First TimeA Study in Fragrance Pt. 02
Author's Note: For those who chose to skip the first entry, here's a recap: Emily Anne Wafton Bronson, 4th daughter of an established North American family, privileged, white and at 18, a bit too self-assured, finds herself all alone for the final summer before she takes off for university. Something is brewing in Emily's mind, but she's not sure exactly what it is. It might have something to do with her home, a mid-19th century Victorian, the plans for which she requested from the historical society. Or perhaps it is just time for her to sow some wild oats.
It was a Tuesday. A double-run day. The weather was going to be hot later, so she got out early and did the 20 miles in under 3 hours. Okay for training. Not close to her best, which wasn't really relevant to the triathlon. She just wanted to push herself. It was 9am and the temperature was already climbing. Sweating through her shirt, she had been looking forward to a hot shower and maybe sunbathing. As she loped up the driveway, she saw the trucks and realized she probably wouldn't be sunbathing at home. Shit.
Passing by the living room on her way upstairs she saw Cos leaning over the table, his tanned arms filling the sleeves of his t-shirt, his face concentrating on the plans.
"Hey, Cos." She stopped in the doorway wiping her face with a towel. "What's on the plans for the day?"
He looked up and she saw the predatory glint in his eyes before he got himself under control. Hmmm. He's attracted to me.
"Hey. Good morning! Still demoing around the basement stairs. You planning to go down?"
He kept his eyes steady, but she could feel him scanning her top to bottom. She mentally raised her eyebrows. Is he flirting? She thought she was being stupid. But, then again, dressed only in shorts, a sports bra and a t-shirt, he'd be stupid to not flirt with her. "Maybe," she said, smiling and choosing her words carefully, "but if I do," she let her eyes drift down for a split second, "I'll make sure to grab you first." She looked around at the sound of breaking wood. "Slim with you today? Or Bobby."
"Bobby. Slim'll be by later." He paused. "You need anything…else?" Careful dude. Remember she's trouble.
She twisted her lips back and forth, her "mouse" face. She knew people thought it meant she was thinking. But she didn't need to think. "Uhhh…yeah. Maybe? I'm going to get cleaned up. You going to be around for a bit?" Satisfied with his answer she bounded up the stairs, stripping off her clothes as she made her way to her bathroom to clean up.
Her bathroom was the only one not in a bedroom, even if it was only two steps across the hall. Since she'd moved into the bedroom, way back in middle school, she had always made sure to wear something when she went back and forth between them. Something had changed, she realized, as she walked half-naked from the stairs to her bedroom. When did I stop caring about being dressed? Maybe it was since she had the run of the entire house? But no, that wasn't true. It had been the past few months; even with her folks here she'd often been walking around the entire second floor without any clothes. Maybe it was some kind of new phase. Naughty. The word leapt out and she smiled. Curious. Not important.
She tossed her sweaty clothes through her bedroom door and now completely naked, stopped to look down the hall toward the back stairs. She could see the garage roof through the windows above the landing, the blue sky bright in the morning sun. Being naked was so much more comfortable, especially after a hot run, her sweat drying and cooling. Although she'd been more relaxed about her nudity, especially when her dad wasn't around, she was still hyper-conscious of the air against her bare skin. Naomi would be laughing right now! Of course the nights Naomi had slept over, they had undressed to their underclothes, Naomi even going topless. Emily knew she did it to prove something, but she had to admit Naomi was so natural about it. Her olive toned skin so different from Emily's and her breasts were so much smaller, her aureoles dark brown, her nipples almost purple. It wasn't as if Emily didn't spend a lot of time around her friends naked. In the showers at school, shopping and trying on clothes…the Bare Naked Ladies parties.
But here, in her house, she was super-self-conscious with workmen one floor down. Still, that wasn't enough to stop her from walking to the back stair and peeking over the rail to the hall below. Naughty. Wicked. The feeling in her gut sparking up as she stood there, her thighs clenching. As she turned back toward her bathroom she briefly faced the blank wall, and behind it, The Study. And, as usual, the thought of The Study made her heart jump, reminding her how close she was to taking a leap she couldn't step back from.
She opened the PDFs from the librarian, and though she had no experience reading blueprints, after half-an-hour studying them, she started to figure out what was going on. It took considerably longer to decipher what rooms were part of the original house. If it wasn't for the main stairs, she wasn't even certain it was the same house. Opening them again on her tablet, she went downstairs intent on finding the original pieces of her house. Within a few minutes she could see what the problem was: the original house was much smaller than hers. She walked out the front door and out to the street. Looking up to her parents' bedroom on the third floor she saw how far back it was from the front door. "I bet that's the original outside."
If that were true, then the house had been extended to the right, left and toward the street! On the plans, there were only two sets of windows on either side of the front door: the salon and dining room. The current house had four pairs on either side. Walking back in, she tried to see where the original house might have been. Maybe the two arches that opened onto the dining and living rooms were original. She stared at the blueprints and was stumped. The stairway may have been in the same place, but hers looked so much bigger. There had been no bathroom in the original, but the stairs climbed around the one in front of her.
Only after walking around the outside was she able to see where the original foundation peeked out from the landscaping. Inside though, nothing was the same. Looking at the blueprints sparked a feeling she couldn't quite understand. A secret, a mystery, a history she'd known nothing about. Why had they changed everything? When? It had been this way her entire life, except for the redecorating and updating her mother kept doing. A 'Butler's Pantry!' What was that? Her sense of mystery growing, Emily ran back to the front door and up the main stairs.
As on the first floor, the second didn't look anything like the original. The stairs themselves had clearly been enlarged. But on the plans they stopped on the 2nd floor. Next to her the stairs continued up to her parents' bedroom, which she figured had been an attic in the original house. She was facing the front of the house from the top of the stairs. Straight in front of her was her bedroom from when she was a little kid, when Joanie and Frankie were still living at home.
The second floor in her house was organized around an "O" shaped hall fed by the main stairs and connected to the back stairs off to her right, behind her at one corner of the O. The hall wasn't in the original plans at all. In her house, the second floor had eight rooms: five bedrooms, three bathrooms. On the blueprint there were only six rooms in all: a Parlor, two bedrooms, a "Servant's Quarters," a room labeled "W/C" which she had to look up. Water closet. A bathroom. A tiny bathroom. But it wasn't there anymore and a fifth room, its name too faint to read.
She walked the hall. Knowing the house had been extended to the front and each side, she wasn't surprised that all five bedrooms looked completely new. Nothing remained of any of the original second floor. The stairs were enlarged, the parlor and the two bedrooms that would have been to each side were gone. She was at the rear of the house, on the opposite side from the stairs going to the kitchen, standing in her doorway. This is where the maid's room would have been. In front of her there should have been a stairway going down to the kitchen. On the plans there should have been a fifth room. The fifth room had run the entire length of the back of the house. It shared the landing of the servant's stair. What happened to that room? What was that room?
She turned to face the back of the house where that room was supposed to be. Just a blank wall hung with artwork and photographs. She walked its length, the wall continuing until it went beyond the perimeter of the hall, becoming the outside wall of the back stairs. She walked down the stairs and went out onto the driveway, looking back at the second floor beyond the stairwell. The house rose from the back porch right on up to her parents' room. This was definitely the original exterior of the house. She stared again at the second floor, her eye stopping at the octagonal window sitting in the middle of the wall on the second floor. She knew there were two just like it: one in the middle of the back of the house and a third on the west side.
As a kid, whenever she'd asked about those windows her parents had shrugged. "Probably an attic vent," her father had suggested without much interest.
She sat in the kitchen puzzling over the label of that fifth room until she finally figured it out. "Study," she practically shouted, raising her fists in victory. We have a secret room! She ran upstairs to see if there was any way in. Looking along the floor and ceiling of the hall there was nothing, but the closet in her room overlapped with the end of The Study. She had named it already The Study. Opening her closet she stared at the shared corner and scanned the floor and ceiling. Nothing. No way in.
At dinner her parents could see she was excited, but knowing their indifference to the house's history, she kept her enthusiasm under control, mentioning how she'd found the drawings and how amazingly different the house was today from what it was when it was first built.
It was because of that her mother had started thinking about "refreshing" the basement.
One Saturday afternoon in February, Emily had grabbed the electric drill with as big a bit as she could risk and drilled an inch sized hole through the plaster. As soon as it punched through the other side, Em was hit with a feeling, a thrill, an electric energy that flowed through her. It hit her so hard, it was so physical, she'd almost dropped the tool. There was an aroma of spice, herbal or floral and she had to step back a little, shaking it out of her nose. Grinning, holding her breath, she pressed her eye to the hole, the electric feeling increasing when she scanned the room. Em had figured it would be dusty, but she hadn't figured it would have so much wood. Sunlight, dimmed by grime on the octagonal windows, painted dark orange shapes on the wood floor. She yelled out in excitement. The fragrance filled her closet, and she worried it might smell up the house. And that would lead to uncomfortable questions from her mother about drilling into walls. She shoved a sock into the hole and closed the closet.
Getting into The Study became a silent obsession. Over the next several days it was as if she had been infected. She would pull out the sock and stare into the room wondering what it had been and why it had been walled off. She would sometimes do it just to inhale the smells. Complicated, floral, tangy. When her mother had started thinking about remodeling the basement, Em started planning for a way to open up The Study.
Her gut cramped a little more intensely from the memory, and she quickly moved to shower off the sweat. One of the workmen might come upstairs, but she convinced herself it was a small probability. And if they did, would it really matter if the bathroom door was open or closed? Or if she didn't close the curtain? The flame in her pelvis licked up a little; her tongue licked her lips, imagining Cos catching her showering. Since February, she'd been leaving the door open; it was the smallest bathroom on the floor and she'd been feeling cramped with the door closed. But keeping it open meant less fog on the mirror when she got out. Most of the time it didn't matter. Her folks never came back here. She knew she was taking a risk. A small risk, but still. She soaped herself, smiling thinly at her next move. She rubbed between her legs, maybe a little more than was needed, the tension that had been building ticking up further.
Shower off, toweled off and back in her room she looked in her underwear drawer, her door open to let the air flow. It was humid with almost no breeze. She pulled out a black cotton bikini, the navy thong and a light peach hipster. Hipster. Nothing was going to happen today. The thought that something might happen any day made her clench a little and she looked up at the closet, the smell in her imagination. The thought of what she might do in that room clenching her insides. She knew what Cos would see if he were to surprise her; if by some improbable chance he chose to come up the back stair: A tall, thin, muscled young woman, her smallish breasts hinted at but in shadow, backlit from her window, standing at ease as if she hadn't a care in the world. She could feel herself getting aroused and laughed, the imagined fragrance floating in from the closet.
She shook her head and slipped the underwear on, snapping the waistband to hear the sound echo, before picking a matching bra. She pulled on a pair of high-cut denim shorts finishing with a light red gingham blouse. She knew exactly what sandals she wanted and grabbed them from the closet, stopping to open the hole and look through it, the aroma filling her head. Soon. It's going to happen soon!
Grabbing a water from the kitchen she was careful to avoid the dust and debris around the basement stair. Cos was a couple of steps down, working a crowbar. He looked up as she passed by. "You need me?"
"If it's not too much trouble? I had an idea and wanted to see whether it makes sense." She made her way back to the living room, tablet in one hand, water in the other.
Setting the tablet down next to the plans, she sipped and waited for him to join her. She was nervous. Really really nervous. And when she got nervous, she got quiet. It was a good strategy, her father had counseled. It unnerved any opponent, which gave her an advantage. Still, though, this was a big step. A super-huge step and she knew she could get into a shit-pot of trouble if she fucked it up. Probably would fuck up Cos's job too. You'll be fine. It'll be fine. She needed someone else to reassure her, but who?
"Wassup?" He moved with an animal grace. She couldn't see them, but she knew his muscles were well toned. He knew how to use them.
"Did you fence in high school?" She blurted the thought out before she could stop herself, and then covered her mouth as if she'd just burped. "Sorry. That was really stupid." Stupid as a fox. Nice move.
"What? Fence? As in poking little swords at another guy. Fuck no. Oh. Sorry. I mean, No." He smiled at her, his left eyebrow and forehead dipping a little, as if to ask — what the fuck?
"Sorry. Stupid. I was just admiring how controlled you were when you walked in. Triathelete. Training." Look away. Look like you're being stupid. She shrugged. "I just notice stupid stuff like that."
"Nope. No fencing. Swordplay for sure, but no fencing." She's fucking with you. Do. Not. Go. There. "Wrestling mostly. But that was years ago."
Swordplay? Did he just make another pass at me? Fantastic. She raised her eyebrows and turned to look at the tablet. "So, I've got this interesting idea, but I don't know what it will take to do." She pointed at the upstairs room. "I got the original plans to the house from 1876." She paused to let him look over her shoulder. She could smell his sweat. It smelled intoxicating. The Study's smell came to her nose and she when she took another breath she realized it had been her imagination. She closed her eyes a minute to get herself under control. "Anyway, I noticed there's a room upstairs, sealed off and next to mine. I had forgotten about it until the other day when it occurred to me…" She waited, watching him look at the drawings.
He looked up, eyes questioning, waiting.
"Well…ummm, what would it take to cut a door into it from my closet?"
He pushed out his lower lip and stared at her, trying to figure out her game. "A door? Not a lot. Depends on the finishes. Not a lot. $200? $300? You want to show me where it is?"
Her face lit up. "Now? Sure!" She led the way up to her bedroom. "Oh. Shit. It's a mess in here. Don't look." She'd hoped he stared at everything: her underwear on the floor, her bed unmade. She turned to the closet. "It's through here. I think."
Stepping forward, she slid the door aside. "I drilled a little hole through the wall just to make certain there really was something back there." She was next to him, his scent mixing with the smells from The Study, filling the small space. She knew she smelled of soap and herbal shampoo. She pulled her clothes away and removed the sock to let him take a look.
They bumped into each other when she backed out. He sniffed and then looked through the hole. She could see him breathing and staring through the hole. "Wow," he said quietly, "that's quite a room in there."
He pulled his head away and looked up above the closet shelf and then knelt down to look at the molding. He joined her back in her room. She noticed the aroma had changed, mixing with his sweat. Her head swam a little.
"So, it looks pretty straightforward. You'll need to do something about the clothes rod. It'll be in the way. And you'll lose about three feet of hanging space." He looked around the rest of the closet, shook his head and looked back at her. "$300, materials and labor should do it."
"How much time do you think it would take?"
"Not long. Probably a day to get everything cut in and another day to finish. Maybe another ½ day for painting and trim."
She shook her head. "How much of that $300 is materials?"
He pinched his lips and stared at her. "You know I'm not jerking you around, right? Mac's too trusted for that." He watched her nodding. "Probably about $100 for the door, maybe another $50 for hardware. Most of that is just laying around somewhere. Why?" Hmmm…where is the little rascal going? He could feel the blood starting to go to his head.
She took a breath and counted to five, slowly exhaling. This was it. Or this was at least the first step. "Well, I…I'd like to have you do it, but I don't want Mac or my parents to know about it." She said it as fast as she could, like she was nervous. She was nervous. But not like that.
What the fuck is she asking? Don't. Go. There.
He looked at her. She could see the gears turning. She hoped he didn't have so many gears he'd go much further than her story, but he was a guy. And he'd been checking her out the entire time.
"Off the books," she added, hoping to nudge him in the right direction. "I can pay for the materials…" That was it. No more. Now. The next thing. Now. "Oh. Wait. There's something else. Well, actually two things."
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