To her complete surprise, Hailey slept well and awoke the next morning with that delicious sense of peace that comes only after an undisturbed night of sleep.
There had been no visits from The Painted Lady and in fact, she felt totally at home in her old room.
She lay in bed listening to the song of Cardinals outside her window and the cooing of the morning doves. A rich, yellow sunlight poured into the space, filling all of it with warm butterscotch, reminding her of the toffee Mother gave her as a treat when she was a little girl.
She could still picture the red tartan box and inside, the square of toffee wrapped in wax paper like a delicate treasure. Mother showed her how to smack the hard candy on the table and shatter it into bite-size pieces that would last the whole day.
Huge, glycerin tears rolled down her cheeks—where they came from, she didn’t know.
Nostalgia was not typical of her mindset, so its presence that morning was a distinct indicator telling her she had passed another milestone making her feel she was now on the upward side of life.
Mother is dead.
The truth had penetrated.
She was now Queen of the Manor—the sarcastic title accorded Beatrice by her sisters had now befallen her.
Her mother had been strong—able to resist the McAdam clan and even push back and create an oasis of calm here in Lakeside Manor. Would she be able to do the same, or was she, as Alicia so discreetly implied, simply unequal to the task?
She got out of bed and pulled back the curtains.
Through a gap in the trees, she had an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario and could see a freighter far out on the horizon about to drop off the edge of the world—or so she used to conjecture when she was a child.
She stood for a long time watching waves the color of pewter and the silvery iridescence of sunlight near the ship.
Then several dark grey lines appeared like bars on a graph and the ship turned into a speck the color of the water and vanished beneath the waves.
She heard Nan stirring in the room next door, cursing as she stumbled over the thick throw rug Mother had intended to replace, but never got around to completing the task.
My first assignment as resident dowager, she chuckled inwardly.
There was a knock on the door and Nan entered before she could respond.
“Oh, don’t bestir yourself or anything, Your Highness. Perhaps I should send in a lackey to check the height of rugs in this bedchamber.”
Hailey laughed and went over and gave her a big hug. “Other than the Malay Man Catcher in the guest room, I trust everything else was to your liking.”
Nan grumbled and combed her fingers through her tangled tresses. “The view’s spectacular—I didn’t realize that big ships still sail on the lake. I guess I figured it was just a scenic backdrop for the upwardly mobile. Present company excluded, of course.”
“Of course. Thanks for the caveat, but I see myself more as a downward-moving mobile, I’m afraid—money never meant a damn thing to me.”
Nan rolled her eyes in mock disgust.
“Don’t I know that,” she groused, “Passing up several well-heeled suitors for a symphony musician and now a cop—where will it end? It’s a blue-collar nightmare. Oh, by the way, speaking of such, were you visited last night by The Lady of the Lake?”
“Very funny, but no. Actually, I had quite a pleasant sleep.”
“Good. Maybe your night terrors are behind you. Now all we have to do is hope that Brad and Star track down your axe-murderer before he gets to you.”
Hailey’s eyes danced. “Oh, so he’s gone from being a disgruntled student to a homicidal psychopath? If I didn’t know you better, I’d suspect you of trying to push me into Brad’s arms.”
Nan held open the door for her, curtseying like a chambermaid. “After you Madame.”
As Hailey exited, Nan called after her, “I could imagine worse fates than the arms of a handsome man.”
“Touché,” Hailey laughed, waiting for her at the top of the stairs. “Incidentally, if I know Birdie, she’ll have coffee on and breakfast ready by the time we get down there.”
“Really?” asked Nan astonished, “How will she know we’re up?”
Hailey eyed her sarcastically. “As if the whole neighborhood didn’t hear your expletives directed to my mother’s rug this morning—You watch—breakfast will be waiting.”
Nan colored. “I just wasn’t fully awake,” she parried defensively. “I’m not a morning person.”
“I noticed that,” said Hailey drolly.
The two went down to breakfast—Nan, her usual chatty self and Hailey, just beginning to think she had clear sailing from now on.
Little did she know that it was her boat that was about to drop off the edge of the world.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.