Chapter 7 - The Plantation
Dinner wasn’t a complete disaster, but that was mainly due to Callum saving my ass.
I finally had some peace and quiet, some time to myself. Relaxing in the bathtub was just what I needed. Even though I desperately wanted to see Finn again, I had to stay away. That boy was trouble with a capital T. I can’t believe I had sex with him in the pantry. How floozy… and unhygienic…
God, I was twenty years old and set to have a career as a live-in maid. You’d think I’d learnt my lesson about having ill-advised sexual flings with upper-class folk.
I rest my head against the edge of the tub and close my eyes. What I wouldn’t give for a nice glass of wine right about now… and maybe a foot rub… no scratch that! A foot rub would only lead to trouble.
I stare up at the ceiling. Even the ceiling of the maid’s quarters was pristine.
Maybe this gig wasn’t all bad. Maybe I would grow to love being a maid. It had its advantages… I mean living here, rent free, was bonus… and the hours weren’t the worse in the world. And soon the boys will both be back at Harvard and Stanford respectively.
I could do this. All I had to do was survive Thanksgiving. Then things could get into routine, without the distraction of Finn or Callum for that matter.
Carla popped her head in through the bathroom door. “Tough first day?”
I look at her through narrowed eyes. “It could’ve been worse… Dinner was almost a disaster.”
I sit up in the tub and squeeze a soapy sponge, letting the lukewarm water run down my back.
“If it wasn’t for Callum and his cooking… erm… lessons… I don’t know what I would’ve done”
Carla steps further inside the bathroom, closing the door behind her. She sits down on the edge of the bathtub.
“What are you doing?” she lowered her voice to a loud whisper.
“What?” I frown, looking up at my paranoid sister “I’m… bathing…”
She grabs the sponge from my hand, annoyed “I mean…” she lowers her voice again “What are you doing with Signore Callum?”
“I told you… he helped me out… Look Carla… I’m not made for this maid business… I don’t know how to cook… I barely know how to clean…”
“I’m not talking about that!” she checks the door and she’s back to a whisper “Signore Callum is in our living room…”
“He said something about horses and the Plantation… all very confusing…”
“Oh” I get up out of the tub and grab a towel.
After the whole dinner-slash-cooking debacle, it completely slipped my mind that he’d offered to show me around the Plantation.
I hurriedly dab the towel over my body, dressing as quickly as I could.
Carla stands up, arms folded across her chest. “Alessa… what is going on?”
I turn to face her inevitable scowl. “He said he’d show me around… Belle Meade… the Plantation”
I wriggle into my jeans as Carla stares me down.
“I don’t know anyone here Carla!”
“You know me” she blandly points out.
“They have horses… I like horses…”
Carla studies my every move as I pull my t-shirt over my head.
“Signore Callum is a nice boy Alessa… not the kind of men you get mixed up with…”
“I know that Carla! Sheesh, it’s not like I’ve set out to corrupt him or anything… We’re just gonna hang out… I swear”
She seems more relaxed and lets out my bath water. I tie the laces of my sneakers while sitting on the chair in the corner of the bathroom.
“You and your city shoes… hmmff”
“City shoes? They’re called sneakers Carla” I tease, before getting up and walking over to the mirror hanging above the wash basin.
I pull my hair back into a ponytail and run my hand over my tired-looking face.
“Welcome to the real world sorella… down-to-earth is the only fashioned look out here”
“Well then it’s a good thing that I wasn’t planning on seducing Callum, isn’t it?” I flash a cocky grin before heading for the door. I pause and turn to face her “Don’t wait up”
“You look like a colouring book by the way” she shouts after me.
When I get to the living room, Callum was sitting on the couch bouncing both his knees in a nervous fashion. He spots me out of the corner of his eye and shoots up from the couch and flashes a nervous smile.
“Hi…” he gives my outfit the once over. I must’ve looked a sight for sore eyes; he tries to hide his frown. Nervously, I run my palm over my jeans… not sure what good that would do.
“Erm… it’s a bit chilly outside… you might want to grab a coat. You know normally it would be snowing or drizzling in Belle Meade around this time of year… but the weather’s behaved so far” his smile seems more relaxed this time.
I move to grab my hoodie from the coatrack next to the door. Callum, ever the gentleman, helps me slip it on. Normally it would annoy me if a guy helped dress me, but I kind of found his chivalry endearing and refreshing.
I zip up my hoodie and open the front door. “Okay, let’s go”
“Shouldn’t you tell Carlotta that we’re leaving?”
I look at him, puzzled. Was he being serious? Of course he was. He was Callum, responsible and polite.
“Hey Carla…” I shout “We’re leaving”
Carlotta finally emerges from the bathroom, where I’m sure she’d been hiding until we left.
“Okay… you guys have a good time…”
Callum walks over to Carlotta and presses a kiss to her cheek. “You sure you’ll be okay here alone? You can join us you know…”
I roll my eyes. No she can’t!
Carla giggles, “Oh no… Signore Callum… I wouldn’t want to intrude. You kids have a good time”
Carla was gushing. What was up with that?
“Oh alright then… you have a good night Carlotta” he says with his honeysuckle smile.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do” I tease Carla.
“You just try to stay on that horse city slicker” she retorts.
Callum brought out a different side in Carla. She seemed more relaxed and less rigid.
I decided, after much debate, that it was a good thing.
The walk over to the stables was quiet and awkward. Callum kept a few paces ahead of me, even when I tried to catch up he just quickened his pace.
He seemed to relax more once we got inside the stables. There were gorgeous horses, with shiny black coats.
“This is Diana…” he smiles, petting a brown horse with a golden blonde mane “She’s mine.”
He opens the latch of the door of her box stall and goes inside. He pets the large animal, running his hands lovingly across her back.
I move closer to get a better view. I really did like horses.
“When I was a kid… I had this massive infatuation with Lady Di…” he shakes his head, embarrassed, “And when dad decided I was old enough to have a horse… I picked her and called her Diana… coz of her beautiful golden blonde mane…”
“Like Princess Diana” I try to impress him.
I wanted to prove to him that I keep up with International Current Affairs… or at least International celebrity gossip, and the royal family were as good as celebrities in the UK.
“This is probably the time I should tell you… that I’ve never been on a horse”
He laughs “I kinda figured that… well, I’ll saddle her up then”
He gently pulls the bridle over Diana’s head. It looked a complex set-up, with strappings going over the poor horse’s nose, head, cheek and throat. But he was so gentle; she didn’t even make a sound. Callum looked like one of those cowboys in a Western as he proceeded to cover Diana’s back with a saddle blanket and firmly securing the saddle seat and girth. I follow him as he leads the majestic horse outside.
“Alright… she’s all set” he reaches out his hand.
This boy was dangerously charming. If I weren’t careful, I would fall head over heels in love with him. The only problem with that was… that I was already there.
I take his hand. His trembling hand rests on my lower back as he helps me up onto the saddle seat. A gasp escapes my lips as look down into his brown eyes.
He clears his throat, then grips his left foot into the stirrup iron and hoisted himself onto the horse. Having Callum so close, made my heart skip a beat.
I could hear his heart pounding as his chest pressed against my back.
And there was that scent of his again, like fresh laundry. I closed my eyes and inhaled his euphoric essence. When I opened them again, we were already galloping away. I hadn’t even noticed we were moving.
The crisp country air filled my lungs. Callum mentioned earlier that it was normally colder this time of year in Belle Meade. But I found the weather pleasant for late autumn.
“You’re awfully quiet… Are you scared?” he whispered against my ear.
My God, it was so erotic. I’m sure that’s not what he intended, but my mind was always half way in the gutter when it came to attractive men - especially ones with an accent.
But Callum was different. Different to most guys I dated and baited. It’s like Carla said, he was a nice guy, not to be toyed with.
“It’s just so peaceful out here… so pretty”
I wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t being completely honest either. I was also pondering how gorgeous he was.
“And… horses don’t scare me… I’ve just never rode one before” I add
“Well Di doesn’t seem to mind”
I turn my head slightly to find that he was smiling. That same smile that made knees buckle.
And for a second our lips nearly touched. That’s how close our faces were.
I thought for sure he would kiss me, as his eyelids lowered with his eyes fixated on my mouth. But then he lifted his gaze to meet mine. And when I looked into his eyes I realized that Callum was different. And I that shouldn’t toy with him… lead him on, all while I’m having quickies in the pantry with his brother.
I tear my eyes away from his and face the front.
“So horse-riding is your thing?” I cleverly change the subject.
Because horse-riding was the least romantic thing we could talk about, without being random… we were on a horse right now.
“I love it” he admits “Horses are such exquisite and intelligent animals… what’s not to love really”
And Callum took my bait of boring topics hook, line and sinker.
As he explained about the different breeds and talked about how to take care of horses, I took in the scenery of the Plantation. It was stunning.
It was an ideal place to raise a family.
“I’m boring you… sorry” he breaks my daydream.
“No… you just… like horse a lot” I laugh
He giggles, “I told you I was the boring brother”
Callum slows Diana down to a halt. He effortlessly makes his way down from the horse and extends his hand to me again. I take a look at our surrounds. We were on a foot bridge. I take his hand and swing my leg over from the other side. Callum’s hands grip my waist carefully as he helps me down.
I notice that he’s hands were no longer trembling, as he settled me down on the ground.
He grabs Diana by the curb bit before fastening her rein on the wooden railing of the bridge. He leans on the railing, standing next to the horse, resting his forearms on the wooden structure.
“A lot of couples come out here to get married…” he points toward a house further along “… in the mansion over there. I’d take you… but they lock up after a certain hour”
He looks over his shoulder, back at me and smiles.
I join him in leaning far over and looking down at the flowing stream. The running water was soothing and therapeutic. Everything about Belle Meade relaxed me, so different from the hustle and bustle of New York.
“How do you not have a girlfriend?” I break my no-romantic-topics rule and ask the question that’s at the back of my mind since I first met Callum.
He shrugs “I just haven’t found the right girl yet…”
“You do know you’re allowed to play the field right?”
“I don’t believe in that really… I’m a simple man… I want to meet one girl and love one girl… for the rest of my life…”
“Never heard of ’kissing a few frogs to get to princess charming’?” I tease
His laugh echoes through the quiet forest.
“Is that what you’re doing?” he looks at me through guarded eyes “Kissing a few frogs?”
Witty Callum had turned the tables on me. He caught me. I had no clue what I was doing when it came to love and relationships. It never occurred to me to think it through.
“I’m making the most of my life” I lie
“To each his own I guess…” he stares out into the open space again “How will you know if your frog is Prince Charming?”
“If I’m honest… I haven’t really thought it through… I guess… I don’t really think about relationships as long term things”
“How do you perceive marriage?” he raises an eyebrow, as his focus shifted back to me.
I hated when he did that. I felt like I was being examined under a microscope. I felt exposed, exposed for the fraud I was.
“I’m way too young to be thinking about marriage… and so are you”
I hope I settled that argument as I barked at him in a no-nonsense tone.
“Are you always this serious?”
Callum’s smile wrinkled his eyes and I found it irresistible and adorable.
“A family only ever has room for one rebellious member… and Finn was born to do it” he jokes
“You mean someone you need to hide the liquor cabinet key from during holidays?”
He laughs, before nodding in agreement.
“I love my brother… but if I had a penny for every time I had to drag him out of a pub at an ungodly hour… I’d be a billionaire”
“I bet Carla feels the exact same way about me…”
His silence stung a bit. I’m not sure if I expected him to defend me.
“She really likes you…” I decide to push those thoughts deep down in my subconscious.
“Carla… she really likes you. Her face lights up when you enter the room”
“It’s coz we get on so well” he shrugs “we’re interested in similar things… like poetry… and books”
He looks at me, searching my eyes for clues to what I’m thinking.
“There’s nothing romantic about our relationship. Carlotta has been working for my family for years…”
“So in other words… you won’t date the help?” I tease him
Even scrunching up his nose was a cute face on Callum. I giggle. How very teenager of me
“You’re teasing me… you little minx”
“Minx huh?” I playfully push him around.
While laughing and giggling away he gently grips my waist. His hands had been there before, but this time I was trembling. I could see my hands shaking as they gripped his forearms.
I looked up to meet his gaze and there was that intense stare again. His eyes darkened with desire. My lips parted and my eyelids felt weighted.
I could feel my heart slamming against my chest. I wanted so badly to kiss him. I wished he would hurry up and kiss me. Anything…
Just to fill the aching need in the pit in my stomach.
“Callum…” I whispered
He shook his head and dropped his hands from my waist “Yeah… we should get you home. I don’t want you to get scolded by Carlotta”
His laugh seemed forced and really nervous.
Why didn’t he just kiss me? Didn’t he want to? Wasn’t he as attracted to me as I was to him?
My head was spinning as he helped me back on the horse. I was so sure that we were having a moment. Everything was right… the beautiful scenic setting, the playfulness, his hands on my waist… why didn’t he kiss me?
If I thought the walk to the stable was awkward and quiet, the walk back to the cottage was worse.
Callum’s last words were as chilly as the drop in the temperature.
He muttered ‘Good night’ before quickly turning on his heels and heading off to the main house.
He didn’t even wait until I was inside.
I stood there on the patio of the cottage for a while, shivering and confused. I watched him as his silhouette became smaller and smaller before he disappeared behind the doors of the mansion.
I didn’t want to start a romantic relationship with Callum, especially not since I was carrying on with a sexual relationship with his brother. But I thought there were feelings to explore between the two of us. And I had to admit, well at least to myself, I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t act on those feelings.
Or could it be that I had misread his intentions?