My hands explore to count toes and fingers and limbs to ensure I remain intact. To my own amazement, all my appendages remain. Rising, my body groans with soreness and a sharp pain grips into my abdomen. Did I get into a drunken bar-fight? Or a major car accident? Trying to rub the tension from my neck, I follow the smell of coffee and find the staircase.
The paintings lining the staircase must be of her husband’s family, for I can see his likeness in most of these portraits. I read the names and dates, which progress towards the present day as one descends the stairs. Stopping, I study the portrait of a young brunette woman that bears a stunning resemblance to the painting outside Ella’s bedroom.
“Margaret Holden.” I hear a voice speak. It’s the old man, watching me from the entrance to the library.
“Beautiful,” I say, staring at the portrait. Dark brown eyes, almost black, dominate the face, with thin pouty lips and a tiny neckline.
“She was,” George agrees. Turning to face him, I see he carries a drink tray and on it a solitary martini.
Taking it off the tray, I lift the glass towards Margaret Holden. “Cheers, Beautiful. Tell me, what happened to her?”
Without a hint of emotion, George answers, “Suicide by hanging.”
I sip the drink and stare into the eyes of the portrait. A rich woman didn’t want to live. Such a sad story. “Where is Ella?”
He indicates the library with a sweep of his arm. Shrugging, I finish the drink and place it on the tray.
“Bring two more,” I say and enter the library. I see her at the desk writing and pause for a moment to watch her. Every few seconds she flips hair off the tablet, grunting each time at the interruption. Approaching the desk, I wrap my arms around her shoulders, hoping to surprise her. I kiss her neck and the top of her head, inhaling of the scent of apricots and peaches.
“Good morning to you,” she says without turning to face me. “You’re in a happy mood.”
“How could I not be happy?” I say, squeezing her. The silk of her pajamas and the hint of lilacs threaten to overload my mind with sensations. My fingers run through blonde hair while I watch her write.
“Tell me why you’re happy,” she insists, finally looking up at me. The light reflects blue sparkles in her eyes and I can’t answer. Instead, I kiss her forehead and savor the sweet taste of her skin.