A seal upon your heart, p.10
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       A Seal Upon Your Heart, p.10

           Pepper Pace
 

  “You don’t have to leave, child. You can stay here until you get on your feet.”

  “This…actually is getting on my feet. It’s my own place and I pay rent and I don’t have to rely on your kindness.”

  Nicolette’s eyes lingered on the young woman. “You don’t know what the world is like. Out there men seem innocent but they desire you. I just don’t want you to feel as if you owe him anything.” Nicolette sighed. “You’re so innocent, Jane.”

  Martier watched her silently and then leaned forward and placed a kiss on her cheek. “I’ll call you as soon as I get to the house.” She headed out the door and paused to place the key onto the nearby bookshelf.

  As she walked down the stairs Martier finally understood why Nicolette had asked her to stay with her. Tim opened the door for her and she got settled. He glanced at the books on her lap. He reached for one, then the others. He stared at her in disbelief.

  “Poems? These are the books that you were kicked out over?!”

  Martier chewed her lip thoughtfully. “I suppose that would be Sister Louise’s response should she be asked.”

  Tim knew there was more to that answer but he didn’t pursue it as he drove in silence to what had now become their home.

  CHAPTER 13

  Jane peered out the window as they drove through the upscale area. The houses were all very big, many of them with gates in front. She resisted the urge to ooh and ahh. Tim watched her excitement. She didn’t hide her emotions well. He could tell that she was impressed by the neighborhood and he felt a smile tugging at his lips.

  Finally the car slowed and they turned down a long driveway. The house at the end of the driveway was breathtaking. It was big but not as big as some. It felt like a cottage because of the stone and whitewash. She knew nothing about architecture but there was something more homey about it vs. grandiose. She instantly liked it best of all!

  He continued, pulling around back and down a gravel drive until they reached a true to life cottage nestled between several large trees. Martier gave him a surprised look. He wanted to rent this to her? But it was beautiful! It was a house…well she knew that, but it was a HOUSE.

  “Let’s unload your groceries.” He said. She got out of the car in a panic. How could she afford this? But she already loved it and she hadn’t even been inside. She loved it!

  Tim popped the trunk of the car and because he had kept her groceries mostly to one side so they made quick work of getting her things inside.

  “Be careful. One of the stones is becoming loose on the stairs.” He would come out as soon as there was no more threat of rain and lay out more mortar. Jane stared at the flagstone walkway that led to three stone stairs. It was so pretty.

  Tim struggled with the key but got the door unlocked and he quickly turned on several lights by the entrance. Now the outside was illuminated. Martier gasped when the lights came on inside. She stood there at the entrance as her eyes took everything in.

  Heavy sheets covered the majority of the furniture. The room was open concept and there was a loft. There was a fireplace! Tim led her to the kitchen and she followed staring at everything like a kid in a candy store. The kitchen was simple yet rich with upscale appliances in a metal finish. He opened the refrigerator and tossed out the only thing in it; an opened carton of baking soda.

  They quickly got everything put away while Tim commented about wiping out the cabinets when she got a chance. He led her up the stairs to the loft and she followed him into the bathroom where he placed the bag containing bathroom items on a tan marble counter. There was a separate shower and Jacuzzi tub. She was speechless.

  Tim quickly pulled the sheets off the furniture in the bedroom that had served as dust covers and Martier was amazed at the beauty of the room. His wife had decorated this space. She had no doubt. It was perfect. Tim held the sheets balled in his hands.

  “So…what do you think?”

  She opened and closed her mouth. “I think…it’s wonderful.”

  He led her back downstairs and began to uncover the rest of the furniture. Martier helped and when it was all revealed she shook her head in disbelief.

  “Tim…this is beautiful.” She gave him an honest look. “Can I afford this?”

  He wrinkled his nose and hid a smile. “I think so. I’ll get your bags and you look around.” She did just that and remembered to call Sister Nicolette when she saw the phone. She was still talking to her when Tim returned with the shopping bags. He couldn’t imagine someone’s lifelong belonging fitting into just two shopping bags. He carried them upstairs for her while she finished up with her conversation.

  He went back downstairs as she stared at everything as if she was a tourist in a strange land. He found it endearing. “I keep the cleaning supplies here.” He opened a small pantry and a mouse scurried out. Martier screamed and the next second was standing on a bar stool—in serious danger of doing more harm to herself by toppling off it then the scared little mouse ever could. He quickly grabbed the broom and slapped it, stunning the little rodent. He picked it up by the tail.

  “Is it dead? Don’t kill it!” She said while still perched on the barstool.

  “Okay…what should I do with it?”

  “Can you take it outside?”

  “It will probably just come right back in.”

  She climbed down from the barstool carefully. Then she tipped over to the tiny mouse suspended by its tail. It had awakened and was running in place with tiny little feet. “It’s so cute.” She grinned and held out her hands for it.

  Surprised he offered it to her. She flinched at the last minute. “Do they bite?”

  Tim looked at the harmless little thing. “I doubt if it could bite hard.” He finally dropped it into her open hands. Immediately the mouse ran up her arm and Martier screamed again and shook it loose until it landed on the floor. Tim slapped it with the broom again and quickly picked it up.

  “Okay, at this point we’re just torturing the poor thing. Kill it or take it outside?”

  “Outside. Far from the house.” When he got outside he laughed to himself. She really had made an attempt to be brave about it. But if it came back into the house she would probably break her neck trying to get away from it. When he was close to the forest he looked around to make sure she hadn’t followed him, and then he stepped on it.

  He made sure the bottom of his shoe was clean and then went back to the small house. Martier already had the cleaning supplies out and had begun wiping down the kitchen. She paused and gave him a concerned look. He briefly wondered if she had seen what he had done but she again asked about the rent.

  Again he avoided the question. “Can you help me bring in my groceries? And I’ll get you a set of keys.”

  “Sure Tim.”

  They got back into the car and Tim told her the code for the garage as he drove inside. There was a second car already parked there; a black Range Rover as well as a motorcycle. They entered through the kitchen and Martier took in the luxurious room. It wasn’t like the cottage; which is what she had come to think of it. This was very fancy yet tasteful. She helped him put things into the refrigerator and he went back out to the car for the last few items.

  “I’ll show you around.” She was happy that he offered. She was curious about her boss, but also intrigued by the beautiful house. He was obviously wealthy, as if being a partner in a law firm hadn’t tipped her off to that. But the way his home was decorated told her more. He had fine pieces of art—well she assumed they were fine though she had nothing to gauge that by, other than how they made her feel. And they made her feel as if she had never been around anything nice in her life.

  When they got upstairs he opened the door to each bedroom, including his own and stood in the hall as she looked inside. He had a lot of bedrooms. His bedroom was neat but like the entire house it needed dusting and vacuuming.

  “You have a beautiful home, Tim.”

  “Thank you. It’s much too big for me but…” Hi
s eyes fell onto a picture of a pretty blonde woman that sat on a small table in the large hall. Martier nodded in understanding. He cleared his throat. “Well, I could use some help with keeping this place in order. If you would come by once a week and dust, maybe run the vacuum and…cook something every once in a while, I’d let you stay in the guest house at cost. You’d just pay your utilities and it’s never much.” She looked around. “Or I could charge you a fair rent and if you’d consider helping me out with the house I’d pay you for your services-” He was blushing at his offer. Who was he to ask her to do domestic work for him?

  “No, I wouldn’t want you to give me a dime more than you already have!” She reached out her hand for him to shake. “I think we have a deal.”

  He took her hand and shook it, surprised at her firm grip. “Are you sure? Because I don’t want you to feel that you have to-”

  She shook her head. “I WANT to live in the cottage. And…” She ran her finger across the small table and collected quite a bit of dust. “This place really could use a good cleaning. Once that’s done it won’t be anything to keep it neat.”

  The redness in his face deepened as he nodded. “Martier…also…” He hesitated.

  “What Tim?”

  He took a deep breath and went into his bedroom. He headed for one of two huge walk-in closets. Martier wasn’t going to follow at first, but once he turned on the light in the huge space she was compelled to come forward and look. It was his wife’s closet, and it seemed that nothing had been removed. He had kept all of her clothes.

  When she looked at him he was beet red. “I need to get…donate these clothes. I want you to go through them and take anything that you want. My wife-” He cleared his throat, “she was very slender but not as tall. I don’t think any of the pants will fit properly but you should be able to wear many of the skirts and some of the shorter sleeved blouses.”

  Jane’s brow gathered. “Tim, won’t it…bother you to see me wearing your wife’s things?”

  He rubbed his chin. He had considered that but didn’t think that would be the case. “The reason I never donated her clothes is because…I didn’t think anyone would appreciate the time and effort that it took Corinne to purchase many of these things.” But it wasn’t just that.

  One summer they had taken a trip to California to visit her parents. They had just left a wine tasting in Sonoma and Corinne saw an open-air market and had to stop. Her cheeks were rosy from the wine and the breeze flowed through her hair and when she held up a scarf and said, ‘Timmie, should I get this?’ his breath had caught in his chest at her beauty. He told her to definitely buy it.

  There were so many such moments kept alive only by his memories…and of course the items themselves. How could anyone else appreciate that?

  He looked at Martier. “But I now know that people appreciate what they need. Someone can make better use of her things than I ever can by keeping them closed up here.” He looked around at everything. “You would honor her by using what you need,” he whispered. “Pardon me.” He left her in the room and she saw him go to an adjoining bathroom that she hadn’t noticed.

  She sighed sadly. Though he might not really show it, she knew that this was a hard step for him. She fingered some of the fine, rich material. She would take what she needed and help Tim donate the rest. Bartholoma didn’t have a need for suits and fancy evening gowns but they did get money from consignment. This would bring them well needed money. She didn’t know why she still considered her school at all after what had transpired, but she did. It was more for the young girls that lived there than anyone else.

  Tim returned a few moments later and he had pulled himself together. This was hard but knowing that Martier would take them made him feel better. He waited while she selected several items to try on later back at the cottage, and he pointed out certain other items that he thought would fit her nicely. Unfortunately the shoes would not work, they were much too small for her larger feet. She would have to switch to her everyday shoes until she could do better. They were just loafers but she really didn’t have a choice.

  It was getting late and both were tired. He got her the spare keys and instructed her to be ready to leave promptly at 7:30 am. They made Saturday plans to collect the clothes she couldn’t use and take them to St. Bartholoma’s who would sale them for consignment.

  She thanked him again at the backdoor and wouldn’t allow him to walk her back to the cottage so he stood at the window and watched until she was inside. He was tired but hit the treadmill. If he began making excuses he would always make them. He ran for half an hour than showered. In bed that night he had a hard time sleeping. He remembered something Martier had said. ‘…the name of a murderer.’ Besigye…She had also mentioned that she didn’t remember; that they didn’t want her to remember. If she had come to the convent at the age of six, as she said, than why didn’t she remember?

  He rolled over and tried to sleep.

  ~***~

  Thank God it was Friday! Tim would be on a conference call for most of the morning and had given Martier money to buy them lunch from a nearby deli. He wrote down exactly what he wanted and she told him that she knew how to get to the little deli because it was on route with her bus stop.

  The day was great and the sun was shining and it had warmed up nicely. Martier drew on her new jacket that matched the skirt, which covered her new grey silk blouse. She was just getting ready to get on the elevator when Claudette waved at her from across the room. She waved back with a happy smile and the older woman gestured for her to wait. Claudette did a few things on her computer and grabbed her purse and hurried to the elevator.

  “Look at you!” She leaned forward and whispered. “You look great.”

  Martier grinned. “Thank you.” While Corinne hadn’t been nearly as tall as she was, the clothes were so classic that they looked good on her as well…just shorter. There were many sleeveless items that were meant to be covered by jackets but which looked just as good without them. She knew that she could make some alterations and had decided that she could make use of many of Corrine’s clothes.

  “Where are you off to?” Claudette asked.

  “Tim’s going to be on a conference call for several hours and he’s sending me to pick up lunch.”

  “May I join you?”

  “That would be nice,” she said happily and they left the building together.

  Claudette cleared her throat. “Martier…um…”

  “What?” Martier stopped walking and looked at her new friend nervously. “Is something wrong?”

  “Only those shoes. Sugar you cannot wear a five thousand dollar Chanel suit with penny loafers.”

  Jane gasped and blinked her eyes. “Oh my goodness…” Did she say five THOUSAND?!

  “Yes.” Claudette said. “Corrine didn’t buy off the rack, honey. I’m assuming that’s one of hers?”

  Martier nodded, still too stunned to speak. Distraught she decided to confide in her friend. “Claudette, I don’t have the money to buy shoes. These are the only ones I have.” She would never be able to afford these clothes. It was insane that she would be wearing five thousand dollars worth of clothes!

  Claudette smiled. “Come on dear. We’re going shopping.”

  “But I don’t-”

  “-have money. I know. Consider this a loan. You’ll pay me back one hundred dollars each pay period until it’s paid off.”

  Martier almost choked. “How many hundreds will that be Claudette?”

  Claudette just chuckled and took charge, dragging Martier to Macy’s department store. “Can you walk in heels?”

  “I’ve never tried.”

  If that surprised Claudette she didn’t show it. “I saw some fabulous Marc Jacobs flats. But they were six hundred and forty dollars.” Martier gasped.

  “Can we get something cheaper?”

  “Shhh.” She said suddenly. “Don’t use the C word in this store!” Then she gave her a smile, letting her know th
at she was only kidding. “Don’t worry, hon. I’m going to show you how to find a deal on shoes!”

  Claudette was like a whirlwind. They went to the shoe department and straight to a sign that said Nine West. When the sales lady came to help them she had her measure Martier’s feet even though she could have told her what size she wore.

  “Size 11.”

  “Wow.” Claudette said. “Are you six feet tall?”

  Martier nodded shyly.

  “Hmmm.” Claudette squinted one eye. Then she selected a very nice pointy toe shoe with a short heel. She had Martier walk in them and she nodded her approval. Then without asking whether or not she even liked them Claudette charged three pairs; one in taupe, one in black and one in navy. As they headed out of the shoe department Claudette exclaimed that they were on sale for seventy-nine dollars each and Martier did the calculation quickly including tax.

 
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