The Wife's House - Arianne Richmonde
One was my lucky number. Until I became a widow.
It had been six months. Six months and three days of living alone without my husband. We were supposed to spend our whole lives together, but I had lost him like a pebble to a wave. The slow trickle of singlehood seeped inside my bones, soaking into my skin, bleeding into my organs, making my heart thud heavy and low. Pounding out the words:
Standing on the sweeping bay below my house, I lifted my eyes to the horizon. Another smashing breaker brought the tide in closer. I tasted the ocean spray on my lips, and the mist fizzled with tiny diamonds as it spooled off the rolling surf. A pod of pelicans flew in neat couples and torpedoed into the water, their sword-like beaks vertical as they fished their prey. I envied them. Even they had mates.
With cold sand oozing between my toes, I turned my head and gazed up at my house upon the cliff, cleverly camouflaged and nearly a mile away.
My house. It sat majestic, yet low and discreet, melding organically into the rocky cliffside, its great glass walls reflecting the mother-of-pearl sky. Modern, and sleek, and almost invisible. The first time my husband showed me Cliffside, I was standing in this exact spot.
“You like it?” Juan had asked, pointing up at the cliffs.
“The view is stunning.”
“I’m talking about the house up there,” Juan said, laughing in a way that made you believe you were the only person he cared to be with, the only one. “That’s why I love that house so much, because nobody even knows it’s there till they know. You can’t get houses like that around here anymore. They won’t give planning permission; you can’t even buy the land, however much money you have. It’s in the middle of a national park. A one-off. Unique. It comes with four acres of private woods. See it?”
At first I thought he was pulling my leg. “I see those tall trees but not the house. Am I blind?”
“The roof’s covered in lawn and it’s hidden by cedars and redwoods. See?” He pointed, his slim finger an arrow to the spot. “You can catch a glimpse of the big stone pillar to the left. It’s a once in a lifetime house; there are none like it in the world. Its name is Cliffside.” He sighed and then looked at me, his eyes flickering with steely intent. Or perhaps it was amusement. “I’m going to get you that house, sweetheart,” he said. “I promise.”
As if by magic, the sun emerged from behind a wisp of a cloud, and the house’s great glass walls shone brilliant in its wake. Golden streams of light glazed its honey-colored stone pillars, and a hawk flew overhead and then swooped down onto its grass roof, as if to train my eyes, to make me focus exactly where it desired me to look.
“Is it even for sale?” I asked.
“No, but watch me make an offer they can’t refuse. I’ll get you that house.”
I smiled. “How do you know?”
“Because I do.”
I didn’t pry any further, having learned through enough stony silences that Juan liked to keep little secrets concerning business deals. Perhaps a client of his was selling and he’d get a great bargain. Juan was a master at negotiating.
In that moment I imagined myself at Cliffside’s crown, sitting on one of its decks or patios, my shoulders proud, scanning the coastline, where waves are beaten every day to foamy froth on ragged rocks. Above the house, great oaks and redwoods reared up, standing tall between the Santa Lucia mountain range and the ocean, as if Cliffside were some splendid jewel glinting in the sun, held fast between these two great feats of nature.
“I’d do anything to live there,” I said, giddy at the thought of owning such a place.
Juan looked at me hard for a second but then broke into a smile. “Anything?”
I didn’t respond. But he was right to ask.
As I was about to set off back home, I heard that familiar hornet’s nest hum, high in the sky, hovering maybe a hundred feet above me. There it was again. A drone. This coastline was famous; Big Sur was a magnet for travel bloggers, YouTubers, and Instagrammers, but this was the third time in the same week. The beach was empty, there were no hikers in the woods, at least none that I could see. So who was operating it? And from where? As I craned