This is a short story set in 18th century England, it is based of a dream I had once. It is my very first attempt at writing a fictional story.
Leo, wondered who it could be, because although all night, he has seen guests coming in through the huge, brass front door , not once had anyone descended down from the manor, itself.
You would be wondering how that could happen? Well, the truth is though, Ms. Olivia Stronghold, the wealthy ,sole proprietor of the Stronghold Mansion, is known to throw such eloquent balls, all the time, she never once made it a point to attend them, herself.
Some say it is because she’s too grief stricken by the death and demise of her kin. Secretively, Leo always felt, she threw these glamorous fairs because she didn’t want to be forgotten by the outside world.
He is seen this fear of being forgotten, a lot of times, among such bluebloods, the fear of all their wealth and accomplishments blown away to bits until they are nothing but dust in the wind.
As the lady descended graciously down the stairs, her ebony black hair was made up in a classic bun but a few tendrils had managed to slip out and framed her heart shaped face, her equally dark eyes seemed to be seeing everything and nothing at the same time, and she glided down like she was in a deep daze.
Leo was astonished to realize that this could be none other than Ms. Olivia Stronghold, herself, from the quiet murmur around him, he reckoned that the others had stumbled upon the same conclusion as him. She wasn’t what he would call his “ideal audience”, naïve and gullible, someone who’d fall easily for his false flattery, but he still had this unexplainable instinct to approach her.
And how did he come to know so much about her in just a few seconds, well after being in this business for a few years you tend to catch on things like that.
Leo slowly made his way towards her, stopping to have a word with someone here and there, but he always watched her from the corner of his eye, no one else had approached her yet, maybe they were too scared and stunned to do so, neither had she tried to mingle with anyone.
She was gazing out of the window, humming a soft tune to herself; the moonlight fell on her bare shoulder as Leo came near her. He cleared his throat; she glanced back, smiled politely at him and turned her face back to the window.
Leo, was taken aback a bit, he was not used to this type of short and cordial welcome, usually it only took a couple of wise cracks to get people to open up to him. Nevertheless, he tried again, he started by inquiring about her good nature, she didn’t response beyond a nod or a gentle smile, so he tried using a popular story that had worked quite well in the past, it was about that time he was hiking in southern Spain and he had come across this strange lady by a beautiful, serene and solitary lakeside.
At first, she seemed to listen just to keep up common courtesies, but slowly she was drawn into the story, Leo could tell that she knew without a doubt that he was lying through his teeth but she was intrigued, all the same.
By the time he was done, he was surprised to see that all the other guests had left; he had been so intent on studying Ms. Olivia’s face, he hadn’t paid attention to anything happening around him. He looked back at her, she seemed to be smiling in that queer way, he had an odd feeling that she was mocking him and that she saw right through him.
Just as he was thinking this, she seemed to have made a decision about him, she asked, tentatively, whether he would like her to show him the rest of the place, knowing that he would never get a chance like that to explore the Stronghold Mansion ( few men could claim that they have been through the chateau) with its heiress by his side, plus knowing all the valuable artifacts and antique heirlooms lying around, his hands started to itch a little, the way only a pickpocket’s hands would itch, so he heartily agreed.
As they went around a room full of paintings of her ancestors, this time she was the one who did all the talking, she started telling him accounts of their conquests and legends, he started feeling that she was, definitely, mocking him now because her way of telling a story was oddly alike his, he realized suddenly that this was her simple and subtle way of letting him know that she was not about to fall for any of his ploys as carefully fabricated as they might be.
He smiled, involuntarily, though he had dropped all hopes of taking back any souvenirs with him that night he was starting to enjoy himself. For once, he decided to let go of all the made up fables and just be plain old Leo.
They went around more empty and elegantly furnished rooms and corridors and at one time, she started telling him about her great great grandmother Ms. Claire Stronghold, they say she was one of the most beautiful and sought after spinsters of her time, she often received precious and pricey gifts from far away and foreign suitors, one of them was a feather shaped hair pin studied with rubies the color of blood and diamonds that shone as brightly as the stars, themselves, Leo laughed outright at this point and it was quite some time before he could catch his breath again.
She didn’t seem to be offended, but remembering his manners, he apologized and asked her to continue, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, it got lost forever somewhere when the west wing of their house had collapsed in a hurricane, one year, Ms. Claire, herself, passed away tragically that very year.
He offered her his condolences but she waved them aside, and they fell into this pattern the rest of the night, as they wined and dined and strolled across the grounds, Leo couldn’t recall the last time he had an honest conversation with someone, or the last time he talked to someone just for the sake of talking to someone. It was a refreshing change, he gladly welcomed.
It was in the early hours of the morning, the first rays of sunlight shone through the dusty, stained glass windows, and the dust particles danced in the sunlight rays, there was an eerie ringing of silence and dread, Leo woke up with a start.
It took him a few moments to realize where he was and how he had got there, slowly the memories came back to him, he jumped out of bed and went around looking for Ms. Olivia but strangely he saw no one around the house, it didn’t look like a grand ball had taken place there just last night, in fact it didn’t look like anyone had lived there for quite some time.
He didn’t see a single living soul anywhere, truly puzzled he arrived back at the bedchamber where he had woken up, and there he found a single hair pin lying on the bedside casket, a hair pin shaped like a feather and studied with rubies the color of blood and diamonds that shone as brightly as the stars, themselves.
How did you find this short story? Let me know in the comments section, catch the first part of Leo’s story here:The Stronghold Mansion Part 1- A Short Story