Ok, my dear readers. The Muse took me somewhere different this time and its WAY more than Flash Fiction, so, it’s just fiction. But, I left the Muse intro in, just for the hell of it. I like it.
In my mind, it felt like this could be back in the Victorian age, just as easily as it could be a modern day tale. Put the setting where you will. I use old school terms like “Master” of the Estate, more in an old English kind of way and not in a Southern States kind of way… just to clarify.
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. There might be a follow-up or two, as I left it in a place like you were pausing a movie, or the show went straight to credits. Take it as it is.
Thanks as always for reading.
She was always there, waiting for the appropriate time to make her presence known.
It was late.
Scrolling through different ideas he had written down, nothing was catching his eye. Nothing was “popping” out at him. The writer got up from his laptop and grabbed a cold bottle of water from the fridge and walked back to his point of origin. As he sat, she came in through the kitchen. Delicate, bare feet on a hardwood floor, she moved phantom-like towards the Writer. At first, she placed her hands on his shoulders, slowly moving forward, she embraced him from behind, cradling her head on one of his shoulders. Breathing in unison with him, she stroked his shoulders and then turned her face to whisper in his ear.
Enchantment. Inspiration. Something small to get him writing.
Make me think, make me laugh, make me cry or make me wonder, I don’t care…
Write for me…
A small spark in his mind, a snap shot of a scene… his fingers found the keyboard and he began…
The House had been kept in good repair for years by the caretakers and loyal staff of the Estate. From above, the building itself looked like a giant E. The main entrance faced West, located at the center of the long side of the E. This design made it easy to label the wings for the caretakers and staff, dividing responsibilities and oversight. There was a North and South Wing and then the shorter, middle wing of the house, the Main, due to its relative location to the entrance. Coming in through the entrance was a grand sight to see, warm and welcoming. A large Hall spanned the length of the House, connecting the entrances to the North, South and Main. Guests were always entertained and housed in the North or South wings. The Main was the Master’s favorite. His personal quarters – including his beloved’s, his study, the private dining hall where he would on occasion entertain his closest of friends, all were there. He would spend a great deal of time in his study, writing, creating, learning. The House seemed a happy place.
Some time ago, a great storm came upon the land, lasting for days without relent. The house stood, but there was minor damage to the grounds, the North and the South wings. The Main, for whatever reason, took extensive damage. The Mistress of the House had been known for taking long walks alone within and without the boundaries of the property for months before the storm, each walk getting longer and longer in succession. When the storm came, The Mistress went missing. Weeks later they had found her body, the Master looked on his Beloved with a tenderness at first, and then in his grief walked away, incensed, exclaiming that it wasn’t her and that an impostor lay dead in her place.
Soon after, The Master of the Estate began to take a deeper interest in renovating and improving the property. An older estate, there were a few things that needed to be brought up to modernity, as it were, but the Master also instructed extra care be taken to learn how to better reinforce the House should a storm like that ever come again. The exterior of the House, grounds and room by room in the North and South Wings were renovated, improved or restored. He made up for lost time on the things he had always intended on doing to the property.
All except the Main.
The extent of any repairs there were just to the damaged windows, roof and floor, then it had been sealed off. The Master had no interest in the Main. The staff, caretakers, servants were all treated fairly by the Master, better in most respects than his peers, he was like a loving Uncle and were free to speak with him. They trusted him. They knew the Master enjoyed the Main and all his best work came from there, so naturally, given the relationship he had with them, the subject was brought up on why he should close the Main.
“I shall find a place in the North or South to work…” That was all he said.
A few years passed, the North and South had undergone impressive renovations, improvements and upgrades. The Main, remained as the Master instructed, save for the minimal repairs. One particular day, as the Master and his Chief of Staff, Nathaniel, were walking the long hall, discussing future plans, the state of the staff, etc. They past by the great wooden doors that closed off the Main. Nathaniel paused, looking at the door, remembering the man who used to occupy the Main. He sighed, the Master had changed, he was the same man in many respects, but he had changed nonetheless. Not necessarily bad, just different.
“Begging your pardon, Sir, but when shall we begin work on the Main?”
The Master stopped and turned towards his staff member. “Say again?”
“The Main, Sir. Might we begin work on it? It’s been years now, let’s see some life come back to the Main.”
“Ah, yes… The Main.” The Master turned towards the large doors and placed his hands on the iron handles. He seemed to be lost in thought. The staff member moved to his side and watched as the Master’s eyes darted back and forth. A plethora of emotions washed over his face. Memories, hopes, dreams, loves… long gone. It was as if he was daring himself to hope but pulling back at the last second.
Nathaniel cleared his throat, choosing his words carefully.
“Let’s just take a look, hmm? Just open the doors and let’s see what we have to deal with, eh? No harm in just looking, Sir.”
The Master sighed, he trusted his staff, they’d spent many years with him and The House. He pulled on the iron handled and the doors slowly moved open. He continued opening the doors until his arms were outstretched on the iron handles. There he stopped. Releasing the handles, the two men, side by side, stared into the Main. The cold air brushed their faces. It wasn’t that bad, really. Dark perhaps, a small bit of disrepair mainly due to the lack of attention, but not too bad. The Master inhaled through his nose, taking in the cold air; the old familiar scent of the Main was still evident.
Again, the wash of emotions.
“It’s not that bad, Sir. We could fix this up just like with did the North and South, probably better now that I see it for myself.”
The Master shook his head and walked briskly towards the South. “It won’t work…”
In his haste, he didn’t close the doors and Nathaniel, noticing this, followed after him, choosing to leave the doors as they are. Perhaps some good will come of it, he thought to himself.
Months turned into a year, with similar scenes between Nathaniel and the Master. Nathaniel reckoned he was softening to the idea as he wouldn’t rush to leave so quickly on some occasions. Sometimes the Master would walk by alone, looking to see if anyone was around and would walk down the length of the Main. His hand lingering on the door to his old bedroom, or study. The staff knew how to observe without being seen. His well being was first on their minds. They could tell that he was appraising the situation. What would it take? How much time? Would it be worth it? He seemed both hopeful and hopeless, empowered to change and yet impotent to execute. The staff watched the torment, the frustration, the pain.
“No… It stays as it is…” He would say to himself.
Sometimes, the frustration got the better of him and he would storm out and more improvements would be made elsewhere. Sometimes, he would walk away, longingly, reminiscent, like someone lingering after saying goodbye to a lover, not wanting to leave just yet, but knowing they must.
One day, the Master walked into Nathaniel’s office in the North Wing and noticed a new staff member. A younger woman, set to her duties. Vibrant, cheerful, humming to herself. She occupied a desk and was doing some sort of paperwork. She looked up at him and smiled. She was beautiful, her eyes warm and inviting, yet penetrating. She had to be the youngest of the staff, if she worked here. His memory began pulling a recent conversation to mind with Nathaniel. He had mentioned a new hire, a personal assistant of some kind for Nathaniel to keep up with duties associated with his growing responsibilities.
What was her name? Victoria? Valerie? Vanessa? Ah, yes… that was it, Vanessa. The memory clear now in his mind.
“Good morning, Sir. All is well, I hope?” She said.
“As well as can be expected, thank you. You must be Vanessa, my Chief of Staff’s new secretary. I’m-”
“We all know who you are, Sir. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The Master found himself still caught off guard by her smile. There was something disarming about it. Just then Nathaniel came through a side door.
“Ah, good. Sir, I’ve been meaning to introduce you to Miss Vanessa.”
“It’s seems you are a bit late in that, my friend.” The Master said with a bit of cheer in his voice and a wry smile on his lips.
The Chief laughed slightly and formally introduced them. She would be residing in the North Wing since she reported to Nathaniel directly, assisting him with some of the behind the scenes paperwork with the Estate, staff, etc. She answered only to Nathaniel and to the Master.
The Master was surprised that someone internally had not been chosen, for this important role. Someone who was more familiar with the Estate and The House, but he kept his reservations to himself. He trusted Nathaniel’s decisions and refused to micromanage or second guess him.
A month went by and by virtue of her position, the Master got to know Vanessa better and instead of extending a degree of trust to her because of Nathaniel, he began to trust her on her own merit. She had been busy proving herself a worthy addition to the staff. Vanessa had a way of putting the Master simultaneously off guard and at ease. It wasn’t just the familiarity in which she addressed him, like she’d worked for him for years, but also all the questions. He hadn’t had a staff member ask so many questions of him, about his life, the history of the House and the Estate, his vision for the future of his Estate, what his favorite cuisines were, what he preferred to do when he took a break – if ever.
He was polite, entertaining the questions and asking her the same. And after awhile, he began to welcome them. She brought a certain lightness to the House that he hadn’t seen in awhile. The Master began to look forward to interacting with her, she was becoming as close and trusted to him as Nathaniel, but at a far more rapid pace. The staff began to hear a sound echo through the halls they hadn’t heard as often. His laughter.
One day, Nathaniel, Vanessa and the Master were walking the long hall towards the North, they passed by the Main, the Master not even acknowledging it. Nathaniel and he were in a deep conversation regarding the flooding of some fields due to high water levels from the previous winter when Nathaniel asked Vanessa a question and no response came.
They both paused and looked behind them to see Vanessa nowhere in sight.
“Did I imagine her with us, or…?” The Master began.
“No, no. She was here. Must’ve forgotten something in the South, perhaps?”
“Yes, well she’ll catch up. I would like to hear what she has to say about this mat…” The Master paused, something had caught his eye and his expression completely changed. He was looking back at the open doors of the Main, and he could see the faintest hint of light.
Without a word he walked toward the Main, Nathaniel quick to follow behind him. Stopping in the threshold, they could see that, indeed, there was light in the Main. It hadn’t been lit to it’s previous brilliance, but the small lamps beside each door had been lit. Just enough to give an intimate, candlelight glow throughout the Main. The Master walked down the Main, and found Vanessa standing there, lost in thought, staring into the Master’s study. She spoke to them without looking their way.
“Forgive me… It’s so beautiful in here… I’ve been here a short time, and even with what you, Nathaniel and everyone else has told me, I still don’t understand why you don’t bring life into this place.”
She turned around and looked at the Master. In this place, her eyes penetrated further into him than he was prepared for or even aware of.
He was speechless.