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Roses Aren't Everything: Chapter 59: Rainbows Of Colour

...The surpassing beauty of the windows was breathtaking. Coloured light filtered in from opposite sides of the room and fell in segments on the steps of the spiral staircase leading to Warren’s study....

Ingrid and Brian share moments of enchantment,

Leanne Hunt continues her story of a woman in an emotional crisis.

Brian said nothing as Ingrid showed him into the hollow space of the tower. Caroline and Debbie, who had been chattering excitedly as they came in, recognised the look of amazement on his face and fell silent. Two of the walls were painted plain white; the third contained the door and two oblong windows, and the last was a breathtaking spectacle of three equal sized windows bounded by a solid frame of wrought iron. Acting on an impulse, Ingrid closed the door behind her so that the dogs would stay out. In the ensuing stillness, they drank in the sublime atmosphere.

The surpassing beauty of the windows was breathtaking. Coloured light filtered in from opposite sides of the room and fell in segments on the steps of the spiral staircase leading to Warren’s study. The sight of it enthralled Ingrid, as if she was seeing it for the first time. What was more, their faces glowed with such brilliant luminescence that they appeared to be standing in the very presence of God.

Brian stood in the centre of the floor and gazed about him. “These are… extraordinary… unbelievable…” he murmured, struggling to find words. “They’re masterpieces of craftsmanship. I’d say that these three” he indicated the trio of windows that looked onto the courtyard, “are without a doubt Aichinger creations. Look at the intricate detail on the Crowned Crane’s head.”

Ingrid had been captivated by the beauty of the windows at Steelesbury the first time she had seen them but, unfortunately, few people ever got to appreciate them from this angle anymore. Familiarity had dulled the family’s appreciation of the windows, and Warren had virtually stopped caring about them. He had thought nothing of changing the entrance hall into a closed stairwell. Ingrid recalled the period when the tower had been under construction. Scaffolding, ladders and wheelbarrows had been everywhere. With her own attention taken up with babies, she had given the windows little thought. Now she appreciated what a risk they had taken and it made her heave a heavy sigh.

Caroline turned anxious eyes on her and asked, “You okay, Mom?”

She smiled tenderly. “Yes, darling, I’m okay. Just thinking about Daddy.”

Caroline nodded, glancing at Brian. “Mom, how about I make a tray of tea? We can have those cheese scones you baked yesterday.”

“That would be wonderful, love,” she said. “Take the dogs with you so they don’t get in the way, but don’t wake Luke, all right?”

Caroline turned and beckoned to Debbie. The two of them slipped out noiselessly.

As the door closed behind them, Brian remarked, “They’re a credit to you, Ingrid. You must be proud of them.” He walked over to examine the carved wooden door with its wrought iron hinges. “Look at this,” he exclaimed, “The carvings mirror the bulrush design in that middle panel. It looks as if whoever made the door worked closely with the glass-smith who made the windows. That would suggest that the windows were made for this house. How old would you say it is?”

She reflected on what Alice and Vernon had told her years ago when she first visited the estate. As far as she knew, she told Brian, Vernon had had the house built from scratch. He had used labour and materials obtained through the engineering company for which he had worked. It was conceivable, though, that the floor, walls and windows in this section had been in existence already.

“That would make sense,” Brian agreed.

“The second storey is much newer,"Ingrid said. “It was built when the children were small. Warren couldn’t work in the sitting room where my desk is because it was too near the kitchen and there was always too much activity going on. Also, she added frankly, “he had some personal stress he couldn’t deal with. I think he must have hoped that the tower would give him a place of retreat. Maybe he thought that, upstairs, he could escape from some of his demons.”

She expected him to say something reassuring, but he didn’t. So, handing him back the book, she continued, “Take your time. When you’re ready, just follow the sound of the CD player and you’ll find us in the sitting room.”

The girls had already buttered the scones by the time she reached them. They had set out the tea tray with side plates and cake forks on Ingrid's desk. She found a CD of Handel’s Water Music and put it on. Luke was still sleeping soundly, so she busied herself picking St Joseph’s lilies to place in a vase. Brian came through just as she was arranging the heads of the flowers. He was smiling broadly.

From their subsequent conversation, it transpired that he had long been interested in the windows at Steelesbury, having first seen them from the road years before. That had been when the Cyprus trees were still small. Once, when giving Warren a lift home from the golf course, he had expressed interest in them, but nothing more had happened. After that, he had simply waited for another opportunity to present itself. Her invitation at the wine evening for him to come and view the windows had therefore meant a lot. He thanked her profusely.

Caroline found a Field Guide of Southern African Mammals in the book shelf and handed it to Brian. “Could you find the squirrel we saw on our roof?” she requested.

Quickly he flipped to the back of the book and ran a finger down the index. Turning to the page indicated, he declared, “Here it is! The Grey Tree Squirrel.” According to the legend, it was usually found in densely wooded areas, which made its appearance so near the town something of an oddity.

Ingrid suggested, “You girls should put out some nuts for it to eat. Perhaps it’s hungry.”

“Better not,” Brian advised. “The book says it feeds on flowers as well as nuts and berries. You don’t want to encourage it with all these roses about.”

“Gosh, no!” she exclaimed. “What would I do with no roses to care for?” It was good to joke and see the girls joining in the laughter. They had been solemn at Steelesbury for too long.

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