Here is the second part of The Mansion in The Mountains. I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to leave questions or feedback in the comments section below 🙂 As the weather begins to crawl towards an eagerly awaited autumn, I look forward to taking some time for fall foliage photography, drinking hot cocoa, and spending rather a great deal of time reading/writing. What are your favorite fall activities?
Happy reading, Stella
For a year to the day, Leon had been working for Sunflower Health Food. He wasn’t sure if he liked the job but it was a source of income. The people that ran the store were strange and reclusive. Leon never saw them unless there was a problem, or on days they came to deliver his weekly pay. They were lead by a tall thin man who looked like a wizard because of his build and long wispy white beard. That, and he wore strange robes and medieval looking boots that stuck out at the bottom. He reminded himself that this was San Francisco not England, and looked outside while strumming his guitar thinking about where he truly wanted to be. Leon was very poor and didn’t have many possessions save for the guitar and his clothing. He lived in a hole in the wall room above Blue Swan park that had a double bed and a bathroom. His dream was to find the only love of his life, Eloise, and bring her back to the new age retreat that he and his brother had started. He struggled to save up money for plane tickets if he did find her. Leon only ate one meal a day to save and sometimes made money with his guitar in the park.
His parents had come to England from Greece in 1948, had gotten jobs and raised their sons. When Leon and Elliot were seventeen and eighteen, they began a retreat for people that followed their beliefs and wanted to continue to do so in privacy and solitude.Then came Eloise, the outsider, the enchanting girl that had stolen his heart and crushed it. She had felt unworthy of him, the retreat, anything pure and good. Most of all, she lived in a constant state of mistrust and terror that one day it would all end, so rather than endure that pain she ran. California was beautiful and the place to be in the United States but was not where he wanted to be. She had always spoken of California, how it was beautiful and mysterious to her. To Eloise, it was a land of wisteria where rock and roll ruled and nothing bad ever happened. Now he was here and would stay here until Eloise was found and back in his arms. Leon’s love for her was very deep, and he would do anything at all for her. They had met at his new age retreat about two years ago, and nothing had been the same since. Leon believed that in life, you meet one or two incredibly special people that will change everything and could come to you in any form. He knew that she had been this person, and he wanted to just find her and ask for her hand in marriage.
Much of his time at work was spent playing his guitar while he waited for the same people to come in everyday; the homeless guy who bought a dollar’s worth of chocolate raisins each morning, the nun who only ate five grain bread and praised god for its invention, and unforgettably the neurotic vegetarian mailman. They were just a few of his regulars, and Leon blended well with the position of helping others because that had always been his gift. He helped them with their needs, regardless of what it was and he was well loved for it. He was alone a lot of the time in the store, so if he had a song stuck in his head he played it on his guitar and sang the words. Leon assumed that it was better than a overhead soundtrack playing over and over all day long.
He had searched every possible place he could imagine her to be, libraries, book stores, art galleries, spiritual temples. For twelve months he had come up empty, and it wasn’t until now that he set out his intention to the universe and left it at that. Leon still kept an eye out for her everywhere, and he knew they would be together again. The God and Goddess never let him down.
The room he lived in was a far cry from the peace and privacy of the retreat he and Eli had started together but he made it as much like home as he could. The nightstand between the two full beds became an altar for him. He covered this table with a purple tapestry adored with a Celtic knot, which he lay crystals (white for health, pink for love) stones, and other assorted pieces of nature that were meaningful to him.
After removing the scratchy motel room blankets off the bed he had bought soft ones that were much more comfortable and certainly more hygienic. The depressing pictures on the walls went down and into a closet and up went nature posters, as well as photos of he and Eloise at the retreat. His favorite thing about the room was the large bathroom with the spa sized tub where he would soak for hours. While these small things brought him comfort, he felt much grief and loss for the girl who was his soulmate and best friend.
His car was a fifteen year old two door sedan that was not only tiny but not wont to cooperate. As a result he only used it for necessities like getting to work or the laundromat. The laundromat was another thing entirely for him. Leon was constantly reminded of Eloise whenever he went, because of all the couples there doing laundry.
Every day he wrote her a letter or three and put it into a shoebox under his altar of what he did that day, how he felt, how he missed her. It felt like he was talking to her and it helped a tremendous amount. He remembered when they would go for walks in the woods and have long talks about everything, from how they felt about everyday things to buying a house together and getting married.
He still remembered that brief conversation.
On an late September afternoon after having walked a few miles into the forest they found a long rock to sit on together. Leon could still feel the smoothness of the rock under his hand, could still see her in that old band tee he had gotten her. Her skin looked so pale and flawless, like China, her lips pink and smile radiant as she looked at him.
“Would you marry me if I asked you?” Leon watched her as his heart beat quickly waiting for an answer.
“You know I would love to marry you…I just don’t know if I’m good enough.” She said.
Leon’s eyes must have looked hurt, because she then said “Of course I would marry you. There is nothing more I would love than to have a house together and take care of you.”
Leon took her hand. “Then let me make all of your dreams come true.”
That one moment between them felt like heaven, when their hands and eyes met, as she finally let him hold her.
From there they had drawn blueprints that were folded into origami and passed between them of the home they wanted to build together. Eloise liked to add notes in her elegant cursive such as ‘In the mountains!’ or ‘with flocks of seagulls and long grass.’ Leon would always chuckle and write back “Those would be contradictory locations my dear.’ Life was simple and their future had been an empty canvas with a large array of colors to choose from to make it beautiful. Why had she run away, where had things gone wrong on her end?
Leon knew he was very brave to go to this city alone looking for her, and to live as a foreign ghost amongst millions of others. It was a small price to pay to find her again, that girl with the warm heart and huge eyes who found him as wonderful and attractive as he found her. After work he would dream about them back in the forest of upstate New York and hoped it would happen again.
He had been born in 1944 to two Greek parents, just before the second World War ended. For the first four years of his life they lived in Greece, in wonder and excitement. His father taught him to read and his mother taught him to swim in the hot springs. Jobs became scarce, money became tight, and just when they thought their world might end Eli was born and his father got a job in England. To Leon, England was a lovely island where everyone drank tea and it rained a lot. He fit in with others but was not a social butterfly specifically because he enjoyed being alone more. He grew up with The Beatles and expanded his taste in music to that of The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. Eli and Leon were always close, and it was no surprise when his younger brother followed him to upstate New York to go to college. Eli was almost genius smart, and was able to graduate high school early. Leon got an Associates degree in Environmental Science, and worked odd jobs. It was with those wages that he bought the abandoned community center and they started their New Age retreat in 1967.
Neither Leon nor Eli ever imagined that people would come from far and wide to live in their little community center. The two brothers accepted people from all walks of faith, and they were able to share ideas and live peacefully. The majority of those who came to Leon were Wiccan, or believed on some level. One young man had traveled as far as from Seattle and learned much from the books and teachings that were provided at the retreat. Such a variety of people flocked, those with their hair dyed, or as natural as the day they were born with feathers in their hair, some old but many young. Leon proved to be a legendary teacher, and wanted all to be heard. Eli ran the place and Leon was the teacher, working together seamlessly. Of course, there were some people that did not like the brothers or their beliefs and they screamed cult.
Leon was thinking about all of this because lately he had reason to suspect his employers of being an actual cult. He watched them closely every time they came by, and lately all had been dressed in robes embroidered with symbols he could not identify. All of them were men, who spoke in hushed voices amongst themselves, and when speaking to him they told him to keep his head low and never mention them to the customers; Leon was the manager as far as they were concerned. Most health food store owners were very into what they did, very involved. The sixties had brought about a new fad of granola bars and hippies. These people didn’t seem to be very concerned at all with anything, nor did they seem to belong to an existing religion or faith. Leon ordered everything, did all the book keeping. He was lead to believe by his own deductions that Sunflower Health Food was a front to make money for a psychedelic cult, and he was correct.