we’re off to the hot, dry, Modernist architecture-land of Palm Springs!
just for a day and a night and a half-day.
may we share a little more House on Church Row with you?
you are Most Kind.
Kelly paused. No one had ever said that to her before. In fact in her house, if you looked like you thought you had it going on, someone would smack you down and say, “Who do you think you are?” and that would be the end of it. She liked what Marion just said. She liked it a lot. She nodded, like she heard that all the time. Marion knew she didn’t but that was ok. She understood. She ran down the stairs and out into the day.
Marion straightened up the bed and heard the front door close as Kelly left. Then she remembered what Annabelle had said about this being her mother’s robe. She picked it up and then something caught in her chest. She dropped it on the chair. She didn’t like the feeling she got from the robe. A troubled soul had worn that. The paintings on the wall were beautiful but full of yearning and sadness. Marion walked slowly downstairs. Her next-door neighbor had quite a story, she could feel it and it was all starting to make sense. Was that why she had been sent to England?
Annabelle was standing awkwardly in the hallway, carrying her coat. “Ready for breakfast?” said Marion, kindly.
“But you’re still in your PJs,” said Annabelle.
Marion grabbed her beautiful camel coat from the hooks in the hall and belted it up tightly, scooping up her hair into a high ponytail and checking last night’s mascara would get her through breakfast.
“Oh honey,” smiled Marion, “this is Hampstead. Half of the women here have daywear that looks like pajamas.”
“You have a point,” smiled Annabelle, shyly. She felt quite pink cheeked at being called honey.
They walked off down the street and the wind started blowing.
“The weather is certainly drawing in,” said Annabelle. Marion felt in her pocket and found her soft cashmere hat. She offered it to Annabelle.
“That’s so soft!” said Annabelle, shaking her head. She felt strange wanting to wear Marion’s hat. It hung off her hand, she did not know what to do with it.
“It’s cashmere. Just put it on.”
Annabelle did and felt instantly glamorous. “I’ve never felt anything as beautiful as this,” she breathed.
“You’ve probably never spent such a stupid amount of money on a hat.”
“I take the children’s old hats.”
Marion didn’t answer. She already knew Annabelle had no concept of treating herself well. Annabelle felt irritated by her silence.
“Are you sleeping with your secretary?” she blurted out, without thinking.
Marion didn’t look at her.
“No you don’t.”
Annabelle panicked. “Perhaps I should go home.”
“I wish you’d quit being so uptight.”
They had just arrived outside Louis Patisserie. Lydia was putting a sign up in the window. She waved cheerily at them, unable to hide her glee at Annabelle wearing a gorgeous cashmere hat at a rakish angle. It was not a hat that one usually saw in Hampstead. It was clearly Parisian. And it was obviously Marion’s.
“Saved by the dark side,” grinned Marion.
Lydia looked between the two of them. The tension between Annabelle and Marion amused her – she did a very non-priestess like chuckle. “I only use my powers for good, Marion.” She paused, looking directly at Marion, “How about you?”
Marion narrowed her eyes and scanned Lydia for clues. Oh, really? This was not just an act? Lydia felt something happening in the air. “What on earth are you doing?” Marion did not answer. She felt pale and exhausted and like she better go and lie down.
“Can we take a raincheck?” she said, suddenly to Annabelle.
“Are you ok?” said Annabelle, worried, taking off the hat, offering it to her worriedly.
“Keep the hat, it’s a gift.” Marion turned sharply and headed back down Church Row. This was not good, not good at all. She broke into a run and her camel coat flew open but she did not care. She ran all the way back to the house and grabbed her keys from the coat pocket. They must have dropped out when she ran. Damn! She did not know what to do. She had been busted. Lydia knew who she was – or thought she did.
At that moment, Simon emerged from the house next door. He was looking for his wife. He saw the glamorous blonde American in her PJs frantically searching for something on the ground. He saw her keys a little way by the lamppost and went over.
“Are these what you’re looking for?” he asked, trying to be all British and bonhomie even though he was late for the office and his wife was missing.
Marion swirled around and nearly bumped her head on Simon’s chest. “Jeez, you’re a tall glass of water, I didn’t know you people came in Tall.”
Simon was not sure of her grammar. It must be American syntax. But he guessed it was a compliment. He went a little pink-cheeked and Marion turned on her charm. This was the husband, she remembered seeing him through the French windows. He was lovely. Great energy. Slightly diffident, had no idea who he was, but nice. A nice man – definitely a good man – a kind man. “So we meet at last,” she said, holding out her hand, not caring that her pajamas were on full display beneath her coat and her ponytail had come free, her hair cascading over her shoulders.
Simon did a little bow and held up her keys, “Allow me?” he said, walking up to Marion’s doorway and putting the key in the lock. Marion was amused – he was like Cary Grant, for god’s sake. No wonder Annabelle married him. She walked into her house as he held the door open and then decided to be wicked. She put her hand on his chest and cocked her head into the hallway.
“The least I can do is offer you coffee,” she grinned. Simon was speechless. A gorgeous American who looked like Grace Kelly was inviting him into the house next door – which he had always been curious to see – and was offering him coffee. For a moment he felt bold and alive with a devil-may-care joie de vivre and a sense of excitement and deeply and wantonly free.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, sprightly, and followed her into the house.
Lydia and Annabelle were walking back down Church Row, nibbling croissants from out of waxed paper bags and talking intently. Lydia looked up from her delicate French pastry and said, “Isn’t that your husband going into Marion’s house?”
Annabelle dropped her croissant onto the pavement in shock.
see you later darlings!
we’ll check in from Palm Springs.
off to drive and sing loudly to mid-80s pop Tunes in the trusty silver steed Prius as we Drive East.