The Making of Spire
The Making of Spire
Jill Marie Denton
The very edges of her pink lips curled up at the first sight of the magnificent yet decrepit old hilltop manor house.
Through tinted windows, she noted the eastern and western wings extending from the 3 story main entry, attached by greyed marble to an overhang, like a valet station waiting for a patron. All around the mansion was landscaping long since ignored; trees draping their burdened boughs to hide the dusty windows, and grass overgrown to knee height.
The Escalade slid along the lane edged with overgrown shrubs and under the overhang. The driver, clad in navy like a Marine, stepped to the right-side rear door and ushered out his passenger, the finely dressed half-business woman, half-rock star.
She pressed both palms down the short length of her business suit’s black skirt to soften the wrinkles the leather seat had creased into her newest Versace splurge. The matching jacket nipped in just south of her chest, covered modestly by a plum-colored camisole. It nearly matched the jewel-tone of her eyes, while her slightly tanned skin made her hair seem more golden than the sunshine trying desperately to poke its way through the overgrowth of the property.
The driver tipped his hat and waited in the huge, fully-appointed SUV while Emmi showed herself inside. Thin gunmetal heels dinged along the cobblestone entry and into the main foyer as her sunglasses shifted down her nose. Pity overtook her heart as she took in the full view of the ancient entry. The majestic, handset stones were dusty with cobwebs that stretched down the walls and onto the railing guiding guests further inside. The paint, dingy and yellowed with age, reminded her of a haunted house.
The charm was impossible to ignore, though. There was potential as she’d first assumed there’d be.
From the west wing’s darkened hallway emerged an unshaven and greying man of middle age. Around his pudgy middle, a tool belt hung on for dear life. In heels, she matched his height, though he staggered with age with every step he took. A plain white tee far too worn to be from within the decade, plus the heavy work boots in dulled tan meant he was doing the best he could with a work in inevitable progress.
A hint of southern twang peeked out in his greeting. “Miz Vendetta, I presume?”
She removed her sunglasses, tucking them into her immense shoulder bag and retrieving a small leather-bound folio. “Yes, sir. Though I’d prefer you call me Emmi. You must be Mr. Arnold.”
It was evident he was confused by her presence, let alone her interest in the property as he led her forward with an arm wave. “Yes, ma’am. As you can see, it’s been one helluva project since I got it.”
Opening her folio and clicking her pen, she began writing in cursive lettering. Though he tried to peek, he couldn’t see her scribing.
“Don’t’cha got one of those new electronic notepads like everybody else? That’s a little basic for a starlet, no?”
She smiled down at her notes. “Perhaps.” Pen continued to trail over paper for a few minutes more.
At his continued silence, she looked up from her writing to see him regarding her like an explanation was long overdue. She closed her notebook, tucking her pen over her right ear and stepping slightly toward him.
“Mr. Arnold, you’re wondering why I’m here,” she said calmly, evenly.
“Of course I am, Miz Emmi. You could afford to build yourself some beautiful shore house someplace in Malibu, Aruba, someplace else. Why take on this monster?”
She simply smiled, reaching out to lay a gentle palm on his shoulder. “Because this is what I want.” She turned to take a single step into the living area beyond the entry. “I see potential here, Mr. Arnold, and perhaps a little more secrecy than a California estate could provide. Besides,” she smiled back to him. “This is my home state, and I intend to live here where I belong.”
He simply shrugged, obviously confused but unwilling to argue. “Miz Emmi, you do whatever your little heart desires. I’m just sayin’ this place needs more help than a one-armed farmer.”
Reopening her notepad and retrieving her pen, she jotted down a note to authorize the wire for the property’s purchase. She’d need another wire to pay the landscaper and security personnel on standby, plus a third to hire that sound engineering company to install the recording equipment she’d need to turn the basement into the studio she’d dreamed of.
Snapping the folio shut again, she glanced up at him calmly. “Did we agree on the price, Mr. Arnold? I will be sending your wire this afternoon if we have.”
“But you haven’t seen the whole place.”
“I don’t need to. It’s perfect.”
“Miz Emmi,” he began, stepping toward her with eyes warm in warning. “That kinda money could do wonders by you, and on a better plot than this one. Not that I wanna keep troublin’ myself over it, but,” he scratched his greying temple, “you gotta know this is a lemon worthy of a cocktail glass and one of those little umbrellas.”
She couldn’t hide the grin or muffle the chuckle. “And Mr. Arnold, you gotta know,” she began mimicking his accent and laying her palm again on his shoulder. “Once I set my mind to something, nothing stands in my way.”
His incredulous eyes followed her out onto the cobblestones again as she called back, “You will have your money by this time tomorrow. Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Arnold.”
Riding off in the Escalade, she considered the few million she’d promised to be dollars well spent. Her bandmates wouldn’t understand her move any more than Mr. Arnold, but that didn’t matter.
She was home.
<3 JMS ~ Feb 2016