Prologue

September the First

Dear Diary,
     I've decided to record the events of the last four months, having learned firsthand that the written word can truly change the world. Someday I want everyone to know these details. Perhaps they too can learn, just as I did. You see, my destiny was determined from the very first moment that I found the treasure.........

Chapter 1

     Standing on the sidewalk my heart raced as I stared at the for sale sign newly planted on the front lawn. A compelling need to see the House again had overtaken me this morning. Instead of heading straight to the office for another dreaded day of corporate chaos, I decided to take a quick detour where I made my shocking discovery. The House that I secretly coveted and quietly spied upon for years was now for sale.
     I stood motionless savoring the view that normally evoked overwhelming feelings of peace within me. A hundred years old with two stories, the House was Bungalow style, facing the river. The front porch wrapped around the bottom floor with a long railing and old fashioned, weathered wicker chairs scattered about. Two lamp posts with lanterns atop that looked like Paul Revere might have carried them on his infamous ride flanked the walkway leading to the front steps. The outside of the House was cedar shake shingle, painted white with each square tile topping another like frosting on a ginger bread house. Windows were everywhere. Upstairs and down, the front and sides were filled with gorgeous nine-over windows that looked to be original to the house. The wavy glass in each of the nine panes that topped the windows sparkled as the hot Florida sun reflected off of them.
     Forcing myself out of my reverie, I reached over and removed a flyer from the box attached to the sign. My stomach knotted. The price on the handout had one too many zeros, making it way out of my price range.
     Josie girl, don't even get your hopes up. You don't have that kind of money. Don't torture yourself with something you can't have. My desire to see the House more closely, however, silenced my usually logical thought process. I gave into my hidden craving and started to explore.
     Climbing the front steps I grabbed hold of the rail, solid and secure. Old it may be, but it's well built for sure. The thought that the House was as sturdy in real life as it was in my imagination made me want to know more.
     Moving forward stealthily, I peered through the front door window panes and found myself staring into a room with roses. Not a single vase of roses, but roses everywhere. The furniture was covered in white sheets as if in an old haunted house movie. In stark contradiction to the lifelessness of those ghostly shapes, though, there were dozens of vases and jars in varying shapes and sizes filled with stunning, long stemmed roses scattered throughout the rooms. Pink, yellow, white, red, and peach; vibrant and shocking colors at the same time. Every surface overflowed with the gleaming blossoms.
     The scene struck me as both odd and beautiful, with eerie overtones that incited my already out of control curiosity. Over the years, I'd heard stories about the House's owner being a little less than all there mentally. A crazed rose fanatic living in the place hadn't been part of the rumors though. In my mind, only crazy could explain the presence of hundreds of roses in a vacant house.
     Shaking my head in bewilderment, I backed away from the window and took stock of the property's large size. The sprawling lawn in front of the house rolled down to the sidewalk and street and picked up again as it led to the river and dock beyond. Huge orange and yellow croton bushes and azalea shrubs lined the sides of the House adding colorful contrast to the pure white paint on the shingles. A large Live Oak tree reigned over the center of the front yard, a wooden swing hanging by tattered ropes on one of its enormous limbs. Behind the house, a majestic Magnolia tree towered over the top of the roof, sporting an abundance of glossy white blooms.
     Walking around to the side of the porch to get a fuller view, I saw a man at the house next door staring at me, arms folded across his chest. Standing still as a statue, his body language gave the sense that he had been there for a long time.
     Is he watching me? Am I trespassing? Is he violent? My nerves began to fray. Debating the benefits of running quickly back to my minivan versus the potential discomfort of a skirmish with a neighbor, I edged closer to the porch rail to get a better view.
     From what I could tell at a distance, he appeared to be about my age and nice looking. Oddly though, I could detect a definite sense of disapproval coming across the lawn from him in waves and targeted directly at me. Thinking his threatening appearance could be due to a neighborhood watch mentality, I managed to muster up the courage to call over with a greeting.
     "Hi there!" I said waving my hand in what I thought would be a friendly gesture.
     My opening salutation was met with total silence as he deliberately turned away from me and entered his house with a resounding slam of the door.
     Talk about nerve! I have every right to be here. For all he knows I really could be a potential buyer. No need to be so menacing for goodness sakes. Befuddled and annoyed I turned back to my mysterious findings putting the not so nice neighbor out of my thoughts.
     Gazing across the front lawn, visions of the first time I saw the House, almost twenty years before ran through my head. Home on college break my mother and I drove past the house searching for an address further down the street. We slowed nearly to a stop as a crowd of people crossed the river road heading for the dock. They walked arm in arm laughing; dressed in finery that looked suited for a wedding or summer gala. The House entranced me when children gathered around the Live Oak took turns on the same wooden swing. Older people rocked rhythmically on the front porch. I felt I witnessed another era when families gathered for socials in their Sunday best.
     The scene was Rockwellian in its nostalgic reminiscence of a time gone by and it stuck with me for years. My senses had been overwhelmingly filled with a wistful longing for a heritage that transcended generations, something that my own family background lacked.
     Once I moved back home permanently from school, my attraction and connection to the House grew. Throughout my climb up the corporate ladder and march through divorce court, I made a point to drive by the House as often as I could without being labeled a stalker. The House always left me with a feeling of wellbeing that eased my tension and soothed my psyche. It became my own private mental holiday.
     Now, the posting of a For Sale sign at the House created different feelings in me. Hope, fascination and a dim sense of an unrealized ambition were feeding my senses and creating tunnel vision in my thought process. The roses intrigued me, inciting a raging curiosity. The House intoxicated me, engulfing me with an overwhelming yearning for something I couldn't explain.
     Standing on the sidewalk again, I faced the House, relishing my tumultuous emotions, while trying to understand their origin. Why am I continuously drawn to this House? Is fate guiding me here for a purpose? Could this House and its roses be part of my destiny? Forcing myself to leave for the office, I resolved to find out. Practical or not, affordable or not, I felt this House had spoken to me and I intended to listen.



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