The next morning heavy rains thwarted Sierra’s plan to do an exterior inspection of the estate. Instead she inspected the damage to the spiral staircase in the foyer. Chantal assisted with the project, and took notes as Sierra described the materials needed to restore the staircase back to its original Gothic architectural design.
¨We will need to order at least 44 square top interior balusters in mahogany wood to match the others along the staircase on the second and third floors.¨
¨Sierra, I have a suggestion.”
¨Sure, go ahead.¨
¨Do you think you should consider having medieval motifs carved into the wood of some of the balusters?¨
¨Dearest sister, that would be an undertaking and expensive. Do you understand I cannot create designs to embellish the presentation of the restored property? My work should reflect the historical aesthetic features of the estate. As of this moment, I’ve seen nothing to lend credence to the idea that the original balusters from 1899 had medieval motifs carved into the wood.
¨Yes I understand but …¨
There was a knock at the door before Chantal could finish her sentence. She walked over to the window and saw that it was Devlin.
She opened the door and said to herself, ¨He’s dressed in old-fashioned clothing again.¨
¨Good morning Devlin. Please come in, it’s terrible out there.¨
Chantal was curious.
¨How did you stay so dry without an umbrella?¨ She asked.
¨It’s OK, the rain is not too bad. Did you have a good night?¨
¨Yes we did, said Sierra walking over to greet him. I had a fascinating tour of the grounds before dark.¨
¨And I relished in harmony all evening with the serene sights and inspiring sounds of nature. I can’t imagine being anyplace else,¨ said Chantal with a smile on her face.
Noticing his embarrassment, Sierra said, ¨I have a list of the materials needed to repair the staircase.¨
¨Excellent, said Devlin. I have some photographs for you. I forgot to give them to you yesterday. They are original photographs of the entire estate.¨
¨Perfect, that will be helpful as I create my report,¨ said Sierra.
¨I just need to get them from my room.¨
¨Take your time, we are not going anywhere in this weather,¨ said Chantal.
As Devlin walked past the formal dining room decorated with classical paintings and elegant crystal chandeliers, his thoughts drifted away to a different time in his life. He had fallen in love for the first time with a young woman he met at his graduation dinner hosted by his mother and father at Brooke Manor.
He remembered how his friends buzzed with echoes of laughter during the special occasion. The celebration was well underway when his father stood up and tapped a champagne glass before he proceeded with a speech.
“We honor Devlin and his graduating classmates, although many of you are leaving to embark on your future endeavors, you must always carry the spirit and values of the Steppe Institute of Agriculture within you.”
His father raised his glass and said, ¨Here’s to a lifetime of success!¨
The dinner guests chanted loudly, ¨Here’s to a lifetime of success!¨
After eating dinner, Devlin joined his best friend Nick who was sitting near the beverage table stocked with everything from milk to vodka. He sat down next to him and leaned back in a tilted chair with his head against the wall looking up into a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
Nick stood up and asked, “Would you like something to drink?”
“Yes, could you please bring me a glass of cherry juice?”
Nick went to the beverage table. He returned a few minutes later with their drinks and sat down.
Devlin turned his attention to a beautiful young woman he first noticed during dinner.
“Who is that?” he asked.
“Where?” asked Nick.
“There in the white gown to your left. I think she’s coming this way,” said Devlin.
They both stood up as she walked towards them.
“Devlin, I would like to introduce you to my cousin, Miss Christa Blake,” said Nick.
¨Hello Miss Blake, it is nice to make your acquaintance,¨ said Devlin.
¨You may call me Christa,¨ she said.
Nick noticed his mother waving her hand for him to come to her and his father.
¨Excuse me,¨ said Nick before he walked away.
Devlin began talking to Christa.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yes I am and congratulations on your graduation,¨ she said.
“What will you do next?” asked Christa.
“I plan to live here in Mystic Woods and work for my father.”
Everyone knew his father was a wealthy tobacco magnate.
Just then, Devlin’s father approached his table.
“Christa, this is my father Mr. Lloyd.”
¨How do you do?¨ his father asked.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you sir,” said Christa.
¨Your home is lovely.¨
¨Thank you. Mrs. Lloyd deserves the credit for that. Son, I am very proud of you. We will talk later.¨
His father walked away.
Nick returned and said, ¨Christa, my parents are ready to leave.”
¨Already?¨ she asked.
“Yes. Good night Devlin. Thanks for entertaining her.”
“The pleasure was mine,¨ he said.
“Good night,” said Christa as she left for home.
Devlin wondered if their paths would ever cross again.
That was a long time ago, Devlin thought as he made it to his bedroom and unlocked the door. The room had traces of cobwebs and a hint of abandonment. It was no longer raining outside and light peered in through a window from the partly opened plantation shutters to reveal several items from a different era. A print of the famous 1930’s painting by Grant Wood, titled American Gothic, was hanging on the wall over a vintage brass metal four poster bed. An old Phonograph Tube Radio sat on a flame-wood desk next to a book titled, Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck in 1937. The book was opened as though someone planned to return and finish reading it later. Devlin walked over by the bed and unlocked an armoire. It contained his personal belongings, family heirlooms, and photo albums. He searched through the drawers until he found a beige folder.
¨Ah, here are the pictures of the estate,¨ he said to himself.
Overwhelmed with memories from the past, he turned around and left the room without locking the door. He went back downstairs where Sierra and Chantal were waiting for him.
¨These are for you Sierra,¨ said Devlin as he gave the photographs to her.
¨Great, thank you,¨ she said.
Sierra browsed through the folder and then she seemed surprised. Her eyes glazed over after she examined very closely, pictures of the staircase.
¨Chantal you have to see this,¨ she said.
Chantal and Devlin moved to her side to see what she was talking about.
¨OK, look at this picture, it confirms we will need to apply a mahogany finish to each of the balusters. Now take a look at this one. It is a close up shot of the details in the wood. They are medieval motif designs just like you asked me about earlier.¨
¨Wait, let me see that,¨ said Chantal.
¨How did you know about this?¨ asked Sierra.
¨It was just a feeling I had,¨ said Chantal.
Unbeknownst to the sisters, Devlin was ecstatic.