The foyer was really just an entrance way the new house guests realized because, past the beautiful painting and flowers, the area expanded into a tiled floor with a compass motif. A curving staircase descended elegantly into the true foyer. Jones vanished outside after saying something into his right cuff-link. To the left of the stairs was a set of double wooden doors over two inches thick. In front of them, past the grand staircase was a set of lace-curtained French doors. Another, single door was to their right.
Wilhelmina led everyone forward. “This,” she said, pointing to the double doors, “is the library. Feel free to use it at any time. It is actually well-stocked and if you would prefer to read something else, anything else, feel free to let Jones know and he will get it for you.
Wilhelmina genuinely enjoyed giving them the grand tour of her castle and explaining some of its history.
The first floor held not only the library but a formal dining room and another dining room with several tables and chairs. The tables had pristine white table cloths and the napkins were of a rich burnt orange. The kitchen, of course, was also on the first floor and Emily fell in love with all the gleaming chrome dully reflecting back their images. A man dressed in a white chef’s smock was busy chopping up onions and garlic on a dicing board. His pants were an awful looking black and white checker and his feet wore the same black and white Keds, much like Jones’s. His head, covered with a skull and cross-bones blue bandanna, and a towel slung almost carelessly over his left shoulder, stopped chopping to wipe his hands on the towel and look to Wilhelmina with a smile.
“Everyone, this is Thomas. If there is anything you would like you may come directly to Thomas or ask Mrs. Cooper.”
“Hello,” the chef said. Emily didn’t think she had ever seen such a young chef before. He didn’t shake hands with them because he was cooking. Thomas was very happy to have more people to cook for, Emily knew. There were even some recipes he could try. “The kitchen is always open, but I am out by nine o’clock at night and here by seven o’clock in the morning. There are plenty of snacks, as well as fruit available, and if you want to cook I am not going to complain: Just make sure to clean up after yourself. I can’t stand a dirty kitchen and will revoke any kitchen privileges if I come in and the kitchen is dirty.” Thomas had an almost Northern accent and, if she was a betting person, she would be Thomas was local: a Lexingtonian. He was also very serious about the ‘dirty kitchen’ policy.
“Tell me, Thomas….”
Thomas smiled and went back to chopping the onions and garlic together. “My special beef stew with fry bread, cornbread, and applesauce.” Emily was surprised by the simple menu but also found herself looking forward to the meal. She hadn’t had beef stew for some time. When Emily’s mother had made beef stew when she was younger, she and her parents would fill their bowls and head into the living room to watch television. Beef stew only came out when the weather dropped in temperature. Emily hadn’t thought of that in quite a while. It felt good to remember something happy. Was that why Willie had beef stew, because of some happy memory? After all, Wilhelmina Chastain had enough money to have lobster every night if she chose, or steak, and here she was having beef stew and bread. Another thought wanted to chirp into Emily’s brain, but she pushed it away: It wasn’t safe to ‘think out loud’ just then.
“You always know how to make my mouth water, Thomas.” Wilhelmina turned then and led them out of the kitchen and passed a downstairs bathroom to the stairs and up them.
The second floor housed Willie’s office which was all in dark wood and light earth tones. It was a peaceful place. The second floor also had a breakfast nook and an informal dining room. There was a large Victorian style sitting room. Emily noticed there was a large, overstuffed chair and footstool in front of a fireplace that had a delightful fire already going. There was also a knitting bag with knitting needles sticking out of it beside the overstuffed chair. A small, round table beside the chair held a small lamp, a pair of reading glasses, and a remote control, although Emily didn’t see a television set anywhere. This room also held a writing desk, a table for card games and general use. A sofa in cream and roses fabric was close to the overstuffed chair. Other chairs and seats, including a couple of bean bags in purple and blue here and there. It was one of those rooms that had an open and inviting feel to it. It was also well-lit with natural light coming from one entire wall made of windows. Deep purple drapes hung long on each end of the windows to block out the light if necessary, or to stop prying eyes at night.
The third floor housed the bedrooms and even more bathrooms! (There were two full bathrooms on the second floor.)
Willie chattered on about different areas of the house as Emily tried very hard to just keep track of how to get back to the stairs and down should she need to. Friskers wiggled in Emily’s grasp. He had put up with being held for about as long as he could, which made her extremely grateful when Wilhelmina pointed out her room.
“These are yours, dear. I figured it would be good to give you a suite. Vinnie, your room is right beside Emily, and Mr. Azz, your room is beside Vinnie’s.” Willie opened the door and Emily swallowed. It was huge with a four-poster bed directly in Emily’s view, with a canopy. This was something she had always wanted, but never expected she would ever have because of expense, even for a little while. “I am going to change and relax for a little while. Feel free to roam to your content lady, and gentlemen. If you need anything, just ask someone, or ring one of the many bells that Jones has scattered throughout the house. The full tour can be done later.” Wilhelmina opened the door directly to their left. “Mr. Manchester, would you follow me please? I would like to explain some of your duties in a little more detail and show you to your quarters.” Thomas Manchester shuffled self-consciously over to Willie’s side obediently.
“I am going to retire…rest for a while before dinner. I recommend you do the same. This has been a trying day for all of us. Your bags should be up momentarily.” With those words Willie vanished through the open doorway. Emily had time to glimpse a hallway and then the door closed.
Vinnie, Azz, and Emily blinked several times and scanned each other’s faces. Emily felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. Friskers gave a mighty surge and arched his body. He pushed off against her arm and did a beautiful leap into the bedroom only to plop down angrily in the middle of the floor because the leash and harness was still attached. Benny followed his feline brother, just a little more slowly. His little black nose was twitching every few inches. Emily just let his leash fall so the dog would have a free access in the room. Friskers’ tail plopped and silently thumped against the thick green carpet of their suite.
“As soon as our bags get up here I’ll begin doing some research,” Azz said, suddenly breaking the silence.
“Good idea,” Vinnie Shields said, running his hand over his bald head.
“Do you think our bags are being searched?” Azz asked suddenly, leaning against Emily’s new boudoir door frame.
“Probably – if I was in her place I would want to know exactly what all of my guests brought with them. She has been alive a very long time, and I don’t believe it has been by any accident. She’s careful,” Vinnie said lifting his chin to the door Willie had vanished through.
“Agreed,” Azz said, pushing away from the door frame. “I,” he announced, “am going to check out my bed.” Before Shields could say anything, Emily slipped into her temporary room with a mumbled something about making sure the animals were adjusting or some such nonsense just before she closed the door.
- A Story of Emily Post, Part XI (kmgn.me)
- A Story of Emily Post, Part X (kmgn.me)
- Beef Stew for You! (mrsbuenavida.wordpress.com)