Being Inspired, maybe - 70
A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like. For instance:
And, then, the words:
I'd heard about the Worthington gardens, everyone had, they'd been featured in the press, magazines and on television.
I never thought I'd get to personally see them, in this lifetime or any other, but there i was, standing in the threshold of a whole new world.
But, you ask, how did I get here?
That is a story in itself, so you will have to bear with me while I give you some background, and maybe then you will understand what I did not.
It was a bad week at the office.
I'd been at loggerheads with both my father, and my older brother, Joseph Taylor Jr., the heir apparent, and lost.
And it was a bad loss, one that was going to cost 200 jobs and get a lot of bad press. I had tried my hardest, painstakingly crunched the numbers to show we could make a profit, but enough to keep it going.
Apparently, that didn't matter, the heir apparent decided it had to go, and our father, thinking more about the bottom line than the welfare of his workers, or the town, agreed with him.
Joe had just left my office after gleefully telling me the news, and left me sitting in that plush office, gutted. I had hoped it could be done the easy way, but it looked now like it was going to be the hard way.
I groaned inward and leaned back in the chair.
A few minutes later, in the middle of devising how I could kill my brother and get away with it, the phone rang, and after the seventh ring, I answered it.
I wasn't expecting a call. She had told me that she would be busy with her family this weekend.
It was a pleasant interruption to scheming that was going nowhere.
"It's Friday, please don't tell me you've forgotten."
"Forgotten what?" It was out before could stop it.
I couldn't remember what it was I was supposed to be doing with her, my attention had been so focused on what was now a lost cause.
"You have forgotten, haven't you?"
Reluctantly I had to agree. I learned at the start that lying to her was not a good thing. Since the first time and an admonishment, there wasn't a second.
"Was it something about dinner?"
"You are hopeless Henry. I was going to cook dinner, you were staying over and go to the Worthington Treasure Hunt. I managed to wheedle us an invitation."
That invitation was the most sought after, and most prized by anyone who was anyone in society. And this treasure hunt, an annual charity event, had grown in size and stature over the last five years. Now it was by personal invitation only, and I was surprised Heidi was able to get one.
"I'll save that little story when you come over. I'll be waiting."
The line went dead, and I was left holding the receiver, and contemplating what to do.
It was not as if Heidi and I were an item, in fact, if I went, and stayed as she suggested, it would be the first time. And to be honest, I had no idea who she was, just that she hung out with girls whose parents made up the social set in the city. I figured she had been sent to an expensive school by parents who couldn't really afford it but wanted the best for their child.
Unlike the children of our family, sent to post schools to ensure out superiority over others in the city. It was not what I wanted or practised, unlike my brother, and kept me and my father at loggerheads.
I put the receiver back in its cradle, my mind made up. I didn't want to stay at the office, and I definitely didn't want the go up to the board room to celebrate my brothers so-called success.
Heidi, dinner, and whatever may follow, was far more palatable.
Her apartment was on the middle floors of the building and just a standard apartment. She had mentioned it before, conversationally when we were going through those awkward first stages of building a relationship of sorts. I lived at home, a very large home, but even so, it elicited the arched eyebrows. It was not a place I intended to take her anytime soon because my parents, I knew, would not seem her suitable.
I thought otherwise, considering her normal, and my first glimpse into her home showed none of the wealth that she would have seen in our house, and instead, just a collection of normal functional furnishings arrayed in a manner to suggest she was anything but ordinary.
And, judging by the aromas that met me at the front door, she could also cook. I hung my coat on the rack inside the door and followed her into the kitchen.
She had already made a start on the wine, a rather interesting red from Italy.
"Have some wine and make yourself at home. This will cook itself soon, so we can have a drink and talk."
There was an inflection in her tone that told me it was not going to be the same sort of talk suggested by her earlier phone call, and it worried me.
I poured a healthy measure into the wine glass and say down. The chairs were not far from the kitchenette, in what was a well-designed apartment, space-wise. It was small, but it didn't make you feel cramped.
As she stirred the sauce, I asked, "So how did you pull off getting an invitation. Those are as rare as hens’ teeth. You basically have to be a BFF with one of the Worthington’s."
She finished stirring and put the lid on the pot, then glanced at a larger saucepan, then turned to me.
"I am. Their daughter."
"So you would know a little about them. I have only my father's opinion of them. He's known them for years, Mr and Mrs, they all went to school together. Nowadays, I don't think they talk much as all."
"I know a little, but you're right. It's not what you know but who you know." She smiled, indicating that's all I'd get out of her until we attended.
But if she knew the daughter, whose name I'd forgotten because she'd been away with her mother since a bitter divorce, and only recently returning anonymously after her mother died, meant at least one person in the city know of her.
Everyone was quite eager to meet her but her father and the new me a Worthington had been very secretive, pleading for everyone to give her some space and time to settle in.
"How is it you know her when no one has seen her since she returned."
"She likes her privacy, doesn't live at home, and stays under the radar. But you'll meet her tomorrow, and I can assure you will be surprised."
"I certainly hope so."
Dinner was followed by more wine, watching a movie, and no sleeping together. I had my own room and pyjamas provided. I wonder who else had shared my good fortune before me.
And no, it was not a question I asked. The past is the past and best left there.
Next morning, I woke in what seemed to be an empty apartment. There was no noise of any sort, and for a moment it was disorienting.
Then I saw the note next to the bedside clock.
"Sorry, but family stuff got in the way of a good breakfast, and a few pleasant hours together before t the hunt. Meet me at the main gate at midday. Don't be late."
The invitation, printed in gold had my name on it, and not hers, something I thought odd. The shrugged it off to her eccentricity, one of the foibles I liked about her.
200 acres of manicured gardens await. It was going to be a long, long day.
© Charles Heath 2019