The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Eight
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part One
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Two
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Three
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Four
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Five
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Six
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor – Part Seven
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Eight
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Nine
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part 10
I sat in the enormous garden out back and admired the transformation. I could picture what it looked like once upon a time at its finest. There was something about the overgrown greenery that was magical in its own way, but to watch it transform from abandonment to cared for with loving hands was a whole other ballgame.
The garden maze behind the ballroom had changed dramatically within the two days that Thomas and his family began working on it. They had cleaned the water fountain, mowed the grass, blew away the dead leaves, and scrubbed the stone seating clean. The overgrowth was still visible, but I knew that change would come with time.
The doors to the indoor garden that attached to the ballroom were still locked from the inside, so I knew they hadn’t been in there yet. But that was okay. I had the outdoor area to sit in during these moments of calm.
I was thankful the veranda stones were in great condition and wouldn’t need replacing anytime soon. Frank had found the outdoor table chairs in storage, and all of us pitched in and dragged them out.
Foliage still climbed the manor walls around the back where I sat, but they cleaned the weeds up, and the rest looked intentional for now. JJ ran to the store and bought new seating cushions and an umbrella to match, to shade me from direct sunlight when I sat here.
The gardeners hadn’t added decorative plants or lighting yet. If I wanted to enjoy the outdoors, I had to do it while the sun was out. As it was, dusk was taking over the sky. I had been outside since midday reading books from my aunt’s personal library. It was interesting to see what intrigued her and learn about the history of where I came from. I needed the quiet time after being around so many people the last two days.
The courtrooms and lawyers hassled me on every detail of my life. I didn’t understand how it was any of their business when we were there by my aunt’s wishes, but Mr. Watts stayed by my side the entire time.
I hadn’t seen him since his visit to my apartment in the States, so I was grateful he stayed with me through the legal proceedings. He reassured me that everything was necessary because of the importance and status of my family.
If my aunt had trusted him, I knew I could too. I answered when he instructed and stayed silent when motioned to do so. He was a blessing and had taken care of everything much faster than I thought it would take. With my parents’ deaths, the legal process had taken weeks, but Mr. Watts handled it in two.
The manor title, car titles, inheritance, all of it was in my name now, thanks to his assisstance. Frank had made him and everyone else dinner last night to celebrate. It disappointed me that Thomas’ brother, whose name I learned was Axel, wasn’t there because I hadn’t met him yet. I had seen him from afar once, and if Michael hadn’t met him, I would have thought he was a figment of their imagination. Thomas mentioned his brother had a father-daughter date with his oldest child but was also eager to meet me officially.
Everything had been a lot to process, but it was over now, though the downfall was I realized I owned several cars I couldn’t drive because I didn’t know how to drive on the left side of the road. I shared this in the middle of dinner, and the entire table roared with laughter at my epiphany.
“Your coffee, Ms. Hannah.”
I jumped at Frank’s sudden appearance. “Frank, you scared me! How are you so silent?”
A twitch in the corner of his mouth was the only indication that he was amused. “Years of practice, madam.” He winked and placed the tray on the table.
The first sip of my coffee had me melting into my chair. Frank had made it perfectly with just enough sweetness to be a treat and bitter enough to still taste like candy and not diabetes in a cup.
I glanced up at Frank and I couldn’t help but chuckle at his pinched face. He looked like my drinking coffee was offensive to him.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like some tea instead?” he asked. “I can make something caffeinated and delicious, that is not,” he pursed his lips. “That.”
Raising an eyebrow. “For someone who hates coffee, you sure know how to make it delicious.”
He stood taller, and it amazed me how praise seemed to always make him proud.
“I can make anything edible, Miss Hannah. If tar in a cup is what you wish for, I will make sure it tastes heavenly. It is my duty to you and this family.”
Family. There was no more family. I was the only one left.
Frank seemed to sense my shift in mood, but he didn’t comment, once again being respectful of my privacy.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked gently.
“No, thank you. I’ll be heading in soon.” I leaned back in my chair and took another sip of coffee.
He nodded. “If you wish to keep reading outside, Mr. Axel finished hanging the fairy lights on your balcony. I can turn them on if you wish.”
I smiled at Frank. “Thank you. That would be wonderful.”
With a final nod of acknowledgment, he turned and headed back inside the manor. I watched him walk away; as silent as he arrived.
He always thought of my needs, and I began to wonder about what I could do in return to show my gratitude to him in return. I doubted he and Elaina would take a break if I suggested one, but it gave me something to think about for later.
With everything settling down, my thoughts turned to what life would be like now. It wasn’t easy to decide what the new future would be. Whenever I looked around, I saw this massive legacy my family left behind. Part of me hoped the restoration would bring me closer to them. It might be a physical reminder of them, and I knew it wouldn’t bring any of them back, but at least it was something.
Every day I spent in the manor, the more I fell in love with everything about this place. I was learning about my history. It may be this bleak thing, and I felt the connection would bring me closer to them, but it also drove me away from the future I had planned. I was lost, and this huge unknown in my life caused me to think about my parents more often.
My mother loved her garden at my childhood home and being out here constantly reminded me of her. If I closed my eyes, I could picture the two of us spending time together.
“Don’t forget to pat the dirt around the roots,” my mom said. “You don’t want them to fall over.”
My mother and I were on our knees at the flower bed that surrounded the front porch as my father mowed the lawn and waved to every neighbor he saw pass by. At this time of day, most stay-at-home moms power-walked now that their husbands were home, and dinner was in the oven.
Most of the men listened for the oven timer while they watched TV, worked in their garages or were out in the yard like my dad was. The sounds of children’s laughter filled the air. Usually, I would join them, but gardening with my mom was my favorite pastime.
“These attract butterflies, right?” I asked.
At eleven years old, I knew the plants my mom preferred. Butterflies were her favorite. She loved any plant that attracted them. My friends laughed all the time and joked that she was a fairy because of all the beautiful insects in our yard.
I could understand why, too. Sometimes I would look out the window and see several butterflies sitting on her arms. If fairies were ever real, she would have been one. I could attest to that.
“Mh-hm, and hummingbirds.”
I leaned back and looked at her. My mom had a dirt mark on her cheek, but her tan shined through the muck streaking across her skin. Her auburn hair contrasted with my chocolate brown, though you could see the red in the summer sunshine. Her hazel eyes stood out in the sun when they turned greener than brown. Her eyes were another contrast to mine, which were a sapphire blue.
My preteen self didn’t appreciate her beauty the way I remembered her now.
“What about bees?” I wasn’t too fond of bees, not since the year before.
Her chuckle flittered over me. “Don’t worry, Hannah. I planted the flowers bees like at the edges of the lawn.” She motioned towards where my dad mowed along the fence line. When she turned back to me, she cupped the side of my face lovingly. “No more beestings while we have breakfast.”
“Good!” I chirped. “Because if I have to go to school looking like a balloon again, I’m ditching.”
The melodic harmony of my mother’s laughter echoed in my head as the memory of our time in her garden faded with the wispy steam from my coffee and I was back in the manor admiring a garden I could call my own.
I opened my eyes, and I could still hear her laughter echo. Her laugh in the garden’s silence was like a ghost gliding by. Maybe I didn’t believe in spirits as Frank and Elaina did, but the ghost of the past was something I believed haunted us for the rest of our lives.
I put my bookmark in the book I held. The sun was too low and created shadows throughout the backyard. I looked around and watched the animals as they finished all their little jobs for the day.
Birds squeaked and flew into the trees, the squirrels ran across the garden and up the trees, and I swear, at one point, I saw a few frogs jumping around the fountain into the flowers.
I took another sip from my cup, which was already growing cold with the setting sun. With a resigned sigh, I stood and gathered my things from the table. I still needed to finish going through my aunt’s room, figure out what to do with my apartment and things in the States, and how I’d finish college.
There were so many more items on my to-do list that I was glad I used today as a free day. I didn’t let my thoughts wander to what I needed to do and instead focused on being in the moment. It seemed like I hadn’t taken the time to enjoy this place I inherited, and it was nice to have that feeling today.
Tomorrow I would start anew.
When I turned, the grip I had on my stuff loosed, and it all tumbled to the floor as a startled yell escaped me at the unsuspecting sight of an unfamiliar man so close to me.