Part l, Fall (Maximus)
It had been a hard week for Toni alone in the house. She had gone out to the rose garden and cut the last of the white roses, keeping them on her bedside table. The bedroom at the end of the hall was under construction and she welcomed the sound. The house was getting ready for fall. Sunflowers filled the vase in the living room, the air once again smelled of apples and cinnamon. The summer wreath on the door was replaced with twigs. The forest was dressing in bright reds and golden yellows. Toni spent her days walking,writing and thinking.
It was on a sunny cool day the first of September when she found herself walking up the dirt road past the stables. Fields of wheat surrounded the road and she stopped looking across the field toward the forest, not believing at first but knowing it was him. Her hand went to her mouth and she fell to her knees.
Maximus came through the wheat field and seeing her drop to her knees he suppressed a smile but it remained in his eyes when he came to her.
“You may rise,” he said “I am not a god but a man.” He held out his hand to her
Toni was overcome, he was magnificent. Maximus tilted her chin up and smiled. “I’m sorry I just…you are so…” she sputtered
Maximus looked away and back at her still smiling, “Either you will stand or I will go to my knees with you, Toni.”
“Oh yes, sorry.” She regained her feet. “I thought you might come today.”
“And so I have and here you are to meet me.” He was dressed in his General’s armor and tunic. “Have you walked?”
“Yes, do you mind?”
“Not at all. It’s a good day for walking. I see my horses have not arrived yet,” he observed as they passed the stables.
“Your horses? Oh but of course you would have them.”
“They will come in time. You’ve been alone for a week?”
“Yes I have…Max left a week early…it was what he wanted to do.”
“I understand and perhaps it was for the best, don’t you think?”
“Yes it was,” she bit her lip and watched her feet as she walked conscious of him beside her.
“We will soon reach the house and I will change out of this costume, perhaps then you might look at me as we talk.”
Toni blushed, “I’m sorry I think I am a bit in awe of you.”
“You shouldn’t be and please do not be sorry on my account again. I have been well informed about you, Toni.”
“Good then I don’t have to explain myself to you. Did I say I am so glad you’re here?”
Maximus smiled again, “I believe you have.”
They reached the house and he opened the door for her and said he was going to change and would be down in a moment. Toni hugged herself and walked through the now Spanish dining room and out into the rose garden. There were still a few roses blooming, yellow and red. She picked a yellow one and sat on the bench waiting for Maximus. It was very quiet only the sound of the wind rustling the trees and birds calling to each other.
Maximus found her in the garden. He’d changed into gray slacks and a blue pullover sweater. “Now Toni you see I am a mere mortal.”
She wouldn’t have called him a mere mortal. He still had that presence. “At least you look more comfortable…Maximus.” She had wanted to say sir.
“You look beautiful with yellow roses. They suit you.” He sat down beside her, “this must be Jack’s garden?”
“It is, it appeared when he did, I guess you know why he came?”
“I do and feel badly for you Toni. It’s been an emotional year full of love and loss. I hope I won’t add to your sorrows.”
Toni smiled, “I expect you will. I have no regrets Maximus, for what I have experienced here. At least I have known; do you know what I mean?”
“Oh yes what is it they say ‘better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?”
“You would know that wouldn’t you
but yes I think that’s true. Would you like a drink or snack or something,
it will be awhile before dinner, you dine later am I right?”
Maximus smiled, “I think you might find something prepared in the kitchen shall we go in?”
The house, knowing Maximus so well had prepared a tray of appetizers and a bottle of wine.
“You are well known here I take it?” as she sat down at the island
“One of the first to visit and I find myself back here frequently.”
“Do you ever tire of it?”
He smiled broadly, “No I find it quite fun actually.” He noticed she blushed, “As you have no doubt enjoyed it as well.”
“I have, “she smiled, “as I am sure you know already.”
“Interesting that you asked for me in fall, the last season.” He nibbled on a toast round
“It’s special, the last season I wanted someone special.”
“Thank you,” a small smile; he caught her eye across the island and held it for a minute before looking down at his wine glass. “I hope to meet your expectations.”
Toni’s eyes widened was there ever a doubt, his being here was enough. Suddenly she felt shallow he wasn’t…he was more than that…did he think…
“I’m honored that you are here Maximus.”
He turned his eyes up at her, “you honored me by calling me Toni, I assure you the pleasure is mine.”
She felt a nervous fluttering in her chest and blinked her eyes. He was going to seduce her. She noticed the way he moved, his hand resting on the island, the wine glass turning in his hand, his body resting against the side of the island, he was very sensuous. Does he do it deliberately no he doesn’t his movements are unconscious it’s just who he is
“You’ve caught me speechless I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.”
“Words are not always necessary.” Slow smile eyes hooded
He knows me too well, “you’re right of course, the wine is Spanish?”
“No it’s from Italy are you enjoying it?”
“Yes I am it’s very nice.” She managed to sip without spilling or choking. He had unnerved her.
“I believe your cat wants in, Millie is it?”
“Yes, Millie she goes out now I don’t know where she spends her days.” Toni opened the glass door to the terrace. “She was always an indoor cat until we came here and the weather turned nice in the spring.”
“She’s safe here, just enough out there to keep her interested. Like you I think.”
“Safe yes, I have always felt safe and loved here even when I was alone for awhile. I’ve found I have some say so with the house.”
He met her eyes, “you have a lot of control here. More than you know.”
“Is it always like that, when others come?”
“No and I find that very interesting,” he held her eyes and smiled
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