The Girl in the Tower Chap 26

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Chapter Twenty-six

Home by the Sea

"Don't peek." Harry smiled as he tied a silk scarf around Sara's eyes. It was hot in the cottage this time of year and he was anxious to get outside. When he was sure she couldn't see at all, he took her hand and led her into the bright morning sunshine.

Sara, her hair reflecting a golden halo of light, was barefoot as usual, and wearing a pretty white cotton sundress which Harry thought looked much more comfortable than his tee-shirt and denim shorts. He was sweating from being inside and wished he'd thought to come earlier and turn on the A/C as he led her down the path to the house. The sweet scent of roses and a mingling of other flowers perfumed the air, stirred by salty breezes drifting in from the Channel.

Harry stopped where the path left the trees and opened onto the house's front lawn with the drive off to the left and, holding his breath, he removed the blindfold.

Sara gasped, her eyes wide in amazement. "Oh my god!" She whispered, "Am I dreaming Harry?"

"No, not dreaming."

"I can't believe what I'm seeing!"

The house was enormous, a mansion to be sure, with plenty of flat rooftop and the little tower they'd planned rising into the air at one corner, situated right on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the water. The entrance was a garden straight out of the most beautiful dream, with immaculately kept little umbrella-shaped trees, lovingly entwined with morning glory vines and everywhere were blooms in a thousand shades of purple, pink and blue. White hydrangeas and roses lined the iron fence, the gate of which rose fifteen feet and proudly displayed their crest on each wing. A stone walkway wound its way through the center of it all.

"I should have asked you about putting the wading pool right in the front yard, but I hoped you would like it..."

Sara grabbed his face and gave him a big, enthusiastic kiss. "I love it." She grinned, "You built the house! Harry I can't believe this is real! Let's go!" She ran a few steps, then returned and threw her arms around him, nearly crushing the air from his lungs and just as quickly she was running up the walk, dragging him along by the hand. "Come on!" She laughed, "Hurry up!"

Sara grinned her way to the front gate, the skirt of her dress billowing out behind her, and came to a stop at the step, the smile fading away, replaced by anxious confusion.

Harry saw what she was looking at and dropped his eyes to the ground, letting go of her hand and turning his back. The memory of that night still haunted him, anger darkened his brow and he shoved his hands in his pockets.

"Why did you do this?" She asked with sweet-laced concern. "Harry, why did you paint the door black?" She couldn't take her eyes from it. It was troubling just to look at. Not only was it poorly done, just slopped on and bare in places, but black paint stained the stone block all around the door. The knob and hinges were darkened. Great splotches of dried paint splattered the floor of the porch. In fact, the hardened brush and poorly sealed paint can sat nearby, forgotten. "Harry?"

He spoke with his back turned, pretending to admire the view of the wading pool beyond the garden. "Sara, do you have any idea how it felt for me when you returned the ring?"

She fell silent at his words, her eyes on the door, painful understanding darkening her countenance. "No." She whispered, "Only how it felt to send it." Sara turned and rested her head against his back, her arms slipped around him. "Tell me."

"I understood all of it, you know. Why you had to leave, why you couldn't see me or accept my letters. I don't hold any of that against you. But the ring was like a death blow. It was over, I thought, my life ripped to shreds, my heart bleeding, and none of it making any sense. I died inside that night, Sara. And this house was the symbol of all that I'd lost."

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