“A House of Colours” Part 4 – The House
“So, where should we start first…hmm, the basement and we’ll work our way up from there. Yes, that would be best.” Raven looked at her diminutive guest, smiling as she pressed the floor button and the elevator began to silently descend.
“Ooh, the fungeon!” Poppy giggled. “I’ll save that for another day little one. Perhaps I’ll let Dark give you the tour there,” Raven grinned as the doors slid opened to the basement. To their left were a pair of massive heavy oak doors, intricately decorated with delicately-shaped ironmongery, and padlocked shut. To the right, glass doors that were much more akin to the style of the the others in the house, leading to the gym.
Raven ushered her guest to the right, guiding Poppy towards the glass doors that opened automatically with a “whoosh” as they approached. Poppy couldn’t refrain from glancing back over her shoulder to the chain wrapped around the doors of the fungeon. “We have to keep it locked. Otherwise, I’m afraid Dark might never come out…no windows…she loves it in there.”
Standing in the open expanse of the state-of-the-art gym, surrounded by all manor of equipment, from running and rowing machines to pilates mats and balls, Poppy was intrigued by her Mistress’ last comment and bravely asked “If this house is about safety and happiness, why not let her stay in there all the time?” Raven turned to the girl, smiling at her growing curiosity and placing her hands gently on Poppy’s shoulders as she explained, “the house IS absolutely about those things indeed sweetie, but it’s also about balance. Think of your schooling, did you have a favourite subject?” Poppy was quick to answer, “oh sure, definitely literature!” Raven’s eyes twinkled as she purred “Excellent choice! Now, imagine for a moment that you ONLY studied that one subject. At first it would probably be great. But after a while, one of two things will inevitably happen. Either you’ll get tired of doing the same thing over and over, and lose your passion for it. Or, because of your single-minded focus you’ll end up woefully lacking in knowledge about other important subjects. Saffron and I wish for everyone’s experience in this home to be a rounded and balanced one. It’s one of our most important rules. And with the girls, that means occasionally forcing them outside of their comfort zones – for example, social situations for White, and with Dark, well we never give up hope that one day she might be confident enough to leave the house. Anyway, come on, let’s head up to the next floor.”
With that they walked up the flight of stairs to the ground floor. “So Poppy, since literature was your favourite subject, I take it you enjoy reading?” Raven asked. “Um, well yes, I guess I’m a bit of a bookworm,” the girl eagerly replied. This was, of course, a modest understatement. Poppy loved reading and had cherished her books from a very young age, finding between their covers a beautiful place to escape her life for hours on end. “I’m delighted to here that,” responded Raven, as they reached the top of the stairs and crossed the hall. “I think you just might enjoy this room very much then.”
Raven turned and winked at Poppy as she pushed open the glass doors to the library with a flourish. As they walked to the center of the room, the doors closed behind them and Poppy’s eyes lit up. The glass doors were backed with heavy red velvet curtains, so once inside, the room was fully contrasted against the rest of the house. Dark oak furniture was carefully scattered around the room and heavy red curtains covered the windows. On the far wall a monstrously large fireplace encased in aged marble, while the other three walls were consumed, floor to ceiling, by bookcases of the finest oak literally groaning under the weight of the books held within them. The white marble floor was almost completely obliterated by the deep red and black rugs, and the finishing touch, an antique leather sofa and two chairs tucked snugly beneath the windows overlooking the rear of the property.
“Wow,” breathed Poppy. “I sure could spend an awful lot of time in here.” Raven smiled back at her,”Really? This is my little oasis in the house. I’m a bit of a collector, so you’ll find all sorts of things in here. We have Shakespeare’s complete works in three different languages, entire collections of C.S.Lewis, various genre authors such Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Harold Robins, Tolkein, right through to Dr Zuess, Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton. There’s even a Bible and a Qa’ran around here someplace.” Poppy looked surprised, and cautiously stuttered “umm, they’re er, well, not really my, ah, thing.” “That’s okay sweetie,” Raven assured her, ” I actually have them because they’re filled with thought provoking imagery and wonderful poems, even if they ARE nothing more than works of fiction. Words are the most powerful thing man has created and learned to manipulate. I’m sure we’ll have much time together in here. Come along, or we’ll be here all night!”
Adjacent to the library was a large kitchen. “This is more for the occasional formal gathering or party we throw. We don’t use it ourselves, as there’s a perfectly adequate kitchen off the main living room upstairs, and White is an angel in it. She prepares many of the meals for us.” Opaque glass screening.opened out to a grand dining area that Poppy couldn’t help but marvel at for its understated simplicity. A long glass table hung suspended from the ceiling on white chains. It was long enough to easily seat about twenty people. Up-lighters complimented the minimal fixed lighting in the room. Even the chairs were intricate sculptures in glass. Large bold modern artworks adorned the walls, with the main window running all the way along the side of the room and overlooking a large pristine garden.
“Okay sweetie?” Raven checked. “Glass polish!” Poppy smiled back. “A full-time job, indeed!” Raven’s eyebrows lifted high. “Well, you’ve already seen the main living room, so let’s skip to the sleeping floor, shall we?” Picking up Poppy’s bags, they headed back toward the elevator. “Doesn’t anyone ever use those fabulous stairs?” Poppy gestured to the sweeping curved staircase. “Oh, of course. But you have a very busy weekend ahead little one, so let’s conserve your energy for now, okay?” Raven answered with grin as she spun on her heel and pressed the button on the lift.
Two floors up, they reached as high as the elevator went. As the door slid open, Poppy turned to Raven with a puzzled expression and queried, “wasn’t there one more floor?”
“Yes dear, you’ll see.”
They stepped out into another marbled lobby, with the top of the grand stairway to the left leading straight into a bedroom suite that the pair entered. Poppy glanced around. The room had two opposite walls which featured full floor to ceiling windows and balconies to the front and rear of the property. A small white spiral staircase in the centre of the room led upwards, but it was the bed that clearly dominated the room. It was easily the biggest bed Poppy had ever seen, adorned in red silk sheets. “What size is that bed, double king size or something?!” she gasped. “Oh, and what a colour!”
Raven smirked, “Super Double Goddess size…and the colour was a compromise, mixing White and Black together makes grey which isn’t nearly as theatrical as the ‘rouge’, my second favourite colour.” Raven removed her leather jacket and lay it on the bed, revealing her red sleeveless top and tanned shoulders. Poppy caught herself staring at her Mistress, so quickly glanced away. As her eyes strayed around the room, she noticed a double doorway on the opposite wall that led off somewhere else. A dressing room maybe? As she turned around, she noticed what was no doubt a bathroom, and bravely stepped forwards to peer in. “This bathroom is bigger than my apartment,” she whispered. “Damn, and the shower is bigger than my bedroom!” she shrieked.
Raven was chuckling to herself as she carried Poppy’s bag across the room around the bed, beneath the spiral stairs and towards the doorway in the far wall. “Come here Poppy, and let me show you the dormitory.”
Poppy skipped across the room feeling the subtle breeze of air conditioning, circulating from vents in the ceiling. She let her hand glide across the bed as she passed it, and feeling the white painted wrought iron stairs with an upstretched hand as she passed beneath them. She might only be here for a weekend, but she wanted to fill her head with all the sights, touches, scents and tastes she could remember – memories for sometime down the road when the real world started overwhelming her.
“These are the girls bedrooms.” Raven gestured to four white-painted wooden doors, aligned in a long corridor, secluded from the master bedroom. A fifth door at the end of the hallway led to a shared bathroom. “Dark’s and White’s are the first two bedrooms, your room for the weekend is the third. And the fourth is, well empty.” The girl’s rooms are their own sanctuaries. If they are in here with the door shut, no one disturbs them, regardless of the time of day. But the doors are never locked. Once each of them decided to stay, we ceremoniously decorated their room however they wanted.”
“Do you think they would mind if I took a peek?” Poppy cautiously asked. Raven stepped forward, heading for Whites door and opening it, allowing Poppy to look inside. It wasn’t a big room, but there was plenty of room for a large single bed with a bedside cabinet and mirrored wardrobes lining the back wall. A large roof window allowed plenty of light in, but not permitting a view. For someone called “White,” Poppy thought, there sure was a lot of pink! One wall was painted entirely fuchsia pink, with matching bedsheets and night light, and pink feather boas hanging from the walls. She spied a few photographs of family beside the alarm clock by the bed. The room looked remarkably normal, with one exception – the collection of gags that hung along the corner of one wall. On seeing these, Poppy looked at Raven with eyes raised. “No TV, but a nice collection of toys I see.”
“No TV’s in the bedrooms,” Raven echoed. “But the girls have tablets to use for the internet or to listen to music, and they have the freedom of the house. Saffron and I just believe that certain things like TV aren’t good for social development, especially if you’re watching it alone.” Poppy smiled at her Mistress’ passionate response. It felt well thought out…almost…parental. “And Dark’s Room?” Poppy questioned.
“Dark’s room is…different. But it’s what she wanted,” Raven replied. “Here, let me show you yours for the night,” and she moved to open the third door. Poppy sensed in Raven a strong protective instinct of Dark. It made her curious as to what might possibly have happened to the girl. In fact, it made her totally curious about the circumstances that led to both her and White ending up in the house.
She stepped across the threshold and into the third room, as Raven placed her bag on the bed. It was a rather plain room, simply furnished, but reflective of the tone of the majority of the house. “So, how did the girls come to be here?” Poppy couldn’t resist asking. Raven sat down on the bed and patted at a spot beside her, gesturing for Poppy to sit with her. She took Poppy’s small hands into her own, and looked down at the girl with a loving gaze.
“They have differing reasons that led to them coming here. As different as the reasons deep inside you, little one, that have brought you here with us to spend the weekend. We found the girls when they needed us, and we intend to remain here as long as they continue to need us.” Poppy gazed back and felt Raven’s hands firmly around hers.
The corners of her mouth raised slightly, hinting at an underlying smile, as she nodded slowly in acknowledgement that she understood. It didn’t answer any of her questions, but it satisfied her curiosity for the moment. Rationalized simply in her mind, if everyone was happy, then what did it matter.
“Do I need change for dinner?” Poppy asked, thinking it unlikely, but wanting to be polite enough to ask her hostess. “Sweetie, you’ve probably got about ten minutes before dinner arrives, so I’ll leave to unpack a few bits, but no, there’s no need to change. Just kick your shoes off, and treat the house as your home all the while you are here. You are our most welcome guest.” With that, Raven stood up, leaned over to place her hands on Poppy’s shoulders, and gently kissed her on the forehead before silently leaving the room.
Poppy sat and looked around the room, kicked off her Sketchers and flexed her bare toes onto the cool floor. Reaching for her bag, she unzipped it and found her wash bag before walking off to the shared bathroom down the hall. Opening the door, a tidy bathroom greeted her, decorated predominantly in white, with the exception of pink and black towels, and quite in keeping with the rest of the house. A cupboard beneath the sink revealed all the usual items you’d expect for a girl to carry out her daily ablutions. Poppy didn’t unpack her things, instead deciding to simply leave her wash bag by the sink. She walked back down the corridor past the fourth bedroom and then glancing in as she passed her temporary room for the weekend. She continued past White’s “pink haven,” before slowing, her hand gliding along the wall and stopping on the handle of door into Dark’s lair.
She paused for a moment, a wave of curiosity washing over her, but quickly shook her head to remove the temptation and moved on. Raven had chosen NOT to show her Dark’s room. There was obviously a good reason, and somewhere deep inside, Poppy already understood that her Mistress knew best. So she continued on through the archway and into the Mistress’ huge bedroom. She looked up at the white spiral staircase above her head. Curiosity finally got the better of her, rationalizing that she was sure it was meant to be part of the tour, just forgotten.
Her bare feet padded up the white painted metal treads of the stairs towards the streaming daylight above. As her head cleared the floor level of the upper room it quickly became apparent that this was some sort of office, but an office built almost entirely out of glass atop this huge house. By no means did the office cover the same full floor space as the house itself, but nonetheless is was still enormous. This was by far the busiest room Poppy had seen, with four separate computer monitors stretched across a wide glass desk covered in a mountain of paperwork. Six half-height white metal filing cabinets were lined along one side, creating a large surface area topped with a glass panel which was covered in more paperwork and small mock-ups of buildings. A soft white leather office chair with a sofa to one side completed the furnishings.
If the library was Raven’s sanctuary, then this had to be Saffron’s room, but clearly a working room. As she finally stood up in the middle of the room, she saw for the first time a full panorama of the outside world. To the north was the front of the house. Beyond the white gates lay the valley, with its winding road leading back to town. To each side, she could barely make out the neighbours adjacent properties through white silver birch trees. This was definitely a larger plot of land that the neighbours. She had noted that throughout the house there were no windows facing out to either side. In the south-facing end of the room, double doors opened onto a roof terrace with views over the back garden. Below here was a deck terrace and pool area that appeared to lead out from the living room, with steps down to meet the gardens that rose uphill behind the house. Poppy could see a well-tended garden split over several levels, lawn into flower garden into what appeared to be vegetables, and then long meadow grass at the top with a huge corkscrew willow standing proud as the focal point.
She heard a strange noise from the rooftop room and walked back towards it, heading through and peering down into the front garden. She spied a pizza delivery van, and White skipping down the driveway to the gate. Poppy smiled, whispering to herself “all this, and pizza too!” She hurriedly skipped herself off down the spiral stairs and through the bedroom, choosing the grand staircase rather than the lift to descend one floor down to the living room. She was greeted with a warm smile from Saffron who sat reading intently on her Kindle. Raven stood by the front window, appearing to be keeping an eye on White outside, as Dark flanked her, but a few steps back, seeming skittish to not get too close to the window.
Finally, they stepped back from the window. “You know what we need sweetie?” Raven spoke to Dark who smiled and nodded back before streaking off to the kitchen area. White proudly walked in, almost straining beneath the weight of the pizza boxes, and smiling at Poppy as she passed. “Who else is coming?” asked Poppy, staring at the tower of boxes in White’s arms which she carefully lowered onto the centre of the booth table.
Saffron had placed her Kindle down, and moved alongside Poppy, looping her arm inside the girl’s. “We didn’t know what you’d like, so the girls ordered most variations on the menu. Go on Poppy, have a seat.” Poppy stepped into the booth, and slid around the table as Saffron and Raven slid in on either side of her. Dark came back in the room with a huge tray full of drink choices and condiments for the Friday night feast. On placing it down on the table, she started handing out glasses, turning to White and and smiling expectantly. “Well? What did he say?” “Hehe,” giggled White, “he asked what my name might be!” “No way!” exclaimed Dark. “What did you say to him?” “I said it might be a lot of things, it might be Cinderella, or Aurora, or simply Snow White!” She giggled like a teen schoolgirl waiting to be asked out to the prom.”
“White, you are such a tease my dear,” Saffron observed.
“Oh, sorry,” she said looking a little sad.
“Don’t be silly dear, I’m proud of you. Just remember, you’re a pretty little prize for anyone to have, and men are weakened by a girl’s beauty. Once you’ve learned that you’ll be able to do anything.”
Poppy observed White’s satisfied smile at those word. Saffron was empowering her, nurturing her, just as Raven had mentioned earlier.
Dark and White giggled to each other. “Was that all you said?” Dark asked, “Always leave them wanting more right?” She turned to Saffron once more for validation, who as before with Dark’s embrace of Poppy, nodded with approval.
“He did ask if maybe I might be able to come out on a date.” She smiled at Dark as she spoke. “No way!” Dark exclaimed excitedly, “what did you say to that?”
“I said I might, as I walked away. Hehe.”
“Oh my gosh, we have to have pizza again next week, would…would you go?” Dark asked nervously. “Umm,” White turned to Saffron for guidance, who merely nodded. “I guess I would consider it.”
The girls took their seats, Dark alongside Saffron and White next to Raven. Conversation turned to Poppy, with White throwing all manor of questions at her, and Dark listening intently, asking just a few. It didn’t take long for Poppy to run through what she felt was a pretty uneventful life. And she wasn’t brave enough to ask any questions herself, like how did you all get here and who paid for this mansion!? No, instead she just relaxed, ate pizza and watched this group of girls interact like a family. Dark and Light probably similar to her in age, with Saffron and Raven 5 maybe even 10 years older acting as, maybe not surrogate parents, but bigger confident cool sisters.
After the meal White and Dark scurried. Poppy gestured to get out of the seat to help, but Saffron and Raven weren’t budging. “You are our guest this weekend Poppy,” Saffron added. “There’s no need, really.” “Okay, thank you,” she replied.
“I’m stuffed!” exclaimed Raven. “I need a comfy chair and ice cream. Come on Poppy, let’s go get comfy.” The three of them moved from the table. Saffron took the large arm chair, Raven the middle of the long couch.
“Poppy, why don’t you wander into the kitchen and get the girls to point you towards the ice cream. They’ll know what we want. Choose whatever one you wish.” Poppy skipped off to the kitchen and found the girls already staring into the freezer. They had already removed four individual tubs. Baileys for Saffron and Strawberry Cheesecake for Raven. Peanut Butter Chocolate was Darks choice and French Vanilla Whites. Poppy stood and looked into a well stocked freezer scanned for a moment and chose Mint Chocolate Chip.
The three girls made their way back to the living room. Poppy holding back to see where the other two would sit naturally. Dark headed for a spot on the floor in front of Saffron, sitting cross-legged with her back leaning on the chair, and passing Saffron’s ice cream to her as she did. White settled down on the couch alongside Raven, who greeted her with a smile and held her arm up to gesture for the girl to move closer. White did so, handing Raven her ice cream as she tucked herself in close. Poppy considered her options; a spare chair opposite the couch, the seat on the other side of Raven, or maybe somewhere on the floor.
Raven made eye contact, nodding her head toward the vacant spot beside her. Poppy took the hint, and without hesitation settled alongside.
The five sat and ate, acting like five normal friends spending a quiet night in. They watched a movie to pass the time, and as the clock slipped past 10:00pm, White and Dark began making noises about going to bed. Although she wasn’t particularly tired, Poppy felt she probably ought to do the same, to share that moment with the others in the dorm. Dark and White habitually said good night to Raven and Saffron, with an embrace each and a kiss on the cheek. Poppy did the same beginning with Saffron. “Sleep well” Saffron wished, as she hugged her. Then she turned to Raven who stood up to embrace Poppy then held her arms and smiled back longingly into the girl’s eyes. “Are you glad you’re here Poppy?” she asked. “Oh definitely, yes. Thank you Raven, thanks to all of you. I’m really looking forward to spending the weekend with you” was her perky reply. “Then sleep well. We have lots planned for the weekend ahead my dear.” And with that, Raven kissed her on her forehead and wished her goodnight.
Poppy headed across the room to follow White and Dark to the dormitory. In the corridor outside their rooms, White and Dark hugged as they always did. But this time both offered an outstretched arm to their guest, who joined them in a three-way group hug moment. Wishes of goodnight and sleep well were exchanged as the three headed to their respective rooms. “Shout if you need anything,” White called out as Poppy entered her temporary room. “Thanks, I will,” replied Poppy as she closed the door behind her.
Never one to sleep with clothes on, Poppy slipped beneath the cool, crisp bedsheets and lay on her back looking up at the skylight as she reflected on a truly unusual day. She wondered about so many things, the why and the how of it all, until she finally relaxed, knowing that above all else she had been made to feel welcome, and that she felt safe inside this house.
She drifted off into a deep sleep. At some point later in the night, however, she was awoken by a noise…taking a moment for the fog to lift and to register exactly where she was. The noise that had awoken her was the handle of her door being turned and she saw a glimmer of light as the door was pushed open. She glanced over at the clock to see that it was just 12.30. She’d only been asleep for a couple of hours.