SpringHouse, Mary Ellen Taylor

Spring House

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The lives of two women, generations apart, converge . . . 

Pregnant and grieving the death of her fiancé, historian Megan Buchanan is forging ahead on her dream project when she’s hired to restore the landmark hunting lodge her great-great-grandfather built on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

However, it’s Spring House, the  lodge’s caretaker’s cottage, that most intrigues her as a newly discovered cache of old letters pulls her into the life of a young woman pursuing her own dream a century ago. Each page she unfolds sweeps Megan deeper into an enthralling world and its secrets, where she can, for awhile, forget what she herself is hiding.

Spring House Excerpt

SpringHouse, Mary Ellen TaylorMarch 5, 2018
Norfolk, Virginia

Megan was the champion of big dreams and had had a lot of them over the years. So far though, her follow through hadn’t kept pace.

“One problem at a time, Megan,” she said to herself.

She ignored her growing to-do list for the Winter Cottage and the lighthouse and kept her focus on the Spring House.

She followed the dirt road to the left veering away from the lighthouse and the old hunting lodge toward a stand of tall brush that wrapped around shorter fruit trees twisted by years of wind from the bay. Nestled among the trees was a white clapboard house she had seen in Delany’s photograph.

It now appeared much the same though the weather-beaten red tin roof had been damaged in several storms and the ten-foot wide porch that wrapped around the exterior had so much rot it would have to eventually be torn off or replaced. The floor to ceiling windows and dark storm stutters remained intact as did the front door outfitted with a brass pineapple knocker.

She was pleased to see the arrival of the big blue dumpster which she had ordered last week. It had a capacity of thirteen hundred cubic feet with a sixteen-thousand-pound weight limit. And she knew after her multiple tours through the house she would need every bit of that space. The clutter that was crammed in the house was floor to ceiling, and judging by the faint smell of mildew there was water damage that meant walls would have to come out along with an outdated kitchen and bathroom. No doubt that blue dumpster would be filled to the brim by the time she was finished with this place.

Megan pressed her hand to the small of her back as she gathered her purse and climbed the steps. She crossed the weather-beaten wooden porch to a red front door faded and streaked by salt air. As sweet smelling as Chesapeake Bay’s air could be, it was brutal on houses. Without maintenance, paint peeled, hinges rusted and boards split in the briny shore air. She only prayed the damage to the Spring House didn’t extend to its foundation.

Megan fumbled with iron keys that fit large locks that dated back a century and then slid the one shaped like a large F into the lock. It took a little twisting, turning and some jiggling to get the lock to give. When the lock’s tumblers reluctantly clicked into place, the door creaked open.

Stale air drifted out the door like a tired yawn as sunlight streaked in and dust danced and swirled in the beams of light. “Time to rise and shine.”

The house almost moaned like a sleeping giant and she sensed it was not the least bit interested in rising. It had been left alone for decades and was content to be forgotten.

“Leave me be,” it seemed to whisper.

“No way, my friend,” she said. “We’re going to reinvent ourselves together.”

The center hallway was packed with a collection of mismatched bookshelves that were crammed full of magazines, books, and papers. The limited remaining wall space was filled with photographs in inexpensive dime store frames. The floor was covered in sailcloth painted in a black and white checkerboard tile pattern. The stiff cloth was covered in decades of dirt and stretched the length of the hallway. But despite age and neglect, she suspected under the grime the original cloth still may be salvaged with a good cleaning.

Once the clutter was stripped, she knew there were hardwood floors, crown molding and marble fireplaces aching to be rediscovered. Her excitement grew as she anticipated all the discoveries waiting for her. Regardless of the time involved, she would bring Spring House back to life.

The baby kicked hard against her ribs reminding her that the best laid plans often ventured off course.

The rumble of tires had her turning to see Lucy Kincaid hop out of her yellow jeep. Blond hair and ice blue eyes made her a sight to see. She had turned more than a few heads in town. It would have been easy to resent Lucy if she were not so down-to-earth and kind. She had only been living in this still remote community for four months, but already, locals considered her, well, a local.

Not only had she won over the community, but she was also tackling these restoration projects that were destined to stretch out for years. On top of that she was now raising her half-sister, Natasha, whom she was in the process of adopting.

Lucy’s chocolate lab, Dolly, bounded out of the jeep and barked before dashing into a thicket of trees as her cowboy boots thudded across the front porch. “Tell me the party hasn’t started without me,” she said, grinning.

Her Tennessee laced accent conjured images of the honky-tonk’s of Nashville’s lower Broadway and its aged bourbon that still stained her trademark blue cowboy boots.

Lucy sported a red Nashville T-shirt featuring a bucking bronco and her worn jeans skimmed a slim athletic figure. A spark in Lucy’s gaze hinted at a life filled with fun that had always eluded Megan.

Dolly barked from the brush, reappeared, and then catching the scent of a squirrel or deer bounded back into the tall grass, happily barking.

“When did you get here?” Lucy asked. “I thought you had a doctor’s appointment in Norfolk this morning.”

“All done in record time, thankfully. I just arrived,” Megan said.

“How did the doctor’s appointment go?” Lucy climbed the steps to the porch.

“It’s all good.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“Natasha and her history project arrive at school?”

“I left her at the school dressed as a Greek senator complete with laurels in her hair. She’s ready to talk about Julius Caesar.”

The toga was a white bed sheet and the laurel was ivy from the surrounding woods. “She looked cute.”

“She was worried it made her look stupid until she saw three other girls dressed just like her.”

“Ah, we all want to fit in during middle school.”

“Her more than most,” Lucy said. “But I’m hoping that settles as soon as she figures out her big sister is not going anywhere.”

Natasha’s mother had died several years ago and the father she shared with Lucy had little interest in raising her. The girl had spent the last few years either being bounced between neighbors or hiding in Winter Cottage.

Lucy turned and called for Dolly, who quickly burst out of the overgrowth and up the stairs, wagging her tail and licking Megan’s hands.

Megan scratched the dog’s head. “Hey, girl.”

“So what’s your assessment?” As Lucy stepped closer she studied Megan’s swollen belly, patted it gently and smiled. “Will we be finished by fall so the crew can gut the Winter Cottage?”

“It’s going to be tight.” As she thought about the schedule and the baby, her constant hum of worry kicked up a notch. She had disappointed so many people in her life and she did not want to add Lucy to her list.

As if sensing her thoughts, Lucy said, “We’ll figure it out, Megan. Don’t make that worried face.”

Megan moistened her lips and relaxed her frown. “I’m not making a worried face.”

Lucy scrunched hers up. “Yes, you are. Like I tell Natasha, your face is going to stick in a frown if you’re not careful.”

She smiled, hoping if she projected Lucy’s relaxed attitude she would unwind the tension knotted in her back. What was it that Lucy called her life philosophy? The law of attraction? Our thoughts, she said, manifested in our lives. Megan certainly never once thought about troubles that manifested with Scott, his death or the baby so she was tempted to call bullshit on the attracting law theory.

Lucy cupped her hands on Megan’s belly. “Don’t let your mama’s worries bother you, little spud. Life has a way of sorting itself out.”

© 2019 Mary Burton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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