Annabell made her way inside the Georgia-peach-of-a-mansion, which was both appropriately grand and warm in the same breath, and found Walter Mason deep in the throws of a whiskey. Over ice? A change of pace for the mustached, muskrat patriarch.
She saw her father’s growing belly and the decline of his pointed-wit. Within the past year, Annabell had noticed his patience wearing thinner and thinner– he seemed to care increasingly less about the things that needed his attention the most. Annabell couldn’t quite put her finger on the matter, but rather scraped over those eggshells by a hair in her buttoned-up, all-the-rage ankle boots. Never wanting to be ‘the what’ of her father’s matter, she had always relied on her girlish charms and in the abiding confidence that she, indeed, would always be Daddy’s girl.
Annabell was debating whether to engage Mr. Mason in a complaint about the Ginger (and of his bothering of freckles, be-speckling her calculated fashions for a summer by the river), or instead focus on all the new mystery and excitement that followed one to a summer by the river (including the attention of boys-almost-men). Instead, Annabell quickly quieted her need for her father’s attention and slipped one kiss on his forehead. Wordlessly. She turned to rush upstairs to her very-much-missed malady of a room, when the warmth of skin stopped her sleight-of-step. Her father had taken her hand, not wanting the rapidity of her departure to be so swift.
He looked at her. Were those tears in his eyes? Were there tears in her eyes? With all the humidity, and with the glistening sun seeping in through the tapestry (keeping in and out the weather), she could have been mistaken. Annabell waited for something to be said. Something to say. Neither came.
The moment passed as quickly as it came.
Annabell, with more thought and timed steps, took to the red-carpeted passageway and went up to the second floor. Here is where all of her dreams (of both the good and bad variety) would come to pass in this Summer of ‘26. Touching the side of the railing as she rounded the top step, a slight smattering of dewy dust kept to her fingers. Familiar smells. Familiar thoughts that she hadn’t thought invaded her older and much more mature mind as she roamed the familiar –yet unfamiliar– hall that had known a younger girl.
For Annabell, this year had known love and loss. She had broken hearts, and had a quarter of her heart broken– at least, as much as one can know of heartbreak at all of eighteen. And a half. She was a woman now, and a woman she was determined to be.
From the height of the second floor she could see all of what the architect of the house had intended. And from this vantage point, Annabell could hear the mitch-march of the un-friends who were attending diligently to their tasks about the grand house, laboring to make life as enjoyable as possible for the Masons. Annabell leaned against the wooden rail with piqued interest, watching the zigzagging of so much business being handled now that the family had arrived.
Then one path, which was ‘zigging’ when it should have been ‘zagging,’ caught her attention.
These steps were slower. And heavier. As though the innards of his shoes were lead-lined. His shoulders were broad– like they’d been chopping wood for months (though, in this heat, chopping firewood couldn’t have been what they were for). Maybe it was an inner heat that she could smell rather than a fire, but there was something about his ‘un-zigged’ swagger, which she could feel from yards and yards away up upon that perch where she sat…. Like a pigeon waiting for a lightning bolt, just asking for a sizzling.
Annabell was arrested. She’d never been stopped cold (especially in the dead of summer), by the beat from which someone bat their drum. She could only get a make on his outline, but it seemed a stencil of one of those god-like characters she’d learned about in those pictures at her all-girl’s school. Adonis? Wasn’t that the mythical creature’s name? It sounded about right in her head….
He had stopped in the middle of the room to speak to the chief of the staff. Nessie was a stately woman of color– stout and firm, yet kind and knowing, with a charm all her own. This Adonis was tall– or was it that the housekeeper was short? Annabell couldn’t remember how tall Nessie was… it had been a year, after all.
But Annabell definitely did not remember this boy. Or was he a man? It was hard to tell from her birdhouse-of-a-tree-branch into which she had settled. If she leaned over any farther, she would be training for the gymnastics portion of the Olympics, or some such. Arching her back to offset her weight, she strained to see what proportion of a nose went along with that light-colored feathering atop the whirls of testosterone underneath. What tambor of tone went with the voice which was presently talking with the in-charge, kind-of-heart, takes-no-horse-shit-from-anyone, Nessie? The housekeeper obviously knew this boy.
Could it be? Was he one working under the Masons? And what was his artisan trade? What shift would he shift?
The wind left her body as suddenly as it came– as if it were the third day, of the third month, of the eighth year of the new decade. A decade full of change. Promise. Demise. Despair. Deliverance.
Her feet left the ground– not by her doing, albeit. A little help from two tiny hands of the Ginger had unweighted her weight in the direction of Newton’s Law.
A stark cry out of her tiny ribcage, and then there she was– circling over the parched railing, seeing only ceiling and the tops of trees out the half-circle glass window (which she had always wondered how anybody could get up high enough to clean). She looked back. The Ginger, whose green eyes were wide in horror –staring her in the face and passing through her field of vision–, watched as she flipped a flip and reached out to her new best-friend-of-a-railing, grabbing a hold of the banister before a sure-fated demise be but inches away.
Annabell was hanging on for dear life and cursing the Ginger, but still she didn’t dare look down. And then she heard the Adonis’ voice below her.
“Hold on tight! But if you don’t, I’ll catch you,” the low, thick drawl assured her.
Yes. Annabell Mason (soon-to-be-Hayworth, though she didn’t know it), was hanging by her fingernails to a railing that wasn’t used to holding. The boy below was not named Adonis (nor Hayworth, for that matter), but as she hung and waited, the glistening became more… and made her comfortable in new and uncomfortable places. And all she could think about was how she would be held once her rescue was complete.