The Writers’ Retreat

Freda sighed and looked at the blank screen of the laptop. Nothing was coming to her and all her notes were a helpless mess. Picking up the laptop, she went to the window box and plonked her large frame down. She had come to Grange Manor to write and escape. However, from the moment she had beheld the eighteenth century house from the taxi writers’ block had struck.

She wasn’t sure what had happened, but whenever she went to write something distracted her. She had been struggling with her latest novel as it was and with the deadline looming, coming to a writers’ retreat had sounded ideal. Sweeping back her black hair and pushing up her glasses, Freda connected the laptop to the Wi-Fi and waited for the internet to load. She thought about how she had first discovered the Manor and liked the idea that the now modernised house still clung to its past roots.

In her readings, Freda had found out that it had been a private family home for a hundred years. It had passed through a lot of hands as misfortune seemed to plague the generations and other families. It had then become a private school; first for boys, then for girls and then for women. Apparently, those times and the people had seen hardships and tragedies too. When the last school closed the house was saved from demolishment by an American business man. He sunk thousands into reinventing the Manor as an expensive hotel.

Freda had thought the history had ended there, but after arriving and settling in, she joined a tour group at the last minute. The tour included parts of the house that had been closed off and a wondered through the many acres of gardens. At the end she had talked to the tour guide and found out one of the Grange Manor’s dark secrets.

Sixty years after the grand opening of the hotel, the owner’s luck ran out. He was forced to sell the hotel to his competitor, instead of giving it to his children. Afterwards, in a deep depression, he hung himself in the attic. The current owners hadn’t bothered to change much, other than downgrading some rooms and offering more events to accommodating more people.

Freda had felt oddly saddened by this news. She had grown to understand that a lot of death, illness and unhappiness had happened within the Manor and a part of her had wanted a happy ending to come out of the place for a change.

She had never quite laid her finger on why she had become fascinated with the Manor. Freda had put it down to the writer in her and all the known and unknown stories that surround the place. Even now, she could recall a handful of them and each ended in heartbreak.

With the internet page almost loaded, she looked out of the window. A storm was taking its anger out on the moor. Heavy rain swept across in mighty waves, driven by the wind, whilst the clouds sparked and rumbled. Light pouring from the manor house made it stand out like a lighthouse in a black sea. Freda suddenly felt like all the days had swept into one and it seemed she was replaying this single day over and over.

The page loaded, she stared, then closed it. Clicking open a blank page, she took a deep breath and begin typing. Without thinking, she let the words flow and didn’t pause to read or edit.  Minutes later, she stopped and with the storm still raging outside, she read the first words on the screen:

Bethany Halls’ scream ring out from the third floor. She had her hands pressed to her cheeks and was staring down over the banister, right to the ground floor hallway. Laying there in a tangled heap of limbs and blood was Miss Branes, the school’s music mistress. She was clearly dead.

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