Part 4 Summer (Skinner)
Toni soaked in her fragrant tub. She hadn’t seen Max since they came in and she’d gone to her room. She was flattered that he wanted to do something like this…a first since she’d been at the house. She'd found a really pretty white silk sundress in her wardrobe, the fabric strewn about with tiny fern leaves. It was made off the shoulder and fit her perfectly, floating when she turned. Sling back heels and earrings; should she put her hair up or wear it down? A jeweled comb on one side…yes. She fussed over her appearance adding a little make up and a touch of rosewater on her wrists. She wondered what Max would wear. She hadn’t seen him in much besides shorts since he’d come.
Max was just getting in the shower. He had been so worried nothing would happen. He spent most of the afternoon watching from the terrace to see if the house was going to come through. Amazing to watch things just appear out of thin air. The stage was set now it was up to him.
He dressed with care, combed his hair and straightened shoulders. He was confident, polished and in control of himself. He walked out of his room and knocked on her door.
They both stared at each other unable to speak for a moment.
“You look ravishing Toni,” he smiled
Toni was still looking him over. He was dressed in a dark suit, white shirt opened part way down the front. He’d combed his hair back. He was beautiful, “My handsome escort.” She said and tilted her head smiling.
He offered his arm and escorted her through the dining room out the French doors down the garden path through the archway where a fountain had appeared. Beyond the fountain was a white tent. The sides of a soft white fabric billowed out in the breeze. The floor was tiled and the inside of the tent held tiny white lights that lined the top. A table for two was set with white linens and china and the silver gleamed in the candlelight. Large urns of white roses indicated the entrance and as they entered jazz began to play. There was a dance floor to one side and a long buffet near the table with silver covered dishes and a bottle of champagne cooled by their table.
“Max…Max…I can’t believe this, oh Max it’s the most beautiful thing. You…this is you.”
“This is for you Toni I’m glad you’re pleased.”
“More than pleased, oh Max…where did…how did you come up with this?”
“I’d seen a painting in the Tate with billowing curtains and it just came from that. Would you like a glass of champagne?” He uncorked the bottle expertly and handed her a flute.
“I almost want to cry Max, this is so very special.”
Max clipped a white rose and stuck it in the comb that held back her hair on one side. “It’s for a very special lady,” he said and kissed her softly on the lips.
Toni was simply blown away by him and what he had done for her. She hadn’t expected anything like this. She felt her eyes sting and blinked. She watched him move over to the covered dishes checking to make sure everything was right. This was the unknown, the man in control. She’d seen the petulant child in him, the pompous ass he could be, the sexy lover and now this. He was a man of many parts. When he came back to her and took her hand leading her to the table his blue green eyes were soft and she knew she was lost.
They finished their meal of beef tenderloin, haricot verts, new potatoes in butter and rosemary, flakey rolls with herbed butter. She kept meeting his eyes over the table as they ate. He wasn’t very talkative tonight his eyes said it all.
He took her out on the dance floor for quite a while ending with a slow sultry tune that brought her close in his arms, the base seemed to beat with her pulse, his scent played with her senses, she was drowning in his eyes.
“You have me under a spell tonight Max.”
“I hope to keep you there Toni surround you with it fold you in it do you know what it is?” he asked against her ear
“Seduction?” she offered
“That comes later,” he smiled, “this is what I feel for you.”
Toni closed her eyes, how did this happen again? You didn’t know about this side of him did you Jack?
The house was busy in Max’s room. There would have to be candles, fresh sheets, white roses in a crystal vase with French jazz softly playing in the background. Put away the clothes he’d tossed about, neaten the bathroom. Pleased with itself it settled down to await the lovers. She would appreciate all the special touches.
They had another glass of champagne before Toni remembered, “Max I’d like a picture of this tonight, it’s such a special event.”
“Wish your camera here.”
“Oh, ha yes I can can’t I.” It appeared on the table and she took pictures of the tent, of Max and he of her. He took one of them together.
“You have swept me off my feet tonight Max. I’m not sure I want to come back down.”
“The night is not over yet Toni, it’s time for the seduction to commence,” he grinned and took her in his arms.
“I’ll make it easy for you Max I’m half way there now.”
He put his arm around her waist and walked her through the archway through the garden and into the house. The lighting had dimmed to a soft glow and the air was scented with jasmine. They stopped on the landing for a kiss and he led her into his bedroom.
He made love to her kissing her lips until they were red, teasing her body until she cried out for him. Max Skinner was in love and before the night was over he’d won his prize. She lay in his arms and slept through the night.
Before she became fully conscious the next morning Toni knew she was with Max, his scent filled her, surrounded her and warmed her. She snuggled closer to him and he responded, still asleep with his hand on her bottom.
They began an intense love affair that carried them through the summer. They made love in the cabana by the pool, in the gazebo by the pond, on the beach and nightly in his bed. They were both aware time was not standing still and by mid August they were looking at the end.
Toni had arranged a bar-be-que in the back yard. Chinese lanterns graced the now covered terrace and down the slope toward the beach. Max grilled steaks and she prepared a salad and baked potatoes. Knowing how well he danced she requested some rock music old and new.
“Umm it smells good out here Max,” said Toni as she brought out the salad.
“I hope it tastes as good,Toni, I’ve never done this you know.”
“I am convinced you can do anything Ma. You want to turn them now.” She put her arms around his waist leaning her head on his back.
Toni was all too aware of the two weeks they had left together. She was trying to mentally prepare herself for his leaving. Max would not talk to her about it.
It was late and the blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers brought them into each others arms. She locked her eyes with his as he slowly moved her around, his arms going around her waist and hers around his neck.
“I don’t want this to end Toni.” He whispered
“Neither do I Max but we can’t change it.”
“Isn’t there something you can do? You control the house you know.”
“I don’t really, I can’t change nature darling and I can’t stop time.”
“It’s like waiting for an execution, I can’t stand this, Toni. I don’t think I can do this.”
“What are you talking about Max. We don’t have a choice. It’s going to end. It has to.”
“Maybe…I don’t want to wake up with you one morning and just disappear. I’ll do it my own way. If I have to walk out of your life, I’ll at least do it with some style.” He managed a weak smile and pulled her closer to him.
Toni had no idea what he was talking about and felt tears sting her eyes. “I love you so much Max.”
“I love you too Toni. Let’s go walk on the beach.” He led her down the slope following the lanterns.
A week later he asked her to order up a nice picnic lunch. They would be taking the bike out. He showered and dressed in loose white cotton slacks and a blue knit shirt. He found her in the kitchen packing a bottle of wine.
“Nice touch, what have you got there? Bread and cheese, fruit, pate…very nice. Toni are you ready?”
They road out past the horse paddocks and stables to a pretty spot he’d found earlier on his rides. A narrow river ran over rocks on its way to the sea and by its side on a mossy bank they made their picnic. She fed him grapes and he fed her cheese. It was a very pleasant afternoon. They made love on the blanket before packing up the remains of their day. A cool breeze came up sending chill bumps up her arms and he said it was time to get her back.
He pulled the bike up to the front of the house and took her in his arms. Toni had an inkling of what was coming before they left the river bank and had tried to prepare herself.
“I’m going to go now Toni,” he said and bit his bottom lip, “don’t forget our summer love.”
“I could never forget you Max,” and she parted her lips for his kiss.
Max mounted his bike and rode off toward the dirt road.
Toni stood where he’d left her until the sound of his bike disappeared. She felt numb and turned to walk into the house, closing the door behind her as leaves began to blow across the walk.
The house felt her sadness and prepared her tub of warm herb scented water. Toni walked upstairs to her room undressed and lay back in her tub letting the tears wash her face. Later she got out and pulled on her robe. She tried Max’s door and found it would not open. The house had known he was leaving.
Toni went down to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. Taking her cup to her bedroom she pulled out her selection for fall and sat alone in the dark and watched the movie.