The townhome was so quiet that it seemed as if each brick settled a little more comfortably into its mortar as the door closed. The hallway was grey and white, with black shining from the art and artifacts in the hall and the entire color scheme washed by a shiver of light from the mirrored chandelier and furniture. The woman who had opened the door was dressed in a slim sheath of grey. When she paused just in front of me, I was visited with a sudden horror, a reminder of the old ghost story of the lady in the grey taffeta dress, reaching for a girl at the foot of her stairs in a house somewhere on the coast of Texas. My own guide was silent as that apparition, but I did not reach for her to see if she, too would feel chill as the silver and stone around us.
She did not enter the door she opened for me and I found my relief from the chill in a sunken living room full of ficus and ivy. The black and white theme was continued by the slim frames for the botanical prints that ringed the walls, providing some kind of family history for the simple specimens I had brought. My hostess was here, watering her indoor forest. "Welcome, welcome. There is a vase on the table there by the couch for your flowers. I see that you've matched our collection quite nicely. Too bad it's not the season for clover."
As I poked the crushed stems into the dark green glass vase and floated some of the flower heads in the wide green bowl next to it, she continued to water. "I thought we might have dinner in here, and I didn't want them to feel left out. Oooohhh, I like these roses floating in the bowl. You must have found the remains of a garden." She looked down for a minute and then rushed out of the room with a cry. A breeze rustled through the leaves around the couch. Across from me was a tufted seat that curved as if it had been created to fit and was covered with a pile of albums. Would this be our appertif? How long had it been since someone looked through those albums for a familiar face?
A few minutes later she returned with stubs of candles, which it looked like she had scraped out of their holders. "A less formal candelabra, isn't it lovely?" They floated around the roses and she moved the taller vase to a shelf between the botanical prints. It fit like a key into a lock.