Like the façade of his house, the man’s kitchen, den, and all rooms visible to Denver exercised the same modern, monochromatic palette of white, gray, and black, with little to no color forcing its way in, save for a small green succulent in a terra cotta pot on the counter, alone in its marble desert.
“So, I’m Avery,” he said, extending one long, bronze arm toward her, while gripping a glass pitcher with what appeared to be sweet iced tea- although she acknowledged that it could just as easily have been any number of poisonous concoctions- but decided to accept what outwardly appeared to be southern hospitality at face value and met his extended hand with her own.
“Nice to formally meet you, Avery. I’m Denver.”
The fluidity and ease of her response- out of character for the girl who generally preferred her communications with other humans in written form- came as a pleasant surprise to her. So many things about the last few days seemed to be pages from the stories of other people’s lives- one’s with strong heroines and captivating plots. And this was certainly quite a favorable turn of events- being invited into a beautiful home by aesthetically pleasing stranger, amidst a land of natural beauty beyond her imaginings. She felt her excitement rise with the dark amber liquid filling the glass.
“Denver. That’s a beautiful name. Strong.”
He was certainly genteel, but something in his appearance and speech betrayed the fact that he was anything but southern. He poured a second glass for himself and toasted her welcome to the town of Preservation, closing, “May your time here be memorable and enlightening.”
She attempted to combat the flush of color that was inevitably rising in her cheeks by downing as much as possible of the cold drink.
“Thank you. It’s been an interesting journey thus far. I hope to discover whatever it is I’ve been led here to find.”
If she weren’t convinced it was preposterous, she’d swear Avery’s eyes glowed a vibrant green, greener than any of the lush landscape surrounding his home and brighter than they had shone only moments before.
“No, a writer.” Not a total lie.
“I’m a writer as well. Historical biographies.”
There is no hint of braggadocio. He is merely stating a fact.
“That’s wonderful. If I’m being honest, I am more of a dreamer than a writer. I haven’t published anything since my college newspaper days.”
“What brings you to Preservation?”
“I’m tired of what my life has become. The gods heard my cries and led me here,” she explains with a chuckle, for his sake, so he doesn’t come to the conclusion that she’s crazy. Not just yet.
“Fascinating. Well, I’m glad they did. Here’s to new beginnings.”
He proffered his glass up for a toast which she beamingly accepted.
“Thank you so much. You certainly didn’t have to let me in and entertain my delusions. If you had asked me to get back in my car or told me I was crazy, you would have been within your right. I was beginning to think I was losing it, following some intuition, some ethereal feeling across the country, and stopping where it led me. But I’m feeling a bit more grounded now.”
The words rushed out of her before she could think better of releasing them. What the hell was she babbling on about? Something about this man made her want to share everything with him.
He was quite good looking, with just a hint of romantic hopelessness to him, like one who has lost the very thing he lives for but still nurtures a flicker of hope that he can regain a semblance of what once was. She wondered if there was any truth to this imagined narrative. He was an alluring mix of features soft and strong. She couldn’t quite identify his ethnicity and refused to speculate but rather was more than content to drink in the striking features, the charming voice, the posh surroundings.
Though a stranger, there was a disarming familiarity in his mannerisms that she couldn’t quite place. She watched his full lips part and reminded herself to actively participate in the conversation. But she wanted to hit pause.
“I admire your courage, Denver. Rewrite your story.”