For a second I thought she was about to attack us, but instead she nodded then fell to her knees. A moment later, she began pounding the floor, while sobbing hysterically. "Please tell me it isn't true..."
Friday, March 19, 2021
For a second I thought she was about to attack us, but instead she nodded then fell to her knees. A moment later, she began pounding the floor, while sobbing hysterically. "Please tell me it isn't true..."
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Without thinking, I rushed into the room shouting, "That's enough, you're going to hurt him!" To my horror, neither brother nor sister seemed to hear me. In fact, they didn't even realize I was there. They were stuck in their cycle. The scene was going to play out to its tragic end right in front of me, if I didn't do something to interrupt it.
I don't know what possessed me, but I rushed forward and grabbed Madeleine by the arm.
Immediately, she stiffened and slowly turned to face me. "What is the meaning of this? Who are you? And how dare you lay hands on me."
"My name is Lisa, and I'm... I'm..." I was about to tell her I was a friend of her brother, but I could see he was staring at me as if he'd never seen me before. I briefly thought about saying I was the new governess, but thought better of it. Instead, I decided on the truth. "I'm someone who has a younger brother, just like you."
Madeleine's eyes never left mine. "And you think that gives you the right to touch me?" she demanded.
"Only if it keeps you from accidentally hurting your little brother," I replied evenly and released her arm. "I know how much little brother's can drive you crazy. How they can be so irritating and annoying, that you want to just ring their little necks. But then I remind myself, I'm the elder child and I have a lot more experience with life than he does."
"Not that it counts for much in the end," she pointed out, almost sympathetically. "You're not the one people, especially men, will listen to. Nor will they ask your opinions on things. But your brother? Oh they'll ask him all kinds of things and cater to his whims, no matter how silly."
"That's still no reason to treat him like this," I replied, trying to keep my voice calm. The fact that she was even speaking to me was a good sign, I thought. Perhaps, I'd be able to reason with her and break the cycle.
"He knows where our mother's jewels are," she told me, obviously trying to sound reasonable. "I need them, I'm entitled to them..."
"So you can be with the man you love, I know," I finished gently.
If my interruption had annoyed her, she didn't show it. Instead she began to smile. "Yes. That's right. You understand. He loves me, he'll take good care of me. We just need to settle his debts and then we can marry. Look, he has already given me his mother's ring for our engagement."
She held out on hand and I could see the ring in question on her finger. It was an impressive piece of jewelry. 'Had he given a ring to any of his other victims?' I wondered. 'If he didn't, perhaps he really had meant to go through with the marriage. But if so, why?'
Meanwhile, she continued, "We are to leave this night and then later return here, as husband and wife. Together, we'll make this place a home for all three of us."
"The three of you?" I repeated.
"Of course," she looked at me as if I'd were a simpleton. "I still have to watch over my little brother. He's still too young to manage the estate on his own. And as you said just a moment ago, we are the elder child. It's our job to make sure we watch over our siblings. I'd never abandon, Reginald."
I had to admit, I hadn't expected to hear her talk like this. Could her betrothed have actually been serious about her?
"My Jonathan will be here soon," Madeleine continued, interrupting my thoughts. " In fact I think I can hear his carriage in the distance."
Without thinking, I found myself listening for the sound. She was right, there was a carriage coming. It sounded far off, but at the same time it was definitely drawing nearer. In fact, I could make out the sound of the horses hooves in the snow. Their steps had a certain rhythm that was very soothing.
I let her guide me towards the window in question. We were halfway towards the glass aperture, when suddenly, the image of Nathan landing on the fountain in a shower of glass loomed large in my mind. Immediately, I pulled away from her, or tried to. Only she was expecting it and had a death grip on my wrist. Still, I managed to pull us away from the window and back into the center of the room. I was between her and Reginald now and I could hear the boy breathing heavily behind me.
As desperately as I wanted to look back at him, I dared not turn away from Madeleine. Her grip on my arm had opened my eyes, in both the literal and psychic sense. There I said it. Nathan was right, I am psychic and boy was I seeing into a mind that had been twisted by an expert.
My original impression about Madeleine's anger at men had been right on the money. But it hadn't always been that way. She had been devoted to her father, brother and her uncle. It was only when she'd been denied her wish to marry that the resentment had taken hold, only to be fueled by her intended. From the glimpses I was getting from her mind, I could see he had all the classic traits of an abusive/manipulator. He had been putting her up on such a high pedestal that she had no clue as to what he had planned for her. I could even hear his words inside my head, praising her youthful wisdom and insights, and how angry it made him that others, including her own family, refused to listen to her. From there he helped foment her resentments, encouraging her to defy their antiquated concepts of duty and propriety. Yet in spite of all this, she had grieved deeply when her parents had perished in the carriage accident. Her pain had been as deep for her father as well as her mother.
Perhaps, that was why her 'intended's' manipulations worked so well on her. After her loss, she had felt lost and confused, making her more vulnerable to his renewed insistence on their marrying soon, so he could quote "Ease her pain and sorrows..." Only her uncle became the new obstacle to that plan. So he began redirecting her resentment towards her guardian. And when he would not listen, she began working on Reginald only to become resentful to him as well after he took their uncle's side. Which had eventually led to the tragic events that in turn brought the three of us to this moment.
Finally, I found my words and said, "You still believe he will come for you this night."
"Of course," she beamed, which nearly made me shudder. There was nothing warm or tender about that smile. "You see, I was telling you the truth about hearing his carriage approach. I hear it every year..."
That sent a chill down my spine. She was aware of her situation! And she willingly played it out in some vain hope that eventually she'd get the jewels and leave before being discovered by the servant. Which in turn would mean she could avoid taking the wrong turn and falling over the balcony and into the Great Hall.
"Do you know what it's like to be in love with someone, only to be told you have to wait over and over again?" she continued, still with that twisted, dreamy expression on her face.
I hesitated as my treacherous brain began thinking about Nathan. I had been in love with him practically my whole life. I'd even done as he'd asked and tried going out with other people, seeing if there was someone other than him that I might fall in love with. But, no matter how good things were between me and the person, I never felt for them the way I did for him.
"Ah, I see you have," Madeleine continued, the smile fading from her lips. Now, she began speaking to me sympathetically. "Then you know the pain I've been going through and how the wait can make you desperate. Desperate enough to risk everything for that chance of true happiness."
I nodded. "Yes, I do. And it hurts so bad sometimes you want to lash out at the world."
"Or at the ones who block your way, or..." here she paused and stared past me at her brother, "... refuse to be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how many times they tell you they love you."
I could feel her anger rising again and a part of me wanted to agree with her and step aside. But another part, that big sister who'd fight hell itself to protect my little brother, wasn't about to let that happen. I wasn't sure what I should say next, but then I spotted a movement behind Madeleine.
It was a greenish mist, carrying small bundle, making it's way to a large bookcase just over her left shoulder.
- TO BE CONCLUDED
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Now I fully understood. "After the screams she appears at the railing and falls to her death in front of anyone who's in this room," I breathed.
Friday, December 11, 2020
I gave him a warm smile and said, "I thought I was the one who was supposed to be hiding."
He pulled the blanket down to get a better look at me, and I saw he was wearing clothing much like the costume my brother had on downstairs. He had blond curly hair and a round tear-streaked face. I quickly pulled out a handkerchief from my sleeve (her ladyship had told me it was proper to have one on hand) and gave his face a quick cleaning while assuring him everything was going to be all right. That was when I noticed his skin was quite cold. "Oooo... you're frozen, come on. Let's get closer to the fire," I insisted and helped move him, blanket and all, closer to the fireplace.
That was when he gave me a great big smile and said, "You're very kind. Who are you? Are you a fairy?"
I laughed. "No, and I'm not an angel either," I told him. "My name is Lisa, I'm staying here with my parents and my godfather, Nathan Steward."
Immediately, my new friend perked up. "Nathan? He's here? He's all right?"
"Of course. He's the main reason his lordship invited us to come stay," I replied. "Why wouldn't he be all right?"
The boy's face clouded over as said, "He... had an accident last time. My sister..." here he began to sneeze and fall into a coughing fit.
I gave him my handkerchief and let him blow his nose. "Oh, you poor thing, you have a cold don't you?"
Well, that explained why he was up here all by himself. Especially as it had occurred to me that I hadn't seen him downstairs earlier. Still, someone should have been keeping him company, instead of leaving him all by himself up in this old room. "Are your parent's downstairs at the party?"
My young friend shook his head, "They're dead. My uncle is watching over me and my sister. She's a grown up, like you."
I had to laugh at that. Both my parents and Nathan would tell me that I was all grown up one moment, and would then turn around and start treating me like a kid the next. Go figure.
Anyway, things were beginning to make more sense to me now. No doubt he had come with his Lordship's many siblings. Still, it seemed odd to leave the little fellow all on his own up here. Then again, there were other children to watch over downstairs, and I didn't doubt one of his many cousins were coming to check on him regularly. Probably, one or more of them had been up here with him when the call to start the games went out, and they went downstairs while he took a nap up here. This made sense, since I did find him under a blanket.
Then I smiled thinking that once the others found my 'hidden' location in here, we'd have a lot of company. Still a part of me began to wonder what he'd meant about Nathan having an 'accident' last time.
Just then the boy leaned up against me and I held him tight. He seemed much more relaxed now, and was smiling more, so I chose not to ask about what happened. Besides, I'd seen Nathan bounce back from injuries before. Hell, he'd even recovered from being decapitated just a few years ago. So I had little doubt that whatever had happened had seemed more terrifying to my young friend than it really had been.
I could hear the sounds of my 'pursuers' echoing through the mansion, through the door to the room, and quickly excused myself to close it. After all, I didn't want to make it too easy for them. Then I went back to the fireplace and wrapped the boy in my arms. He hugged me back as we gazed at the fire together.
"My sister and I used to sit before the fire like this for many an hour," he sighed wistfully.
I frowned. "Let me guess, she felt she was too grown up to do it anymore?" I asked, suspecting she didn't have as much time for her little brother these days. Especially if she was in her late teens as I was guessing from his earlier comparison of her and me. No doubt she was more into going to malls or raves these days.
"Oh, no," he told me. "She's mad at me. Or at, it seems like she's always mad at me."
My frown deepened. "Really? Did you break something of hers, or get her in trouble somehow?"
He shook his head. "Not to my knowledge."
I rested my chin on his head, thinking. "Is this a recent thing?"
The boy nodded. "It started shortly after our parents died."
I mentally nodded. Losing both your parents could lead to the children either becoming closer than ever, or tear them apart. Especially in the case of the older children, who may suddenly feel like a great burden of responsibility has been thrust upon them. They may feel obligated to grow up faster and would either rise up to the challenge, or feel overwhelmed or even cheated of their youthful pleasures and become resentful. Still, he'd said their uncle was watching over them. Could there be some resentment on that front from his sister? Did she want to be the grownup only to find her brother was turning more and more to their uncle? It was hard to say, and having just met my little friend, I didn't think it was right to pry too deeply. Instead, I asked a totally different question.
"I just realize, I never asked you your name?" I remarked, giving him an embarrassed look.
"Reginald," he smiled back. "Thank you for being so kind to me, Lisa."
"I do my best," I told him.
From beyond the closed door, I could hear the others calling my name, but I didn't want to leave Reginald, even for a moment. For some strange reason, I was feeling more and more protective of him. Like something would happen if I did leave his side, even for the slightest second. So I didn't respond and spent the next half hour talking with Reginald.
I soon learned that he and his sister had been quite a bit closer than I'd originally thought, even after their parents accident. But then they began to drift apart. His sister, Madeleine, began having fights with their uncle. Exactly what these arguments had been about, Reginald did not know at first. But then, Madeleine had appealed to him to talk with their uncle about their mother's jewelry and how it should be hers by right, to do with as she pleased.
Something about the way she'd spoken to him had been worrying, so he'd asked if she had planned to sell them. At that point she'd raised her voice and began scolding him for such horrid thoughts and how he was sounding just like their uncle. From then on things between them began to deteriorate. Several times she'd called him weak and foolish because by rights he was the rightful heir. He was now the lord and their uncle was only acting as a guardian until he came of age. She told him how he needed to grow up and take charge, that she needed his support but he was too cowardly or ungrateful to help her.
I felt my grip tighten on him as he spoke, wishing I could do something to help. But then he told me how Madeleine had become nicer again recently. She'd even apologized for saying such hurtful things. Perhaps it was the season that had made her more thoughtful, and yet... somehow he was a little afraid of her.
Upon hearing that, I said reassuringly, "Let me talk to her, and to your uncle. I'm pretty good at judging people. I might even get your sister to open up and tell me what's really been going on."
A look of relief swept over Reginald's face, then quickly vanished by one of alarm. "I don't think that would be a good idea. Nathan tried to talk to her and..."
"And that's when he had that 'accident' you mentioned earlier," I finished for him. "She got a little violent with him?"
My young friend simply nodded, but there was a haunted look in his eyes which worried me. Still, I couldn't let things stand the way they were. A part of me kept thinking about my own little brother, Geoffrey and how important he was to me, in spite of occasionally being a pest and a brat. But if we had lost our parents like Reginald and his sister had, I'd be an overly protective mother-hen as well as a big sister to him. I had no idea how good I'd be as a 'mother' figure for him, in fact I'd probably make a lot of mistakes, but I'd still love him no matter what. And I had no doubt Madeleine loved her brother still as well.
And as for getting rough with Nathan, he'd never mentioned the incident to me or my parents. So it couldn't have been that bad. Perhaps, what Madeleine had been resentful of yet another man trying to tell her what to do, like her uncle had apparently been doing.
"I think Madeleine might actually appreciate talking to someone her own age who's a big sister like her," I told Reginald. "And if things do get a little out of hand, Nathan and parents are here and they always watch out for me. Especially if I tell them the situation before I approach your sister."
That seemed to reassure him as he smiled and let me put him in a chair near the fire. I made sure he was bundled up, and got him to promise not to go anywhere till I got back. After giving me his word he kissed me on the cheek and said, "You're so nice. I think Madeleine might listen to you. You treat me the way she used to, and I very much wish for things to be like this again between us."
"I'll do my best," I assured him and left the room. As I passed through the adjoining room and into the hallway, I realized I didn't hear any of my 'pursuers' calling out my name. Assuming that they'd given up and had gone back to the party I quickly made my way downstairs.
When I reached the second floor, I realized that everything had gone quiet. There were no sounds coming the main hall downstairs where the party had been taking place. "This isn't good," I told myself and hurried down the rest of the way. Upon reaching the bottom the silence was even more obvious than before. The only sound I could hear was the crackling of the fire from the other side of the doors to the hall, which were now closed.
Feeling more than a little anxious I went to the doors and opened them. The hall was completely empty. The decorations, the tables covered in food and drink, were all still there. And I noted that a considerable number of presents had been added underneath the tree, and the fire was still burning in the fireplace, but aside from me there seemed to be not another soul in the place.
Then I remembered his lordship had mentioned holding mass over at the chapel on the grounds. No doubt that was where everyone had gone off to. Still, it was strange that no one had come looking for me... oh! That was why people had been calling my name earlier. They hadn't been trying to trick me into revealing myself, they had wanted to tell me to come to the chapel with them.
Feeling more than a little foolish, I headed for the front doors. I grabbed a heavy woolen cloak that went with my outfit and tried the doors. They were locked!
TO BE CONTINUED...
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Christmas in England, how much cooler can you get than that? Answer... you find yourself in the middle of something that could've come straight out of a gothic novel. I swear, I'll never be able to listen to "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" the same way, after tonight.
Here, let me explain...
It all started about a week ago, when Nathan told my parents that he had been invited to stay with some of his 'Extended Family' over in England and that a private jet had already been set up for when the time came to go. Naturally, I was pretty bummed out upon hearing this.
Still I couldn’t be mad at Nathan. We weren’t the only part of his “Extended” family, and there are others all over the country, and in other countries, who love him as much as we do. So it would only be natural for some of them to want him to come and spend the holidays with them once in a while. Plus, his sister Isabella was already in England awaiting her brother’s arrival.
I had just resigned myself to not seeing him on Christmas morning, when he dropped another bomb on us by saying, “Oh, did I mention all of you are invited to join me?”
At first my parents were a little unsure, but when he told them the festivities would be taking place in an old manor house and that the hosts liked to have an old-fashioned Christmas, they were hooked.
As I quickly learned on our arrival, the manor is over 200 years old and has been owned by the family that whole time. Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, the current master of manor is a member of the House of Lords. So you can imagine how important keeping the manor as well as the old Christmas traditions alive, is very important. And I for one don't blame them. This place is amazing. While it has all the modern conveniences, you still feel like you just stepped into a Jane Austen novel. Family portraits, a gallery, silk wallpaper, marble columns, grand staircase, a ballroom, a drawing room, the list goes on and on. I got lost at least twice in the first couple of days. So did my mother. We wound up bumping into each other and asking if each other knew the way out. LOL!
The main hall is huge, with tall windows going practically up to the ceiling (which is at least two to three stories tall). It also has the most impressive fireplace I've ever seen. It's huge affair, with ornately decorated tiles in the firebox area, as well as a beautifully carved stone mantel with intricate pillars leading up to it. There are a couple of wingback chairs set in front of all this, and that's where I could be found whenever I'd come in from outside. Sometimes Nathan sits with me, not that I've seen all that much of him since our arrival. He seems to come and go on 'business', supposedly it has to do with a book or two he's researching, but I've seen him talking with his Lordship from the windows now and then. I don't have the nerve to ask our host what they're talking about, and I haven't been able to get Nathan alone long enough to get the story out of him. But clearly, something is up... not that it was any of my business. That is, until tonight.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me get back to the decorations and preparations that led up to the event's of tonight, Christmas Eve...
TO BE CONTINUED...