Alex and Leo Renfield are a husband and wife contractor team who’ve recently moved to the village of Woodhaven, Connecticut to escape the chaos of life in New York. Pretty close to broke, they meet Theodora Hamilton, a somewhat unsavory and odd individual, who offers them an astronomical amount of money to repaint the first floor of her family home.
But along with the huge paycheck comes a set of unsettling rules that must be followed explicitly if they are to accept the offer; one of which is they must reside on the property having no direct contact with the outside world until the job is complete.
Is Theodora Hamilton just an eccentric woman with a peculiar way of doing things, or is there a more sinister agenda that Alex and Leo are unaware of? What exactly does she have in store for this down-on-their-luck couple who have no choice but to accept the offer and the strange requirements that come along with it?
“Happy Anniversary, honey!” Alex cried, throwing her arms around her husband, Leo, as he emerged from his Silverado.
“Happy Anniversary yourself,” he replied, kissing the top of her head. He held her with one arm because the other was behind his back.
“What’s back there?”
Leo looked defeated. “It’s not much, and I’m sorry it’s not. You deserve so much more than this,” he said, revealing the huge bouquet of spring flowers.
“They’re just beautiful! Where did you get them?”
“They were stolen with love, let’s put it that way.”
“Oh, yes I did.”
“The park in Southfield?”
“That flowerbed needed some thinning, anyhow.”
Alex laughed out loud, picturing this giant of a man sneaking around the park, picking flowers. “These flowers mean more to me than anything you could buy from a store, Leo. Thank you.”
“Let’s go inside before the neighbors call the cops. I hear you get three-to-five for flower stealing,” Leo said.
“Okay. I have something for you, too.”
“Well, yeah, I was counting on that.”
“I mean a present.”
“So do I.”
“One track mind.”
“I like that track,” he said, slapping her butt.
Once he was seated in the living room and the flowers were in water and on the table, she handed him his present. “Hope you like it.”
“Sweetie, we don’t have the money for you to be buying me anything.”
“I know. I made it while you were out looking for jobs.”
His smile could light up the world. “You did? You really made something?”
“Yes, but I guess you could say it’s sort of a self-serving gift,” Alex said.
“It’s almost too pretty to open.” Leo fingered the delicate pale blue rice paper wrapping. “Almost.” He tore off the paper and metallic silver bow. “Oh, this is great! You made us a sign.”
“Yep. I used the router and it was easy. Before I met you, I hand-carved everything.”
Leo flipped the sign over and laughed when he saw that Alex had burned a small “AR” into the lower right corner at the back of it. “Aha! Now you’re learning,” he exclaimed.
Leo made it a practice to put his initials somewhere on all the woodwork he did. They were unobtrusive and you’d have to be looking for them to see them, but they were always there somewhere. Alex thought it was a nice idea. Why should artists have a corner on signing their work?
“You’re such a natural with wood, Alex. You’re going to be a huge help once we get some work to do. ‘October’s End Remodeling, Inc. Leo & Alex Renfield,’” Leo read from the two-lined sign.
“Speaking of work, how did the estimate go?”
Leo sighed. “Oh, you know. It’s a little old lady who thinks she wants her whole bathroom remodeled, and I spend forty-five minutes with her before she tells me that her son-in-law does ‘this sort of thing’ as a sideline, but just can’t seem to find the time to do her job.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound bad, if she needs to get it done. Could be work for us.”
Leo shook his head. “Maybe, but unlikely. I’ve seen this kind of thing a million times before. I spend my time going out to talk to her, I spend my time writing up an estimate, and she takes the estimate to her son-in-law, or whoever, and he looks at it and says, ‘I’ll do it for five hundred less,’ and that’s that as far as October’s End goes. All she wanted was an estimate she can take somewhere else. Forget the fact that we use the best materials and have skills honed over most of my life and part of yours. And forget the fact that if sonny boy screws up the job, she has absolutely no recourse. All she’ll see is that the job is going to cost her five hundred or three hundred to whatever amount less, and she’ll go with that.”
“Crap. It sounded so good, too,” Alex sighed, punching the sofa cushion.
“Don’t worry, sweetie. Something’s bound to break soon. I’ve gone on a dozen estimates over the past couple of weeks. One of ’em’s going to hit, I just know it. But for now, why don’t you go put on that pretty purple silk dress I gave you for your birthday? We’re going out to celebrate tonight.”
“Oh, honey, that’s a nice thought, but how can we? Dinners out are a bit extravagant right now, don’t you think? I can whip something up here… really,” Alex said.
“No way. I found a really chea… inexpensive place to get terrific Chinese food. All the area contractors go there. I heard about it from a fella at Home Depot.”
“Then let’s give it a try. However it is, tonight it will be fabulous.”
“That’s my girl.” Leo was so pleased that he forgot all about how odd it was that there was only one person in the entire Home Depot store.
Gothic Revival can be found online at major retailers including:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carson Buckingham knew from childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began, at age six, by writing books of her own, hand-drawing covers, and selling them to any family member who would pay (usually a gum ball) for what she referred to as “classic literature.” When she ran out of relatives, she came to the conclusion that there was no real money to be made in self-publishing, so she studied writing and read voraciously for the next eighteen years, while simultaneously collecting enough rejection slips to re-paper her living room… twice.
When her landlord chucked her out for, in his words, “making the apartment into one hell of a downer,” she redoubled her efforts and collected four times the rejection slips in half the time, single-handedly causing the first paper shortage in U.S. history.
But she persevered, improved greatly over the years, and here we are.
Carson Buckingham has been a professional proofreader, editor, newspaper reporter, copywriter, technical writer, comedy writer, humorist, and fiction author. Besides writing, she loves to read and work in her vegetable garden. She lives in the United States in the state of Arizona.