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….