BEN SLOWLY OPENS the door and steps back so you can see inside. As you gaze into the interior of the house, you catch your breath--cos you've never seen anyplace so beautiful in your whole life. It's as though you were suddenly being transported into a dream palace. For a moment or two you are absolutely stunned, unable to speak or react in any way. But you know that Ben is watching you, smiling and wondering what you are thinking. So you finally stammer, "Oh, Ben--this is absolutely beautiful!"
You don't know in which direction to look first. You and Ben are standing in a splendid marble entrance hall with high ceilings and carved columns--and with beams of sunlight streaming across the floor. A friendly-looking man approaches you and Ben. "Why, hello, sir," he says. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"No, thank you," says Ben, smiling graciously. "I'd like to show my friend around by myself."
"Fine, have a nice visit," the man says, discreetly bowing and leaving the entrance hall.
At this moment, you are totally confused. Who is that man? What place are you in? And what does Ben have to do with this place? But before you can ask any questions, that dazzling Murphy boy is--once more--sweeping you off your feet.
"C'mon," Ben says, taking your hand. "This is one of my favorite places and I thought you'd like to see it."
The first room Ben shows you is a large, formal dining room with a magnificent mahogany table which, you guess, could easily seat twenty people. The table is set with beautiful blue and white china and in the center there is a huge silver bowl filled with gorgeous fresh flowers.
You can't help but notice two huge oil paintings on a nearby wall-- one is of a handsome young man and the other is of a young girl. Ben notices your glance and follows your gaze to the two portraits.
"Don't you have the feeling that they have just stepped out on the terrace for a moment before coming in for lunch?" Ben asks you, nodding towards the paintings.
"Have they?" you ask. "I don't even know where we are. Did they live here once? Do you live here now?"
"I wish I could say it's my house," Ben smiles, "but actually, we're in a museum. Once upon a time, those two young lovers up there in those portraits actually did live here. He was very rich and he built this house--it's really a palace brought over from Europe stone by stone--for her. He dedicated it to their eternal love for one another."
Ben paused for a moment, and then he continued, "I love all the extra touches, like the table being set--and the fresh flowers on it."
Suddenly you realize that everything in this lovely palace belongs to another century. You've seen pictures of similar furnishings in your school books, but you've never seen it all come alive like this before. In your mind you--like Ben--can see the former residents on the terrace now. She is wearing a long dress and her hair is piled in curls on top of her head. She's pretty, but she doesn't look like girls your age today. The man is wearing a formal suit and is carrying a slender walking stick.
"My dear," Ben says, "would you care for a stroll in the garden before lunch?"
Ben offers you his arm. It's funny, but now Ben looks more like the man in the picture to you and you can feel a long dress swirling around your ankles.
"That would be lovely," you say to Ben, taking his arm. Ben escorts you to the garden, which is full of bright, fragrant flowers. As you walk through the garden, you become even more convinced that you are indeed in paradise.
"Don't move," Ben suddenly whispers softly, "I'll be right back."
Standing there in the garden, you pinch yourself to make sure you're awake, with Ben Murphy--and in this century. It's all so romantic and dreamy you're still not convinced that this could be real.
But all at once there's Ben again--coming toward you, carrying a wicker picnic basket and a blanket. "Shall we sit in the shade?" he asks, and he carefully smooths the blanket on the grass under a big, leafy tree.
Lunch is the best meal you've ever eaten--cold chicken, salad, fresh tomatoes, tiny finger rolls, and luscious strawberries for dessert--and you tell Ben so.
"I can't think of a single thing that would make me any happier than I am right now," you tell him.
You think of how dizzy just being with Ben makes you feel, realizing that--with Ben--your heart is unsafe at any speed, cos he's completely captured you!
"Wait," Ben smiles. "There's still more to come in my summer paradise! But for our next interlude, you're going to have to do something very daring!"
What could Ben have in mind for you?
Meet him again in the October issue of 16--on sale August 24--to
find out what happens next in Ben's summer paradise!
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