Excerpt From “Custom Decorated Corpse”

A hemlock hedge completely screened the yard from adjoining properties; it sloped downward to a stone retaining wall with steps down to Juliet’s section of the yard. The stone wall was bordered on top by a mixed bed with remnants of daffodil foliage, iris, and daylilies and would be in bloom most of the spring and summer.

Lavender Cottage was nestled at an angle at the end of the large yard. It was a Cape Cod cottage, with a roofline punctuated by dormer windows that extended down to the first story in the front with a shed dormer across the rear second story, white clapboard with shutters that were the perfect shade of gray shading to lavender. A porch ran the length of the facade, with floor to ceiling windows and French doors giving access from all the main floor rooms. Pots of fuchsias and ferns hung from the porch ceiling. The steps and adjacent patio were pink brick, with a fountain in the center. Various kinds of rose bushes and lavender plants filled the beds; large grayish lavender pots lined the steps filled with annuals of all colors. Private, Lizzie thought, quiet, serene, a place to retreat from the world. She whistled for Tib and Boo, who had been busy exploring the yard, and carefully made her way down to Lavender Cottage.

Lizzie exclaimed in delight when she saw the hydrangea bushes lining the retaining wall at the bottom of the steps. There was a large tilled bed behind the garage that would be perfect for tomatoes and herbs; perhaps she could have a garden. A deep perennial border ran the length of the fence in front of the hemlock hedge; the iris had finished and the daylilies and daisies were just beginning to bloom with coneflowers and monarda not far behind. The fountain splashed, bees were buzzing over the lavender, and climbing roses twined the porch columns.

She slowly walked up the porch stairs, admiring the wicker furniture. There was a hanging swing at one end of the porch and a cozy table and two chairs where she could enjoy her morning coffee. Taking a deep breath, she opened the glass storm door and stepped inside.

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