You can't go home again. It was good to be home. Marguerite surveyed the dining room of Poplar Grove with satisfaction, the last of the movers having left a few hours before. The project had been expensive, but worth the price to restore her childhood home and bring it up to modern standards. The mansion was a unique piece of art in it’s own right, just like her, and she felt an intense satisfaction that the building was once again her dwelling place.
She hadn’t been here for most of the renovation, preferring to give general instructions to the staff and staying out of their way. They were the professionals after all and it was simpler to tell them what she wanted them to do and then let them do it, especially since she’d given them a tight deadline and a generous budget. Only when they were down to the cosmetics and ready to move furniture into the building did the vampire arrive.
Now everything was complete and she’d soon spend her first night in eighty years under the roof of her birthplace.
“Mistress?” Marguerite started at Edward’s voice and she turned toward the servant, eyebrow raised in query.
“Mr. Guilford called and asked if you were wanting to look at the plans for the garden this evening, over dinner perhaps?” The thrall’s face was impassive, but she knew he didn’t care for the master gardener she’d contracted for the property. Perhaps it was time to make a change...no, Edward was very good at keeping track of things and he was still in his prime. Maybe in a few months, once she was more settled in her new, old, home. Marguerite shook her head and reached out to brush his cheek, taking just a bit energy as the servant closed his eyes in pleasure, a shiver running through his muscled form.
“I think not.” She said fondly, taking just a bit more before dropping her hand. “Inform him I shall meet him for lunch tomorrow at Antonie’s, One O'clock. Once you’ve done that continue overseeing the unpacking and dismiss the locals when they’ve completed their tasks. I’ll be out walking the town, it has been some time since I’ve been here and I want to see the changes.”
Edward stepped back and bowed formally. “As you say Mistress.”
With that, Marguerite moved toward the door, placed her new hat on her head just so, then briefly checked her reflection in a pocket mirror to make sure her makeup was still perfect. Once satisfied that everything was as it should be, the vampire stepped out onto the porch and made her way toward the front stairs leading to ground level.
Another day, another few dollars.....
It was just past seven o’clock and Judy was locking up for the night, having plans to go have dinner before turning in for the night. The windchime attached to the door of Best Kept Secrets jingled merrily as she closed the door to the shop behind her, and when the key turned in the lock she felt a surge of satisfaction. The day had been light on sales, but she had had several really interesting conversations and poured a lot of tea. Sometimes money wasn’t the only thing she got out of this job.
The blonde started off down the street, fumbling in her huge pocketbook for her wallet to do a quick inventory of her cash reserves. It happened every time she went to the city, she always spent herself broke either on supplies for the store or just plain on giving it away. Sometimes she cursed her own open nature, but there seemed to be little she could do to call a halt to it. Still, like she’d thought before, money wasn’t everything.
The street was quiet, the sun not down yet, and Judy breathed in the sweet-smelling air as she bustled down the sidewalk. Some days, it was just really nice to be alive.
Marguerite strolled casually down Main Street taking in the atmosphere of the small town and enjoying the heat of the evening. It was slightly depressing seeing what condition Honfleur had sunk to in the intervening eighty years. While the town had never been wealthy, it had held a bustling energy back in the twenties that was absent in the here and now.
Father had warned her that it might be so. “Home will never be like you remember, ma petit.” He’d told her when she informed him of her plans several months ago. “The march of time is relentless, the only constant is change. Go if you wish, with my blessing, but expect the hamlet to be much different from it was in your childhood.”
It was true. The advancing years and changes in technology combined with the enormous expansion of New Orleans’ suburbs from her day there was much less dependence on having things located in the town itself. Marguerite wondered idly what changes her second century would bring to the region.
Judy had just passed the doors of the Save-a-Buck when she noticed the attractive brunette coming her way, and she offered a smile and a small wave as the two of them neared each other. After all, she’d never seen the woman before, and that generally meant she wasn’t a local. The sundress she was wearing was clearly tailored just for her, the matching hat like something you’d wear to church. A new customer? Maybe.
“Evening,” she said as she reached a point where conversation was possible without yelling. “Nice evening for a walk, isn’t it?”
“It truly is,” Marguerite agreed with a smile as she surveyed the woman’s appearance automatically with a brief flick of her eyes. The older looking blonde wasn’t the least bit of competition, and she decided it couldn’t hurt to be friendly. “I do love the spring, don’t you?”
A well manicured hand was extended once the woman was close enough for such pleasantries. “Marguerite Dufoix. I’ve just moved into Poplar Grove, over across the bridge.”
“Judy Montague. I live just over there.”
Pointing, even though she knew it was rude to point, Judy shook with her other hand as she indicated the house where she lived. The porch needed some work, mainly a repainting job, but she’d planted flowers and put out a table and some chairs for sitting so it didn’t look too shabby. The small sign dangling from the roof of the place read ‘Best Kept Secrets’ in elaborate script. Maybe next year when she got her tax refund she could spruce it up a little more.
“On the second floor, actually, but yeah, that’s me.”
Marguerite turned toward the direction Judy pointed, down Waterman’s Way a half block or so. She remembered the building well, when she’d been a girl one of her friends had lived there with her parents and siblings. It had clearly fallen on harder times since, and someone had converted the first floor into a business. “I see they’ve converted the first floor,” she remarked idly, “what sort of business have they put in it?”
“Not ‘they’,” the blonde said with a touch of pride. “Me. It used to be a house, but I inherited it from my aunt Deirdre when she died and decided to put a shop in on the ground floor. I sell books, relaxation candles, crystals, if it can be found on a New Age website, I’m probably carrying it.” Okay, now she was just bragging, but she couldn’t help it. For her first business venture, her little shop did quite well.
“I just closed up, actually. During the summers I’m open a little later, but business is done for the day.”
“Ah, a small businesswoman, good!” Marguerite’s smile was more genuine this time, and she decided to forgive the woman’s inadvertent transgression on her childhood memories. After all, to any external observer unaware of her nature she was clearly the younger of the two. “We need more of them. Is business doing well then, despite the economy?” While her own finances had improved during the recession, she would have to have been hiding in a cave somewhere not to know that many of the cattle were going through hard times.
“Oh, I’m not doing too badly,” Judy replied, going for modesty now that she’d boasted a little. “The government still takes a bite every year, but the doors are still open, so I figure I’m ahead of the game.” The blonde took another quick look at the other woman’s expensive outfit, then said, “I’m guessing you never see the inside of a shop unless you’re a customer, am I right?”
“You’ve found me out, I’m afraid.” Marguerite told her. “The closest I’ve ever come was interning at my grandfather’s corporation when I was in college.” A total lie of course, she’d never even been to college. “I don’t really have to worry about money very much, trust fund baby you see.” It was said with a faked air of embarrassment, as if she felt bad about saying she was wealthy. “I do keep my hand in business, but retail is something I’ve not had any experience with as an employee.”
And now Judy was rummaging through her pocketbook again, this time on the hunt for one of the business cards she’d had printed up,. Because Marguerite had said Poplar Grove, hadn’t she, and Poplar Grove meant money. Like old money, the kind that no one had worked for. Beneath that soft-hearted exterior, or at least right beside it, there beat the heart of a woman who wanted to see her enterprise work. Finally, beneath her overstuffed wallet, she found the last card she had in her possession.
“Well, if you ever want to check us out, here’s my card. The hours are printed beneath the phone number, and I also schedule appointments if you want to see something in special stock. I used to have Tarot readings done, but the girl who read the cards moved up to Vancouver six months ago and I haven’t found someone to replace her yet.”
Tarot readings? I think not. Marguerite took the card and glanced at it briefly before tucking it into the slender purse she carried with her. “Special stock? What kind of ‘special stock’ would an establishment such as yours carry?” She gave the blonde a more appraising look, trying to see if there was something more to her than Marguerite first thought. A practitioner of the art, perhaps?
“Mostly magic related,” Judy answered, lowering her voice a notch because they were out on a public street. “I have an in with a private publisher in New Orleans, I carry all of their titles. Mostly I get tourists and looky-loos who are just passing through, but every now and then I get someone from within the pagan community who really believes and wants to learn how to...” The blonde paused, played with the ends of her hair briefly, then shrugged her shoulders and brought her voice up to its natural pitch. “Well, y’know, if you’re into that kind of thing.”
Marguerite nodded thoughtfully after a moment. “I see.” There was more than met the eye to this one, the vampire decided. She’d bear watching. “I’ll be certain to keep that in mind, Ms. Montague. Do have a pleasant evening.”
“You too, Ms. Dufoix, hope you enjoy your stay in Honfleur.” Well, that was nice. She’d possibly drummed up some business and if nothing else she might have started to make a new friend. Judy re-started her walk to the Hungry Hound, because her stomach was growling and that meant she needed to eat and soon. It had been a very good day indeed.