Sunday 15 December 2013

The Beautiful American by Marilyn Holdsworth @m_holdsworth

Chapter 3

When Mildred and Max pulled into the driveway, Muttie bounded out the back door to greet them, and both smiled and waved to Abby as she came down the steps after the bouncing, barking dog. Max stooped down and rubbed behind Muttie’s ears before walking over to Abby’s van. He peered inside at the desk and then opened the door and climbed inside.

“I’ve made room for it in the living room, Max. Do you want a Dolley to move it? I have one in the garage.”

“Nah. Not for this.” His wide, flat fingers clamped securely around the ends of the desk, and easily, he lifted it from the van and then started for the house. Minutes later, the three of them were in Abby’s living room admiring her auction find.

“It’s just the right size,” Abby enthused, laying her hand on the smooth, inlaid wood.

“French?” Mildred asked.

“Yes. I’ll do a little research to be sure, but I’d say more neoclassical than rococo in style. The inlay and rosettes at the top of the legs suggest late 1700s or early 1800s. Also, it has straighter lines than the heavier Louis XV cabinetry. And this delicate pattern was popular in that French neoclassical period,” she said, pointing to one of the tiny basket of flowers with a ribbon trailing from it that decorated each drawer front.

Carefully she removed one of the side drawers and showed Max and Mildred the desk’s tongue-and-groove craftsmanship. She turned the drawer over and examined the bottom, her fingers tracing the wood grains. “Sometimes, these old pieces have a date or initials of the maker somewhere on them. I’ll have to examine it thoroughly for any clues to its origin. But right now, let’s see about that cup of tea I promised you both.” She slid the drawer back in place and walked toward the kitchen.

Seated in the cozy breakfast nook, the trio breathed in the aromas from a steaming pot of tea and a plate of homemade scones on the table before them.

“My favorites,” Mildred said helping herself to one of the small blueberry muffins before passing them to Max.

“Your recipe. I can’t take the credit,” Abby said, laughing. “Just another of the many good things you’ve brought to me.” She beamed at the older woman affectionately. “English breakfast tea and scones—both have become an important part of my life.”

Max settled back, easing his large frame away from the small table. “Nice, nice, I’d say, whoever’s recipe it is. You plannin’ on comin’ into the shop later this afternoon?”

“Yes. I want to adjust the pricing on a few items. I got some ideas from that auction, and I think my Haviland china pieces are marked wrong. Also, I’d like to make some changes in our window display if you two can spare the time to help me.”

Their conversation flowed easily as they discussed ideas for marketing and some of Abby’s new orders from customers. Almost an hour later, the three of them finally left for the shop.

Located across town, Abby’s Antiques and Collectibles was in the middle of the main block in newly restored Old Town Westfield. Wide, paned windows across the front and Tudor-style wood siding gave it the feel of a country English china shop. The printing on the sign over the door was in old-world script, and Abby had added window boxes filled with colorful flowers by the entrance. A bell tinkled over the doorway when it was opened, and the soft sounds of classical music always floated out to greet customers. The shop’s interior was elegant but warmly inviting, and on many days, Abby offered English tea and freshly baked scones to visitors.

This afternoon, Abby was studying the shop’s front window display with a critical eye. “I want to capture more of a European look. That lovely French tapestry we got in yesterday with its subtle shades of rose and soft greens would be a perfect backdrop for these antique books and porcelains. Don’t you think so, Mildred?”

Mildred cocked her head to one side, appraised the space, and then nodded. “Some rich, brocaded fabric draped over that small gilt-framed chair in the corner might add another tad of color,” she suggested.

The two women worked together arranging the smaller pieces in the window while Max hung the tapestry and carried the larger items for display from the back of the shop. “That ornate, bronze candelabra—put it just there next to the Waterford crystal bowl, Mildred. And let’s hang some gold tassels from the corners of that tapestry. That’s it. Perfect.” Abby smiled as she stepped back to survey their work.

“It looks good to me,” a deep, resonant voice from behind her said.

She whirled around and found herself staring up at Nathan Edwards for the second time that day. He was standing on the edge of the sidewalk, rocking back on his heels as he studied the window. “Didn’t know if I’d find anyone around,” he told her. “But I thought I’d at least locate your shop, even if I had to make another trip.” He smiled broadly at her.

“Are you always such an impulsive shopper?” Abby laughed.

“Impulsive, yes. Shopper, no. But I do need a desk, and you said you have one for sale. One shop, one desk—my kind of deal.”

“Ah yes, that’s what you came to see. I did mention the two I have here in the shop.” She opened the door and the bell tinkled as she ushered him inside, calling over her shoulder to Mildred and Max, “Just be a minute.”

Nathan commented on some of the furniture and collections displayed throughout as he followed her to the back of the shop. “You have some exceptional things. I’m not an expert, but even an amateur collector like me can see that.”

“You’re a collector? Paintings, furniture?”

“Mostly furniture. I restore old pieces in my spare time. Made a few reproductions for friends. It kinda fits with my job.”

“Which is?” Abby asked switching on the overhead lights.


“Architect. Always makes me think of steel, concrete, and glass. Jetting modern skyscrapers with sleek, cold lines.”

“Not necessarily,” he smiled. “Not for me anyway. I specialize in restoring historical properties.”

“Oh, that should be interesting, especially around here. There’s a lot of history in this area.” She stopped in front of a large, polished, mahogany desk. “Here, this is one of the pieces I wanted to show you.”

He ran his hand over the smooth leather inset in the desk’s top and then opened each of the drawers. “Good. It has a file drawer and plenty of leg room.” He stood back, admiring the piece. “I’ll take it.”

“But we haven’t discussed price,” she protested.

“Like I said, I’m not much of a shopper.”

“Right. I remember. Impulsive, yes. Shopper, no.” They both laughed. “I’d have to agree with your self-analysis, but I still better tell you the price before you really decide.”

He nodded, and when she quoted a figure to him, he produced a checkbook, wrote out a draft, and handed it to her.

“Impulsive, yes. Shopper, no,” she said again, laughing as she looked at the check he had handed to her. “No bargaining?”

“No point in wasting time. I know what I want when I see it.” He flashed a boyish grin.

“Well, you certainly seem to. Do you have a way to transport it?”

“Truck’s out front. If you have somebody here to help me load, I can handle it myself on the other end.”

“Max is helping me with the new window display. He’ll be glad to lend a hand. Just pull your truck around into the alley back here.” Abby opened the shop’s wide double doors that faced onto a small, concrete platform with a ramp leading down to a narrow, gravel drive.

Nathan backed his dark blue pickup into the alley. When he hopped out, Max was already standing by the desk with pieces of cord in his hands. “I’ll run this here cord through the drawer pulls and tie ’em down tight so they won’t be bangin’ while you’re drivin’.”

“Thanks,” Nathan said, producing a couple of tarps from the cab. When the two men had the desk loaded, Nathan covered it carefully. “There. That oughta do it. Don’t want any scratches on that beautiful finish.” He turned to Abby. “Did you get your desk home?”

She nodded. “Thanks to Max. He helped me get it into the house. It fits in perfectly. I really love it.”

“Nice piece, and I think you got a good buy.”

“I know I did. I may want to do a little restoration on it. I really haven’t had a chance to look it over carefully yet.”

“Well. If you need any help, let me know. It’s my hobby, and I’d be glad to offer my assistance with that or any other pieces,” he said, glancing toward the interior of the shop. “Now I better get this desk of mine home. Thanks again. I know I’m going to like it.”

Abby watched him climb into the truck and pull out of the alley. Before turning into the main street, he slowed, looked back, and waved. She was still standing on the ramp watching as the truck disappeared around the corner.

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Genre - Biographies & Memoirs

Rating – PG-13

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