The Friday before the open house Mandy called. I don’t know if it were a mere coincidence or she heard through the grapevine about the party.
“I hear you bought a house, Dawes. I didn’t think you were ready to settle down.”
It was a conversation starter designed for me to take the bait. I hate that. If I fluffed off her question she’d be offended seeing as interior design was her specialty, but if I opened that door even a crack she’d insinuate her way inside like the camel intruding into the tent and try to take over and push me out of my own house.
It was a no-win situation so I decided to side-step the whole thing by simply inviting her to the party and trying to stay out of her way most of the night.
Of course, she asked about the style of renovation and decorations and furnishings, but again I avoided getting bogged down in endless discussions of decisions already made and instead insisted it would be, a surprise and she’d have to wait for the ‘grand reveal.’
I don’t know if that satisfied her temporarily or piqued her curiosity, but I resolved to pursue the path of least resistance this time with her and simply make it through the night.
There’d be time for a hundred revisions and decisions as Prufrock would remark and I was beginning to feel his angst and impotence as I contemplated dealing with Mandy’s pushiness again.
Of course, she had lost the right to speak into my life but that wouldn’t deter her from making suggestions designed to improve things, beginning with the house and ending with me.
My independence was being tested but I was resolved to stand my ground this time, come what may.
It snowed the night of the open house—big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow that clung to the leafless trees and softened their contours.
The house was gaslit and the snow glittered like gold flakes as it fluttered past the windows.
I almost wished I rented a horse and sleigh for the night. It would have been perfect for a jingling sleigh ride through the silent park.
Abe Tepperman brought his wife and took upon himself the role of tour guide showing off the features of the house. I think he was as proud as if he owned it himself and his enthusiasm transferred to the guests who felt the same awe and wonder at having part of the 1800’s transported into the 21st century.
Mandy felt slighted I think, or resentful at being shunted from the limelight, and she’d question Abe’s choices for wallpaper, furnishings and even his choice of gas fixtures.
Abe wan’t rattled, however, and took it all in stride—I actually think he enjoyed having the opportunity to explain or defend his choices.
In the end, he wore her out and Mandy begged off and left early complaining of a headache.
I felt sorry for her—I really did—but I had been down that road before with her and had no intention of going back.
By the time the night ended, I had laid one ghost to rest, unaware I had given rise to another.
But time would prove how evoking the zeitgeist of another time often caused its spirits to rise again too.