Green, and I, my dear, am the housekeeper! You are here to manage our household affairs, and I am so glad you have arrived!"
Anna grasped her hand automatically, her mind in turmoil. "But, Mr. Norcross indicatedó"
Helen pulled her inside, saying, "Iím sure that Mr. Norcross explained things as he knew them, but Graham is not very good at keeping the poor man informed. What we need, my dear, is someone to oversee the property as well as to manage Grahamís personal affairs. Graham will explain it all to you later. Come with me now! Let me show you to your rooms."
Anna hung back in confusion. What exactly was it she was supposed to do here? She had no experience in managing an estate, and from the brief glance she had had of Yardley Manor, it was definitely in need of managing! Still, she instinctively liked the spry elderly woman who hurried down the long hall to a wide central staircase, and the house captured her immediately. Even in its current state of neglect, it was magnificent. As she followed the housekeeper through the dark mahogany-paneled hall, she caught glimpses of the adjoining rooms through partially-opened doors. Thick imported carpets, brocade-covered sofas and ornate, carved tables graced the high-ceilinged rooms. Yardley Manor managed to project an air of elegance even in its present state.
"Perhaps I should speak with Mr. Yardley first," Anna suggested, as Helen stopped before a door on the second floor. "There might be a problem. Iím not sure Iím going to be suitable for the job."
Helen turned toward her with a strangely quiet, penetrating gaze. "Graham will meet with you at tea this afternoon. The two of you can straighten all of this out then. Now, come, my dear, and let me get you settled."
Anna realized that she had no choice but to wait. The room Helen led her into was bright and airy, and the wide windows captured her attention immediately. They faced the heart of the estate - two hundred yards of terraced gardens which gave way to a tangle of wild brush growing up to the edge of a rocky bluff. A tiered stone wall rimmed the edge of the cliff, which fell a hundred feet down into the pounding surf. Beyond that was only the blue of sky and water. The view was breathtaking.
Anna could just make out the garden paths, now narrowed and overrun by the steady encroachment of natural flora untended for years. Here and there stone benches were still visible under the trees, marking the spots which had once provided strollers a place to rest and enjoy the surrounding beauty. To the rear left was a wide flagstone terrace , ringed by a stone balustrade which supported dozens of climbing rose bushes, desperately in need of pruning and cultivation. Beyond that stretched the formal rose gardens, clearly the showpiece of the estate when they had been at their height. Now all she surveyed lay in ruins, a sad reminder of what had been, like a faded photograph of a time long gone. She was amazed to find her throat tighten around sudden tears - she was so moved by the decline of this once proud manor. It was such a waste, when all it needed was care. She shrugged her melancholy aside; she had her own life to worry about resurrecting. She turned back to the room she was hopefully going to inhabit.
"Oh!," Anna exclaimed, observing the room. She was delighted to see a high canopied bed, a lovely antique dresser and matching table. The interior of the house, clearly Helenís domain, had been lovingly maintained. The neglected state of the exterior and grounds was clearly not from lack of funds. From what she had seen so far, most of the furnishings appeared to be priceless estate pieces. She felt like she had stepped back in time, and the otherworldliness of her surroundings appealed to her. Her life was in transition; she herself was transforming into a person of her own choosing. It seemed fitting that her new life should begin in a place so different from her past.
"Itís all so beautiful!" she exclaimed, unable to hide her excitement.
"Isnít it though?" Helen looked up from where she was busily turning down the covers on the bed. "Iíve always loved the view from here. My rooms face that way, too. Iíve come to know the look of the sea in every season."
"Have you been here long?"
"Oh, goodness, yes. My family has been employed by the Yardleys for forty years. I wasnít yet twenty when my husband and I came. This was just the summer house then, of course. We spent most of our time at the Philadelphia home. Itís only sinceówell, Iíve been here for the last fourteen years."
"And Mr. Yardley lives here year round as well?"
Helen hesitated once again, then merely responded, "Yes."
Anna was eager for any information that would clarify the strange circumstances of her new job, but was reluctant to pry. The little housekeeper seemed just as reluctant to discuss the issue of Annaís employment.
"Whatís in here?" Anna called, pointing to a door opposite the large bed.
"Your sitting rooms and bath." Helen pushed the door open, revealing a large room with a stone fireplace. French doors led out to a balcony, and several comfortable chairs and tables formed a sitting area before the hearth. A modern bath adjoined the room.
"Itís wonderful!" Anna exclaimed. "I never expected anything like this!"
She tried to temper her enthusiasm, reminding herself she might not be staying. She realized how much she had been counting on this position, and how comfortable she already felt.
"Are your rooms like this?" she asked, trying to disguise her worry. What am I going to do if I have to leave?
"The very same," Helen exclaimed. "Now, Iíll leave you to get settled. Youíll have to bring your own bags up, though. Iím afraid thereís no butler! Tea will be at four in the library. Iíll come to take you down then."
"I really should wait to unpack until I speak with Mr. Yardley. I might not be staying."
"Posh," Helen replied, giving Anna a quick hug. "Of course youíll be staying!"
Anna hoped that Graham Yardley agreed.
"Just make yourself comfortable in here, dear," Helen said as she showed Anna into a large room filled with floor to ceiling bookcases and fine leather furniture. Helen lit a fire in the huge stone fireplace. The evenings by the sea were cool despite the deceptive warmth of the waning afternoon sun. "Graham will join you soon."
When Helen left to prepare the tea, refusing all help from Anna, Anna examined her surroundings. An oil portrait above the fireplace caught her eye. Anna recognized the bluff below Yardley. A lone figure stood on an outcropping of stone, one arm draped over a bent knee, commanding the vista of sea and sky. Deep black hair, wild and windblown, framed chiseled features and piercing dark eyes. A flowing black great coat was open to expose a ruffled white shirt, tailored trousers, and black boots. A pair of black leather gloves, clasped loosely in one hand, completed the picture of the lord of the manor. It was an image from another time, brooding and untamed. Anna was surprised to see by the date that it was done only fifteen years before. Anna imagined this was Mr. Yardley, and he certainly appeared to be all that the master of such an estate should be. Aristocratic, handsome, and austere. She supposed she would soon discover that for herself.
Anna pulled a small footstool in front of one of the large chairs in the central seating area. She extended her legs toward the warmth and leaned back, watching the crackling fire, wondering if she wouldnít soon be headed back to Boston. She was nearly asleep when a deep voice behind her startled her from her reverie.
Anna turned, stifling a gasp of surprise as she found herself face to face with the figure in the portrait. Standing before her was one of the most striking women Anna had ever seen. Her portrait, however arresting, had not done her justice. She was quite tall, with thick black hair brushed back from an exquisitely sculpted face. Her eyes, perhaps her most compelling feature, were nearly black, as the artist had depicted, and contrasted sharply with her pale, luminescent complexion. The oils however had not conveyed the intensity of her gaze, nor the glacial severity of her bearing. Anna tried not to flinch at the scar which marred the handsome face, running from just below her hairline across the broad forehead to one elegantly arched brow.
Anna stared, completely at a loss as the woman approached. The dark-haired woman leaned slightly on an ornate walking stick, but despite a slight limp, she was imposing in finely tailored black trousers and an open-collared white silk shirt. A gold ring with some sort of crest adorned the long fingered hand that she held out to Anna.
"I am Graham Yardley," the woman stated simply. It was delivered in a tone that left no doubt as to whom was the master of Yardley Manor.
Anna rose quickly, grasping the outstretched had. She was instantly struck by the delicacy of the fingers that held hers briefly. She cleared her throat, which felt suddenly dry, and answered, "How do you do? Iím Anna Reid."
"Sit down, please," Graham said somewhat tersely, turning toward the chair facing Annaís. Anna, still a little stunned, was about to sit when she heard Helen at the door.
"Graham! Be careful!" Helen cried.
Even as Helen called a warning, Graham stumbled over the small footstool in her path and lost her balance. She reached out, struggling not to fall. Instinctively, Anna grasped her about the waist, surprised at the willowy strength in Grahamís reed-slender form. Anna steadied the taller woman against her, aware of the rapid pounding of Grahamís heart.
"Are you all right?" Anna cried in alarm. She could feel her shaking.
Graham pulled away sharply, her dark eyes furious, her body rigid with tension. She steadied herself, her hand nearly white as she clenched her walking stick.
"Helen! How did that footstool get there?" Graham demanded angrily.
"It was my fault. I moved it," Anna said quickly, alarmed more by her employerís physical distress than her anger. The woman was still trembling, though she was trying hard to hide it. "Iím sorry." She looked from Helen to Graham in confusion.
Graham drew a shaky breath, struggling for composure. Suddenly, with horrifying clarity, Anna realized that Graham Yardley was blind. That realization brought a flood of sympathy, and she said without thinking, "Oh God, Iím so sorry. I didnít know!"
"How could you know," Graham rejoined roughly, reaching behind her with one hand to find the armchair. She lowered herself slowly, her expression betraying none of her discomfiture. She would not be humiliated further by enduring empty condolences. "There is no need to dwell on it. Be seated."
Helen came quickly to her side, watching Graham with concern. She extended a hand as if to touch her, then quickly drew back. "Iíve put the tea in its usual place. Will you need anything else?"
"No. Leave us."
As Helen stepped away, Graham held up her hand, her voice softening. "Itís fine, Helen. You neednít worry. On second thought, could you bring us some sherry?"
As she spoke, Anna could see her host relax with effort against the cushions. Her face lost its edge as well, reflecting the sudden gentleness of her tone. Anna found her expressive features captivatingóas well as quite beautiful.
Helen smiled tenderly. "Iíll get it right away."
They sat in silence as Helen brought glasses and poured the sherry. She handed Anna a glass and left Grahamís on the small table near her right hand. The silence continued for a few moments after the housekeeper pulled the heavy library doors closed behind her. When Graham reached for the glass and raised it to her lips, her hand was steady again.
"Forgive me," she began in her deep mellifluous voice, "I havenít asked if your accommodations are suitable."
"The rooms are wonderful," Anna replied "The view of the sea is exquisite." Instantly she regretted her remark, but Graham merely nodded, a distant look on her face.
"I know. I always stayed in that room when I was a child."
Anna willed herself to be calm, and tasted the sherry. It felt warm and comforting as she swallowed. She couldnít stop staring at the woman across from her. Her mere physical presence was imposing - defined less by gender than by the pure elements of beauty and elegance, much as a classical sculpture is often androgynous at first glance. She was aristocratic, her every movement refined. She was scrupulously polite, and obviously used to being in charge. She was aloof, remote, unapproachable. She was more than a little intimidating!
"Did Mr. Norcross explain what your duties are to be?" Graham continued, unaware of Annaís discomfort.
"Not in detail. Iím afraid I may not be what youíre looking for. I have no experience managing a household."
"Really?" Graham remarked dryly, raising an eyebrow. "Mr. Norcross led me to believe that you had been married and now live independently. That sounds as if you have managed at least two."
Anna laughed. "Neither was much of a challenge. Can you tell me what it is that you require?"
Graham sighed slightly, turning toward the fire. In profile signs of fatigue lined her face, and Anna caught glimpses of gray streaking her dark hair. Anna guessed her to be ten years her senior, but despite her commanding tone and rigid control, Anna sensed a weariness that had nothing to do with the years.
"I needóassistanceówith handling correspondence, reviewing accounts, running the day-to-day affairs of the estate. Helen cannot handle all of this any longer, and Iócannot do it alone. I have never had anyone else do it, and I donít want Helen to think that Iíve lost confidence in her. It has simply become too much. You would also have to do some rather menial chores, Iím afraid. Helen no longer drives, and it is difficult getting deliveries out here." She stopped, making an impatient gesture with one graceful hand. "We need someone at Yardley, it seems, who can manage in the world beyond our gates."
Her tone was bitter, and Anna could only imagine how hard it must be for a woman of such obvious independence to admit she needed a stranger to assist her.
"Ms. Yardleyó" she began.
"Please, call me ĎGrahamí," Graham interrupted, "otherwise I will feel truly a relic." She smiled slightly, and Anna caught a fleeting glimpse of her haunting beauty. When she allowed her feelings expression, she was even more intriguing.
"GrahamóI am in something of a desperate situation myself. I want to continue in graduate school full-time. Without this job, I wonít be able to afford to do thatónot and keep a roof over my head, too. Iím afraid Iíll need some help, but I would like to try this very much." She meant every word, and her sincerity showed in her voice. She didnít add how drawn she was to Yardley the moment she saw it, or how right it felt to be here. She couldnít admit even to herself how much the woman before her captured her imagination, and her curiosity. She very much wanted to learn more of Yardley, and itís compelling master.
Graham ran a hand through her hair, leaving it tousled, and sighed again.
"It seems we are both in need of some assistance, then. Shall we agree to try it for a month or two?"
Anna smiled in relief. "Iíd like that very much."
Graham rose, crossing to the door with deliberate steps. "Iíll send for you when I need you. Good evening."
With that she was gone, her footsteps echoing in the quiet house. Anna glanced up at the portrait, wishing it could tell her who Graham Yardley was.
Anna awoke very early the next day, as much from excitement as from the strangeness of a new house. It would take a little time to get used to the night noises of the old structure, the rhythmic pounding of the surf, and the absence of city traffic below her window. The quiet seclusion of Yardley Manor had truly transported her to a new world. After Helen retired to her rooms the previous evening, Anna stayed up reading in her sitting room. She must have dozed for it was quite late when she was startled awake by a noise outside in the hall. She listened intently for a few moments, thinking she heard footsteps pause before her door. But then there was only the gentle creak of the shutters in the wind. Smiling to herself, she got ready for bed. As she lay awake, waiting for sleep to come, she mused over her first meeting with her new employer. Rarely had anyone caught her attention quite so dramatically. Graham Yardley was impossible to describe in ordinary terms. Anna was quite sure she had never met anyone like her. As she drifted off to sleep, the image of the dark-haired aristocrat lingered in her mind.
Shaking herself to dispel the last vestiges of sleep, Anna pushed back the heavy comforter and reached for a tee shirt. She moved quickly across the chilly room to the window, anxious for her first glimpse of Yardley in the morning. Looking down across the lawns, she was surprised to see a figure at the edge of the bluff, facing out toward the ocean. She recognized instantly the tall, slender figure of Graham Yardley. As the sun rose, it struck her face, outlining her chiseled profile in stark relief against the sky. Standing so still, her hair windblown, one hand clasping the ebony walking stick, she appeared hauntingly alone.
As Graham began to make her way carefully up the steep slope to the house, Anna stepped back from the window. She didnít want her employer to see her watching. Almost instantaneously she remembered that Graham could not see her. The fact of Grahamís blindness saddened her deeply. She wondered why that should be, since she scarcely knew her. Perhaps it was the poorly concealed pain in her voice or the fierce pride beneath the tightly controlled surface. But more than that, Anna was moved by Grahamís apparent isolation from the world. To Anna, that was the greatest tragedy of all. Anna experienced life as a feast for all the senses. It was that love of life that drew her to the miracle of growing things and motivated her desire to design living spaces where people could exist in harmony with nature. The environment was the canvas of Annaís dreams. It troubled her unaccountably to think that Graham Yardley had withdrawn from that. Anna looked down into the ruins of the Yardley estate, imagining the beauty that once existed there, and she longed to know it as it had once beenóflowering with new growth, rich with the pageantry of life.
She turned to dress with a sigh, reminding herself that the reasons this solitary woman chose to live secluded here by the sea were no concern of hers. What did concern her was that she had work to do, although exactly what that work was to be, she wasnít quite certain she yet understood.
When she entered the kitchen, she found Helen busy baking. The clock over the large oven showed the time as 6:20.
"My goodness," Anna exclaimed, "what time did you get up?"
Helen smiled up at her as she placed biscuits on a tray to cool. "Five oíclock. I canít seem to sleep late, no matter what! Old habits die hard, I guess. When all of the family was about, Iíd have breakfast ready and the table in the dining room set by now. Mr. Yardley was a banker, and he always worked here after breakfast for a few hours before he left for town. He said he couldnít work without my breakfast. Thomas, that was my husband, was the general caretaker. He managed the grounds and oversaw most of the staff. Heís been gone almost twenty years. My son worked here too before he went off to college. Heís a doctor now. Lives in California. Even though everyone is gone, I still stick to my old routines." She pushed wisps of gray hair back from her face and straightened her apron. "How did you sleep?"
"Wonderfully," Anna said, eyeing the biscuits appreciatively. She realized she was starving.
Helen caught her look and laughed. "Have one. Iíll have the rest ready in a minute. I was just taking a tray to Graham."
"Oh, wonít she be joining us?" Anna asked, strangely disappointed.
"Sheís in the music room. She takes all her meals in there," Helen informed her, a fleeting expression of concern crossing her face. "Sheís been up for hours, I imagine. Iím not sure when she sleeps."
"How did she lose her sight?" Anna dared ask.
Undisguised pain crossed the older woman's features fleetingly. "A car accident." She looked as if she might say more, but then quickly busied herself at the stove again. Anna regarded her silently. Helen obviously cared for Graham a great deal. Anna wished there were some way to ask Helen more about her solitary employer, but she knew instinctively that Helen would never discuss anything of Grahamís personal life with her. It was clear that Helen guarded Graham's privacy as carefully as did the woman herself.
After a sumptuous meal of biscuits, eggs and country ham, Anna insisted on helping Helen straighten the kitchen. As they worked, she said, "Youíll have to give me some idea of how I can help, Helen. I want to be useful."
Helen nodded. "I know this all must seem strange for you. Graham told me that you were a student and would need time for your studies. Iíve made a list of things we need, but it shouldnít take too much time."
Anna laughed and said she was sure she could manage. She was touched that both Helen and Graham were concerned about her needs. While she had been married, Rob had acted as if it were a great inconvenience whenever she needed time for herself. She reminded herself that all that was in the past.
"Let me see the list."
It was only 10 A.M. when Anna returned and began unloading the Jeep. It was a clear April morning, the air crisp and fresh. She felt wonderful and hummed as she climbed the steps to the kitchen. She called as she went, "Hello! Helen, Iím back!"
She was surprised when Graham pushed the door open. She was wearing an immaculately tailored pale broadcloth shirt tucked into loose-fitting gray gabardine trousers, somehow managing to look casual and elegant at the same time. Anna recognized the understated quality of her attire, the fit so perfect she must have all her clothing made for her. Despite her informal dress, Graham was the image of sophistication.
"Hello," Anna called softly, wondering why this woman made her feel so shy.
"Good morning," Graham replied, sliding the door back while Anna carried a bag of groceries to the counter. Graham stood listening for a moment, then to Annaís surprise said, "Let me help you."
Anna started to protest, and then stopped herself. She had gleaned from their brief meeting how critical Grahamís independence was to her. Any suggestion that maneuvering the steps with packages in her arms might be dangerous would certainly provoke that formidable temper. "Of course. My Jeep is parked just to the right of the steps. The tailgate is down."
Graham nodded and started down the stairs. Anna watched her, noting that her slight limp was hardly noticeable this morning. Graham moved cautiously but confidently forward, her left hand lightly trailing along the side of the vehicle. When she reached the rear, she looked upward at Anna, who was still standing on the porch.
"Since youíre here, why donít you hand me something to carry in?"
"Of course," Anna said, blushing as she realized she had been staring. Why did it seem like Graham knew that? She hurried to pull a box from the Jeep. She handed it to Graham, who cradled it against her chest. Anna didnít move until she saw Graham up the steps safely and through the door. Then she grabbed up the last of the bags and rushed inside. She found Graham emptying the box onto the long counter top. Now and then Graham would turn an object over and over in her hands, her long fingers exploring the shape. Anna was fascinated by the delicate movement and caught herself once again staring at her enigmatic employer.
"Olive oil," Anna said when Graham frowned over the bottle in her hands. "I think I buy that brand because I love the shape of the bottle."
Graham nodded, caressing the curves of glass, committing the shape to memory. "Sensuous, isnít it?" she remarked quietly, as if speaking aloud without realizing it.
Anna blushed for no reason she could understand. "I never thought of it that way, but youíre right."
Graham set the heavy bottle down abruptly and straightened her back, her face suddenly remote.
"When youíre done here, Iíd like you to join me in my study. Itís the last room on the right."
"Iíll be there in a minute," Anna replied as Graham quickly
left the room. She sorted the rest of the parcels, then poured a cup of coffee
from the pot Helen had left steeping on the stove. As she headed down the hall,
she tried not to think about the fact that it wasnít the bottle she had found
so sensuous, but the intimate way those graceful hands had held it.
Her attention was immediately drawn to a magnificent grand piano that stood before double French doors. The doors were open to an enormous flagstone patio. It was the same terrace overlooking the long slope to the sea cliffs which Anna had first seen from her bedroom windows. Opposite the piano was another fireplace with a comfortable appearing sitting area. Grahamís breakfast tray lay on a small table before several large leather chairs. Graham sat at a large walnut desk, stacks of papers and envelopes piled before her. Sunlight streamed into the room, highlighting the angular planes of her face.
"What a lovely room," Anna exclaimed.
Graham raised her head, a slight smile softening her features. "Isnít it? Soon, the roses at the edge of the terrace will nearly obscure the view."
Anna glanced at her in surprise before remembering that Graham hadnít always been blind. "How sad," she thought, never to see the roses bloom again.
Perhaps it was the appreciation she heard in Grahamís voice, or the sight of the rose bed Graham alluded to nearly obliterated by wild growth, that prompted her to speak impulsively.
"You know," she began hesitantly, "the grounds are badly in need of attention. All the gardens are overgrown- many of the paths are nearly obliterated. They are literally choking to death. The house is suffering from weathering and could use repair, too."
Grahamís face was remote. "I hadnít realized. We havenít had a gardener here in years," she added absently, unwillingly remembering Yardley in another life. She forced her thoughts back to the present. "Perhaps you could look into it. Make any arrangements you think necessary."
Anna adopted her employerís formal tone, afraid that she had given offense. "I will, thank you. Iíll keep you informed, of course."
Graham waved her hand dismissively, her mind clearly elsewhere. "I thought we might go through some of this correspondence. Itís been neglected for months."
Anna took a seat beside the desk, availing herself of the opportunity to study her employer. Close to her now in the light of day, she could see the fine lines around her eyes, and the abundant gray streaking her coal black hair. The scar on her forehead scarcely detracted from the symmetrical arch of her full, dark brows, the high cheekbones or the strong chin. Her lips were soft and full, in striking contrast to the stark planes of her face. Her eyes were dark and clear, and although Anna knew them to be sightless, the gaze which fell upon her was penetrating nevertheless.
"Why donít we begin with these," Graham said, indicating a stack of unopened envelopes by her left hand. "If you could read them to me, Iíll tell you which ones need a reply. Thereís a tape recorder there for you to make notes."
For the next hour they sorted mail into piles, some to be discarded, some to be forwarded to Grahamís attorney, and some that needed Grahamís personal attention. Anna was surprised at the scope of Grahamís financial involvements, and a little overwhelmed.
"You know, some of this is quite beyond me," she said at length. "You need more than someone who can barely balance her own checkbook."
Graham stretched her long legs out and shrugged, apparently unconcerned. "Never mind. Youíll learn." She stood and walked to the open doors. She leaned into the breeze, her hands in the pockets of her trousers. Anna observed her with interest, trying to imagine how one experienced a world one couldnít see.
"Itís nearly one oíclock, isnít it?"
Anna glanced at her watch. "A few minutes before."
Graham nodded, crossing to the long buffet on the opposite side of the room. She reached into a small refrigerator enclosed within and withdrew a bottle.
"Would you like some champagne? It seems a reward for our efforts would be appropriate."
Anna smiled. "Iíd love some."
Anna watched intently as Graham confidently set two crystal glasses on a silver tray, opened the bottle, and placed it carefully in an ice bucket. Turning to Anna, she held out the engraved silver tray.
"If you could take this, we can sit on the terrace. If you donít mind the slight chill to the air," Graham added, raising a questioning eyebrow.
Reaching for the tray Anna smiled. "Iíd rather be outside no matter what the temperature."
She followed Graham across the flagstone terrace to a round wrought-iron table near the ornate open stone balustrade. The sea breeze blew up from the ocean, ruffling Grahamís hair. Graham faced the water, a slight frown on her face.
"Are you quite sure youíre not cold?"
"Iím wearing a sweater," Anna replied softly, moved by Graham's thoughtfulness. Graham herself was more exposed in her thin silk shirt. "Can I get you something warmer?"
Graham took a seat next to the glass-topped table and shook her head. "It doesnít seem to bother me."
Graham slid her hand across the table to the tray, deftly found the glasses, and expertly poured their champagne.
"Thank you," Anna said, accepting the glass. Graham nodded slightly in response, and together they turned toward the sea. Silently they basked in the spring sun, not quite warm yet, but full of promise. Anna found herself surprisingly content in the presence of her austere employer. Despite her reserve, Graham displayed moments of warmth and quick humor that were quite engaging.
"Graham," Anna began at last, "Iíd like to see what I can do with the gardens. There is so much beauty here, and it needs care. Iíd enjoy doing it myself."
Grahamís expression was guarded. "David Norcross told me that you are a landscaper. Tell me about it."
Anna sketched her history for Graham, passing quickly over her marriage to describe the last year of her life. She explained her classes and found herself revealing her hopes of some day having her own business.
"You mean to be more than a gardener, then," Graham commented seriously.
Anna laughed. "I love the physical work, but I also want to be involved in the actual design."
"Youíll need help with Yardley. There was a time when we employed two gardeners here full-time."
Anna nodded. "And youíll need to hire someone again. But I can handle the formal gardens myself."
"But if I understood you correctly, you have your own work to do!" Graham protested. "My work alone, never mind Helenís needs, will keep you busy enough! It would seem that undertaking to save Yardley too would be quite a task." Although her tone was lightly mocking, her face was quite serious.
Anna was strangely touched that Graham gave any thought to Annaís work, let alone considered it important. What a surprise this woman was!
"I donít need to go to school this summeróin fact, I can really use the break. And, besides, working here at Yardley will give me a chance to practice some of my ideas. Thereís so much that needs to be done. I promise, if I canít handle it, Iíll be the first to say so!"
Graham spoke softly, her voice dreamlike. "You canít imagine how lovely Yardley was in the spring. There were blossoms everywhere, new life seeking the sun. I would walk for hours through the gardens, just looking at the colors. The interplay of the different hues in the sunlight was like a symphony for the eyes. I couldnít wait to get hereóout of the city, away from the crowds. After a long tour we - " She stopped abruptly, a quicksilver flash of pain passing across her face. The hand that held the fine crystal flute tightened. Anna feared for a moment Graham would break it in her hand.
Anna tried to imagine what it would be like to know she would never see another spring. Saddened, she felt an uncommon tenderness for this woman who had lost so much. Impulsively, she said, "Youíll know when the roses bloomóyouíll be able to smell the blossoms in the air."
"Yes." Graham saw no reason to explain that she rarely walked about during the day. At night, in the dark, it didnít matter that she couldnít see. She would not have to imagine what she was missing in the sunlight. Impatiently she shook her head. She thought she was long past such regrets. "Do what you like. If you find that you need help, hire someone. Iíve arranged a household account at the bank in your name."
"Oh, no! You hardly know me!"
"I know what I need to know." Graham rose abruptly, suddenly anxious to be done with this conversation. She did not want to remember - any of it. "Iíd like to see you tomorrow at one oíclock. We can continue with the papers then."
Anna stared after her as Graham disappeared into the house. She wondered how Graham would spend her time until next they met. Each time she saw her, she was left with more questions and greater curiosity about her secretive host.
Continue to Part 2
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