Rooms by Petrea Burchard

Randolph has his pompous, executive job and his overweight, red-faced golf buddies and I have our big, old, Pasadena Craftsman house–or I would, if Randolph would let me do things my way. Except he can’t. Says we have to make “these decisions” together. Says I’m his “little kitten.” Says I’m his “flower.”

So where is he on this fine Saturday morning when I’m ready to get to work? Playing golf.

I thought I’d redecorate the upstairs storage room. I’d paint the walls (light blue, for sky) and add white curtains (diaphanous, for clouds). I’d put my books on the shelves with my treasures, like the little sculpture I made of the dog and the picture I painted of the roses. I’d shop the flea markets for a four-poster bed and paint it white to match the curtains. I might even sleep in it from time to time.

Randolph says we have to remove the drywall and start from scratch. Says we need an architect. An interior designer. He knows people. He’ll call them. “Be patient, kitten.” Once again I wait while Randolph figures out how “we” are going to do “my” project.

I want to do it myself. I want to do something, paint something, fix something, make something!

Screw Randolph.

I find a big claw hammer in the garage and lug it upstairs and down the hall. I take the hammer to the drywall and pound, cracking the wall and making a hole big enough for my hands. I grab and, with a satisfying yank, pull down a big sheet of drywall. The crash sends white dust flying over the room. It snows on boxes of whatever we’ve stored here that we haven’t looked at in years. When the dust settles, I see what’s behind the wall: fake wood paneling.

Yuck. Hideous stuff. Maybe a 60’s remodel. I should have left the drywall.

Frustrated, I slap my palm against the paneling, leaving a dusty, white handprint. The wall opens, or rather, a door opens, just a crack. I see candlelight.

Wait. This room is above the back yard. There’s nothing beyond these walls but a 20-foot drop into the vegetable patch.

I push the door open and see, not carrots and tomatoes, but a ballroom. I test the polished, hardwood floor with my tennis shoe. The floor holds my weight. I step in. The door closes behind me without making a sound. Across the length of the grand room, the floor, shiny as an antique gymnasium, reflects the candlelit chandeliers above. Gilded chairs stand ready against the silk-lined walls.

I’m alone. I hear but don’t see an orchestra, so I glide to the other end of the room and step through a door.

The door leads to a hallway. Along it are more doors, all open, all inviting. Warm light glows at each distant end. Voices and laughter mingle with the music, coming from somewhere.

I enter a small drawing room with a fireplace as tall as I am. No one’s there. The fire crackles. I take a seat in the leather armchair. A glass of wine waits on the lacquered table beside a well-worn copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I wonder if I should drink the wine. I reach for the goblet and sip. Yes, the wine is for me.

I don’t pick up the book. I’d like to find the people, and curiosity leads me to light flooding in from an open doorway on the other side of the room.

Taking my wine, I enter an atelier—an artist’s studio flooded with sunlight. A canvas faces away from me on the easel. I go to the bright window and look out over the rooftops of Paris.

I remind myself to breathe.

I turn to see what’s on the easel. It’s a portrait of me. I recognize the painter. I put down my goblet and take up my brush.

The orchestra stops.

“Kitten? Are you upstairs?”

My heart whams against my chest. I slam the brush down and run out of the atelier. The room I enter is not the drawing room. It’s a kitchen with stone walls. The heavenly smell of fresh bread slows me down, but I mustn’t stop. I dash to the next door.

I think I’m going the right direction but this isn’t the ballroom. It’s a dusty library, its shelves sagging with leather tomes. I want to stop and peruse each one.

Randolph’s footfalls clomp up the stairs, coming nearer. I must be close to the door in the paneling. I throw myself against the one door I see and stumble through it, returning to the guest room just as Randolph enters.

I’m a little out of breath.

Randolph surveys the drifts of drywall dust. He frowns, moving the white tuft on his golfer-tanned forehead. “Honey,” he scolds, “I’ve told you not to take on these projects yourself. This is the kind of thing we should do together.”

But you weren’t here, I think. I don’t say anything.

He looks past me at the wall. There’s no sign of an opening in the paneling. My handprint is still there to remind me where to whack.

“Wood paneling,” says Randolph. “Nice. Shall we keep it?”

“Yes,” I say. “I love it.”

© Copyright 2011 Petrea Burchard. All rights reserved.

petrea-burchardPetrea Burchard enjoyed a 30-year acting career before morphing into a writer. She is the author of the novel, Camelot & Vine, as well as Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood With Headshot in Hand, essays about the life of a journeyman actor in Hollywood.
She gained a following in the anime world as the original English voice of Ryoko, the sexy space pirate in the cult classic, Tenchi Muyo!, and continues to work in the voice-over field.