Authors: Caddy Rowland
Gastien woke about noon with a crushing headache. He could barely stand to walk outside to the privy. Each step made his head pound worse. He went back to bed for most of the afternoon, only appearing about half past four to get something to eat in a bistro. Then, he went back to his room where he packed up his clothing and art supplies.
Gastien was in bed again by eight o’clock, still recovering. He knew he would be fine by morning. He briefly realized that the green eyes were not as strong in his mind anymore. That was a good thing. It must have been the letter and the booze.
Soon he was dreaming. In his dreams, he saw babies. They made him uneasy, giving him the feeling that he was trapped. He finally realized in his dream that it was good for him that the baby was with Nath and Elliot. He would not make a good father. He just could not accept anything that tied him down. At last he slept peacefully.
Gastien was firmly cementing the habits of using alcohol, drugs, and sex to mask pain and loneliness. These things would end up causing him problems later in life, but given the lack of nurturing or healthy relationships he had experienced growing up, it was not surprising. He never would understand the damage he was causing himself by submitting his body to the poisons from large doses of alcohol and drugs.
Nor would he ever truly realize the disrespect he repeatedly showed for himself when he used himself and others for the endless pursuit of sex and its release. He wanted to be loved and valued but did not want to admit that he needed love and value from others. Sex was an immediate way to feel like that need was being met without appearing vulnerable. Had anyone tried to explain that to him he would have told them they were crazy.
At last it was the day he was leaving for Jean Luc’s. As he left the room he was filled with excitement and joy. He was almost afraid to feel it, because he was certain if he showed too much happiness everything would be taken away again. The happiness finally won out.
The carriage arrived outside of
and Gastien hopped in. It was actually a coach, so Gastien rode inside, while the driver remained out. The inside was plush, with red velvet and leather. There were even crystal liquor decanters in there! He shuddered. There would be no liquor for him,
The estate was within the city limits, so it was not that far. That was good. He would be able to get to the 6
on his days off. He could even go during the week at night if he wished. As they entered the grounds, Gastien could not believe how beautiful they were. This was large enough to be a park!! There was a stream and rolling hills…the road meandered through various gardens and shrubs. There were the peacocks! Gastien laughed.
Up ahead was the largest, most imposing home he had ever seen. That one family could live in there amazed him! Surely fifty people could live there and not feel cramped! There was a huge fountain in front. The house had columns. They did not drive up to the main house, though. The driver turned off the main path and there, a short way from the new path, at the edge of a beautiful flower garden sat a cottage. It was built well, with a decorative flair to it. Gastien could not wait to get inside.
The driver opened Gastien’s door. “Your quarters,
” the driver said formally.
.” Gastien smiled at the driver. The driver remained stiff and wore no expression. The driver carried some of Gastien's belongings. Then, he unlocked the door to the cottage, stepped aside, and motioned for Gastien to enter.
Gastien was stunned. This was an artist’s quarters? It was fabulous! Gastien had been in some luxury hotel rooms with gentry’s wives, this was not that sumptuous. But this was very, very nice. It was clean, it was full of comforts, and he was in love with it immediately.
“Will that be all,
?” the driver asked crisply.
Please call me Gastien,” he tried again.
“As you wish,
Gastien.” The driver left.
Oh well, he had tried. Looking around, he could not help but grin from ear to ear. There to the front and side of a huge fireplace was the largest tub he had ever in his life seen! It was concrete, for God’s sake! Two of him could fit in there. There was a pillow for resting your head.
! He had running water in this cottage! How much money had it cost to run water pipes from the main road to the estate, and to this cottage? Unbelievable. He turned on a faucet. As he waited, the “Hot” got hotter. He was so pleased he laughed out loud.
Looking around he saw that there were gas lights on the walls, and gas heat! And a fireplace! He would definitely stay warm. The space was one nice, large room. The cottage was a painter’s paradise, with large windows and plenty of light. Lined up was a brand new easel with all of the equipment that he had asked for. He would not have minded if he was asked to start work immediately.
There was so much to look at! His bed, it was huge. Two people together would have more room than they needed, let alone one. He sat on it. It was a featherbed! Gastien could not resist. He took off his boots and lay back. Then he bounced. What a lovely bed! The pillows were down, the coverings rich tapestry. He pulled back the tapestry and saw two thick, new blankets on the bed.
, he would not be cold while he was here.
He noticed a door on one of the back walls and went to open it.
! There was a sink and mirror in there with hot and cold faucets, but even more unbelievable was the toilet! It was an actual flush toilet! He had never seen one, as they were very, very rare. He had heard that a few very wealthy people had them, but never would he imagine a flush toilet in a cottage! He pulled the chain. Gastien jumped when the toilet made a loud noise and flushed.
! That could suck you right down to hell! But, this was wonderful! He would certainly miss having this when his time was up here.
He wondered if common people would ever be so lucky. Imagine having your waste always just washed away and no smelly pits down in the hole! Even the enclosed non flush toilet areas attached to some homes, like Emma had, smelled some. They used dirt that you pulled a lever for when you had finished. The dirt fell down and covered the waste down below. This flush toilet with water, though, was amazing! He could not wait to have to go so that he could see if it actually worked like it was supposed to. He noticed fresh smelling soap at the sink (as he had noticed on the tub) and soft, thick hand towels and washing cloths. There was even lotion and astringent for his face after shaving!
The cottage had a small couch, an easy chair, and was decorated with various niceties. In spite of the niceties, it still felt very masculine. Gastien already felt at home. He would have to be sure to thank Jean Luc and his wife before the end of the day, if he saw them. He did not think he should go to the main house unannounced.
He then noticed fresh fruits in a basket on the table. There was a note welcoming him, telling him to enjoy the fruit if he wished and to feel free to stroll the grounds, take a nap, whatever he wanted to do. At two o’clock Jean Luc would be stopping by to welcome him. Lunch would be served at one o’clock, it would be brought to his door. Gastien knew it was about 11am. He decided what he most wanted to do was take a bath.
it would feel good to soak in hot water and wash his hair again. It was still summer, but Gastien did not care. He had been without the availability of hot water for so long he was not about to let a day go by without soaking in this tub full of it.
He filled the tub as he closed the shutters and undressed. Then he climbed into the tub. Heaven! After washing his hair, he just soaked and dozed for awhile. After awhile he toweled off with the thickest, softest towel he had ever touched. He hated to use it on his personal areas, it was so lovely. The expensive soap he had used made his skin soft and glowing. It smelled wonderful!
Gastien got dressed into his same clothes (they had been clean that morning). Oh! There were three full shelves of books! What a delight! He opened the shutters back up and selected a novel. Sitting down in the easy chair, he read until lunch.
Lunch was excellent, as he had suspected it would be. He would not be wanting for food.
, he would have the weight he needed back on in no time! In fact, making sure he did not add to it might be a challenge. Gastien hated to use the linen cloth provided to him, it was so pretty. But he did and sat it on the plate. The servant had told him to place his dishes outside on the cart when he was finished. Someone would come around to remove them without disturbing him. The cart was covered, so animals could not get at the remains.
Jean Luc arrived at two o’clock. “Welcome, Gastien, welcome!” he said jovially. “I trust everything meets with your satisfaction?”
Gastien’s eyes sparkled. “Very much so, Jean Luc. You are too good to me already! Please, thank your wife, too.”
“I will do so. She is the one who picked the flowers for the table, made sure that you had fruit, and the little decorating things that women are so good at. I told her to let a servant do it, but she wanted to welcome you in her own way.”
“Tell her it looks perfect. I already feel it is my home.”
“Excellent. Say, are those all of the clothes you brought? You are here for a year you know,” inquired Jean Luc.
Gastien felt himself blush. “Those are all the clothes I own, I am afraid. My things got burned in a fire last spring. I had to start over. I never had many clothes, though. I am an artist, after all,” he laughed.
Jean Luc laughed with him. “I understand. We will remedy that. Tomorrow I will have my tailor stop by to measure you for some new shirts and pants, things like that. “
Gastien was shocked. “Oh
, that is not necessary! Please!”
“I insist,” Jean Luc said firmly. “A handsome man like you should be well dressed. Trust me, I have the money. I would enjoy seeing you at your finest. Of course, you will be in painting clothes most of the time, but still. A man needs to be well dressed whenever he can.”
, Jean Luc.” Gastien wondered why Jean Luc would want to do that. Finally, he gave up. Who understood the rich? He guessed if the man paid money to have peacocks running around, he could pay money to buy Gastien some clothes, too. He must simply have more money than he knows what to do with, Gastien thought. I have to quit being to distrustful. He smiled happily at Jean Luc.
They talked for about an hour, cementing down a painting schedule. Jean Luc gave him a map of the estate. Imagine needing a map of your yard, thought Gastien.
“Gastien, I will leave you now to do whatever you wish. You will have tomorrow to enjoy the gardens, get to know my family, and rest. I am sure the girls will each be around the gardens, as will my wife, most likely. Feel free to engage them in conversations. That way you will get to know them a bit. They are very excited to have an artist on the grounds!”
I will do so.”
Jean Luc nodded and started to leave. Then he stopped. Turning around, he said, “Oh! I almost forgot! Annah would have killed me! Please do join us for dinner tonight. That is where you will first meet our daughters. Come to the main house about seven o’clock. Would you like the driver to pick you up? It is about a quarter of a mile,” he asked.
I will walk. I don’t need a ride for that.”
“Fine. We will expect you at seven o’clock then.”
, I will be there.
. I look forward to it.”
Gastien decided to read that afternoon. He had not read a book in awhile. He noticed that there were a couple of comfortable looking chairs outside in the shade, so he went outside, novel in hand. It was a pleasant afternoon, with a servant picking up his lunch plates, and an hour or so later stopping by with some fresh lemonade. He could get used to this very quickly!
That night at seven o’clock he knocked on the double doors with the iron knocker. A servant opened the door, than bowed to indicate that Gastien should enter. The foyer was richly decorated with ornate mirrors and furnishings, a marble floor, and a gigantic crystal chandelier in the center of the high ceiling. A huge curving staircase of cherry wood was off to the side.
“Right this way,
said the servant, as he opened double doors to the right. Gastien walked in to a richly appointed dining room that would more aptly be called a dining hall. It was huge, filled with a mammoth table, twelve chairs and a sitting area off to the side. He could see that there was plenty of room to expand the table during the many times that dinner parties were probably on the agenda.
Tonight it was just the family. Jean Luc rose from the sitting area, as did Annah and the girls. Annah moved forward, offering her hand to Gastien. He kissed it.
“Welcome to our home Gastien. We are delighted to have an artist with us on our property.” Her voice was elegant silk. Smooth, like freshly churned butter. Gastien detected a bit of an accent from somewhere Nordic. That explained the blonde hair and blue eyes. Her hair was pulled back in a classic chignon. The simple hairstyle made Annah even more beautiful. Her large blue eyes demanded the attention of the room. Gastien tried not to stare.
“And I am delighted to be here,
. I look forward to painting your family very much.”
“Please, call me Annah. We will be together a lot over the next year. As you know, I am very impressed with your talent. I have told my daughters all about you. They are dying to meet you, so please let me introduce them now.” She motioned and the girls came forward. Indicating the girl on her right she stated, “This is our eldest, Vivienne. She is going to be eighteen soon. She will be married in less than a year. We want to get our family portrait done before she leaves us. She is going back to my home country, Sweden, which is where her fiancé