Chapter 5:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 195

Chapter 5

Andy's preliminary move to bail up Greer for a chat was foiled by Jack requesting the grand tour so he walked off alongside Jack pointing out new architectural enhancements and enclosed beams and columns hiding structural compromises.

Behind them walked Maggie holding the microphone of a digital recorder and also writing notes, followed by Mary just ahead of Fred and Greer. Greer was in awe with the interior but noticed that neither Jack nor Maggie seemed to be casting platitudes. It was noticeable that Jack appeared to look very intently across the rooms at times, even tilting his head slightly.

The tour ended with Mary announcing that at Jack's request they would eat early.

Animated conversation developed about the home. Walls had been taken out of the original structure with lateral strengthening concealed in overhead trusses within the raised ceiling and bearing walls had been strengthened to take a new bedroom above this area.

Mary's dream really had materialized into her state-of-the-art kitchen - a feature of which was a revolving system of storage ‘buckets' for tinned items and non-perishables that were readily delivered using a programmed hand control, accessed from what appeared to be normal kitchen cupboard doors. The revolving bucket line linking to the garage below was an extraordinary saving of kitchen storage space. The ‘buckets' with name tags could be filled in the basement where groceries would arrive and even used to return bagged refuse to the basement.

Andy explained that he'd seen a similar conveyor lift storage system for office supply storage in Switzerland and had simply converted the concept into a pantry conveyor.

There was a new family room and two remodeled bedrooms - each constructed with a walk-in dressing room and bathroom - had a sunken bath in the floor and the incorporated shower had multiple nozzles rising through wide aluminum columns between the glass walls.

The former family room had become an awesome home theatre.

"My eldest son, who's committed to buying the farm from us at mate's rates, is just itching for us to settle into a retirement home, as he wants this home theatre badly," Fred said.

"Right, it's drinks time, earlier than usual but nonetheless drinks time."

Mary told Fred to put back that bottle of Scotch he'd produced. The rule of the house, Mary informed everyone, was no liquor before sunset. The guests tried to conceal disappointment but were relieved to find that Mary meant no hard liquor.

They drank pinot gris on the front terrace, watching the idyllic scene rolling away down the hill and into the mid distance where good grazing land turned into harder grazing hills and then rose until reaching forestland.

Jack noticed that Andy managed to seat himself between Greer and Maggie, which was fine. He maneuvered to sit between their hosts that enabled him to talk quietly to them about their heartbreaks and pleasures over the interior reconstruction of their home.

"Fortunately this wasn't an inherited home and has in fact had several owners," Fred said. "Therefore I felt nothing when the building team began to rip its insides out."

"I was sorry to see our bedroom go, as we had many happy times in that room, if I am permitted to say that," Mary smiled. "I was also looking to have a kitchen that I had designed from the ground up - the kitchen of my dream. So, as you can see, virtual demolition was not a worry for us."

Jack asked the big question that had occurred to both Maggie and him: "Why not clear away the whole structure and start from scratch?"

Fred stroked his chin between sturdy, well-worn and misshapen fingers - the fingers of a farmer.

The whole group had heard the question and stopped chatting to listen.

"Well," he drawled. "It would have been a heap cheaper to have done that. Ten to twenty grand, perhaps.

"But when you see these fancy houses people are putting on to farms these days, with their columns and high-pitched roofs that look environmentally out of place, Mary and I looked around here, and saw the significant number of farmhouses similar to the vintage of ours. She said ‘I like the exterior the way it is' and I had no thought of arguing. I just said, ‘Right, what about the interior'? But I'm telling you Jack, although we had a great architect and a fine builder who was marvelous to work with, we rode a bumpy, at times worrying and always expensive ride to get this baby completed."

"Your thoughts now?"

"Worth every penny, Jack. "We've got the best of both worlds."

"And you, Mary?"

"I sit here in constant amazement, even though it's almost four months since completion. My gratitude is my recognition why architects and builder craftsmen were put on to this planet. Most of all we have to thank Andy. Yes, he was an expensive addition to our rebuilding aspirations..."

"Excruciatingly expensive," grunted Fred.

"...an expensive addition but he is a perfectionist and his standards prevailed. If anything was even slightly wrong or flawed, the supplier or tradesperson was instructed to start again."

"Another thing worth saying," Fred said, "was that Andy would not permit anyone on the site whom he did not approve."

"Yes, in more ways than the drawing board or I guess computer screen these days, this house is Andy's house in more ways than one," Mary said, emitting a dry sob.

"Oh Mary, cut the crap. It's easy to make things work when you have two of the best clients on the planet."

Mary shot a look of gratitude at Andy and went off to the kitchen, dabbing her eyes.

Greer whispered to Maggie: "Why are we having early lunch?"

"The best time to photograph home interiors is at midday when excessive light coming through windows is at its least intrusive. At early morning or later in the afternoon there is a strong blue ‘cast' in the natural light."

"So it's not just a matter of walking from room to room taking a few shots, although I really didn't think it was that simply to get things looking just right."

"No, you're quite right," Maggie said dryly. "Moreover, just right is invariably not right enough for our Jack or me for that matter. We are the best in this type of coverage because we do it the best."

"My, whatever would mother think of you know - our former Maggie who gave her mother gray hair prematurely because of her worry about Maggie in short leather skirt and bra-less, hanging out with boys."

"She'll still worry, Greer, she's still worry because I'm still not at home tucked up safely in my bed. When you marry Beanstalk here remember that."

"Maggie! What on earth are you talking about?"

"The smell of rutting is in the air, my dear. Take my word for it."

"Oh Maggie, you are so impossible at times."

"Something wrong girls?"

"No Jack, Greer here is just trying to make out she'd never heard of the mating game."

"Don't think I know that one."

"No, I'm sure you're forgotten Jack."

"Oh well. Ah, here comes lunch."

As soon as lunch was over Jack and Maggie began setting up cameras. They had also placed a collection of lamps and floor unit flashes in the hallway and even a stepladder.

As he worked Jack half-listened to the sisters talking behind him.

"I thought it is best to photograph interiors at day using natural lighting," commented Greer.

"It is, but ambient light is ill-disciplined - rarely static and even can be quite stable. It needs tweaking with various other lighting effects we have brought with us. Fill-in flash is very important to get a fairly even level of light across a room."

"I can understand that Maggie. The idea is to make everything look even and natural."

"More or less, though at times Jack will go for unnatural affects, just to make the shots more arresting but so obvious that the reader would not be deceived. The idea of this sort of house fashion photography, as I call these photo shoots, is to get the linear flow of rooms, to make them appear warm and inviting which they often do in reality. Above all he is trying to capture ‘feeling' while at the same time working to eliminate any photographic distortions - for example avoiding converging cornices and other perspective distortions."

"Good heavens, this is really high tech, isn't it?"

"Yes, Greer, but we've only scratched the surface. We haven't discussed the most suitable camera for each job, light meters, choice of film, lighting combinations and on we go. But Greer, I'll show you something when we get home. You remember those shots we took on that log around the East Coast?"

"Of course."

"The ones you took of Jack and me cheek to cheek are great. You will be thrilled. But then you'll note how mine of you and Jack are just that much better, yet the conditions were more or less identical. I had an edge because Jack has been grooming me as a photographer. Some of my better shots have been published in the magazine. You will see Jack's shots of you and me - same place, same time give or take a few minutes yet his are even superior to mine. That's because his skills are sharper and he has something I haven't got - experience. Think of the camera as being a piano. A piano player, even a good one, does not become a concert pianist overnight."

"Right. Well, how did the ones of you and me taken afterwards come out?"

"Fine - I've taken really arty ones of you. One will go up on my bedroom wall."

"That is very pleasing. He didn't see the others of course?"

"Er, right."

As Maggie hurried away her sister was a little puzzled.

Glancing at her, Jack guessed what she might be thinking was that answer given a yes or a no?

Jack took a couple of shots of the set-up for the lounge shoot and checked them. They looked OK. He called over Andy who was chatting to Greer.

"These look OK to you?"

"Y-e-e-s."

"What's wrong?"

"That low chair is wrong."

"Yeah, a bit, but Mary wanted it to remain. Says it belonged to her mother."

"Remove it. It will still belong to her mother's memory when put back again."

"Yeah, I guess she got to my soft spot."

Andy grinned and said he knew how to handle Mary. She'd tried every tactic on him from the early days of the project planning, right through to tantrums. But sense eventually prevailed."

"You mean you won each time.

Andy grinned.

Once Jack expressed satisfaction, Andy said he better go. He kissed the women goodbye - especially Mary who hugged him hard, telling everyone he was now like an adopted son to her. The men just exchanged slight waves.

As Andy went through the door Greer called, "Wait, I'll walk you out to the car." Maggie who was moving lights for Jack grinned at him and he waggled his eyebrows.

"Are you jealous?"

"She's a little thin for me," he whispered and got the distinct impression the dozing Rottweiler was wagging its tail.

After completing the interior shots, using different cameras with different film and differing supplementary lighting in the various rooms, Jack moved to the exterior and once set up, had everyone outside picking up leaves, taking labels off plants and even had Mary brushing away cobwebs in a couple of places.

He took a few shots in case the sky fell and then put a waterproof cover over the low tripod to wait until close to the optimum time. The camera was set low to emphasize the appearance of the house being on a hill. Jack explained to Greer that while they were quite some distance from the road, he'd approximated that angle of road to house with the angle of camera to house, explaining that would be what Andy worked on when setting the roof lines.

He took a few more shots before his estimated optimum time in case cloud popped up to filter the fading light - although that was most unlikely as the entire sky was now cloud-free.

As Mary bought out wine Maggie caught the nod from Jack and called, "OK Fred, light her up."

Fred switched on all the interior lights of the sprawling single-level farmhouse - a job that he volunteered to do. He then went through to the garage and switched on all exterior lights plus Jack's two photo floods and a spotlight that illuminated a plaque above the front door of a huge Angus steer, under which were the words, House of Stewart. Jack had already mounted a stepladder to capture a close up on camera shot of that sign.

Tension mounted as the others began to look anxiously at Jack and Maggie standing at the camera; it was beginning to look very marginal for photography. Although the sinking sunlight was coming in at an angle, because the house faced nor'-nor'-west, Jack still checked for unwelcome shadows. It was fine.

No longer did Jack look at his watch, looking instead at the intensity of the blue sky just slightly beyond the roofline. Satisfied that the right time was almost upon them he began clicking off exposure, varying the apertures. He paused for another drink of wine and then with the sky beyond the house now almost midnight blue he took two more shots, knowing that Mary had wanted a true night shot.

Jack of course, wanted a cover photo with a smidgeon of blue sky above the house, signaling end of day. That difference between his and Mary's preferred shot was almost insignificant, but subtle revealed the difference between professional and amateur standards; he was highly paid and expensively fitted out to provide that edge.

While Jack had worked patiently to capture that specifically calculated shot, Maggie had been taking digital photographs. She took the camera into the home theatre and plugged it into the lead she'd already set up, allowing Greer and the hosts to be watching the exposures presented as a slide show. Maggie hurried out to help Jack begin packing up.

"They're beautiful Maggie, I know that you said that Jack's output will be significantly superior but we are more than satisfied with these photos of yours. Now, you said you are going to the hot pools for dinner, but please reconsider. You are being offered the warmest country hospitality, you know."

"Thanks, Mary. But no. We will keep to our schedule as time is running out for Greer and I suspect we won't be seeing too much of her from now on."

"Yes, young people want to get around and see everything, don't they? But while we're talking about Greer - and I'm not sure that I should be saying this - but I really believe she has taken a shine to Andy."

"It's quite all right to point that out, Mary," said Maggie. "My impression is that he was reciprocating."

"Really? If you don't mind my saying, she'd be a fine catch for Andy."

"Would she now? Think of poor mother, having no daughters living back home."

By now Mary had her courage up. "Oh, something tells me your time of living in Scotland has ended; and perhaps your mother will drag your father to live out here when the first bairn arrives."

Maggie swung around wildly to look for the whereabouts of Jack, and was greatly relieved to hear him placing the lights into the rear of the 4WD - hopefully he was out of earshot.

"Mary, spare me," she pleaded. He doesn't really see me that way, but I'm hoping that will change. But confront him with it and that could be the end - he lost his wife tragically just months ago."

Mary came forwarded and hugged her. "Oh my poor dear, oh my poor dear," she soothed.

"What's wrong?" Jack asked anxiously, hurrying over to them.

"Oh, the poor girl...um...twisted her ankle slightly, but she'll be all right."

Recalling Andy's enquiry about whether she acted in local theatre, Maggie swept an arm dramatically over here tilting her forehead back. "It was only a light twist. Please don't fret."

As Mary let go of Maggie, Jack said they could go straight home and go to a doctor at Accident and Emergency if necessary.

"Oh no, your sympathy is overwhelming Jack. I...I...shall be better, I believe, by the time we reach the hot pools."

"Oh, excellent," said Jack. "You had me worried for a moment."

"You know reliable me, never someone to do anything to mess up a photo shoot."

Looking past Jack, Maggie could see Mary beaming and soundlessly applauding. Then she gave her the thumbs up and went inside.

Jack looked at Maggie squarely. "What way don't I see you?"

Maggie turned white, not red, and a miracle occurred: she dashed off inside without any sign of an ankle injury.

Jack stood looking at her go through the door, wondering what that was all about and why she no longer appeared to have a painful ankle injury.

He shrugged. The Rottweiler would bark it out if Maggie were in trouble.

At Waiwera they found a well-illuminated parking space as Jack didn't fancy having the vehicle broken into. The unmarked 4WD was parked only three spaces up from the entrance, so he asked the security guard at the door to keep an eye on it as he had irreplaceable exposed film aboard as well as photographic gear.

"Are you the Press?" asked the guard.

Jack nodded. Well, magazines were more or less the press, even though the guy would have meant daily newspapers.

"Right, not problem," grinned the guard. "We don't want bad publicity."

The entered the complex and Jack led the others to a special area.

"Oh, are we being treated," Maggie said expressively. "It's so lovely coming home after a hard day at the office and not having to cook."

Gavin MacLeod came forward to greet them, hand in hand with Roberta who wearing a small woman's bikini.

"Hi, guys," he enthused. "Jack asked me if I knew the procedure for booking a special facility here and I said to him - nudge, nudge, wink, wink - that I did and as I happened to have someone special to introduce to this facility: You all know Roberta, don't you?"

"Hi, guys," Roberta waved, looking ever so happy.

Gavin had volunteered to be in charge so made the orders.

"OK, you Flowers of Scotland. Out of those townie clothes and into you swim suits. But I warn you; if they are too large I shall hire more appropriate ones for you. And you Jack, I couldn't care a stuff what you wear."

A beautifully relaxing evening eventuated, helped along with the barbecue meal that Gavin had pre-ordered as part of the deal. He settled down as soon as Roberta stopped pulling away every time he endeavored to put his hand inside her bikini top.

"The pools close at 10:00 midweek," whispered Jack. "Let's shove off and give them a chance to alone. Roberta is obviously nervous of having us see her with him and I assure you, Maggie, some time in the future when we need it Gavin will reward us for our discretion."

As the 4XD crossed the harbor bridge, Greer cleared her throat and said, "Um, I've got something to tell you folk and ask for your tolerance."

"That after tonight we won't be seeing you until the day you flight out?"

"How on earth do you know that Maggie?" Greer asked, genuinely surprised. "I've told nobody; it just came out of the blue late this afternoon."

"Body language, dear. Your reactions are not unknown to me."

"I sensed it when Andy became gobsmacked," Jack said. "I've never seen him like that before, even when we were upbeat in London scouring bars looking for hot dates. This afternoon he was a nervous twit. Then, when he was leaving, you confirmed it, announcing you would see Andy off. It occurred to me that was an odd thing for a women to do when the man was a complete stranger - and then it fell neatly into place: those extraordinary number of glances that had occurred between you two; the way he jumped to his feet when you came into a room; the way he seemed unsettled when he walked into a room when you weren't there. Love is in the air, I concluded."

"We believe this is true, dear, is it?" Maggie asked.

"Yes," was the faint admission.

"Oh darling, we are so happy for you, aren't we Jack?"

"Absolutely. Are you going to be staying with him?"

"We didn't get that sorted. All he said was that he was returning to the Bay of Islands after lunch tomorrow and if I wasn't in the car with him he could not predict what tragedy would lie ahead of him and his shattered heart. He said shattered heart, Maggie. Until that neither a word nor a gesture of endearment had passed between us. It's just so romantic. So I said I wasn't the promiscuous type, and he said he'd expected that of me and it was up to him to win my favors. He said win my favors, Maggie. I almost had to sit down He said he would treat me to four wonderful days with him and have my back in Auckland to fly on out the fifth day which was when I had told him I would be leaving."

"That takes care of the days, but what about those long, sultry nights?"

"Don't be gross, Jack," Maggie rebuked. "The nights are not sultry at this time of year and this is not one of your little quickies in a motel room; this is true romance, isn't Greer."

"Yes!" cried Greer leaning forward from the back seat.

Maggie hugged her and they began to weep.

Jack turned on the CD player and started whistling to the opening tune.

End of a perfect day, he thought.


Submitted: July 29, 2007

© Copyright 2022 Grigor McGregor. All rights reserved.

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