Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
The Lewis’ moved into my home – our home I suppose, although it felt less than homely when filled with strangers – on November 16th without enough warning for me to adequately adjust to the change. The reality of the shifting number of occupied rooms hit forcefully and less than comfortably when I heard the sound of various carriages arriving on our driveway. I peeked out of my window atop the tower where I liked to seclude myself and watched as Father Lewis, both a paternal and occupational title, ventured forth from the transport accompanied by his wife, Violet, and their daughter, Clarissa. She was young, a nine or ten year old child to an early thirty-something pair of parents. Their appearance was not rich, but not poor, more comfortable with room for the occasional luxury which showed in their ability to carry all their worldly possessions from the carriages into the house in two trips. As I observed and formed judgments I expected to hear my name ringing through the old hallways, demanding my presence be made to greet the latest additions and I braced myself for it, holding on to each second of solitude as if it was my last, which it surely would be with Clarissa. I made peace with the idea of her following me around constantly, demanding I read her a book or fetch her one from the shelves that she could not reach in the library – although I wasn’t entirely sure if she’d been taught to read and if not, she would request of me, with no room for refusal, that I read it aloud to her. I practiced blocking out the sound of her tantrums, stomping up the creaking wooden stairs and slamming her bedroom door so hard a painting or two would surely fall off the wall and lose its ancient, dust covered beauty.
What was odd, however, was that I had heard nothing but the Lewis’ voices even after the carriages and long since left the driveway. It was unusual but I paid it no more mind than it deserved and decided that everyone must be in the grounds or in the furthest rooms away meaning they were not made aware of the family’s arrival. This opportunity was immediately taken to mean my avoidance of human contact and potential disdain towards them was allowed to continue and so I picked up my book and continued reading. Hours went by and no one came to investigate my part of the house – I say mine because I was the only one to venture to it except when I was to be summoned and even then my summoner would not stay long; there is a nasty chill in the air, Miss, I do not like it one bit. Now please, hurry yourself to the kitchen and let us eat by the stove so that I may shed this ghostly chill, old Mrs. Norris, our plump-as-can-be cook, would say. I found amusement in her believing the cold air to be that of a supernatural occurrence when clearly it would be due to the window being almost permanently ajar – I liked to seat myself in the bay window wrapped in blankets which kept me mostly impervious to the frosty breeze. Where some like it hot, others prefer it positively tundral.
The low growling erupting from my stomach was not concealed beneath the blankets and so, with an almost completely melted candle, I decided it was finally time to weather the storm and venture downstairs to the kitchen. With a handful of excuses, overflowing amounts of counterfeit apologies and regrets, and with just a dash of physical reflexes in case a ladle was thrown my way, I arrived at the kitchen door. Listening to the voices I determined that the Lewis’ were not sat at the old but sturdy log table where I always took my meals, but instead used the dining room. This was confirmed by the piles of dusty yellow sheets piled against the wall that we used to cover the tables and chairs in there to protect them from inevitable aging. The only time the cloths were removed were when we had important guests so it made sense that the new arrivals would think of themselves as such and wish to dine in such a place. I eavesdropped for a few moments as they ate in relative silence, occasionally one adult enquiring to the other about the tasks that were to be done over the coming days or Clarissa asking a question she could have probably figured out the answer to herself. After coming to the conclusion that they were a nice but boring family, I reserved my ears to picking up the sound of Mrs. Norris or any other staff but nothing was heard and to me this was a sign to leave my introduction to the Lewis’ being left until the next day as we were all tired – there are a lot of stairs up to my part of the house and many words for my brain to comprehend upon each page of my many books. Retiring myself to this decision, I quietly pushed the door to the kitchen open and sought about a bowl in which to ladle some stew into which I then took back to my winter wonderland. However, something caught my ears and stopped me dead out of curiosity and pricked up my ears.
“Father, whatever happened to that family?” Clarissa was not old enough to take note of the severity of the look between her parents. Violet’s eyes made it very clear she did not wish the truth to be known to her daughter who was not at a decently senior age to hear such details, details which I only knew of from overhearing the stable boy and master discussing the matter as they cleaned the stables and took the horses out for one last ride before they were relocated.
“Bad things, sweet, bad things which you need not hear about for a long time.” Father Lewis looked to his wife to determine whether he had avoided the question well enough. He was successful, at least for the first stage of questioning.
“But what if the bad things happen again to us? What if the bad thing comes along and it happens because I don’t know what is good and what is bad like the man in the newspaper who ate that bad plant and died because he didn’t know it was bad.” Clarissa made me feel old and vastly superior with her limited and repetitive vocabulary. Luckily no one heard me sigh at the fourth ‘bad’.
“I can assure you the bad things that happened to them will not be the end of us. You’re always safe when we are around.” For all of Father Lewis’ shortcomings he was surprisingly good at reassurance. I heard later he visited the patients closest to death and the local town hospital when not tending to his Godly duties and helped their passing.
“I’m sure everyone thinks that and yet bad things still happen.” One short coming of the Lewis daughter was that sometimes she became very stubborn and the probability of it happening was always uncertain except when one did not wish her to be. Violet sighed at another family dinner being dampened by her daughter wishing to know something she shouldn’t.
“Sweetheart please, now is not the time to discuss such things. Today is a happy day and your father and I wish to keep it that way. How about we converse over more exciting topics, hmm? What about school, are you excited to attend new classes?”
“I suppose but I’d be more interesting to know what happened h—“
“Clarissa I insist you leave this conversation well alone, you are too young and need not concern yourself with the past now please, engage us as we wish or finish your dinner in silence.” Violet was the steadfast to Father Lewis’ persuadable.
“Yes, Mother.” Clarissa lowered her head and swirled small chunks of stew around her bowl, occasionally eating a few and waiting until a more appropriate time to bring the topic up again. The encounter assured me to not provoke Violet’s short-tempered side as much as I could help it and so I left to eat my dinner in peace before retiring for the night.
The next day was spent like most others; sitting in my bay window reading my books and avoiding all human contact to the point of it becoming a game; I enjoyed the idea of seeing how long I could go without being noticed and so resigned myself to invisibility until I was inevitably called down and scolded for my subtlety. After a morning and afternoon had gone by I found it odd that no one had raised the alarm over my potential disappearance but I just put it down to a simple case of all the staff being busy helping the Lewis’ get settled and, seeing as I have always been the independent sort, I liked being left to my own devices so I did not complain.
Days passed much the same way but I made sure to not be completely silent when I ventured to the more communal parts of the house, just so everyone would know I was still alive and present. On the fourth day after the Lewis’ arrived, it was decided that they would take a trip into the town to investigate and collect supplies, all of which I had overheard while scrounging for some breakfast. I was glad of the news as it was nicely sunny and warm and I wished to take a wander through the nearby forest, as I often did on the nicest days which came few and far between sometimes, and did not wish for my experience to be marred by any immature presence asking questions. The next course of action was to hasten my way back upstairs with as little sound as possible lest I be invited to town and have no excuse to decline, and to keep an eye out from my window until the family carriage was out of sight. My plan was going swimmingly until I heard footsteps ascending the stairs towards my door, a feeling of dread and nausea washing over me as I realised they were not familiar – for I had been in this house long enough to memorise and recognise the sound of each person’s footfalls – and these being rather quiet they therefore belonged to little Clarissa. I held my breath as I heard her wander around everywhere but my room and just as the idea that she may get bored and leave occurred in my thoughts, she touched the door handle and it relinquished its power.
I decided to let her be the startled one, which she sure was as her eyes met upon me sat wrapped in blankets in my window, and I only paid her any mind when she ruined the silence.
“Who are you?” She inquired with no trace of manners or knowledge of how to properly address.
“A resident of this house.” I said with a cool tongue although I was having mixed emotions on the inside.
“But we live here.” She did not understand the concept of joint living.
“My name’s Clarissa.” She did not seem frightened anymore and her dismayed look turned to a friendlier disposition.
“Of this I am aware.” I smiled back but kept my eyes cold. More footsteps were heard coming up the stairs.
“You talk funny.” She giggled and it eased me a little more. Her innocence was mildly amusing.
“I’m glad you find me so entertaining.” After this Father Lewis arrived in the doorway and his face turned to only just concealed worry as he gazed from his daughter to the slightly open window by which I was sat.
“Sweetheart, what are you doing up here?” His urgency surprised me enough to close my book. The fact that he did not acknowledge my presence and introduce himself was noted too.
“I was just exploring, Father. This is our new house after all.” Clarissa kept smiling at me and I found myself returning the gesture.
“You cannot be up here, it’s not safe.” Father Lewis went to grab her hand but she halted in place.
“But you said I was always safe with you and Mother. Why is it not safe in here? Is this where the bad thing happened?” At this my book was placed on the ledge ready to have my attention later as it was fully absorbed in the events unfolding in front of me. What ‘bad thing’ could Clarissa possibly be referencing?
“You do not need to know just please, do not come up here, ever. We need to leave for town now Clari so let us go.” Father Lewis tried to turn and leave but his daughter’s feet were rooted to the spot.
“No Father I wish to know, I wish to know what happened to that girl and this room?”
“Darling, is she coming?” Violet called up from a lower level of the house and the urgency increased exponentially in Father Lewis.
“I shall tell you this and only this Clari and then we must leave. A young girl once lived here before us and due to some unknown tragedy, she fell from that window and perished. Now please let us go, your mother does not like to be kept waiting, you know that well enough.”
“Did she look like that girl, Father?” Clarissa pointed in my direction. Father Lewis looked directly at me, through me, yet it was like I was not there and his horror only matched my confusion.
“Clarissa, there is no one there.”
Credit To – WBM