Dollhouse #FirstLineFridays

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‘I don’t care what you do with it. I just want it gone,’ Alex said, pointing at the dollhouse.

I withdrew my hand from the dolls’ living room and looked up at my older sister. She had a full black bin bag in one hand and a flat empty one in the other. We were surrounded by so much stuff in my late uncle’s attic it was hard to believe she could just single out one thing to just get rid of.

‘Why?’ I asked, ‘don’t you think your daughters, Sophie and Lucy would like it?’

It was hard to tell in the dim light of a single, dusty bulb, but Alex’s face seemed to pale. Her expression become tighter as if she was holding all her emotions in but I could see she was upset and distressed. She turned away, collecting herself.

‘Fine. I’ll take it for my Millie then. I’ll keep it till she’s a bit older though,’ I added.

I looked back at the dollhouse. It was a fine thing, modelled on famous Victorian ones but made more cheaply. Red brick wall paper covered the outside, only curling a little at the corners, the window frames were white but held clouded glass panes and the chimney was wobbly.

Two doors opened to reveal the inside which was divided into 4 floors then seven different rooms by staircases in the middle. The ground floor had a kitchen and servants’ bedroom. The next floor had a grand living room on the left with a fancy dinning room on the right. The third floor had a master bedroom to the right and a double children’s bedroom on the left. At the top, was an attic children’s playroom.

All the rooms were made of dark wood – walls and floor, some of which was covered by patterned wallpaper and rugs. The pretend Victorian furniture looked original and complete, sitting in the rooms I expected the pieces to be in. There were seven dolls; a butler, a cook, a maid, a gentleman, a lady, a boy and girl. They were all dressed in faded clothes and made of china.

‘You can’t,’ Alex said in a shaky voice, ‘I want it gone. Into the skip now!’

I sighed and fought back arguing, it wasn’t worth it, ‘I’ll get Michael to move it later. It’s too heavy for me.’

Closing the dollhouse’s doors, I moved on to helping my sister sorting through things. The dolls and their house lingered in my mind and when our husbands turned up at the end of the day, I had mine packed the dollhouse into our car with some other of things. I made sure to keep Alex busy so she didn’t see him taking it.

At home, we put the dollhouse and everything else in the spare bedroom to be sorted for later. Sitting before the house, I opened the doors and looked at the little dolls. They could almost be Victorian originals but I knew nothing about that. I carefully arrange them in the rooms they most fitted in; the cook and butler in the kitchen, the lady and gentleman in the living room, the maid making the beds, the children in the playroom attic. Wondering all the time why my sister had just wanted to get rid of it.

The next day, we were back in the attic again and I just had to ask her why.

‘What was with the dollhouse yesterday?’ I asked over a pile of cardboard boxes we were opening.

Alex was quiet then she said, ‘you took it home didn’t you?’

I pressed my lips together and pretended to be busy writing a label ‘glass’ to put on the box before me.

‘It’s fine. It doesn’t matter,’ Alex replied, sadly.

‘Tell me,’ I responded, ‘is it haunted?’

‘No…really, it has nothing to do with the dolls’ house.’

I waited, wanting to break the silence but knowing she needed the chance to open up.

Slowly, Alex began, ‘Before you were born, mum was sick and dad was away with the army. Uncle agreed to look after me and I moved in for a few months. His and wife daughter had long moved out but since he couldn’t bear being in her bedroom, I was put into the spare.’

Her words sparked something familiar; a family story I had heard before about the time our mum was ill in hospital. Alex had been eight then and there had been no one else to look after her.

‘I don’t know why I did it, but one night I couldn’t sleep, so I went into our cousin’s bedroom,’ Alex picked up, ‘I saw the dollhouse and was so drawn to it, I flung open the doors and began playing with the dolls. Uncle found me and he was…so angry…He took me over his knees and lifted my nightdress. He beat me with a slipper. I cried and cried. Then he dragged me out and threw me back into bed.’

‘That’s horrible! I gasped, ‘you told right?’

Alex shook. Her head was down and partly turned away from me. She was quietly sobbing. In the gloom, it as hard to tell if she was crying or not yet. Her hands were wrapped around something; a piece of cloth?

‘The next night, he came into my bedroom, saying how sorry he was. He hugged me and then he started…’ Alex dragged in a deep breath, ‘touching me…it felt wrong, I struggled against him but there was nothing I could do. He said he’d make me feel better. That everything would be okay….’

I bite my lip and tried to reach through the boxes before us, but my sister was just out of touch. She didn’t seem to care though. She was lost to her past thoughts now.

Alex wiped her face and carried on, ‘he told me to keep quiet about it. No one would listen to me anyway, mum was dying. So, I didn’t say anything and he got into bed with me often after that. As praise, he let me play with his daughter’s toys but I found no joy in them. I never told anyone, not even when dad came home and mum got better. Then you arrived and everything changed.’

‘You should have told someone,’ I growled, balling my fists.

Alex rubbed her eyes and stood up. I hurried to my feet too and crossed the distance between us. We hugged tightly.

‘It doesn’t matter now. He’s gone and so have mum and dad,’ Alex uttered.

‘But…’ I trailed, she was right, what could be done now?

‘I can finally move on,’ Alex cut back in, ‘that’s all that matters now.’

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/first-line-friday-february-16th-2018/ with thanks).

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Child

It was time. Elisabeth knew she had to do it, but she just didn’t know if she’d find the strength. Standing just inside the nursery room, she looked around and took in all the bright and pretty toys. There were so many things!

In pride of place was the dappled rocking horse with all his red leather tack. The doll’s house took up the left far corner, under the curtained window. The red bricked front tightly shut away, but inside was wonderful collection of fully fitted rooms for the china dolls to roam through.

There were soft toys and wooden toys gathered about. Books on a small bookshelf and other child size furniture; a desk, a chair, a sofa. A tea set all laid out on a circle table and dolls seated at the chairs as if they were really about to take tea. Everything was ready to be played with and you could almost hear the voices and laughter of children on the air.

Elisabeth sigh and thought about what should have been. She dropped her head and turned from the room. Her dark blue dress rustling about her. Her eyes caught those of the elderly housekeeper, who was waiting with dust sheets and the ring of house keys.

‘My Lady,’ the housekeeper spoke, ‘it will be open again before you know it.’

Elisabeth held her head high, trying not to show any of her grief. She swept passed the woman and went along the corridor and up the next flight of stairs to her room. Once there and with the door locked behind her, Elisabeth sank onto the bed and crumpled a child’s nightdress into her lap.

Tears began falling, thick and fast. Elisabeth buried her face into the nightdress and cried until exhausted, she lay down in bed and fell asleep.

 

(Inspired by: https://scvincent.com/2017/04/27/thursday-photo-prompt-child-writephoto/ with thanks)

Past Voices

Living Room, Man, Woman, Children, Cat, Toys, Old

The museum was silent as the last of the lights clicked off and the caretaker left. The old building, that had once been a grand country house settled to sleep. As the darkness spread and the full moon rose, the sound of small bare footsteps sounded across wooden boards in a hallway. Followed by a soft giggling then everything went still again.

In the large room which held the toy collection, things started to move. An old bear’s paw was gently dipped downwards, a book was half pulled out from a shelf and a tin fire engine moved in it’s glass case.

Two sets of children’s running footsteps sounded on the creaking boards then the worn rugs covering the middle of the room. A soft humming echoed then faded.

Inside the doll’s house, the small china dolls began to move as the ghost children began playing.

A Foot In The Past (Part 13)

House, Haunted House, Spooky, Scary, Old, Creepy

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.

‘I’m Scarlett.’

‘I know.’

‘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.

‘All children?’

‘No,’ the ghost girl answered, ‘there’s only five children, me and four boys.’

Scarlett nodded.

‘There’s a baby, an older girl and the rest are all adults.’

‘Okay…’

‘I’m the oldest though,’ Charlotte declared.

‘Pardon?’

‘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.

‘The alarm?’

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….

A Foot In The Past (Part 12)

House, Haunted House, Spooky, Scary, Old, Creepy

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.

‘Wait!’

She stopped.

‘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…