Years ago, Penn's lover was attacked in the woods, and most think Penn is to blame ... including Penn. Ever since, he's been a prisoner in his home and his mind. When world renowned architect Ewan Parish arrives to construct a secure, enclosed walkway through those woods, Penn is surprised, suspicious, and also fearful.
Ewan is intrigued by the mysterious, reclusive Penn, his journals, and the beautiful artwork he's drawn, which Ewan recreates in the walkway's iron scrollwork. Determined to free Penn, Ewan sets out to unravel the mystery that has resulted in Penn's imprisonment by his family and conscience all these years.
Of all the mail awaiting my return to my Parisian apartment, it was the simple white envelope from the U.S. that grabbed my attention first. I opened the missive on my way to the bedroom, where my fiancée, Fiona, was lounging diagonally across rumpled white linens.
"You are home barely a moment, Ewan Parish, and already your attention is elsewhere," she complained, scolding me like a schoolmarm may a naughty lad. She was right. I was not focused on her. Though I had noted she wore not a single stitch of clothing.
The two-page note was dated several months prior. International correspondence was still slow in the 1920s. Plus, I had been away several weeks, enduring the celebrity that came along with my latest work in Athens. I was an architect -- an artist -- who created masterworks in iron, concrete, brick, and glass, in which wealthy people dwelled, shopped, or dined on decadent meals.
"It's from an American woman named Georgia Dupree," I said. "And she wants ..."
"She wants what?" Fiona snatched the top page right out of my hands.
"An enclosure. A pen for her and someone or something called Pennsylvania in order to wander the woods inclusive in their massive estate. Some sort of ... protection, I suppose, that would run from the dwelling through much of the unkempt part of the property. A fenced-in passageway longer than some roads I've traveled, constructed in ornamental iron scrolls with a damned cage at the end that she is calling a gazebo."
"Such a thing sounds preposterous," Fiona exclaimed. "If the woods are that dangerous, shouldn't one avoid them?"
Preposterous, yet intriguing, to someone of my creativity and drive. To most, the sample scrollwork drawing enclosed would have appeared simply as squiggles in ink. Something about it moved me, though, something I could not quite identify. "I must go." I sat beside Fiona and kissed her once on her tiny, exposed breast. "I must travel to the United States, to the heart of Dixie, as they say there, to at least meet Miss Dupree face to face."
Fiona had obviously planned a night of lovemaking to welcome me home from my travails. Candles flickered, champagne fizzed in two crystal goblets, and I could enjoy none of it once I had opened the post from abroad. "Will you be gone so long again?" Fiona asked me. "Cannot you design it from here and have someone else build?"
"I shall follow my heart, Fiona, as I always have. And the profits shall be worth the strife."
"But we need no more money. We have all we could wish for."
"In material possessions, perhaps. But I am not yet fulfilled."
I was oft referred to as arrogant and roguish, also charming and attractive, but never humble. I'd been labeled a perpetual bachelor in many a society page. Fiona had to figure, despite the shiny ring on her finger, the chances of her becoming my missus were slim.
"I thought we were connected at our souls, my love." Fiona unfastened my trousers, released my manhood from my breaches, and then kissed the tip. "I do not fulfill you?" The lack of response should have been her answer. "May I come along?" she asked hopefully.
"You'd be bored there, Fiona. America is very much not Paris," I told her.
"Is it that easy to leave me behind, Ewan?" Fiona frowned.
Far removed from the limelight and prestige I was accustomed to, this project would be more for my psyche than my money clip. I still enjoyed the challenge and imagination each new endeavor required; it was the fame I'd quickly grown tired of. The pressure to outdo my last work, the need to make an audience gasp, with eyes wide and cheeks puffed from smiling, it all made me feel like a performer, as fake as the snake oil some swifty always hocked on the sidelines. I was long proud regarding my aptitude for fakery. Only recently, had I come to loathe it.
Fiona and I spent the night entangled in the sheets. By morning, I had set off alone. Leaving Fiona had been no great hardship. As I had said, I always followed my heart. And though my body may have eventually reacted to Fiona's touch, my heart would never hold her special. At least I'd felt badly about it. That, I figured, signified progress.