Love's Melody Lost
When the music deserted her, she lost her passion, her heart, and ultimately her soul. In a gothic setting of silences and secrets, a woman came to awaken her desire. 1997 (384 KB)
Anna Reid drove with one hand holding a torn scrap of paper against the wheel. As she watched for road signs in the unfamiliar back roads of Cape Cod Bay, she tried to decipher her own scribbled writing. The early spring morning was unseasonably warm, and she had put the canvas top on the old Jeep down to enjoy the sun. The breeze that blew through her hair smelled of salt water, seaweed and ocean creatures. It was a welcome change from the heavy air and city smells she had grown used to over the years in Boston. As she followed the winding road that led ever closer to the sea, she mused over the strange turns her life had taken.
Somehow, much of the story seemed like someone elses to her now. Looking back on the last ten years of her life, Anna felt as if she had been sleepwalking through her days. When just out of college, she had married a man who shared the same values as she and who seemed to have the same vision for the future. Anna had a degree in botany that she couldnt use, so she worked part-time in a florist shop to help defer the cost of law school for Rob. Eventually, they accumulated all the material trappings of a successful young couple of the eighties, including a renovated brownstone in a gentrified area of the back bay, a new BMW for Rob, and a Jeep for Anna. Anna had financial security, the correct circle of literate female friends, and an adequate, if not particularly exciting, love life.
Rob was content and Anna was bored. As Rob worked longer and longer hours to keep pace with the other young attorneys in his firm, Anna found herself with less and less to do. They had a maid twice a week and every modern convenience available. Neither of them had been eager for children, so Anna couldnt even mingle comfortably with the women of their social set who spent much of their time on the Commons with their strollers and their offspring. The frequent obligatory office socials became more of a burden than a diversion, and she and her husband grew steadily apart.
She couldnt fault Robneither of them had really stopped to question the direction their life was taking, but had merely followed the conventional path expected of them. It wasnt until they had been married for nine years that Anna began to wonder what she was doing in a life that left her feeling empty. Finally, they admitted that their marriage was in trouble, and they tried counseling. They found, in fact, that over the years they had both changed, and their goals were now very different. Divorce seemed the only reasonable solution. They were both a little confused as to how this had occurred, but their parting was amicable and fair. Anna refused alimony, and Rob arranged an equitable distribution of their property and assets.
So, at thirty-two, Anna had a used Jeep, a third floor walk-up in the student enclave near Boston University, and a microwave oven she rarely used. She was nearing the end of her first year of graduate school in landscape design, and the proceeds from her divorce settlement were nearly exhausted. She needed to find work, and she wasnt certain how she could manage a full-time job and complete graduate school as well. She scoured the newspapers for a part-time position, but none seemed to suit her schedule or her skills. She was beginning to despair when she came across an ad in the classifieds that seemed possible. "Live-in house manager needed. Must do some clerical work and drive. Salary and schedule negotiable."
She called the number listed and arranged an interview. Oddly, the interview was conducted by a senior attorney in one of Bostons most prestigious law firms. She discovered that the location was forty minutes outside of Boston and required little in the way of advanced secretarial skills. She had been assured she would have ample opportunity to arrange her duties around her class schedule. The job seemed perfect, and it was hers if she wanted it.
She accepted immediately, terminated her lease, and packed the essentials of her life. Everything fit comfortably in the rear of her Jeep. Now she was headed to Yardley Manor, officially in the employ of one Graham Yardley. Her employer, she had learned after insistent probing, was a former musician who lived in a secluded estate on the coast. David Norcross, the attorney who interviewed her, had been reluctant to provide much in the way of details, and Annas curiosity had been piqued. Despite the mystery surrounding her destination, Anna was elated. She had a job, and her life was headed in a direction of her own choosing.
Anna eventually turned onto a tree-lined lane that led to a large old Victorian edifice. It stood alone on a bluff above the sea. The circular drive was cracked in places with clumps of vegetation attempting to displace the offending concrete. The house also showed signs of disrepair. Shutters hung askew, paint curled from the wood surfaces, and several windows on the upper stories were boarded over. She frowned at the overgrown formal gardens that clearly had not been tended in years. There was an air of sadness reflected in the decline of this once beautiful estate, and Anna felt herself immediately drawn to the place. It was as if it were a living presence in need of care. She pulled to a stop before the grand staircase which led to a wide verandah. She approached the pair of heavy ornate oak doors with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. She took a deep breath as she rang the bell.
Slowly, the doors creaked open and a small gray-haired woman peered up at her.
"Yes?" The woman inquired uncertainly.
"Im Anna Reid. I was hired by Mr. Norcross as a housekeeper."
The little womans face broke into a thousand tiny lines as she smiled and extended her hand. "I am Helen Green, and I , my dear, am the housekeeper! You are here to manage our household affairs, and I am so glad you have arrived!"
Anna grasped her hand automatically, her mind in turmoil. "But, Mr. Norcross indicated"
Helen pulled her inside, saying, "Im sure that Mr. Norcross explained things as he knew them, but Graham is not very good at keeping the poor man informed. What we need, my dear, is someone to oversee the property as well as to manage Grahams personal affairs. Graham will explain it all to you later. Come with me now! Let me show you to your rooms."
Anna hung back in confusion. What exactly was it she was supposed to do here? She had no experience in managing an estate, and from the brief glance she had had of Yardley Manor, it was definitely in need of managing! Still, she instinctively liked the spry elderly woman who hurried down the long hall to a wide central staircase, and the house captured her immediately. Even in its current state of neglect, it was magnificent. As she followed the housekeeper through the dark mahogany-paneled hall, she caught glimpses of the adjoining rooms through partially-opened doors. Thick imported carpets, brocade-covered sofas and ornate, carved tables graced the high-ceilinged rooms. Yardley Manor managed to project an air of elegance even in its present state.
"Perhaps I should speak with Mr. Yardley first," Anna suggested, as Helen stopped before a door on the second floor. "There might be a problem. Im not sure Im going to be suitable for the job."
Helen turned toward her with a strangely quiet, penetrating gaze. "Graham will meet with you at tea this afternoon. The two of you can straighten all of this out then. Now, come, my dear, and let me get you settled."
Anna realized that she had no choice but to wait. The room Helen led her into was bright and airy, and the wide windows captured her attention immediately. They faced the heart of the estate - two hundred yards of terraced gardens which gave way to a tangle of wild brush growing up to the edge of a rocky bluff. A tiered stone wall rimmed the edge of the cliff, which fell a hundred feet down into the pounding surf. Beyond that was only the blue of sky and water. The view was breathtaking.
Anna could just make out the garden paths, now narrowed and overrun by the steady encroachment of natural flora untended for years. Here and there stone benches were still visible under the trees, marking the spots which had once provided strollers a place to rest and enjoy the surrounding beauty. To the rear left was a wide flagstone terrace , ringed by a stone balustrade which supported dozens of climbing rose bushes, desperately in need of pruning and cultivation. Beyond that stretched the formal rose gardens, clearly the showpiece of the estate when they had been at their height. Now all she surveyed lay in ruins, a sad reminder of what had been, like a faded photograph of a time long gone. She was amazed to find her throat tighten around sudden tears - she was so moved by the decline of this once proud manor. It was such a waste, when all it needed was care. She shrugged her melancholy aside; she had her own life to worry about resurrecting. She turned back to the room she was hopefully going to inhabit.
"Oh!," Anna exclaimed, observing the room. She was delighted to see a high canopied bed, a lovely antique dresser and matching table. The interior of the house, clearly Helens domain, had been lovingly maintained. The neglected state of the exterior and grounds was clearly not from lack of funds. From what she had seen so far, most of the furnishings appeared to be priceless estate pieces. She felt like she had stepped back in time, and the otherworldliness of her surroundings appealed to her. Her life was in transition; she herself was transforming into a person of her own choosing. It seemed fitting that her new life should begin in a place so different from her past.