Chapter One “A Break”
Allen grabbed her purse from under her seat and expertly wove her way through the rows of pristine white desks for the atrium to clock out. She muttered good nights to those still typing diligently at their computers, all determined to unravel the world’s mysteries in science.
That was what they all did. Science. All day, every day. The Einstein’s Center for Biochemical Research was easily one of the leading companies in scientific breakthroughs, whether it be some new and life-saving vaccine or the way to save the single white rhino left in the world without cloning it. The pay was substantial and there was room only for the most qualified.
Eighteen year old Allen T. Forsen had been qualified since she was pulled out of John Quincy Adams Academy to attend the Einstein College for Forward Thinkers at fifteen.
Her mother thought she grew up too fast.
Her father had told her to continue right before he died.
Allen was convinced her father, a successful anesthesiologist, was the smarter one.
She clocked out and stepped out into the rain. It had been raining a lot lately. That was Washington DC for you. Quietly, Allen stood there, just outside the glass door of the tall, white building where she had worked for nearly two years. The rain was a glittering curtain all the way across the street, shimmering like a heavy drapery of Christmas tinsel. The wind pressed through it, causing it to bend and sway in random patterns. Pedestrians hurried through it, huddled in their rain coats and squatting beneath their umbrellas. Cars honked at each other, red brake lights igniting the road all the way down to the National Mall.
No one stopped to relish the beauty in what was left of the nature around them.
Allen released a breath and it fogged before her lips. Spring was not very far advanced yet; this would all pass soon enough. She wished she could be outside more to enjoy it.
She plowed through the cold and caught the metro for home, just as she did every day.
“Allen? That you?”
She rolled her eyes a little as she shut the small apartment door behind her, shivering as she shed her coat. Her long, thick chestnut hair tumbled from its loose bun, cascading down her back to sweep around her narrow waist. She knew she was beautiful, due to the total count of seven guys who had asked her out over the past year. Flawless tan skin, slender figure, wide green hazel eyes hooded by dense black lashes, and impeccable fashion sense. Skinny jeans and slouchy sweaters could never go wrong, especially if it was black. Her mom, though, was like a housewife pulled out of the fifties. Skirts and perms. She wasn’t cool at all.
“Yeah,” she replied in a half sigh. “You expecting someone else?”
“Um, no.” Mrs. Forsen rounded the corner, tucking an oven mitt under her arm. Sure enough, cream colored poodle skirt with a pink blouse tucked into the band. Allen resisted rolling her eyes again. Get with the century, Mom! The elder woman chewed her lip thoughtfully, constantly blowing a rebellious strand of grey-brown hair from her lined face. “I was waiting for you. I have a...proposal.”
“Mom,” Allen groaned, collapsing onto the couch and letting her voluminous wavy hair drape over the back. “If you don’t mind, I’m not intending to do anything at all tonight. Long day at work, as always. I’m tired and just want to eat and sleep, thank you very much.”
“Well, that’s why I thought this up!” the older woman quickly interjected, moving to sit beside her beautiful daughter. She patted her hand, smiling timidly. “I thought you could use a vacation.”
Allen cracked open an eye, her eyebrows raising of their own volition.
Mrs. Forsen grinned. “You remember that house my aunt left us after she died?”
“Yeah, the Pennsylvania Colonial place.”
“Exactly. So, we have the opportunity now to go up and fix it up and turn it into the perfect vacation home if we could go regularly! What do you think? Some mother daughter time, painting, picking out furniture, getting some fresh air, seeing the colors.”
Allen slowly nodded. The idea was growing on her. She needed a break from all the numbers and Latin constantly scrolling before her eyes. From science. Maybe physical work was what she needed.
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds really nice. When do you want to go?”
“As soon as you can get a day off.” She winked. “Retirement has its perks in situations like this.”
Allen chuckled, standing. “I’m sure. I’ll see what I can do.”
With much reluctance from the overseeing doctor, she got the next month off. She was one of the more cherished scientists, but she had only ever asked for time off once before when she was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding. She deserved this much.
Chapter 2 “A New Face”
“Paul, dear! It seems we have new neighbors.”
Paul shook a four year old cousin from his arm and good naturedly shoved him away with his foot, chuckling at the little one’s bubbling laughter. He moved to the window and sat on the plush window seat, pushing away the lace curtain to see across the street. A woman who appeared to have jumped out of a fifties TV show was wrestling with a giant suitcase with undone zippers out of a Porsche parked in the driveway of the fixer-upper Colonial house. Another character ducked out of the car, swinging a purse over her shoulder. Paul rose his eyebrows, cocking his head.
She was gorgeous, the sun highlighting her chestnut curls against a pale blue knit sweater. Her stance conveyed a higher expectation of life, though, than the peeling, creaky old house before her. Paul watched her slowly mount the sagging steps and lightly touch the trellis wall of the front porch. Miss Hilton, the sweet old lady who used to live there and have a soup tureen full of homemade fudge squares sitting on the ancient glass table on the deck, had always loved to tend the rose vines crawling up the posts. Now they were out of control, blood red roses spraying the chipped white porch with shocking color. The newcomer touched a flower with slender fingers, her eyes still scanning the big house, the old iron lamp post exploding from the grass beside it, the titanic oak tree shading it from the hopeful spring sun, the glittering water of the lake behind it. She glanced back over her shoulder at the woman still struggling with the suitcase and Paul straightened, blinking. Her face…like out of a fairy tale book full of princesses given magical gifts of beauty and grace.
He blinked again. He had been reading too much.
Grandma Ingram, resting comfortably in her vintage armchair by the window, watched him with old, sage eyes. She chuckled, nodding out the window.
“She’s pretty, isn’t she?” she suggested coyly, a half-shout over the joyful clamor of the dozen cousins scattered throughout the house.
“Yeah,” Paul winked back at her. “But don’t you go ringing any wedding bells, Grandma. I’ve got no plans.”
“Pauly, you’re twenty years old. At least go talk to the girl!”
He winced. “Please don’t make me. You know I’m not good with people.”
Grandma touched his arm gently. “Just people you don’t know, honey, and that’s just you being shy. It is easily overcome.”
Paul sighed lightly, looking back out the window. The beautiful girl, had retrieved her own duffle bag and was mounting the porch for the day. Again, she reached to touch a rose. Paul took a mental picture, then dismissed it. No moving trucks, no sold sign on the front lawn. They were not here to stay.
“Guess so. I’ll take Miriam and we can bring over a welcoming gift.”
“That is very domestic of you.”
Paul frowned with feigned confusion. “Thank you?”
Grandma laughed. “Go get Miri and head on over there.”
Paul chuckled and shook his head, trotting to the kitchen to fetch one of the many cousins who had invaded the neighborhood. He never minded having them over. Being an only child, he always appreciated the noise they brought with them.
That girl had been alone with the fifties TV show lady.
Hopefully, she would not mind they joyful chaos of family.