- Jersey Shore, United States
- In case any of my friends or family members actually read this Blog, please consider all Names, Characters, Places and Incidents to be the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely COINCIDENTAL...Muaaah!! Now, really, about me: I bring the crazy wherever I go, so I've been told...I make fun of myself more than anyone else ever could. I hate: the awkward silence in elevators, watches with no numbers, picky eaters, Cancer and legalism. I love: coffee, stalking Hugh Jackman, my Spanx, COMMENTS, sarcasm and writing: Middle Grade, NA, YA Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
FINALLY! Here is the beginning to "The Manor" as promised. If you want to read more, send me a message. Enjoy
Song of Songs 2:16 My lover is mine and I am his..
There was a time I was dead inside. That wretched house consumed the very essence of my soul. Then she ran back into my life. A light in my darkness. A reason to breathe again...
It's been years since I've laid eyes on her, yet I knew her in an instant. How many times had I conjured her image to give me the courage and strength I so desperately needed to endure the nights at Carlton Manor? As I stand here today, I can recall everything about her perfectly, down to the very last detail. I closed my eyes and once again, gave in to the sweet memories of childhood.
At precisely 2:00 every afternoon, I would wait for her in the rear gardens. I would stand vigil, as stiff and still as the marble statue that stood next to me, reminding myself to breathe evenly and deeply. Ever mindful of my position, I could never breach etiquette and seek her out, but could only wait and hope and pray she would come to me. So there I would stand, crippled with inaction, shoulders back, arms paralyzed at my sides, watching and waiting to see if she would chose to honor me with her presence. There were plenty of proper girls and boys, equal to her station whom she should chose to play with, yet for some miraculous reason, she often preferred me.
One could always hear her before they saw her and it was with loud whoops and shouts she would announce herself. Tearing out of the woods with her long golden hair flowing down her back like a cape she looked like a mythical Fae princess come to life. Today, she had entwined small twigs and some russet colored leaves together, fashioning them into a crown, which she wore upon her head, most regally. She was holding something captive in her chubby, dirty, little hands. When she came closer I realized her captive was none other than a small toad. I immediately felt a kinship to that creature, as I was a mutual captive of hers, held in her tenuous grasp and by sheer whim either of us could be cherished or crushed by those hands forever.
Her sea blue eyes danced and sparkled, alight with all kinds of mischief. Her angelic, perfect face was marred only by several smears of a dark, mysterious substance. The marks found on her face usually proved to be either dirt or chocolate, although the combination of the two was most likely. With her loud, shrill voice she would call my name and demand I play Lord and Ladies with her, immediately. My heart would stop beating and I would melt inside. I loved that rebellious little angel from the moment I laid eyes on her, I love her still.
My loyalty to her was the one and only reason I stayed on here, enduring the endless hell and unspeakable torments that occur at Carlton Manor. I allowed this wretched, cursed land to drain the very life force out of me, like a leach on a man taken ill. Yet I remained, against all propriety and against all odds. Many others have come and failed, begging me to see reason and leave this dark, twisted residence, yet I remained. I remained, ever faithful, to the purity of her memory despite the damning circumstances. I remained, ever vigilant in silence and acquiescence, year after year, silently praying one day, I would be rewarded for my hard work, service, and devotion. I prayed that God would intervene on my behalf before I could no longer fight the horrors of this place and the evil forces at work here won my soul for eternity. I prayed that I would be bestowed the privilege of seeing my love once again. Now that His blessing is upon me, I am overwhelmed. I am overcome, at a loss for breath and feel as if my heart has stilled. In an instant, I am back to being that vulnerable little toad held in the palm of her hands again, silently waiting in agony as she determines my fate.
As I open my eyes, and snap back to the present, even at this distance, I recognized how much she had grown. Her beauty had only deepened in her maturity, as I had always suspected. Her features had smoothed out and have become much more enhanced and refined with age. I was overcome with joy as I caught my first glimpse of her sea blue eyes light up and sparkle as she laughed wholeheartedly with her Aunt. I thanked the Lord immediately for His willingness to answer even my most impetuous prayers. Gwendolyn's eyes had, by the grace of God, retained that fiery spark of mischief in them, as I had prayed that they would. I was so afraid that someone, more specifically, the cruel, ignorant, bitter man that was her father, would be successful in breaking her will and snuffing that glorious fire in her out. As I gazed upon her now, my heart began beating anew with an emotion I hadn't felt in a decade. Hope. Hope was something I had given up on. I had to turn and look away, as my eyes grew full with hot, unshed tears. The Lord is so good to me. The end must be upon me at last, my years of enduring the curse upon this miserable manor, not in vain. The God of wonders has heard the ardent prayers of a man who was dead inside. He has chosen to make me alive again and as this dead heart begins to beat, it is as if I am truly born again! Overcome with His grace and goodness, I had to command myself, “Reginald, man, pull yourself together!” Now was not the time for me to spill my tears and become crippled with inaction, the Lord has given me this opportunity to be with my beloved again and I do not wish to waste one minute of it.
I couldn't wait to escape the city. I truly loathed all of the traditional roles a debutante must play, and now that I was of age, it had become down right nauseating. Society, meant nothing to me, much to the dismay of my parents. I didn't have the slightest interest in coming out this season to procure a husband. Why can't they just leave me as I am? Why must we adhere to the rules? As if the familiar had done them any favors, they barely tolerate one another. Sarcasm. Another personality trait I was supposed to make scarce this summer.
The ferry ride over to the island started out so invigorating. The fresh air did wonders for me and my overall state of mind. This reprieve on Carlton Island was only temporary, at summer's end I was to travel directly back to the city, reformed and ready to play by the rules. Secretly, I prayed none of the gentlemen they lined up would fancy me and I would become a single spinster, like my Aunt Marguerite. Generally such a thing is thought upon as a curse, to me, it would mean nothing short of the greatest blessing.
My Aunt Marguerite was my father's eldest sister and he would often invoke her name, like it was some kind of veiled threat. Hardly! “Young lady, you better watch yourself before you end up like your Aunt Marguerite! You don't want to wind up alone, like her, do you?” How I laughed inside, to the very depths of my soul, at the irony of his threats, because nothing would please me more than to become like my favorite Aunt! He spoke of my personal heroine, like she were the plague or a nasty stain upon his trousers, the epitome of all indignities to be suffered, the route of all evil. Obviously, when he looked upon his sister, he did not see any of the magnificent beauty I saw, or share my glorious opinions about the wondrous life she led, at all.
Aunt Marguerite was free! She had command over her own home, her own thoughts and above all, her own person! She went where she pleased, when she pleased and did whatever she pleased, with no one to
stop her. Well, father tried. He felt like it was his duty and his right to tell her what to do and how to live, since he is the oldest living male in the family. What malarkey! As far as I could see, Aunt Marguerite was living the very life I desired for myself and literally begged the good Lord for nightly in prayer! She had a way of listening to father and solicitously agreeing with him, yet simultaneously ignoring any and all of his advice. Thank God for Aunt Marguerite, she was like a bright star, a beacon of light, sent straight from heaven, shining and illuminating truth and freedom into my life.
Any time spent with Aunt Marguerite was like a treasure to me. My most cherished memories are of time spent with her unchaperoned, in her home. At Aunt Marguerite's, I was expected to be something I was never allowed to be, myself. My opinions were to be given a voice, spoken out loud, instead of left burning a bitter, resentful hole inside my chest. We spoke of anything and everything, even if it was not “ladylike”. I was able to chose what I wanted to eat for my meals and more importantly, I was able to chose whatever I wanted to read! This was paramount, as Aunt Marguerite obtained and facilitated the purchase of any reading materials I requested. My love of literature and the variety of such I desired to read was looked down upon greatly by father. Aunt Marguerite shared my love of reading and we had many heated discussions that kept us up debating until all hours of the night. Inevitably ending with me breathless in delight and her in peals of laughter over my intensity of expression and feeling! Oh, how I wanted to live her life. How could anyone see her existence as anything less than spectacular? Certainly, I found it to be nowhere near the black curse my father tried to evoke it into being.
Aunt Marguerite worked a miracle that outshone all of her previous miracles with father, this time, for certain. I am not sure how she worked it, but that was the magic of Aunt Marguerite, she accomplished what was previously impossible. Somehow, she convinced her brother the best thing for me would be to summer with her, alone, at the Manor on Carlton Island. While he and mother traveled abroad, she would take on the role of my guardian, tutor and chaperone and I would be her sole responsibility. Initially, he vehemently refused and squawked all manor of reasons as to why it would be inappropriate and improper and under no such terms shall he agree.
Like the most skilled solicitor, one by one, Aunt Marguerite refuted all of father's claims. She argued with him in her soft, intelligent voice and countered his protests, until he had no more arguments to stand on and was left undone. Aunt did quietly concede to take me back to the city and honor several engagements mother had previously committed me to. Other than that, we were on our own for the next four months! As wondrous as that may be, come September, not even the most powerful magic Aunt Marguerite could conjure up would save me from my cruel fate.
Once they have chosen my suitor and arranged my dowry, there will be no more laughter or wonderful nights of leisure spent at Aunt Marguerite's. All the literature I wanted to read would be selected, approved and purchased by my betrothed, as well as all of my opinions on such tempered by what he thinks and says. I shall no longer be able to select what foods I like to eat, but must also conform my tastes to that which my “husband” prefers. It burns me up inside and turns me inside out with anger, thinking at any length upon this. It also leaves me with such feelings of loss; I am completely and totally bereft. I mustn't continue dwelling on it, it shall only prove to ruin the last bit of freedom that is mine to enjoy. Besides, I have but to look over at Aunt Marguerite and her infectious smile ignites mine anew.
Her expression, one of pure joy, mirrors mine, as I periodically give way to it and her gloved hand a squeeze. Both of us are thrilled with the knowledge, we now have months, instead of a few stolen hours to enjoy each others uninterrupted company. I for, one, plan on enjoying every last second of it. I shall not allow my self-pity to discredit all that she has done to grant me a reprieve as splendid as this, it is way more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for. I squeeze her hand again, just as the manor came into view.
I guess I should mention there was some polite chit chat amongst the ladies and gentlemen riding the ferry. Although, some of it was not so polite. I overheard one of the ladies making inquiries of Aunt Marguerite, asking her a few pointed questions about her charge, which, of course, would be me, and then turn and walk away. In the next breathe I heard this brazen woman speak ill of Aunt in hushed tones to the others and about me, for the rest of the ferry ride, as if we were not in ear shot!
I don't care one bit about what society thinks of me, but I am not so ignorant as one would think, to the things which society whispered about Aunt Margarite. This is not the first time I had heard my Aunt's name linked with a certain word I knew for a fact was not in any way, meant to be kind. The word they called her was “peculiar”. The connotations of this were not lost on me, as you will recall I happen to be extremely well read. Even my father had once dared whisper the word to mother, in reference to my Aunt, but I happened to walk in the drawing room and hear him. He knew I heard him, and it gave him pause. Before he had a chance to utter another sound, I boldly warned him against it with the weight of my stare. I held his eyes to mine, as I scorched him with a look of pure, unadulterated, hatred. For once, I allowed my eyes to belay to him all I normally held inside. I refused to look away and continued to stare, hard, silent, and full of venom. I pinned his eyes with mine for such a long time, he eventually had to clear his throat and look away, for I had unnerved him. Never again did he utter the word in my presence, much less use it in the same context as to describe my Aunt. Staring with the full weight of my hatred worked for a coward and a bully like my father, but would hold no weight with the society-driven ladies of the ferry. I was hoping my Aunt did not hear them or have to suffer the indignity of such disrespect. I had my own suspicions about Aunt, but that was neither here nor there. Nothing about her, even if she was “peculiar”, would ever separate my absolute loyalty, love, and undying affection I felt towards her, ever. And I shall defend her to my dying breath.
If Aunt heard, she never gave any indication of the sort, and as we took our leave, she even invited the horrible wretches to call on us for tea!
“Aunt, I should not wish to waste even one of our precious afternoons together, standing on ceremony, as society dictates we must, pretending to be the perfect hostesses to such stifling creatures. Being trapped on a ferry boat with them for hours was suffocating enough for me, thank you very much. I should hate to think of what torture it would be to be confined to the four walls of the parlor at Carlton Manor, with ladies such as these. I believe it would be insufferable.”
“Niece, that was quite a soliloquy! I certainly turned you into a free thinker, a speaker of the truth and your mind, the perfect miniature of myself at your age. Now, why don't you tell me how you really feel about them!” She fell into one of her loud fits of laughter that I found infectious but father always loathed and claimed to be most undignified for a lady. We laughed hardily together for several minutes until a thought occurred to me and I sobered.
“In all seriousness, Aunt Marguerite I would give pause before suggesting tea, or inviting anyone to the manor, for that matter, until we see for ourselves what kind of shape our home is in, after so many seasons of non use.”
“It has been years but I have the utmost faith and absolute confidence in our man here. I am positive he has kept everything in the best of conditions, even improving upon them whenever possible, despite the numerous difficulties and hardships he would face in doing so, here at the Manor.”
“Aunt, who is it that runs the Manor? Whom in our service could handle such a daunting task? Surely, it would take a beast of a man to ride out the winters here.”
“A beast you say, that is not a word one would normally associate with young Reginald.”
“Reginald?” That name brought so much to mind I could barely contain my thoughts. I practically shouted at Aunt.
“Reginald, my Reginald? He is here? He is still in father's service? Has he been out here all this time, alone?”
“Yes, Reginald has been here for close to ten years now, surely you must have been informed of such, Gwenny?” I would swear by the intonation of her voice and the use of my childhood nickname, she was baiting me.
“Never! As a matter of course, father specifically dodged my incessant inquiries as to where he was or what had happened to him. I begged father and pleaded with him so many times as to Reginald's fate he finally announced he would beat me to an inch of my life shall I ever raise the matter to him again.”
“Interesting.” Her smug expression had me reeling. Why was she acting so surprised? I believe I queried her on a number of occasions to sort out the truth from father as well.
“Not hardly! Reginald was my only friend and I remember him with nothing but fondness. To be sentenced to serve out his time exiled out at the Manor is unusually cruel, even for father and I can't see why or how Aunt, knowing all of this, you never felt compelled to tell me or intervene on his behalf! I thought you would have at least taken an interest and protected him from so terrible a fate, since I recall you were quite fond of him yourself! It was as if he vanished into thin air, one minute there and the next, gone without a trace. I never even had the chance to say goodbye. You know full well I cried myself to sleep for months!”
“My darling, there are some battles I enter into with my brother where it is the wiser choice to allow him to think he has won. Rest assured, I have never truly conceded, but just go about my business with patience, biding my time, plotting the best course of action that will ensure my victory in the end. The fate of Reginald, would be a prime example of one such battle. I always made sure I was well informed of young Reginald's progress and have kept a close eye on his situation over the years. Now as far as him being your only friend, I take offense and beg your pardon young lady!”
“Forgive me, Aunt. He was my only friend, other than you.”
“Ah, here comes our young man now. Hello there Reginald!”
There was an inexplicable tightness that constricted in my chest as I looked up and met his eyes. I saw it was indeed my Reginald approaching us, although the man coming towards me held barely a hint of resemblance to my childhood friend. At first glance, I may not have recognized him at all. The profound changes that had taken place in him were unnerving to say the least. Yet somehow, I dare say, he managed to enhance, the things about him that drew me to him like a magnet all those years ago. Even as a child, he was an enigma, not just to me but to so many others. On numerous occasions I had overheard father, Aunt, mother, our Pastor, and the others as they whispered and wondered about him. The biggest puzzle was the way Reginald carried and conducted himself, way, way beyond his years and station, and, quite frankly, he scared the hell out of them all.
At only twelve years of age he already stood a head taller than most male adults. Reginald's shoulders were also extraordinarily broad and as wide and as thick as a wall when he turned them to you. In spite of his massive size and his position, where it is most common to do so, he never, ever, stooped. Instead, he held his carriage upright and ramrod straight, his posture impeccable. As if that wasn't odd enough for a servant, there were many more remarkable traits Reginald possessed that held him apart. For instance, no matter to whom it was he happened to be addressing, Reginald had a way of holding his jaw slightly upwards and tilted, almost arrogantly. And he always looked you straight in the eyes. It was as if he knew deep down inside, he was above his position and everyone around him, but endured it to humor himself. It wasn't often he spoke, but when he did, even his elders listened, captivated by the deep timbre of his voice and his extensive knowledge.
The wisdom and weight of his words were as if he possessed the mind of the brightest, most educated of all scholars. All who came to query his advice marveled at his insight and vast information he knew on all manner of things. They would leave asking each other, “Isn't this the same boy that cleans the stables? Isn't this the offspring of two servants? How is it he knows so much about so many subjects?”
His wisdom and knowledge became a bit of a legend, sought after by many. Once, when I posed yet another question to my tutor, who was hired specifically for his grand education, and he could not answer it, I announced loudly,
“What good are you? You never have the answers to any of my questions! Father, you could have just saved yourself all the expense and aggravation of hiring a tutor if you just asked Reginald to come inside and teach me!”
That little breach of etiquette cost me dearly. I couldn't sit down properly for weeks after my little outburst of opinion. Father only became that angry when he knew I was right. Between Reginald's sage advice, bold confidence and good looks, I was completely convinced that he was once a Prince or ruler in a former life.
The Reginald who stood before me now, held himself with the same impeccable posture and regarded me with the same arrogant tilt of his chin, yet I scarcely recognized the eyes of the boy I once knew so well. I sucked in a hard breath as I identified something else in those chocolate brown eyes of his, something so dark and disturbing it terrified me to the core. His eyes no longer glowed with light and life but were, in a word, haunted.
Any trace of boy in him was long gone, the man before me was around two and twenty, fully matured and stood well over six feet. All of the hard labor he must have had to endure out here on the Island showed in the thick, solid muscles standing out from his brawny neck down. His hair had lightened significantly from dark brown to a honey blond and his skin had become like leather; brown, worn, and hard, no doubt from his prolonged exposure to the sun. As I stood there, I realized I had just been staring at him for an inappropriate amount of time and for once in my life, my mouth hung open but I could not think of absolutely anything to say.
“Good Afternoon, Mam, Ms. Colt. I hope your ferry passing was calming and pleasant. The winds were only about 20 or so knots today, which is quiet enough, and the waves were not particularly rough.”
“The ride was pleasant enough for me Reginald, although my niece found the company to be a little lacking. I believe that shall change, now, don't you? ”
“Please stop calling me Mam. As long as I am in charge out here at the Manor, I would prefer it if you would return to calling me Aunt Marguerite, like you did when you were a child.”
“It shall be as you wish, Aunt.”
“Oh, Reginald, please, let it be the same for me.”
“So shall it be then, Gwendolyn.”
I was proud my voice trembled only slightly as her name fell from my lips. Once again, I had to remind myself to focus, as the last rays of brilliant orange and red light were starting to spill over the horizon. It dawned on me then just how selfish I had been in praying my love come to me here. How could I have thought it at all? It only goes to prove how far gone my mind has become. If I did not get Aunt and Gwen safely indoors before the sun sank fully into that horizon, the unspeakable horrors that dwell on this Island would be awakened. And that, would bring a fast end, to us all.