Grande de Mason Mansion stood far off the road, a four story building built before the town had even been finished being built in 1835. The building stood high above the ground, proud and majestic. Alice stared at it dreamingly, she had often imagined woman in old fashioned dresses walking the garden, men lounging on the gallery, speaking about business matters that excluded woman. The walls shone with a proud pale blue, mirroring the sky high above and the roofing gently reflecting a deep brown.
Alice walked slowly up the stone pathway, her stilettos clicking against each stone as she walked, her grandfather far ahead of her, suitcases in hand and a deep scowl on his face. Clouds rolled in over the sun, leaving shadows in every corner, the smell of rain in the air. Alice stopped and stared towards the Gordons house. The family was nice, except for one of them. Keith. She scowled at the thought. The man was a menace and heartbreaker. It did her no good to continually think about him, she did that enough after she had first left home.
With a sigh of defeat, she turned and walked briskly into the mansion. Bickering and yelling came from the kitchen at the opposite side of the house, Alice grinned, ah her sister Alaine sure had a voice and so did Nanny Jane. The two had always been the ones to start fighting, and yelling at one another. Alice walked through the large marble foyer, her heels echoing against the walls and bouncing back to her.
“You’re doing it all wrong!” Alaine shrieked as Alice got nearer to the kitchen, “that’s too much! What are you trying to do?! Give us a heart attack!”
“Alaine,” Alice spoke humorously, “what on earth are you two bickering about now?”
Alaine, Nanny Jane, Grandpapa Paul, and Grandmamma Diane all turned and looked at her. Alaine split a smile and walked briskly up to her twin. “Alice! Hi!”
Alice rolled her eyes, wagging a finger in front of her, “don’t you act all innocent. I heard you from the front of the house.”
Nanny Jane squinted her eyes, and pointed a finger at Alaine. “This girl,” she grumbled, “I can’t cook without her tellin’ me somethin’ ain’t right about my cookin’.”
“Well you add way too many spices!”
Nanny Jane threw her hands above her, towel balled in her fist, “you never say nothin’ to me about them when you were a youngin’!”
A coating of sweat filmed over Nanny Jane’s face, eyes bugging out of her head, stress and anger flashing through them. Alice took in the kitchen, dark cedar brown cabinets and counters against the far wall. The appliances looked to be fairly new; she arched an eyebrow at the thought. Her grandmother sat at the black wooden table, a delicate tea cup in hand. She shrugged and walked briskly towards the table, seating herself across from her. “Renovated the kitchen, I take it Grandmamma?”
She smiled softly, her southern accent deep and her voice soft. “Sure did. Jane kept on complaining about the stove,” she shook her head softly, smiling gently. “Couldn’t replace but the stove and get away with it; now could I?”
“I suppose not,” a strand of auburn brown hair escaped and dangled uselessly in front of her eyes, she stared at it and quickly tucked it behind her ear. “It looks good, did Grandpapa do it himself?”
“Lord no,” Grandmamma chuckled lightly, “had that boy Keith Gordon help him.”
Alice stared at her like she had just said she was from the moon. Alaine laughed, “Come on now Alice, Keith ain’t that bad.”
“The hell he ain’t,” she grumbled. She blew out a stream of hot air; she was tired and too emotionally exhausted to deal with thinking about the man. Alice dropped her head into her hands, cradling her jaw and feeling as if she could pass out right there at the kitchen table.
“Come on Alice,” Alaine urged, “let’s get you to bed. You look as if you haven’t slept in a year.”
Alice forced a hollow laugh, “I haven’t really; not since Brad and I divorced.” She stood and yawned. “I guess I could go for a nap.”
“Oh no you don’t, youngin’” Nanny Jane chimed in. “Not before you eat somethin’, you be all skin and bones.” The older woman stared angrily at Alaine; she wagged a finger in her direction and then stared back at Alice. “Sit on down again.”
The older woman turned her large form and headed towards the stove. Nanny Jane picked up a large wooden spoon and dipped it into a crisp, spicy smelling liquid which Alice could only assume was soup. Alaine pouted childishly, her lip sticking out slightly and her eyes watered. Alice rolled her eyes and instead looked at her grandmamma.
“How’s Grandpapa been?” Guilt rang through her voice, Alice’s shoulders sagged; she’d been too neglectful about seeing to her family. “I know I didn’t call much. What with Brad and I fighting… the divorce…” She trailed off.
Her grandmamma smiled gently at her granddaughter, she nodded slightly. “He’s been okay. A few back aches, almost had a heart attack about six months ago. Doctors say he’ll live.”
Alice’s eyebrows shot up, her voice sounded her disbelief, “Since when did you believe what the doctors say?”
Her grandmamma shrugged, “since they saved him. That don’t mean I am going to believe everything they say, mind you.”
Her mind drifted off. Alice stared blankly into the void, picturing her childhood and the fond memories she had. She could still picture her grandfather standing by the backdoor, arguing with Alaine that not everyone liked bugs and they belonged outside. She smiled faintly. It wasn’t like she hadn’t argued up a storm with her grandfather simply because she could. Without a doubt, she loved her family. This very house had so many memories for her; it was hard to believe hardly anything had changed since she left.
The kitchen looked much the same as it did almost a decade ago. Hardwood flooring laid out, the wood a deep burgundy and the walls a dull brown. Alice sighed softly, her childhood home was her heart and soul, she couldn’t lie. Alice looked up and smiled at her grandmother. “Thank you grandmamma.”
The older woman looked at her strangely. “What for, child?”
“For allowing me to come back home,” Alice shrugged, uncomfortable with expressing her feelings. “I don’t know what else I would have done. I’m not even sure I want to see another courtroom again.” Alice sighed inward; she hated everything that had happened. But she knew she could never step into another courtroom, it would remind her too much of the divorce and the countless battles she won and lost as a lawyer.
Grandmamma Diane chuckled lightly, focusing her gaze at Alice. “And why would I not let you come back? You are always welcome here, child. This is both your home and future. Do not forget that.”
“Okay,” Nanny Jane chimed in, her voice a nice change of pace, breaking the tension hanging in the air. “Here, child, you eat now. And you,” she turned and glared at Alaine, “you don’ be saying anythin’ you hear me?”
“Thank you, Nanny Jane.” Alice forced a tight smile.
The soup tasted divine; the spices nice and crisp against her tongue. The soup tasted spicy and exotic, the liquid sliding down her throat, leaving a crisp spice in her mouth. Alice closed her eyes and savored it. Nanny Jane had always been a marvelous cook, even when she was a child. As she ate she thought of the past, she remembered breakfasts, the huge piles of pancakes, eggs, toast and bacon. She could recall the countless times she would get up early in the morning just to help Nanny Jane cook; she loved her Nanny’s breakfasts.
“Hey,” a hand waved in front of her, “earth to Alice.”
“Huh?” Alice blushed red in embarrassment, “what did you say? Sorry.”
Alaine put her hands on her hips and shook her head slowly. “Gee, am I that boring?”
“I, uh, no… sorry Alaine; I drifted off. What were you saying?” Or was it asking? She thought idly.
“I wanted to know if you want me to help you unpack. And for your information, sister, your bowl is empty.”
Alice looked down and bit her lip. “I guess it is.” She looked up and smiled broadly at Nanny Jane. “Thank you so much for the soup, Nanny Jane. It was delicious.”
The old woman smiled, her eyes lighting up and a slight blush rising up her neck. “Thank you, it is good to have you home.”
At the door, Alice bit her lip numbly; the door had been apparently closed since she left. Alice gulped and turned the door knob. Inside, the room sat in darkness, the curtains pulled closed with a crack of light escaping through them. “Well, I’ll be,” she muttered to herself.
Her dresser stood at the far end of the room, gently coated in a fine layer of dust, its drawers slightly ajar, as if someone had rummaged through them; but Alice knew why they were, she had been in quite a hurry when she left. A few feet from the dresser stood her bed, the coverings pulled off the bed, and laying in a heap on the floor. She turned her head to the side and stared at them.
“I’m not staying, damn it Keith.” She rubbed her eyes furiously. Her voice hit high, her temper rising. “Oh no you don’t; if you come over here I’ll kill you I swear. Nu-uh, don’t play coy with me, I seen you with her!”
Tears ran down her face, her mascara and eyeliner running in black streaks down her face. She was so tired and emotionally unstable. She tore the blankets off the bed, her anger rising and her loss building. The bedroom spun, leaving her feeling dizzy and nauseated. Keith spoke in a deep, emotionless voice, furthering her anger.
“Don’t give me that!” She shouted into the phone, her throat aching for her to stop. “I don’t care! Go to hell Keith Gordon!” She slammed the phone down and bent over, crying her heart out. God, she loved him and he hadn’t given a damn.
Alice shook her head furiously, the memories overwhelming her. She sighed; this wasn’t the dream vacation she thought she would find here. Alice moved swiftly into the room, shutting the door behind her and locking it. Her desk stood in the far corner, bathed in a dark shadow, as if hiding from the light. With a quick move of her hand, she flicked the light on and winced. The room was covered in dust.
“Christ on wheels,” she muttered under her breath.
She placed her suitcases down and stared at the room without any feeling. She had spent a majority of her life in here and it felt like she had stepped back in time. Her teenage and childhood years lingered in the air; she couldn’t believe she was back here. The walls were still a dark pink, the carpet a pale pink, even the paint on the windows were pink.
Alice walked to her bed and sat down. The mattress sunk under her weight, creaking and protesting. She scowled. The mansion stood quietly, not a sound or peep. The silence unnerved her; she had gotten used to people screaming, talking and cars blaring outside. It was certainly going to take some time to get used to the country life again. Alice grimaced, and being around Keith.