Everyday after school, I took a shortcut so that I would walk past the mansion where the English couple lived. And every time I paused to peek through the gates which were always ajar and stare at the strange faces on the posts. Behind and above the gates was foliage which swayed from the gentle summer breeze. Mama used to work there before the Mistress fired her. She accused Mama of stealing. Mama denied it, of course. Mama said that the Mistress didn’t like her because she was black. The Master was away when Mama got fired. The Mistress told her that if she showed her face at the mansion again, she would report her to the police.
Mama was sorry to lose the job because it helped to take care of my sister and me but she didn’t have a choice. For months she couldn’t find a job because the Mistress refused to give her a reference but the Master gave her one. Mama said that he was always very kind to her. That’s why I’m fixing to meet him so I could thank him for being good to my Mama.
The gates were ajar. After glancing around me to make sure that no one was around, I pulled it open so that it was wide enough for me to pass through. I pushed it in behind me. I looked around me. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The grounds stretched endlessly in all directions. They looked like a giant green lush carpet rolled out. The sweet smell of roses and bougainvillea filled the air as I walked between them, my heart racing. I was on private property. I could get into trouble for trespassing. What if someone caught me and took me to the Mistress. That thought alone stopped me in my tracks. Maybe coming here wasn’t such a good idea. I’d better get out of here NOW.
I turned and started to head back to the gate when I heard a man’s voice behind me. I froze. I was afraid to turn around. I stood there. I don’t know for how long before he came and stood in front of me. He was tall and very attractive with black hair and grey eyes. He was dressed as if he had been out riding. For some insane reason, he reminded me of Mr. Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility. His gaze narrowed as he studied me.
“Have we met before?” he asked.
I shook my head. “No.”
“You look familiar.”
“I’m—I’m Mabel Brown’s daughter, Addie.”
His expression brightened. “That’s why you look so familiar. How is your mother?”
“She’s doing well. She got another job.”
“I’m happy to hear that. I was sorry to lose her.”
“That’s why I came here. I wanted to thank you for giving Mama a reference.”
“It was the least I could do after what my ex-wife did.”
“Yes. We’re no longer married.”
“Is it because she fired Mama?”
“It was the last straw.”
“I’m glad she’s no longer here. I was afraid that if I got caught I would have to face her.”
“You don’t have to worry about her anymore, Addie.”
“Is she back in England?”
“Yes. Are you in a hurry to leave?”
I shook my head. “I was but I’m not anymore.”
“How would you like a tour of the grounds?”
My face brightened. “I’d like that very much.”
He smiled. “Come along then. You came all this way to thank me. The least I can do is to show you around.”
As we walked, my eyes drinking in my surroundings, I thought of Mama and what she would say if she were to see me now, walking on the grounds of the fine mansion where she used to work. She was right about her former employer. He was a really nice man not to mention, very attractive. I was happy that he was no longer married and it wasn’t only because I disliked his ex-wife. Stop filling your head with romantic notions. He’s a grown man. He’s not going to be interested in a school girl.
“How old are you?”
We were standing by the fountain and I was watching the water as it cascaded when he asked the question. I turned and faced him. “Seventeen.”
“I’m twice your age.”
“You look much younger.”
He smiled. “I have my father to thank for that. He too appeared to be much younger than he was.”
“Are your parents still alive?”
“Yes. They are living in Marseilles where my mother was born. Are you dating anyone?”
I shook my head. “I’m not interested in any of the boys at school.”
My answer seemed to please him. “If I didn’t have to attend to business now, I would invite you to stay and have tea with me. Are you free tomorrow afternoon, say around the same time?”
Heart racing with excitement, I nodded eagerly. “Yes, I’m free tomorrow.”
He smiled. He had such an amazing smile. It made his eyes twinkle and my stomach flutter. “Good. Tomorrow afternoon, then.”
We walked back to the gate. As we stood there facing each other, I held out my hand. “Thank you for the tour.”
“You’re welcome, Addie.” He shook my hand and when he released it, I could still feel where his fingers had been. The skin tingled. “I’ll be waiting here for you tomorrow afternoon. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.” I waved before I turned and walked away. Halfway down the street, I realized that I didn’t even know his name. Not to worry. I’ll find out tomorrow.
This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Invitation at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.