a Sultry Land

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Meridian Michel'

Eleven-

She went home to fix herself fruit with cottage cheese, and then ran a bath. She had most weekends to herself, unless she chooses to visit the mansion if Gordon called, they have caught movies together, took Enid to the mall, and to the movies with them, and before too long, she would have enough of a good time, take a seat, and strike up a conversation with someone who also was tired of walking, shopping, and waiting for their family to arrive as well, exhausted off the bench by the end of the day. She wasn’t too fond of too much activity going on around her.

Nonetheless, humbled by fresh air, and change of scenery. Meridian picked up an excess of seven-thousand dollars from Dane that last night. He really appreciated the way she worked the mansion, and he looked forward to peaceful times, and certainly in no need of drama. Dane was reluctant to let the mansion go after his uncle Nathan died, in how jealous, and destructive his distant relatives came to cipher Dane’s money. His sorrow at that time, was for the death of his brother, father, and mother.

At home Meridian cuddled, and thought about how fast her life changed. From the time she first starting mourning, and her move to the sultry lands, and how much better she started to feel, besides conversing with Miss Enid, and Gordon, and now Dane as well. Knowing he liked her, Meridian felt that her near future could begin to brighten. Dane’s compliments would keep Meridian’s optimism up, and he himself handled business too. He had projects, and issues with intelligence, positive reservations, and no hasty decisions. He was witty, and everyone has always been head over heels with the Master.

Dane is humble, and in no way conceited. Meridian in the mansion was interesting to everyone, including Cook, who seemed to like her too. She liked being at the mansion as much as she liked being at home. At the manor, joy rang among them before, and after Dane’s return, now that he has found love too. Cook was included in their happiness as well. He, and four generations of the d’Anise lived in the same house, and now, togetherness gave those four souls, Dane, Gordon, Enid Rae, and Meridian a sense of purpose going forward, and held particular parts in each other’s lives.

They began new beginnings, and now, Meridian knew why the mansion was in bad shape, and what losses Dane went through. He had a taste of what grief felt like, and a part of the reason why he seemed not to trust her Meridian was bewildered why Dane carried around that much cash, but after they had a chance to clear the air, the thought of them on that evening’s events lingered in her mind, and her body was feeling waves of their love. Dane opposed the ordeal of uncle Nathan, his funeral, and how strongly he felt about Gordon.

Dane’s concerns for the family made Meridian glad to know Dane stood for no offensive funny business of his family, whom he loved, and Meridian felt nothing indecent about Dane. She forgave him because yes, Gordon can be a little naive at times. He is kind, maybe too kind, Meridian is kind, Enid is very kind, Dane is kind, and so, they’re all kind people. Meridian appreciated Dane’s unselfish nature, with feelings for her, not even Max, looked at her the way Dane had, not to say Max hadn’t feelings for her, but Dane was ready, and his mind could never falter.

Their afterglow felt as good as the act itself, and although Dane didn’t know Meridian, he highly suggests, she was no guttersnipe, tripoli, or anything of that nature. If Meridian, or any other woman was of such, Dane had no problem with physically throwing her out of his home. It was a particularly bad time crossing Dane. He was through with snakes, and uncle Nathan, who was excess. Meridian imagining the worst of Dane from the start was nerve wrecking in itself, but Dane had not sneered at her once, not until he thought she was trying to use Gordon in whatsoever.

Behind Enid’s back, and it was not the first time Dane suspected Meridian. Thick vibes flowed between them was why they responded hostilly. Home that evening, Meridian smiled to herself, feeling wonderfully, and shook her head, she was in love with sweet, handsome Dane, who was generous. Meridian could feel love welling up inside of her belly, and her body shivered. She laughed at herself, happily gasping, and all she wanted to do was tell Max what happened, but could not. She didn’t mean any disrespect, and silly of her to think Max wouldn’t feel a bit awful.

She wanted him to know about her, and everything in between, how she could see logic in her happiness going forward. Grieving alone, and thinking of Max, she had to forward her mail to her new post office box. The Derck’s lawyers handled their entire estate, its contents, and businesses stipulated, whether Meridian was there or not, and since they hadn’t thought ahead the situation, she inherited nothing from the Derck’s empire, but that cashiers check of one hundred thousand dollars.

Meridian cried, and cowering the strength to return to New York, all those months ago. She’d already felt too alone, and cared not for the money sent to her school bank account as the Derck’s daughter, but wanted them. Meridian, that evening after becoming a woman of Dane, she threw the new fall magazine on her bed, cracked open the bathroom window, and ran that bath. She soaked in for a while listening to the radio, thinking about the last few hours, and how quickly something in her life changes, and was practically in shock!

Dane is in love with Meridian, and he saw no reason to change. In the silence of his lair, and of the serenity of the mansion. Something about Meridian welled up inside of Dane, as he listened to the water fountains outside that night, and could not stop thinking about her until the middle of the night. He laid back, hands weaved behind his head, and could still smell the scent of Meridian, unrealized he was smiling at the mirrored ceiling of marble, Dane looked way past the mirror image.

He rolled to his side, and snuggled one of his pillows thinking, Meridian, Meridian, Meridian. Dane finally drifted off to sleep, and slept with a pleasant look on his handsome faces. Asleep in the cottage, Meridian woke up, and felt tickled inside, and she too, felt warm, fuzzy, and glad all over. The evening with Dane was exciting, and he was serious about her. He loves her, and she had to catch her breath, prepare herself for the rest of the evening, and truly, had plenty of mail to read.

She checked into the email her professor sent, and there was no sign of her childhood friends. Okay. No matter. She was tired of begging, long before she, and Dane that night. They made her sad, but proud of the new life she led, and every right to lead it. In the Sultry Lands, no one knew Meridian. She worked on her self esteem, made clever choices of right, and made well with her decisions. Meridian was recreated through her name change to a point she could recognize herself, having to get used to her new name in the beginning.

She’d been more oblivious than Enid, a day they shopped for the mansion suites. Enid caught up to Meridian, and said she called her twice.

“I thought you might not have heard me,” Enid jokes, “I called you, Meridian..... Meridian....” Enid Rae bird singing made them laugh. Meridian did hear a woman calling, but it did not register Enid calling her, and apologized for being so off in the moment. She forgot. No one there ever knew Meridian as Rebekah.

“Oh, Miss Enid,” she apologized, “I must’ve been off in thought,” she said, deciding the colors for the upstairs suites’ ensembles, but really was off in thought.

Meridian wanted to spill all of her beans of the horror her life turned, but she was too level headed to publicly lose it, or unload her mysterious life’s history to her new employers; If she wanted the position she applied, she had to keep crazy under control, and balanced her days with Miss Enid. She came up with good solutions for the decor of rooms, stripped practically bare from the relatives of Dane, but at the cottage, Meridian was happy for her home, and felt blessed of the connection with her true family, Michel’, even finding out the deceased just after her birth, so Meridian wasn’t unwanted, just orphaned, and a miracle, finding the sultry lands.

Would she have ever known about her true self if the Derck’s not suffered such tragedy? Meridian had not a clear description of the death of her true parents, and thought them in an accident too. It only stated the year of both deaths. Meridian was safe in the woodsy bungalow environment of her great grandmother’s, and from what she saw, most of the townspeople were very nice. Each day, she looked all around her dwelling, and from the photos she discovered, could see that her family had friends. She came from biological parents who loved, and thought about her long before their time had come.

She was thankful for her parents too, and will always be very thankful for the Derck’s, and even cried to heaven to thank them for raising her as unselfishly as they had. Meridian was still in a shocking daze at what took place less than three hours ago with Dane, and tucked all the money from him aside. Her bubble bath was fragrant, and took the chill off the evening. With a pounding heart, she hoped she’d dreamt that night of her, and handsome Dane, with thoughts of that evening, thinking of Dane too, until she drifted off to sleep.

Hours later, she jolted awake, thought of Yosemite Sam, fell back asleep, and dreamed of the varmint in him instead. The cash Meridian collected that evening was enough to finish paying for her college courses, and in the morning, she’d go deposit most of the cash Dane gave her, into her bank account, and not feel the sting of the cost in property taxes for her land. Meridian woke in great spirits, and glowed with happy thoughts. Being loved by Dane stretches into a new day, and Meridian’s heart feels full.

She’d been pumped with reason, and last night, Dane made Meridian feel like a woman, not an object. Rest assured, Dane was with many, could have his choice of woman, yet chose to choose not to dawdle. With Meridian, his actions had meaning. That weekend, Meridian went downstairs and grabbed a few of her designer winter wardrobe, to trade or sell to consignment shops, things she would never need again.

Running errands, she stopped at her bank to make a deposit, the consignment shop wanted most of her things, cut her a decent check, and suggested another shop in town. Meridian sold boots, coats, shoes, heavy sweaters, and things she would no longer use. She purchased a brand new Wilson’s brown leather jacket, and a black one, the extent of what she needed to wear in the sultry land winter weather. She went to the same beauty salon, had her hair, nails, and toes French tipped.

She looked, and felt refreshed, after the long hot bath she had to soak into that morning too, she was still sore. She had three days off, and was usually busy most of those days, but now, think about Dane the entire time, and realized she hadn’t given him her telephone number. During part of that day, Meridian wondered if he was thinking as much of her as she was of him, even when on her way home from grocery shopping, and finished her day out of the house, bringing Chinese food to take home.

Meridian took a slow drive back to her peaceful cottage. It smelled of peach potpourri, and colored bottles in all the windows low and high, put her in a cheerful, delightful mode each day. How could Meridian not think of Dane as much, holding a willful smile on her face, in the serenity of her space that afternoon, committed to finds the Derck’s memorials, in hopes she will go visit with them, pray for their happiness, to thank them for her happiness too, and commit her thoughts at the altar that Sunday, turned on music in the background, and looked at her mail.

After eating, Meridian took her first load of laundry out the dryer, and loaded the washing machine’s last load, and brought the basket to her bedroom, checked up on her class assignments, and set herself up for the evening, and noticed fshe had messages. Gordon phoned an hour ago, and wanted to know if she would go see a movie. If she declined going to the movies, Gordon said, he and Enid would watch another movie he promised her, in the western tearoom.

By the time Meridian got the message, Enid declined going out, and Meridian just got in, so she needed to rest, she said when she phoned Gordon back, and she dared not ask about Dane.

“Awe. I hate to miss out, but an assignment came in on the computer too, that wasn’t here this morning, and I’m just getting back from running errands.

“Oh. Well, yeah. Okay.”

“You know, and it looks like I’d better stay home, and get it going. I have to write a paper, and tomorrow, purchase materials for the exhibit.” Meridian rubbed her eyes, and asked, “How’s Miss Enid?”

She, and Gordon chatted until Enid’s voice echoed down the bottom staircase. She traipsed across the main floor headed to the western tea room. Cook was ready with a hot teapot, and something delicious he baked on the tray. After they hung up, Meridian’s heart palpitated. She seemed to Dane, a sharp, kind, sweet, tender, and intelligent young woman. Meridian thought Dane’s monetary gesture thoughtful, and already alternated working that Monday for Tuesday. When Meridian arrived, she was relieved Dane’s car wasn’t there.

Taking the edge off seeing him for the first time after being so intimate, not having spoken since, gave Meridian freedom to move about the mansion without feeling nervous, unknowing how to handle Gordon, or Miss Enid seeing her blush. She knew she would drop things had Dane been there, and Enid, bound to notice their pretense, and blush, unsurprised the Master Dane could solemnly be head over heels in love with Meridian, who she thought a beautiful person on the inside, as a vision of beauty within herself.

Falling in love was the reason for Meridian being poetry in motion. In the mansion she stepped back one morning, and saw the difference they made, and greed they’d done a great job. The the manor was in tip top shape, and she was happy she learned the truth why it was so ruined on the inside, almost rundown, and felt a tad ashamed for believing her overactive imagination of Dane, and his possible dirty deeds. Her workload was lighter ever since they finished the manor, and once again, it was like the days of Sheridian.

All the rooms were clean, fresh, inviting, and sunshine streamed through the house. Meridian arrived that day to do basic upkeep, and Enid asked to see her. Remembering her, and Dane snickering past Miss Enid’s room, she thinks they’ve been discovered, so she was not too eager to hear Enid inform her that Dane left some sort of note for her in the front parlor drawer. Meridian perplexed, thanked her, and asked Miss Enid of her weekend, and mentioned her project, having to go to a sewing store for supplies, and studying for her exams.

She had to soak in a soothing bathtub twice more to relieve the soreness she felt, but loved the vibes. She parked her car on the mansion’s east side since she started working. Gordon heard her, and Enid’s voices, and went to say hello. Enid said she had a lovely weekend. Meridian and Gordon said hello, and smelled remnants of Dane’s cologne, and missed him, but were more curious about what was in the letter.

Miss Enid set off for the elevator to her suites, and Meridian went to receive the note from the mantle drawer, and hoped it was not a pink slip, Gordon stayed until she retrieved the note.

“Okay. I’ll see ya later,” he said.

“Bye,” Meridian said, and her hands shook, and it read:

Meridian,

I’d forgotten about this annual hunting trip. I’m on, and have business meetings for the rest of the week. Would you meet with me for dinner, at around seven-thirty, at ’Francis Sole this Thursday?

-Yours Alone,Dane.

Meridian learned why Dane had not been there. He’d been on an annual weekend hunting excursion with friends, and would not be back until the next morning, and may have business through the weekend. He’d heard Gordon talking to Meridian by phone a dozen times. Dane didn’t want to seem presumptuous, to ask Gordon for Meridian’s telephone number, and too soon to say, I love you, but Dane, could not wait to see Meridian again. He hoped she’d accept his invitation for that Thursday. Dane wanted to have dinner with Meridian, and would hurt if she refused.

Face to face, he had to know if their feelings were mutual, but if Meridian didn’t show up for dinner, Dane would vie for her affection if he knew where to find her doorstep. Knowing he acted impulsively, he hoped he hadn’t chased Meridian away, and at the mansion all day long, and well after she left, Meridian missed Dane. Terribly. His voice played in her head, and she even missed the smell of him. Meridian felt silly thinking how silly it would be to roll around in Dane’s bed while he was away. She remembered weaving her fingers through his hair, and those thoughts kept her.

When he gets back, Dane and Ruben will deal with a few crooked lawyers regarding his estate. They will show them a blueprint of what tiny section they’d be entitled to, to become a brothel, if they were willing to pay him a lot for the land, and surrounding area. Dane’s intent was for good. The town would have a lot to consider, because Dane didn’t need the money, and loved the town he grew up in, but the town diminished in value lately, and would soon become unprosperous.

All sorts of people are moving into the town on bank credit, and they came and went. People left homes abandoned, and banks lacked funds to resell. Dane did not want his family property to go to waste after all those years of honest ownership, just because old uncle Nathan lost his mind. That lose-lose situation, Dane would have to face alone, but that Thursday evening, the temperature was a little brisk by the water when Meridian arrived at the restaurant.Dane saw her pulling into the driveway so he met her at her car, looking very handsome in his dinner jacket.

Meridian dressed in a beautiful long flowing skirt, looking totally done up, and different than Dane was used to. She was gorgeous, wore a frilled blouse and sweater she could lace through the brown leather bag. She threw the satchel over her shoulder, and Dane thought she looked, and smelled like a dream. He let her out of her red Mazda, and she handed him her car keys. Dane complimented her because she did look beautiful. She was so full of life, and styled her hair, Dane forgot his worries, and noticed her rosy cheek.

Their faces lit when he walked up to her car, and that gave him more confidence. Now, they could have a naturally enchanted evening. After Dane locked the car door. He handed her back her keys, gathered and kissed her, and she responded to the kiss. They missed each, and Meridian broke the ice.

“Did you enjoy your trip?”

“Well, yes, and no. The hunting I’d forgotten all about, actually,” he replied. “Hunting is always fun for me, but I forgot about this annual plan,” he said, looking . “We only shoot birds, and donate them to the local farms.” He held the restaurant door open, and they were taken to their table.

The restaurant was cozy, lit in a red tapestry atmosphere, leather furniture, tall windows, low sills, and red, gold designs on the walls, and floors. Meridian, and Dane were properly dressed, looked nice. The place overlooked the beautiful blue ocean colorfly in sunbursts of puffy white luminescent clouds in burnt orange, russet, and blue, swirling in the skies, slowly creeped during appetizers. Dane was well rested, upbeat, and wanted to know more about Meridian, but luckily the conversation diverted into ordering dinner, which took no time.

Meridian was not too old to not have a past, and she wasn’t too ready to mention any of her parents, so she stuck to explaining her ambitions, and dreams. They were in the romantic restaurant a total of two hours, and drank almost a full bottle of wine between them. Dessert kept them talking mostly of Dane’s past, and in a full swing conversation, after Meridian mentioned how well, and what little time she’d left to finish her studies. Dane was impressed by Meridian’s sense of business.

At first she explained her major, and ambition at the time, but recently switched dreams when she saw her mother’s works of art, she was becoming an interior, and exterior designer decorator, and Dane saw her usefulness in that field.

“Oh. Like, home décor,” Dane asked? Meridian had many thoughts and pursuits in mind, and replied,

“Yes. Exactly.”

“Well,” Dane replied, “With that, I know you will succeed,” and Meridian felt flattered. It’s been some time since she socialized. Meridian, and Dane made a handsome couple, and mentioned that as of late, thinking of opening an art gallery.

Dane listened, and realized her reasoning for such a task, admiring her mother’s paintings, which inspired her thoughts. She never said that her mother was deceased, but that her paintings intrigued her, and that she would never give them up, or sell them, but that her mother’s work displayed, and appreciated by many, and Dane thought her idea very interesting. His sentiments made Meridian blush, and he was attuned, even thinking she would be excellent at her interests.

He complimented her, and offered office space if she needed it, and ate dessert. They had a quiet, romantic, stroll around the restaurant’s lake side property, to enjoy their solitude, up, and around the interesting, nautical trails. They walked, talked, held hands, and amused themselves, thinking one was as incredible as the other. Meridian liked the way Dane treated her. Dane was gentle, polite, and had a kind, sincere disposition. Soon the night would end, and he realized he didn’t even know Meridian’s last name.

“It’s Michel’.” Meridian, giddy at that time, couldn’t care less why he asked. That instance was important.

Dane looked at Meridian for a second, felt light headed at the name, and thought to himself, no! She could not be the baby Michel’ of the past. He felt a touch of deja vu, and came back to himself.

“Meridian Gwendolyn, to be exact,” and Dane flushed.

“You wouldn’t happen to live in the cabin at the coves would you?” Meridian did not know why Dane stopped her in her tracks, but she thought the gesture fun. She was just getting started, and in no hurry to call it a night, but had to wonder about Dane’s point.

He waited patiently if Meridian would answer, and she was sort of perplexed how he knew that much personal information about her, raised an eyebrow, but thought, what did she have to lose?

“Yes. I do. How did you know?” She was as candid as possible, and explained how long she lived there, and then asked, “Why?” Dane assured her in all honesty he had his reasons, because he thought that perhaps their parents could have been friends, and Dane asked Meridian to take a ride with him. He was glad she didn’t mind going with him on a slow drive, and she said yes. Dane thought he might have something to show ther that would spark her interest.

It was only a half hour’s ride, in which he was silent. Meridian went along, but was confused about what he wanted her to see, and basically stayed silent. They listened to the smooth jazz Dane played, and held out his hand after he parked out front.Meridian thought he must’ve forgotten something, but he took her through the west wing parlors, the one’s first worked, when she was hired there. When they were inside, Dane took a quick look around, and asked, “Hey! Did you do all this?” Meridian smiled, and nodded, yes.

“It looks nice. Very nice. Thanks.” That was their first conversation since they left the restaurant. Meridian waited patiently by Dane’s side while he retrieved a set of keys, hidden inside a mantle, and opened the doors she’d never been inside of. Those were the doors he kept locked as per his father’s orders. After she, and Miss Enid cleaned, and redecorated the suites on that side, and never pondered the locked doors.

Meridian assumed that those rooms were closets, untouched, but now Dane was about to lead her into one of the mansion’s mysterious secrets. Through another secluded hall, in the back of the chamber’s suites to enter, which even Gordon was not supposed to know, Dane turned on the light. There was an entire inner layer to the manor’s walls, and Meridian said out loud, “Okay. This place is no joke.

Dane, as sweet, innocent, and tame as ever, was not a threat. Deep inside the mansion walls, surely no one would ever know they were there. Even screams would be unheard, or fall upon deaf ears, anyone was there. Denim got away with so many parties in the inner cuts of the mansion walls, and enjoyed every bit of it. Through the wide corridors, and spacey halls, they went through another passageway, into a room Meridian considered an art studio, and thought Dane was enthusiastic because he’s an inspiring artist.

Meridian dabbled in painting, but asked herself, that’s funny. Why hadn’t he mentioned it? Sheets covered many sorts of paintings of different sizes, but not much else. In the deeply guarded room. She saw a baby bassinet, a box, and Meridian was unsure what Dane was looking for, but when he pulled the sheet off a particular painting, another one of her great grandmother, who seemed to outlive many people, Meridian stood, and tilted her head, and in disbelief.

Dane began to pull a few other sheets off paintings, and said that a long time ago, her parents stored those things there. He shrugged, because he could tell Meridian had no clue of her parent’s, and only the year they died.

“This is your father, Bernard Michel’.” Meridian cupped both her hands on her mouth, and instead of crying, she buckled. Dane uncovered a still life painting of her father, and said that her mother had really been a great artist. He was no bullshit to Meridian, and she stared at the painting for moments, and read her mother’s signature down below.

The resemblance she knew was her very own father, and remarkable. Meridian became flush, and so light headed with surrealism, her air supply seemed to stifle her, and she almost fainted. Dane knew of their unfortunate circumstances long ago. Although he’d grown up, put the incident behind him, but never forgot, way before the time Denim died, and in the face of Meridian, it was all new again.

Dane uncovered pictures of Meridian’s parents she knew, and showed her a baby photo. The photo was taken in the same room where she saw the bassinet, and could not believe her eyes. Meridian was thinking how ironic it was to answer an ad where she once laid asleep. Now, she knew she belonged in the Sultry Land, and then Dane said she was the baby in the nursery a long time ago.

“Meridian,” Dane said, “The outer room with the bassinet, was yours. Our parents, and grandparents, were good friends, and you were here, just months old.” It was a lot of Meridian to take in, but Dane spoke calmly for her to know.

He said that her parents were grateful she’d been able to sleep through their visit, and Dane knew she would ask, “What happened?”

“Car accident,” Dane quickly replied.

“Oh,” Meridian shook her head, in a most understandingly way, and said, “I thought so.” Yep. She figured as much. Dane remembered the Michel’ vividly, and as very nice people when they visited. He told Meridian that the elders of their two families had known each other over many years. Meridian felt Dane put his arm around her, and spoke tenderly.

He guided her around the medium sized room compared to the main rooms of the house. Seeing Gwen Michel’ paintings made Meridian cry. Dane handed her photos, duplicates of the photos her parents left to discover in the cottage too, and then he handed her a key. Underneath another cloth, sat a box with a lock that was never opened. Meridian dusted her fingerprints off the beautiful chest, similar to the one she found in her basement, opened it, to discover more of her parent’s jewelry, worth at least two-hundred fifty thousand dollars for safe keeping, from their dowries to hers.

That night, Dane drove Meridian to her house, and would have Gordon deliver her car with him in the morning. They were equally stunned at their findings, and he went inside the cottage to comfort her, very impressed with what she’d done to it. She gave the spaces modern touches, preserved wood, floors, brass, and her immediate lawns. Dane had been in the cottage before she was born with his father, joining the Michel’ on a fishing trip, and drifted off from her docks.

It was on a hot, hazy early summer morning, Dane and his father went to meet Meridian’s grandfather, father, and uncle, Caliche’, her cousin Jonjoui’s father, the one who went back to the cottage to finish the estate, and all Bernard’s wishes, after the Michel’ baby was born. Before she’d been kidnapped. Dane said he might have cooed her out of politeness, and afterwards, she’d been held for ransom, and became unrecoverable. Meridian was presumed dead, was the story in all the newspapers, and news casts.

Dane could not recollect it all, but if he had his facts straight, the Michel’ were going to move to the sultry lands, and live in their villa after they returned for his grandmother’s funeral, before their bitter circumstances, and if Dane remembered, he was probably sixteen. When the tragedy struck, Bernard Michel’ had already shifted documents, solidifying his assets through Dane’s father’s lawyers, Dane, unsure how much, if anything, Meridian knew about her parent’s past.

Dane was but was never, ever, going to show her newspaper clippings out of his father’s room, or mention her cause, and at the moment, holding Meridian as closely as he had, she clung to Dane. He promised himself, not to mention any of his memories of her parent’s demise, unless she really needed to know. If she asked, Dane would unlock his parents’ suites, and retrieve the facts as anyone knew, and did not want to show Meridian the house the Michel’ once owned either. Since the house was sold, it had still been unsafe for the Michel’ to return for any reason.

Back at Meridian’s cottage, Dane held her in his arms. There, she cried tears of happiness, sadness, triumph, and for a while, Dane did not want to let her go. He shushed her some at the kitchen nook, grabbed a napkin for her tears. He grabbed water out of the fridge, and a cup out the cupboard, still holding her to his side. Meridian took a swallow, motioned if Dane wanted some, and he did not. He replaced the water jug, sat on one of the high stools, and held her close, and they clung, while Dane rocked Meridian in his arms, and she welcomed his warmth.

He kissed the top of her head, and fell in love with the focused little woman, who had not known whom she was from, or how many lives beckoned her survival. Out of all the people in the world to want to be with, Dane fell in love with the lost baby Meridian, a phenomenal discovery, whose story touched his heart as much as the cottage had, in the dim quiet of the lighting. They moved into the living room, and from that point, Dane knew he would ask Meridian to marry him. Gordon was the only other guest she ever had at the cottage, and from time to time, saw the older couple outside up the ridge.

They stretched their necks, possibly to see how well her plants were growing, or perhaps just being nosy, but they were a part of her scenery as well. Dane suggested Meridian make herself comfortable in slippers perhaps, that day turned into a long one. Dane helped himself in the kitchen while she made herself at home. He readied hot tea from the kettle, and thought it could balance Meridian’s nerves. Dane wanted her to be comfortable, so she went to her bedroom to freshen up. She robed, and put on slippers. Dane stood up, and remembered the cottage was a pleasant place.

The sun streamed through on that early summer’s morning, when Dane was young, but before Denim died, or Sheridan was sick. He, his father, and grandfather left to go fishing off Meridian’s pier. Dane remembered the adults’ chatter that morning. They were cheerful companions, friends who covered the area with the smell of scrambled eggs with onion, the bacon they ate, the coffee they drank. They adored their time at the spacious cottage, as he’d roamed the grounds before. There, the women waited for their men’s return, and Dane was sunburned.

They brought loads of fish with them. Dane remembered not staying for the adult festivities. There was no one his age at the cottage bored, so Dane took his first car back to the mansion and the adults spent the day, cleaned fish, played cards, ate dinner, and drank ice cold frothy drinks, Dane too young to have. He remembers showered when he got back to the mansion, and did not want to miss Ruben and their friends that Saturday. Dane was sort of happy-go-lucky, a handsome teenage boy with a cool swag, and did not let his success go to his head.

Dane complimented Meridian on the menagerie of colorful glass displayed on her bay window sills, and the opposite windows and could see she spent a lot of time gazing. A teacup, and all the magazines were tell-tale signs. He liked the many shapes of the bottles.As Dane sat shortly, he felt that the bottles added a modern feel to the nautical motif to the cottage, and could imagine how it looked to see the sun shining through them each morning. He was daydreaming, and remembered that Denim didn’t go fishing with them that day, long ago, and that place was if it was only the day before.

Long ago Dane sat at the same kitchen nook, until the tea kettle whistled. He declined bacon that early morning before the fishing trip, but ate eggs, toast, and drank a glass of milk quietly. They were ready to sail before sunrise, and then Meridian appeared, and Dane motioned her to sit with him on the couch. Under his huge arm, she met Dane, and snuggled into his body, comfortably warm until the water steamed. He placed the steaming tea set on the cocktail table, no doubt on her great grandmothers, on the mahogany coffee table in front of them.

They prepared tea, they sat, she sipped, and Dane could not believe she was the baby Meridian, said to be gone forever, and in that, what was worse, Dane surprised he didn’t associate her first name. His mind slipped with what his uncle would have done to Denim, and himself even, so he would wait when Ruben gives him the detailed paperwork, approved, among feeling contorted with that thought of Meridian having a foul association with Gordon, but instead, what an eventful evening it turned to be, and if not for that, Dane might have recognized her right away.

Meridian broke the silence. She began telling Dane about Bethany, and Darren, and held Dane by the hand, onto his feet to show him the rest of her bungalow, to mention everything she has done to the cottage, and what conclusion she discovered from her first day. Dane was a good listener, and Meridian talked about the day she answered the housekeeping ad. They walked through the sub level, he’d never seen, impressed by all the ideas she was willfully put to use, and looked up at the windows. She said how overgrown the grounds had been, and how long it took to clear.

The woods of the land were still undone. He squeezed Meridian’s hand, and insisted he have the gardener upkeep her land from that day forth, amazed how much she’d accomplished. Meridian had not lived there a year yet. After Meridian mentioned the Derck’s, at first glance, Dane knew she couldn’t have been local, and admired the fact she kept busy, positively focused, and made it thus far. Meridian spoke briefly about her friends, and of them, and the Derck’s, Dane felt for them. Meridian pulled him closer to show the acrylic painting in her bedroom.

“It was hand painted, and signed by my mother.”

It touched Dane’s heart that their families were friends, with a happy history between them. As of the day before, Dane, sad for the entire ordeal back then, thought that the less she knew, the better she’d be. Now, he understood where she got an art gallery idea. Her mother was an amazing artist. They stood looking at the art studio Meridian created, and held hands, and she thanked Dane for dinner.

“Don’t mention it. The pleasure, all my own. I’m happy you accepted my invitation.” Meridian knew she was smiling, and had a very nice time too.

“I am too.”

“Well, I couldn’t just presume,” Dane said, and they hugged each other as friends. Dane was stunned, Meridian took him into her bedroom, and they came into each other again, although she wanted him to see the painting over her bed.

“Yes. Your great grandmother. What a beautiful woman she was.” Dane liked the style of her bedroom. It was a beautiful, serene place. The glow of the tall Tiffany lamps’ glistened ambiance was amazing. Meridian’s great grandmother’s painting was incredible. Meridian’s mother captured her. Dane remembered her, as a sweetheart of a woman.

The memory of Meridian’s great grandparents stung him, because he remembers attending her great grandfather’s funeral. Dane admired the original oil painting on the wall over Meridian’s bed of her great grandmother. It was an exact replica. The old timers were full of happy times, and Dane told Meridian of how they earned an honest living, and how proud he was how they reaped the rewards of hard work gained, granted good, and built the town, which impressed her.

She turned on the bathroom lamp lit subtly to let Dane peek through at all she’s done, and turned on the light down the steps to the lower room, not quite the basement. Meridian had as much personal space as Dane, and he thought it a neat space.

“I think this room was for reading.” She mentioned how the room actually connected to the other side by a few steps, the structure was built in a swirl. They moved slowly throughout, and adored the peacefulness in the spaces. They shared a quiet moment, and clinged in the moon shining light, and Dane kissed the top of Meridian’s head again, and she led him all throughout, the lower levels, and exits, and entrances he never knew.

She yarned, and calmed considerably, but Dane was still stunned, approaching the eleventh hour. Dane wanted to know if he could tuck her in. Their special moment was brief, difficult, and Meridian felt like a burden.

“When will I see you again?”

“Tomorrow afternoon.” Dane kissed her on the lips, and made Meridian feel better, and unafraid he’d abandon her for some reason, but knowing what he knew about her, he’d been too far from that. He loved Meridian, and went to cancel his business requests. Meridian’s feelings were more important, and he wanted to accompany her to appraise her jewelry, and divide it into other safety deposit boxes.

He kissed Meridian on her forehead, dimmed the lights in her bedroom and the living room, and then let the door slam lock him out, and checked the door anyway. Dane left his woman tucked in, and secure from all the shock of the evening, and Meridian slept. She woke up a little late the next morning, surprised she slept so late, and a half hour later, Dane called, and said he, and Gordon wanted to stop by. He said they could be there in an hour to deliver her car, and asked to take her to brunch.

Meridian felt hungry, and said she’d be ready. She showered, perfumed, touched up, blew dry her hair, twisted it up, fiddled with her bangs, and loosened her hair before Dane arrived. Gordon came into the cottage loudly, and plopped into a chair. He threw his leg over to one side of the arm, and kept talking. She didn’t know exactly what they were talking about, but sure Dane had.

“The Wall is not a new movie Gorge.” She ignored the Gorge comment, Dane protested coming through the front door.

He loved the atmosphere in the cottage during the day, and Gordon kept up the argument about the old movie he’d seen, and of the famous musicians playing the theme songs of the movie soundtrack. Meridian had definitely been lost, but glad to see the big, handsome Dane, darken her cobbled doorstep. She’d opened the house into a nice new day. Meridian said hello, and walked past Gordon to greet Dane, who still had a lot on his mind, despondent with the wiles of ironically, friends of Uncle Nathan.

It was uncool with what uncle Nathan did. The d’Anise held priceless pieces in their priceless curio cabinets, and art which sat on mantle’s, and stands in the massive manor, and of their long lists of world, and historical achievements where the d’Anise’ successes were displayed. They held precious memories with friends in high places, in picture frames of precious metals, and stones. Meridian never actually looked closely, though even her parents were displayed in curio cabinets as well.

When that day was done, Dane drove his car into the ports, and entered the house through the back, walking to the elevator at the back of the staircase. In the elevator, he vibrated past Enid’s rooms, she was liable to stay up talking until sunrise. Enid met Dane in passing on her way down the staircase. She was there to grab a snack with a hot cup of tea. Rarely had she taken the elevator, and rather took the entire walk, back, into the kitchen. All day she, and especially Gordon, out with Dane, and Meridian all day, was curious what went on that last evening.

Dane greeted them, but never said a word. Enid was open and available to Dane if he would say something about the night before, and then he had.

“Miss Enid.” he paused. “Meridian is the baby Michel’.” Enid stood in place barely holding onto the railing in the dim of the lights that lit the stairs, amber among the sconces through each level. Finally, Dane saw Enid put her hand to her cheek, and her jaw flopped open. They looked at each other, Dane nodded his head, yes. Enid shook her head, no, and both their hearts said, Wow!

Enid went into the kitchen, and saw Gordon, there for a snack too. It was an apple he grabbed, as she sort of stared into space, remembering Gordon’s tragedy. His story was nothing to mention unless he ever asked. Gordon noticed her blank stare, but asked nothing of it. People that lived on the d’Anise side of town had no clue what happened in secular areas. The d’Anise mansion was too far off, that one would never know who was in the house after the time of Gordon, or Meridian for that matter, and Dane would forever protect them.

Meridian had hardly a second to think of the night before, but Dane had. He lay awake, and became exhausted. Dane thought about Meridian, and the time after her birth when Denim was alive. The hardship he suffered was he being old enough to know that it was said, the Michel’ baby might have been slaughtered too. dane felt awful at the time, and saw enough funerals, he cared to remember. That night, Enid told Dane she knew the Michel’ baby lived, but no one close to the family was allowed to retrieve her, for her sake, and for theirs.

Since her Uncle Caliche’ has owned detective agency, Meridian remained secretly. Back then, Dane was still in school, when his mother’s health was a concern, and never knew if the child lived or not. The Derck’s, or not anyone ever knew the name Meridian was given, or her tragedy, in the hands of the Derck’s, a very eligible couple. The d’Anise, as many, were hopeful that the story of her recovery was true, and at last he heard.

Dane only heard that the child might have died. The incident was privately investigated, and confidential, but by the time the truth was revealed, Dane never knew. The baby was recovered, yet the d’Anise mourned many years dearly for the young Gwendolyn, and Bernard Michel’. The situation made quite an impact on all their lives, around the same time of Denim’s demise. That morning, Dane, Meridian, and Gordon went to brunch that morning, and shared a full day together, good therapy for them, and finished the appraisal.

Visiting Meridian’s safe deposit box. Dane saw all she possessed, and suggested her splitting the boxes. He wanted her to register the jewelry piece by piece, because it looked as if she had more valuable antiques, than what he saw the evening before. As long as Meridian was with Dane, she did not mind continuing to work for them. Dane retreated. He went into the office rooms where his grandfather handled business long ago, that even Enid did not know what of the certain doors through the main floor chamber suites had inside, but she, and Meridian redecorated what they could.

Dane was busy but kept in touch, and privately, went to her cottage, or just took walks in the park, or even Dane’s grounds, and the holiday’s were soon to come. Meridian and Gordon made themselves responsible for the mansion’s decorations. Dane was glad Meridian was there for that time, it seems the holiday season will be special again with all the new changes, and sudden relationships. Meridian gave the mansion a certain cheer, especially since the past few years were gloomy. That year, Gordon was happy for the input.

Dane long since discovered how well he, Enid, and Meridian actually got along, hoping what Meridian said, not farce. Enid was too close to the edge for anyone close to her, come break her heart, so Dane wouldn’t see it. He’d caught Enid Rae slap Nathan across the face, and had never seen her look so glum. She ran out the room almost sobbing, and when she saw Dane, Nathan said he had just been playing, but Enid was assaulted, and scared.

“But apparently she took it offensively uncle Nate. Let’s just leave Enid Rae alone, and call the servants if you need anything, or want to go anywhere next time, and you know that. Aren’t I correct sir?” Nathan nodded, yes. "Okay Unk?”

Nathan thought it was Denim at first, but then knew it was Dane speaking that time, and softened up. Dane’s heart warmed at the chatter between Enid Rae, Gordon, Cook, and Meridian, until he thought Meridian seduced Gordon’s for some of his money back then. Now, without Miss Enid’s mention, Dane could see with his own eyes that Meridian became familiar. She was cultural, had manners, and was personable, supportive, and all loved her, who she came to love them too. Her laughter, and the captivating spunk she possessed with kind words, was nice, and listened well.

Meridian was a positive person in all their lives. She was wise, had good philosophy, and in her loneliness, used her mind over matters to keep her sanity. For her, if all else failed, and she felt too strangely about her circumstances, considered Enid, and Gordon great company, and intelligent people. She’d been more than happy to surround herself with them, and respected that Enid Rae is simply real, and Gordon, simply good, as trustworthy as Enid, and as innocent. That year Thanksgiving will be very nice, but after that, Enid seemed ill.

She was not eating, and having fainting spells, and it was very unlike her, with dark circles under Enid’s eyes. Dane asked Meridian if she would stick around at any costs for Enid Rae, because he, Gordon, and Ruben had to be out of town for another few days. Meridian said that during her stay she would not have any other way. Miss Enid ran a temperature, and Dane did not like how sluggish she’d become.The situation seemed worse, where Gordon is concerned.

Dane called from Thailand for the doctor’s reports, and they said Enid Rae has been dehydrated, needed rest, and looking after, so Dane asked if Meridian if she would do it. Meridian wouldn't have it any other way, and temporarily moved into the suite next to Enid’s until Dane, and Gordon returned. Visiting Miss Enid in her rooms, Meridian noticed that her quarters were somewhat neglected. Meridian put her room back together again with a little cleaning, laundry, and polishing.

Enid was back on her feet a day, until she collected chills, but felt better by the time Dane, and Gordon returned in the middle of her conversation about the holiday decor’. At home, out of the shed of her cottage, Meridian’s dug out the holiday decorations, conclusive to her holiday decor’. Dane was glad everyone’s thoughts were happy, and getting to know Meridian, took his breath away everyday.

With her good heart, she cared for people, and especially those she worked for, and her support exhilarated him. Fresh air blew through Enid’s chamber suites, and livened things up. She was sleeping well again, and at eleven am, careful not to disturb Miss Enid too soon. She never slept so late, but must’ve needed it, although Meridian had not wanted her to miss the day. On the other side of Enid’s quarters, Meridian delivered her clean clothes, and linens from the washroom.

She made her a cup of tea, and an apple Danish roll before she drew Enid’s scented bubble bath, and brought her a clean change of clothing. Miss Enid had finally stirred a little, she was up late watching nostalgic movies again. After tea, Enid couldn’t resist a warm bath, and as she bathed. Meridian went to work dusting furniture, arranging the simplest of things in Enid’s bedroom, and will later freshen, and attend to her bathroom in detail later. Miss Enid took a few sips of her tea, and thanked Meridian while she put away Miss Enid’s laundry.

Enid soaked in the soft scent of her large oval warm bathtub, while Meridian went into her linen closet and retrieved fresh towels, sheets, and pillow cases to freshen Enid’s room, and it lifted her spirits when Meridian changed her comforter set. While Enid was dressing, Meridian went to the laundry room to dry more clothing and wash everything else. Enid soaked, and felt exhilarated by the changes Meridian made, and put on her slippers, and robe.

Cook was in the kitchen preparing food that day. He stirred a delicious smelling pot of the oxtail soup, and at lunch, ate the delicious hearty soup in her room, and she felt better, eating her favorite soup with rosemary, and baked crackers, as the sunlight those days had gotten shorter. Dane had only been gone five days, and Gordon ran into the mansion to take a peek in, to give Enid company. Meridian was glad they called the mansion twice a day, to check on Enid Rae in Meridian’s care.

Her doctor didn’t make much of Enid’s spells, but she needed not exert herself for at least a while, so through the holidays Enid should rest, and could enjoy watching her favorite old movies, and Meridian was good company, especially at tea times. After Dane sealed deals, and came home, Gordon busied himself dragging holiday decorations out of storage days ago, and Meridian helped make assessments. Miss Enid was feeling off, and on, but her thoughts of the holiday season were cheery.

Dane told Meridian she is no longer to work in his house as a servant. He picked up the phone, called Gordon, and had him send for the extra help they use each year, and moving forward, Meridian’s job became non-existent. Meridian had spare time for her college assignments, shopping with Gordon, and for shopping, to decorate the manor, and to finish her studies. Each year they hired a company to design the exterior holiday trim, which was especially creative, and from miles around, the mansion was visible with its grand wreath lit, and split between the huge openings of the French door main entrance.

The tall evergreens smelled fantastic, fresh, and the lights on the hedges along the mica earth, lit multicolored. For years, the d’Anise used a professional company to do their holiday landscaping, and each year was different from the past. Dane’s home had been a focal point from miles around, and off the highways. Their holiday expressions meant the meaning of joy, and as the sultry land was cooling off, Enid seemed to be getting well. She, Meridian, and Gordon executed decorative plans greatly, arranged mistletoe, holly, and ordered fresh poinsettias for all the crystal vases, and matched place settings in both wings.

Both dining rooms were transformed from autumn into winter, and soon their plans inside of the mansion became beautifully done, and made drastic decorative changes. When he, and Ruben returned, they’d decorated the nine foot snow white evergreen very skillfully. Gordon had a knack, making the lights on the tree dance to the sound of chiming holiday bells. Everyone was impressed with what the decorator’s did that year, the ground’s had huge evergreens at the front sides of the mansion steps.

Gigantic bows were lit on each column, and used tasteful holiday ornaments to light the paveways. Enid went into the senior bedroom to retrieve the family address book of invitations. Gordon helped Meridian write holiday cards, they were both skilled in calligraphy, had an attractive style, and it took hours addressing over two hundred holiday cards, Miss Enid stamped them, and someone will take the golf cart across the lawns, to fill the bulk box, and Cook was interested in designing dinner.

Dane will go through the dinner list of invitations to make the final say. When he, and Ruben returned, he chopped the list to ten for dinner, and Enid smiled. Everything else were holiday greeting cards, and all through the season, they sipped drinks of eggnog, eggnog, egg-nog, and one day, Meridian, Gordon, and Enid busied themselves baking cookies. Dane excused all the many shapes, and sizes of the delicious morsels they made, saving less likely ones for themselves.

In Dane’s favorite, the eastern tearoom, he teased them about Cook’s day off.

“Mm,” he dared. “Purple,” Dane audaciously smirked, and then asked what part of a Gingerbread man was purple? Meridian chased Dane a way around for that remark, and Enid agreed when Gordon said, “Yeah, but they’re good.” Dane replied, “Who says?” Dane ducked just in time when Gordon threw an orange, and it landed too many feet out in the open, a person would wonder why?

That year, Miss Enid had her hair done by Meridian’s stylist, who freshened her natural hair color with a temporary rinse, filling in her fraying hair sprigs in a warm honey color, and it perked up her looks. The d’Anise home had became to a happy home again, and Meridian was a pleasant, playful help, and was very teasing to Dane, which couldn’t make Enid, and Gordon happier. They had a cheerful togetherness, and anyone around them could watch how their love would grow.

Meridian’s cottage glowed in the color of the holiday tree, Dane chopped off his property. Gordon helped decorate the sweet, robust smelling fern off the grounds, and it made Meridian happy he was into that sort of thing. She too, was a lover of life, and because of that, Dane didn’t want the holiday season to end. Loving the little woman who he could not deny, everyone started to see past their sorrows, after every winter comes spring. All their relationships exceded business, and they became friends.

As the season’s changed, the holiday’s glistened in loveliness. The Master Dane spared no expense running his house, assets, or his businesses. Meridian wouldn’t have been happy if she had to spend the holidays alone, and now, because of Enid, Gordon, and now Dane, she didn’t feel abandoned. All of their company was a help to Enid. Then there made a difference. They shopped together that season, exchanged precious gifts, and spent holiday dinners with a few friends, and welcomed guests.

He did like the girl Meridian, and before the new year, it was obvious to others that their souls intertwined into mutual feelings. Enid loved them, stayed out of the way, and would never steer either of them into any wrong directions. Some nights, Meridian stayed, and had non-formal meals with Dane, the same as he had done alone many times, in the privacy of the east dining room, where his mother, father, and brother Denim ate, before Gordon, and Enid Rae came to stay and joined the table.

Over the holidays, Meridian finished the final draft of her business plan. Dane saw it, liked her ideas, saw the vigor she possessed, with the look in her eyes, and thought Meridian would be excellent at whatever she wanted to do. Dane wanted whatever Meridian wanted, and said, “I want you to like what you do, but love your life.” Dane knew Meridian was also a good cook, and said, “Every voyage has its flavor, and yours looks, smells, and tastes good.”

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