“And you?” he asked. “Where do you live?”
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“Somewhere in these hills. Perhaps I'll take you there someday.”
As many questions as she asked, and as few as she answered, somehow she still managed to make him feel that he was of vital interest to her, not in the way some questioners mightâas scientist studying an insectâbut as if she cared about him from before the time she had met him. He was wondering at the trust he had placed in this stranger just as the sun was coming up over the hills. She had parked the car on a ridge. Harry was snoring softly.
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“I'll take you home,” she said.
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“I'm not sure I want to go home,” Bill answered, then quickly added, “Sorry, I don't mean to be pushy. You've been a great listener. You're probably tired andâ”
She reached over then, and laid a finger to his lips. She shook her head, and he stopped talking, unsure of what she was saying no to.
SHE TOOK HIM BACK TO
his apartment, leaving Harry asleep in the car.
“Do you want to come in?” he asked on his doorstep.
She shook her head, an impish smile on her lips. “I know exactly what it looks likeâI'm sure you've described it perfectly. Besides, you're very busy. You've got to get a little sleep, and then you'll wake up and write your book. It's going to be terrific, but no one will ever find that out until you write it.”
She turned and skipped back to the car.
“Will I see you again?” he called out.
“Stop worrying,” she called back. “Write!”
And he had. He slept about three hours, woke up feeling as if he had slept ten, and wondering if he had dreamed the woman in the Rolls-Royce. But dream or no dream, he suddenly knew how to get around that problem in his story, and went to work.
Harry appeared a few hours later, a picnic basket in hand. “Miss Eleanor sends her regards, and provisions so that you need not interrupt your work.”
“You can talk!” Bill exclaimed.
“When necessary,” Harry said, and left.
BILL SEARCHED THROUGH THE BASKET,
and found an assortment of small sandwiches, a salad, a slice of chocolate cake and several choices of beverages. He also found an old-fashioned calling card:
Miss Eleanor Wingate
On the back she had inscribed her phone number. “Delicious,” Bill said, holding it carefully, as if it might skip away, disappear as quickly as she had.
AND SO HE WENT BACK
to writing. Bill saw little of Ellie during the first few weeks which followed their ride through the hills, but he called her often. If he found himself staring uselessly at the place where the wall behind his computer screen met the ceiling, unsure of how to proceed, a brief chat with Ellie inspired him. They played a game with Hitchcock films and Woolrich stories.
“A jaguar,” he would say.
she would answer. “A name scrawled on a window.”
The Lady Vanishes.”
And his writer's block would vanish as well.
WHEN BILL COMPLETED HIS MANUSCRIPT,
Harry brought him and the manuscript to her home for the first time. Bill, trying (and failing) not to be overawed by the elegance which surrounded him, handed her the box of pages. She caressed the corners of the box, looking for a moment as if she might cry. But she said nothing, and set it gently aside without opening it. She held out her hand, and he took it. She led him upstairs.
LATER, WAKING IN THE BIG
bed, he found her watching him. “Did you read it?”
“No,” she said, tracing a finger along his collarbone. “I don't want there to be any mistake about why you're here. It's not because of what's in that manuscript box.”
He savored the implications of that for a moment before insecurities besieged him. “Maybe you'd hate it anyway.”
It was the last time they talked about the manuscript for three days. At the end of those three days, he mailed it to an agent, called his father to say he'd found other work, packed up his belongings and moved in with Ellie.
The agent called back, took him on as a client, and sold the book within a week. Bill was already at work on his second novel. The first one was a critically acclaimed but modest success. The second spent twenty-five weeks on the bestseller list. When Bill got his first royalty check, he asked Ellie to marry him.
She gently but firmly refused. She also refused after books three, four and fiveâall bestsellers.
Today, as he finished the chapter he was working on, he wondered if she would ever tell him why. Ellie could be very obstinate, he knew. If she didn't want to give him a straight answer, she would make up something so bizarre and absurd that he would know to stop asking.
“There was a clause in my parents' will,” she said once. “If I marry before my fiftieth birthday, the house must be turned into an ostrich farm.”
“And the courts accepted this?” he played along.
“Absolutely. The trust funds would go to ostriches and Mir would be very unhappy with you for putting an end to her healthy allowance.”
“Your parents would have left Miriam a pauper?”
“She thinks she's a pauper on what I give her now.”
“A pauper? On ten thousand dollars a month?”
“Pin money for Mir. We grew up rich, remember?”
“Hard to forget. Why not give it all to Miriam and live on my money instead?”
She frowned. “I'd be dependent on you.”
“So what? I was dependent on you when I first lived here.”
“For about four months. And you had your own money, you just didn't need any of it. Do you want to be married for more than four months?”
“So now you see why we can't be married at all.”
He didn't, but he resigned himself to the situation. She probably would never tell him why she wouldn't marry him, or why she allowed Miriam, who often upset her, to come to the house on a regular basis to plead for more money.
“WHERE'S HARRY?” MIRIAM DEMANDED WHEN
Bill answered the doorbell.
“On the phone,” Bill explained as he took her coat. “He's placing ads for a cook and housekeeper.”
“Not again,” Miriam said.
“The last ones managed to stay on for about six weeks,” Bill said easily.
Miriam turned her most charming smile upon him. She was gorgeous, Bill thought, not for the first time. A redhead with china blue eyes and a figure that didn't need all that custom tailoring to show it off. What was she, he wondered? A walking ice sculpture, perhaps? But he discarded that image. After all, sooner or later, ice melted.
“I don't know why you stay with her, Bill,” Miriam purred, misreading his attention.
Bill heard a door open in a hallway above them.
“If you're here for a favor,” he said in a low voice, “you're not being very kind to your benefactor.”
Miriam stood frowning, waiting until she heard the door close again. Still, she whispered when she said, “Even
must admit that she drives the entire household to distraction.”
“Yes,” he said, thinking back to the night he met Ellie. “But distraction isn't always such a bad place to go.”
“She's crazy,” Miriam said scornfully. “And a liar!”
“She's neither. What brings you by this afternoon?” They were halfway up the stairs now, and although Bill thought Ellie was probably past being injured by Miriam's remarks, he didn't know how much longer his own patience would last.
Miriam pointed one perfectly-shaped red fingernail at him. “How can you say she's not a liar? She once told you Harry was her father.”
“She knew I wouldn't believe it. She never tells me any lie she thinks I might believe. Come on, she's waiting.”
Bill had heard Ellie cross into one of the upstairs staging rooms. This meant, he knew, that she had staged some clues for him, placed objects about the room intended to remind him of specific Hitchcock movies. It was an extension of the old game they played, and one of the reasons that housekeepers didn't last long. The last one left after finding a mannequin, unclad except for Harry's cap, sitting in the bathtub. (
“The Trouble With Harry,”
Bill had said, earning praise from Ellie even as they tried to revive the fainting housekeeper.)
Ellie, knowing Miriam hated the game, always had one ready when her sister came to visit.
WEARING A PAIR OF JEANS
with holes in the knees, Ellie was sitting cross-legged on top of a large mahogany table, passing a needle and thread through colored miniature marshmallows to make a necklace. She smiled as she moved the needle through a green marshmallow.
“How much this time?” she asked without looking up.
“Ellie, darling! So good to see you.”
Ellie glanced at Bill. “Too many Bette Davis movies.” She chose a pink marshmallow next.
“What on earth are you doing? And why are you wearing those horrid clothes?”
“Shhh!” Ellie said, now reaching for a yellow marshmallow.
Bill was looking around the room. As usual in a game, there were many oddball objects and antiques in the room. The trick was to find the clues among the objects. “How many all together?”
“Three,” Ellie answered.
“Oh! This stupid game. I might have known,” Miriam grumbled.
He saw the toy windmill first.
“One down, two to go,” Ellie laughed. “How much money this time, Mir?”
“I didn't come here to ask for money,” Miriam said, sitting down.
Bill looked over at her in surprise, then went back to the game.
Searching through the bric-a-brac that covered a low set of shelves, he soon found the next clue: three small plaster of Paris sculptures of hands and wrists. A man's hand and a woman's hand were handcuffed together; another male hand, missing the part of its little finger, stood next to the handcuffed set.
“The Thirty-Nine Steps.”
“Bravo, Bill. Of course you came here for money, Mir. You always do.”
“Not this time.”
“What then?” Ellie asked, watching as Bill picked up a music box from a small dressing table.
“I want to move back home.”
Ellie stopped stringing marshmallows. Bill set the music box down.
Don't give in, Ellie,
he prayed silently.
“No,” Ellie said, and went back to work on her necklace. Bill's sigh of relief was audible.
“Ellie, please. I'm your sister.”
“I'll buy you a place to live.”
“I want to live here.”
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“It's in the will. I can live here if I want to.”
Ellie looked up. “We had an agreement.”
Miriam glanced nervously toward Bill, then said, “It's my home, too, you know. You've allowed a perfect stranger to live here. Well, I don't deserve any less.”
“Why do you want to come back, Mir? You haven't lived here in years.”
“I think it's time we grew closer as sisters, that's all.”
Ellie only laughed at that. Bill was heartened by the laughter. Ellie was protective of Miriam, held a soft spot for her despite her abuses. But if that sister plea didn't get through to her, maybe there was a chanceÂ .Â .Â .
“Look, you've been living up here in grand style,” Miriam said petulantly, “and I just want to enjoy a bit of it myself.”
Bill saw Ellie's mood shifting, saw her glancing over at him. He felt awkwardness pulling ahead of his curiosity by a nose. He decided to leave this discussion to the sisters. It was Ellie's house, after all. She could do as she liked. He started to edge out of the room, but Ellie said, “This concerns you, too, Bill. Don't leave.”
He wasn't put off by what others might have taken to be a commanding tone. In seven years, he had never heard the word “please” come out of her mouth. Although he thought of few things as certain when it came to Ellie, one certainty was that she rarely asked anything of others. Knowing this, he treated any request as if there were an implied “please.”
“This isn't his house!” Miriam shouted.
“Lower your voice. He is my guest and welcomed here.”
Bill turned away, forced himself to look again at the objects on the dressing table.
Ellie went on. “You spent all of your inheritance in less than two years, Mir. Grandfather knew you were like our parents.”
Bill knew this part of the story. Their grandfather had raised the girls after their parentsâwild, spoiled and reckless, according to Ellieâwere killed in a car wreck. While Miriam received a large inheritance, Ellie's grandfather had left the house and most of his money to Ellie, thinking Miriam too much like his late daughter.
“Don't start speaking ill of the dead,” Miriam protested to Ellie.
“All right, I won't. But the fact remainsÂ .Â .Â .”
“That you've made money and I've lost all of mine. Don't rub it in, Ellie. Now I've even lost the condo.”
“You know? Then you understand why I want to live here.”
“Not really. But forget living here. I'll help you buy a home, free and clear. But this time, I'll keep the title so that you can't mortgage it endlessly.”
“I want to live here. This is my home!”
“Fine. Then you won't get another dime from me.”
Bill watched in the dressing table mirror as Miriam swallowed hard, then lifted her chin. “All right, if that's what you want to do. My bags are in the car. Harry can pick up the rest of my thingsâ”
“No!” Ellie interrupted sharply, clenching her hands, smushing part of her marshmallow necklace. She shook her head, then said more calmly, “You won't badger that man. I swear you won't be allowed to live here if you do. I'll sell this place first.”
Welcome to Burke Orthodontics!
“our team AT BURKE ORTHODONTICS IS DEDICATED TO CREATING A POSiTIVE EXPERIENCE FROM THE MOMENT YOU MEET US.”
-Stephen P. BURKE, D.D.S., M.S.
Since 1994, Dr. Burke has been taking care of his patients of all ages on a full-time basis using fixed orthodontics (braces) and early treatment for children ages 7 and up (expanders, spacers, etc.). Following its introduction in 2000, he has also been providing treatment with Invisalign clear aligners. No matter what treatment is needed, he and his team strive for excellence. Click below for more information.
Burke Orthodontics is a team and a family. From our orthodontic and laboratory technicians, to our friendly front desk and administrative personnel, to our doctors, we work together to make your experience a great one. Click below to learn about us!
We work as a team to ensure the best possible experience for our patients! We work efficiently, but want all involved to have as much fun as possible while we do it. Dr. Burke is a recognized expert in Orthodontics, and has built the best-in-class team to provide the highest levels of patient service in the industry. We tailor our care to meet your needs. Our goal is to provide our services in a caring, compassionate, and professional environment that is pleasing to our patients and staff. We are determined to provide a happy and successful experience for you. We have experience you can trust.
Dr. Burke and his team have two locations to serve you. From north to south of the Dayton area, they travel as a group to ensure that you see the same friendly faces at both offices. Thanks to our HIPAA-compliant digital records, our offices are linked with high-speed communication lines to allow you to visit the office of your choice for each appointment.
Are you an early riser? We have 7:00 am appointments. For people who prefer late day visits, we offer evening appointments too.n','url':'https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqcs24goyYk','width':854,'height':480,'providerName':'YouTube','thumbnailUrl':'https://i.ytimg.com/vi/uqcs24goyYk/hqdefault.jpg','resolvedBy':'youtube'}'>
An updated summary of our COVID protocol as we emerge from the pandemic.
Dr. Steve’s summary of why he recommends Invisalign over braces for almost every patient!Burke Ortho is prepared to return after COVid. We miss our patient family!','raw':false},'hSize':null,'floatDir':null,'html':'
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