"When you find true love, it lives on."
As the couple arrived at the DelaCour Estate, they could see the trees swaying while the leaves rustled as the wind blew and relieved the couple from the summer heat. The sprawling front lawn was lush with green shrubberies and marble statues. The blues, pink, white, purple, and hints of yellow flowers blooming across the land liven up the house, and the scent of the Evening Stocks was lingering in the air.
Nana Charlie wrapped her arms around her granddaughter as she climbed out of the taxi cab. Releasing her from the warmest embrace, she cups her hand on Mariana’s cheeks and beamed at her. Noticing a change from her ornery granddaughter because her aura stated, ”I just had sex," Nana Charlie caught it. ”Now, my sweet child, you’re glowing!"
Shyly avoiding her grandmother’s malicious gaze, she shook her head. ”Nana, you need to replace your glasses with new ones."
Nana Charlie giggled as her suspicions were proven correct, and she embraced Mariana again. Holding her hand as they walked into the house, ”I have your room ready. I’m so happy you’re here again, my flower."
As Jace entered the vestibule, his jaw dropped, losing his grip on their luggage; they hit the white marble floor. He took in the place, and Nana Charlie and Mariana laughed at how dumbfounded Jace looked.
Mariana has always loved her childhood home, not just for its combination of Neoclassical and Rococo architectural style but because each piece of furniture, paintings, and framed photograph have tremendous meaning to their lineage. She used to live in a museum-like house, and it’s the most prominent influence on why she liked art.
The high ceilings tell stories through the paintings of heavens and angels, the cornices shimmer in gold whenever the sun is low. The walls, covered in turquoise and the silver fleur-de-lis, and the images appear whenever you walk to another room. The mahogany floors carpeted in lush spreads from India makes Mariana want to dance every chance she gets.
Jace glanced at the glass dome glowing beautifully, creating an ethereal effect beneath them. As he was still admiring his surroundings, the butler took their bags and placed them in Mariana’s old bedroom.
"Come here, young lad!" greeted Nana Charlie to Jace. ”Please make yourself at home. It’s nice to have guests." She glanced at Mariana and smiled sadly, ”You know how it has been since my son moved to our other estate in New York. I only get to see you on holidays."
Mariana gave her grandmother a one-arm hug. ”Aw, Nana! Auntie Devonne and Uncle Sam still live here, don’t forget Cousins Joan and Carlisle, too! Where are they, anyway?"
Her grandma gave her a mischievous giggle, ”Oh, they’re packing." When Mariana gave Nana a puzzled look, ”We’re going to Paris," she patted her hand. ”You are aware of our mining company; I need to assist with the summer collection."
It was half-true. But Nana Charlie didn’t want to worry her granddaughter about her illness.
Mariana smiled as she caressed her rosebud earrings that once belonged to Nana’s mother. ”Of course, I do, Nana. If you’ll have me, can I send you ideas for the fall collection?"
Nana Charlie beamed and patted her hands again, ”I would love that, my flower. But I’d rather have you focused on your schoolwork. Senior year in college will be the hardest."
"She’s right, Mari," said Jace after recollecting his thoughts away from her home. Mariana hummed and nodded.
"I suppose they’re both correct, for Jace is seven years older than me." She thought as she watched her grandmother leave to play the piano in the living room. She took Jace’s hand and led him to show her childhood room.
She texted Beth and informed her she’d come back to Austria in two days. Beth, also snatching herself a boyfriend, was alright since she also wanted to have the privacy she needed.
The couple took advantage of their alone time in Mariana’s childhood home. During the day, they took each other to where they used to go as a kid. Hand in hand, Mariana gave him a tour of the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the museums she absolutely loved, while Jace took her to the West End.
"I was thirteen when my parents took me here for the first time and the last time," shared Jace with a bitter laugh as they stood in front of Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Mariana leaned her head onto his arm, holding him closer, trying to remember how this place looked familiar. ”I think Nana Charlie brought me here once before. I remember it was “My Fair Lady” because she knew how much I loved Audrey Hepburn in the 1964 film." She beamed. ”What was the show you saw back then?"
She felt Jace’s nose rest on the top of her head, smelling her hair. ”Hmmm, coconut."
Mariana tugged him lightly, impatiently waiting for him to answer her question.
Jace laughed and removed her hand so he could wrap her in his arm. ”It was also “My Fair Lady”! We might have missed each other!"
She laughed as well as she gazed up and beamed at Jace, ”Exactly my thoughts!"
He kissed her temple, ”The message behind the play was simple and yet admirable."
Mariana nodded, smiling brightly as her mind replayed the musical. It was perhaps the turning point of her life when she realised she must stop being a nasty piece of a human being.
"I was amazed by the actors, and I wondered how it would be like to perform on stage."
"So, why was it also the last time?"
Jace held her closer. ”It was against their will, but because the lead actor, who played Eliza, was played by one of their friends," he shrugged. "My parents were grooming me to take over the real estate matters, but for the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do."
Mariana smiled sympathetically and proudly at him, wondering if she could be brave enough to step out of her comfort zone like him. She had known about his family conflict, but he was not ready to reveal to her what really happened.
Jace moved out of his home when he was nineteen after his parents found out he dropped out of business school and was already studying at RADA. His older sister helped him get back on his feet, and now thanks to her, he was fulfilling his life as an up-and-coming actor.
Mariana beamed lovingly at Jace, wondering how lucky she was to be cared for by this person. She felt her lips moving, but she stopped herself from telling him the “L” word. She internally shook her head as Jace lovingly interlaced his fingers with hers.
Jace smiled and brushed his lips against Mariana’s knuckles. ”Where are we off to next?"