¨The sun has come out!¨ Devlin said with enthusiasm. ¨I’ve interrupted you two long enough.¨
¨On the contrary, you were a godsend to show up and give me the photographs. This will save us some time,¨ said Sierra.
¨Devlin, would you please stay and have lunch with us?¨ asked Chantal.
¨It would be my pleasure,¨ said Devlin.
¨Forgive me if I don’t join you but I would like to take a second look around outside while the weather is clear,¨ said Sierra.
¨That’s fine,¨ said Chantal.
¨Thank you for being so understanding and helpful. I knew I made the right decision to bring you along with me.¨
Sierra grabbed Chantal’s hand and held it for a moment before walking out the front door.
Chantal and Devlin went into the kitchen to get lunch.
¨Have you two always been close?¨ asked Devlin.
¨Yes, especially after we lost our parents.¨
Chantal tossed her head back and opened the refrigerator.
¨Can I help you?¨ Devlin asked.
¨You’re my guest, you don’t have to do anything,¨ said Chantal. ¨We have whole wheat sandwiches with turkey and swiss cheese or roast beef and cheddar cheese. What would you like to eat?¨ she asked.
¨Roast beef and cheddar cheese will do,¨ said Devlin.
¨Would you like potato chips with that?¨
¨What are potato chips?¨ asked Devlin.
¨Are you kidding me?¨ asked Chantal.
Devlin looked at Chantal with a puzzled expression.
¨You are serious,¨ she said answering her own question.
¨Yes I am but I’ll try some potato chips,¨ he said while walking over to take a seat at the oak dining table.
Chantal placed a serving platter containing sandwiches on the table along with a large bag of potato chips.
¨What would you like to drink?¨ she asked. ¨There is bottled water, milk, and orange juice.¨
¨Milk will be fine,¨ he said.
Chantal poured two glasses of milk. From the corner of her eye, she saw Devlin pick up the bag of potato chips and read the package. With his eyebrows raised in amazement, he opened the bag and ate some potato chips. She returned to the table and sat down across from him.
Amused she asked, ¨Did you like the potato chips?¨
¨Yes, they are good,¨ he answered unabashedly with his mouth full. ¨Please tell me more about yourself,¨ he said.
¨Well, Sierra and I are from a small town called Thousand Oaks located 170 miles north of Mystic Woods. Our parents were both college professors. My father was a professor of the fine arts and my mother taught French. She had always wanted to visit Paris, France, so my father surprised her with tickets for a vacation there to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.We lost them in a plane crash when they were on their way back home from the trip.¨
¨I’m so sorry for your loss.¨
¨Thanks but it’s OK. There is solace in knowing they were happy before they passed. Sierra stepped up and took care of both of us. I was 13 years old when it happened, so she became my legal guardian soon after she finished college.¨
¨God bless her,¨ said Devlin. ¨She’s done a good job.¨
¨How did you end up coming with her to Brooke Manor? It’s summertime, you should have fun with your friends.¨
¨My plans to go to England with a special friend of mine fell through, so Sierra invited me to join her here. At first I was hesitant about coming here but I’m not anymore since we’ve met.¨
¨Perhaps we can get to know each other better,¨ said Devlin.
¨I would like that very much,¨ said Chantal.
Later, Chantal and Devlin walked through the garden to the courtyard and sat down in a white stone built gazebo adorned with a weatherproof cupola roof and decorated with Tudor arched design door openings.
¨The lavender scent from the flowers and rhythmic sound of water from the angel shaped fountain is intoxicating,¨ said Chantal.
¨This is where I often come to meditate on life or lack thereof,¨ said Devlin.
¨It’s admirable of you to protect your family’s property. Are they proud of you?”
“I hope so,” said Devlin looking up to the sky.
“You can’t be many years older than me Devlin, and yet you have found the time to manage this large estate,¨ said Chantal.
¨I am 20 years old. You, your sister, and her business associates are the only ones that know about my involvement. I want to keep it that way because no one else cared, no one. I had to act because I could not bear the thought of seeing a place close and dear to my heart condemned. I can’t explain it, Brooke Manor is a part of me that must never die.¨
Chantal and Devlin continued talking until sunset when Chantal’s cell phone beeped.
¨I need to go inside and take my medication,¨ said Chantal.
¨What is the medication for?¨
¨I was born with a heart defect.¨
¨Let’s do this again, there’s so much I want to know about you,¨ said Devlin.
¨I look forward to it,¨ said Chantal.