Artwork by Calli
On The High Cliff
by B. S. Raven
Jennifer Bauer sat next to the real-estate agent, who pointed out the small, sleepy village below, and the row of assorted size ships at various moorings, clustered around the edge of the bay. The car drew to a stop on the spiraling gravel road. Jennifer and Alyce Sandusky got out and stood in front of the agents’ shiny new 1933 Ford Roaster.
Alyce directed her attention to the cottage on the bluff. The cottage stood alone, high on the cliff. One single ancient oak tree in the front yard was all that kept the house company. It was a bleak and lonely looking place, even though it had been painted only the month before. Alyce had shown the property only once in the last year.
Although her agency had the prepaid management contract for the property, she did arrange for several of the women in the village to regularly come and air and clean the house, as well as numerous men to routinely attend the grounds and maintain the house, the detached garage, the small barn located down the hill leading down to the seashore, and the small private cemetery down the rise from the house. She herself vowed never to be alone in the house, or the estate from an experience she had, that first October, some fifteen years earlier.
There had been no serious prospective buyers for the property in the fifteen years Sandusky’s company had been selected by the deceased owner’s relatives to manage the eleven-acre estates. In a last ditch effort to rid her firm of the burdensome property, she had placed a photograph of the house in a New York, Boston, and a Toronto newspapers. Jennifer Bauer had been the only interested response to the real-estate ad.
Jennifer was a very, beautiful young woman. She had short, bobbed, soft honey-blonde hair, and light green eyes, which changed color when the light hit them. She stood a little over five feet four inches tall, and was an extremely successful writer for only being twenty-seven. She had five best selling novels, and over two hundred magazine stories to her credit. However, her inheritance from a spinster aunt had assured Jennifer a life of comfort and ease, if she so choose.
Jennifer arrived in Maine with high-flying expectations. This was it: new life, new home, and not having to deal with the selfish minded people that had attempted controlling her very existence. This included her family, who were the chief, calculating instigators, with their scheming ideals, and direct opposition to her chosen life style.
After seeing the advertisement, she had been so drawn to the photograph, she had inquired, at length, and in detail, about the property via telephone on several occasions. Almost immediately the young writer had made arrangements to promptly see the house in person. She had assured Mrs. Sandusky, that if she found the house to be as she anticipated, she would purchase the estate at once, and move in straight away, as well.
Alyce was glad she would only be there a few minutes. She had always felt nervous and somewhat frightened each time she entered the picket fence gate to the property. It was comforting to know the young lady would be entering the premises with her. The elderly woman turned and smiled at the prospective client, but her smile went unnoticed. Jennifer was occupied taking a photograph of the cottage with the new Kodak, purchased only days before. She then turned and took one of the ships in the cove, and another of the village.
“The property line starts right here, Miss Bauer,” she directed the sandy headed woman’s attention to the stake beside the road. A long strand of red material had been attached to the stake, and was flapping vigorously in the gusting wind. “It goes to that tree off to the left, for this side of the boundary.” She pointed. “I’ll show you the other boundaries when we reach the top. Of course, the property proceeds down the cliff and ends at the waters’ edge. You would have several thousand feet of private beach, if solitude is what you desire.” The matronly woman cocked her head, and continued. “You won’t have many uninvited visitors up here, Miss Bauer, nor, on the beach either, as far as that goes. Strange goings on up here, and some eerie noises… Some say sounds of wailing… Well, if you believe in such things.”
Jennifer just looked up toward the house once again, and chuckled to herself. “Can’t say not having too many guests, invited, or otherwise, would bother me,” she muttered under her breath.
They re-entered the automobile, and proceeded up the winding road to the crest, through the open picket gate, and came to a stop at the side of the house. The elderly realtor began to feel the queasiness in the pit of her stomach. She reluctantly exited the vehicle, but stood next to the open door not attempting to move from the spot. A shiver ran up her back, as she clutched her open coat closer to her chest.
Jennifer beamed broadly as she looked up at the three story structure. It was assumed the third floor of the structure was most likely an attic. The very thought of her living here made her heart soar. She could not explain the feeling… ‘Home!’ Yes, she felt she had come home. “You going to just stand there, Mrs. Sandusky? I would like to see the inside, please.” She spoke in an actuarial way.
“Ye…yes. Let me get the key,” her voice was trembling as she reached inside the car, and rummaged through her purse for the key. Dropping it on the ground as she stood up, she looked up towards the cliff, before she quickly reached down, and hurriedly retrieved the old fashion skeleton key.
The young woman had not waited. She had taken the side steps of the rap-around- porch two at a time, with her camera dangling by the cord around her hand. She placed her other hand next to her face to ward off the bright glare, as she stared in one of the front windows. The older woman slowly reached the front door and fumbled with the key.
“Here, allow me,” the soft voice offered.
“Thank you,” her hand shaking as she handed the key to the anxious younger woman.
Jennifer noticed the trembling hand, but decided not to question the reason. She was anxious to view the interior of the dwelling.
It was the first day of October, and the cottage felt cold and somewhat damp. Jennifer noticed the logs placed in the fireplace. Slowly, her eyes scanned the room. It was furnished in the rich woods and warm colors of early American décor. The pieces of furniture were obviously antiques, but looked as if they had been placed there only a short time before, and had never been used.
Uncluttered, and free of sophisticated trappings, the furnishings were much more appealing to Jennifer than the fashionable elegance she was used to in Boston. She traced a finger along the lines of the exquisite gramophone. Opening the top of the musical instrument, she smiled as she read the title of the classical wax sphere.
“Hmm. Interesting. One of my favorite pieces of music,” she mused.
“Even though it is sixteen years old, there is a boiler for steam heat, and a hot water heater in the basement. It was only used for part of a year before the owner died. I’ve had it cleaned and lit once a year to maintain the system.” The realtor indicated to the inconspicuous radiator on the wall as she showed the potential buyer into the large, oval dinning room. “The boiler insures hot water throughout the cottage, including the kitchen and laundry room. The gas stove is also sixteen years old, but as you can see, it has had little use.” She pointed out, opening the oven doors to show the potential purchaser.
“Nice. Very practical, and I love the old fashion style of the stove. I love to cook.” A sparkle of excitement flashed in the depths of her velvety hazel eyes as she gazed around her.
“This house was designed and built by the previous owner. It has several features, and modern day improvements, which houses of that day did not normally have, including a full bathroom upstairs, as well as down. Each has these oversize, extra long, paw-claw footed cast iron tubs. It comes fully furnished. Including the dishes and linens, which I had washed and aired just yesterday. Miss Bauer, this house even has a laundry room with washing a machine in the mudroom, off the kitchen here. You go through it, to go out the back door onto the screened-in porch.” She pointed out the door opposite the pantry door. Of course, the machine is also, sixteen years old. But, the piping is already in place, and one of those new electric washing machines would fit in the place of the roller one, I’m sure.”
“I’ll take it.” Lips twitched into a smile.
“What?” The stunned realtor gasped.
‘I’ll take it.”
“Bu… But… But, you haven’t even seen the upstairs,” she stuttered.
“No need. I’ll take it, Mrs. Sandusky.” Things like this didn’t happen to her often, but when she saw the cottage, she knew she had to have it. For some unexplained reason, she felt the house had to be a part of her life.
“Well…well, if you’re sure, Miss Bauer. We can go back down to my office and I’ll draw up the contract.”
“Yes. That will be acceptable. I desire to gather my luggage from the hotel, and return here by early afternoon.” For the first time in her life, she would be able to devote all her time to writing. And now, in the next few hours, she would complete all the details to make this house her home. She whirled around the living room on the toes of her boots before she opened the front door for the older woman.
“There is a mercantile in town to deliver necessary foodstuff isn’t there?” She asked as she stood on the top step of the cottage.
Mrs. Sandusky turned to answer the younger woman, and saw her holding out her camera.
“Would you please take a photograph of me in front of my new home?” She asked.
“I’d be delighted, my dear. And yes, there is a fine, fully stocked mercantile in the village. I’ll stop and introduce you on our way back to the office.”
She snapped the photograph for the young writer. “You weren’t smiling.” She stated to the youthful woman.
“Well, how about taking another one, please,” she requested. She straightened her leather jacket, pulling the front down to cover the top of her pleated, wide legged khaki trousers. A soft, turtle-neck, yellow sweater and brown, ankle boots gave Jennifer the look of a modern day aviatrix, instead of the highly educated, refined member of Boston’s elite society, which she had been brought up to be. She shoved her hands into her pockets, and grinned just as the older woman clicked the shutter of the camera. She had a wardrobe full of classy dresses, but her choice of dress, were trousers along the same line she was now wearing.
Two hours later, Jennifer had signed the real-estate contract; issued a check for the full amount of the house; accepted the skeleton key from Mrs. Sandusky; ordered enough staples, and groceries for two weeks, and made arrangements at the local office to have a telephone installed the following week. Her short walk to the local furnace company had secured their promise, to come early the next day and start-up her furnace and boiler. As the gas was already on, she stopped at the utility company to register as the owner of the cottage and how to address future invoices.
The young writer, upon seeing the photograph of the cottage, had packed her belongings, anticipating the house purchase. She had placed a call from the realtor’s office to her attorney’s office in Boston to have her personal possessions shipped to her new address immediately, including her bicycle. She had bought one large suitcase, and her typewriter in its’ huge black case on the train with her. She now had everything she needed to begin her new life here, on the high cliff in Maine.
Jennifer hired a driver to take her to the outsized cottage, where as, she was concerned, she would stay for the remainder of her life. She told the driver “Thank you,” when he placed her luggage and typewriter in the floor just inside the front door, then waved, and watched him drive away, feeling suddenly on her own, but, for some reason, not alone. She wasn’t frighten, as the house seem to be putting arms around her, as if to say, welcome home.
Jennifer lugged the typewriter into the den, and placed it on the huge oak desk sitting in front of a complete wall of books.
“Had to have served as a library also,”she ran her finger over the cover of the leather bound volumes. “Ah… I have a complete library of the classics.” The approving voice continued, “My predecessor had excellent taste.”
She carried her luggage up the stairs, and sat it down in the hallway. Each room was a testament to the eloquent and graceful taste of its builder. The upstairs bedrooms were huge, with tall ceilings perfectly suited for the canopy beds of another era. Each bedroom was filled with beauty and grace. She had given each of them a lengthy inspection before she decided to take the front bedroom, which appeared to be the master bedroom. The four-poster bed and furnishings were enormous.
“Clearly a king size. Must have been a tall, or hefty person for a bed this size,” she pondered. “I’ll get lost on it by myself, but it sure feels comfortable,” she commented, as she sat down on the bed then threw her legs over, onto the cover and lay there for a few moments with her eyes closed.
Opening her eyes, Jennifer stared at the ceiling, and burst out laughing. Someone had placed a large mirror above the bed. “Now, I wonder what someone in 1916, would be doing with a mirror up there?” She laughed again, and threw her legs back down off the bed and stood up. “I bet there were some interesting times spent in this bed.” She expounded, and looked up once more and continued chuckling as she brought in her bag, and laid it out flat on the bed.
“Might as well put these things away, then go look around before my staples arrive.” She untied the belt holding the luggage and started putting the garments away in huge armoire to the right of the bed.
“With this size furniture, and this massive, masculine style armoire, a gentleman must have made this his bedroom.” She closed the top drawer of the chest, and open the door to the walk in closet. “Goodness, it’s almost as large as my entire accommodations in Boston,” she whistled, removing wooden hangers and slipping her sweater onto the exquisitely carved hanger. “Excellent taste, even in the closet.”
She finished unpacking, and exited the house to explore the nearby surrounding. She had walked down to the barn, and found the tack room complete with several riding saddles freshly polished, and the stalls clean and whitewashed. Someone had probably ridden regularly, and made sure the horses kept here were cared for in a most superb manner.
She started up the hill to the cliff, when the mercantile store delivery truck interrupted. After putting away the groceries, she decided to light the fireplace in the dinning room, living room and both the bedroom and bath upstairs. During her exploration, she had discovered that there were six fireplaces in the cottage, as well as fans in the ceilings of every room except the mudroom. “I’m impressed,” she exclaimed, as she snapped the fan switch next to the light switch in the kitchen off and on several times.
“Guess I’ll eat this prepared cold chicken and potato salad I had them bring out prior to continuing my walk.” She spoke to the empty kitchen as she sat down at the utility table in the middle of the room.
Putting another log on the living room fireplace, and returning the screen to its’ place in front of the fire, she picked up her jacket and stepped out on the porch.
Something seemed dreadfully wrong. Then she gasped. She could see a tall figure walking on the edge of the cliff. Her cliff. The figure stopped and seems to be staring out over the bluff into space, or was the shape staring at the ocean tide? She could not tell. The moon finally came out, but only dimly outlined the capped figure on the bluff. Jennifer proceeded cautiously up the hill.
The figure must have heard her steps on the dried debris on the ground, because as she looked up to view the person better, she saw the individual turn and gaze directly at her.
“Who… Who are you? And what are you doing on my bluff?” Jennifer looked earnestly at the figure.
Chuckling at her exuberance, the deep voice exclaimed. “Whoa, Miss Bauer, not so fast! First, give me a chance to welcome you to the village. When did you arrive? You weren’t expected until later.”
“I arrived this morning. You seem to know my name, but you didn’t answer me?” The moon came out from behind a cloud and illuminated the face before her.
It was a woman. A tall, dark-haired woman. She was dressed in riding pants, a matching shirt and jacket. Jennifer could see the high shine on the tall woman’s brown riding boots that came up her legs almost to her knees. She flung back one side of the heavy cape over her shoulder and extended her hand to Jennifer.
“Lian. Call me Lian,” she told her absently. “I really don’t think you should have taken the place before we had a chance to talk. There are some things you don’t know…”
Jennifer interrupted her “Some things I don’t know? And just what business is that of yours?” She tried to release her hand from the strong, larger hand that had gripped hers.
“It is my business, Jenny. You are my business. This is my business. This is my domain. Now that you are finally here, destiny has been fulfilled, and I guess it doesn’t really matter about our talking first. My waiting had finally ended. I have been waiting for you for a long time, Jenny.” The full lips twitched into a smile as she released the smaller hand from hers.
“What? You have the most distressing way of talking in riddles?” Her stomach fluttered nervously and her eyes widened with sudden disbelief and amazement.
“The waiting has been long, Jenny. You get settled. We’ll speak more tomorrow. This is my first night out, and I want to see the dunes and walk on the beach.” The tall, dark-haired woman gazed lovingly down at the younger woman. “We have time, now.” With that, she turned and walked promptly down the worn path, towards the base of the cliff.
The stillness engulfed her, and suddenly her situation was achingly familiar. Shaking off the feeling of deju vu that gripped her, Jennifer moved toward the porch. Stopping on the threshold, she shook her head mutely at the woman she had met at the top of the bluff.
‘What was that all about?’ That one question kept running around in her head as the young writer silently continued her inspection of the house, the echo of her movements seeming to follow her through the rooms.
When she reached the attic, and snapped on the light, Jennifer’s shoulders tightened at the scene that met her eyes. There on one wall was a full-length oil painting. The portrait was of the woman on the bluff. She had on a brilliant blue riding ensemble. Obviously, tailor made, and in somewhat of a manly fashion, yet, still feminine without question.
It seemed so strange. Who was the woman? Had she lived here? What was her portrait doing in her attic? Questions, but no answers.
Jennifer retreated back down the stairs to the living area. Her active writing mind took over. She thought of the woman on the bluff and suddenly, she began to have a deep stirring. It was more of an awakening, which she could not quite fathom.
‘What a perfect spot for a rendezvous!” For one spellbound moment, time stood still for Jennifer. Then realization rushed in, and she sank with a gasp to the stone hearth of the fireplace. A rendezvous for two characters of a deep love…. Not characters out of one of her manuscripts!
Suddenly, she wanted to laugh and cry, to embrace the world in joy as wild thoughts buzzed in her head. For months she had felt stifled in Boston. Her writing lacked the zest she knew she was capable of, and something was wrong with her personal life as well. She knew she needed to feel… to be involved… to love. She knew she needed a lasting relationship, and not an imaginary one, as expressed so vividly in her books, or the couple of liaisons of her past. The problem, included the setting had never occurred to her. And here it was-an old, oversized, white cottage, with its’ own tall, mysterious, stranger…
Yet, not really a stranger! Now, there was a contradiction if ever she heard one. Not really a stranger!
“I’m losing it.” Jennifer gasped, her hand fluttering to her throat as she stood up. Her fingers itched to go into the den, and open her typewriter, but she made herself slowly climb the stairs to her bedroom. The young woman had been up since four this morning, and she felt wearily exhausted from the day’s activity. She’d go to sleep, and tomorrow, she would find Lian, and they would have a long talk.
‘YES! We will have a lengthy talk, my tall, mysterious visitor!’ Her mind screamed.
That night Jennifer could not sleep. The wind blew strong and the flames danced eerily in the fireplace. The flames seem to dance, a slow dance, creeping and moving their arms, beckoning to her. Jennifer scooted down in the bed and pulled the covers up to her chin.
She had always had a vivid imagination, but this was ridiculous. Hadn’t she just imagined the tall image from the cliff had encircled her body and began a slow, erotic dance with her?
The wind blew harder and it seemed to Jennifer that she heard a soft cry and a whisper: “We will join again very soon, Jennifer. I am coming to you.” Jennifer wiggled deeper into the large bed, closed her eyes tight and covered her ears. But still, she saw the tall figure creeping seductively closer and closer. Still she heard her chant- -louder and louder.
Jennifer huddles under the covers. She had never been so cold. She tried not to think of the tall dark woman. The scene disappeared as quickly as it had come. Jennifer tried to tell herself, what she had seen was only shadows from the fire.
“Yeah, sure it was!” She whispered to herself.
Jennifer finally fell asleep dreaming of the tall figure and wailing in the moonlight of a cold, rain soaked bluff. Then her dream changed. She stood in a murky forest, and weaving among the trees were figures…dancing, creeping and waving their arms. But when she looked at the area again, she saw the tall dark figure in the riding cape coming from the shadows, proceeding directly towards her. As she advanced the tall figure’s clothing seemed to change to leathers of some sort, with a sword across her back. Then as she drew closer, the garment changed back again to the riding apparel. Her arms open, inviting as if to say, “Come unto me, Jenny, I have waited so long.” She finally reached the outstretched arms, which surrounded her and pulled her close. The dark head bent down and full lips took hers. The pressure increased, and Jennifer felt her mouth open more, and a warm tongue make its way into her mouth, exploring the deepest recesses. Their tongues touched and the dark haired woman gave way to Jenny’s tongue for reciprocal probing.
Jennifer felt the heat rising in her loins. She felt the heat radiating from Lian. The desire was growing at such a rate, she felt as if she would explode with the orgasm at any moment. A crackling sound made Jennifer jump. Had a log snapped in the fire? Then she realized her arm had knocked over the flashlight she had placed on the nightstand before retiring.
“Please…oh, please…let morning come,” she moaned.
The next morning, Jennifer looked intently at the still glowing embers in the fireplace, and remembered the dream. It had seemed so real. Felt so real. And yet? Slowly she ran her hand under the covered and into the tops of her pajamas and proceeded even slower down to her mound. Quickly she withdrew her hand. “If that was a dream, why on earth am I still so wet?”
She threw her legs off the bed and stood up. “Erotic dream, my lily white behind. If that was a dream, my Aunt Sadie is a virgin, and I don’t think any of her five husbands would agree.”
The day was spent walking the property, and searching the bluff area for signs of the mysterious “Lian”, but all she found were boot tracks on the path and the same long strides on the beach.
She returned to the house, and found herself numerous times in the attic, where she had pulled an overstuffed chair out and sat down across from the oil painting.
By early afternoon, she had familiarized herself with every intricate feature of the dark haired woman’s face and built. The moonlight had not allowed her to see the piercing blue eyes, which seemed to wander over every feature of the small woman sitting in the chair. Her dark hair was shiny, almost as if it was covered with moisture hung over a wide bronzed forehead. Her square chin and well-defined, tan cheeks gave her a sensuous animal grace to her, which almost stole your breath. If a woman could be considered handsome, instead of beautiful, then this tall figure was very handsome. Her hands were long and lean, and Jennifer started to perspire as she imagined the hands underneath her sweater, caressing their way up until, at last, they gently cupped her breasts. The strong thumbs stroked her nipples until they were hard and erect. Her breathing became shallow. Her body began to sway as she closed her eyes and the strokes became more profound.
CLANK, CLANK, CLANK. The brass doorknocker broke the trance, and Jennifer jumped up, almost panting. She stared at the portrait. One dark eyebrow was slightly cocked, and there seem to be a mischievous curl starting on one corner of the mouth of the woman.
CLAMK, CLANK, CLANK went the knocker once more. Jennifer gave a quick glance over her shoulder at the portrait, and jogged down the stairs to answer the impatient knock.
The writer pulled open the door, catching the woman’s hand in mid air, obviously on its way to rap the brass ornament once again.
“Uh, hello there, Miss Bauer. I’m Gladys Ruth Lanagan. Mrs. Sandusky, down at the Realty, dropped by my place this morning, and told me you had indicated to her, you would be looking for a part-time housekeeper. I’m one of the women to come up here and tidy up over the years. I was the one that cleaned, dusted and aired the day before you came. Miss Bauer, I’m here about the job.” The robust woman had a natural, friendly countenance and Jennifer felt immediately comfortable with her presence.
“Won’t you please come in, Ms… Mrs. Lanagan?” Standing to one side, she opened the door for the woman to enter. Instead, the woman stepped aside, and standing directly behind her was a little girl, perhaps, no more than three.
“It’s Mrs. Lanagan, and this here is my daughter, Ruth Arlene. My husband is out on one of the lobster boats, and I don’t have anyone to watch her for me. You need to know up front, that Ruthie here, would have to come with me, if you give me the position.”
“Hello, Ruthie.” Jennifer squatted down and extended her hand to the young girl, then stood and addressed the child’s mother. “I don’t foresee that as a problem. Please, come in. How about I prepare a pot of tea and discuss what I anticipate your duties to be.” Smiling, she backed away to allow the woman and child to enter, and then closed the door quietly.
Within the hour, Gladys Lanagan had been retained to come three days a week to run the house, do chores, and some light cooking for the young writer. Gladys was only two years older than Jennifer, and they both knew the relationship would be a long and comfortable one, with Ruth Arlene being welcome in the Bauer cottage for a long time to come.
Jennifer asked Gladys if she could drive, and was pleased to hear a positive response. Her prized Packard was being driven up to her from Boston by her attorney’s law clerk, and would be arriving by the end of the week, she told her new housekeeper. She would be expected to run some light errands and pick up whatever groceries or supplies they needed.
The young woman beamed at the prospects of driving the expensive car. Then, became very quiet before she spoke. “Miss Bauer, there is one other thing I need to make known…” she lingered.
“Please call me Jennifer, and what is it, Gladys?” She asked.
“Well, Miss Jennifer, I need for you to know… to know that I don’t want to be up here on this bluff when it gets dark.” She sputtered abruptly.
Eyeing her with amusement, Jennifer responded, “Gladys, from my brief time here, and the circumstances I have already experienced, I understand perfectly. We’ll try and get you out of here by early afternoon. Is that acceptable with you?” She asked the housekeeper.
“Yes, ma’am, that’ll do. Now, I’ll get on back to the house, and Ruthie and I will see you day after tomorrow.” She took the young girls hand, and they walked out the back door before Jennifer could see them out the front.
She sat there for a few more minutes, refilled her cup of tea, and slowly sipped the beverage as her mind wandered back to the portrait upstairs. Having finishing off the tea, she rinsed the cup out, and sat it down on the sideboard for use later.
Reaching for her jacket to go for another walk, an image crystallized in her mind. The jacket was dropped back on the rack. Quickly ascending the steps two at a time, she rushed into the attic, past the portrait with a nod of her head, and stopped before a large Chippendale chifforobe. It was the same kind, only larger than the one she had seen at her grandmothers, which was used for storing the elder woman’s elegant gowns.
Slowly, she opened one side of the wardrobe cabinet. Gasping, she fingered the dozen or so riding ensembles stored there, including the blue one worn by the stunning woman in the portrait. There were equally as many elegantly designed pantsuits the young woman knew had been especially tailored for the tall woman. The drawers in the middle were filled with fine silk and satin undergarments, and other necessary and essential items for an active female. The other side housed several cloaks, four pair of riding boots, and several pair of over the ankle everyday boots.
Jennifer sank to the floor, with the two side doors of the wardrobe still open. “Well, Lian, I know where your clothes are, but where are you?” She patted her knee anxiously as she pondered the question. She got up, went to the dormer window and glanced out towards the cliff, where she thought she caught sight of the tall figure. Down the stairs she ran, and even faster she scaled the path to the bluff’s edge. She skimmed the area to spot the woman, but Lian was no place to be seen.
“This is getting weirder by the minute!” She still looked strangely grim, as she headed down the opposite path to the well-kept barn. “Maybe she is there.” Lian was not to be found. Jennifer threw up her hand in despair.
When darkness fell, she came in and lit a fire in the living room that seemed even colder than it had been before. As the flames crept higher, grogginess overtook the young writer. She climbed the stairs to her bedroom. She took a quick shower and slipped into her pajamas. In the bedroom, extra logs were piled high in the fireplace. The striker flickered and she lit the paper she had crammed under the logs to start the fire. The flames seemed to come alive with moving and creeping as she replaced the protective screen, and climbed into the big bed.
‘We will be together soon, Jenny. Soon!’ The crackling logs seem to chant. Instead of watching the flames, she turned over disgustedly and buried her body under the covers, and was soon asleep. In the restless slumber, she stared out in front of her. There she was again, in the murky forest. Jennifer stole a quick look at the bending trees. The creatures were still there… so close she could see their gray faces, with their glinty eyes, twisted mouths and crooked teeth. The night seemed endless and the wails and chants never ceased. Once she thought she felt something go tap, tap on her shoulder. The young woman stood frozen to the spot, and afraid to turn around. Green eyes were fixed straight ahead. There they were! The creatures again! Dozens of them it seemed… creeping, moving toward her, and waving their arms. Just before she fainted dead away, Jennifer saw them reach up and rip masks away from their faces. They reached for their back pockets, and before she could see what they removed, someone from behind her grabbed her neck… all went black as she saw the creatures merge into one figure. The features of the face became clear. It was Lian…
The night of erotic pleasures were more intense than anything she had ever experienced. She felt herself fall over into ecstasy and the eruptions repeated time and time again. She reached for Lian, to reciprocate the pleasure she had been shown, and felt herself being eased over on her back once more.
“Not yet, my love. It has been so long and I hunger for you so much. Your time will come. Trust me.”
“But, I have waited too, Lian. I’m just as hungry for you.” She moaned, but succumbed to the detail attention being given her body. She felt the timeless love, the need. Lian was all that matter to her. Always had been, always would be.
Morning arrived. Jennifer looked intently up at the mirror. She could see she was in bed by herself, and yet, she looked as if she had been making out all night. Her pajama tops and bottoms were half way cross the room, and her hair was tangled, as if large hands had swept through the shagged strands all night.
“If last night was another dream, why do I feel so satisfied and totally content?” Her eyes scanned the room. Although, she could not see Lian, she certainly felt her presence everywhere.
“LIAN! Please come and talk to me. I must know. I must know what is going on. Please?” The petite woman beseeched the absent figure.
The morning was spent preparing one big meal, and sitting in front of her typewriter the balance of the time. There were frequent breaks to visit the oil painting in the attic. All in all, only two paragraphs appeared on the bond paper.
That afternoon, Jennifer went for another long walk up the bluff, then down to the beach. She strolled for hours until the sun was starting to drop behind the barn.
Even though it was October, her white cotton blouse had lost its crispness hours ago and was now sticking un-comfortably to her shoulder blades. The fall wind had whipped her hair into wild disarray, and even the sweater thrown across her shoulders was sticking to her damp back. She felt at a distinct disadvantage, flustered and gauche in-stead of her usual composed self.
“Lian, you had better come and explain what is going on. This is getting old.” She spoke to the tide rushing in to cover the beach below the bluff. She felt decidedly scruffy, and tossed the stick she had been holding over the cliff and saw it fall into the income tide, before she turned and headed down the path to the cottage.
“A bath. I need a bath.” She mut-tered, the expression in her eyes turning to an impatience snarl.
Jennifer sprinkled a liberal amount of bath crystals under the running tap, and watched absently, as bubbles foamed in the tub. Switching off the tap, she stripped off her grimy clothes and slipped into the warm water, immersing herself until bubbles tickled her chin. She settled down on the back of the tub and closed her eyes part of the way as she exhaled softly. “Merciful heavens, I really needed this.”
The road dust that grated on her skin was easily disposed of, but not so the thoughts of the exasperating woman, whose laughter still filled her ears.
She had acted like a first-class idiot, so mesmerized by a womanly physique that she had been tongue-tied. Not that she had been naked, but the ex-panse of the tall woman’s tanned skin had had a definite effect on her senses…. No doubt the sultry-voiced woman in the bedroom had seen her that way countless time, she thought grimly. But it was inexcusable of her to laugh at her just be-cause she lacked the worldliness to pretend un-concern at the longing to return the lovemaking, or to see the tall woman naked…
She groaned, squeezing her eyes shut in a futile attempt to banish the memory of her desire of the tall woman. But her senses refused to coop-erate, and she could see the muscled firmness of the full breasts, the almost teak color of her skin, and the arrogant light in her eyes that had lovingly kissed away her blushes. With vivid clarity she heard again the husky voice, which had interrupted their dis-cussion and her pleas. Would she ever be able to think of the incident without feeling her face flush with color? She doubted it… But, then again, it was only a dream.
Or was it?
“Good evening, Jennifer,” Lian eyes were diamond sharp as she looked down at the bathing lovely.
“GET OUT OF HERE IMMEDIATELY!” Jennifer’s voice was shrill with outrage.
Lian chuckled softly. “You aren’t in any position to threaten me at the moment, Jenny,” she replied, glancing deliberately at the rounded swell of the young woman’s breasts.
Jennifer sank lower in the bubbles. “Okay, Lian Whoever You Are,” she said through clenched teeth, “Get out of this bathroom… get out of my house… and get out of my life!”
Tenderly, hypnotically, the long fingers cupped her chin, traced the outline of her lips. “In reality, it’s Lillian Lydead, my lovely. And actually, it’s our bathroom, and essentially, Jenny, it’s my domain. Further, and point of fact, I can never get out of your life… We are one, my love.”
The young woman couldn’t move as the tall, sensuous woman dipped one finger into the water between her breasts.
The spell was broken with Jennifer’s gasp. Water splashed in all directions and Lian fled. But her laughter echoed back at her, ringing with seductive promise. “I’ll wait for you in the drawing room, my lovely. Don’t be long.” The shocked young woman heard Lillian call, as her footsteps descended the stairs.
Never in her life had she met a woman whose sexual attrac-tiveness was so blatant. It fairly oozed out of the dark woman, and she knew it would attract many women like ducks to water. She probably had to beat men, as well as fe-males off with a stick. And she, like a star-struck schoolgirl, had queued up with the rest of the rank and file.
She felt as if she’d mis-takenly walked into the middle of a Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes’ mystery without being told what mystery Sherlock Holmes was attempting to solve. It was driving her up the wall…. If only she could be as nonchalant as Lian. Instead, here she sat, mooning over the dark woman, while her skin shriveled and wrinkled in the rapidly cooling water. With her chin stubbornly set, Jennifer quickly finished her bath. It was time she got a few answers. She was tired of playing games, and she would not be put off any longer.
She selected a light green, casual button up blouse, and soft green trousers. The tailored collar emphasized her soft tanned throat, while the wide waistband of the pants drew attention to her figure. The cir-cular pants legs gently caressed the calves of her legs, as she determinedly walked down the stairs to the waiting woman.
Jennifer’s anger evaporated as she tried to recall her exact words. What did she know about her, and why had she stated so empathically that this was her domain, and what exactly did she mean by “We are ONE?”
She stopped as she entered the living room, or drawing room, as Lian had declared it, and was immediately stunned by the tall figure standing with one boot on the stone hearth. She had on a burgundy, sailor type oversize shirt, tucked neatly into black, snug slacks. In her hand was a glass of French cognac. Her eyes immediately settled on Jennifer. The graceful figure proceeded to offer the shorter woman a chair, that had been pulled forward and off to the side of the fireplace. As Jennifer sat down, Lian smiled and presented her the glass of cognac.
The writer sipped the fiery liquid. Her ears immediately recognized the classical piece of music that was playing quietly in the background. Lian pulled another chair opposite the one Jennifer sat in, picked up her glass and settled down into the chair.
“I have waited for you for so long, my Jenny.” She held up the glass of cognac and uttered a toast. “To us, my lovely. And to our unending future.”
For some unknown reason, Jennifer felt relief, and tipped the glass to her lips without question.
That evening, Lian gave a beautiful “metaphorically romanticized” but not fictionalized version of how their relationship came about.
What she did know was they progressed at lightning speed into the most incredible and beautiful relationship either of them had ever known. What she came to accept in those few short hours of explanation was the realization of what they had between them, among other things, is was pure, extremely powerful, and timeless. It was, in fact, bigger than the both of them. For that reason, they had been given this time to share with each other.
The process of falling in love is always magical, mysterious, and fascinating…some would say “all consuming”. Being that Jennifer and Lian were both of the artistic nature, their love for each other would express itself in rather unique ways in the time to come. They both agreed that evening, to “build” a place for them to be together spiritually and emotionally, since they could not always be together physically.
The balance of the month, the couple walked hand in hand across the bluff, and every evening, they strolled arm in arm down the long beach, not returning to the cottage until rather late. Then they spend the remainder of the night making passionate love. Now, Jennifer participated in every segment of the amorous activities. In fact, Lian’s fulfillment was voiced much louder than the smaller woman’s. If anyone were anywhere close to the cottage, they quickly retreated, for Lian’s pleasure could be heard half way down the hill, and certainly out to sea!
One day, the couple strolled down to the barn, where Lian proposed they purchase two horses to go riding over the dunes.
“My darling, I am frightened of horses. They are so far from the ground, and I fear I will fall.” The shorter woman declared, as she nuzzled the neck of her lover.
“I’ll teach you, love. I’ll even ride double with you, until you feel comfortable with the animal.” The tall woman suggested and tasted the pulse point on the shorter woman’s neck. She gently pulled the younger woman into the barn, and settled her on the fresh hay.
Jennifer pulled the dark head down to gently nibble the full lips offered her. “I would have thought your last experience with that animal would hinder your desire to ride.” Studying the taller woman, she continued, “I’ll make an bargain with you, my sweet; I’ll learn to ride a horse, if you will go bicycling with me.”
Lian chuckled, “That two wheeled contraption would break my neck.”
“It’s such a lovely neck,” she said as she started pushing the cape off the shoulders of the taller woman, and slowly began to unbutton her shirt.
“Hum. Interesting riding idea, my love. But, I rather like your latter one better,” and quickly helped the green eyed woman out of her leather jacket.
Jennifer didn’t learn to ride a horse, and Lian didn’t learn to ride a bicycle. But, the two women became so devoted to each other that the world around them seemed to disappear. They continued their daily and nightly strolls together. Each evening the gramophone could be heard playing classical music and the couple talked, laughed, danced in front of the fire, and played numerous games of chess, as they drank their nightly glass of cognac before they retired.
They frequently took the chess board, a picnic basket and luncheon on the dunes close to the water. Lian quoted poetry to Jenny, and in turn, Jenny read her novels to the tall woman, who lay with her head in the young writer’s lap.
On the bluff one chilly night just before Halloween, Lian drew Jenny close and whispered into her ear, “”Let us say-not ‘since we know, we love,’ But rather ‘since we love, we know enough…” Lian quoted one of her favorite poets, Robert Browning.
Jenny took her cheeks in both hands, “If thou must love me, let it be for nought. Except for love’s sake only.” She in return, quoted Elizabeth Browning to the love of her life.
Their days and nights were happy, and filled with their commitment to each other, and the understanding of their reunited love.
“I’ve finished the evening dishes, Miss Jennifer,” the housekeeper said, wiping her hands on her apron as she entering the drawing room, and spoke to the writer, who was sitting in a large overstuffed chair directly to the side of the blazing fireplace. Going to the liqueur cabinet, she poured into a small cognac glass one-half jigger of the fiery liquid, and placed the glass on the table beside the writer.
“You want I should change the music for you before I leave?”
“No thank you, Ruth. I enjoy this particular classical piece. Let it continue, please. That was a most delectable meal, Ruth. One of the best I have ever tasted.” She complemented her all around housekeeper and cook.
“Thank you, Miss Jennifer. I do try to make the food appetizing.” Removing her apron and stuffing it into her sweater pocket, she watched the woman in the chair, who seemed to be intrigued by the blaze in the fireplace. The flames seem to be leaping and twisting, as if to take some sort of shape.
“Tomorrow is Halloween, Miss Jennifer, but I doubt you will have any trick or treat visits. People around here seem to stay away from this bluff. I feel badly about that. I imagine I’ll be your only visitor.” Her expression was thoughtful of her employer.
“Well, that is alright. But don’t feel bad, Ruth. I’ll be fine.” The writer arose, picked up her glass and stood in front of the oil painting that she had placed there instead of allowing it to remain in the attic. “You best be going. The sun is setting quickly. Good evening, Ruth.” The glass of cognac was raised in silent tribute to the image in the oil painting.
“Well, good night, and I’ll see you in the morning for a few hours.” The housekeeper bowed her head to the woman and quietly exited the drawing room. Scurrying through the kitchen and switching off the light, she grabbed her jacket from the peg beside the door to the mudroom, and hurriedly shut the door behind her.
Her steps noisily hit the rock drive way as she hastily made her way to the winding road down the hill. The housekeeper didn’t slow her pace as she glanced over her shoulder at the crest of the cliff. Her entire body quivered as she caught a quick glimpse of a tall-capped figure standing staring out at the ocean. She quickened her pace as much as she could, and did not look back again.
Back in the drawing room, the woman winked to the image in the painting. “No Ruth, you aren’t the only one. I hope you’ll forgive me for not seeing you out, Ruth.” The voice full of anticipation, she looked earnestly toward the front door, “For… I seem to have a very special and impatient guest arriving.”
The sun was making a valiant effort to come from the overcast clouds that seem to just hang in the air as Ruth made her way back up the hill to the cottage. She flinched at the chilling October breeze, as she wiped her shoes several times on the bristle mat on the screened back porch of the recently painted cottage. Hanging her jacket on the peg, and removing her apron from the sweater pocket, she hurried to the stove, removed the teapot and held it under the faucet until it was full. Replacing it on the stove, she bent down to make sure the gas flame wasn’t too high on the pot. Removing a glass from the cupboard and sitting it on the kitchen table, she went to the appliance, and removed the container of orange juice. The glass was filled and the container returned to the cold wire shelf.
She placed the juice on a small round serving tray and proceeded towards the stairs. As she went through the drawing room, she stopped.
“Oh, no!” She whispered, bowed her head to her chest and started weeping. After the tears lightened, she went to the telephone and quickly dialed a well-known number, then waited.
The man came into the kitchen and addressed the housekeeper. “Ruthie, I’ve called the undertaker. I assure you, Miss Jennifer went gently. Why, there was such a wonderful smile on her face.” He put his arm around the gray-haired housekeeper in a comforting manner. “She will be missed.”
“Yes, she will, Doctor Rooker. That woman was a saint. She treated my mother and me so good, and I will always carry out her last wished until the day the good Lord takes me too.”
“She left you everything, didn’t she, Ruthie?”
“She had it all taken care of with her lawyers before I could protest. My daughter will see that the preparations and care of this place goes on, after I’m gone. Miss Jennifer made us both promise. Why, she even had her headstone already placed in that little fenced off private cemetery, down the hill there, under the old hickory tree. Only two tombstones will ever be there.” She explained.
The seventy- two-year-old housekeeper stood up, and motioned to the doctor. “Come with me for a minute, please Doctor Rooker. I want to show you something.” Her age did not prevent her from walking briskly to the drawing room.
She bent and removed a photograph from the clutched fingers of the silent woman still in the overstuffed chair. “Look at this photograph, please.” She handed it to the man, who turned it over in his hands and view the image there.
“What am I looking for, Ruthie?” He asked the old woman.
“Look at it again,” she insisted.
“I see a tall woman in a riding outfit including a cape, with her arm around a younger woman in some kind of leather jacket and slacks. The shorter woman has her arm around the taller one, and they both have very contented expressions on their faces. Looks like it was taken on the front porch some years ago. Besides the old clothes, I’d say those are two of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. So, what else?”
“No, doctor, that photograph isn’t old, look at it. It was taken with that new instamatic developing camera Miss Jennifer had my daughter pick one up for her just last week. See it there on the table next to the door.” The elderly woman pointed to the camera.
“Ruthie, Miss Jennifer was ninety-six years old. Why, neither of these women is over thirty I’d venture to say.” He tapped the photograph on the chest of the old housekeeper, who quickly snatched it from his hand.
“Never mind! You wouldn’t understand. But I do.” She clutched the photograph to her bosom. “You can stay here, I’ll wait for my daughter in the kitchen.” Her mind set on what she knew was expected of her.
Ruth’s daughter arrived and they both cried once again for the loss of the wonderful old writer. They sat together at the kitchen table until they heard the hearse arrive and the doctor open the door for the two men from the funeral home.
“George, you going to bury the old lady today?” The doctor asked as he stood on the top step waiting as the funeral home director to remove the gurney from the back of the hearse.
“Going to do our best, Doc. Strange turn of events here. Miss Jennifer came in last month with Ruth, and her daughter, and made all her final arrangements, including my promise, she’d be laid to rest within twelve hours. She even picked out her casket, and paid extra to have a quick burial.” George grasps the hand extended by the doctor, then rolled the gurney into the house.
A couple of minutes later, they reappeared. “I’d better get moving. I don’t see any problem with me being back here with the remains before sundown. I have two men down there now, working on the grave.”
He waved as the hearse started to move.
Ruth and her daughter Ruth Lee were the only two individual attending the private internment besides the local minister. Jennifer had been explicate, in that, only two poems would be read at her burial, one by Robert Browning, the other by Elizabeth Browning. The minister finished the poems and handed the prepared paper back to Ruth.
“Rest in peace,” the minister said, replaced his hat and walked past the two tombstones nestled side by side, and out of the cast iron gate of the small cemetery.
Ruth Lee put her arm around her mother. “Mom, I don’t understand, why Miss Jennifer would want to be laid to rest here beside this other woman who died years before. Was Lillian Lydead a relative of hers?” She questioned her mother gently.
“No… not really a relative, honey. But some relationships go deeper than… Well, I’d say some relationships are to be envied,” her voice cracked with emotion as she attempted to explain, then thought better.
“I still don’t understand, but, I know you will miss her, and so will I. It’s getting late, Mother. Don’t you want to ride back to your house with me instead of making that long walk?” Her daughter asked thoughtfully.
“No, Ruth, I have something to do up at the cottage. I’ll be down to your house to see my grandchildren’s Halloween costumes. You go on, I’ll be there shortly.”
“Okay, Mom, but you be careful on that gravel road. It’s already sundown, and you know how fast the darkness comes up here.” She patted her mother’s wrinkled hand, and went to her car parked on the edge of the gravel road some distance away.
Ruth bent down and straightened the floral cover on the new grave, then broke off one of the white roses and laid it on the graying stone next to the blanket of roses that covered Jennifer’s grave. “Take care of her, Miss Lian.” She patted the headstones and walked out the gate, closing it gently behind her.
The old woman stride seem to gain momentum as her pace seemed to have been given an energy boost of some kind.
The long time housekeeper busied herself in the upstairs master bedroom, changing the linens and putting out fresh towels in the massive bathroom. She placed fresh logs in the fireplace, and even pushed a new starter block under the pile of split logs delivered earlier in the week. The same activities she had completed for the last thirty-nine years in this cottage.
She repeated the process in the drawing room, only instead of leaving the logs unlit, she smiled, bent down, struck a long kitchen match to the paper she had placed there, and threw the spent match on top of the logs. A new bottle of French Cognac was arranged on the silver server on the liquor cabinet, with two small glasses next to the decanter. She turned on the stereo, making sure it was playing only specific classical music.
Arranging the candles on the massive mahogany coffee table in front of the provincial sofa, the large leather album caught her eye. She sat down on the sofa and opened the book. Although, she had feather dusted the album, she had never intruded on Miss Jennifer’s private things before. Miss Jennifer treasured this album, and would often flip the pages in the afternoon as the music filled the room. The pages were worn from being turned so often over the years. There were a few photographs of Jennifer’s family; most of them were of her spinster aunt. Turning the page, Ruth gasped and placed her fingers on her mouth. There in the center of the page was an old newspaper clipping, with a head and shoulder photograph of Lillian Lydead. Reaching in her pocket and removing her glasses, the old housekeeper lifted the album and read part of the article, which was dated October 30, 1917 and bore a New York Gazette heading on the corner of the article.
‘Miss Lillian Lydead, 30, a prominent, world known architect meets a tragic end, while riding her stallion on her estate in Maine. Miss Lydead, will be laid to rest, in a private service, on the property, which she love so much.’ Ruth ran her fingers gently over the frail and fading article. The article went on the say, ‘Lian, as her close friends called her, suffered a broken neck, when the white stallion she was riding, lost it’s footing on the side of the cliff and tumbled over on its side, catching the excellent horsewoman beneath it. Miss Lydead had just returned from Europe, where she had been commissioned to design several buildings for the French Government.
Miss Lydead was the last remaining relative of the New York Society family of the same name. Her parents were killed in a boating accident when she was only twelve, and she was raised by my her only aunt.’ The article was longer, but Ruth could not read more.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she turned the page, to once more gasp at the image. There on the page was a photograph of Lian standing on the front steps of the cottage, in a brown cape, and riding clothes. Her brown riding boots still glistened, even though the photograph seemed to be turning brown. The bold handwritten caption under the photograph read: “Me, in my favorite riding apparel, October, 1917.
Ruth shook her head gently and turned the page. Her eyes blinked, and she could feel the moisture returned for the tenth time today. An excellent likeness of a grinning Jennifer Bauer, standing on the top step of the cottage beamed back at her. Jennifer had her hands in her pant pockets, and the brown leather jacket was unzipped to reveal a yellow, turtleneck sweater underneath. A delicate handwritten inscription below the photograph read: ‘Just purchased my home. Isn’t it beautiful!’ it was signed Jennifer Bauer, October 1, 1933.
Slowly, Ruth returned the album to the table. She reached inside her sweater and brought out the photograph she had removed from Miss Jennifer’s hand that morning. She opened the album again, turned to the last page and placed the photograph lovingly on the page, before she gently closed the book.
The grandfather clock in the foyer began to chime, bringing Ruth consciously back to the present. She stood slowly, taking one of the candles and placed it on the liquor cabinet surface, next to the serving tray. The old housekeeper lit the candles, and threw the match into the roaring fireplace, and returned the screen to the front of the fire.
She picked up her jacket from the sofa, and shoved her arms in the sleeves as she glanced around the room one last time, then headed for the foyer and the front door, clicking off the electric lights as she went. Stopping with her hand on the front door knob, she realized this was only the second time in sixty-nine years she had entered or exited the front door. The first time was long ago, when she stood behind her mother, who had come to the cottage to seek employment.
“We have come full circle, Mother.” The words faintly spoken, “You were her housekeeper the first part of her life, and when you passed away thirty-nine years ago, I finished up the last part of her life. She treated us so well, Mother, how could we do any differently towards her.” A faint smile came to her face, and somehow, she felt a deep comfort come upon her. Another energized spring came to her step as she closed the door and stepped into the brisk twilight air. Exiting the front porch steps, she came to an abrupt stop, and turned toward the crest of the cliff.
Walking toward her, hand and hand were two figures. One, a tall dark-haired woman, in a bright blue cape and matching riding clothes; the smaller woman, had on a brown leather jacket that was zipped half-way up with a yellow turtleneck sweater beneath, which had been tucked into khaki trousers. Both women wore boots, only the taller of the two, had black riding boots, whereas, the smaller woman wore brown ankle ones. Both were smiling directly at the elderly woman.
“Miss Jennifer, Miss Lillian, I have prepared everything. The music is playing, cognac in place, scented candles are lit, and the fire is burning in the drawing room for you two. I turned down the covers and put out fresh towels. I’ll be back in a few days to freshen up. Happy Halloween, you two.” Ruth nodded to the couple, turned and walked proudly down the gravel road.
“Thank you, Ruth.” The tall woman expressed her gratitude.
“Yes, thank you, Ruthie, and Happy Halloween to you too.” Jennifer released Lian’s hand and reached her arm around the taller woman’s waist. Lian placed her arm over the small shoulder, and the couple turned and walked up the steps of their home.
On the high cliff bluff, the October winds howled their fierce shriek, but the couple in the white cottage was only feeling the warmth of everlasting love.