Sara's Promise(10)

By: Deanna Lynn Sletten

William solicitously followed her around, helping by carrying her equipment and pointing out the unique features in each house. The March day had warmed considerably, and he'd taken of his suit jacket and tie, making him appear less formal, more accessible.

They had full run of the homes they visited, because the owners had agreed to be gone for the shoots. It seemed his clients loved his work so much they were only too happy to let him show it off.

And Annie was impressed. The homes were beautiful, each one built uniquely to suit its owner. In all her years of photographing homes for magazines, she'd never been as impressed as she was today.

"These homes are fantastic," she told him enthusiastically as she continued clicking snapshots. "You do beautiful work."

William smiled sheepishly as he said a quiet thank you. She was surprised by his genuine humility.

Annie took dozens of photos at the first two houses, then they were off to the neighboring suburbs of Forest Grove and Hillsboro to view more homes. Again, Annie found each home completely different from the last, and the lighting was amazing in all of them. Large windows, large rooms, yet cozy, warm atmospheres seemed to prevail in all of them.

The afternoon flew by, and William treated Annie to a late lunch at a quaint cafe on their way into Portland. There were two more homes he wanted to show her near the city before calling it a day.

As they sat across from each other at a corner table, William couldn't help but admire Annie. Her eyes were still sparkling with enthusiasm at the photos she'd taken. Her warm, brown hair was tucked neatly behind her ears, showing off the perfect shape of her oval face. Everything about her was petite, her ears, nose, and heart-shaped mouth, making her appear doll-like. But her personality more than compensated for her size, exploding with energy, making him forget how small she was.

"These shots are going to be amazing," she said excitedly, unaware that he was staring at her so intensely. She took a sip of her soda and a hearty bite from her turkey sandwich. "I can't get over the great lighting your homes have."

William smiled, happy he'd impressed her with his work. Somehow, it seemed important to him that she approved. "Lighting actually makes the house," he told her. "Big windows make rooms appear larger, and the perfect balance of light creates the entire atmosphere of a room."

"I agree completely," she said, nibbling on a French fry. "But most home builders don't understand that. They just slap together walls and call it a house."

William laughed. "Most home builders don't get to work with the budgets I do. The majority of the homes I design run in the five to ten million dollar range."

"True," Annie said, smiling back at him. "I guess you can afford enormous windows with that kind of money."

William nodded. "Actually, it was my wife who emphasized to me the importance of perfect lighting. She was an artist, and lighting was paramount to her. When we built our home, it was her ideas I used for the most part."

"Your wife must have been very creative," Annie said softly.

"She was," William said quietly, his smile fading. His eyes were heavy with sadness. Annie's first impulse was to place her hand on his to soothe away the hurt in his eyes. But she only sat there, quiet, not quite understanding her urge to comfort him. After all, she barely knew him.

William broke the uneasy silence. "Well, we'd better go see the other two homes before it gets dark," he suggested. He paid the bill, and they took off in his Explorer toward Portland.

These homes were as incredible as the others and although Annie enthusiastically snapped pictures, the excitement of the day had dissipated. William was quieter, more reserved, although he continued to help carry equipment and was very polite. He seemed to have drifted off, far away into another place, and Annie didn't want to intrude on his silence.

They returned to his office building just as evening spread over the city. He helped her load the equipment back into her car. At the last minute, William invited her out for a late supper, but she politely declined. She wanted to go home and download her photos to see how they'd turned out. So they parted with an appointment to meet again at eleven the next morning.

Annie thought of him all the way back to her apartment, and again as she lay in her bed that night. It's him. I'm sure of it. It was obvious he was still heartbroken over the loss of his wife. She had seen it in his eyes when he spoke of her. She wasn't sure how long his wife had been gone, but thought how sad it was for him. He was an attractive, energetic man, and he seemed too young to cling to a memory. As she drifted off to sleep, she was looking forward to spending the next day with him.

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