Scarlett Johnson stepped down from the black Land Rover and smoothed down her dark blue blouse. Pulling up her black trousers, she debated tucking the blouse in, than decided that she was not at the bed and breakfast’s office anymore. Still though, she tied her loose soft curled ginger hair back before craning her neck up at the seemingly giant gothic Victorian manor house.
The main square structure with two wings running off it was intimidating, yet magnificent looking in the early spring sunshine. The yellow and grey bricks were covered with patches of ivy and moss, giving the impression of a secret place. Large rows of windows on all four floors were covered by dark heavy curtains adding to this image and making Scarlett think of someone trying to keep the outside world away.
The grey flat staircase, decorated on every other step with potted small palm trees, lead up to a porch area and the double front doors which were flanked by dirty white Roman columns. At the top of the staircase, on either side, lying down on rectangle daises were huge stone statues of a lion on the right side and a lioness on the left. There were facing each other, with bodies and paws in relaxed poses. Scarlett marvelled at them, whilst deciding that the palm trees looked too out of place for Yorkshire and would have to go.
The slamming of a car door brought her back and she looked across as her husband, Greyson, started walking over the discoloured white stone chips. He was dressed in comfy black cotton pants, a green polo t-shirt, a black padded body warmer and pale blue trainers. He slipped his large hands into the pockets of his body warmer then stopped and looked back at her.
‘Having second thoughts?’ he called over.
‘No,’ Scarlett replied, ‘are you?’
He shook his head and turned back to the manor house. He began slowly moving forward, footsteps crunching loudly before he paused again. He tiled his head up as if listening and Scarlett listened too. Now that the rumble of the Land Rover’s engine had gone, she could hear birds singing merrily and a gentle breezing moving the trees that were growing at the wall boundary surrounding them.
Closing the passenger door, she went over to Greyson and slipped her arm around his. Leaning in and giving his muscled upper arm a squeeze, she felt reassured. Greyson dropped his head and Scarlett stood on her tiptoes to meet his lips with her’s. Gently, they kissed then walked on a few more paces till they reached the large circle fountain in the middle of the courtyard and parking area.
The dark grey fountain pool was empty but for a handful of loose coins and green slime. Rising above the pool on a circler stand were three large and badly water stained stone dolphins. Their meeting tails were stretching to the sky as their graceful long bodies curved downwards. Their flippers reached out and just touched each other’s in mid-air before they heads came to rest on the edge of the plinth.
Scarlett looked into the closet dolphin’s open mouth and saw the end of a rusty pipe. The water had once flowed from their mouths, blow holes and the space between their meeting tails. She recalled the photographs the estate agent and the internet had shown her that proved the fountain had once worked and been illuminated. It had looked spectacular.
She frowned as Greyson lent over and picked one of the coins out. He rubbed it before holding it up and inspecting it.
‘It’s an old penny,’ he stated, ‘looks like nineteen thirty six…?’
‘It’s someone’s wish,’ Scarlett pointed out.
‘Was. They’re properly gone by now. We should clean this out,’ Greyson said with wave of his hand.
Scarlett looked into the murky fountain and nodded, ‘I’m sure a gardener could. Wouldn’t it be nice to see it working again?’
‘Might need a plumber instead then. Put it on the to do list,’ Greyson added with a chuckle.
Scarlett tutted and give him a light whack on the shoulder.
Faking a hurt expression, he rubbed his shoulder and pouted at her. Scarlett rolled her eyes then turned as tires crunched on the driveway behind them.
‘Moving vans are here,’ Greyson pointed out, ‘I’ll go greet them. You want to open her open?’
Scarlett glanced at the manor house then back to him, ‘sure.’
Whilst he walked away, she realised that though this was her four time being here, she still felt like an intruder. Shaking that thought away and telling herself this was their new home and business now, she went over to the Land Rover and got the heavy ring of keys out from the plastic wallet. Most of the silver and bronze coloured keys were labelled and looked well used. Whilst some of the others were rusting and the smaller keys had questionable or even suggestable labels attached.
Instead of searching through them, Scarlett selected the master key that opened everything. Locking the car, she walked over and up the steps. The porch area held two marble benches against the walls opposite the door, a scattering of white wicker chairs, tables and more potted palm trees. She knew the estate agents had stage this scene to give the idea of people actually using the porch space. In her head though, she was all ready doing away with the tatty wicker stuff and the dreaded palm trees again. She imaged more tasteful, possible marble to match the benches, small tables and high backed wooden chairs.
Scarlett approached the massive dark wooden door with its large ring handles and lion head knockers. Just before she slipped the key in, she looked across at a blue placard nailed to the wall. The words Bruntwood Hotel Est 1972 caught her eyes and written underneath, though badly faded, was a brief history of the building. Turning the key, she pushed open one of the doors and stepped inside.
Letting her eyes adjust to the gloom, Scarlett tried to remember where the light switches where. Thinking back to the times the estate agent had turned them on, she remember a panel being to the right of her and the door. Patting down the oak walls, her fingers tripped over the switches. She hit them all causing the grand entrance hall and great splitting spiral staircase to light up.
Trying to allow everything in at once, she stood still and looked around. Of course, it was just as she remembered it from the other three visits. The floor was dark white, light grey marble with black lines scattering through. The walls were all covered in dark oak panels with sculpted grape and flower vines hanging down from the top edges, whilst the ceiling was divided up into large oval boarded paintings. Putting her head all the way back, Scarlett looked at the largest and central painting which showed a Greek Goddess surrounded by angels and cherubs. The other paintings also seemed to be on the same theme.
Telling herself, she needed to find out more about the paintings, she looked at the handful of furniture. There was a long, thick, reception desk to her right that had been designed to match the wall panelling. To her left, four over stuffed Victorian arm chairs were around a too low coffee table. Two matching sofas were beyond them around a higher table and there was a faded red chaiselong against the back wall. Dotted around were also a number of tall lamps with heavily pattered shades and dangly frills.
‘It can be fixed,’ Scarlett muttered.
It was the staircase that really drew her eyes though. The large dark and heavily polished rose wood banisters ends were intricately carved with scrolling patterns of roses, leaves and twisting vines. Atop them were two large lamps with multi-coloured glass shades, which let out a dim soft light. The banister swept upwards on both sides then seemed to curl onwards like a snake as the staircase spilt into two twin spirals. A red and green patterned carpet covered the centre of each step, safely secured down with a golden rod. Looking at the mid-section, which was a large square landing, Scarlett decided they were defiantly going to need a large painting of that back wall, but the green ferns growing in tall marble column vases sitting in each corner could stay for the moment.
Behind her a loud clattering made her jump and she turned to see Greyson barging his way in with a large packing box. Pressing a hand to her chest, Scarlet took a few deep breaths and watched him dump the box on the reception desk.
‘We should’ve hired more men,’ Greyson gasped.
‘We couldn’t afford them, remember?’ Scarlett pointed out, ‘anyway, we know where anything’s going. It shouldn’t take us long.’
‘Do you really think we’ll fit the bed through there though?’ Greyson spoke, looking at the two doors behind the reception desk.
‘It’s in pieces. I’m sure it’ll be fine.’
‘Where’d ya want these, Love?’ a rough Yorkshire accented voice cut in from her elbow.
Scarlet glanced at the fat, beard moving man in his blue overalls holding two cardboard boxes and she pointed a finger at a space just next to the bottom of the staircase, ‘just there if you will. Thanks.’
He nodded and stomped over to place the boxes. His three friends trailed in behind him, each carrying boxes, which they placed beside the first two. Quietly, they looked around as if they couldn’t believe they were being allowed to enter such a grand place.
‘I’ll find the kitchen stuff and put the kettle on,’ Greyson said.
‘Didn’t we pack that box with us?’ Scarlett put in.
‘I think we did…’
‘Could do with a cuppa,’ the first moving man called over.
‘Right. Let’s get cracking then,’ Greyson stated and rubbed his hands together.
To Be Continued…