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Her eyes cling to mine. ”Is there?”
But what I hear is ’rescue me,’ and to my tastes that tend toward the masculine, her whispers are like opium.
Above the hum of tea and polite company, I announce that Miss Walker and I are off for a short tour of Shibden.
She rises from the couch, as I explain, ”My plans for the estate are mostly engineering — roads and bridges but some will be to alter our less than attended overall landscape.”
It’s then, halfway down a dark hall that I look over my shoulder and ask, ”I suppose someone’s told you … I’ve been away.”
”Your absence has been mentioned by your sister.” Miss Walker begins a smile that becomes harder for her to put away.
”I don’t doubt it,” I answer with none of the aggravation I usually feel when mentioning Marian.
While standing in the great hall with Miss Walker and explaining the history of my lineage to this house, I sense, perhaps, for the first time, the responsibilities of my place in its long and storied timeline of Listers.
True to its nature, Shibden’s needs are in a constant battle with my free spirit. They reach out and entangle me while I sleep. They make me fear that I’ll never leave to travel again and pursue my passions, but remain here instead, as a bricklayer and patcher of crumbling walls and towers. But the decision will soon be upon me to stay or leave again. Perhaps, as soon as tomorrow, I will come to terms with what is next and if it lies far, far away.
On my impromptu tour with Miss Walker, which was an effort to get her alone, it’s not lost on me how intently she listens to my battle stories. My favorite is how every mantel in this room is missing pieces of its stone caused by men trying to behead one another with war axes.
The bloodier my story becomes I begin to realize why perhaps it is that the townsfolk of nearby Halifax explain Shibden to curious visitors as exuding ’Old Charm’ versus going into its more gory details. And still, Miss Walker remains interested in my walking tour. She’s curious about the symbols on the banners. How many of them are from my family? And who made these large tapestries that are so intricate and very old?
What a stark contrast she is to Marianna, my oldest friend, and longest on-going, not so secret lover, who never fails once to mention how Shibden, and by association, me, too, of course, could do with a proper brushing up.
Eight days later –
The ink is flying across the pages of my diary. ”My time spent with Miss Walker is becoming near constant, and while in one another’s company, we have developed a growing bond of trust and caring between us.
”Before she’d allow me to leave this afternoon, she clung to me and made me promise I’d return in just a few short hours. The parlor’s looking glass becomes the keeper of our most intimate secrets.
I feel aroused as I study myself in its reflection, seeing my real self as her soft gentleman caller.
If only she will allow what every part of us aches to happen. I wait and listen to her sighs ready to move in that certain moment when everything I wish to give her is seconds away.