The trees grew tall and straight, reaching higher and higher, until finally they met; as if the branches were long fingers that laced together. I imagined they looked like people at Mass, all praying for forgiveness, knuckles white with the strength of their piety. Asphalt gave way to gravel, and the little stones kicked up against the bottom of the car, a metallic music of sorts. The trees grew denser, and whatever dim sunlight had been present before faded completely. Our progress slowed again, and then stopped when we came to a set of silver gates. They bore a large oval emblem, with a winged S at the center of the elaborate frame.
I unlocked them, and gave a great heave to push them open far enough to fit the car through. They moved silently, the hinges not even giving the tiniest peep of protest, and I quickly slipped back into the car. I pulled through, repeated the process in reverse, and then returned to the wheel.
I drove for a few moments more, the trees finally parting and giving me a view of the darkened sky, the first few stars already peeking out from the deep blue vault. The gravel drive continued all the way to the front of the house, making a loop around a large fountain halfway between me and the mansion. I pulled around the fountain and stopped the car.
The place sat at the end of the drive like a great creature, waiting to pounce. A sweeping staircase led up to the front, decked in smooth, silvery marble that covered the steps, porch, and the columns that held the roof aloft. Great windows on either side of the door peered out at visitors like two giant eyes, framed by midnight blue shutters. Another two floors rested atop the first, all washed in the softest white, and more eye-like windows dotted the walls. At the very top sat a dome of rippling, cobalt glass.
More gravel paths led away on either side of the house to the back, and were blocked from view by tall topiaries and more silver gates. Plants dotted the porch in pots, and as I exited the car, I caught the scent of jasmine that lingered in the evening air. The sound of the fountain and the whispering of the winter trees gave the whole scene a gentle backdrop of night music, broken only by the soft crunch of footsteps on gravel.
I moved up the steps toward the large front doors. They were the same blue as the shutters, the dark surface only broken by an exclamation of silver at the handle and an ornate knocker. Out of reflex, I raised a hand to grip the ring of the knocker, but stopped, pulling keys from my pocket.
The interior of the house was just as grand as the exterior, with a marble floor and a grand staircase that led from the foyer to the second floor. I tipped my head back, and looked up into the open, vaulted ceiling. I could see the inside of the dome from here, the beams between the individual sheets of cobalt made from lead and joined at the center by a compass design carved from onyx and ivory.
A glance around the foyer revealed doors on either side, and another that sat to the left of the stairs. Soft light filled the room, the amber illumination coming from sconces that dotted the walls. This was home, plain and simple, and I was finally in it once more.