Astrid and her father gathered their dishes and took them to the kitchen, placing them in the dishwasher. Then they walked into the family room. Dr. Maxxim started to sit down, but Astrid waved for him to follow and led the way into the living room beyond.
“Now would be the time to talk,” she said.
They stood in the center of the formal living room that was almost never used. Astrid pointed to the doorway that led from the room, down a long hallway. That hallway was lined with small rooms that had once been servants’ quarters.
“So, what’s the deal?”
“Have you ever noticed how strange this house is?” asked her father, seemingly taking them onto a different subject.
“Um, sure. Especially since there are big parts of it we don’t even use.”
“This house was old when my grandfather bought it,” explained Dr. Maxxim. “I don’t know what it was exactly, but he liked it and bought it. It was all the way back in New York State then. When he moved out west, he brought it with him. He had it taken apart and reassembled right here. Then over the years, he began modifying it, changing it around. My father made a few changes. Both of them were happy to have a house full of servants taking care of them. I never felt comfortable with all these people living among us, and us acting like they were invisible.”
“Mom’s right, Dad. People don’t act that way anymore.”
“Maybe not,” he said. “You’ve looked in those rooms before?”
“Sure. They’re mostly empty, but a few of them have some furniture in them. They’re not too bad. Aren’t they about the same size as my bedroom?”
“No. Your bedroom is about fifty percent larger. And these rooms are only as large as they are, because they were intended to hold eight household staff in each one. They had their own dining room and common room at one time. They were right here, as a matter of fact. Your mother and I turned it into the living room. When we first got married, we went on a building spree, you might say.”
“You created my bedroom by dividing up a larger room, right?”
“Yes. We did the same thing with our bedroom. We added bathrooms. We put in the pool. We had the kitchen remodeled and created the breakfast room. Then we sort of ran out of gas. At least I did. We just closed off the rest of the house that we didn’t use.”
“Have you thought about doing anything else?”
“I guess I just figured that I would leave it for you when you grow up,” he said.
“Well, I have a lot of ideas,” said Astrid. “Some of them, I think we need to start on right now.”