Edna MayfieldbyAdrian Leverkuhn©
The Mayfield house fit into the stylish neighborhood like an old worn shoe; comfortable, practical, and certainly not out of step with it's surroundings. Yes, dark grey paint was peeling under the eaves, the sidewalk by the street had buckled in spots - old maple trees had sent strong roots shooting under the walk across the ornate lawn toward the house - and linen curtains in the windows were beginning to show their age. A light yellow Cadillac sat under the coach port off the right side of the house; an observant neighbor might have related that the car had not moved from it's spot in the shade for several weeks. If you were to stop and chat with this observant neighbor, you might have learned that Stanton Mayfield had passed away in May after a short, fierce battle with cancer, that the Mayfield daughters - Tracy and Claire - were away at college for their second and forth years respectively, and that Edna Mayfield - long considered the most beautiful woman in Springdale - now lived alone in this comfortable, practical house. Our neighbor might also have described Edna Mayfield as comfortable, practical, and certainly not out of step with her surroundings. Our informant would have, in that case, demonstrated a monumental flair for understatement.
Edna Mayfield was now the curator of the Mayfield house, caretaker of the memories that lined the cream colored walls and that stood in regimental perfection on the legions of Stickley tables that dotted the dove grey carpets. Grey cypress beams crossed white stained ceilings, while immaculately varnished mahogany doors stood sentinel to the private spaces of the departed Mayfields. Stanton Mayfield's law library and private papers were so guarded. The Mayfield girl's rooms remained ready to deploy on a moments notice, but, too, were so guarded. Plastic covers guarded the custom-made sofas and chairs that had for decades entertained the very finest members of Springdale society. What life there was remaining in the Mayfield house existed on the life-support provided by the memories that the house sheltered.
The back yard of the Mayfield estate was cris-crossed with red bricked walkways; in the spaces between the walks stood vast explosions of late-Summer annuals. A brace of magnolia trees lined the eastern boundary of the property. A wrought-iron fence adorned with geometric designs the color of weathered copper defined the boundaries of the property; to the rear of the grounds, at the end of a long gravel driveway, stood a huge cypress-timbered garage, and above this vast unused space was an apartment that had been constructed to house a very select few women who attended the college located just a few blocks to the north. The apartment was comfortable, practical, and had not been occupied for years.
Edna Mayfield was in the morning of this late-summer day in the kitchen that looked out over the backyard and the pine covered mountains that stood in the distance. She was dressed in a classically elegant dark blue gabardine skirt and white cotton blouse, her legs were sheathed in the finest silk stockings, while her petite feet were adorned in navy blue high-heeled pumps. Our talkative neighbor might have described her as, well, classically elegant.
On this morning, Edna Mayfield was kneeling over the polished slate kitchen floor wiping up coffee grounds that had fallen to the floor as she was cleaning up after her breakfast of toast, melon and coffee. She was wearing an expression of silent resignation on her still beautiful face when the telephone rang. The telephone had been busy after Stanton Mayfield's passing as friends called to console Edna, and with the girls return home for summer a steady stream of young men had called at all hours of the day, and often into the night. In the quiet of the past few days, with the girls once again off to school, the telephone had not troubled her. And so it was on the morning of this cool August day that Edna Mayfield was startled by the ring of an early morning call.
She walked to the desk that stood across from the island sink and picked up the olive-colored telephone's handset. Speaking with a warm western accent, she greeted the caller, and asked who was calling.
"Mrs Mayfield? This is Dorothy Fisher; the new Dean of Academic Affairs at the college, and I wanted to ask how you and your daughters are?" the voice said.
Puzzled why one of the College's Deans would call, she hesitated before continuing. "Why thank you for asking, Miss Fisher, the girls are fine." Edna Mayfield thought it best to take the upper hand by calling this new Dean by a lesser salutation, and deliberately omitted any mention of herself. Few men or women could play a nastier game of bridge than Edna Mayfield.
"Claire is at Stanford this year, isn't she? I haven't heard where Tracy is," continued the voice.
"Tracy has gone back to Boston, Miss Fisher," Edna Mayfield replied.
"Didn't you and Mr Mayfield meet at Stanford?" continued the voice.
Well, she wants me to know she's done her homework. I wonder how much money they want? "Why yes, we did," Edna Mayfield returned the volley.
"Mrs Mayfield, excuse me, could I call you Edna?"
"Why certainly," Edna Mayfield said pleasantly, noncommitally.
"Edna, we have a problem that we hope you can help us with. I understand you have an apartment on your property that you and your husband have in the past rented to some of our students."
"We haven't rented it in years, Miss Fisher, and I have no intention of doing so again. Aside from that very basic fact, I'm afraid it's not in very good repair. And to speak bluntly, we had a great deal of trouble with our last student and I am not prepared to tolerate that kind of behavior on my property. I had thought that my husband made that very clear to your housing department many years ago."
"Yes, I certainly understand, Mrs Mayfield, I've read all the relevant files this morning. But please bare with me for a moment. As I said, it's a bit of a situation, and I do hope you'll appreciate that I fully understand your feelings. That being said, Dr Tomlinson of the Political Science Department has taken ill, very ill, actually, and we've found it necessary to find a replacement for the Fall semester, or perhaps longer if the situation so requires. We've found a young man with impressive experience in government, and who has just completed studies for his doctorate from Georgetown. He has no family, and he just arrived in Springdale yesterday. We decided to take him on for the Fall term to evaluate him. Classes have been going on now for a week, and we have no faculty housing whatsoever available. We'd like to help him get settled and prepared to assume his duties. He's said he lives simply, and he wondered if a garage apartment was available within walking distance of the college. The Housing Department, for some reason I'm sure I'll never understand, still had your information on file, as well as a summary of events concerning your last occupant, and your husband's letters to us about the matter. We were all very reluctant to involve you in this matter, but this young man's situation is pressing, and I have to say, Mrs Mayfield, that he seems a remarkably professional and polite young man, if a bit unorthodox. I do wish you'd see him."
"Miss Fisher, I'd really like to help, but..."
"Edna, there is one other thing."
"And that would be?" Edna Mayfield replied.
"His government service. Edna, he retired from the C. I. A. not long ago. He served under your husband many years ago, when he first started with the agency."
"I see." Edna Mayfield began to tremble. Her eyes welled with tears.
"Edna, wouldn't you at least talk to him. He won't have classes until tomorrow. I could send him to your house straight away. Edna? Edna?"
Edna Mayfield's right fist was pulled up tightly to her face, she was bighting the index finger of her hand, and trying unsuccessfully to hold back the racking sobs she knew would soon overtake her. She spoke into the telephone now in ragged breathless whispers. "All right. I'll see you both here in an hour."
Edna Mayfield gently replaced the handset in it's cradle, and turned toward the door that led to the backyard, and to her sanctuary, her garden. She walked to the center of her secret space, to a sundial that sat atop a short Doric column. Under the base of the column, Stanton Mayfield's ashes lay undisturbed, a brass plaque with an inscription was set into the ground just above the buried urn. She stood for a moment in embattled silence.
"A spy," she said to herself quietly. She felt the blood flow out of her being, felt herself growing pale. "Oh-please-my-God-in-Heaven...Not another God-damned spy..."
Edna Mayfield sank to her knees for the second time that cool August morning, and hung onto the stark white column in breathless loneliness. An impossible wailing cry soon shook the comfortable, practical air of her garden. She looked to the heavens for a moment, then her eyes fell reluctantly down to the inscribed words below.
TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN
The gales of her anguish overtook her. She curled up on the ground above her husband, and felt the fury of a thousand unshed tears scream for release. It was a fury she could no longer contain.
Dorothy Fisher sat in the black leather passenger seat of a thirty-some-odd year old dark forest green Porsche 911 S Targa, her hair streaming wildly in the open air of the topless machine, and trying her very best not to look at the man in the seat next to her. A man who had shown up for his first and only pre-job interview yesterday afternoon dressed in khaki shorts and a white dress buttoned-down Polo shirt. The sleeves were even rolled-up, for God's sake! He had not worn socks under his salt-caked boat-shoes and the stainless-steel Rolex on his right wrist was spattered with dark-red paint. The man wore the same clothing this morning, yet she was sure the shirt was freshly laundered. Dorothy Fisher had guessed his age to be early 40-something, and she wasn't too far off. Looking straight ahead, she would occasionally look down quickly at the man and inwardly moan at the sight of his lean-muscled legs. She more than once caught herself wanting very much to get to know this man much better.
Dorothy Fisher gave the man directions to 43 Foxwood Lane, to Edna Mayfield's house. She felt somewhat at odds with herself, guilty at having so quickly expressed parallels between the man next to her and Stanton Mayfield. Angry at having been pulled into Edna Mayfield's one act drama, she had voided her own best counsel, and played her trump card. Desperate to find a home nearby for this man, desperate to know him better, to marry him, to bare his children... She pulled herself back to reality, not wanting to appear the adolescent fool as she guided the man to the final turn onto Foxwood Lane.
They pulled into the gated driveway at number forty-three, and slowly made their way down the rather long driveway to the house. The man stopped the car behind a yellow Cadillac sedan, admiring the grey Prairie School architecture of the sprawling house. He thought the house looked vaguely familiar. He unfastened his seatbelt and hopped out of the car, walked around the back and opened the passenger door for Dorothy Fisher. He held out his hand and helped her out, then walked off toward the front door. Dorothy Fisher walked briskly to keep up with the man's vigorous stride.
The front door was open wide, and Edna Mayfield stood just inside, her right hand outstretched and a bright smile on her face.
"Good morning. Edna Mayfield." the woman said, shaking the man's hand.
"Yes it is a beautiful day. Jordan Douglas. And this is Dorothy Fisher," the man said, moving aside.
"Mrs Mayfield. It's such an honor to finally meet you." The two women shook hands. "I'm Dorothy Fisher. I think I've read every book and article you've ever written," she gushed. Dorothy Fisher was shocked with what she saw. This woman was almost certainly in her late-60s by now, perhaps older, yet she looked at least twenty years younger. Her figure was perfect; she had such fine shapely legs she was sure that any woman - of any age - would be green with envy, and she was dressed with a timeless elegance that was both understated and - frankly - sexy. As they walked into the house, Dorothy Fisher looked about the entry hall and into the living room beyond and at once understood what it meant in purely material terms to be richer than hell.
Edna Mayfield led the two visitors through the house to the kitchen, where she offered her guests coffee. As they passed around the sugar cubes and pitcher of cream, the three continued to chat aimlessly about the weather and the coming semester's athletic schedules. Without any change in apparent emotion or cadence in her speaking, Edna Mayfield came to her decision.
"Well, Mr Douglas. Perhaps we'd better go out back so you can look over the apartment," she said, standing up. Concealing their hopeful confusion, the two academics quickly stood up and followed the woman as she made her way to the door that led out into the vast garden beyond. They stepped out into the sunshine and followed the woman through the maze of trellised walkways that led to the garage.
Edna Mayfield unlocked the door and walked up the steps just inside the door, leading the other two up into the apartment. She flipped on a light switch at the top of the single flight of stairs and stood aside.
Jordan Douglas and Dorothy Fisher arrived at the top of the stairs and both seemed to stagger to a halt, their eye's moving about slowly, taking in the grandeur of the creation. About them was a single open space composed entirely of smoke-colored cypress wood. There was not a single expanse of sheetrock or plaster in evidence. A gently vaulted ceiling dappled with stained-glass skylights gave the air a soaring spirit; it felt almost like a cathedral but with a more human scale. The southern exposure of the room was an uninterrupted expanse of glass; beyond lay a small lake, and in the far distance a range of grey-green mountains stood mutely defining the limits of the landscape. The room was furnished sparsely with Japanese and Mission style furniture and flowed into a compact kitchen space. Behind them, translucent paper shoji screens separated the main space from the sleeping and bathing spaces. Edna Mayfield beckoned the two to make themselves at home and wander about at will, then sat down lightly in a simple cherry-wood chair looking out on the southern view. Her gaze seemed focused but detached, lost to the wonder of the space.
Jordan Douglas spoke at once. "Mrs Mayfield, this is simply an overwhelming space. It's hardly an apartment, it's more a museum. I hesitate to ask, but who was the architect?"
"Frank Lloyd Wright, Mr Douglas," Mrs Mayfield said.
The man paused, then put out his hand as if to commune with the very fabric of the creation around him. He closed his eyes, and his head listed a bit to his right. "I see," he said. "The main house is as well, I assume?" He opened his eyes and looked at Edna Mayfield, who simply gave the faintest smile and nod of assent. He looked at Edna Mayfield for a long time, and she in turn did not break away from his direct gaze.
"Well, Mr Douglas, I assume it meets with your approval. Now, could you tell me, please, is this manner of attire you've so graciously blessed us with in any way representative of your character?" said Edna Mayfield.
Jordan Douglas walked over and sat next to Edna Mayfield. He paused and nodded his head. "Mrs Mayfield, I understand what you mean, and perhaps someday if we know one another better I might explain my appearance to you. But let's understand this, be clear about two things. First, I appreciate what you have created here, and I would be honored to live here. I would treat this space accordingly. Second. I care not a damn about the conventions of society. I wear what I choose to wear, and I will not apologize to you or to anyone for the choices that I make."
Dorothy Fisher turned to hide her surprise and dismay, and shook her head in both wonder and disapproval. Edna Mayfield continued to look directly at Jordan Douglas, her faint smile an open question that revealed nothing of the thoughts behind the facade. Presently she stood up, moved to pat Jordan Douglas on his shoulder and said "Good for you, Mr Douglas. I was given to believe that men no longer had balls." With that, Edna Mayfield strode to the stairwell and proceeded down. As she neared the bottom she called out for the two upstairs to take their time.
Edna Mayfield walked over through a gate and onto the gravel drive, then walked down toward her Cadillac. It was then that she first saw the man's dark green Porsche, and she at once came to a stop. She looked at the car for a moment, checked the license plate if for no other reason than to reassure herself, and fought back the tears that seemed a part of this day. She turned and walked quickly back toward the main house. Jordan Douglas and Dorothy Fisher came down into the sunlight in time to see Edna Mayfield step back into the main house; they walked back through the garden toward the kitchen door to catch up.
As Jordan Douglas and Dorothy Fisher neared the house, he turned and spoke to her quietly. "Perhaps I'd better talk to her alone," he said. "I'll see you back at the car in a minute." He continued on into the house, alone but for his thoughts.
He entered the kitchen to find Edna Mayfield hastily wiping tears from her face. 'Oh, God, what have I done to this woman,' he thought.
Edna Mayfield made no effort to conceal her grief any longer. She turned to the young man and said, "I'm sorry. This is a very difficult time for me."
"I understand, Mrs Mayfield. The country lost a great voice when your husband passed away."
The opaque smile returned. "Well," she began, "the place is yours if you want it."
"I hate to be so crude, but could I ask how much rent I should expect to pay, utilities and such?"
"Well, let me see, Mr Douglas," she said, acting as though she were sizing him up. "How about you take me out to dinner once a month in that green monster out there." She smiled at the surprise evident on the young man's face.
Jordan Douglas pulled his car up to the garage, turned off the ancient cassette player and the ignition, and gathered up his books and papers to carry up to his room. As he shut the car door he heard Edna Mayfield call out "Hey there, stranger!" and wave to him. He hadn't seen her since the day he'd first met her, but had heard that she'd been off to Britain to give a talk at the Institute For Strategic Studies at Cambridge. "Well! Hey there, yourself," he called back.
"Your rents due. How 'bout tonight?"
"Sounds good. What time?"
"I'm famished. Just starved! Ready when you are"
Jordan Douglas thought about the papers to grade stacking up on his desk, the lectures to prepare, and called back "Fine, let me go wash up. Be down in five." He came back down and found Edna Mayfield standing at the rear of the Porsche.
"Is this a '73 S?," she asked.
He nodded yes, somewhat surprised by her knowledge of the model.
"You haven't seen Stanton's cars yet, have you?" she asked.
"Well, c'mon then," she said excitedly. Edna Mayfield grabbed Jordan Douglas by the hand and pulled him over to the garage. She entered a code on the concealed keypad, and the lone garage door swung up.
Jordan Douglas gasped openly at the sight that drew into view. A huge wooden space, again completely of cypress, geometric stained glass windows an echo of the motifs around the estate, the massive wooden beams and low indirect light that switched on automatically as the door finished opening. A red Ferrari Daytona Spider stood at the front of the small pack of museum quality sports cars that were crowded into the garage. A cream colored Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing popped into view, a silver-blue Alpha Romeo Montreal, a Maserati here, a Lotus there. And in the very back, a dark green Porsche Targa. "I suppose that's a 73 S, huh?" he asked.