The smell of the candle reminded him of Christmas. Tears came to his eyes and he let them fall silently.
The smell of the candle reminded him of Christmas. Tears came to his eyes and he let them fall silently.
She walked down the street cradling the loaf of bread like a new baby. Going into her flat and the kitchen, she set the bread down and dug out the butter and jam from the fridge. Sitting down, she remembered she needed a knife and got up quickly to get one.
Opening the bread, she took out two slices and made a jam sandwich. Taking a small bite, she sighed at the sweet taste of jam and the softness of the bread. She took the time to chew and swallow, before having another small bite. Avoiding stuffing her month all at once, she carried on nibbling at the sandwich.
Finishing she settled back, feeling the hunger held at bay but also disappointment. For a moment she debated having another, but then she quickly put everything away. Grabbing her purse, she tipped it up and counted out the two pounds in change she had left. Placing the cool coins back, she wondered how she was going to make that last for the rest of the week.
Alfred stopped on his normal morning walk to get his newspaper when he heard the piano notes. He looked about, wondering where the music was coming from. The house windows all around him either had curtains or blinds blocking his view and through the rest he could see flowers and ornaments on the window sills. He lent on his walking stick, catching his breath and wondering if he had imagined it.
Lately, smells, sounds and ghosts from his past had been appearing without reason. His dreams too had been inflicted by memories he either had forgotten or really wished he had forgotten. So, far nothing had worked to lay his past back where it belonged.
Listening longer, Alfred decided that the music was real and someone, somewhere close by was playing a piano. The notes made up a merry tune, though it wasn’t one he knew. Studying the houses again, he realised he was close to the new building estate at the end of the next street from his home. Lots of new people had recently moved in and he betted that it was one of them the music was coming from. He saw no windows open or doors, so the sound must be drifting.
Getting back to walking, he recalled the piano lessons he had at school as a boy. He had not taken to it or any other instrument; instead he had enjoyed sport and other physical activities. Thinking those thoughts led to sadder thoughts. Bring himself back, he followed the path that would led him to a short cut across the fields to the shops. The music followed him as if trying to pull him back, but a few steps later it faded and he could no longer hear it.
After the late morning church service, Lucy hustled her five children home for lunch. Arriving, she was surprised to hear her husband, Charles, awake and cooking. The oldest three children- Laura, Ben and Rebecca, rushed off to the kitchen having hardly taken off their coats and shoes.
Lucy listened to their excited voices and questions as she struggled with the twins in the hallway. Finally getting the two, three year old boys, Charlie and Joshua out of their coats and boots, she let them loose and started taking off her own things.
‘It’s the monsters!’ she heard her husband calling out.
The twins burst into giggles and squeals with added shouts of ‘daddy, no no tickles!’
Lucy smiled, despite feeling exhausted, went to join her family in the kitchen.
‘How does everyone want their eggs?’ Charles was asking.
The children shouted up with suggestions, included fried, boiled and chocolate.
Laughing, Lucy called over them all to go and set the table. With some moaning the children left, Laura and Rebecca dragging the twins away. Lucy hugged and kissed her husband.
‘What are you doing up?’ she asked.
He shrugged, ‘I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I thought I’d help with starting dinner and making breakfast.’
Lucy looked at the pots on the stove and the collection of vegetables on the work top.
They kissed again then whispering Lucy said ‘I set up the egg hunt. Though it’s meant to rain soon.’
‘I don’t think they’ll care,’ Charles muttered back.
Lucy smiled and leaned into him. The kettle boiled and letting each other go, they started making breakfast and finishing the preparation for an Easter day feast.
Scarlett couldn’t believe it. She sit in the dark, listening to the storm and staring at the blank TV screen. She picked up the control and pressed the on/off button a few times. Nothing happened. She placed the control down and went to the light switch, trying that she found the lights didn’t come. Frowning, she tried to recall where the fuse box was, but only remembered it was somewhere in the basement.
Slowly, feeling her away along the hallway in the pitch blackness, she made it the kitchen. Scarlett felt her way around and finally opened the bottom draw. She pulled out a torch and turned it on. The light beam cut through the darkness and she was able to pick things out. Grabbing some batteries, she went to move, but heard someone using the heavy rings at the front door to knock three times.
Pausing, she listened to the knocking echo before the thunder covered it up. Walking into the corridor, she wondered, had someone been out walking and got caught in the storm? Unlocking the apartment door, Scarlett walked out and spent a few moments wrestling with the manor’s front door lock. The ring knocked again, three times just like before.
‘Hang on!’ Scarlett yelled.
She yanked open the door and the wind whacked her in the face and drenched her with rain. Scarlett stumbled backwards, regained her balance and shone the torch out on to the porch. The light barely cut through the darkness. She stepped into the doorway and searched, but couldn’t see anyone.
‘Hello?’ she shouted.
The wind howled back at her and the thunder added it’s voice too. Lightening stroke and for a brief few seconds, Scarlett saw there was really no one there. Closing the door and locking it again, she went to put on the alarm, but then remember the lack of electrical. Worrying and glancing back at the door, Scarlett went back into her apartment and bedroom.
Using the torch to guide her into the bathroom, Scarlett grabbed some candles and matches. Carefully placing them and lighting them around the room, she felt the press of darkness lessen. She checked the clock and saw it was almost four in the afternoon. Sitting on the bed, she pulled her book into her lap and with a shrug opened the pages.
Settling down, she read a few pages and then heard the knocking again. Three loud booms from the metal ring echoed and vibrated through the manor. Looking at her closed bedroom door, she wondered about getting up. The thought that it could be an actual person lost in the storm, drove her to going to the front door again.
Once again, she struggled with the lock and door, before the wind stole it out of her hands threw the door against the wall. Scarlett shone the torch out and saw the wind had wiped the chairs and tables off the porch. Tucking back her hair, she called out a few times, but when nothing happened, she tried to shut the door again. Fighting against the wind, she finally pushed the door back into place and locked it again.
Turning, she saw a shadow moving on the staircase. Scarlett stopped and stared. She tried to believe her eyes and mind were playing tricks, but then the shadow moved and the form of a tall man stood halfway up the stairs. Scarlett gasped. Remembering the torch, she lifted it up and shone the light on the man. He was gone. She rushed to the stairs and flashed the light wildly about.
‘Hello?’ she called, ‘I saw you!’
A child screamed.
The torch slipped from her hands and Scarlett scrambled to grab it. The torch hit the floor and the light spun before dying. Crying out, she knelt on the floor and felt the torch. Her hand knocked it and she heard it spinning away. Going after it, she picked it up and fumbled for the switch. The torch wouldn’t turn on. Getting up again, a tiny white glow appeared before her.
Scarlett stopped and watched the white ball take the form of a small girl.
‘Charlotte?’ Scarlett whispered.
‘Hello,’ the ghost girl answered.
‘What are you doing here? it’s day time.’
‘I came to see you,’ Charlotte spoke, holding her head high.
‘Did you see that man on the stairs?’ Scarlett asked.
‘Yes. That’s the headmaster. He is not nice. We should stay away from him.’
Scarlett nodded and glanced up the dark staircase again. The thunder, rain and wind filled the silence, making everything seem more scarier. Scarlett looked down at the ghost girl, who seemed to be watching the door.
‘Do you know who was knocking?’ Scarlett asked.
Charlotte shook her head.
Soft crying, that somehow they heard, come from above. Scarlett looked up then tried to get her torch working again. The soft glowing light coming off Charlotte was enough for Scarlett to see the that the torch was broken.
‘A school boy died tragically during a storm like this,’ Charlotte spoke.
Scarlett looked at her.
‘He fell from the headmaster’s window. But people say the headmaster pushed him as punishment for sneaking around.’
‘Is that what happened?’ Scarlett asked.
‘I don’t know.’
The sound of breaking glass and a window banging in the wind filled the air. Scarlett made to move up the stairs then stopped. A scream echoed then faded, sending chills up her back. She shivered and turned to the ghost girl.
‘Is it over?’
‘Yes,’ Charlotte answered.
Scarlett breathed deeply and clutched her shaking hands together. She shut her eyes for a few moments then opened them to see that Charlotte had vanished. She turned and made to head back into the apartment. The door knocker sounded.
Growling, she went to the door and half debated not opening. Still, she unlocked and opened the door. The rain and wind drove in once more, but this time there was someone standing there.
‘Scarlett?’ Greyson’s voice called out.
A dim light from a phone flickered on.
‘Greyson?’ Scarlett gasped
‘Yes. Are you okay?’
‘I am now!’ Scarlett cried and through her arms around him.
They hugged and kissed as the rain pleated down and the wind whipped around them. Greyson laughed and pulled her inside. Struggling they closed the door together.
‘The lights have gone out,’ she explained.
‘Ah, that’s why you’re in the dark. I thought you’d planned a party or something,’ Greyson said, ‘damn, my phone is out of charge.’
Scarlett grabbed his hand and led him into the apartment bedroom. There candles chased away the shadows and they were able to see each other. They laughed at the state of each other and Scarlett got some towels from the bathroom. They both changed then lay on the bed, holding each other.
‘There’s something I’ve to tell you,’ Scarlett said.
‘Oh?’ Greyson replied, rubbing the top of hair with his chin.
‘The hotel’s haunted. I’ve see and spoke to a ghost. Her name is Charlotte. She’s one of the original owner’s daughters. She has this nursery in the attic with a doll’s house that looks like the manor did and there’s a rocking horse too!’
‘It’s true!’ Scarlett cried.
Greyson held her tighter and kissed her.
‘You don’t believe me, do you?’
‘I…maybe you should rest? I’ll go and find the fuse box,’ Greyson said.
‘No!’ Scarlett grabbed him. ‘Say you believe me!’
‘I do,’ he murmured and squeezed her.
Scarlett snuggled into him, knowing he was lying, but she would soon change his mind.
The child was see through and defined by a white outline, but she looked as real as anything. Scarlett’s brain was making a strange beeping sound and she felt dizzy and sick. She tried to reach out for something as the floor began moving under her. Her finger tips brushed something hard and she remembered the rocking horse. Concentrating everything on that, she stopped herself from fainting.
Sitting down on the floor, Scarlett drew in a few shaky breaths and shut her eyes. She could hear the ghost girl humming and the doll tapping the wooden floor. Calming herself, Scarlett opened her eyes again and tried to think of some questions to ask. Thinking back to her internet research, she recalled a few things.
‘Do you know your name?’ she asked.
‘Charlotte,’ the girl replied.
‘How…? Never mind…’ Scarlett trailed off.
Charlotte placed the doll into the attic and selected another which was dressed in a suit. She placed him in the kitchen then carried on arranging the others. She hummed an old nursery rhyme that Scarlett could only half recall.
‘So how many of you are there?’ Scarlett asked.
‘Eleven,’ Charlotte replied.
‘No,’ the ghost girl answered, ‘there’s only five children, me and four boys.’
‘There’s a baby, an older girl and the rest are all adults.’
‘I’m the oldest though,’ Charlotte declared.
‘This house belongs to me.’
Scarlett thought hard. She glanced up at the ceiling and noted a large spider crawling across a huge web. From the back of her mind, she half remembered reading about the death of a daughter from the manor’s originally family, but hadn’t there been lots of childhood death in the eighteen hundreds?
A door creak, distracting them and causing Scarlett to turn her head towards the nursery doorway. She couldn’t see anything but the dim light coming from the hallway.
‘I have to go now,’ Charlotte declared.
‘Will, I see you again?’ Scarlett asked turning back, but the ghost girl had all ready gone.
Getting up and avoiding the toys on the floor, Scarlett made her way out. She closed the door, but didn’t lock it. Walking down the corridor, she heard nothing but her own footsteps and as she paused at the top of the attic stairs, only the natural sounds of the manor filled her ears. Turning out the lights and heading downstairs, Scarlett turned things over in her mind and decided she had to hurry back to the apartment and looked through all the papers. Leaving the attic door unlocked, but the lights off, she picked up her pace and reached the staircase. Grapping the banister, she heard a soft laugh behind her. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw a small figure like shadow. Pressing her lips together, she decided not to speak, but instead went down the spiral staircases and back to the entrance hall. From there, she went into the apartment, locking the door behind her, and into the study. Turning on the computer, she began looking through all the papers she had tidied away the day before.
Finding the file containing information about the original manor, she pulled it out and set it on the desk. The computer screen loaded before her and she notices the time was almost five am. Rubbing her eyes, Scarlett opened the file and pawed through it. She scanned over documents till she came across one of interested.
There had been a child called Charlotte, who had belonged to the original family. She had died in 1862 of scarlet fever. And her baby brother had died too.
Sitting back and letting out a big sigh, Scarlett felt suddenly drained. Getting up, she went into the bedroom and lay down. Thoughts tumbled in her head, but sleep wiped them all away and she surrendered to it.
The ringing of a phone dragged her out of sleep. Scarlett felt along the bedside table for it, but couldn’t find it. Coming more awake, she felt the vibrations against her thigh and pulled the phone out of her jeans pocket. Answering it, she murmured a sleepy, ‘hello?’
‘It’s only me,’ Greyson’s voice spoke, ‘just thought I’d check in. You okay?’
‘Yep, just sleepy,’ Scarlett answered.
‘Where there noises again? Did the alarm go off?’ Greyson asked.
Scarlett’s mind skipped back a few hours, she had never heard it, but she had no recollection of switching it off before she had gone up to the attic. Sliding from the bed, she walked out.
‘You remembered to set it right?’
‘Oh! I think I forgot,’ Scarlett gasped.
She unlocked the apartment door and went into the staff room as Greyson’s voice scolded her. Checking the alarm, she found it off. Sighing, she brought herself back to what her husband was saying.
‘At least you are safe.’
Scarlett nodded, ‘I’m fine. When are you coming home?’
‘This evening, hopefully. There’s meant to be a storm coming this afternoon though.’
‘I haven’t seen the forecast…’
‘It’s not meant to be that bad. Do we need anything? I could pick stuff up on the way,’ Greyson asked.
Scarlett thought and walked back into the kitchen, asking him to wait. She searched around for a few moments then gave him a list. Putting the kettle on and grabbing a box of cereal, she listened to Greyson talking about his night with his parents and the problems with their old business.
‘Are you sure you don’t need me?’ Scarlett finally cut in.
‘No. I’ll sort it. You just finish off making a new home for us,’ Greyson said.
Scarlett laughed and glanced into the dining room, which was still cluttered with boxes and furniture, ‘I’ll try.’
‘I have to go. Love you.’
‘Love you too,’ she said and hung up.
Going into the living room to eat, Scarlett got all thoughts of her night time adventure out of her head and put the weather forecast on. Greyson had been right. A storm was predicated around lunchtime. She looked out of the windows at the dark, grey morning and felt the urge to get some fresh air.
Finishing breakfast, she dug out her hiking boots and thick winter coat. Picking up her phone and the apartment keys, she walked out on to the patio area. Cold air greeted her and tried to sneak under her coat. Scarlett shook it off and locked the back door. She walked briskly across the lawn, through the hedge archway and on to the path that lead through the gardens. Avoiding looking back at the manor, she put up her hood and walked on past the entrances to the flower beds and to the end of the path.
She went left at the fork and walked around past more lawns, trees and empty flower beds, till she reached what had been the kitchen’s gardens. Here, the soil beds were in small rows and often in raised wooden boxes and there were two green houses. Scarlett went to have a look at them as the wind picked up around her.
The first seemed older and had more missing glass panes. Dirt covered the floor and she could make out the remains of wooden work tops. The second greenhouse was in better shape and she entered it. Glass crunched under her boots then become dirt and small stones. Plant pots were still lined up on the work top and there was even a rusty trowel.
Scarlett looked up at the dark grey sky which was really threating to rain. Shivering slightly, she turned and walked out. Heading back to the path, she debating carrying on then decided not to risk it. Heading back, she walked through some of the gardens, admiring the shallow ponds where the frogs were hiding and the just budding bushes. Spotting a small shelter made out of white stone and with two almost naked women statues on either side, Scarlett ducked inside.
A damp smell hit her nose and her face crinkled. Slime and moss covered the floor and walls, making what once had been a pretty hidey-hole ugly. Scarlett sat down on the cold, wet marble bench and looked out at the little pond and small water spout poking out. She listened to the wind start violent shaking the bare tree branches. A bird squawked in the distance then came the heavy patter of rain.
Scarlett watched as the large drops splashed into the pond and sent ripples rocking the surface. The dry soil and pathways quickly changed to a darker colour. A rumble of thunder sounded across the garden. She hugged herself and though a part of her wanted to huddle in the shelter for longer, she knew the weather was only going to get worse. Getting up and fixing her hood, she made a break for it and ran back towards the house.
The manor loomed before her, looking menacing with the darkening sky above it. The thunder rolled again, louder this time. A white flash flickered past and Scarlett stopped to search for lightening. She was too late and the bolt had all ready gone. Picking up pace and going into a run, she made it to the main lawn. Spotting the back door, she headed straight over.
Going in, she slammed the door shut behind her and went to the kitchen window. There she saw a flash of lighting jag across the sky as if tearing it in pieces. Scarlett caught her breath back then took off her wet things. Stripping and leaving everything, she went and had a shower. The hot water wiped the chill away from her skin and made her feel better. Getting dressed into comfy clothes, she sorted her wet things out and made a hot drink.
Settling on to the sofa, she turned the TV on and watched the news as the storm raged on above her. A crack of lightening and roar of thunder made her jump and glance at the window. It was black outside, but she could just see the rain drops cluttering the glass. Scarlett turned back to the TV screen but suddenly it and the lights went out.
To Be Continued….
Scarlett’s mind wheeled as she listened to the noise. How could there be a rocking chair in the hotel rooms above her? Throwing back the duvet, she got up and hurriedly dressed in the clothes she had spent the day in. Putting on her trainers and grabbing her mobile phone, she went to the bedroom door. Opening it and going into the hallway, she paused and listened again. The rocking chair was still thumping.
Unlocking the apartment door, she walked into the entrance hall and turned the lights on fully. The shadows scattered and fled into the dark corners where the light couldn’t reach them. Scarlett calmed her breathing and eyed the stairs, she was about to go up when she remembered the CCTV. Turning and going through the other door, Scarlett woke up the computers and looked at the cameras. The outside ones showed nothing but a windy and wet night. The ground floor ones were clear. She tried the staircase and first floor corridor. The camera on the far left was just a black screen, but the others showed nothing. Checking the second floor, she saw that the same camera there wasn’t working either and it was the one that showed the attic door.
Straightening, she grabbed the ring of keys that Greyson had for some reason left on the desk and headed out. Making sure all the lights were on, Scarlett climbed the stairs. At the square landing, she went right and carried on climbing. The thumping sounds seem to slow down and as she reached the top, the noise had all but stopped.
‘Hello!’ Scarlett shouted.
She let the echo surrounded her then waited a few moments.
‘Who’s there?’ she asked.
Tightening her grip on the banister, she heard the rocking chair stop moving. Silence returned. Scarlett stepped forward and looked at the doors to her left, trying to decide which ones were over the apartment.
A child like giggle from the left caused her head to whip around.
‘I’m not alone!’ Scarlett yelled, ‘and the police are on their way. If you come out now and stop this messing around, we can help you.’
What sounded like a whisper followed by a moan touched her ears, but she couldn’t tell where it had come from. Putting her shoulders back and trying to stay confident, she walked over to the first room on the right. Unlocking and opening the door, she went into the lit room. Looking around, she discovered nothing and moved on to the next.
‘It’s no good hiding you know,’ she spoke out, feeling reassured by the sound of her own voice, ‘we’re going to get you soon enough!’
Scarlett walked into the second room, ready to face a teenager or young homeless person. The room was empty. Growling softly, she walked out and checked another four rooms. Each was empty and as Scarlett also noted none had a rocking chair. Making sure, she had locked the doors, she checked the first handful on the other side and found them just as empty.
‘I’m not going crazy,’ she muttered.
Coming back to the stairs, she paused and let the silence settle again. The floor creaked above her. Scarlett looked up and heard the sound of the chair rocking again. She ran up the next flight of stairs and looked down both corridors. The light closest to the attic door flickered, drawing her eye and suddenly she realised where the sound was coming from.
Clutching the ring of keys, she stomped over to the attic door and opened it. A dark maw met her. Scarlett fumbled around for the switch and finally found it. Dim light drifted down, hardly touching the darkness of the walls. For a spilt second, she debated going back for a torch and maybe the cricket bat, but the sound of something rattling stopped her.
Listening, she heard what sounded like a baby’s rattle toy which seemed in time with the rocking of the chair and the creaking floor boards.
Taking a deep breath, she started the climb. The stairs groaned underneath and dust rose up towards the naked bulbs. At the top she looked down the three corridors and tried to figure out where the noise was coming from. Swallowing, she decided to call out and see what happened.
‘Hey, I know you’re up here! Show yourself!’
Her voice echoed deeply and came back to her loudly.
A voice said something, but it was too low for her to hear.
‘I mean it! The police are coming and my husband is right behind me!’ Scarlett cried.
‘No, he’s not,’ a voice hissed.
Scarlett jumped. A scream bubbled in her throat and she fought to wrestle it down whilst urging her feet not to run. She took in a few breaths of hot, heavy air and clutched the key ring tighter.
‘How do you know that?’ she finally squeezed out.
‘I saw him leave,’ a voice, which sounded like a young girl whispered back.
‘Who are you?’ Scarlett asked.
There was pause, a small laugh then nothing else. In the background, the rocking and rattling continued.
Slowly, Scarlett moved and began opening the rooms she and Greyson had searched through before. Even through it was dark, she couldn’t see anyone or anything that seemed out of place. Going back to the top of the stairs, she searched the keys and selected the skeleton one. Wondering if it would open any of the doors up here, Scarlett walked back down the right corridor and going to the first locked room there, slotted the key in. She turned it and heard a faint click. Smiling, she pushed open the door and looked into a pitch black room.
Pulling out her phone and calling up the torch, she used the surprisingly bright light to look around. She saw piles of decaying cardboard boxes going from floor to ceiling and completely filling the room. Closing the door, she tried the next and found it to contain bedframes and mattress.
A chuckle came from behind her, but she didn’t turn around.
‘I am going to find you!’ Scarlett said through gritted teeth.
She walked out of the room and tried the next and the one after, both rooms held dust sheet covered furniture. Going to the final room, she slotted the key in and turned it. The lock clicked and she pushed opened the door. A loud gasp seemingly coming from inside the room caused her to pause.
‘Hello?’ Scarlett said.
The rocking and rattling began to fade. There was the sound of running bare feet on the floor boards and something, a book perhaps, tumbling to the floor.
Scarlett flung open the door and shone her phone torch in. Her mouth dropped and a loud oh sound escaped her. The room was a Victorian style children’s nursey. Dust covered toys were scattered across the floor and a large rocking horse dominated the room. A small table surrounded by stools was set up for a tea party and there was a doll’s house underneath a curtained window. Against the far wall, were a bookcase and a small writing desk.
‘Hello?’ Scarlett called softer.
A muffled cry tickled her ears. She paused, but hearing nothing further, she walked into the room and began looking for a light switch. Finding it, she flicked it up and down, but the light didn’t come on. Dropping her hand, she turned and looked around the room again. She walked over to the rocking horse and gently touched it, making it rock. The sound it made was just like the one she had heard.
‘Don’t be scared,’ Scarlett called out then wondered if she was saying that to herself.
Shaking her head, she panned the floor and moved to the doll’s house. Looking at the dust and spider webbed building, she thought it looked like the original manor house. She went to open it and felt a touch of icy air on her hand. Pausing, she shone the torch on the back of her hand and finding nothing, opened the doll house.
Inside all the rooms were complete with furniture and small dolls were scattered about.
‘Wow. Amazing,’ Scarlett breathed.
‘It’s mine!’ a voice that sounded similar to the one before cried out.
Scarlett glanced to the side and thought she saw a grey shadow moving closer to her.
‘It’s nice,’ she said and began shutting the front panel.
‘Leave it open,’ the voice cried.
‘Please,’ Scarlett added.
‘Please,’ repeated the voice.
Scarlett swung open the panel and moved slightly away. She watched as the grey shadow came to hover in front of the doll’s house.
‘Can I see you? I won’t hurt you. I just want to talk,’ Scarlett said gently.
‘Why?’ the voice asked.
‘Because…I’ve never seen a ghost before and I want to. You’ve been the one making all that noise, haven’t you?’ Scarlett questioned.
‘It wasn’t just me!’ the voice replied stiffly.
‘There are more?’
Scarlett blinked and tried to refocus her eyes on the grey shape, but it was transforming before her. A girl no older than ten, was knelt on the floor in a long dress with her hair nicely tied back was staring up at her with wide white eyes. In her right hand, she held one of the small doll house dolls and her left was resting in her lap. She smiled a little.
Scarlett’s hand went to her chest and she tried to regain control of her breathing and heartbeat. Everything was screaming for her to run away, but she felt frozen to the floor.
To Be Continued…
Scarlett moved stuff off the computer desk and on to the floor. She turned the computer on and whilst waiting, began sorting the papers and other items into piles. Her mind skipped back to a few minutes ago and her saying goodbye to Greyson. She sighed deeply all ready feeling like she missed him.
She touched her fingers to her lips where his kiss lingered. Hopefully, he’d be back tonight and in the meantime, she told herself, she wasn’t going to worry about any ‘ghostly’ goings on. Glancing at the computer, she saw it had loaded. Sitting down in the large leather desk chair, she clicked on the internet icon and waited to see what happened.
She had not been on social media or anything else much since they had moved in, even though Greyson had got the connection sorted before they had officially arrived. He’d had to do the same with the water, gas, electricity and the TV too. When the homepage loaded, she typed in ghosts into the search box and began scrolling through the results. Selecting a few sites, Scarlett spent the rest of the morning researching.
Heading into the kitchen to fix lunch, Scarlett looked through the cupboards and pulled out some salt and flour. Setting them to one side, she made a sandwich and a coffee then headed back into the study. The afternoon past quietly and she was able to tidy the study, plan the job advertisements out and start work on the dining room.
Switching the TV on whilst she unpacked and having voices fill the stillness of the house, made her feel better. Placing a crystal fruit bowl, that had been a wedding present, on the table, she looked up and across. The news had just started rolling on the TV. She checked her watch and saw it was six o’clock. Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she called Greyson. As the dial tones beeped on, she started to think he was driving. At the last minute, he picked up.
‘Hi. I was about to call you,’ his cheery voice stated.
‘Oh?’ she replied, feeling her heart sink a little.
‘I’m not going to make it home…’
Scarlett bit her lip and dragged in a deep breath.
‘This thing is going to take more time, but it’s okay. My parents are letting me stay the night,’ Greyson explained, ‘you should have come…’
‘No. It’s okay, I’m fine,’ she replied.
‘Just put the lights on in the entrance hall and maybe a few of the rooms. Make sure all the doors are locked and if you hear anything or the alarm goes off, don’t leave the apartment. Okay?’
Scarlett laughed, ‘I’m a grown woman, Greyson!’
‘I know…but…I need you to be safe,’ he replied seriously.
She nodded and in the background heard the barking of a dog and the chatter of voices.
‘I’ll be fine. I miss you,’ Scarlett spoke.
‘I miss you too. Are you sure you’re going to be okay? You could always get a taxi and go and stay in a B ‘n’ B in one of the villages,’ Greyson suggested.
Scarlett shook her head and felt her hair tickling her face, ‘no, there’s no need. I’ll just get into bed and stay there. Will you be home tomorrow night?’
‘I should be.’
‘I love you,’ Greyson said softly.
‘I love you too,’ Scarlett replied.
The hang up tone beeped in her ear. Scarlett lowered the phone and checked the screen. She felt tears starting in her eyes, but she brushed them away and slipped the phone back into her pocket. Turning the TV up louder, she went to make something to eat. Her thoughts ran out of control as she glanced in the fridge then the freezer then the cupboards. Finally, she spotted the bag of flour and the bottle of salt she had left out before.
Picking them up, she went to the front door and unlocked it. Opening the door and peering out into the growing darkness, she listened. Hearing nothing but the normal stirrings of the manor, she walked out and turned on some of the lights. She climbed the stairs and switched on the corridor lights.
Selecting a few rooms, both front and back facing, she switched on a few of their lights. Going up the next spiral stairs, she turned on the second floor corridor lights then once again selected a few random rooms. Feeling better, Scarlett approached the attic door.
She opened the flour and salt then taking them made two wide lines one after the other close to the doorway. Going back to the top of the stairs she did the same there. Then at the top of the next stairs she made the lines again and finally along the edge of the landing square.
Going downstairs, she wondered about making one more line at the bottom, but decided inside to place one at the front door. Having done that and checking the doors were locked, she went back at her apartment, stepped inside and made a line of salt and a line of flour next to the door.
Closing the door, she locked it then walked towards the bedroom. Turning the light on, she made her final lines then placed everything back into the kitchen. Smiling and feeling better, Scarlett decided to have pasta for dinner. Whilst making it, her mind turned over and she wondered if she would capture any prints in the flour or if the salt would stop anything evil disturbing her sleep.
Taking her food into the living room, she watched TV then spent the rest of the evening catching up on a few programs. The manor settled around her, the wood creaking and groaning softly, the kitchen tap still dripping and a gently howling sound as the wind picked up outside.
Yawing, Scarlett looked at the time and decided, though it was approaching eleven, that she wanted a bath. Turning the TV off and the living room light, she went into the bedroom, avoiding the salt and flour lines, and headed into the bathroom.
Putting the plug in and turning the taps on, she grabbed some lavender relaxing bubble bath and put some in. The sound of rushing water pressed hard on her ears, so she put the CD player on and turned up the mediation style music loudly. Out of habit, she locked the bathroom door and began undressing.
Realising, she had left her book, Scarlett grabbed a towel and unlocked the bathroom door. Walking out, a cold breeze pricked her skin. She eyed the windows, which appeared shut and locked. She went over and drew the curtains then collected her book and walked back in. Locking the door again, she placed the towel back and dipped a hand into the water. It was too hot. She turned the cold tap on more and swirled the water, till she was able to get in.
Sinking down, she relaxed and let the water cover her completely. Turning the taps off, she listened to the dripping fall of water until it had stopped. The mediation music filled the air and Scarlett lent back again and shut her eyes.
A light knocking as if someone was at the door to one of the rooms above, echoed into her ears. Scarlett opened her eyes looked up. She eased herself up, slowly and the water rippled around her. She grabbed the sides of the bath then changed her mind as Greyson’s words came back to her. She reached for a sponge and some soap. As she washed the sound grew louder as if someone was desperate for the person in the room to let them in.
Trying to ignore it, she concentrated on the music and began sloshing the bathwater louder. The knocking stopped. Scarlett paused in scrubbing her feet. She looked up and the bath light flickered above her. A lump formed in her throat and she swallowed tightly. The bulb began to buzz then it settled and brightened.
Quickly, finishing up, she got out of the tub. Grabbing a towel, she pulled the plug then began drying. Wrapping herself up and leaving the CD playing, she reached for the door handle. Opening it and peering out, she saw nothing but her bedroom. Laughing in her head, she walked out and got dressed.
A mutter of voices brushed past her. Scarlett stopped pulling on her nightie and listened. The voices grew louder, but she could not quite make out the words. She went back into the bathroom and turned the music off. Stepping out again, she heard a girly giggle and the coo of a baby. Frowning, she went to the door of the bedroom and opened it. The voices become clear and she realised it was the TV. Confused, she walked out into the living room. The TV was on and a documentary about teenage mothers was being show.
Shaking her head, she turned it off and went back to bed. Settling down, she wondered if she’d just miss pressed the button or if there’d been an electrical fault. Letting it go, she picked up her book and began reading. However, after a good few minutes the silence swelled around her, pressing painfully down on her ears and head.
Closing her book, Scarlett went and grabbed the CD player from the bathroom. Telling herself she wasn’t silly, though she felt a little embarrassment, she set the machine up and let the mediation music play out. She also selected a few more CDS from a drawer in the bathroom and set them beside the CD player on the floor.
Getting back into the bed, she picked up her book and began reading till her eyes felt heavy. Settling down, she further avoided telling herself off for leaving on the lamp as she began to doze off. The music waved around her and she let that carry her away. Pleasant dreams filled her head, but they were cut off by a loud collection of voices.
Coming too, Scarlett rolled over and stretched. Groaning, she listened in her half sleep state then she became fully awake. Blinking away the light from the lamp, she pushed herself up and realised the noise was the TV again.
‘Greyson?’ she called sleepy.
Rubbing her eyes, she got up and opened the door. The hallway lights, which she had left on, cast a reassuring glow. Remembering the salt and flour lines, Scarlett stepped widely over them and went to the living room. The TV screen was casting yellow light along the walls. She turned on the living room lights and paused in the doorway. She wasn’t sure what the show or film was on the TV. Sighing, she walked in and turned it off, then just for good measure, unplugged the TV.
Before she went back to bed, Scarlett double checked the door was locked. As she walked back, it crossed her mind to call Greyson, but she decided it was far too late. Back in bed, she changed the CD, selecting one called Native American Spiritual music. Snuggling down, she let the soft flutes and drums fill her ears. Drifting off again, a soft crying brushed past her and Scarlett fought to keep her eyes closed.
Telling herself it was all in head and she really need to sleep now, she emptied her mind and let the howling of wolves fill her head.
The crying came right into her ears.
Snapping open her eyes, she sat up and looked around.
‘Leave me alone, please. Whatever you are,’ Scarlett called out.
The crying stopped.
Scarlett breathed a sigh of relief and put her head back down. Falling back to sleep, she prayed that would be the end of it. However, sometime later, the sounds of a rocking chair moving back and forth from above, caused her to wake once more.
To Be Contuined…
Scarlett and Greyson scrambled up and out of the room. Greyson reached the apartment door before her and after unlocking it, yanked it open and stepped into the dimly lit entrance hall. He held up his hand and stopped Scarlett from following him. She opened her mouth to argue, but Greyson was all ready moving off and turning on all the lights.
The hallway and staircase were empty. Greyson turned and went into the other door behind the reception desk. The alarm still continued to ringing out as Scarlett waited for his return. Suddenly the noise was cut off and instead of being deafened by the beeping, silence took over. Scarlett took a few deep breaths then walked into what was the staff area.
Greyson was lent over the desk looking through the CCTV.
‘I don’t see anything,’ he said with a glance at Scarlett in the doorway.
‘But we heard the door…’ she stated.
He nodded, ‘maybe it was the wind or we didn’t shut one in the attic.’
‘How could we hear that all the way down here?’
Greyson shrugged, ‘echo? I don’t know. Let’s wait here for the police.’
Scarlett yawed, ‘I’m going back to bed.’
‘All right. Don’t lock the door.’
‘Okay,’ Scarlett said.
Turning, she went back to their rooms and got into bed. Wrapping herself up and trying to find some warmth still in the bed, Scarlett wondered what was going on. She couldn’t be imagining these things if Greyson was hearing them too. It wouldn’t make sense for both of them to be going crazy with stress either. Shivering, she hugged herself and decided there was no way she could slept till Greyson was back.
Grabbing her book, she tried to read but she could not concentrate. Then the police arrived and disturbed her more. Scarlett listened to the rise and fall of their voices and footsteps. Feeling reassured, she turned back to her book. Turning the page, she felt a cold breeze on her hands. She balanced the book on her knees and put her hands under the duvet.
As the silence settled again, Scarlett thought she heard a soft voice whispering. She looked up and out of the doorway, thinking it nothing more then Greyson coming back or the police. Listening harder, she didn’t hear anything. Shaking her head and putting it down to the house moving, she began reading again.
Scarlett’s head shot up and her eyes darted around the room. The words resounding in her mind. There was no doubting the child’s voice she had just heard. Sitting back, she licked her lips and clutched the edges of the open book.
‘H-Hello?’ Scarlett whispered, her voice slightly cracking.
‘Please,’ the voice said after a few moments.
‘Who are you?’
The question hung in the air, unanswered. Scarlett got up and searched the room. The voice had sounded so close, almost at her ear. She checked under the bed and saw nothing but empty suitcases. Kneeling, she looked around then opened the drawer of her bedside table. The idea that someone was playing a joke or a trick on her came to mind. Closing the drawer, she checked the other furniture and found nothing out of place.
‘I’m not going crazy,’ she muttered, ‘tell me who you are and what you want. I can help you.’
She sat on the bed and listened hard, but the voice did not return. A blast of cold air had her grabbing at the duvet then she heard Greyson’s voice and the rough ones’ of the police. The front door shut and Scarlett breathed heavily. She got back into the bed and was busy trying to get warm as Greyson walked in.
‘Nothing. Again,’ he growled, ‘no sign of anyone breaking in or hiding upstairs.’
‘We should be glad of that,’ Scarlett responded.
Greyson got into bed and punched his pillow before throwing the duvet over his head.
‘I just don’t get it,’ Greyson’s muffled voice answered, ‘why is all this weirdness happening? It’s going beyond stress now. Maybe there’s someone messing with us. A local villager who doesn’t want us to reopen the hotel?’
Scarlett shook her head, ‘no, why? That doesn’t make sense. Surely, they’d be happy for the work and the tourists again. Don’t you remember what the second estate agent said? The villages were hit hard when this place closed five years ago and they have been desperate for it to re-open.’
‘Homeless people then? or a gang of teenagers?’ Greyson suggested, coming out from the duvet.
‘I don’t know. Let’s forget it now and go to sleep.’
Greyson growled and rolled over. He turned out the lights and carried on mumbling, but Scarlett couldn’t understanding him. Taking a last look around the bedroom in the light from her lamp, Scarlett reached over and turned it off. Laying down, she wondered about the whispering voice and though she had never believed in ghosts, she was starting to think it might be the answer all the disturbances.
The ringing of a phone jerked Scarlett awake. She rolled over and knocked into Greyson’s back. Pushing away, she sat up, hand going to sweep back her hair as she looked confusingly around the bedroom. Her brain started to recognize the ringing tone as being Greyson’s mobile phone. She nudged him and saw a hand groping out of the bed and fumbling along the bedside table.
‘Hello?’ Greyson’s sleepy, gruff voice said as the ringing was cut off, ‘Yes…It’s okay. Can I just…Oh…Give me a moment.’
Greyson got up and made to leave the room, phone tight to his ear.
‘What is it?’ Scarlett asked.
‘Why? What’s going on?
Greyson shook his head and left the room. Scarlett got up and trailed after him as he went into the study. She lingered in the doorway and listened to the one sided conversation, but she wasn’t able to gauge much. Finally, he put the phone down and turned to her.
‘Something’s going on with the sell of the B ‘n’ B. I’m going to have to go down and sort it out today.’
‘Wait. What? I thought that was all sorted,’ Scarlett asked.
‘There’s some dispute or confusion over the land next to the car park and there’s some forms or something that need signing,’ Greyson explained.
‘I guess we should go then…’
‘They only need one of us. And there’s still too much to do here. I’ll go, it won’t take long. Though, are you going to be okay by yourself?’
Scarlett paused, ‘I guess so…’
‘Unless you want to go instead?’ Greyson asked.
‘No, no it’s fine. You’re right. The living room and dining room still need sorting and I have to get the jobs advertised too,’ she replied quickly, ‘are you going to be okay?’
‘Yes. I’ll pop into see my parents too, maybe. Right, got to move.’
Greyson kissed her and walked out of the room. She listened to him going into the bathroom then casting her eyes around the scatterings of papers and mess in the study, Scarlett decided she needed to start in there first.
To Be Continued..
Scarlett could not stop shaking. She paced the living room, wringing her hands together and mumbling that she was not crazy under her breath. Her mind raced and she ignored the distant sounds of Greyson in the kitchen. Every time she blinked, she saw the child’s footprint. It had been there right next to her own! And there had been no mistaking it.
She flashed back to an hour ago, but could barely remember Greyson helping her out of the attic and back to their apartment. He had left her sitting on the sofa, but she could not keep still. Had he seen the footprint? What did he think?
She paused and looked through the dining room to the kitchen. Greyson was rattling mugs and the kettle was boiling. Scarlett sank onto the sofa and took off her shoes. She rubbed her ankles and tried to get a hold of herself. Tea would help she decided. Glancing over her shoulder and into the joining rooms again, she spotted Greyson.
‘Here. You’ll feel better after this,’ he called over.
Scarlett nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
He came into the living room, placed the mugs down and sat on the sofa next to her. He gave her a pink mug then picked up his own green one. Silence crept between them and the manor settled with soft creaking sounds.
‘We’re not going up there again, okay?’ Greyson spoke.
‘You saw it, right?’ Scarlett muttered.
‘No…You were too busy freaking out.’
‘There was a footprint on the floor. Right by the window,’ Scarlett stated.
‘The police or someone else made it. It was natural, like everything else. You’re worrying me, Scarlett. All this is going to your head! I knew it was stressing you, but we were dealing with it…Maybe you need to see someone?’
Scarlett sighed and looked into her tea. She dropped her shoulders and took a deep shaky breath. Her head swirled with everything and she waited for Greyson to go on. When he didn’t, she looked at him. He was staring off at the blank TV screen, his expression full of concern and slight puzzlement.
‘Maybe, I should,’ Scarlett said softly.
Greyson rubbed his head then swept his hair back, ‘you like it here don’t you? I know, it wasn’t what we wanted and I get it’s a big project and business….but Scarlett, it’s okay if you’ve changed your mind. I just need to know and I’d rather you admitted that then carried on with this…this….I don’t know…ghost thing.’
Scarlett sipped her tea and felt it burn her tongue. She swallowed and drink some more anyway. She didn’t know what to say. A fog had settled into her head and mouth felt thick with things she want to say, but could not voice.
‘Or is something else the matter?’ Greyson pressed.
She shook her head and drank more of her tea. Her tongue was becoming numb with the hot liquid. Avoiding, Greyson’s staring eyes, she looked around the room as if looking for something.
‘You’ve never been able not to tell me something before,’ Greyson said sadly.
‘It’s not that,’ Scarlett burst out, ‘nothing is wrong. It’s just the stress and the tiredness. Maybe we need to get out of here for a few days.’
‘We have so much to do though…’
‘I know, but maybe we could go into the villages and speak to people. Word of mouth and all that…and we can look at getting some advertising and recruiting going. I’d feel better if we had some staff, you know? And we need to get the fountains sorted and the gardens,’ Scarlett abruptly stopped and looked at Greyson.
A hint of a smile was on his lips and he was looking calmer.
‘What?’ she asked.
‘There’s my kitten.’
She laughed and Greyson lend in for a kiss. His lips brushed her’s and Scarlett pressed harder against him. She raised her hand and put it to his warm cheek. Greyson broke off and took the mug from her hand. Put it on the table, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in. Giggling, Scarlett climbed into his lap and kissed him again.
‘Let’s go to bed,’ Greyson said huskily.
‘Okay,’ Scarlett breathed.
She got off his lap and walked to the bedroom. Greyson came up behind her and she quickly avoided his wandering hands and tumbled into the room. Laughing, she scrambled onto the bed and grabbed a pillow. Greyson dodged her bad throw and tackled her. Scarlett cried out in delight and sprawled across the bed.
‘Feeling better?’ Greyson asked.
Scarlett nodded and wrapped her arms around him. She kissed him hard and felt everything slipping away.
Later, as she dozed, she tried to stop her mind reflecting on events. Snuggling closer to Greyson, she glanced at the foot of the bed and saw a grey mist ball shape. Scarlett tried not to take her eyes off it and to work out the shape of it. However, it vanished. Shutting her eyes, she tried to sleep.
A door slammed somewhere, shattering the silence. The noise vibrated through the manor and caused both Scarlett and Greyson to jump up. The security alarm broke in, blasting noise and deafening everything else.
To Be Continued…
...moments of unexpected clarity
Miniature Diorama Photography