Axel:A Bad Boy Romance(7)

By: Laura Day

Taking Cate by the hand, she walked up to the back door. She knocked once and the unlocked door pushed easily open. Peering inside Marie saw a scattered looking office that led to a small gift shop she could see through another door.

“Hello?” Marie called out as the door creaked open. No one answered. She took a step inside; behind her Cate clung to her leg as they looked around the new room.

The floors were a shiny wooden surface and they creaked with every step. The small cluttered office was lined with windows. There were piles of paper everywhere and a variety of plants on the many windowsills.

“Stay here,” Marie said, walking over to the doorway and poking her head out into the museum’s small gift shop. There were books lining the wall, a series of Christmas ornaments on a rotating display case, and another wall covered in pictures and postcards for the local town. An older woman was standing in one corner talking to a visitor; she saw Marie and gave her a wave and a smile and signaled she would be done in one minute.

Cate was standing by the window gazing at two birds that were sitting in a tree outside. Marie walked over to her and put her hand on her daughter’s shoulder, leaning over and kissing her on the top of her head.

“I’m so sorry about that!” the older woman said as she came bustling into the room. She looked like she was in her sixties, but she didn’t appear to be taking old age lying down. She had short, grey hair and was wearing a pair of jeans, sneakers, and a sweater. She had boundless energy and she walked right to Marie and pulled her into a strong bear hug. “I did not mean to leave you waiting! I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. We are so glad you and your beautiful daughter have come to stay with us.” She broke the hug and looked down at Cate who had grown suddenly shy and was hiding behind Marie’s knees.

“Cate can be a little shy sometimes,” Marie offered.

“Oh, I understand it. My oldest still hides anytime she has to meet someone new. I’m Ingrid Michele; you can call me Ingrid. I’m the head of the Harksburg Historical Council. I was a lawyer my whole life, but history was always my passion. Now that I’m retired I can devote all of my time to it. Are you ready for a tour of the house?”

“Yes,” Marie answered trying to process all of that information at once. She took Cate by the hand and followed Ingrid through the gift shop and into the mansion proper. The place felt big and old as she walked through it. All the rooms were massive in size with high ceilings and giant windows. It was nothing like the modern houses in Arizona she was used to. This house was an old lady; it had character and history in it. She hugged the walls as she walked as if the house itself was watching her.

“So, the gift shop and office space used to be a servants’ entrance and a space for the servants to work. Here we have the grand entrance,” she said as they walked towards the front of the building. The walls were covered in a deep and rich wood paneling; the floors were made of a similar wood with sumptuous carpets interspaced throughout. Everything was impeccably clean and shining. “This is the main doorway; visitors to the museum will use this entrance.” The door was almost twice as tall as Marie and heavy; they opened it and she could see the wrought iron detailing on the front while ivy, vines, and flowers made from metal climbed up the door.

Everything in the house was detailed and intricate. There were faces carved into the bannisters and crown molding in every room. The claw foot furniture was luxurious with opulent fabric covered in brightly colored birds and green foliage. There were huge fireplaces in every room with gorgeous fire screens in front of them.

“Down here we have the sitting room, the ballroom, and the main dining room. In the basement we have the working kitchen and the servants’ quarters. But we can go over them later. Let’s go upstairs so you can see the apartment and get settled.” Marie’s heels clicked loudly as they hiked up the large wooden staircase in the middle of the house. “Here we have the bedrooms and the children’s rooms,” she said as they stopped on the second floor landing. Ingrid walked to another door and produced a key that led to the third floor. She unlocked the door and together the three of them walked up the flight of stairs, “and up here is your apartment,” Ingrid said as she opened another door.

Marie was nervous as she walked up the dark and tight staircase that led to her and Cate’s new home. She thought of the house she left behind – the very modern condo Austin had purchased. It had been too big for them and everything in it had been new. It had been a “smart house” with cameras in every room and motion-activated lights. There were TVs and built-in speakers in every corner and Marie hated it. It had been modern and tasteless and impersonal. An interior decorator had purchased all of the art that hung on the walls, and she had no attachment to any of it. But even though she hated it, she couldn’t deny their old place had been very nice, far nicer than anything she could ever afford on her own.

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