The haphazard stacks of photo albums had been straining for release from their confines ever since they’d been bundled back into the dresser a year previously, the last time anybody had paid them any attention. Coming down the stairs, ready to pack up the contents of the dresser, Lady Watson had entirely forgotten they were there. She dropped the two empty boxes she was carrying onto the polished wooden floor, crouched down and reached out a hand, pulling open the door nearest to her. A second later she gave a wild shriek as the piles inside gave way and came cascading down on top of her, knocking her off-balance and causing her to topple ignominiously onto her backside.
Cursing audibly and thanking her lucky stars that none of her family had been around to see the spectacle, she rubbed her calf where something had hit her exposed skin leaving a red mark. Then picking up the nearest book, she smiled as she saw what had landed on her. It was their family albums, telling the story of fourteen joyful years in their Geneva home; fourteen joyful years of marriage and family life. She began to leaf through the one she held in her hands and felt a lump come to her throat as she looked at the happy, smiling faces of her family gathered together on the back lawn. Their youngest had been just two at the time. It all felt so long ago now.
Deciding that her packing could wait a little longer, she began to pile the albums up on the floor, sorting them into date order. Then picking up the first six in her arms, she made her way out through the family room to the gardens at the rear of the house.
Thirty minutes later, she had transferred them all outside. Sitting herself down at the table with a cup of strong, milky coffee, she opened the first book – the one with ‘1954 -1955’ inscribed on the inside of the cover. Turning back the protective sheaf of tissue paper, she felt sentimental tears pricking the back of her eyes. She blinked hard and smiled as she stared at the first photo; one of herself, fourteen years ago, posing outside the front of the house. It was the day that they had moved in, eleven days into their honeymoon. She could even remember why she had been laughing. Edgar had been having trouble getting the camera to work…
“Well I don’t know what’s wrong with the blasted thing!”
Examining the back of the camera intently, the frown on his face deepening, Edgar gave it a shake and then glared suspiciously at his wife who had suddenly started giggling.
“What’s so funny?”
“You…the lens…” Evadne giggled again as he lifted the camera back to his eye, and giving up her efforts to speak, she pointed forlornly at his hands.
Confused, Edgar lowered the camera, turning it around so he could see the front. The next moment he went bright red and sheepishly removed the lens cap, putting it in his pocket.
“Alright, I’m an idiot!” He grinned as Evadne lifted her head to look at him, still laughing and wiping away tears of mirth. “Smile!” and lifting the camera back to his eye, he quickly took a picture before she had time to react.
“Hey! I wasn’t ready!”
“Serves you right for laughing at me!” Laying the camera down carefully on top of the suitcase next to him, Edgar walked towards her. “Right, time to get into the house I think! No, leave that there for now,” he added, as Evadne leaned down to grab the handle of the nearest bag.
“Because I’m going to carry you over the threshold, of course!”
“Oh no you’re not!” She dodged sideways to try and escape him, but he was too quick for her and reached out to grab her arm. “Edgar, no! We’ve been into the house already - you don’t need to carry me in now!”
“I know we have, but we've not been in since the wedding and it’s traditional, so I’m carrying you over the threshold whether you like it or not!” and as she laughed and tried to free herself from his grasp, he reached down and picked her up in a fireman’s lift. Ignoring her protests, he carried her across the forecourt to the already-open front door.
Once they were inside the spacious entrance hall, he stopped and lowered her back to the polished, tiled floor, grinning at her indignant expression. “There, that wasn’t so painful was it?”
“How very romantic of you!” she retorted, straightening her skirt, “I thought you were supposed to sweep me up in your arms, not carry me over like a sack of potatoes!”
“Well you shouldn’t have protested then should you?” He looked around at the newly-papered walls. “Come on grumpy, let’s go and see what sort of job the decorators have done. We should have a new kitchen by now too,” and taking hold of her hand, he led her to the far side of the hall and in through the kitchen door.
They spent the next hour going happily from room to room, inspecting the decorating and making final decisions on what each one would be used for. With the exception of the kitchen, the only furnished room was their bedroom. That they had done before the wedding had taken place, knowing they would need somewhere to sleep when they arrived. The rest of the furniture was due to begin arriving that afternoon.
The top two floors were easily sorted out. They decided to leave the three children to choose their own bedrooms, and the rest would be guest rooms and perhaps one or two would become nurseries, should they be lucky enough to add to their family in the future. Making their way back downstairs, the drawing room, Edgar’s study, the reading room and the dining room were soon chosen. The family room, they had already determined, would be the vast room running across the full length of rear of the house, with several sets of french doors opening out onto the large flagstone terrace. Part of the basement was obviously meant to be a wine cellar. The other half, with its large vent leading outside, they designated a workroom, where Ned could work on his models and Edgar could, in his own words, ‘build things’.
Evadne was now standing in a smallish room built as an extension off the rear of the salon, set back and protruding from the side of the house. It had large windows running right around two of its three external walls, allowing views of both the gardens running down to the tennis court at the side of the house, and the lake and mountains at the back. There was a wide boxed-in window seat running underneath the windows and built-in bookshelf alcoves along the back wall. As Edgar came into the room, she turned around to face him with a wide grin.
“This is ours.”
He raised an eyebrow, a little confused. “I know that, we own the whole house!”
“Oh…you!” Evadne replied in exasperated tones. “You know what I mean! It’s our ‘snug’!”
“What on earth’s a ‘snug’?”
“It’s our own special room - where we can come and sit and look at the view and be together. See, we’ve bookshelves so we can have a mini library, and there’s room for a couple of armchairs and a table. And come see the view from here!” she added, beckoning him over to the window seat on which she was now kneeling.
Walking over to stand behind her, he slipped his arms around her waist and looked out of the window at the gleaming sapphire-blue lake with the Alps towering in the distance. Lowering his head, he kissed the top of hers. “I love that idea.”
Evadne leant back into him. “My folks had a room like that when we lived in Salzburg,” she recalled, a touch of wistfulness in her voice. “I always promised myself I’d have one too, when I got a husband of my own.” She tilted her head back to look up at him. “And now I have both!”
He smiled affectionately down at her, but before he could reply, the sound of the doorbell clanged throughout the house. Pulling out of his arms, Evadne jumped down from the seat and made for the door.
“That must be the first of the furniture! What was coming today again?”
“The sofas and chairs and things for the family room, I think,” Edgar replied, following her out of the room into the hall.
He was soon proved right, as they opened the front door to find a small, wiry, moustachioed man standing on their doorstep, holding a clipboard, while two burlier men prepared to unload a large armchair from the back of a van. Edgar exchanged a few quick words with the man with the clipboard, while Evadne checked that the way through the hallway was clear of their bags, and before long, they were unloading the first of the Watson’s new furniture into the house.