Chapter 19 – The House Sitter

Molly was so excited she was unable to sit still. Annabelle’s plane had landed and any moment now she would be walking through the door…….

With a squeal of delight, she raced up to meet her dear friend, hugging her hard. “Oh, Anna, it is soo good to see you! Way too long between hugs woman!!” As Molly held her tight, tears of joy welled up in her eyes. Will loved being able to watch Molly from a distance. His artists eye eager to capture her in different scenarios. He delighted in her animated ways. “Come here and let me ravish you woman,” he greeted Annabelle with wide open arms. His familiar voice raised the attention of a airport staff member close by, passing a comment on his potential sexual opportunities. 

The drive home was filled with excited chatter. Will had offered to drive and suggested for the two girls to sit in the backseat and catch up. He was able to enjoy watching them through the rear vision mirror, they were like two teenage girls catching up after school holidays. They stopped at the Lockyer Village General Store to get some farm fresh milk. Molly was eager to introduce her friend to some of the locals. Gail and Craig ran the General Store, as had Gail’s folks, and her father’s folks before them. Her Grandfather’s father had been a pioneer, coming over from Ireland in the mid 1800’s as a Kauri gum digger. Gail knew everything anyone needed to know about the area. Except matters regarding Grace Forest. That conversation always fell flat, and the colour would drain out of her face and she would quickly change the subject, unwilling to indulge any further. They were kind-hearted and generous people, a good contact for Annabelle should she need help with anything whilst Molly and Will were away. 

Will drove slowly along the coast road, letting Annabelle take in her new environment. “Oh Molly, it is so pretty here,” the play of the evening light which reflected on the surface of the calm water was breathtaking. As the road led them to the drive way, Annabelle grabbed Molly’s hand with anticipation. Before turning down the tree lined drive, in the fading light, the old sign with the name of the property caught her attention. It took her breath away, the surprise made her suddenly gasp. The name of the property was ‘The Muse’! “What!” She exclaimed to herself, almost under her breath. She managed to cover her surprise as delight at seeing the house for the first time. But nothing misses Molly’s radar and she felt the shift in her friends energy. Molly wondered, maybe had Anna seen Grace in the window? 

Will took care of dinner, something he loved to do, whilst Molly showed Annabelle around the house and the garden, purposefully leaving The Attic until last. After dinner, armed with a tea tray, the girls excused themselves and headed up the stairs to The Attic. Will heard Molly’s voice fading as they went out of the kitchen…..”You’ve got to feel this Anna, stop here before you come up. Walk slowly and focus on the energy. Can you feel it….” Her voice drifted down the stairs. Anna giggled as she felt the tingles pass through her body midway up the staircase. With eyes that sparkled with excitement, she keenly followed Molly into the room.

As Molly placed the tea tray on the old wooden sea chest, Annabelle noticed that there are three tea cups. “Is Will joining us?” She enquired. “No…,” Molly replied, her voice edged with a tease of mystery, not giving any hint as to whom it may be for. Annabelle was intrigued by the room. Eagerly she looked around at the furnishings, feeling like she had stepped back in time. “Wow, Molly, this is awesome. Did you do the decorating?”

“Nope, it is as it was when we uncovered the stairs”.

“Oooh, how exciting!” Annabelle shivered, feeling the goosebumps on her arms.  

Sitting down in the armchairs by the fireplace, Annabelle relaxed, taking in her new environment. But something inside of her was becoming restless, a sense of familiarity, of deja vu. Not able to contain it any longer, she decided to tell Molly about the coincidences of her day.

“……and then when we stopped to come down the driveway and I saw the name of the house out the front, I could feel this buzz growing inside of me. Molly, what on earth is going on here? What is this place? I mean, can you explain this thing about  my dream, and Patrick?” She looked nervously at Molly.

Molly explained as best as she could to her dear friend of the recent goings on in the house, and of her journalling whilst she was on the road trip with Will last month. She thought it best that Annabelle read over the journal, she did not need to take it with her, or Grace’s journal, she could read that too. “Can she Grace? Is it ok for Annabelle to read your journal? Please let me know tonight, as you know, we only have another day here with Annabelle,” Molly thought in her head.

“Molly, did you catch that?” Annabelle interrupted her thoughts.

“Oh, what was that, sorry, I missed it.”

“Am I boring you already?” jested Anna.

“No Honey, just checking in with Grace, inviting her to come and meet you.”

Eagerly Anna wanted to know more, however she was aware of her waning energy levels, it had been a long day.

“Let’s sleep on it and see what tomorrow brings. For now, I’d like to run a hot bath for you and get you settled in your new bedroom, shall we?” Molly took her friend by the hand and lead her back down the stairs to the kitchen, where Will had made some hot chocolate, something he was renown for, using real dark chocolate and his not so secret ingredient of a dash of ground cardamon and dried ginger and just a wee pinch of chilly powder. Molly headed to the bathroom to run the bath, creating a moment on her own, she shut the bathroom door pretending to go through to the loo. 

“Grace?” she whispered. “Grace?” Not able to see her in the bathroom, she was however still able to hear her.

“Yes Molly. I see Annabella has arrived safely.”

“When will you come to see her, when can she meet you?” 

“Tomorrow will be fine. I am busy tonight.”

Molly placed some bath salts and lavender oil into the water, the bath now ready for Anna and  left her with a nice fluffy towel and bathrobe, to enjoy a good soak in the hot scented water.

“I’ll check on you in 20, make sure you have not fallen asleep,” and she left Anna, to catch up with Will in the kitchen.

“Phew, what a day!” she hugged him, breathing in the scent of his skin, her lips resting  teasingly against his neck.

“How did it go? Did Anna get to meet Grace?” he enquired.

“No not yet. Grace has agreed to meet with her tomorrow, said she was busy tonight. Must be important,” Molly replied.

“Ready for bed Missy?”

“Soon. I’ll check on Anna in a little while, make sure she hasn’t slid under the water asleep.” 

With everyone tucked in bed for the night, sleep came easily to them all, excitement giving way as exhaustion took over. Anna had a very, very interesting dream. She dreamt that she was awake, looking at her cell phone, it was 3am. This does not surprise her. She gets a strong urge to go upstairs to The Attic. Surely Molly would be ok with this? After all, she will have the house to herself soon enough. Putting on her bathrobe, she tiptoes down the hall and up the stairs to where she can see a dim light spilling down the stairs through the partially opened door. Part the way up the stairs she feels that same tingle as yesterday. Her heart racing, she opens the door quietly asking if she can come in. The candlelight flickers and she takes it as a yes. The room appears empty and she sits in the captain’s chair, looking out the window which reflects back at her the image of the candle burning, the dark night enhancing its reflection in the rippled panes of the old glass. Open on the desk is Grace’s Journal. Anna feels she is meant to read it but also wants to ask permission to do so. Closing her eyes she says quietly, “Hi Grace, this is me, Annabelle. I would like to meet you. And I would like to ask your permission to read your journal.” A cool breeze tickles the back of her neck, causing her to look over her shoulder for its source – had she left the door open? To her surprise, there sat a lady on the day bed, whom she guesses must be Grace. She smiles warmly at Annabelle and as if reading her mind, she replies telepathically, “Hello Annabelle. Welcome to our home. You are most welcome to read my journal, and the letters to Callum. Did you enjoy meeting my gardener Patrick?” Grace chuckles politely behind her hand, her eyes alight with mischief. In a flash the vision is gone and Anna finds herself back in her bed, very much awake, her eyes wide open staring at the ceiling rose in the middle of the room, heart bounding heavily in her chest. “Wow!” Is all she can say. Scrambling through her bag she finds her journal and writes about the dream whilst the vision is still clear in her mind. “Molly’s gonna love this!” Anna smiled as she scribbled notes frantically.

Molly woke early, just as the dawn light appeared around the edge of the bedroom drapes. She tiptoed quietly out to the kitchen pausing by the door to Anna’s bedroom and noticed her light was on. Grinning to herself, she thought she’d make a pot of tea, take a cup to her friend and snuggle up in bed with her. Something they had always loved to do as teenagers.

Whilst making tea, Molly thought of Lucy. Whispering quietly, she said, “Morning Lucy, I’d like you to please take care of my friend Annabelle – I guess you are aware that she will be housesitting for us. Apparently she has already met Patrick, I am sure you had something to do with this?! I know you and Grace have been up to some magic. Anyway, Anna is able to see Spirit People, but I guess you already know that too!” Molly caught a hint of Lucy’s presence standing by the sink. She saw Lucy nod her head, did a little curtsy, and vanish.

Filling up the tea tray with cups, saucers, teapot and milk, Molly walked quietly to the spare bedroom door and knocked gently. No reply. But the light was on and she decided to go in anyway, knowing that Anna had nothing to hide from her. Opening the door, Molly found Anna asleep sitting propped up by pillows, her journal still on her lap and her pen lying loosely in her relaxed hands. Smiling fondly, she poured some tea and climbed into bed next to her. Anna stirred, smiling sleepily at her best friend and snuggled into her shoulder. “Morning,” she responded drowsily. And then as Anna remembered her dream, she woke up instantly. Animatedly, she retold it all in detail. 

“No wonder Grace said she was going to be busy last night!” Molly replied.

The door creaked open, and Will peered into the room, “So is this early morning tea party just for girls, or is there room for a handsome guy too?” Will wriggled into the bed next to Molly who put her arms around both of them pulling them into a cuddle. Will teased them, in a deep, sexy voice, “Mmmmmm, menage a trios?” Molly and Anna look at each other and relied in unison, “Mmmmmm….how about No!” Laughing, Anna added, “Love you both, but not that much!” Will, playful by nature, his ego deflated, accepted a cup of tea instead of a lovers triangle, sulking dramatically. “Gee, what’s a guy gotta do around here to get laid?” To which Molly promptly slapped him on the shoulder, scolding him in a drawn out whine, “Wiiiiiilllll!!”. “Just kidding,” he teased. “Maybe I can redeem myself if I make us breakfast?” He suggested to Molly.

“Maybeeee……” she replied huskily, looking  at him seductively as he got out of bed.

“Eeeuuuw! Can you please save it for when you are on your way to Wellington? Then I don’t care how or where you decide to ravish each other. Do you not realise how taunting it is for someone that hasn’t had sex in….. a long time?” Anna squawked.

“I did offer….” Will’s voice trails off as he leaves the room, wiggling his arse alluringly in the door way. Molly launched a small pillow off the bed at the irresistible target. She turned to Anna and said, “at least he remembered to put pyjama pants on,” and they both giggled, relishing in their playful antics. A rare moment in time these days, that they were able to share, having been living so far apart. But this was about to change for all of them.

As always, Will excelled in the kitchen, indeed redeeming himself, having created something scrumptious for breakfast. Freshly ground and brewed coffee with a hint of vanilla bean. Mushrooms tossed in balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic, olive oil and a little butter, with a generous dusting of grated blue vein cheese, a little cracked black pepper, some fresh thyme leaves from their garden, topped with a poached egg on toasted sour dough bread. Unseen by him, Lucy had been watching, taking in these new ideas and adding them to her recipe book. 

Feeling more rested now, the three of them took advantage of being able to share each others company, catching up on stories and enjoying some good food. Later in the morning Will took Anna around the garden showing her what would be needing attention whilst they were away, and of where the necessary tools and machinery were, should she need them. He was also excited to show her the loft office, and how it was progressing. It still required completion, awaiting a delayed order of recycled Rimu lining boards he had purchased on Trade Me. Anna was impressed. “This would make a perfect tiny house Will!” she stated as they stood up in the loft, taking in the view and looking over the plans which were still sitting on a trestle table in the middle of the room amongst tools and wood shavings. “What will you do for heating?” asked Annabelle. “Oh!” exclaimed Will, “I had not thought about that! What would you suggest Anna?” “Well, good insulation is a must, and I can see you have got that sorted by the packages of wool batts downstairs. Maybe a little pot belly stove, something antique looking that won’t need much to fire it up, would warm the space easily. You’ve located the skylight perfectly to make good use of the seasonal sun to help warm the space.” 

“Anna, have you ever thought about doing interior design or architecture? You have always had a great flare for design, colour and co-ordination. Plus I hear you are good at organisation too, space management,” Will suggested.

Anna laughed, “you are so polite Will, my housemates in Aussie said I had OCD, but no one minded when it came to my turn to do house cleaning!”

“Well, I think you would be good at it. Consider a career change?” He winked at her.

“Hmmm…food for thought,” Anna smiled considering it a little more seriously. “I will have time to think about it whilst you are away. You may come home to a redecorated house!” she said excitedly, to which Will replied, “um, no thanks, kinda like it the way it is, and I know you do too. Let’s see what Molly’s up to,” he said distracting Anna.

Inside, up in The Attic, Molly was sorting the last of the necessary things she needed to take with her, including a new journal for writing to Grace in. She felt a little sad at the thought of being away from her beloved house for so long. Feeling a soft touch on her shoulder, she turned to see Grace standing behind her.

“You know you will visit here most nights my dear, nothing will really change much regarding what we get up to. Except that now we have a new assistant.” She smiled at Molly. “Not jealous are you?” She looked at Molly coyly. 

“Me? Nah, it is wonderful that you thought of her Grace. Anna will have an amazing time. Will I be able to see her when I visit through meditation?”

“But of course, I’ll take care of that. She will require a little assistance. Wait until she does her readings from up here, oh she is in for a surprise! I can help her with those, that will be very interesting. And then there are the Spirit People who are connected with the stories you will be writing for the staff of The Little Book Publishing Company. Oooh, exciting times indeed!” Grace rubbed her hands together and wriggled her shoulders in anticipation.

Molly could hear Will and Annabelle in the kitchen. “Well, Grace, I guess it is time to say, ‘see you later’. Or maybe, see you from the other side? I wish I could hug you.” Molly still seemed a little melancholy. “Cheer up girl, I am not going anywhere, you know how it works now!” Grace blew her a kiss and disappeared. Looking around the room, taking in all of the details, Molly then picked up her bag and went downstairs to meet the others. They were to share another meal together tonight and then Annabelle would drive them to the airport to catch a flight to Wellington in the morning. The Little Book Publishing Company was providing a car for them, which meant they could leave their car for Annabelle to use.

They all helped with dinner creating a feast that would feed Annabelle for another couple of days as well. Each of them added in their favourite spices and condiments and they shared an enjoyable dinner that was also seasoned with a mixture of emotions. There was much excitement between them all, with just a tinge of sadness about sharing such a short amount of time together before new adventures began for all of them.

With everything packed in the car, ready for the morning except for the overnight essentials, Will made his special hot chocolate for everyone before going to bed. 

“Thanks Anna for helping us out at such short notice, you are an angel!” Will said as he gave her a heart-felt hug.

“Perfect timing isn’t it! I was wanting to come and visit you folk anyway. Maybe I can stay on for a bit when you return? Then we can have a good catchup” Anna suggested.

“What a wonderful idea. You know we are planning to go to The South Island in March, don’t you? Did I mention that?” Molly asked.

“Yep, all good. Should have had enough of you after a week…. Just kidding!” Teasingly, Anna winked at them, pulling both of them in for a hug.

“Love you guys”, she said.

“We love you too Anna,” Molly and Will added in unison. “Bed, sleep and the beginning of a new adventure for all of us! Good night Honey,” said Molly.

“Good night,” said Anna on the way to her bedroom, adding over her shoulder, “I’ll do breakfast.”

Will and Molly snuggled in under the duvet, Will wrapped his arms around her tightly. “Are you ready?” he asked her.

“Yeah, I think so. Feels right, just a little sad, you know what it’s like, taking that first step out the door.”

“Things all good with Grace?” Will asked.

“Yep, we will communicate just as we did on the last road trip. I have packed a new journal. I am quite excited about meeting these people and writing their stories. I wonder what the house will be like? Where about’s in Wellington is it, do you know?” she asked.

“I think Tom said it was in or near Mt Victoria, could be an old villa.” Will replied vaguely, not wanting to let on that he had already been to the house.

“That would be cool….” Molly answered sleepily. “Good night Honey”.

“Good night my beautiful wife,” Will kissed her gently on the lips, “sweet dreams.”

The night passed peacefully, quickly and all too soon, the alarm woke them at 7am. They needed to be on the road by 9am. Molly and Will went out into the kitchen to find Anna already making French Toast, Molly’s favourite.

“Morning!” She chirped happily. “Good sleep?”

“Mmmm,” Molly said, pouring fresh coffee for them all.

“Today is The Day, new adventures, how exciting!” Anna smiled as she flipped the egg dipped bread in the frying pan. Molly and Will went for a walk around the gardens, just to say farewell and to take in a last look at how everything was growing. Molly said out aloud, “Thanks Patrick for taking care of the house and garden, and our dear friend Annabelle.” As if in answer, the breeze picked up, swirling around them gently like an warm embrace. Molly giggled, “do you think he heard us Will?”

“Absolutely!” He agreed.

Last minute things packed into the car, they left for the airport. Being a Sunday morning, the traffic was lighter than usual getting there and everything flowed smoothly. They arrived with plenty of time to enjoy a coffee in the lounge together before going their seperate ways.

“Once again, thanks Anna, for taking care of our home. We can video call and catch up, stay in touch. Have fun with Grace,” said Molly hugging her dear friend, the feeling of separation pulling at her heart. She felt a closeness to Anna like no other of her friends, except Will of course.

“See ya later my other woman!” Will teased and hugged her, squeezing her tight.

“Ok guys, well, see you on the other side! Have fun!” Anna ended the conversation before it began dragging on uncomfortably. “Ciao meow,” she said fondly, hugging Molly.

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