Celine’s hands shook as she clutched the letter. “This can’t be real.”
She read it for a second time, tapping her free hand on her knee. She put the letter back into the certified envelope. Celine bounced her feet and patted her knees, then pulled the letter back out and re-read it. She took a deep breath, set the letter down, and pulled out her laptop. Celine searched for an airline ticket, and purchased the soonest one to Rome she could catch.
Celine sat in seat F24 and opened up the pocket in the seat back in front of her. She always checked for the air-sickness bag. Not for her, but to see if the previous seat filler had puked on the plane. No bag meant they had. Celine located a bag, and sat back with a rather comforting feeling.
“On spring break from college?” the lady, who barely fit into seat F23 asked.
“No, just a …trip,” Celine replied.
“No one takes just a trip to Rome,” the lady remarked. “I’m Margaret.”
“Celine,” she said, without offer a handshake.
“A trip to look for love? Discover yourself?”
“My father passed away, and left me his mansion.”
Margaret leaned closer toward Celine.
“I don’t want to talk about it, if you don’t mind,” Celine stated.
“Okay,” Margaret roughly remarked.
The cab dropped Celine off at the front door of her estranged father’s mansion. She rolled her suitcase through the grass, over the gravel, and onto the path to the front door. Celine pulled out a key from the black velvet bag and unlocked the door.
She pushed the door open with a deep sigh. Celine took quiet steps into the middle of the massive foyer and slumped down, leaning against a nearby wall. She placed her head between her knees, interlaced her fingers behind her head, and started crying.
When the sun moved low enough to cast beams of light through the windows, and bounce off every curve of every wall, Celine pushed herself up and moved into a giant room. The room had several sitting areas and could easily accommodate a party of a hundred guests.
The couches were stallion tan. The lounge chairs were the palest of creamy milk. Pillows were plump, the floor white marble, and the crimson jar candles sat just so on glass table tops.
Hanging from the vaulted ceilings were three crystal chandeliers. And as the sun lowered through the window panes it bounced off every inch of the crystal, casting rainbows, even up into the arched corners of the vaulted ceiling.
One of the rainbows suddenly caught Celine’s eye as it glared on a framed photo off to the left of a side table. In the photo stood a man and a blonde haired two year old girl…it was her. Celine had the same photo tucked in a box in her closet.
“So…Dad, why leave your daughter who you haven’t seen or talked to a mansion half a world away?” Celine asked the room so grand it echoed.
When Celine had booked her ticket to Rome she was unsure about where she was going in life. And this gifted mansion made every thought more difficult than the last. She didn’t have much in Minnesota, but she had a job, and a nice little condo she had finally finished decorating.
Celine had never seen a mansion that was not on television or in the movies, but she was sure this place took the cake. The big five layer butter crème frosting with strawberries on top cake. Celine’s mom, the only family she had otherwise known, passed two years ago from the worst case of pneumonia the Rochester Hospital had seen in five years.
Celine wandered through the rest of the five bedrooms and six bathrooms, locating a fully stocked wine cellar.
“Ahhh, red, white, and even pink,” Celine declared. “I think I’ll take one of each.”
Celine wrapped her left arm around the two bottles and gripped the top of the third bottle in her right hand and headed to the kitchen. She opened cupboard doors until she found a glass, and then used the table top wine opener.
She poured the red wine into the glass, swirled it a few times, and took a quick sip. Her eyes grew wide with delight.
“Now that is amazing wine,” Celine said, raising her glass to the empty kitchen. “Welcome to Rome. And I’m hungry.”
Celine opened the refrigerator and found it empty except for a few bottled waters. She opened the freezer side to find several instant American entries. Celine popped a Lean Cuisine into the microwave, and then took her wine glass to the foyer. With a few more gulps along the way she had nearly finished what she had poured. She unlocked the French doors leading to the back veranda.
“Wow!” Celine declared, already slightly buzzed.
The sun was setting ever so slowly behind the olive trees that lined the hills. Celine was engulfed by a feeling of warmth and peace even with the unknown that lay ahead. She leaned forward as though she was making room for fairy wings to feather out on her back. It might have been the wine, but Celine felt suddenly optimistic about her future. As she was leaning forward she noticed the table top was resting atop a bronze coated seahorse.
“Well look at you,” Celine stated.
With her glass in hand she bent over sideways.
“Hello little seahorsey,” she slurred. “I have a rather large conundrum. See this house – mansion, well it’s all mine, little ole me. Mind you I have a very small condo back home with thick velvet curtains to keep the world out. And now I’m here at…my mansion, which has so much light from the world shining in.”
Celine looked out as the sky darkened and the stars starting to show their spender. She slumped out of the chair and onto the ground, and then wrapped her arm around the seahorse.
“Tell me what choice to make,” she sulked “this beautiful place with nothing familiar but unanswered questions, or comfort with everything familiar, but nothing magical.”
Tears formed and streamed down her checks.
“Why did he leave me with so much, but never even a minute of himself,” she whispered.
Celine woke to find a seahorse nose above her. She slowly stood up, trying to avoid hitting her head on the table top.
“What a beautiful view,” Celine commented as the sun started to cast its shadows as it shined over the rolling hills.
She made her way into the kitchen to grab some water. As Celine’s mind began to un-fog, she remembered the instructions on the letter from the lawyer. She made her way to her suitcase and unzipped the front pocket, pulling it out. At the bottomed she re-read the sentence.
There is a note from your father in the master bathroom at the bottom of the left hand drawer.
Celine made her way down the hall and into the master bathroom. She looked at row upon row of drawers, and then glanced at the note again.
“Which left hand drawer? There are six,” she questioned.
One by one Celine opened the drawers, moving around the items. In the last drawer Celine located an envelope with her name scribbled on the front. She sunk to the bathroom floor and tore it open.
This letter will never be able to cover the answers you need because as I write this I still don’t have them. I can’t explain how I fell out of love with your mother, but it was the opposite of how deeply I fell in love with Rome. The reason you are reading this is because the adventures of my life got the best of me. I left you the cars, the house and everything in it; I know you will love life here in Rome.
Sorry will never be enough,
Celine pushed herself up off the bathroom floor. She had hoped the letter would mend at least a percentage of her heart and wondering mind. Instead it sprouted seeds of anger in the middle of her chest.
“You couldn’t love me in person, you clearly can’t love me with your leftovers,” Celine declared.
Two months later Celine pulled back her condo’s grey curtains to let in the midmorning sun. She was waiting for a delivery today and hoped they would get there before she needed to head out.
Sure enough right when Celine was losing her patients the doorbell rang.
“Celine Fisher?” the man with the clipboard asked.
“Yes,” Celine replied.
“Sign here and here,” he said, handing her the clipboard.
And with that, crate after crate were rolled into Celine’s condo. She instructed the men where to put the extra few crates that didn’t fit in the spare bedroom. Once the men left, Celine headed out.
She returned exhausted and headed to one of the crates. Celine took a crowbar and popped open the lid. She reached inside and pulled out a wrapped bottle.
“Oh yay, pink,” Celine cheered as she grabbed her wine opener and a glass.
She took the glass and laptop out onto the patio. One new email message was in bold with a subject line of Labels. She clicked it open and then clicked the download button.
On her screen was a picture of the bronze seahorse with FAIRY TALE in cursive across the top.
“To my winery,” Celine said, raising her glass with a smile.
“Your winery?” said a voice from the patio next door.
Celine nearly choked back up the vintage wine.
“You startled me,” Celine said, clearing her throat. “Yes, I’m just getting ready for the grand opening.”
“A winery in Minnesota, I guess the winters will be tough,” the voice said.
“I’ve got it all worked out,” Celine told the voice.
“What’s your name?” the voice asked. “I have never seen you outside in all the years I’ve lived here.”
“I’m Celine. And you are?” she asked.
Celine leaned forward to see a lady watching the sunset dip beyond the trees.
“Margaret,” the lady said.
Celine’s eyes bulged as their gazes meet.
“The plane!” both ladies said breaking into laughter.
“I think you have a story to tell me about Rome,” Margaret said. “And bring the wine.”
© 2016, Savannah Hendricks