I am so psyched! The collection has been published. It's simple and I hope everyone likes it. You can click here or in the upper right hand corner to purchase your copy. Everyone who purchases a copy I will come and sign it personally. Thanks for all the love everyone!!
Over the next few weeks of Mrs. Oxford's stay at the hotel she and Jimmy looked at many photos of the house and she shared many details about her life with Mr. Oxford and the time they spent in the house. He peppered her with questions about the house details and she answered them as best as she could.
Her last week at the hotel she asked Jimmy if he would take her to see the house. Jimmy called for a car and they drove to the house. Jimmy helped her out of the car and she felt the sun's warmth beam on her face just as when William first brought her home. It was a little overwhelming for her but she stood there and felt the rush of good memories. Jimmy had done the house justice; it was just as she remembered, even the exterior color was similar.
He walked her up the steps of the house and she looked at the carving of the dove on the door frame and ran her fingers over it lightly. To her it was like touching her William's cheek before he shaved in the morning; she giggled. Jimmy gave her a tour of the house and showed her his "projects."
After the tour Jimmy rode back to the hotel with Mrs. Oxford. She sat next to him and looked forward with a smile while all the way holding his hand. When they got back to the hotel Mrs. Oxford thanked Jimmy for the tour and went to her room.
On Friday the car was called and Mrs. Oxford was on her way home. She left a note for Jimmy. He had not gotten to work before she left. When he got to work the front desk clerk, Bella, handed him the note.
My annual visit has come to an end. This one was the best one ever. I am so happy to know that you are now the new owner of our first home. You truly have affection for the home. Thank you for taking me on the tour and helping me recapture my good memories. I now have what I need and I would like to leave you these photos and the original drawings by my William of the house. I have left these things for you in my room. Please treasure them. I hope the pictures and drawings help you with your attempts to restore the house to its original condition.
Thank you again, it was lovely and I will always remember you.
With fondness, Viv." Jimmy took the stairs up to the tenth floor and opened the door of room 1015. He walked inside and immediately noticed a large box. Inside the box was a smaller box filled with photos and there were the drawings of the house. He was honored. In the box was a large object wrapped in newspaper. He took the newspaper off the top and noticed the little roof peak. He pulled the object out of the box and removed the rest of the newspaper. It was the model of the house. There was a little note taped to the roof in Mrs. Oxford's handwriting, it said "open". Jimmy opened the hidden hinged roof and read the inscription and there inside were the original keys to the house.
The following week a letter arrived, certified mail to Jimmy. "Dear Mr. James Hartford,
We regret to inform you that Mrs. Vivian Lee Oxford passed away on Tuesday. She left us with instructions to contact you upon her death. There will be a reading of her will and last testimony on Monday the 5th. We ask that you call and confirm your attendance.
Respectfully, Harvey Bleinhiem, Esq.
At the reading of Mrs. Oxford's will she left Jimmy a generous amount of money and requested that he keep her husbands' memory and work alive by working with the town historian and offering tours of their first home.
Jimmy pulled out the old note of folded paper Mrs. Oxford gave him the day he really got to know her and opened it up. "Thank you for sharing my memories ~ Viv"
Mrs. Oxford woke up with a terrible headache. She was not sure if it was the effects of the experimental medication she was taking or something else. Either way she hoisted herself up showered and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for lunch. She carried a medium sized travel bag with her. She walked past Jimmy's post and waved at him. He looked up and smiled at Mrs. Oxford.
Mrs. Oxford was greeted by the restaurant hostess and shown to her seat. She put her bag in the chair next to her at the table. After placing her order she opened the bag and began looking through her box of photos again and she took out a few and placed them on the table. The waiter brought her favorite beverage boysenberry tea and her soup. She smiled graciously as to say "thank you" and the waiter smiled back at her.
Jimmy was about to take his lunch when he noticed Mrs. Oxford sitting in the restaurant alone. He noticed that she had photos on the table. He felt a little sorry for her so he went in and greeted her. Her eyes gleamed when she saw Jimmy standing there. She gestured to him to sit down. He sat. She waived to the waiter to come and bring Jimmy something. Jimmy declined. Mrs. Oxford smacked his hand and gave him a firm look as if to insist he share his noon meal with her. Then she smiled again and he gave his order to the waiter. Jimmy said to Mrs.
Oxford, "You are persistent aren't you?" She winked and smiled.
"So what pictures have you here?" Jimmy said.
Mrs. Oxford passed the three photos over to him. He looked at the first one of a young Mrs. Oxford and a handsome young man sitting at one of the dining tables here at the hotel. "This must be your husband," he said. She smiled and inhaled deeply and shook her head affectionately to say 'yes'. He looked at the next picture and there was the happy couple again but this time they were in front of a house and he was holding her as though carrying her up stairs and they were looking intently at each other. He had just set the photo down and picked up the next when something had struck him. He looked back at the photo and noticed a dove carving on the door frame of the house. He wanted to be sure he wasn't seeing things. "Mrs. Oxford is that a carving of a dove or a bird on this frame?" She looked at Jimmy a little puzzled, then he handed her the photo and she took out a pair of glassed from her bag. She looked at the photo and confirmed the carving.
"Was this your house?" Jimmy asked.
Mrs. Oxford took out her notepad and wrote: "Yes, my beloved William built this for me as an engagement present. We lived there until Williams' parents got sick then we moved closer to them. We lived so long with his folks that we sold the house as times were a little difficult then. My William was an excellent craftsman and architect and that house was truly his handiwork at its best."
Jimmy just sat there staring at Mrs. Oxford is shock and delight. He started putting the pieces together as she continued to tell him about her life and the house that William built for her. He was intrigued. She was so happy to be able to share this with someone. Sadly her daughter was not interested in past history especially not of her parents. She was a very "modern and thankless" person and was only interested in running and managing the family business. William had loved the little house he built for Vivian and was sad that they had to sell it. He kept his original drawings and sketches of the house. Then during their stay with his parents he got an idea. He told Vivian that he wanted to build houses again. He contacted an old friend of his and they planned the company around his idea. The next year the building of a small tract of homes began and it was a success. His designs were loved by many and became a favorite in that area. As time went on the business grew. Williams' signature on each house was the stamp of a dove on the side of the door frame.
Later that night Jimmy was putting away the left over paint cans and brushes. He decided to store everything in the attic since it was nice and dry up there this winter. He pulled on the attic door cord and the door came off the hinges and almost knocked Jimmy in the head. Jimmy just shook his head and said 'well there is another project for the list.' He went to the garage and grabbed the ladder and brought it back in so he could finish putting the paint and brushes away.
He bent down to pick up the door and noticed that there was a pattern of nicks on the interior of the door. He was tired and propped the door up against the wall, promising to investigate it tomorrow further since he was off work.
Jimmy's "to-do" list for the house was continuous. Just when he would finish one project another one would pop up. He really didn't mind. He really had a passion for old architecture and counted himself fortunate to have been able to buy this little jewel.
When he closed escrow on the house he tried to see if the County Assessor's office had any records of the house's original owners or possibly where he could find original records or photos. His searches turned up nothing. He watched a lot of home improvement channels and even subscribed to an "old architecture" magazine. He really wanted to do justice to the structure when he started the restoration. The house reminded him of the house he lived in with his mother.
After his father died they stayed with her parents in the house until they passed away. For him it was truly home. Being in the house was like sharing a hot lemon tea with his mother that she would make for them both every night before going to bed.
While stripping the paint layers off the exterior of the house Jimmy was able to find a faint sample of possibly the original paint color of the house. It was a very light green. He took it to the paint store for a match and he found it. Every time he would begin a project he'd "investigate" the area for original structure or materials and each time he turned up another treasure.
The last owners/renters of the house had an awful dark blue shag carpet that went throughout the house; even the bathrooms had this carpet. It smelt foul since their pets were mainly kept indoors at all times. To his surprise there was almost 4 layers of carpet, like each person before would just lay more carpet and pad over the other. After making his way to the floor beneath the carpet he found mahogany wood floors throughout the house and the bathroom had the original hexagon tiles for the floor. Jimmy was able to salvage these also and reuse them. Project after project seemed to resurrect the house to its original state. There was still more to do but so far the house seemed to smile and it made him smile.
Early Monday morning, Jimmy made his way to work. On his way he stopped as usual at the newspaper stand and the local coffee shop. It was a beautiful morning. He could barely concentrate on work after what he had discovered while working on another project at the house. While fixing the attic door he was able to make out words that were carved on the inside of the door. It looked like "Viv love Will."
Jimmy was so excited. Since he bought the house he had been looking for the original owners and he had hoped this was a clue. Unfortunately the neighbors were all fairly new to the neighborhood and like Jimmy were restoring old masterpieces. However Glenda his neighbor directly across the street had let him know that she had found a local town historian who may have been able to provide some insight on his house. She gave him the name and number and Jimmy had planned to call him after work today.
After a light dinner Mrs. Oxford went back to her room. All of her pictures were scattered across the bed. After gathering them up she put them back in their box and set it on the nightstand next to the bed. She changed for bed and took her medication. Before its side affects took place she had a few minutes to stare out at the moon and reminisce on that summer when Mr. Oxford proposed to her. She had no idea when he was going to pop the question, but she knew in her heart that he was going to ask. Her family was becoming more anxious that she was.
When he arrived at her house they took a walk before supper and talked about everything they always talked about, each other, life and the future. This time they walked a little bit further than normal and they stopped by the lake to rest and put their feet in the cool water. William ran his fingers through her hair and kissed her ever so lightly on the cheek near her lips. "I've got something for you," he said as he got up and ran to a nearby felled tree. He stooped down and grabbed an old Mason jar box and brought it back over to Vivian. He said with a nervous smile, "open it, I hope you like it."
Vivian wasn't sure what he had got her and was a little nervous too. It was way too large to be an engagement ring. She took the top off the box and under an old newspaper was a little wooden house. "This is cute William, thank you." He helped her take it out of the box. "There is more," he said as his eyes sparkled and glistened. 'More' she thought to herself? The little wooden house was definitely one of Williams' hand crafted. He really had a knack for working with wood.
"The roof is on a hidden hinge, you can lift it open," he said trying to hide his smile.
She looked at him a little puzzled as she lifted the roof. And there it was. She gasped as she reached for it and looked at William. "Is this for real; are you serious?" she stuttered. He was smiling nervously and said, "I am, so will you?"
She grabbed the keys that were inside the house under the hinged roof and hugged William as tightly as she could while repeating over and over again, 'yes'. The inside of the roof had inscribed "Vivian, will you make my house a home with me?" The little wooden house was a replica/model of the house he had just finished building a month ago.
Jimmy always strived to be the best at what he did. When he accomplished his goals he moved up, whether this was in his job or his personal life.
The Towers was the most prestigious hotel downtown. Jimmy had seen all sorts of "A" list and similar celebrities cruise through these doors.
Besides the popular crowd, there were regulars. Some business travelers, some vacationers and then there were the honeymooners.
It had been over 20 years since Jimmy started working here. He started as a Porter and now he was the Concierge Manager. He had accomplished his goal.
A grey-haired woman walked up to his desk slowly and tapped her nails gently to get his attention. First he looked perturbed and then he smiled once he saw the familiar face. "Ah, Mrs. Oxford! Are you here for your regular visit?" She smiled at him and nodded. He called the bellhop over and had him take her bags up to Room 1015. Every year at this time, Mrs. Oxford's room was set aside and held for her. No one really knew her background or connections, only that every September she had Room 1015 reserved. She would spend 3 or 4 weeks at the hotel. She rarely left except to go out to church on Sundays and the occasional dinner in town. She looked older this time around.
Jimmy escorted Mrs. Oxford to the elevator; she grabbed his arm so tight he thought she was frightened. He looked down at her, smiled and patted her hand. A sense of calm swept over her face.
They stood together waiting for the elevator to return. When the bell chimed and the doors opened Jimmy showed her in, but she would not let go of his arm. She smiled sweetly and he got on the elevator with Mrs. Oxford.
On the way up to the tenth floor Mrs. Oxford began humming a familiar tune. Jimmy smiled and told her that was a beautiful tune she was humming. Her eyes smiled and sparkled.
Mrs. Oxford was mute due to a stroke she had suffered almost 10 years ago. She rarely went anywhere. She had a private residence in the country that was well staffed and managed by her and her youngest daughter Beatrice. The Towers was full of memories for Mrs. Oxford. She made the trip here every September. With the advancing of age she feared memory loss. Years before she'd stay only for a week or two. Now she would emerge herself in memories for a month. She had to; she could not forget the memories that made her life so special.
Jimmy and Mrs. Oxford stepped off the elevator just as the Bellhop was exiting her room. She put her hand out to the young man and he shook her hand gently and tipped his hat and said, "Enjoy your stay Mrs. Oxford." She stopped and held his hand and touched his cheek with her other hand to express her thanks and gratitude. Jimmy walked in before Mrs. Oxford and checked that the room was in order and neat. She walked in slowly behind him. She walked immediately to her luggage and began to fiddle with the clasp on her train case. Her arthritis was flaring up and it was more difficult to open it this time.
Jimmy rushed over and helped her. She opened the train case and pulled out all of these old photos. Some were in black and white, while others were in color. He could not help but notice a black and white photo of a beautiful full-figured and barely clothed woman lying on a bed with a sly smile. It reminded him of an old time Pin-Up shot. He blushed. She noticed Jimmy looking at this picture. She pointed at the picture; specifically the woman and then she pointed her thin finger at herself and winked.
"No way. That is you Mrs. Oxford?"
She nodded "yes". Next she stood up and walked over to the bedroom and taped on the wall and pointed again to the photo. Jimmy walked over and looked at the photo and then the bed, next the wall. He could not make the connection she was trying to show him. She scratched the wall with her nails. He looked again it was the same wallpaper in the photo she was pointing out.
"Was that photo taken here at this hotel?" Jimmy asked surprised.
Mrs. Oxford shook her head "yes" and then pointed to the bed and the floor. Jimmy went over to the desk and pulled out a small notepad and pen and brought them over to her. She sat on the edge of the bed and began to write as best as she could. Jimmy towered over her watching as she put every effort into each pen stroke. Jimmy felt an immediate and strange connection to her. What could it have been that made him sit next to her and be completely engrossed in her story that she penned before his eyes?
He felt like he was falling into a trance, just then his beeper began to ring. He shook and stood up quickly. Mrs. Oxford was a little startled as well. She giggled and folded the little piece of paper and handed it to him. He thanked her and left her room. He placed the paper in his pocket and went back to his station in a hurry. He took the stairs instead of the elevator.
Mrs. Oxford sat in the same spot on her bed that Jimmy left her at. She felt warm all over. She smiled to herself, "this time it was going to be different." She could feel it.
When Jimmy's shift was over he went into the basement locker and changed into his street clothes. It was getting colder much faster this time of year. He stopped by the coffee shop on his way home and picked up a large coffee with a sourdough bagel with fresh butter. He waved to Lou at the newspaper stand.
On the walk home Jimmy thought about Mrs. Oxford and the note she was writing to him. He arrived at his 1920's bungalow home that he was so proud of, especially since he had just completed the restoration. Yet there was something familiar about the house that he could not put his finger on...