It was a simple moment at the beginning of summer. Klara was sprawled out on the couch, flipping through her favorite novel and wafting away her great-grandmother’s smoke when all of a sudden, she hastily closed the book and spoke. “Sometimes I think Father just doesn’t understand that I’m not a child anymore. But the truth is, I’m not. I’m growing into a woman, and a sophisticated one at that. And just because I love children’s literature and the worlds within my novels, doesn’t mean I’m detached from the real one,” she huffed.
Cordelia had smiled to herself. Klara’s world was by no means small, but it was simple and had always been filled with characters from novels—epic romances spanning the seas, forests filled with honey bears, and skies with children who could fly. Their estate, and Klara’s mind, has always been filled with stories. In many ways, her life was as open as a partially-read book. Ready for the pages to be turned, in any direction and at any speed.
And that was what Cordelia wished for in that moment. That the pages would start turning for Klara. That Klara would start living her own story.
But that wish was made in naivety.
It was made before Edward came into Klara’s life. Before Klara’s father returned to the estate. Before Klara’s mother’s death rose back into her memory. And before Cordelia herself found her great-granddaughter at her own birthday party, heaved over in a pile, broken. Broken by a boy. Broken by her father. And broken from within. It’s amazing how only a few short months can change everything for a young girl.
Cordelia glanced back at Klara, the youthful and glowing girl, still untainted by life. By men. But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, so let’s return to the beginning. To where it all started.
And that, was with Eddie.
“Come on, boy. We’ve got to get a move on, or we’re going to be late!” Eddie’s father shouts from outside.
“Now, Eddie,” his mother scolds, “you should have gotten out of bed sooner, so you’d have had time for a decent breakfast.”
Eddie sucks in a gulp of hot tea before pulling on his work boots.
“Sit down and eat,” she says.
“I wish I could, Mum,” Eddie replies, placing a kiss on her cheek, “but you heard Dad. Apparently, we’re in a hurry.”
Eddie rolls his eyes causing his mother to laugh.
“Well, at least take some biscuits,” she says, handing them to him.
“It’s about time,” his father yells from the window of his beat-up truck as Eddie heads out the door and rushes down the gravel drive.
Although Eddie’s father, Doyle Barnett, is somewhat annoyed, he feels a tinge of pride that today will be his son’s first day of helping to tend the grounds of the Kentwood Estate. Doyle started as a meager groundskeeper in his youth and eventually worked his way up to running his own landscaping business. He isn’t well off by any means, but it’s enough to put food on the table and keep his family warm during cold nights. When Eddie finally reaches the truck and hops into the passenger seat, he has a biscuit hanging out of his mouth, crumbs falling down onto his shirt.
“Sorry, Dad. You know how Mum is. Always makes you finish your plate and drain your tea glass before leaving the table.” He grins, biting into the biscuit, obviously not too upset about being late.
His father rolls his eyes. “You know your mother. She gets more joy feeding the two of us than from anything else.”
Eddie nods his head in agreement. Everyone in the neighborhood knows when his mother, Rose, is baking one of her delicious pies. She opens the kitchen windows wide and hums to herself as she sifts flour and boils fruit. You can hear her sweet voice and the scent of cooking dough throughout their small town.
“Today is an important day, son. It’s the first time you will be helping me and my other workers tend to the Kentwood Estate. They are our biggest client, so you need to be on your best behavior.”
“I know, Dad. I’m actually curious to see the place. I’ve only ever seen it from outside the gates, and they have so much land, you can barely make out the house,” Eddie says, smiling as he wipes his mouth, clearing away the leftover biscuit crumbs.
Mr. Barnett turns to examine his son. Edward—or Eddie, as everyone calls him—is a strong boy, reaching just over six foot, and has well-defined muscles from the landscaping work he does outside of school. Even though he’s starting to look like a man, his foolish grin and shaggy strawberry-blond hair reveal his youthful age of only seventeen years.
“It’s a landscaper’s dream. And worst nightmare.” Eddie’s father laughs lightly, his eyes creasing at the edge.
Eddie rolls down the window, looking out toward the shops and market as they barrel through town as quickly as one can in an old truck with a large trailer attached. People move slowly through the streets, stopping to greet one another. Children kick a ball down a cobblestone side road they pass. As he and his father approach the towering gates of the Kentwood compound, Eddie’s excitement blossoms. He imagines what it would be like to live in such a grand place. His father has never aspired for anything so great. After all, you can only get so far in life working as his father does. He pushes the thought aside, deciding it’s pointless to ponder such thoughts, because this seems to be his birthright—a birthright that could never afford him an estate such a this, or the opulence that must go along with it.
Klara Kentwood squints her eyes at the sun. She’s lying on her back in the meadow. It’s a warm summer day, and the light breeze is ruffling her white cotton dress. Her hair is splayed out around her, and she examines the clouds as she mindlessly runs her fingers across the grass. What a magical day. If only Grandmother enjoyed the sunshine as much as she did, they could lie out in the meadow together. But it’s during these times alone when she gets to relax in peace.
With her tutoring done for the spring, she has the whole summer holiday to enjoy herself. She’s already planning on filling her days with tea parties, reading, and visits to the lake. And helping Grandmother work on her memoirs is a big project that will continue to take up a portion of each and every day.
Klara smiles to herself, feeling completely content. She shifts her focus back to the clouds, noticing their ever-changing shapes. As soon as she places one and decides upon what that cloud reminds her of, it shifts into something else. It’s infuriating yet completely captivating. And the perfect activity for a day such as today.
It’s at about this time that Eddie is walking through the meadow, taking in the landscaping design of the estate. It’s even larger than he imagined and includes gardens, meadows, open fields, and a portion of a forest. He studies the layout of the garden. A few of the trees’ placements are off, and he wonders why his father hasn’t fixed them. With a few adjustments and some pruning back of varying hedges, he feels he could bring this place to a new level of grandness—if such a thing were possible. He tilts his head back, taking in the warm sunshine on his face.
“Hello there,” a soft voice says, startling him.
Eddie brings his face down and is greeted by a girl staring up at him. For a moment, he remains startled because the girl is incredibly beautiful. Her sun-kissed hair hangs loosely over her shoulders and flows halfway down her back, her skin a soft cream color. She has a small button nose and rosy-pink lips. Her pale blue eyes are defined by thick, light lashes.
She clears her throat, and a blush spreads across Eddie’s skin. He darts his eyes away from her, trying to gather his wandering thoughts. He must look like a fool, just standing here, staring at her, but it’s hard to focus on anything else.
He composes himself, and a wide grin spreads across his face. “Hey there. I’m Eddie,” he says, extending his hand out to hers, but as he does so, he notices dirt on his palm and quickly pulls his hand back. He wipes it on the side of his pants, clearing away the leftover soil, which brings a small, concealed smile to Klara’s face.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Eddie. I’m Klara Kentwood.” She takes his hand in hers, giving it a proper shake. “Isn’t it just wonderful?” she asks as she inhales and smiles, tilting her face back up toward the sun. She feels curiosity bubbling within herself about the boy, but it’s at that moment when the wind whips up, sending a breeze filled with the scent of meadow flowers around her.
Eddie looks at her strangely, not sure what to make of her. His brows furrow with his response, “What is?”
“The flowers, of course. Can’t you smell them? Their scent is intoxicating.”
For a brief moment, Eddie closes his eyes and inhales, taking in the scent of roses lingering in the air. He relaxes slightly as he opens his eyes back up. “The smell is quite nice,” he admits.
Klara smiles and takes a moment to examine Eddie. He is a little lanky but will likely grow into his height soon enough. He looks to be the same age as her, though it’s always hard to tell with boys. But he has warm brown eyes she quite likes.
She sits back down onto the grass, getting herself comfortable. “So, did you just happen upon my meadow?”
“Your meadow?” is the only thing Eddie can come up with as a response to her question.
“I am here every day. Well, almost every day. You see, sometimes, I can’t make it out because I have to help Grandmother around the house, or the animals want a little extra attention. But I’m here all the time, and I’ve never seen you here before.”
“I suppose you haven’t. I’ve never been here before,” Eddie responds, sitting down next to her. “I’m a landscaper. Well, training to be one anyway. My father takes care of the estate grounds.”
“Your father is Mr. Barnett! Oh, he’s such a lovely man. He drives a hard bargain when it comes time to pay—or so Grandmother says. But she likes that about him, though she wouldn’t dare admit it to anyone other than me. And he does such a wonderful job of tending to the gardens.”
She smiles then lies back down, leaving Eddie feeling a little awkward, sitting up, looking at her. Klara is quite curious, to say the least. She lives within the grandest estate he’s ever seen. He imagined its residents to be posh and stuffy. What he didn’t expect was a girl lying out in the meadows. Especially one he’s never seen around town, even though she looks to be the same age as him.
“I’m sure my father will be happy to hear that.” Eddie pauses, trying not to sound daft. “Do you go to school close by, or are you home for the holiday? I haven’t seen you around.” He can’t help himself but ask. He suddenly, and surprisingly, wants to know everything about this girl.
“It’s quite odd we’ve never crossed paths. I’m in town often actually. I run down to get bread for the birds and bath salts for Grandmother almost every week. And, as far as my education, I have a tutor who comes to the house. I’ll be year thirteen after the summer holiday.”
“Me, too,” Eddie replies. “Then, I’ll finally be done with school.”
“Until university.” Klara giggles, thinking how the coursework never seems to end. But she doesn’t mind; she truly enjoys her studies.
“Well, not the university part for me,” he comments back.
Klara sits up and gives him a perplexed look. “Why won’t you be going to university?”
“My father wants me to take over the landscaping company. I work as much as I can now with school, but once I’m done, he will train me full-time,” he says, feeling a little deflated. He already can see his future. Residing in a similar house as his parents. Having his father wanting to train him, yet never letting him take the reins or grow the business. There’s nothing wrong with his life, but Eddie can’t help but want something different. Something more, something for himself.
And he can tell by her tone that Klara isn’t pleased with the idea of him not attending university. He doesn’t even know this girl and should hardly care for her opinion on it. But, truthfully, Eddie isn’t too pleased with it either. He doesn’t know yet if he wants to attend university, but would at least like to have the option.
“It’s wonderful you will get to work with your father so closely.” Klara sighs, feeling a tinge of jealousy.
Eddie laughs lightly, surprised by her comment. Klara is still sitting up next to him, and he drops his eyes from hers down to her exposed neck and white cotton dress. Two thick straps come over her shoulders, and it’s a fairly concealing piece of clothing, leaving a lot to the imagination. But thinking about her rosy lips and doe eyes makes Eddie’s cheeks instantly flush.
He clears his throat, hoping his mind will clear with it, and he has some success in regaining his bearings. “So, where is the rest of your family? You said your grandmother lives here.”
“My father lives in London. He visits as much as he can but not as often as I’d like. Grandmother and I live here together, just the two of us. Then, there are the animals, of course.” Klara smiles at Eddie.
Mr. Barnett arrives at the spot where he dropped Eddie off—the border between the public garden and meadow. He asked his son to inspect the land, making sure the two areas stayed distinctly separate. You can appreciate a flower-covered meadow, but it has no place in a well-kept garden, and stray weeds always have to be kept at bay. He scans the garden, not finding the boy. Mr. Barnett huffs with annoyance. If this is how seriously Eddie is going to take the increase in responsibility, he might as well not show up at all. He turns to face the field and finally spots him. He is sitting on the grass enveloped in flowers—and not alone. Mr. Barnett’s mouth moves into a straight, hard line, and when he finally opens it again, he yells out to Eddie.
Eddie almost immediately shoots up off the ground. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to get back to work,” Eddie says, unable to add anything else.
He wants to ask if he can see Klara again, but the words won’t come out of his mouth. As quickly as he stood up, she stands, too, brushing her hands on her sides, leaving a small grass stain on her otherwise untainted dress. A smile creeps across Eddie’s face as he turns to go meet his dad.
“If you come back tomorrow, I’d like to introduce you to everyone,” Klara says unexpectedly, catching even herself off guard.
Eddie turns back, confused, “Everyone?”
“Well, yes. Grandmother. The animals. I’ve quite enjoyed talking with you. I think Grandmother would like you, too. Actually, I’m quite sure of it.”
Eddie’s eyes go a little wide, and he has to consciously keep his mouth closed as it wants to gape open. This is the most unusual conversation he has ever had. And even more curious are the words that come out of his mouth next. “I’d like that.”
“Good.” Klara smiles back, a small flush on her cheeks. She turns slightly, her eyes brightening with excitement. “Oh, wait! Don’t go. I spot one over there!”
“Spot what?” he replies, unsure of what she is looking at. He follows her gaze to the pond but doesn’t see anything unusual.
Klara’s eyes are still bright with recognition, “Oh, look at her,” she coos. “She is floating right in the center of the water.”
His gaze finally lands on a lone goose in the pond.
“That is Wendy. I’d take you over to see her now, but I’d rather not disturb her. She looks so content.”
Eddie hears his father yell his name again, so he asks quickly, “What time should I come tomorrow?”
“Come for breakfast. You can help me feed all the animals in the morning.” Klara is having trouble containing her excitement at the idea of having someone new to share her thoughts and stories with.
Eddie nods at her and then takes off running down the hill, cutting through the blooming flowers until he reaches the bottom where Mr. Barnett is standing with his arms tight across his chest. Klara plops back down onto the grass and looks up at the clouds, once again trying to place their shapes.
“Bloody hell, Eddie! I leave you alone for ten minutes, and I find you frolicking out in the field,” Mr. Barnett says a little too loudly, but his son needs to understand his frustration.
Eddie barely registers his father’s words, his mind occupied with Klara. “I just had the strangest encounter,” is all he manages to respond, his brows furrowing slightly.
“Yes, I see you’ve finally met Klara. And I have one piece of advice for you: stay away from her.”
“Why?” Eddie almost shouts, earning him a wide-eyed stare from his dad.
“A pretty young thing, but she’s a troubled girl,” his father responds.
“Troubled? She’s not mad, Dad.” At least, he hopes she’s not.
“I’d bet she’s at least half-mad. She’s always wandering around the grounds. Talking to herself. Or worse, talking to the animals. Something is off there,” he says, rubbing his index finger against his temple. “Just leave her be. And get back to work.”
Eddie drops his eyes, not wanting to fight with his dad.
Mr. Barnett turns on his heels and starts walking back toward the private garden, away from the edge of the blooming meadow.
Descending the stairs toward the dining room for breakfast, Klara feels a bubble of excitement rise in her stomach. She didn’t get much sleep last night as she lay in bed, replaying her encounter with the new boy in her head over and over. She even got up earlier than normal this morning, rising to take a warm bath with her rose-infused soap and then starting to reread one of her most favorite books.
“Morning, Grandmother,” Klara says, resting her hand on her grandmother’s shoulder while placing a quick kiss on her cheek. She is seated in one of the twelve chairs surrounding their antique dining table, which is heavy with wood and decorated with gold-leaf stencils swirling around the edges and down the legs. It is set for two in the most formal of manners.
Klara takes a seat across the table from her grandmother as a server brings in warm toast on a silver platter, adding to the overflowing amount of food on the table. If you came into the dining area and saw the table with all the food before it had been set, you’d think they were hosting at least two large families. Pastries, meats, and jams are piled high on the platters and look as though they could spill off onto the table at any moment. Klara lets out a small giggle, thinking about all the food in front of them, and then sees Grandmother with a single soft-boiled egg resting in a silver eggcup.
“Good morning, my dear.” She smiles at Klara, but her eyes never leave her almost empty tea glass.
Grandmother, or rather Cordelia Kentwood, is a very old woman. Ninety-five, to be exact. Her hair is pulled back into a twist, and spectacles are perched at the end of her pointed nose. She has piercing green eyes and an eclectic fashion sense. She never gets rid of any of her clothes, so it’s always a surprise what decade’s dress or caftan she might turn up in for the day. Today, it is a beaded purple dress that’s overly formal for a day at the house, but Klara doesn’t mind. Some of her fondest memories are having tea parties with her grandmother, both of them wearing Grandmother’s old pearls and furs. The server takes notice of Grandmother’s look of discontentment, quickly setting down his platter and grabbing the teapot on the table. He fills up Cordelia’s cup and then walks around the table to the opposite side, filling Klara’s with steaming tea.
“Now that we have warm tea,” Grandmother says in a satisfied voice, “tell me, what are your plans for the day?”
“I’m actually very pleased to tell you that we are having company for breakfast,” Klara says, trying to hold back some of her excitement. She has been looking forward to telling Grandmother because Cordelia has always loved company, and Klara hopes this will bring some joy to her day.
“Oh, dear,” she replies, placing the back of her hand against her forehead. Her bracelets fall against one another as she moves, making a most beautiful noise. One that Klara has always been fond of.
“Did I say something upsetting, Grandmother? What is it?” Klara responds.
“We do not invite company over for breakfast, child. Brunch or tea in the garden, yes, but breakfast, absolutely not. You’d think I raised you with no social graces.”
Cordelia Kentwood was not the type of woman to go against etiquette. The daughter of aristocrats, she was raised to be proper. And that is exactly how she raised Klara to be.
But that doesn’t mean she isn’t fond of a little rebellion. In her youth, she caused quite the uproar, leaving her family estate in England and running away to Egypt to marry a well-known, and well-off, archaeologist who excavated in Northern Africa and sent back his findings to the British Museum. Their love was intense but short-lived. He died soon after in a cave-in at an excavation site.
Following her time in Egypt, she paraded her way through Europe, taking up a lover in Italy and listening to jazz in Paris, and finally found herself in St. Petersburg in love again. But news came to her that her parents had both died in an automobile accident, and with no male heirs in the family, she had no choice but to return to the estate. She married a childhood friend, he took her surname, and they went on to have three children—one of whom was Charles Kentwood. His son, Charles Kentwood II, is the father of Klara.
“Oh, Grandmother, this isn’t a formal event. It is just a boy I met yesterday. I invited him to help me feed the animals this morning, so I thought it’d be rude not to offer him breakfast as well.”
“As you wish, but I will not meet him until the appropriate time. You may bring him to join us for our morning tea and scones.” She takes a final sip of tea from her cup and then pushes her chair back, standing up.
Cordelia is a touch curious about who this boy might be, as it is the first time Klara has brought home a new friend. She ponders how Klara met him and if this could be a good thing for her or not. One thing is certain, only time will tell. And maybe, at tea, she will find out a little more about this boy.
What am I doing? Eddie thinks while riding his bike to the Kentwood Estate.
He still isn’t sure why he’s going back to see Klara. It would have been easier to listen to his father. It would probably keep him out of trouble, to say the least. But, this morning, his stomach twisted with nervousness, a sensation he wasn’t sure he liked but he wanted to see her all the same.
He’s intrigued to learn more about her. Her life seems so strange to him. Having a private tutor. Living in that huge house with only her grandmother.
Why isn’t she with her dad in London?
Maybe his father was right, her life is different. But she is interesting. And beautiful. So, for those two good reasons, he kissed his parents good-bye, told them he was headed to his best mate’s house for the morning, and hopped on his bike, peeling out of his driveway.
The cool morning wind whips against his face, and the air helps clear his mind. He speeds through town, taking in the morning busywork. Shopkeepers are sweeping their front porches, and the cafés along the cobblestone street are starting to fill with people sipping on their morning coffee, newspapers spread open.
He follows a slight curve in the road and moves out of town, passing a small farm dotted with sheep picking at the grass. The road goes up and bends over a hill, and when Eddie gets to the top, he pulls over on the side of the road for just a moment to admire the place he gets to call home. The morning mist still clings to the ground, and with the sunlight rising, it looks as though you are in the middle of a dream. He loves the smell of dewy grass and rich dirt, and the one perk of working for his father is being surrounded by all this beauty.
He hops back onto his bike, speeding off until he rides through the gates to the Kentwood Estate and up the tree-lined drive to the front door.
After Klara’s grandmother leaves the breakfast table, she isn’t quite sure what to do with herself. She is hungry, and the scent of warm, fresh bread taunts her, but she feels it rude to eat before her guest arrives. She absentmindedly plays with the hem of her beautiful robin-egg blue dress.
She decided, for this special occasion, to pin back a few pieces of her long hair, and she moves her hand onto the butterfly clip holding it into place. Klara smiles, thinking about the clip. It is one of her most precious possessions, having belonged to her mother. It was passed down from her great-grandmother to her grandmother and then to her mother. And, now, her.
With her hand still resting on her clip, Klara hears a knock on the front door and sits straight up with anticipation. She races out of the dining room, through the large sitting room, and into the entryway. By the time she reaches the door, she has to stop to take a breath in order to slow down her heart. It is beating so fast, partially from the fact that she was running through the house and partially because she is so excited—more of a nervous kind of anticipation, to be exact. She slowly opens the large wooden door and is greeted by Eddie standing in front of her. His strawberry-blond hair has been brushed to the side, and he is wearing a hunter-green shirt with shorts. His cheeks are lightly flushed, and his bike is lying on the gravel driveway, next to some of her favorite rose bushes.
“Good morning,” she greets happily.
“Morning.” Eddie smiles, standing there a little awkwardly. He isn’t sure what to do with his hands, and he keeps fidgeting like a fool, so he shoves them into his pockets.
“Come! Let’s get some breakfast, and then I can take you around to meet everyone,” Klara says, grabbing on to his arm and dragging him inside.
As Eddie is being led by Klara, he tries not to look shocked as he takes in the size of the house. It is daunting. The entryway is paved with black-and-white-checkered marble, and a large table sits in its center with a towering fern growing out of a blue-and-white chinoiserie vase. She guides him through a sizable reception room, and he takes in its light-green walls, mustard-colored furniture, and numerous gilded framed pictures hanging. Eddie’s foot gets caught, and he nearly trips on an antique carpet that looks as though it came straight from Anatolia.
Klara finally lets go of his arm as she walks into the dining room then takes a seat on an ornate chair. Eddie is in awe, turning around fully while admiring the wood-paneled walls. The room is just as magnificent as the rest, but the amount of food spread across the table is what quickly catches his attention.
What on earth? All Eddie can think about is how out of place he feels. And probably looks. Especially next to Klara.
She looks just as stunning as she did the day before.
“Please, sit anywhere.” She smiles up at him, and he takes it as his cue that he should probably sit down.
Off to a good start, Eddie.
A server quickly comes in and sets him a place, motioning at his empty teacup.
“Yes, please,” he says quietly, still momentarily in shock.
“This morning, we have a little bit of everything,” Klara says cheerfully.
Eddie sat directly across from her, and he watches as she grabs a biscuit and carefully cuts it in half.
“And, if you want something else, Mrs. B can make anything.”
“Mrs. B?” Eddie asks while looking over the table, deciding on toast and baked beans.
“Mrs. B is our cook. She’s just lovely, and I can’t wait for you to meet her. She always lets me help her in the kitchen. In fact, I’m learning how to make a cherry pie,” Klara responds while delicately sliding raspberry jam onto the biscuit.
Eddie smiles, thinking about his mum. “My mum loves to cook, too. She is known in town for her baking. She would like to open her own bakery, but she won’t admit it to anyone yet.”
“That’s wonderful. Maybe, one day, you can take me to meet her, and I can bake with her. Oh, I would just love that.” The idea of going to someone else’s house is very exciting to Klara. She has only ever visited family or close family friends. She’s never had a friend of her own age.
Eddie is a little taken aback by her forwardness. He isn’t sure if his father would be too happy with the idea, but if baking with his mum means Klara will come to his house, he is in complete agreement with the idea.
“I’m sure she would love that. So, you said you live here with just your grandmother, and your father’s in London. What about your mum?” Eddie asks.
“My father, Charles, lives in London. He’s a doctor and has a practice in the city. My mother passed when I was just a child, but I do have some wonderful memories of her. And Grandmother, well, she is actually my great-grandmother, but she raised both my father and me. Father’s parents both died when he was younger, so we have losing our mothers in common.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Eddie says, feeling deflated for bringing up the subject.
“It’s all right. I love living here. Just me, Grandmother, and Nana, of course.”
“Our dog. Why, I’m sure you’ve seen her around. She’s always out, exploring the grounds. She likes to keep a watchful eye on everyone.” Both of their plates are empty, so Klara stands. “Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
“You’re talking about the animals, right?” Eddie asks with a slight smile, trying to keep up.
“Of course!” she says, already halfway out of the dining room. “During breakfast, I can always find Nana down in the kitchen with Mrs. B.”
Eddie rises quickly, dropping his cloth napkin on the seat and following Klara through a different door than the one they came in through. It leads to a long stone hallway, and Eddie can hear the rustling of pots coming from the end of it.
The pots are being tended to by a round woman with a rosy complexion and warm brown eyes.
“Mrs. B, I’d like to introduce you to my new friend Eddie,” Klara says upon entering the large kitchen. A wooden island stands in the middle, littered with vegetables fresh from the garden. There is a small table in the corner, which a lone server is seated at, contently drinking a cup of coffee. Eddie’s eyes wander across the wall above the stove. It is packed full of varying-sized copper pots. On the wall opposite is a large, open fireplace whose mantel is close to Klara’s height.
Mrs. B wipes her hands on her apron and walks toward Eddie, her hand extended. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She smiles at Eddie, but her brows are raised with questioning interest.
“For me as well—” Eddie starts to say, but Klara interjects, “Here Nana is!”
Eddie turns back toward the table and spots Klara rubbing a Goldendoodle lying at the foot of the server. Eddie walks over and lets the dog smell his hand. When Nana seems content, he starts to stroke her soft, curling fur.
“I’m going to go feed the animals and show Eddie around,” Klara says, heading toward a wall that has hooks with numerous wicker baskets hanging from it. She grabs one and then opens up a bag of feed below it, throwing handfuls in until she’s satisfied.
Mrs. B nods in acceptance and turns back around, addressing a pot bubbling on the stove. Klara opens a set of blue French doors, which creak slightly, having been worn down in the best of ways with love and time.
“I can’t wait for you to meet everyone,” she says excitedly, taking in the fresh air. Streaks of color engulf the morning sky.
“You talk about them like they’re people,” Eddie says with a laugh.
He’s not quite sure what to think. Klara is eccentric, to say the least.
“They might as well be. They have their own personalities. And characteristics. That’s why I love each of them, in their own way. They’re good listeners. I can sit for hours and hours, telling Nana stories while lying in the grass, and she never gets bored of listening.” Klara smiles, thinking about her dearest friends.
Eddie can’t help but smile, too. He likes the way she views life. It leaves no room for doubt or sadness. She doesn’t seem to have the weight of family expectations upon her.
They step off of the stone patio and into thick grass, and they walk through a private garden, set with tables and chairs. Flowers surround them. Eddie tries to name all the varieties he can spot. Primrose, foxglove, poppy. Numerous pots and plots are bursting with flowers with hedges trimmed into topiaries of particular shapes and sizes.
Klara leaves the private garden, turning toward the right where Eddie sees a large fenced-in vegetable garden. It is set off to the side, on its own, and a lovely wooden arboretum hangs over a corner of it, thick with vines full of berries. The soil is rich and moist from the morning dew, and cabbages and lettuce sprout up in tailored rows.
As they approach, Klara grabs on to Eddie’s arm, stopping him, as she puts her finger up to her lips, telling him to be quiet. He follows her instructions, but his eyes linger on her lips for a little longer than appropriate. He has to force his eyes up from them, looking back into her’s.
“They can get into such mischief,” she whispers. “Beatrix is always digging in the garden and munching on carrots and cabbage. Grandmother insisted we put up a fence, but I made sure it was big enough for her to still sneak through. I just couldn’t do that to poor Beatrix. She’s getting a little older, and she can’t search as far for food. And we can always spare some. See?” she says, pointing to the far corner, where Eddie spots a little rabbit. “But, to be quite honest, I can’t bring myself to tell that to Grandmother, so I either have to distract her with cards or promise to ring the gardener the next chance I get,” she says with a giggle.
“She’s beautiful. Do you tend the garden?” Eddie asks, still watching Beatrix chew on the corner of a leaf.
“I help often, but Mrs. B loves to care for it. One of her favorite things is to go to the garden each morning and pick fresh vegetables and berries while I feed the animals.”
“My mum is the same. She doesn’t have as large a garden but loves tending it. I think, eventually, she wants everything put into her pies to come from our home.”
“How lovely.” Klara smiles, captivated by him.
They continue around the vegetable garden to another fenced-in section with an elaborate chicken coup. It is painted in a pale yellow and decorated by dusty-blue trim.
“We have some chickens. There’s Peter,” Klara says, pointing to a chicken walking along the fence line. “And that is Alice and Tink.” She points at them with such enthusiasm, her eyes lighting up as she names them all. “Would you like to feed them?” Klara asks, lifting her eyes to Eddie’s. She finds him watching her, and it brings a small blush to her cheeks.
Eddie nods at her, taking the basket from her hand. As he does, his thumb lightly brushes against her finger, and Klara’s slight blush quickly deepens. Her heartbeat seems to explode, and she’s surprised he can’t hear it.
Eddie grabs a handful from the basket, tossing seeds out onto the ground. He tries to evenly spread them, and the chickens take notice, pecking their way around. He smiles to himself as he finishes dispersing the feed, thinking about how Klara’s creamy skin flushed so easily when he touched her. He doesn’t pretend to know much about girls, but one thing he does know is that making them blush is definitely a good thing.